Monthly Archives: July 2010

I’ve often wondered if there is a central clearing house where people sit in little cubicles collecting email addresses for junk mail to be sent to. The amount I delete when I log on every morning is stunning. Are there really folks who read the subject line and open the email thinking, “You know, I was needing something that would give me bionic hearing.”

Honestly, how often do you need your credit report checked and how many times a year do you buy air filters. So I delete all the junk and then read the mail from people who actually know me and would say, “Hi” if we ran into each other at TJ Maxx.

I sift through notes and reminders, but one thing is missing. After Dad got his first computer several years ago, I sent him an email every night before I went to bed and he sent me one in return every morning when he got up. Now that he’s gone, so are his “Good Morning” emails.

However, for the past ten years Dad sent me notes detailing what to do when he moved on to live with Jesus. To be truthful, I didn’t read them, but printed them off and put them in my DAD file.

A few weeks ago I was digging though the file tying-up loose ends after the funeral. I found an email from Dad dated December 14, 2001:
“Dear Suzette,
Gail at the monument company said don’t ask the cemetery to do the engraving because they will charge you and arm and a leg. She said to call Dave. He will give you a better price. Love, Dad

So I Googled the monument company and gave them a call. Sure enough Gail answered the phone. I read her Dad’s email written 9 years ago. She laughed and gave me Dave’s phone number. I called Dave and he handled it from there without charging me an arm and a leg.

It made me smile because I felt like I had be sent an email from heaven.


All three of my kids could swim before they could walk. I suppose that happened because of my neurotic mommy fear that Jason would fall in the pool at the summer camp where we were working and wouldn’t be able to get out. I think that anxiety started when I was a lifeguard in high school, long before I had babies. A cat fell into the pool during the night and couldn’t get out. It was a bit disturbing the next morning when I unlocked the gate.

My mom never learned how to swim, so her motivation for me to swim was different than mine was for my kids. When I was five she signed me up for lessons at the Y. That was way before baby swim classes were invented so I was one of the youngest in my class. I was terrified. I’m sure it was painful for Mom to watch from the parents area because she was just as afraid as I was. It took several months for me to conquer my fear, but I finally did. Years later when I taught kids and adults to swim, I understood.

Swimming is one thing I don’t think can be introduced too early. It’s amazing what babies can do in water. They look like little tadpoles wiggling along with alligator eyes that don’t close when they come up out of the water. If they get in early enough, it’s almost like they’re going back to the comfortable environment they were in for their first nine months.

Baby Vivian and Jill are taking Mommy and Me classes at Morgan Swim School established 30 years ago in Virginia. Viv is the youngest in her class and the only one not afraid. In fact she gets mad when she has to get out of the pool. Maybe at 8 months she’s too young to be afraid or maybe Jill’s the only mommy who’s not afraid because she’s been in the water since she was six months old.

My mom was the oldest of five girls and, by default, was a mother’s helper for her mother. Wrinkle free fabrics hadn’t been invented yet and LG and Samsung weren’t around with the steam dryer. Everything had to be ironed, so according to Mom, she spent enough time beside an ironing board to last two lifetimes.

She evidently vowed one day in the middle of an ironing session, if she could afford it when she was a mom, she would hire someone to do the ironing at her house. And she did. Irene was a mother’s helper for Mom.

Irene was at our house every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday the whole time I was growing up. She did a whole lot more than iron. For the longest time I thought she was a relative, so she sat with the family when I got married. She had a comforting smile and an infectious laugh and her fried chicken made The Colonel jealous. Irene loved Jesus, hummed when she worked and watched her soap operas when she ironed on Fridays.

On Wednesdays right before she went home, Irene sprinkled down the clothes to be ironed Friday. She took a bottle that looked a lot like an oil and vinegar salad dressing bottle and dashed water on each piece. Everything was rolled up tightly and bundled in a sheet. The to be ironed package waited in the downstairs refrigerator until Friday afternoon.

I don’t know if it was the sprinkling method, the heat of the iron or Irene’s technique, but by four o’clock every Friday afternoon perfectly pressed clothes hung all around the family room. Mom would smile because she had nothing to do with it.

Not long ago David bought a Roomba. It was a new techie gadget for him, but for Jill it’s like a mother’s helper. It cleans the floor every day and Jill smiles because she has nothing to do with it. The new iRobot was given the honored name I-Rene.

I wonder how many times Travis kicked a football, how far Jason swam, and how many volleyballs Jill smashed over a 20 year period. I wonder how many miles we traveled following them all over the country. If I had a dollar for every mile, I would probably be retired, reading on the beach in the Caribbean. If I added in the miles all of us collectively added to vehicles driving to and from practice I would own a Caribbean condo.

Watching from the stands or in front of the TV, we forget how many hours athletes put into practice. We pay good money to watch the results of what goes on before the flood lights are flipped on.

Like athletes, theater actors practice their lines … over and over and over. When the curtain goes up, the lines flow like second nature. We sit in awe because we don’t see all the flubs and miscues during practice all the way up through dress rehearsal.

I heard once life is not a dress rehearsal, this is it. We practice and learn as we go and some of us are better students than others. Some of us are just slow learners. The unfortunate thing is, while we are learning the rest of the world watches us practice.

We all mess up, make mistakes, and do things we regret. All we need is the courage to get up and try again. If we keep on trying, refining our skills, learning from our mistakes, someday we might get it right. It takes a lot of practice.

I read once that cooperation is doing with a smile what you have to do anyway. Why is it cooperation with what we really don’t want to do a struggle well into adulthood? I suppose it morphs from fit throwing into sulking or sighing deeply the older we get. Sometimes I wish I could get away with just lying down in the middle of the floor and kicking and screaming. Once when I was put out with something, a friend offered me $100.00 to throw a kicking, screaming fit in the detergent aisle at Walmart. One hundred dollars was tempting, but I chickened out.

Cooperation is one of the first things taught In preschool and kindergarten in attempt to hold chaos to a minimum. Lining up to go to the playground, waiting your turn, and not shoving are some of the first things we learn. We may whine, but we learn it’s just part of the deal when you go to school.

So standing in line at the post office, waiting our turn at the DMV and not cutting people off in traffic are just the adult versions of cooperation in things we learned at four and five. Many of us respond like three year olds who haven’t been to preschool yet to learn the cooperation rules.

Our reactions should be based on our convictions not our circumstances. We should have it down by the time we hit midlife, but maybe we just need a little more practice.

I ran into my friend Jeanie at Home Depot the other day. She has a daughter and a son and a brand new granddaughter. I welcomed her into the grandmother world and we gushed over our babies. I used to laugh at people like me.

Just before we said good-bye she looked at me seriously and said, “OK, Suzette, now what?” “What do you mean,” I asked a little confused?

“The kids are grown and gone. All the preparation for the grandbaby coming is over. Everyone lives hours away. I suppose I’m trying to figure out what to do now,” she said looking a little concerned. “Why don’t you write about that?”

I had to think about her question for a while and here’s what I figured out … you are finally to a point in your life you actually get to choose. A mom spends 25 or so years, depending on the spacing of her kids, doing what needs to be done for everyone else. If she’s been a stay at home mom she can choose to volunteer, get a job, go back to school or do whatever it is she has put off doing to take care of her family. If she’s a career mom she can take up tennis or golf or join a book club or investment club or help with a charity she has a passion for. Her time away from the office now can be hers.

It is an odd spot to be in because for so many years everyone depends on you and now they’re off living their own lives. It really is a search for a new normal. I do know one thing for sure. We can put down the mommy guilt of not being at home enough if we were working outside the home or the mommy guilt of not having a job because we were stay at home moms. What a relief!

Because I was such an involved mom staying at home, working part time, working full time in different phases, I dreaded the thought of everyone being gone. It was like a deprogramming period for a while and the house was really quiet. But then I realized I get to make choices I hadn’t been able to make for years … like not going to McDonalds unless I want to.

It kills you to see them grow up. But I guess it would kill you quicker if they didn’t. ~Barbara Kingsolver

“A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.”
-Proverbs 29:11

I remember the first time I heard someone yell “FIGHT” not long after my first day in junior high. Everyone was rushing down the outdoor corridor, so I followed thinking some dogs must have gotten into a fight out by the school sign. Outside I was stunned to see two boys beating the stuffing out of each other while half of the school was circled around. I had just come out of a small private grade school, so I’d never seen anything quite like this before.

A few seconds after I got there, the fight abruptly ended when one boy’s glass eye popped out of the socket and landed in the dirt. That scene was so disturbing I ignored all future “FIGHT” battle cries.

There weren’t as many rumbles in high school, that I remember. Either hormones started leveling out or the fights were taken elsewhere. Or maybe a lot of the tension and aggression was taken out on the football field.

I don’t like to see people fight, even in movies. It probably goes back to my junior high experience. Or, it’s my inner hippie: “Why can’t we all get along.”

This week people have been testy. I saw a man yell at his wife in Marshall’s in front of his kids and a store full of people. I felt so sorry for the wife and kids. A couple was sitting in a truck outside the grocery store yelling at each other as loud as they could. I was embarrassed for them. Maybe when it’s not so hot people will calm down.

The other night Jim and I were in our favorite sushi restaurant in a little strip mall. I looked out the window to see a nicely dressed woman up in the face of another nicely dressed woman screaming at the top of her lungs. I instantly had a “FIGHT” flashback. They moved over in front of the Domino’s next door and evidently went after it. Domino’s employees broke it up. One of the women walked back in front of the sushi window putting her wig back on. All Jim and I could do was laugh.

As we were leaving, I asked one of the girls in a blue Domino’s shirt what the fight was all about. “One woman ordered a pizza the other one didn’t like. Important stuff, “ she grinned.

Maybe like the guys in junior high, their hormones were out of sorts. Or it might just be the heat. Cooler weather is on the way.