Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What Makes a Good Neighbor?

Relationships come in all forms. In my life, I have had the fortune of good neighbors wherever I have lived. One of my former blogs, “The Circle Won't Be Broken,” was written about getting together with my childhood neighbors.

Danny, Edie and Shane. Wayne
must be taking the picture.
I found this following item in my “Miscellaneous” folder on the computer, and thought, “I could re-purpose this for Connection Intersection.” It was written to our former neighbors and given to them upon the occasion of closing on our old house. We were neighbors from 1993 until 2007. These were the years we raised our children.

A good neighbor:

  • Of course, picks up your mail and papers, takes them in the house and makes sure everything looks “normal”.
  • Knows your pass code on the garage door.
  • Knows your extended family.
  • Remembers your birthday (of course there’s a good reason for that when you share it!)
  • Is the emergency contact for your kids for the schools.
  • Has a copy of your insurance card for the above, just in case!
  • Comes over when you are sick, can’t get out of bed and need some 7-Up and sees that your five year old isn’t starving.
  • Raises your kids when you aren’t around (or when you are).
  • Has the privilege to be called by their first names by your children and vice versa, which you do not allow your children to normally do.  However, when they become a lunch monitor, they become “Mrs.” or a coach they become “Coach”.
  • Is a safe haven for your children in emergencies.
  • Takes pictures of the kids every first day of school.
  • Needs your son to catch one game of a double header, so goes out and buys a new right-handed catcher’s glove, which are impossible to find, pays for it himself, oils it up at noontime and puts it in the front window of his car, goes out at 2:00 and 4:00 to reoil it so it will be “broken in” by the next day to play ball.
  • Disciplines your daughter for having a party when her parents are gone, but never tells you…. until years later.
  • Sits through numerous ball games with you.  Kibitzes when your sons are on “opposing” teams.
  • Stands up and hollers, “that’s my other boy!” when your son makes a touchdown.
  • Sits through numerous musicals with you.
  • Sits outside with you in their driveway and decides it’s time to cut down that ugly tree in your front yard. This decision is made while your husband and children are on vacation.
  • Keeps your cooler for three years, swears that they don’t have it, and then you discover it when they have a party.
  • Lets you use their extra refrigerator for parties. I suppose this counter balances the previous item.
  • Sits outside and watches lightening bugs with you in the evening.
  • Comes and holds you when your brother passes away unexpectedly.
  • Has their tables and chairs over to your garage so you can have the wake.  You don’t even know when they arrived. That’s because the pass code is common knowledge.
  • Takes care of the house while you are at the funeral and has all the food ready when you arrive home from the cemetery.
  • And when you move away, and you need 6 chairs for a get-together, you call, they say “I’ll get them out, put them in the garage by the freezer and you know the code if no one is home!”  And they know I won’t keep them for three years!

We have a great new house and we have good neighbors, but we will never have another Edie and Wayne and Danny and Shane!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mom Turns 80

I knew from the time I wrote “Things My Father Taught Me” that I had to give Mom equal time. But I didn’t want to do it on “Mother’s Day,” so I have chosen the occasion of her 80th birthday. She’s gonna kill me! I read someplace where people start bragging about how old they are at 80, so I am going to buy into that and hope that there is another blog that follows this.

Because I am a mother, I can give this a different perspective also.

Mothers are our first teachers.  My mother was a stay-at-home in the 1950’s and she was deeply interactive and had me conversing with her at an early age. I am told my first sentence was “I don’t want any!” She taught me how to count in French because I was using too much toilet paper. I was only allowed to have cinq. I was read to and was provided with many books. Music was played in our home, and I was listening to Tchaikovsky and dancing to Swan Lake before I ever had a ballet lesson.

I took dance lessons. My mother bartered with my dance teacher to teach ESL to take her citizenship test and I took ballet. I had a real French ballet teacher at 6! Mom and I did go to see Swan Lake. I also took piano lessons. She filled me with culture while Daddy was teaching me about baseball. I was well-rounded.

When I was 9 we went to see the movie West Side Story and my love of musicals began. Because I got straight A’s as a fourth grader, my reward was getting the soundtrack LP. I learned every word of every song. My mother’s reward was my asking “Mommy, what is a ‘social disease’?” (listen to “Dear Officer Krupke” again!) HAHAHAHAHA!

Seriously, my mother was there for me as a teacher during the years when I was just soaking up information about everything. She influenced my love of music by taking me to concerts that ranged from the folk group Limeliters to the Flamenco guitarist Carlos Montoya; even though the genres and concerts changed with time, we still both loved music. While I didn’t read the same things she did, the books and magazines were there, I picked them up occasionally and learned something.

While neither of us would claim to be “Homemakers Elite,” she taught me basics that have lasted with me. She taught me to sew at the age of 12, and kept her mouth shut when I wore my less-than-perfect creations to school. (I am not sure I could have done that with my daughter) Even though I don’t sew much these days, mostly because I can’t sit at a sewing machine for a long period of time; if I had to do something, I could. I would just have to break it into manageable time periods. I also learned to knit, again something I could pick up again if I chose to.

We are not gourmet cooks and never will be. But I learned the basics—how to make a good white sauce, pie crusts and buttercream frosting. To this day I make Bisquick pancakes and biscuits. Although I never got the “yeast” concept going (and she made great yeast rolls!) and I don’t make as good of pies as she does; I was able to learn some old family recipes that SHE never got! We both learned in the “comfort food” school of cooking and we both have had to change our ways.

Mom kept house casually. She used to quote Phyllis Diller with “Running the sweeper while the children are growing is like shoveling snow while it is still snowing.”  I appreciated that later in life. The other Dillerism that Mom and her sister used was “When the kids are around, we don’t cuss or drink; and when they aren’t around, who needs to?”

Enough of housekeeping issues. I “inherited” a life-long love of learning from her. She was always learning about a new thing. Because she married young, she didn’t finish college until she was 38. Perhaps this is an unseen attribute, but I think I learned perseverance from her.

She inherited a love of photography from her own father. I didn’t get that gene. I like to take pictures, but they are not my way of expressing anything in particular. I learned to appreciate others’ work, and I appreciated my grandfather’s work.

My mother taught me rules of etiquette, although there was a part of her that rebelled against the rules of the generation before her. From setting a table to writing thank you notes, I knew the right way to do things. Some of that came from other sources such as scouting and my grandmother, but as a young girl I learned to be a young lady. At least I learned how to be a young lady when it was necessary!

She taught me not to be afraid of new things. She had a computer before we did, and iPod before I did, and has a fondness for gadgets. (She says she got that from her Dad. Since he died when I was nine, I have to take her word for it) I have taught her a few things about desktop publishing and database management.  So there you have that life-long learning thing going on.

Most of all she taught me to be a mom. I learned that these young lives were the most important thing there was, but at the same time, from her influence I learned NOT to lose myself in my children. While enjoying their talents, I did not live vicariously through them, and I always had my own interests outside of child-rearing. My kids did some things I loved and some things I tolerated, but I supported them in all of their activities. It became impossible to follow them and do my own thing with music, so I took about a 7 year sabbatical, but I KNEW that in the fall of 2007 when Joel graduated, I would be done and I would be back!

This year has been a full one for my mother. I think the impending birth of a great-grandchild had much to do with the decision to move back to Ohio after living in Florida for 20 years.  Even at 79, she is not afraid of change. My aunt and I went to Florida (at separate times) to help her decide what to keep and what not to keep; and my cousin helped her move in June. She chose to move around the time of the baby’s birth. I told her she was on her own with this one! I am sincerely grateful for my cousin and her family’s help in this.

Mom moved in with her sister and brother-in-law. She has a nice bedroom and has somehow managed to get all her “stuff” in there. The animals all seem to get along. So do the people. I know she would like to see more of the baby, as would I; but we deal with the realities of working parents and the other activities that go along with them.

For her 80th birthday, Mom wanted to go to a restaurant so no one would have to cook. It was a nice place with a lovely party room.  There was a band and the children loved dancing. We older folks are slowing down. It was a good time of family interaction, catching up and watching these kids grow up.  It was a fine celebration of a good life.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Facebook Gone Wild!

As my “friends” total inched up toward 900, two things came to my mind. One was “Wouldn’t it be cool to have 1000 friends?” and the other was “This is utterly ridiculous!”

My last blog was about de-cluttering our homes and possessions. In no way do I ever put relationships in the same category as “stuff,” but I really felt that my Facebook was “over the top.”

It wasn’t about anyone in particular, but the whole. How much could I really keep up with? When I began Facebook in September of 2007, my goal was to keep in touch with my son’s buddies that were going off to college. I watched these guys grow up, I didn’t want to lose track of them! My first “friend” was the neighbor young man who was “student teaching” in Spain. Boom! I was on my way! My second friend was one of Joel’s buddies (who will be the best man in his wedding) who had gone off to college. I was his friend before Joel even got a Facebook account!

One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was “friends” with five members of any one family. The older generation finally got with the program, and when I started with the kids; then it moved to their folks. I remember one of them saying, “The parents are taking over Facebook!” Well, you were right, Ben! We did!

Then, one by one, the family started getting on Facebook.  By this I do mean BOTH sides of our families. I love this as I can watch my 22 great nieces and nephews grow up without being there. That’s Jerry’s side; on mine it is the grandchildren of my first cousins that I enjoy watching!

My church got into the act, but I think they all wanted to play ChurchVille. You know what I mean, whatever game-of-the-month it was. I could not have cared less about that. But I friended my church family and my former church family. I friended former co-workers. I friended the family of current co-workers. I found women named “Denise Kline” on Facebook (try it with your name!). Then there was the infamous “Derges NOT related” group. The numbers rose.

It goes without saying that I found classmates on Facebook. I friended them, and admittedly, directed them to our class web site. That was my intent. At one time I was friends with over 200 classmates.

But as I reached that 900 mark, I started thinking about this. I wrote some letters to (usually) the moms of the families. I thought they were the best to keep in touch with (read: would post pictures of the kids) in terms of the family. I was able to release the children, and still know what was going on. Usually I kept only one of my generation; there are a few exceptions, where I consider the husbands to be as good friends as their wives. I let go of former co-working situations. I even let go of some church friends!

With regard to my classmates, it’s only normal that some people are closer to me than others. We had our reunion; and with every person I “let go” on Facebook, I double-checked and made sure they were connected with the web site. If they weren’t, I kept them. I want the connection, somehow.

There are probably some who are offended. I just want to say this. I never made a “friend” that I didn’t want to be friends with; but at some point it was just redundant. I don’t need this here AND there. If it could possibly be said of me—I was overdosing on PEOPLE! It was time to make it more sensible.

At the same time, I had over 550 names in my primary address book, at least 200 of which were classmates. I double-checked every one as I culled, did I have that information on the web site? If so, I had it. If you are reading this and you are still on my AOL instant messenger, you are truly in a select group of people. I whittled that down to almost nothing.

I cut my Facebook number in half. This is manageable. I can keep up with what is going on with the people who are closest to me. Family is family, forever. If I were to unfriend a family member, we would be having a conversation first! Others, may not be my BFF’s but in some way have “developed” the relationship through Facebook. Next month I am going to Wisconsin to see a classmate. About 30 minutes west of her home, lives a Facebook friend named Derge who is NOT related to my husband’s family.  She’s about my age and we have lots of things in common. We plan to meet. That’s a photo-op if I ever heard of one.

How far to take this is a different answer for each person. For me, the class web site will never become a chore; I REALLY love doing it! That is where I connect with classmates. My address book is family and business, with some others sprinkled in. Facebook is a hodgepodge, but it’s the people I interact with the most. The most pleasant surprise is my continued connection with Enon folks. My kids are out of school, but it’s still a tight-knit community. Just because I am paying taxes and voting in another jurisdiction, they have not tossed me out!

It may seem like an odd thing to say in a blog like this, but at some point even connecting can become too much! That’s where I was.  As a postscript, I want to add that I have not blocked anyone from messaging me on Facebook, and of course the web site too. I am still easy to get a hold of! Don’t hesitate to do that.

I have taken a huge step back. I needed to, but it doesn't mean I don't care.