Sad and Cranky

sadandcrankyToday, over on Susan Cook Bonifant’s blog, Worth Mentioning, she has issued a challenge to restaurant customers this holiday season. It’s very simple. She suggests that when you dine out this holiday season that you tip your server (or your bartender) 100%. If you do so, she will give you a “praise coin”.

Susan is not in the service industry — well, not anymore; her story regarding why is a part of the blog post “It’s the holidays. Here’s a tip.” — which makes her support of those of us who engage in this drudgery just as generous as her 100% tip challenge. Truthfully, though, while a tip of this magnitude would be lovely, greatly appreciated, and put to good use, most of us would settle for — and be just as grateful for — the customary 20%. And a smile.

Pleasant guests with good attitudes who tip 20% are like gold to those of us who serve them. Throw in a little patience and we might be inclined to name our first-born child after you. Seriously.

While I had committed myself to writing every day in December, as I had in November, I had a particularly horrendous shift the other day that was, in part, the cause of my failure to finish what I had started. It wasn’t the only thing that made publishing a piece of writing impossible, merely the final thing that contributed to a mental state that could, at best, be defined as cloudy.

Adding to this mood and on top of my very, very bad day was the socio-political landscape that we find ourselves in, a husband who was feeling neglected, Christmas shopping that needed to be started (and finished), a daughter who hopped off to Montreal for the weekend before final exams, and the controlled chaos that exists here at the hovel. In short, the makings of a thunderous mood were spread upon my psyche, not unlike the array of ingredients, which are huddled in the corner of my kitchen countertop, for a cake that I have been planning to bake for a week now.

Trust me, no one would want to read the things that I had written (or consumed a cake that I had made) while in such a state. They are dark, angry pieces that will likely never see the light of day. They needed to be written, but not published. I had to write them, but you don’t have to read them. Consider that my Christmas gift to you.

Last Friday was one of those shifts that are best forgotten. Unfortunately, these are also the shifts that stay with me — sometimes for days after they are over.

From the start I had a feeling it was going to be one of those shifts which would find me operating “behind the eight-ball” all day. And it was. For a variety of reasons that will be all too familiar to anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant, but that I will simplify for those of you who have never had the pleasure of spending five minutes in a server apron — too many customers, too little staff. That’s it in a nutshell.

We managed, though, as we always do. We pulled it together, my co-workers and I. We survived it. And we did so with smiles plastered to our faces while we wore out our shoes running hither and yon, fetching and fawning. Just like we always do.

By 3:30 we were all able to breathe a sigh of relief — and ready our workspaces for the night shift. As I was cleaning, restocking, and organizing the bar I noticed that I had a new table. The minute I saw who it was I cursed the seating gods — “Oh, my God!”, I thought, “not THEM!” But there they were. And I would have to wait on them.

These were the last people on Earth that I wanted to wait on at that moment. They are an elderly couple who have nowhere else to be, but they behave as if they are still punching the clock at the shoe factory. They are neither patient nor kind. On her own, when he’s out of earshot, she can be nice, but together they spell M-U-D. She has Parkinson’s. He has no patience for her infirmity. She cannot get her words out quickly enough for him, so he talks over her or, worse, orders for her. It’s never what she wants. It’s just whatever is expedient. I always have to stand there while they duke it out.

I often wish that I were related to them, so that I could give him a solid punch to the kisser. Because I hate the way he treats her in public and wonder what it must be like for this lady in private. Once, when they were coming from a tennis game — a game that she still played in spite of her Parkinson’s Disease — I overheard him tell her that he was going to find a new doubles partner, as she was clearly unable to play up to his standards anymore. I never see her wearing her tennis gear anymore and her Parkinson’s, I fear, is the worse for it. He’s a real gem.

Frankly, the only reason I can muster up anything that comes close to pleasant is because I feel sorry for her. He can go jump in the lake as far as I’m concerned. She, at least, always tries to smile at me through the Parkinson’s mask. I know that she’s smiling because I can see it in her eyes. Why he can’t see through her eyes that she doesn’t want the salmon is beyond me.

Their order hadn’t been in for ten minutes when he started rubbernecking and sighing. At about that time I had gotten a new table — a table that was sitting right across the aisle from them. I love this couple. Waiting upon both of these couples at the same time felt a bit like counterprogramming — Football vs. A light romantic comedy.

Couple number two are one of my absolute favorite tables to wait on. She’s had some health problems and, as a result, her mental acuity isn’t what it used to be, but she’s still warm and funny, if somewhat repetitive. Both her other half and I share a wink and a nod as she regales me with the same stories, gives me the same sage advice, and tells me that I remind her of a long-dead relative (one that she loved dearly) for what is probably the thousandth time in our long relationship.

I like to spend as much time with them as possible. I like to give her husband a break from her ramblings. He deserves it. He truly is a gem. He so clearly loves her that watching them together is, at times, heartbreaking — but in a totally different way than the heartbreak I feel while dealing with couple number one.

Impatient, ornery guy could not stand that I was yukking it up with the other table. I could feel his eyes boring into the back of my head as I was allowing the nice old lady to tell me, once again, about her first job at the perfume counter at Woolworth’s. I think I was in the midst of saying, “That must have been something!” when he decided that interrupting me by tugging on my shirtsleeve while screaming “Don’t you think our food is taking a little bit too long?” would be the best way to get my attention.

Lady number two, for all of the wits that she no longer has about her, has still managed to retain the manners that she learned at the knee of her mother (a schoolteacher). She does not abide rudeness. (She probably never did.) So, of course, she looked over at the shirt tugger and said, in her very best stage whisper, “Sir! That is no way to get the attention of a lady!” (I mentioned that I love this woman already, right?)

These, of course, were fighting words to the nincompoop at the other table. Luckily, I was able to quell the uprising by telling him that I would check on his food in a minute. I put my hand over the hand of my defender — my way of wordlessly thanking her — and headed off to alert the kitchen that we had a sushi eater in the house.

Luckily the kind lady has very little short-term memory. She had put the whole incident behind her before I returned to take her order. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t follow her lead. It stuck with me, that feeling of helplessness that always seems to rise up in me whenever I have to deal with miserable people whose shabby treatment of others is just part and parcel of who they are.

It speaks to what I’ve been saying about the importance of respect with regard to some of the world’s bigger issues recently. I would love to suggest to some of my customers that they try their hand at pushing out thirty-two meals — all cooked properly, all with the proper side dishes, all delivered to the right table — in less than fifteen minutes, as they expect us to do. I would like to suggest to those of us who think someone is “less than” or undeserving of respect simply by virtue of their skin color to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. But I won’t. Because that makes me cranky and sad. And what the world really needs less of now, more than ever, is cranky and sad.

Author’s note: I did not name my child after any of my customers. If I had to name a child after every person who has ever been kind to me in my line of work, of which there are many, I would have been perpetually pregnant and currently residing in a shoe.

Are We Still Having This Conversation?


On the surface what follows may seem antithetical to the theme that we are supposed to be concentrating on this month, that of “Joy”. And, perhaps, it is. I would argue, though, that there may be real, true joy to be found when we can kick the ass out of some of the issues that are currently plaguing our communities, our country, and, yes, even ourselves. And, really, there’s nothing like a good ass kicking to put one in the holiday spirit, is there?

After more than thirty years together I am still sometimes surprised that my husband and I are having the same conversation again. Really it’s not a conversation, it’s an argument, I’ll call it what it is. It could be about how I never exit a car gracefully or quietly. It could be about how I’m terrible with money. It could be about any number of things. My point is that whatever it’s about, we’ve been down that road before. Probably more than either one of us would like to admit.

Still, I’d like to think I’ve gotten better about the issues that we seem to revisit. Sometimes he’ll even admit that I have, but as I’m still a work in progress on the door thing or the money thing or the (fill in the blank) thing he feels the need to mention it yet again. I’m sure that anyone reading this who is now or has ever been in a long-term relationship knows what I’m talking about.

It occurred to me the other day that if Fang and I can’t break out of the mold in our personal relationship, why do I expect that, on a national level, we, as a country, should have been able to move forward on issues that are far more important. Let’s face it, we are still having some of the same conversations that we’ve been having for years.

Still, I expect more from us collectively. I don’t know why, but I do.

Maybe I’m just crazy, but I cannot believe that here in 2014 we are still talking about things like racial equality, gender equality, domestic violence, and gun control. Some days I think that we haven’t evolved at all. Like we’re all still slamming the car door. It’s maddening. More, it’s pathetic and sad. And I worry about our staying power if we can’t get over these hurdles.

We need to stop having conversations and do something about it. Really. I mean it.

It would seem to me that agreeing and putting into practice something as simple as “We are all equal” is a no-brainer. We are. All equal. Really. Except that we’re not. Not really.

People of color are overrepresented in places like jail and in situations like poverty; underrepresented in far too many categories to enumerate here.

Women are actually STILL paid less than their male counterparts and victimized more. Many of them by their significant others.

Domestic violence is on the news every single damn day. Every. Single. Damn. Day.

And the gun thing? Come on, people! Even those of you who carry on about your Second Amendment rights — rights that truly only grant you the privilege of gun ownership if you plan on forming a standing militia to protect yourself and your fellow citizens from tyranny — have to admit that gun violence is out of control. Out. Of. Control.

It all just seems so senseless, doesn’t it?

Could it be as simple as respecting each other? Could it?

I think it could. Sure, Fang and I argue. Who doesn’t disagree with their spouse from time to time? But, I’ll tell you what else we do — when we argue, we do so respectfully. We don’t name call, throw things, or punch each other out. We just don’t. What purpose would that serve?

It would serve no purpose whatsoever.

And guess what? Sometimes I don’t like him much. I’ll bet that road goes both ways.

Maybe you don’t like black people or white people or women or men or your wife or your husband or your children or your neighbor or yourself. That’s fine. Like who you want, but respect the fact that they, too, have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Really. Do that. I mean it.

Who knows? Maybe it would go a long way to ending those conversations that we are still having. Those conversations that I cannot believe we are still having. Let’s just try not to have them anymore, okay? It’s really not that hard to do. Just walk away. That’s what my husband and I do.

Read a book. Watch a television program. But, just shut up already. And put your weapons away. Really.

The Joy of Christmas Music


I wrote this last year as part of Twisted Mix Tape Tuesday, which, sadly, is no more. Since this month’s blogging theme is “Joy”, and what’s more joyful than music?, and also because the post I was working on seems to have vanished into the atmosphere, I thought I would share this one again.

I reviewed it to make sure I hadn’t changed my mind about any of the songs. I’m happy to say that I haven’t. If you don’t know them, give them a listen. They’re all worth it.

Hopefully tomorrow I can recreate the piece I had planned on sharing with you today. Fingers crossed!

ONCE upon a time there lived a girl who loved Christmas songs. She loved them so much that she even, privately — when no one was around to judge her — listened to them when it wasn’t even Christmas. That girl was (is) me!


I’ve written about these songs and my relationship with them at length in the past. Suffice it to say that BETTER THINGS is very much the anti-FATHER CHRISTMAS! Where FATHER CHRISTMAS is loud and snarky, BETTER THINGS is quiet and hopeful. It’s tone notwithstanding, FATHER CHRISTMAS has earned its place in the canon. As to BETTER THINGS? Well, it’s just downright beautiful.

For a treat, I’ve included a link to Pearl Jam’s BETTER THINGS cover — it’s live, it’s Eddie Vedder. What more do you want?

BETTER DAYS The Goo Goo Dolls

In this song, Johnny Rzeznik and the boys ask that we worry less about “boxes wrapped in string” and, instead, embrace the universal message of forgiveness and peace. It’s nice. It’s pretty. It’s musically interesting — Rzeznik’s voice lends itself well to the arrangement.


This is a song about a guy and a girl who spend all year missing their connections with each other. Finally, on Christmas Eve their story has a happy ending at, of all places, the A&P. It’s just a fun song from an equally fun 80’s New Wave band. (The other song you may know by them? I KNOW WHAT BOYS LIKE)


From the first lightly struck piano notes and the plaintive timbre of Fogelberg’s voice — this song grabs you. When he reaches the chorus, when the harmonies kick in, it’s just so, well, melodious. Lyrically, the song tells the story of running into an old lover in the grocery store on Christmas Eve, catching up, feeling “that old familiar pain” of the what might have been, knowing right along with the narrator that it’s too late for them. For my money, there’s nothing like the saxophone solo at the end to underscore the sadness of the piece.

NOTE: In the beginning of this video is a letter that Dan Fogelberg wrote about the origins of the song!

THIS IS A BLOG HOP >>>> Thanks, once again, to Jen over at My Skewed View for hosting!

Here’s how it works. Find your own fab five songs that fit the category, write a post, and link-up below where it tells you to! This is the perfect week to join in the fun. I mean, come on, who doesn’t know five Christmas songs? (I don’t care if you’re Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Whatever — I guarantee you that you know five Christmas songs, for crying out loud!)

*BETTER THINGS may not officially be a Christmas song, but I’ve always thought of it this way.

FATHER CHRISTMAS, The Kinks, 1977 (released as a single, but also appears on the the 1986 “greatest hits” compilation Come Dancing with The Kinks). Written by Ray Davies.

BETTER THINGS, The Kinks, 1981 (released as a single, but also appears on their 1981-2 album Give the People What They Want). Written by Ray Davies.

BETTER DAYS, The Goo Goo Dolls, 2005 (from the album Let Love In). Written by John Rzeznik.

CHRISTMAS WRAPPING, The Waitresses, 1981 (from the album A Christmas Record). Written by Chris Butler.

SAME OLD LANG SYNE, Dan Fogelberg, 1980 (released as a single, but also appears on the 1981 album The Innocent Age). Written by Dan Fogelberg.

The “Joy Challenge”


I made it to the end of National Blog Post Month! I posted every single day in November — and I only did two picture posts, so there! I participated last year, but missed a couple of days, which I thought was something to celebrate (and it was), but actually completing the exercise this year felt even better! Really, it did.

Not one to learn her lesson the first time rest on her laurels, with the encouragement and promise of camaraderie from one Elin Stebbins Waldal over at Beyond the Backyard Blues, I’m going to attempt to complete a post a day in December, also. I’ll tell you why in a minute, but first I want to encourage you to pop over and read Elin’s work. Grab a cup of coffee first, though, because it’s a good bet that you’ll be there awhile. Elin is a fantastic writer.

Like the inability to eat one potato chip, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to stop at reading just one of Elin’s finely wrought pieces of prose. If you are the type of person who can eat one potato chip (or one Tootsie Roll!), please feel free to share with me how you are able to do such a thing. If your answer is “will power”, though, don’t bother. I have little to none of that. Still, I’ll bet you won’t read just one of her posts. And why should you? Unlike junk food, reading good writing is a calorie-less and guilt-free endeavor. (Unless, like me, you read with a bag of Tootsie Rolls beside you.)

Elin and I are stylistically and thematically as different as two writers can be. Yet, I can’t help but learn something, usually about myself, when I read her work. She has the ability, through her words, to draw us in, but, more importantly to connect her readers not only to her, but to themselves. That is a rare and special gift and one that I would like to share with all of you. Merry Christmas and you’re welcome.

Why have I chosen, given the madness that was November, to take up the challenge to write every day in December, as well? Anyone who knows me, knows that “because she’s insane” would not be the worst answer in the world to this question, but, in this case, it is not the correct answer. Not this time, anyway.

The real reason has to do with writing prompts based on a theme. Writing extemporaneously has been, since I began my illustrious career as a blogger, my method. It’s worked out fairly well for me, but even I find that I’m bored with my subject matter. I’d like to write less about work. My family would like me to write less about them. I won’t guarantee that some of the prompts won’t send me in those same directions, but I’m hoping to stretch my thinking and my writing muscles a bit more than I normally do.

Because the theme for the month is “joy”, I’m fairly certain that I won’t be telling many work-related stories. There is little that I find joyful down at “The Annoying Bar & Grill”. For the most part, you’ve gotten to know my family — the long-suffering husband, “Fang”, the always delightful teenage daughter, “Fangette”, and the rodent-loving overweight feline who resides with us, “The Great Fanganini” — as I’ve described them, which has largely been when they have been at their worst. I thought it might be nice to, where appropriate, portray them in a better light. They do, indeed, bring me joy.

That they bring me joy is something that I want you to know. I want them to know it, too. And, it wouldn’t hurt for me to say it.

Don’t think that it hasn’t occurred to me that, as an added bonus and if all goes well, I may be able to bind up these posts and give them as Christmas gifts. That will be a real money-saver. Saving money always brings me joy.

Let this post serve as fair warning then, folks. I’ll be around a lot in December. To bring you joy. (I know. I know. It’s going to be a real challenge!)

The “One Thing” I Got Right as a Parent

NaBloPoMo14DayThirtyMy daughter, the always delightful Fangette, paid me (and her father) a compliment the other day. Fair warning, don’t get too excited or verklempt before you hear it. She said, and I quote, “the one thing you people got right was that you didn’t raise a racist”.

I suppose if we had to get “one thing right”, that would be it. I’d like to think that we got a few other things right, too. Still, a compliment from a teenager is a compliment from a teenager. One cannot get too excited about its content. I said, “you’re welcome”. My plan was to leave it at that.

I knew where it was coming from. It came very shortly after the Ferguson verdict. An issue that Fangette was, to put it mildly, worked up about. To add insult to injury, I gathered — from snippets of conversations — that some of her friends were not as horrified by the outcome as Fangette was and, in turn, thought they should be. This is how it came to pass that Fangette, possibly for the first time in her life, realized that not all of her friends and acquaintances shared her exact politics. For the record, my daughter may, in fact, be more liberal than her mother. And, that’s saying something.

Fangette’s first reaction was to label some of them racists. I thought this was unfair. I argued that how we as a society view “otherness” is steeped in far more than our politics. I took the time to remind her that just because some of her peeps were not outraged, were supportive of law enforcement, or were simply keeping their mouths shut, did not necessarily mean they were racists. Further, to cast them as such did them — and her — a grave injustice.

I pointed out that there were any number of people posting the same things on social media — the same memes — as her friends were. She suggested I “unfriend” all of these folks immediately.

I did not do that, nor will I. I am of the opinion that everyone has a right to their opinion. I don’t have to agree with them, they don’t have to agree with me. We can still be friends. I wouldn’t marry them or anything, but luckily for me — and for them — that is not even at issue.

Does it drive me a little crazy sometimes that some of the people that I know post things that sound ridiculous? Of course it does. Do I say anything to them? Not usually. Has it occurred to me that it’s just possible that only I find some of these things ridiculous? Of course it has.

What I’ve come to realize in my middle age is that friends are hard to come by. Good friends are even more difficult to find and to hold onto. And, do you want to know something? If it weren’t for social media, Facebook especially, it is entirely possible that I would never know anyone’s politics. In my world, politics rarely comes up in conversation.

I have never, for the record, seen any of the people who tend to trot out their right-wing views on Facebook, act anything but kind and generous in their “real” lives. I have never heard them utter a racial slur. They seem fine with their children having friends and other relationships with all sorts of people who are not white. They have similar relationships themselves. Why they choose to post what they post to their Facebook pages is beyond me. But, it’s a free country, right? Who am I to criticize?

Young people are quick, I think, to scratch people from their lives because they don’t share their same zeitgeist. Call me crazy (or tolerant), but I think listening to the views of others, especially when they bring a different perspective, is a good thing. Or, at least I always did. Now? I don’t know. Maybe tolerance is a thing of the past.

I hope not, though.  Because if it is, there are quite a few people I’m going to sorely miss having in my life. I do know a few left-wing nutjobs, but I don’t like them half as much as I like the people who don’t always share my political beliefs.

I have reached the conclusion that as long as they’re fine with who I am, then I can be fine with who they are. If that makes me — as my daughter intimated that it does — a hypocrite, so be it. I suppose that as long as I’m a hypocrite who did “one thing right” as a parent, I can live with that, too.






Weirdly Grateful… for blurred vision

NaBloPoMo14DayTwentyNineI am allergic to cats. Naturally, it follows, that I own one. (We’ve had this one, “The Great Fanganini”, for over fifteen years.)

I take precautions. One of them being, I don’t tend to hold him overly much. This policy has served me well. Outside of a few weeks during the year when I am victimized by other allergies, I don’t suffer from cat ownership all that much. My husband does the litterbox; my daughter takes care of other areas of cat hygiene. It works out.

I also suffer from extremely dry eyes. This is an ongoing problem for which I take flaxseed oil. Fish oil would be better, but I’m allergic to shellfish and, as a result, cannot take the fish oil. I use prescription gel drops semi-regularly, as well. As long as I remember to take the flaxseed oil, refill my eye drop prescription, and not to touch the cat too much — cat hair and dander tends to exacerbate, but is not the underlying cause of my dry eye problem — this regimen is effective.

The effectiveness of this regimen, though, really does depend on me. This is bad. Because while I can be relied upon to take care of everyone and everything else that goes on here at the hovel, I don’t always take care of myself. I’m sure I’m not the only wife/mother/pet owner who suffers from this same malady. I call it the “Me Fourth Syndrome”.

Usually I take care of Daughter/Husband/Cat/Me. Sometimes that order gets rearranged where the first three are concerned, but I am almost always the one to occupy the fourth position.

Recently, as in Thanksgiving morning, it slapped me in the face. Literally.

I was on the phone with my mother while I was enjoying a cup of coffee and watching “The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” on television. I made the mistake of sitting in my husband’s chair — a chair that the cat and my husband spend a great deal of time in.

Because I was multi-tasking, I didn’t really notice that the cat was attempting to make like a fox stole and wrap his gigantic body around the back of my neck. But he was. And he did. When I realized that there was what amounted to a giant albatross around my neck, I reached around and relocated The Great Nipperini to lower ground.

Within seconds, he had pounced on my lap and, before I knew it, he had begun to nuzzle my face. Literally. The Great Nipperini does not like to be put off. Not unlike the other creatures that also reside here at the hovel, he, too, is an “in your face” type of creature.

Because cat wrasslin’, phone talking, parade watching, and coffee drinking cannot really be accomplished simultaneously, I hung up the phone. As I went to remove The Great Fanganini from my face so that I could return to parade viewing and self-caffeinating, I realized that something was very wrong. Very, very wrong.

I couldn’t see. My eyes felt like there were little woodworkers in them — woodworkers equipped with teeny, tiny pieces of sandpaper. These woodworkers had gotten mighty busy.

At this point both my husband and my daughter had arisen. The daughter was in the bathroom. I yelled in to her to get me the eye wash. Stat!

She couldn’t find it. Then, I couldn’t find it. I also had no eye drops. Even though we had been at the pharmacy refilling her prescriptions just the day before, I never thought to refill my own. “Me Fourth Sydrome” had bitten me in the ass once again!

I applied a cold compress to my eyes, but it wasn’t working AT ALL. I was in pain. My eyes were watering. And, as an added bonus, I looked like I had recently spent some time — a great deal of time — with Cheech & Chong — or other pot smokers of note. If only!

I put out a general alert to the troops that someone would have to take me to the grocery store — they were the only place that I knew to be open on Thanksgiving morning. I needed to get eye wash and some over-the-counter eye drops to alleviate the symptoms caused by The Great Fanganini, who, while all of my hootin’ and hollerin’ was going on, was just sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor looking up at me, as if to say, “Hey! What’s all the commotion?”

My husband went to put his pants on and grab his keys. Once we got in the car, though, he mentioned that he had to get gas and stop at the mailbox. As we were leaving the house the daughter requested a bagel sandwich — to tide her over until the feast we were no doubt in for later in the day.

Somehow I managed to convince the husband that we could take care of his errands (and hers) AFTER I had treated my eye issue — even though both the gas station and the mailbox were on the way to the grocery store, he agreed. Who says chivalry is dead? (Although I was slightly annoyed that he had taken the time to grab whatever it was that needed mailing while he was changing from pajama pants into jeans.)

Because I could not make clear to my husband, in a way that I felt comfortable that he was actually comprehending, what eye wash was or where it was kept at the supermarket, I had to go into the store myself — looking like a pothead. In fairness, the husband did dig out some eye drops before we left the house, that they were likely from 1979 and they burned like crazy notwithstanding, at least he did make an attempt to help me.

Of course I have to wonder if he shared these drops with me so that he could buy himself some time — time for getting gas and visiting the mailbox. Whatever his reasons, at least he tried. For that, I was grateful.

When I stumbled into the supermarket and found the correct aisle — I did this more from memory than from actual sight — I grabbed the eye wash and, what I thought were some sort of gel drops. They were not. But, I didn’t notice that until AFTER I had shot them into my eyes. They relieved the pain, but they numbed my eyes. They contained, as I later ascertained, some sort of antihistamine.

This is how and why I spent my Thanksgiving barely able to focus. I’ve spent other holidays barely able to focus, but those were a result of having had at least a slight buzz on. I don’t miss the buzz anymore, but I hadn’t realized how much I had grown accustomed to being secure in the knowledge that I would be able to remain focused — both visually and mentally — since I gave up drinking.

I found it weird, but not altogether inexplicable, how much my fuzzy eyesight seemed to be affecting my mental acuity. I had never given much thought to this relationship before.

I felt scattered and slightly out of sorts the whole day. I was grateful, though, that I just needed to wait for the eye drops to wear off to feel more myself. And, as an added bonus, no threat of a hangover existed.

I was reminded, once again and in a very strange way, that while I still miss drinking now and again, I have become a person that embraces the mental sharpness that is part and parcel of sobriety. More meaningful, though, is because I hold having my wits about me so dear — and miss it when I can’t — it bolsters my confidence in the fact that I will never take up drinking again.

That lesson, no matter that I have to learn it again and again, is always something to be grateful for.

Enjoy the Becoming

NaBloPoMo14DayTwentyEightEveryone told me that I would see a significant change in my daughter, the always delightful Fangette, when she returned from college for Thanksgiving break. I didn’t believe them. I am that person who needs to see it, touch it, feel it for myself. And I have. She is (almost) a different person.

What can I say? I am a skeptic. Especially when it comes to parenting. I listen to the sage words of others, I just don’t necessarily believe what they’re saying. Even though history has proven them right. About (almost) everything.

Although I should certainly know better, I, too, waste my breath giving unsolicited advice which falls on the deaf ears of younger parents. I understand. They shake their heads in agreement, but their eyes tell another story. Their eyes say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ll just see about that!” Perhaps it’s just me? Maybe I just run with a crowd of polite cynics. I don’t think so, though.

Yesterday I was given the opportunity to impart some of the wisdom that I have gained in my eighteen years of parenting. I have managed to raise an intelligent, socially adept young woman. As if to prove my parenting prowess, my own progeny was sitting beside me carrying on an adult conversation with another human being. She had also successfully dress herself that morning.

I laughingly told my cousin (the mother of a pre-schooler and a toddler) who was chagrined at her younger child’s inability to identify certain letters, most colors, and stay within the lines as he decorated a Thanksgiving turkey (or, as he called it a “chicken” — I told him that he was just being silly, that every little schoolboy knows that chickens do NOT wear Pilgrim hats!) that she needn’t worry about this, that, or the other thing, that her child would put it all together at some point. Mine did. And, I pointed out, her older one, seemed just fine. I made a motion to indicate that my kid, no coloring genius herself, had, seemingly, turned out, in my humble opinion, more than fine. All evidence to the contrary, my cousin still seemed worried about the little guy.

I jokingly remarked that perhaps the little one just didn’t care. He’s got a sunny, vibrant personality. And, let me just add, he’s cute as a damn button. Those attributes ought to get him somewhere. So what if he can’t spell, discern purple from blue, or identify fowl? It’s likely, even if he never masters any of these skills, that he, too, will be just fine. It’s also probable that, when the spirit moves him or it matters to him, that he will demonstrate proficiency at these and other important tasks. Right now, though, he just wants to live in a world where The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are real. Me, too.

It was during my tete-a-tete with my cousin that I noticed that my father — a man who wouldn’t win any spelling competitions himself — was hanging around the perimeter of the conversation. He made a gesture. He was, I realized, pointing at his nose. What, I wondered, was he trying to convey to me? And then it hit me.

My daughter came home from college sporting a nose ring. What he was trying to tell me was that, perhaps, the mother of a nose-piercer shouldn’t be doling out any parenting advice. I just rolled my eyes at him and told him, none too quietly, that “tomorrow we’re all getting matching tattoos, Da”. I may have asked him if he wanted to join us. And then I laughed and gave him my best “West of Ireland sigh”. He may have thought me serious otherwise.

I tell you this story not to give the impression that my father is a humorless and intolerant curmudgeon, which he can be, but can’t we all? I tell you this story because it says a lot about how our relationship has evolved over the years. More to the point, it says a lot about how I have changed.

The fact that I laughed. The fact that I chose to interpret his gesture as a light ribbing, which I am fairly certain it was meant to be, instead of “fightin’ words”, speaks volumes about who I presently am.

Not so long ago I would have been angry with him. (And, probably, by extension, with the daughter.) I would have felt harshly criticized and, yes, judged. Now? Not so much. I honestly thought it was funny that he could get worked up over something as ridiculous as a tiny hoop earring in the nose of a college student.

Also, because my daughter is now 18 years old, I no longer feel responsible for what she pierces or tattoos. And, you wanna know what? I kind of like it. I was kidding when I told my father that we were getting tattoos, but I am toying with the idea of getting my eyebrow re-pierced. I let it close long ago. Maybe it’s time to rethink that.

Having my daughter home from college has been wonderful. A blessing. I missed her terribly. I will miss her when she leaves on Sunday. I do love the person who is emerging, though — nose ring and all. I am enjoying the new relationship that she and I seem to be forging. It’s freeing to break out of our old roles.

Snappy retorts to criticism and eyebrow piercings, aside, I’ve been rethinking a lot of things lately, most of them to do with my daughter. Mainly, what my ruminations have uncovered is that it is comforting to worry less about who she might become and concentrate, instead, on who she is today.

Getting to this place is a journey and one that we all must take ourselves. Some of us will arrive at our destination sooner, rather than later, but, like learning our colors or our alphabet, there’s no hard and fast timetable for it, really. Telling someone this, especially a newer parent, is an exercise in futility.

As far as I know my daughter has a handle on her colors and her alphabet; my cousin’s son will get there, too. We all learn the stuff we need to know eventually. Me? I’ve learned to laugh more and stress less. Mostly, though, I’ve learned that sometimes, as a parent, the nicest part of the job is when you can let go, sit back, and enjoy the becoming.