Saturday, November 7, 2009

what, you didn't make it?

I remember walking up to the door to the girls' gym at Cameron County High School more than once, looking at the list of the girls who made it for cheerleading or basketball. My name never made those lists. I remember being pretty devastated a few times. It was hard to see my friends' names on the lists. It wasn't fun to see their names missing, like mine, either. I don't really know how close I was to being on those lists, but it was an experience that prepared me for other experiences in life, as well as helping me appreciate those lists that I did make.

Probably most parents encourage their kids to try new things--stick their necks out every once in a while. Either we think our kids are capable of things they can or cannot do, or we hope that someone can see their potential. It's a fine line, deciding when to tell your kids it's a good idea or a bad idea. I guess more often than not, it's great to let your kids try something, even though you may have no idea what their chances of success may be.

Over the past three weeks or so, I have once again felt like that kid, preparing myself for that walk through the front doors of the school, across the lobby, past the library and at the door to the locker room. This time, no one else was around to see the reaction on my face. No one was standing there, high-fiving a friend or two, or complaining about who made it over her. It was just me, at my computer this morning, realizing that we didn't get the votes we needed to get into that top twenty.

As much as I would have loved winning the contest, it has been obvious for a few days, maybe a week, that we probably couldn't make it into the top twenty. But my friends, and especially my sister, Joyce, never gave up, atleast on the outside. I had people voting for me from all over the globe. I got hourly messages of encouragement. New members joined my Facebook "fan club" every day, and the club grew to over 500 members. I am sure people didn't always love getting the daily voting reminders, but they kept on voting.

We might have had a chance to pull ourselves into the top twenty. Several of my friends mentioned that there are programs that help you to vote hundreds of times for yourself, without being caught. I know they were trying to help, but that just wasn't the way to win this. Realistically, I think the contest was designed more for publicity than for finding the next blogger extraordinaire. I'm not saying they are looking for a bad writer. But the vote getting probably gave me an advantage over plenty of writers more experienced and better than I.

Entering this contest taught me a few things. I have a lot of friends out there, who will support me, even when maybe I have no chance to win. I have a sister who is cleverer and more internet savvy than I'll ever be. People I've never met might just be willing to spend plenty of time, trying to get me more votes. There are a lot of really nice people out there, and while the internet might feel like a network of heartless machines, on the other side of those screens are millions of people who really, really care!

My name won't be on the list this time. I doubt that I'll enter this kind of contest again, but I know that I will vote for friends, and friends of their friends, in their pursuits for contest victories! Just this week, my internet friends and I were voting to get our high school's game televised, and we won! I was part of a winning team, and supported the boys who have played so hard this season for my alma mater.

What I will do now is write. I learned that I absolutely love writing. If I can find people who want to read what I've written, perfect! If not, I have found an easy way to keep myself in a good mood, and though I could have been blogging all along, I've started a habit well worth keeping!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

you look like your mom

I always think it's funny when I hear this conversation:

"Wow, your hair is really long."


Does that sound like a compliment? I would say that is a pretty big assumption. Saying someone's hair is long might not mean something positive. I'm sure we've all seen beautiful, long hair. But I have definitely seen my share of long hair that is unhealthy and unflattering, clogging up drains, and swinging around into people's faces. That's my opinion, but I am guessing other people might just feel the same way.

The same goes for people who tell you that you look like someone. I have caught myself telling little girls that they look like their dads, only to get a frown. Little girls, more often than not, want to look like big girls, not big boys. I am happy to tell a mom her son looks just like her, but tell the boy--no way! I have always been conscious of my nose. It's not a bad nose, really, just bigger than average. I spent so much time as a teenage girl, wishing my nose would just shrink a little bit. I envied those girls with cute little noses. I don't know where this nose came from, exactly, but I'm guessing my kids would not welcome the observation: "Your nose is just like your mother's." I would hope they wouldn't think about rhinoplasty or anything, but they'd be less than thrilled to say the least.

When I was visiting my family in Pennsylvania a few months ago, my uncle said I looked like my Mom. I've heard so many times that I look like my dad's side of the family--a Caldwell. I'm lucky to look like a Caldwell. My dad is one of the most handsome men I've seen. But there has always been a part of me, a big part, that wanted to look like my Mom. I have blond hair and blue eyes, and she had brown hair and brown eyes. She had the kindest and most beautiful face I think I've ever seen. Her beauty came from inside, too, but she really was the most classically beautiful woman I've ever known. so when my Uncle Ben said I looked like my mom, my heart leapt with joy. Maybe I was looking particularly angelic because I was standing in front of the church. Maybe I made a face like she would have made, or maybe the sweater and dress I had on reminded him of something she'd worn. Whatever it was, I'm sure he had no idea how thrilled I would be to think that even though we haven't seen Mom since she died almost two years ago, I was here, reminding someone of her!

This post is self indulgent, but it felt great to write about Mom. I miss her so much, and it was wonderful to think about her while I write what is becoming my daily blog. I know it's probably pretty normal to adore your mother, but I'll never stop thinking about the wonderful person she was. And I'm just tickled that someone would actually think that even just a little bit of me is like she was!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

We didn't get booed this year

Halloween came and went. I hid the bags of candy and set the pumpkins on our front steps weeks ahead of the big day. We lit our strings of purple and orange lights and set out the fake tombstones. I dangled the spooky bones over our front porch to "scare" trick or treaters as they approached our house.

Our neighbors did the best decorating job in the neighborhood, complete with boarded up windows, a fog machine, a fake police tape and a chainsaw criminal and a bloodied victim. It was not exactly scary, because Terri and Jeff are just to nice to scare anyone, and their kids are young enough to remind them that Halloween is about fun. But it was very, very cool, and I'm sure our street had extra visitors that night just to see the best haunted house around. I hope they do that every year.

Halloween was different for us this year. My son got an awesome ape costume that I'm sure we'll be lending out constantly. My kids went to parties and watched scary movies. They raided the candy I'd hidden, but this was the first year I had no trick or treaters of my own. No raiding THEIR candy after they went off to bed. No Ziploc bags of Halloween candy for weeks and months to come. No bartering when they got back home or counting the amount of candy in their stashes. No comparing which houses and neighborhoods had the best stuff. Just a few leftover pieces of candy and a dirty ape costume.

Probably one of the things I miss most about Halloween for us is the "boo bags" that we don't get anymore. I remember sneaking up to neighbors' houses and wondering if they would realize it was the Auslanders that left them with a basket full of candy, fake witch fingertips, or Halloween pencils. I loved seeing my kids' faces when they realized someone had left us with a plate of cookies or the pre-Halloween candy they could split up and sneak into their bag lunches the next day.

As I drive down my street each day at this time of year, I notice houses with the tell tale cut out ghosts in their windows. I am sad that my kids are past that stage and even though it was a chore to run out and put those boo baskets together, I miss the excitement younger children share with us when it comes to special holiday traditions. Being in Europe for five of our Halloweens made us long even more for things that only happen in America on a particularly American holiday. Sometimes you really don't miss things until you don't have them anymore.

Last night, Anna had the cookie cookbooks out. She is busy, planning our Christmas cookie list. Even though I didn't sew any Wizard of Oz costumes or buy any masks or even carve the pumpkins I bought, Halloween was here, and we were able to see all of the neighborhood kids, so proud of their alter egos for the night. And even though we didn't get booed, I know that my family loves its traditions, and we'll be baking cookies before long. I may be sad that some things have changed, but I'm very, very thankful that some have stayed wonderfully the same.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Crest or Colgate?

My mother and father in law spent a weekend with us recently. They are easy house guests. No big fuss about how clean the house is, what the sleeping arrangements are, or which card games we'll play or puzzles we'll work. I try to have a bit of extra food in the house, maybe a few of the things they like, but I don't stress about stocking the house specifically for them.

I noticed this time that they brought their own bar soap. They never mentioned to me that they aren't so much into liquid body washes--the only way we cleanse in this house anymore--but they must have remembered that we never have bar soap for them, and they are polite enough not to make a big deal about it. They just brought their own soap.

I started to realize that I take certain household products for granted, and I, at 45, have become very much set in my ways about these things. Don't get me wrong, I do love trying new things and I just love being at a hotel and checking out the luxury grooming products on offer. But for the day to day, I am definitely particular about some of my personal care items.

A few years ago, I told my kids to choose their own toothpastes, and I was shocked when one of my kids came back with a tube of CREST TOOTHPASTE. We are a Colgate family, always have been. I felt betrayed. How could she choose Crest? I was so tempted to have her switch back to Colgate . Instead, I waited for what seemed like years for that toothpaste to find its way to the bottom of the garbage can in her bathroom. To this day, I try my hardest to buy a nice variety of Colgate products for my kids to choose from when their toothpastes run out. I do offer for them to choose toothpastes now, but I always steer them to the Colgate section.

My husband and I have different favorite toilet papers. No clear reason why, but he likes Quilted Northern and I like Charmin. I mostly buy Quilted Northern for our bathroom, but I do sneak in the Charmin every once in a while. If he's away for a few days, I definitely bring out the Charmin, and pop it back into our closet when he returns. He doesn't ask for much, so when he mentioned his preference for toilet paper, I was more than happy to oblige. I'm not sure where I read it, but I was a little miffed when I saw that Quilted Northern rated higher than Charmin in a toilet paper poll somewhere. I never did tell Ed that one.

I could probably go on and on about the (boring) things that we as Auslanders choose to stock our cupboards and bathrooms at home. But I have laundry to do (Tide and Downy), and bathrooms to clean (Scrubbing Bubbles, of course). It was a busy weekend, with company and a slew of Halloween and Birthday parties and lacrosse games. I need to get things back to normal, but I did notice one other thing when Ed's parents were here this past weekend--they use Colgate toothpaste, too!

Friday, October 30, 2009

There's toilet paper on your shoe...

I think we've all been there. Someone you're with has lipstick on her teeth, toilet paper on her shoe, or food between her teeth. It's a dilemma. Do you know (or like) the person enough to be able to tell her about it? Should you just wait for someone else to let her know? Who is obligated to inform her--a best friend, a spouse, an acquaintance? Should you give her a hint by picking at your own teeth for a while? It happens to most of us, at one time or another.

When I slip off to the ladies' room and discover my body or wardrobe indiscretions, I'm often hurt that my friends, or worse even, my husband didn't fill me in on those very fixable situations.

On one occasion, though, I have been the perpetrator of ignoring a person's humiliating moment. This isn't something I say with pride. Rather, I am admitting, maybe even confessing, that I just didn't have the guts to say something about it.

I was at a ladies only luncheon, and this woman I barely knew was wearing a very fashionable short dress with a slit up the back. The slit found it's way up a bit too far that day, and (thank goodness, really) she had big white granny panties on. It seemed that every time I got near her, there was a conversation I didn't want to interrupt, or I had a mouth full of food, and I never had the nerve to tell her.

I'm not quite sure who must have told her about it, but I did see her in a long sweater, probably lent to her by a kinder and more considerate person than I. So someone did the right thing. But I'll always look back and regret my not telling her.

Since then, I'm glad to say, I've never waited to tell someone about the spinach in her teeth, the shirt tucked into underwear, or the blond hairs all over the back of a black sweater. If someone has bad breath, I try to offer mints or gum. I hope that others will do the same for me, but just to be safe, I don't think I will be wearing any short dresses with slits up the back...

Friday, October 23, 2009

How long can you hold your breath?

My friends and I used to play all kinds of games at the neighborhood pool. We would have "tea parties" underwater as our hair floated around our faces and we poured each other's drinks. I know I could sometimes do three backwards somersaults, but my foreword somersaults were always crooked because I had to plug my nose or I would swallow water. I loved playing follow the leader off of the diving board. I will never forget the times I completely smacked my stomach, trying to do a swan dive.

My kids spent many summers, diving for pennies at the bottom of the pool, playing "Marco Polo," and "Sharks and Minnows" at the Lake Shore Pool in Erie, Pennsylvania. Some of their best childhood memories are either of times in the water, or ordering something sweet, salty or greasy from the snack bar.

I spent yesterday at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. My son-in-law is a Marine. He is on his way overseas. Along with over 1,000 of his peers, he will represent our country in an effort that he hopes will make our world a better place. I am not a very political person. I don't look at this as a foreign policy issue. This is my daughter's sweetheart and my very good friends' son. He takes my kids to Dairy Queen and knows just the right time to crack a joke or offer a hug. He is everything anyone could ever want in a son-in-law. I am going to miss having him around for the next seven months.

Yesterday, I caught myself doing something I did 35 years ago at Sizerville pool on sunny summer days with my childhood friends. I was holding my breath. I think a lot of the people in the parking lot, in and around the barracks, and under the trees in the common areas were holding their breath. I kept thinking "Just how long can I hold my breath like this?" Certainly, 7 months will be a long time for me, for Anna, for all of those parents, spouses, children, friends and family to hold their breath. But that seems to me what if feels like a little bit.

The Marines I saw yesterday were so much like many other 18, 20, 26, and 32 year olds living here at home. They have families who love them, they like to have some fun, and they are thinking about what they plan to do with the rest of their lives. They might not want to be away from America for seven months, but they have trained hard to prepare for their duties overseas. They know they might not have too many showers. They won't be texting their friends or logging on to Facebook. They won't be eating home cooked meals or hitting the snooze buttons on their alarms for an extra 30 minutes of sleep. They will spend a lot of time, thinking about what really matters to them and looking forward to enjoying the things that make their life in America so worth coming home to.

In seven months, most of the same people will be gathering around to welcome our marines home. Parents may be grayer. A few Marines will meet their babies for the first time. Refrigerators will be stocked with favorite foods. Beds will be made and flags will be flying. Anna hopes to have her apartment furnished and decorated for a great summer with the love of her life. Brad's parents will probably be throwing more than one party to welcome our hero home. That will definitely be worth seven months of holding my breath!!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What might happen if you get your cartilage pierced...

I wasn't allowed to have my ears pierced when I was growing up. Somebody said "you already have enough holes in your head..." I don't consider myself a jealous person, but I did envy my fancy, pierced-ear friends . I also envied my friends who had Barbie dolls--another thing forbidden for me. I'm glad to say that I actually did survive not having Barbie dolls--they were highly overrated, and I think my parents were ahead of the times with that one. I did very well without those extra holes in my head, too. (At 21, a few months before my wedding, I had them pierced so I could wear pearls on my special day.) I probably wear earrings a few times a month at best, so I guess you could say I'm not one bit damaged by being "deprived" as a kid.

All that said, there was a part of me that wanted to prove that owning Barbies and wearing earrings weren't all that bad for a growing girl. My three girls were allowed to have Barbies and they each had their ears pierced by the time they were in middle school. My girls never even liked Barbies, they were much more the American Girl type. My guess is that maybe one or two of my three girls is wearing earrings today, and they could probably live with or without them. We're just not that into accessorizing.

But, just like me, my daughters try to push the envelope sometimes. I wouldn't say they are jealous types, either, but it's natural to look at your friends and think about things they have that you just might like. When we were living in England a few years ago, my 17 year old daughter wanted her cartilage pierced. I really, really didn't want her to do it, but decided that it probably was one of those battles not worth fighting.

We went to Claire's boutique--those stores are everywhere. The young man who filled out her paperwork seemed very, very thorough and attentive. Each step of the way, he consulted with his supervisor. This made for a pretty long ordeal, but there's nothing like good customer service. We definitely didn't feel rushed that day. When he was finally ready to pierce her cartilage, I positioned myself between racks of earrings and barrettes and held my breath. I am certain that I felt every bit of the pain that Anna felt that afternoon.

As we were finishing up the piercing routine, collecting the requisite ear cleaning solution and being offered some sort of extra warranty, the piercer dude proudly mentioned that Anna was his first ever cartilage customer. My stomach sank. That's probably not a club you want to be a charter member of. The back of her earring was sort of sticking out toward the front, but she had won her right to have just one more hole in her head....