The Rules Changed

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Sunday morning I decided to take the train into NYC to visit my boys. What a mistake. Not the visit but the method of transportation at that particular day and time. I didn’t realize it was a Yankees-home-game and that suburban families from upstate NY would be making the long journey with me. And I didn’t even bring headphones…

Toddlers cried incessantly and crawled all over the seats until their indulgent parents gave them their very expensive phones to play with… Men, way too old to still be wearing the names of other grown men on their Yankees jerseys and t-shirts, strutted around the aisles ‘replaying’ past Yankees highlights.

Look, I have nothing against America’s favorite pastime. I think it’s an overpriced day out but to each their own (the train ticket price alone was staggering for these families and I can only assume the stadium ticket price was well beyond my monthly car payment). 

But where was the ‘old time’ fun? I remember going to games with my parents and older brother. It didn’t bankrupt us and we needn’t bring our own food from home because it was mostly affordable. And actually keeping score was a skill we perfected after repeated attendance and something that made us feel like a part of the entire ballgame experience.

Somewhere along the lines the rules changed. Prices skyrocketed and manners plummeted. I wouldn’t bring a young child to a game today – they’d hear foul (pun intended) language; reek of warm, spilled beer and be exposed to a world of entitlement, rudeness and bad sportsmanship.

But, hey, how else will they learn how to act on their own school turf?!

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Word And Deed

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I had a very strange epiphany the other day. After a friend of mine sneezed and I said, “Bless you,” it occurred to me that what I had offered, purely out of habit, was a religious sentiment (albeit an abbreviation) to an Atheist who, nonetheless, said quite naturally, “thank you.”

Though neither one of us was particularly startled by this seemingly normal exchange, I thought about it for a second and asked if I had offended him. He, not surprisingly, answered, “no.”

But then I thought about another conversation I had had with a stranger on the telephone. It was just a solicitation and meant nothing at the time until I recalled that she ended the call by saying, “blessings.” I thought it odd and, honestly, uncalled for but then wondered if she expected some type of response from me. Was I supposed to say, “and to you, too” (or whatever the standard Christian response is)?

I certainly meant no disrespect but, rather, was quite taken by surprise because, in my life, that’s just not something people say to one another. It also goes back to that much disputed custom of wishing anybody and everybody a merry Xmas during the month of December. I’ve never understood why people find it necessary to make the assumption that you’re Christian or that you need THEIR acknowledgment. I know it’s meant to be a friendly greeting but, then, so is the much safer and non-religious “hello.”

Whatever the intended message or meaning is behind the words, it would be so much easier if people just acknowledged one another with a brief nod or a pleasant smile!

The Ultimate Lesson

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I never thought it would happen but it did… I got sick. Normally that wouldn’t be a catastrophic event except for the fact that I am currently my parents’ caretaker and I’m not supposed to get sick.

Who’s gonna take care of ME now?

Of course, all throughout my illness, my Mom kept asking if there was anything she could do for me but the last thing I wanted was for either of them to get sick, too. So, that’s my dilemma.

Mom was always my caretaker. Even after I left for college, she would tell me to come home if I got sick so that she could take care of me (like that was ever going to happen). And when I eventually got married and had a husband to take care of me, she still insisted on being there for me if at all possible.

I understand that feeling all too well because I hate it when my kids get sick. All I want to do is take the pain and misery away. It’s a mother’s curse. So, as I continue to avoid my parents while trying to prevent them from catching my germs, I learn the ultimate lesson… “Once you sign on to be a mother, that’s the only shift they offer.”*

*Jodi Picoult: My Sister’s Keeper

The Perfect Combination

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Certain foods just seem to go together – Burger and fries; Mac and cheese; Chips and dip. The same can be said for some of our activities – A movie and popcorn; A ballgame and hot dogs; A concert and wine/beer. 

You might partake in any of these on a special occasion or even on a daily basis but… is one person’s perfect combo meal another’s as well?

I have some favorites that may or may not appeal to anyone else:

  • Salmon, brown rice and steamed broccoli 
  • Grilled Swiss cheese and avocado
  • Chocolate brownie with mint chip ice cream and hot fudge 

My Dad prefers:

  • Salisbury Steak and mashed potatoes
  • Meat loaf and mashed potatoes
  • Hamburger and mashed potatoes 

Maybe our palates are set as children – depending on such things as: if you grew up during the Depression or if you bought daily school lunches. Who knows? But as long as your health isn’t affected and it makes you happy… To each, his/her own!

 

Round Of Applause

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While reminiscing with my son a few weeks ago, I recalled various moments from his childhood that I realized he, sadly, had no recollection of. As young parents, we clap for and record and retell all our friends and family about every single accomplishment in our child’s life.

Some people use the New Year as an excuse to send out letters to their friends describing events that took place within their family in the previous year. It’s sort of like a ‘highlight reel’ but on paper.

I’ve listened to so many of my Dad’s dream sequences in the last year that I could write an entire 4 hour movie script and still have enough material left over to pen several sequels. The problem is, while he’s seeking an eager ear to listen to all his rantings, I’m looking for an escape route back to reality.

It’s one thing to create and recount memories but it’s a whole other thing to expect others to respond positively or enthusiastically about someone else’s life (or dreams – events that never even occurred).

So, feel free to clap every time a toddler blows a kiss or shows you how big he is… SOOO BIG. And, by all means, clap at your teenager’s school concert – even though some kids are singing or playing instruments out of tune. But don’t wait for that elusive round of applause after your latest rendition of dream works!

Rainy Day Saving

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When I finally convinced my parents that it was time to move out of their 3-leveled townhouse (after both of them had fallen) and into a condo without stairs, the fun had only just begun.

It never occurred to me that this almost 60-years-married couple could not (and would not) part with a single item… many of which had not seen the light of day in more than half a century.

We all love our memorabilia and no one would ever suggest throwing out an original photo or a special letter. But 70+ year old school report cards, brittle clumps of no longer fine, baby hair and (there are no words) what appear to be baby teeth in little plastic treasure chests are NOT items that need to be saved and moved to yet another home.

Sometimes, ‘out with the old and in with the new’ has tremendous merit – especially when not doing so turns a home into a hoarding house!

Daylight Saving Time

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I doubt there’s a person out there who really thinks we need daylight saving time. For most of us it’s just a huge inconvenience. When my kids were younger, it was a nightmare because they either went to school in the dark or came home in it. Now it’s just a drag because we have to set all our clocks forward and backwards. Granted, modern technology takes care of some of our devices but we still have to manage more than our share.

I know a few people who refuse to give in and, although forced to live with the time change, feel a certain amount of pride in defiantly not changing their car clocks. The reason, I’m told, is that in six short months the time will be corrected (much like people who refuse to make their beds because they’re only going to sleep in them again??). The problem is, you’re never quite sure which cycle you’re in and that can make for some very late arrivals.

Mostly, I think, people tend to get slightly depressed during the time change because it represents shorter daylight hours and the coming of winter. But, like all things worth waiting for, there is (literally) light at the end of the tunnel!

Face The Facts

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Many times I’ve heard my Mom say (to no one in particular), “this bottle used to be much bigger,” or “it used to be ____ ounces and now it’s only ____.” We’re a nation of label readers but what other choice do we have?

It’s a well-known and accepted fact that prices rarely go down (sale items not withstanding). But then, why should the size (or the quality of the product, for that matter) diminish? Here are a few ripoffs I recently discovered in our kitchen:

  • 1 lb can of coffee is now 11 oz
  • 1/2 gallon tub of ice cream is now 1.5 qt
  • 6 oz container of yogurt is now 4 oz

This might not come as a surprise to some of you but many people, especially those on a fixed income or budget, rely on these foods as part of their regular diet and sustenance.

Did you know that you used to be able to get two decent sandwiches out of a can of tuna? Now, an 8 oz can of tuna is only 5 oz (4 oz drained) – which barely makes one tuna sandwich. For elderly people and even mothers of school aged children (who make their kids’ lunches), this means having to buy twice as many cans at twice the cost.

As unfair as it sounds, we must face the facts… Less is not always more and you don’t always get what you pay for!*

*StarKist Tuna – listed at $1.29 a can, paid $.89 on sale (but still used to be a bigger can)
 Friendly’s Ice Cream – listed at $3.49 a 1/2 gallon, paid $2.50 on sale (but still used to be bigger)
 Dannon Greek Yogurt – listed at $4.99 for a 4 pack, paid $3.33 on sale (ok, you get it)

Musical Dining Chairs

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Last night I was having a conversation with my Mom at the dining table. I happened to sit down on ‘Dad’s’ chair because it was the closest one (and unoccupied at that particular moment). I had barely begun speaking when my Dad approached and asked me why I was sitting in ‘his’ chair.

“Because,” was my very grown-up answer. An answer, mind you, that my kids had given me countless times when they were younger. A perfectly ‘non-answer’… An answer telling me exactly nothing… Not even close to an answer and certainly not a complete sentence or even a complete thought.

But I digress.

My point, and I do have one, is that I wouldn’t purposely take his chair. Nor would I be particularly upset about getting up out of his chair… Except for the fact that, no sooner had I gotten myself up and moved to another chair, he didn’t even sit down. Not in his chair, not in my chair, not a green chair, not a blue chair (sorry, couldn’t help myself).

Well, he did sit down but not in the aforementioned chair. He took the chair on the other side of the table and turned it sideways so he could see and hear the tv from less than a foot away. So why exactly did I need to get up?

I guess it’s something we never really outgrow – that need to call things our own. We don’t like to share our toys with other kids when we’re toddlers or what we did at school that day with our parents when we’re teens. We hate sharing our feelings with our significant others when we’re dating/married and definitely won’t share our self-assigned dining chair with anyone, at anytime or for any reason. Just… because!

Places People Meet

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When living in a co-op or condo community, you’re bound to run into your neighbors at some point. In our case, since my parents pretty much never leave their home for social occasions, that meeting of people tends to take place in the elevator.

It’s a very short ride so not much gossiping occurs during the trip down to the lobby. Once downstairs, people either head to their respective mailboxes or to their garages.

I’ve lived in many towns and I’m not one of those people who tends to run into friends and neighbors at the supermarket. Even when my kids were small and had various groups of friends, I seldom ran into their friends’ parents or their teachers or their coaches outside of school.

But here, where a large majority of homeowners are retired and/or widowed and have nothing but time on their hands, running into someone – anywhere – is pretty much a given.

Some of my favorite meeting places are:

1) The Gym – where they often fight over the single stationary bike (and the tv remote)

2) The Pool – where they often fight over the single lap lane (and the one remaining noodle)

3) The Clubhouse – where everyone wants to invite their entire family over for Thanksgiving (because who wants all those people in their home?)

4) The Clubhouse, again – where men and women have separate poker games (and heaven help them when they’re scheduled at the same time)

But I guess I’d have to say that my number one favorite place that people meet here is… the semi-annual homeowners meeting. It’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. People come out of the woodwork to air their grievances and hear what catastrophes everyone else is dealing with. I almost expect to see Madame Defarge, happily knitting away, while corporate heads roll under the scrutiny of the elderly!