Saturday, November 30, 2013

These Terrible, Wonderful Teenage Years

How exactly I went from having two toddlers and a baby, to having three teenagers still baffles me. This transition seems to have happened overnight and I slept through it. I vaguely remember that teething is the pits, diapers and formula are expensive, (but not even comparable to feeding three teens) and trying to juggle my work schedule with Cliff's so we didn't have to pay day care. Mostly I remember that holding my baby next to my heart was the sweetest feeling in the world. 

Every stage from birth up until now has had it's own rewards and challenges. I really enjoyed having little ones. Watching them grow and learn gave me great pleasure. Now they are nearly grown and don't need me so much. Having a crying baby was easier to cope with than a crying teenager, I just didn't know it then. Now the "terrible twos" don't seem so terrible at all.

If you are a parent who doesn't handle minor issues like vomit on your clothes or tantrums in the toy aisle you will not survive the teenage years. They are not for sissies. You will collapse on the floor in the fetal position and beg to be medicated for the next seven years. 

Learning how to navigate these in-between childhood and adult years are tricky. The relationship takes on a new dynamic. You have to figure it out as you go. 

You have to deal with such joys like finding cheap, reliable cars for them. No easy task there. We got lucky once, with Rebecca's car. Rachel's has been more difficult. We are still working on getting her behind the wheel. 

Then come the broken hearts. I must have some super natural maternal instinct there, because I know immediately whether the guy is good news or bad news. Even before I meet him, if I've heard the girls talk about him, I know. And yes. I have said the dreaded, "I told you so," a time or two. 

Feeding three teenagers is just a lost cause. They can plow through a pantry faster than greased lightning. There are at least a dozen other expenses that were nonexistent when I was a teen. When they started wanting me to buy iTunes cards I asked why they couldn't just download music illegally off the internet like everyone else.  Pathetic, I know. They said they had tried, but it gave the computer a virus. Great. There are iTunes, iPads, iPhones, iPods, all these gadgets come out with new versions every six months.  I'm convinced it's only because parents buy them for their spoiled, rich kids. It's not nice because kids like mine want all the new stuff too, but I can't afford to feed them and keep them updated with the newest iToy.

There are plenty of proud moments as a mom of teenagers. It's really not all bad. When they graduate with honors and get a full scholarship, it doesn't get any better than that! Except for maybe when they took their first steps. Yesterday....

Sunday, November 24, 2013

My Dream Job As A Writer Has Escaped Me Thus Far

I've spent the better part of this weekend writing. I helped both Rebecca and Rachel write papers for school and this is my second blog. 

 Rebecca's writing professor at Tech seems to love my work, which makes me proud. Rebecca and I make a good team, cranking out papers. This teacher won't give a perfect score, (not cool) but I have made 19 or 19.5 out of 20 every time. I mean Rebecca has. ;)  The only problem is I don't know how to use references very well. I don't like research papers. You have to document where you get every fact. Last night, Rebecca pointed out a couple sentences in a paragraph I'd written and asked me to "cite the reference". How annoying is that? She was not happy when I told her Wikipedia for one, and the other I heard on tv a long time ago. I like to write about non-issues. I can't be burdened with a real responsibility like writing about something of utmost importance. I'd mess it up. 

I really wanted to apply at the Herald-Citizen a few months ago when Mary Jo Denton retired. Her front page articles were always about who got busted for drunk driving or drugs. I can go through the police log and come up with a story, easy! Unfortunately, since she left, the front page stories have gotten even worse. Someone stole Pop-Tarts. Someone got robbed by a guy in a Halloween costume. It's absurd. They need me to write about what's really happening in Cookeville. I can do it, as long as I don't have to cite references. Buddy Pearson is the editor. Somebody put a bug in his ear and tell him he needs to talk to Debbie, the cafeteria lady at the hospital. I'd be happy with a weekly column. He can pick the topic. My dream job would be to sit at a keyboard for eight or nine hours a day. It's my way of being creative. I'm not very artsy. I can sing, but at my age, making a living at that is a lost cause. So I just need Buddy to give a girl a chance, who doesn't have a degree in Journalism. I am good with sarcasm and expressing my opinion or feelings which may or may not be very logical. 

If anyone knows someone at the Herald-Citizen have them look me up and I will hook them up with a new, exciting writer! 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Day In The Life Of The Hospital Cafeteria

I see and hear more than you think. What happens upstairs tends to make it's way down to the cafeteria. I see tears, smiles, hugs, bad tempers and thankfully, mostly kindness that had it's beginning on the floors above the cafeteria. 

I want the employees and families to like me. I want to connect with them, and usually I can. I have a couple secret weapons to ensure that I am considered the "nice cafeteria lady." Occasionally, I bring a bag of candy. Hershey's Kisses are the favorites. I pass them out, sometimes sneaking them into boxes of food without my customer knowing, but usually I hand it to them and say something clever about giving Kisses to all the boys at work. It's nice to make them smile. They don't forget that they got a treat from me and are not shy about asking for another one next time. 

I encounter a diverse group of people every day. The doctor who is too good to say "thank you" or look me in the eye, to the homeless person who doesn't have enough money to eat. Sometimes family members of patients are there for days at a time without a change of clothes. I can't help but feel for them. It's exhausting to be with a loved one in the hospital day after day, sometimes week after week. They deserve a Kiss. 

Every day, someone wants to purchase food for the coworker with them in line. A little spat ensues. "No, you don't have to." "Don't listen to him." "I'm buying!" Sometimes I butt in and say, "Just say 'thank you' and pay it forward." Seriously, there are people behind you on lunch who don't want to stand there while you argue about who is paying for your salad and Snickers. 

People must think I actually care about what they eat or who is going to eat it. They like to say things like, "This isn't all for me," or they get bread, mac-n-cheese, mashed potatoes and noodles and tell me they need some carbs. I smile and say, "I don't judge." "Whatever gets you through this day." Really, I don't care. I only care that you don't fuss at me about the price you have to pay or the poor choice of food. I've made suggestions to the higher-ups and you can see how interested they are in my ideas. 

I wish we could stagger the lunch hour better. I know most employees don't get a choice when they can escape and sneak down for some chow. It's not fun to spend half of your half hour break standing in line to get your food and then another line to pay. No matter how fast I work the computer, there is going to be a lady who has to dig through her purse the size of a suitcase to find her wallet. She will finally produce some cash, then mention that she has the change in here somewhere. I say, "It's ok, I have that." My register never balances to the penny because of it. I throw in a few quarters and hope I get close to what I let people get away with. 

There is food, drama, love, heartache. The cafe has it all. I like being part of it. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Who Needs A Mall When You Have Goodwill?

When we moved to Cookeville four years ago, my daughters suffered from mall withdrawal. They loved Briarwood in Ann Arbor. I only liked it for the Dollar Show, which didn't last long there, and Olga's. (best restaurant in the world) It's a good place to walk around and feel like you got some exercise while window shopping. That's almost all I ever did at the mall. Overpriced specialty shops with sales people lurking over your shoulder asking if they can help, just annoys me. I'm much more comfortable at the Cookeville Goodwill.

The best Goodwill shopping experience includes using the restroom before you get there and not being in a hurry.  The restroom is dirtier and smellier than the worst gas station restroom you've ever been in. Unfortunately, I drink a lot of coffee and water, so I usually have to visit the cesspool. I try not to breathe and hope the toilet has enough water pressure to flush. Sometimes it doesn't. You need plenty of time to rummage through the racks, keeping an eye out for the half price items, which are color coded and change weekly, or stuff with store tags still on them. That's when you hit the jackpot. If the shirt you like has the right color tag, plus still has the original store tag on it, then you basically won the Lotto. 

Some items are overpriced. Purses are $5.99 and up. The kitchen items, like plastic containers are too high. Most of them should be a quarter or fifty cents. A dollar for what is basically a butter bowl is too high. The furniture in the back room is way overpriced. I think they assume people will wait for the first Saturday of the month, when the whole store is half off, to buy the furniture. That day is only for the seasoned, brave, bargain shoppers who don't mind kids screaming and running around, people blocking aisles and waiting in a long line to check out. I bought a quilt rack on that day that was marked $12.00 so I paid $6.00. It's sturdy, not scuffed up and looks great. The original price was probably at least $40.00.

I only like to purchase clothes that are half off, but good luck finding the right color tags. Yesterday the color was yellow. Jeans are regularly $7.49. The only jeans I saw with yellow tags were elastic waist or so worn out nobody will pay $3.75 for them. I actually bought a sweater for myself and paid the full $5.99. It just looked like me. It fit well and I splurged. I thought about putting it up for Christmas, but it's already washed and hanging in my closet. I also got an unopened box of Christmas cards. The price on the back of the box was $14.95. I paid $2.00.

I like that Goodwill employs people who would otherwise not have jobs. They are actually nice folks too. There's the little lady who you hear before you see. She's loud, but I don't mind because she's happy and talking to everyone. There's the man in the wheelchair who sits at the front door. I've never seen him actually work, but if they want to pay him to sit at the door and smile, then I'm good with that. I had never seen the sweet girl who checked me out yesterday. She started talking about her babies, when she saw I had a few newborn outfits. Somehow we got on the breast vs. bottle topic. Hmmm. There's a special needs girl who walks around fiddling with clothes on the racks and she knows every word to every song. (They do play good music in there.) She sings loud and surprisingly well! 

Once you leave with your treasures, you kind of need a shower, or hand sanitizer at the very least. It's worth it though. Why pay full retail price, when you can get something comparable for a fraction of that cost? And you've helped some good people stay employed. 

The girls can go to Nashville and be mall rats. I'm going to stay right here in Cookeville at Goodwill. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Facebook: It's a Love/Hate Thing

The Facebook phenomenon has been in a constant state of change since it's beginning in 2004. Mark Zuckerburg and a few friends (most of whom went on to sue him) started it in a Harvard dorm room as a way for students to connect. Other colleges jumped on the band wagon. It blew Myspace into cyber-oblivion. The younger generation ruled it for a couple years. Then the older folks showed up. Suddenly, their parents, aunts, uncles, even grandparents were privy to their pics and posts. They split and went on to Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter and Snapchat where the privacy is better. They may check in a couple times a month, but fb is mostly used by the moms and dads of the kids who started it. 

When the teens left and parents took over, the annoying ads started popping up. Adults spend most of the money, so advertisers were quick to hit the fb market. They are not only in the margins but right there in with the newsfeed. SPAM! Dr. Oz has to say at the end of every show that he does not put ads on fb. They are fake. People stick his picture up to hawk their weight loss products or anything else health related. I get a few a day from Oprah's Secret Fatbuster. Something about, "Oprah's embarrassing weight loss secret." Looking at her most recent shows on OWN, I find it hard to believe she has lost a substantial amount. Even if she has, why would she be embarrassed? 

The drama on fb seems to have leveled off, now that the teens have moved on. I have a few friends that still need to grow up. I still get the occasional duck face, which I loathe. I've unfriended some that just got too ridiculous. You know, apologizing to their spouse for the fight they had. Really? I don't need to know this. No one needs to hear this except your spouse. Some people haven't learned that not everything is appropriate to share on fb. Don't put everything out there. Why would you share something stupid that you did? When I do something idiotic I'd rather no one knew.  Save the drama for your mama. 

Debates on fb are never a good thing. You are not going to change anyone's mind about whatever cause you are for or against. Seems like that is most of the drama now, at least with my friends. The written word is largely ineffective in debates. You just end up ticking people off. 

I don't care much about seeing a picture of your dinner plate at Chili's. I don't care about Farmville or any other ville. I don't like attention seekers. I don't want to know your personal marital issues. I don't like when fb changes the layout and you have to figure it all out again. In spite of what I don't like about fb, I actually LIKE it more than I dislike it, or I'd do like so many others have and take my page down and be gone.

I like seeing pictures of babies and kids. I like pics of vacations, scenery, families together, and special events. I like keeping up with friends and family. It's a quick, easy way to communicate. There are several pages that I've "liked" that I really do like and have learned from. I can keep up with what's happening at the kids schools, the local news and weather and events around town.  

Thanks, Zuckerburg and all the other kids who got fb up and running. It's nice that the teens finally gave their parents something besides debt, eyeball rolling or sarcasm. 

And kids, just because you aren't on fb, doesn't mean we aren't stalking you. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Surprise! It's A Blessing!

People have always given my mom stuff. I'm not just talking about a bag of old clothes. I mean furniture and appliances, things with value. Nearly every time I talk to her she says how so-and-so gave her this-or-that. It's remarkable to me. She does pass along some of what she gets, so I've received a few treasures from her. 

I have a friend, Audrey, who has a heart for the homeless. It doesn't matter to her if they are on the streets because they are a drug addict, a drunk, or lost everything when the company they worked for went belly up. She feeds them in soup kitchens, befriends them, prays with them and really tries to meet their needs. Her friends and church family knew that she walked the streets right along with the homeless. They started giving her stuff. Clothes, food, blankets, pillows, baby items, toiletries. They would tell her to give it to someone who needs it. She grew a sizable ministry in the Detroit area, just from donations that were given to her, to give to those who need it most. 

I have another friend, Jen. Not once, but several times, strangers have approached her and handed her money. She doesn't look needy. She has a job. Someone felt lead to bless her, so they did. 

For whatever reason, some people like mom and Audrey get lots of stuff given to them. Me, not so much. But occasionally, an unexpected blessing does come my way. Last Saturday a little church down the road had a Giveaway Day. Just come in the basement and take what you need. A free yard sale. It was a nice service to offer the community. I found a couple shirts and an umbrella. They had what they called big ticket items. A few chairs, tvs, an old computer, and there was a tan love seat with matching chair and ottoman. It looked new to me. You had to enter your name in a drawing for those. I really wanted that furniture and knew just where I'd put it. When I got home I told Cliff about the furniture and how it would be so neat if I won it. If you haven't guessed by now, I was the winner of the coveted tan love seat and chair. It is the most comfortable furniture in my house now. In fact, I have a hard time getting the teenagers out of that chair. The first time I sat in it, I fell asleep. I'm talking comfy-cozy.  

It seems to me that blessing like that are God's Favor. We all receive what we earn. We are given gifts at special times like birthdays and Christmas. If we get hitched or reproduce, we get gifts. But it just feels different when it is a total surprise. Unexpected blessings may be God's way of saying, "I'm still here." That could just be me, because I look for God everywhere and in everything, so to me it's a God-thing. 

I've had opportunity to give things to people that they didn't expect and I know they appreciated it and gladly accepted the blessing. I'm going to try and do that more often. Let's all try and pass along things we don't use or need. If it's in good shape, don't try and make a buck by selling it. Just give it away! Try it. Someone could have sold that furniture. They shared with me and for that, I am grateful. 

Of course, I have to close by saying, "It is more blessed to give than receive." Amen.