My Short Story

In the midst of a class at the local university on short story writing, I just finished writing about being a fat person. The story has been brewing in my head for several years.

Several years ago, a national debate began about the rise in obesity in the US. Some fat people were blaming everything from McDonald’s and other fast food places to corn syrup in processed foods to sedentary lifestyle with the onset of personal computers, video games and other devices that kept kids from going outside to play and adults from going on long evening walks.

I pondered this and came up with  list of “excuses” for being fat.

  1. My parents. “When you grow up, when you’re BIG and strong, you can do this, you will know that, you will understand.” Hypothesis: To get big and strong and therefore independent and smart, EAT!
  2. “Clean Plate Club.” As I child I often heard, “Clean your plate. There are starving children in China (Africa, Bangladesh…)” Never did figure out how my eating everything on my plate would help those children.
  3. My paper route. I rode my bicycle all around town, delivering newspapers when I was in 5th grade. You would’ve thought that would enhance muscle strength and normal weight. But two of the places I delivered papers to were the local Dairy Queen and a small cafe along the highway that made the best cinnamon rolls. Any calories burned while circling the town on my bike were more than replenished by dilly bars and warm sticky buns.
  4. The image of a girl in the 1950’s and early ’60’s. Girls didn’t sweat. Girls sat at home and embroidered. Girls didn’t do things that might mess up their dresses. Dresses were not conducive to climbing jungle gyms, running up hills or throwing baseballs. The only place acceptable for sweating was in gym class where we wore ugly one-piece short outfits and couldn’t wait for it to be over.
  5. Food supply. In the Midwest, summer was great when we had fresh vegetables and some fresh fruits like cherries and apples from our trees. Otherwise, in the winter, we relied on shipments of oranges and other produce from far off places like California, Arizona and Texas. The fresh foods were expensive and not as tasty as they would be in their native states. Who wants to eat pink bland tomatoes?Much of our diet consisted of meat and potatoes. I never had a green salad until I was in my late teens.
  6. Terminology. Instead of cutting to the chase and calling it “fat,” there was a tendency when I was growing up for people to say things like “pleasingly plumb,”overweight,” and “chunky.” Even children’s clothes were labeled as “hefty.” I remember when I first identified myself as being “fat” it was liberating. People around me were shocked to hear that word, though, and it took awhile before society was ready to “tell it like it is.”
  7. News reels at the movie theater. Before the cartoon and main feature was shown, many cinemas showed MovieTone newsreels. https://youtu.be/FsPKD4tNe-Y  I remember seeing the films of the released Nazi films showing the concentration camps. As a little kid seeing (on the big screen, larger than life) the emaciated people with sunken faces, ribs sticking out, skin and bones. And the stacks of dead bodies piled high like so many haystacks, it had a profound effect on me. I never wanted to be that thin and emaciated. So, I ate more, thinking it was like a “reserve” I could store in my body in case something horrible like that happened to me.

Once I became fat, it was my identity, my defense mechanism. If someone didn’t like me because of my appearance, that was their problem, not mine. I had lots of friends and had lots of fun. My fat didn’t stop me.

As an adult, I decided I needed to lose weight for my health. I had lost two siblings and my father to heart disease. I lost 90 pounds after the birth of my second child. But then people commented on how good I looked and it bothered me. I didn’t want to hear that. My appearance was not who I was. I’m sure they thought they were complimenting me, but I saw it as a devaluation of my previous life. I also started losing friends, normal-weighted friends. One was killed in an earthquake. Another had a heart attack at age 42 while deer hunting. A tiny, active college friend had a stroke just before her 50th birthday. At that point, I decided I really have no control over the length of my life and I gained my weight back.

Now, I realize it’s more about “quality” than “quantity” of life. I have no control over when I will die, but I have control over how I will live.

My short story is called “Adolph Hitler Made Me Fat.” It will be read in class in the next week. I am anxious to hear what the other students think about it.

Lamenting Summer’s End

As the kids go back to school, I am introspective.  Memories of past summers pop into my head like the whack-o-doodle games at the county fairs.

I grew up in a small town in central Nebraska, population around 3650 in the 1950’s. The summer before entering junior high, my family moved to Broken Bow, similar in size but located out in “the middle of nowhere.”  At least, my previous home town was on a main highway and had several other small towns nearby. It was a farming community and I was a “town” girl whose dad was the hospital administrator.

harvest time Cozad 1958

grain elevator 1958 Cozad

Broken Bow was called the “Foothills of the Sandhills” with many canyons and ravines surrounding it, more conducive for cattle ranching. Cowboy country. People rode horses into town. I went from large combines and farm equipment blocking the highways to cattle in the road. From smelly alfalfa mills to  stinky feedlots.

Stars and Sputnik

My early summer memories were filled with picnics at the park, going to the city swimming pool, helping Mom with the garden, picking cherries from the tree in our backyard, playing with the neighbor-kids and sleeping out in the backyard with my friends, sometimes in a tent, but oftentimes just in sleeping bags, “under the stars.”

The stars in both small towns were amazing. I remember Mom taking me outside on a warm summer evening and gazing at the stars. She was an expert in the constellations and pointed out several. I learned about Cassiopeia, Orion’s belt, the North Star and of course, the Big and Little Dippers. All were so clear on summer nights in towns where very few street lights pierced the darkness.

I remember when the Russians launched Sputnik. Mom and I went out to look at the night sky and see if we could spot Sputnik traveling across the darkness, shining among the billions of stars that twinkled above. I had a hard time imagining a little dog inside that bright light as it passed overhead.

Vacations and camping

I recall several of our family vacations when I was preteen and younger. Our relatives lived back East, so every few years, Dad would rent a camper and we would take off for Pennsylvania, camping along the way. Campgrounds were pretty rustic back then. No KOAs until later. With six kids, Mom and Dad organized us. We each had our duties. My big brothers helped Dad set up the camper (we usually had a “roll-up” or  “pop-up” type camper like JayCo, Starcraft, Coleman brands.) Mom and I would start the food preparation while one of my other brothers looked for firewood and a water source. Usually the water source was a pump sticking out of the ground. Campgrounds used to cost around $2-5 dollars and some were even free! No plumbing, so my oldest brother always sought out the outhouse. If it was too rustic, he refused to use it. A less rustic outhouse would have a toilet seat over the hole instead of just a hole in a plank.

When KOA campgrounds came into vogue in the 1960’s, we were happy to finally be able to take showers and use “real bathrooms.” (I’m sure our awaiting relatives in Pennsylvania felt the same!)  Of course, the price of camping went up, but it was worth it!

Susan_on_vacation_1969

Camping was great fun for me. I loved the outdoors and meeting other campers. We didn’t seem to  worry about any “Deliverance” type people. I don’t know if Mom and Dad scouted for unsavory types or if they chose campgrounds that looked safer. The worst part of camping for me was tick bites. I hated having ticks burrow under my skin. Mosquitoes were bad, too, especially when we camped in Minnesota where mosquitoes are the “state bird.”

We tended to travel the “northern” route on the way to Pennsylvania, going through Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio and the “southern” route coming home–West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois. Before I went to college, I had visited every state east of the Mississippi with the exceptions of the New England states and Florida. My parents made sure we took a different route every time we traveled so we saw new places. When I was in 4th grade and got my first Brownie camera, we even drove up into Canada and came down through Niagara Falls.

School Starting Soon

The end of summer was marked by back-to-school plans and buying new clothes, shoes and supplies. School supplies didn’t show up on store shelves until late August back then. And school didn’t start until after Labor Day.

When we moved, my 12-year-old self lost interest in star-gazing and was more curious about my new surroundings and making friends. It was a difficult summer and beginning of school year as I had spent 10 years of my formative years in the farm community. I missed the friends I had grown up with. Everyone was concerned about my older brother who was being uprooted his Senior year of high school, but he adjusted much better than I did. After all, Broken Bow welcomed him because he was a big football player. I was a mere awkward pre-teen, very insecure and lonely.  At first… Then the kids found out that I was the sister of the big football player!

Summer fun

As a teenager in Broken Bow, there wasn’t much to do. Churches would have an occasional ice cream social or picnic and the merchants had “Crazy Daze” where there were sidewalk sales and merchants dressed in crazy outfits, sometimes a parade was held to encourage shoppers to dress up as well. One summer, my little brother went as a “doomsday” guy carrying a sign proclaiming that the world would end tomorrow. (Of course, he thought it was funny to say, “Tomorrow never comes. It’s always today!” Smart little guy.)

Charlie the end is near Crazy DaysCrazy Daze

“Driving around” was the preferred entertainment on summer evenings. Friends lucky enough to have their own cars would load up those of us who were car-less and we would drive around town and honk at each other. We could waste an entire tank of gas just driving up and down Main Street. We drove out to the drive-in theater area, turned around and drove to the Texaco station, turned around and made the loop over and over all evening. Of course, we listened to the radio.

In Broken Bow, very few radio signals could be picked up. And those we could get, we didn’t like. They played old-time country music, the twangy “uncool” kind, or polka music. In the evening we were able to pick up KOMA from Oklahoma City. They played “modern” music,  so that was our mainstay. Tape decks in cars came out in my late teen years. We thought we were in hog heaven if we were in a car with a tape deck! Most kids drove old “junkers” which added to the charm of driving around. (I will save the car details for another blog post.)

County Fairs

As summer wound down, county fairs popped up. In the farm community of my early years, I was in 4-H which meant we girls got ready for the fair by practicing singing for competition, creating items like decorative trays for demonstrations, baking cookies and sewing dresses. Our leaders took us to the county seat, 16 miles down the road from our town, to compete. If we were lucky, one of our projects would win a ribbon; purple and blue went to the State Fair in Lincoln. I made a tablecloth and matching cloth napkins that went to State one year. I was so proud!

4-H in Cowboy Country was much different. I didn’t get involved because it was about raising livestock. Some of my friends had lambs and calves that they raised for the fair. Living in town made it hard to do anything like that.

Broken Bow was/is the county seat, so the county fair and rodeos took place just outside of town at the fairgrounds. The fairgrounds were also the site for the Fourth of July fireworks. When fair-time arrived, a big carnival would move in, setting up rides and the arcade. There were always comments about how you would get cheated at the arcade games, but that didn’t stop people from trying to win the big stuffed animals. Many a guy spent well over the worth of the teddy bears they won for their girls at the fair.

The summer evenings at the fair were electric (figuratively and literally) as the colorful lights and musical sounds attracted us. Riding the ferris wheel or octopus seemed much more thrilling in the dark. Smells of cotton candy and popcorn also allured us. There was usually a street dance at the county fair, too.

Looking back, summers seemed so carefree, but that is probably just my mind reworking the events to fit my chosen memories.

“Time is a dressmaker specializing in alterations.” ~Faith Baldwin

Cowgirl Susan (2)

The Four Stages of My Life (and Maybe Yours, Too)

Saturday night, I went to a retirement party for a nurse I used to work with. This was the fourth retirement party I had been to this year, including my own. As I pondered it, I realized that I have had four stages of adulthood involving parties or celebrations.

  • Stage One Bridal showers, Weddings and Baby Showers

Brother Ron officiating  cake Big bear and Mike

This stage took place somewhere between 20 to 30 years of age. During that time, friends were getting married and having babies and not necessarily in that order. Money was spent of gifts for the occasions. Many parties and receptions took place during that time.

  • Stage TwoKids’ Birthday Parties, School Events and Sports

Joe's Ghostbuster birthday   Basketball cake (2) Joe's Star Wars birthday

Baby showers and weddings continued but were fewer. Now, kids’ parties and events took over. Big birthday parties, theme parties, destination parties–each set of parents trying to outdo the other. It was a crazy, expensive time. (If you have read my blog before, you may know that almost ALL of our birthdays happen in March and April. That time of year was harder on the checkbook than Christmas as we celebrated a birthday about every two weeks in our family.)

Then there were the classroom parties–Halloween, Valentine’s Day, etc. I was a room mother, so it was my job to make sure we had games to play and treats to eat. We room mothers were very creative with our games. (I may do a blog on party games sometime. I even had a game published in Family Fun magazine that we played at one of my son’s birthday parties.)

And there were soccer games, football games, baseball games, all with end-of-season parties (and don’t forget the gifts for the coaches. Someone had to collect the money and buy the gifts.)

  • Stage ThreeTeenaged angst followed by…Parties!

We experienced a short “dry spell” during the early teen years because, who wants to have a party at your house with your parents there?

Around junior prom time, things picked up. These were the “photo op” years. Homecoming, class plays, concerts, marching band competitions, Honors Night, Graduation.

More picsTrumpets rock!cakeOP canopy

  • Stage 4 – Reunions, Retirement and Funerals

IMG_2996 (2) NICU reunion

Just prior to this stage, there is a “mini” stage where the weddings and baby showers return as our adult children get married and have children of their own. The parties and events aren’t as plentiful, but they pop up now and then. I always look forward to them as it gives me a “break” from going to funerals!

During this stage, our parents are dying, our friends’ parents are dying and, unfortunately, some of our friends are dying. We are going to a lot of funerals. It is nice to be invited to a wedding or baby shower now and then just to get away from the funerals. More on funerals later…

We also are going to retirement parties as our friends and co-workers leave the workplace and start  new adventures. These parties don’t necessarily require a lot of gifts and hoopla because most of us have all the “stuff” we need and don’t want any more. We also find it enjoyable just to sit and talk, so no band or DJ is needed. Milestone anniversary parties may include some music and dancing, but most gatherings at this stage are simply good friends gathering to catch up and talk.

Now, for funerals. I think we do funerals all wrong in our society. All that weeping and sadness is crazy! If we believe in an afterlife, then a funeral should be a time of rejoicing because “it ain’t over!” And it never will be! We may not see each other in person for awhile, but the time will come when we meet again. So, instead of being sad, we should party! I have instructed my family and close friends that, when I head for the Great Beyond, I want a good old-fashioned Irish wake. I want people to gather, tell funny stories about me (believe me, I have left them plenty of fodder!), drink to my life and celebrate. I don’t want any crying at my funeral unless it’s from having a hangover.

Polly opening her gifts Susan and John May 2013

Happy “Stage Whatever!”

I Am the Proud Mother of Sons

August 11 is National Son’s Day, a day to celebrate the special boys in our lives. As a mother of three sons, I plan to celebrate. With only 106 days to go, I need to start planning now!

My boys are adults now but they are still “my boys.” Although they all have women in their lives now, I will always be their mother, whether they like it or not. My guys are great and we have a good time. I joke that, when they are all back home, I feel like Monty Python is in the house–or the Marx Brothers. They constantly throw “zingers” at each other and we laugh a lot.

My boys were exposed to many things including old Marx Brothers movies and Monty Python sketches. They could do the dialogue from most of what they saw. They also were pretty good at The Simpsons and other popular shows of the time. I was glad they grew up surrounded by silliness and humor. And it continues!Dads birthday 1998

I am a “boy mom.” I believe that there are “boy moms” and “girl moms.” Some moms can pull off both without any problem, but it has been my experience that we are better with one sex than the other. I was raised with four brothers–smack dab in the middle–two older brothers and two younger brothers. I think that is why I am a better “boy mom” — I can relate to boys.

If I had had girls, they probably would have been tomboys and athletes, not frilly or “proper.” I can barely fix my own hair, let alone curl or braid or add barrettes and ribbons to a daughter’s. I always had skinned knees and a dirty face, so any daughter of mine (poor girl!) would have had the same.

Raising boys is a joy (as is raising girls for “girl moms,” I’m sure.) There are so many adventures and so much activity. Some advantages of parenting, in my opinion, include:

  • Surprises and fun – You never know what your child is going to do. Boys can run up and give you a hug at the most unexpected moments. A day in the park or at the zoo can be an adventure. A trip to the zoo where he notices a bug on the sidewalk or a ground squirrel is just as exciting as the exotic animals. My boys helped me appreciate the “little things” around us as well as the more unusual things.
  • Laughter – I enjoyed the sounds of laughter in the mornings as the little guys got out of bed as well as the guffaws that I heard coming from the basement as my teen-aged sons hung out  with their friends, playing video games.
  • Individuality – I had three sons, but I had three very different sons. My oldest was my cuddler, my social guy with loyal friends, my creative thinker. He ended up studying philosophy in college.My second son was “his own man.” I never had to worry about peer pressure with him because he marched to his own drummer. On the other hand, his nickname as a toddler was “Mr. Destructo.” He became an art teacher. My youngest was (and is) an avid reader, my scholar. When he was in 2nd grade, we were signing him up for soccer (which my other two boys loved to play). He informed us that he was more “into academics than sports.” (His words at age 8.) Even as a toddler, he loved to look at catalogs instead of play with toys. At the mall, the other boys rushed to the toy store and wanted a toy, He preferred the bookstore and we couldn’t leave without a book. He is a high school history teacher.
  • Simplicity – When leaving the house, there was no last minute primping and polishing (unless they were in their Easter best. But primping was pretty much futile then, too.) It was a “come as you are” world for my boys. Things changed later when girlfriends entered the picture, but much of boyhood was spent in casual wear and worn out shoes.
  • Boys clothes – Their clothes were basic and rarely changed in style. My biggest “fight” about clothes had to do with holey sox. I don’t know why it was so hard to get rid of sox and wear new ones. Still a mystery to me.
  • Speak their mind – My boys didn’t sugar-coat, nor did their friends. They spoke their minds, sometimes at awkward moments. “Mommy, why does that lady’s nose look so funny?”
  • Cheaper? – Some people think girls cost more because of their clothes, upkeep, “necessities,” but boys can be pretty expensive, too. Sports sign ups, grocery bills when feeding teenagers, video games, cars and car maintenance, broken bones, girls and first dates. Guys can run up the bills as well–just on different things.
  • Less drama? False! Boys can be pretty melodramatic at times. Who gets to run shotgun? Who ate the last piece of pizza? “Who said you could borrow my MP3 player?” “Why does HE always get to do ____ (fill in the blank)?” “Why do I always have to put the dishes away?”

Raising boys has given my husband and me many memories, mostly filled with joy and laughter. Like how one of our boys (at 3 or 4 year old) used to wait until we were out of town, on the road, when he decided he needed to go to the bathroom because he wanted to pee outside. Or the memories of their many friends taking all of their shoes off inside the front door and our cat going from shoe to shoe, sticking her head in to savor the aroma of each.

Joe's Ghostbuster birthdayOr the birthday parties where my second son had so much faith in my cake-making abilities that he offered a new challenge each year–“Mom, can you make me a Ghost buster cake?””Can you make me a “Superman” cake?” “Can you make a Basketball cake?” Or the time our youngest, at age 2, followed his dad up the ladder to the roof, almost causing our neighbor and my husband to have heart attacks. Or the time we were in South Dakota at Custer State Park, trapped in the car behind several other cars, stuck in a herd of buffalo. “No, you cannot get out of the car. You can see the buffalo just fine.”

The broken collar bone, the stitches, the grass-stained Easter suits, the teen-aged angst, the car repairs were all worth it. Now we have three wonderful girls in our lives as well. I’ll admit, being a mother-in-law is different and there are adjustments, but I don’t think anyone is calling Doctor Phil on me with crazy mother-in-law stories yet.

Friday the Thirteen, Again

March 13th lands on a Friday, just like last month. This piqued my interest and I decided to look into common superstitions and what their origins are.

My mother was a Pennsylvania coal miner’s daughter and she had so many sayings and superstitions. I don’t think she truly believed in bad luck or good luck, but she told the superstitions much like parents and grandparents pass on adages and folklore. On a whim a few years ago, I wrote a short story based on Mom’s folklore. I called it “I Itch” because it seems that my mother had a superstition for about every part of the body that itched. (Well, I take that back–there are a few places that itch that I won’t mention and that she had no saying for.)

A few of the itchy places and their reasons for doing so include:

  • Nose–you will kiss a fool
  • Ears–someone is talking about you
  • Right hand–you will meet a new friend
  • Left hand–you will receive money
  • Feet-you will travel

My little story included all of these and at the end, I said, “And if you itch all over, you need a bath.”

While looking up superstitions, I found some of Mom’s itchy ones so they seem to be well-known.  I wondered about Friday the 13th. Why that date?

Turns out, long before Jason and the slasher movies, Friday the 13th was considered unlucky. It is tied to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Since tradition holds that Jesus and the apostles gathered for the Seder meal the evening before the crucifixion, the Passion of Christ occurred on a Friday since the meal would have taken place on a Thursday. There were 13 people present at the Seder meal, 12 apostles (until Judas left) plus Jesus. Therefore, Friday the 13th was considered unlucky. Mention of Friday the 13th being unlucky first appears in the written work in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

What about other common superstitions? Last month, I took a couple hundred pennies to work and put up a sign that read, “Lucky Pennies–Help yourself. Happy Friday the Thirteenth!” I decided to look up the reason why picking up a penny  would be considered lucky. Here’s what I found:

Lucky Penny

“Find a penny, pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck.” This superstition probably goes back to ancient times when it was believed that finding metal was a gift from the gods.

Black Cat

The black cat was revered until the Middle Ages when black cats became associated with witches. Some believed witches could turn themselves into black cats. Having a cat cross your path and bad luck may have started in the 1500’s when people saw a cat cross the path of a woman and she was limping the next day.

Walking under a Ladder

There are several possible explanations for this:

  • In medieval times, when people were going to their death at the gallows, it was believed that if you walked under the hangman’s noose, you would die.
  • The ancient Egyptians revered the pyramids and if a ladder was against the wall, it resembled the shape of a pyramid. Walking under it “broke” the good “vibes.”
  • After Christianity took hold in Europe, the ladder reminded people of the Trinity and to walk under it was considered blasphemous.
  • Obvious, it is unwise to walk under a ladder since it could be dangerous. No one ever mentions the guy ON the ladder. Seems it could be really bad for him if someone jostled the ladder as they walked under it!

Breaking a Mirror Brings 7 Years Bad Luck

This superstition can be traced back to the Romans, who were the first to create glass mirrors. If the user broke the mirror, it meant that his or her soul would be trapped inside the glass. The Romans also believed that a person’s physical body renewed itself every seven years, so in seven years the soul  would be fully restored to the body.

Lucky rabbit’s foot  (Not for the rabbit!)

The belief of the lucky rabbit’s foot has probably existed in Europe since 600 BC amongst the Celts. The “donor rabbit” possessed certain attributes, had to be killed in a particular place and in a special  manner. Rabbits were considered “shape changers,” with the ability to change into other animals or people. Carrying one around protected the person.

Opening an umbrella inside

In ancient Egypt, royalty had umbrellas to protect them from sunlight. The Sun God was a very powerful god. They felt it would offend the Sun God if they opened the umbrella indoors where the rays of the Sun God couldn’t reach them.

 Step on a crack

Step on a crack, break your mother’s back. Most of us know the old rhyme. Whether the rhyme is the cause of or a result of this superstition is uncertain. Of course, avoiding uneven sidewalk and cracks is probably a good policy if one wants to avoid tripping.

Spilled salt

A widespread explanation of the belief that it is unlucky to spill salt is that Judas spilled the salt at the Last Supper. “The Last Supper” by Davinci shows the salt knocked over by Judas.

Salt was a valuable commodity in ancient times. A friend would not spill your salt since it was a symbol of friendship and trust.

Salt is also a religious symbol.  Jesus referred to the “salt of the earth”.

The most common belief or “ritual” these days requires you to toss a pinch of the spilled salt over your left shoulder, into the face of the Devil who lurks there.

“Blow out the candles and make a wish”

Birthday candles have been around since ancient Greece who put candles on round candle to honor the moon goddess, Artemus. The cake represented the moon and the candles, moonlight. People came to believe that the smoke from the candles carried their wishes and prayers to the gods and also warded off evil spirits. Eventually, making a wish and then blowing out all of the candles meant your wish would come true.

What other superstitions can you think of? Whatever they are, they are simply that—superstitions!

Good luck to you all! Enjoy your Friday!

Now where did I put my lucky four-leaf clover?

 

 

Motor Pool Parent

You’ve heard of the “helicopter parent” who hovers over the child even into college and adulthood; the parent who just can’t let go and allow the offspring to figure things out for himself. It seems to be a trend now with parents even calling college professors about the “child’s” grades or bailing their son or daughter out financially when the kid has spent all the tuition money.

Yesterday I read about a new app where parents can track their college student and make sure they are going to class. What?! And some of the kids seem to be OK with that. What I want to know is who is going to take care of me in my old age? What happens when all the helicopter parents (and we innocent bystanders) crash? What will we do? Who will sign us up for “Meals on Wheels,” answer our medical alert buttons, order our Depends, and get us to the doctor(s)?

Well, fortunately, there are a few of us out there that were never helicopter parents. We raised our kids to be independent. Once they were potty-trained it was, “You’re on your own, kid.”

Dads birthday 1998

I am more of a “motor pool parent.” In the army, there are soldiers assigned to the motor pool and they are in charge of the vehicles.

Keep in mind that I was never in the army or any branch of service, so I am forming my impression based on old M.A.S.H.reruns.

In M.A.S.H., Rizzo was the cigar-chewing sergeant with a Southern drawl whose attitude was “Where else but in the Army can you be a bum and get paid for it?” The motor pool seemed to run fairly well under Rizzo’s control despite his outward appearance and disdain for others.

As a motor pool parent, I organized the household and demanded that our sons pulled their own weight. I kept a calendar to keep the troops informed of who was coming and who was going. Some days I wished I had one of those big war maps that the generals in the WWII movies used to push little toy ships around on, maneuvering positions.

My expanded role as a motor pool parent included issuing uniforms (clothing) and shoes, sounding revelry on school mornings and sending the boys packing. They had their duties to perform which included working on their own homework, doing the dishes, and even washing and ironing their own clothes when they were teenagers. My boys hiked the 10-15 blocks from school to home by themselves, carrying heavy backpacks. Of course, in the winter or at other times, I tended to pick them up from school.

My boys had “mess duty” and KP, doing some of their own cooking if they didn’t like what was on the menu for dinner. I tried to avoid being a “short order cook,” although I gave in now and then.

I tried not to “sweat the small stuff” and didn’t get worked up about the condition of their rooms. They had Grandma for that! If I didn’t like looking at the unmade beds or clutter, I learned to shut the door instead of constantly picking up after them.

A “motor pool” parent also relies on the kids to do things for her/him. My youngest son tended to be our Information Technology Specialist. Whenever I had issues with the computer, he was the one I called on.

My middle son, the tallest, removed items from the top shelf of the cupboard for me. He also kept us updated on the sports events taking place by yelling at the television downstairs. My middle son provided security to his mother by bringing his troop of friends over where they hung out in the basement, playing video games or watching movies and sports. No worries about what he was up to and no foreign invasions of terrorists. Our cat liked the added bonus of all the testosterone and sweat-permeated athletic shoes left at the front door. She would stick her head into each shoe, enjoying the aroma. I swear that cat got “high” smelling the shoes.IMG_1623

Our oldest son kept us appraised of the political scene, world affairs, and global issues. He was our attache’ in matters of the world. He was also the Strategic Planner. He was known to map out a route to the living room from the bedrooms upstairs so that, on Christmas, he and his brothers could sneak down the stairs at 5 am, missing all the creaks and squeaks so as not to awaken the parents.

Our sons are all adults now and living away from home. They are starting their own families.IMG_2223 It is difficult being a “motor pool mom” now because I no longer have my support troops with me. We communicate on the phone, but it’s not the same. I have to get a footstool to retrieve things from the top shelf. I no longer have daily updates on politics, the environment and social issues as viewed by a teenager. I can’t ask my “techie” to help me with a problem on the computer.

Which brings me to one reason for this blog entry. I CAN’T FIGURE OUT WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PICTURES I SCANNED FOR THE BLOG!

Summertime is Class Reunion Time

This past weekend, I returned to my small hometown in the middle of Nebraska and met with former classmates and friends from high school.  We have been out of school long enough that we no longer try to impress each other with fancy cars, clothes and prestigious careers or opportunities.  We are in the “glad to see you are still alive and kicking” stage.  We have all had our ups and downs and no longer feel the need to discuss our achievements (unless you count getting out of bed in the morning) or status symbols (unless you count the number of surgeries or joint replacements).

This year I had the honor of coming up with the “awards.”  Here is what was presented at our banquet.
Marco Polo Award to the classmate who traveled the farthest to the reunion. A photo album with a map cover on it was given.

The One-Step-Ahead-of-the-Law Award for living the most places since graduation – received “Change of Address” cards

“Thank You for Your Service” Award to the classmates/spouses who served in the military – received American flags

The Home is Where the Heart Is Award to the classmate who has lived in their current home the longest – received a Home Sweet Home plaque

The “Go Forth and Multiply” Award for having the most children – received a little wooden sign that read “You can’t have too much fun!”

“Greatest Legacy Award” for having the most grandchildren – received Washable Magic Markers.

The “For Better or Worse” Award for being married the longest – received a lovely little white picture frame with doves on it.

“Foot Loose and Fancy Free” Award for being single the longest – received “The Party Is Here” banner.

The E-Award went to the person with the most electronic devices and social media signons (Facebook, Twitter, etc) – received a “Connect the Dots” game.

The “Auld Lang Syne” Award went to several people. It was for attending the most reunions. -received their very own “Hello, My Name Is…” name tag.

The “Six Million Dollar Bionic Person” Award went to the person with the most joint replacements – received a toy “reacher” and mechanical hand filled with candy.

“The Doctor Is In” Award went to the person with the most surgical procedures in a lifetime – received a doctor’s kit.

The “I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends”Award went to everyone who requires any assistive devices such as glasses, hearing aids, canes, pacemakers – all but three received this award, a pair of dark glasses, but no canes.

The “Cheer, Cheer Award” went to the person who could remember all the words to the school – received a memory game.

The crowd enjoyed the awards and I enjoyed coming up with them. Fun times!