How To Earn The Title: World’s Worst Mother-In-Law

EndoraMIL

About 25 years ago my mother-in-law, Virginia, and sister-in-law, Jane, asked me to go with them to a taping of a talk show then popular in Chicago, the Jenny Jones Show.   We were put in a holding room where the producers worked us up like cheerleaders at a pep rally before the big game. Once we were all riled up, they announced the heretofore-unknown topic for the show: In-laws you love to hate.   “Do any of you have stories to share?” they asked. “Just between us? (and about 1,000,000 viewers)”

Hands shot up across the crowded room.

I considered volunteering along with the other fame-whores, but my intentions were pure. I would say, “I have no idea what you could POSSIBLY mean – my in-laws are fabulous!” This had little or nothing to do with the fact that, at the time, I was sitting there like the filling in an in-law sandwich. I kept my hand down.

I’ve known a lot of women who act like the Wicked Witch of the West to the person their kid married. They seem to be actively pursuing the title of: World’s Worst Mother-In-Law. If you’re in the running, here’s some practical advice on how to snag the trophy:

1)      Tell her that he’s not good enough
2)      Start every other sentence with, “far be it from me to criticize, but…”
3)      Tell her that her spaghetti is not bad, but it’s not QUITE the way he likes it
4)      Never forgive him for deciding to stay home for major holidays, rather than spending the day in the car, trying to be as fair as Solomon and split the day evenly between the families
5)      Tell him you feel sorry for him because she’s such a lousy housekeeper
6)      Give helpful hints on how she SHOULD be raising your grandkids
7)      Remind them that you told them not to buy that house
8)      Keep track of the time they spend with his family, compare it – to the minute – against the pitiful amount they allot to you, and complain about the difference…loudly
9)      If they have financial troubles, tell her you knew he would never amount to anything

If your goal is, instead, to nab the title of World’s Best Mother-in-Law, the rules are a whole lot simpler:

1)      Be friendly, polite, and make the new member feel like a welcome part of the family
2)      When she does things differently from you (and she will,) when they fight (and they will,) when he make mistakes (and he will,) bite your tongue.   Often.  Until it bleeds.
3)      Remember that your child, who you love more than life itself, picked THIS person above all others. He or she must have some redeeming qualities.

My two girls are neither married, nor significantly other-ised, so you may wonder what qualifies me to comment. I’ve been observing the actions of my own, dear mother-in-law for almost 32 years. Virginia provided the model for the World’s Best Mother-In-Law.   When my turn comes, I hope I can do the job half as graciously as she did.

Love you, Ginny. We are going to miss you more than I can say.

VirginiaMIL

6/25/28 – 7/1/14. Rest in peace.

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Confessions Of A Serial Tweaker

drevil3

I’m convinced that the secret to good writing is effective rewriting. I’m also convinced that I take it too far.

How I envy the easy, breezy, off-the-cuff writer. That’s not me.  I’m a serial “tweaker.” No, I don’t mean “twerker” à la Miley Cyrus – I’m not that crude. Besides, that kind of movement from this kind of body would just be wrong.   I’m talking about my habit of subjecting any writing project to an endless series of tiny adjustments.

Nothing is ever good enough for me. No piece is ever done.

It may not look it, but my posts result from a painstaking process of drafting, writing, cogitating, rewriting, mulling, rewriting, stewing, more rewriting, on and on, ad infinitum, ad nauseam, world without end, amen.

After all that, it’s off for a final spell check and then, at long last, I’m finished. But I can’t keep my inner tweaker down:

“Maybe that “but” would read better as “however.”” tweak

“Active voice is better than passive.”   tweak, tweak

“Although maybe the point of the paragraph is its very passivity.” untweak

“Still, wouldn’t it best to convey that passivity in an active way?” retweak

The only way I ever get anything posted is to sit my inner tweaker down for a stern lecture, then hit the “Publish” button while she’s distracted.

Rewriting is like making whipped cream.  Whip it too little, and you have an unformed mess. Too much, and you’ve tortured it into unappetizing lumps.  It takes a deft hand to strike the right balance.  To produce appealing confections of light, fluffy prose, you have to whip it good.

 

 

 

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Caution: Funky Stuff Going On Here

pegmummy

Hide the children.   The following is not suitable for younger and more sensitive readers, by which I mean those under 50.

My body is doing some funky stuff. I suspect aging may be involved.

1) Stuff is migrating. Formerly vital parts of my body, front and back, have become snowbirds.  They moved south.  We’d become quite close over the years and I miss them.  My hair is also relocating.   There’s a steady exodus going forth from my scalp to colonize brave, new lands like the chin and the bazoombas.

2) Inside stuff is showing up outside: My circulatory system has been operating behind the scenes my whole life. I’ve appreciated that discretion. Lately, however, it wants attention. Note to self: no need to put veins on the outside of my legs. The fact that I am still with the living is proof enough that the blood is moving.

3) New stuff is being manufactured: My skin has had its moments over the years, but now it’s REALLY getting creative. New bumps, lumps, grooves and splotches are popping up all over the place. The latest additions are neither attractive, nor, as far as I can tell, do they serve any useful purpose.

4) Some stuff is growing. Burgeoning bunions have me looking longingly at orthopedic shoes while desperately clinging to high-heels. My bulging belly is spreading at an alarming rate. I’ve heard that the ears and nose continue to grow, up to and possibly even after death. I haven’t noticed that yet; it gives me something to look forward to.

5) Some stuff is shrinking.  I’m already almost 1/2 inch shorter than I used to be. My lips are shrinking, too, their former pouting lushness morphing to a thin, mean line. If this keeps up I may consider having that fish-lip surgery that’s mandatory for the wealthy and all reality show bimbos over the age of 30.

6) I’ve lost The Night Stuff: I used to be able to dance the night away, close the joint down, go out for breakfast and still be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for work the next day. Now I’m dozing in front of the TV in my sweats before Pat and Vanna flip their first letter.

7) Some foodstuffs are rough. Food and drink once made a smooth, trouble free journey through my body. Now such trips often result in a breakdown at the side of the digestive track, leaving me waiting for a tow truck from AAA (Alimentary Aggravation Abatement.)  ‘Nuff said.

8) Stuff hurts. With the notable exceptions of childbirth and gall bladder attacks, my nerve endings used to be in the business of delivering good news; things like “Oh, baby, yeah, baby…THAT’s the spot!” Now, however, they’re saying, “your parts can’t move like that” and “don’t sleep in that position” and “it’s going to rain.” My nerves are the Whos down in Whoville shouting, “We are here! We are here!”

9) Can’t find stuff.  My brain cells have been abandoning ship at an alarming rate and my memory is shot.   I KNOW I know your name, where I put my car keys, and what I had for dinner last night, but I can’t find that information in my mental filing cabinet.   Important stuff, like world history, is lost forever.

There you have it.  That’s the stuff that’s going on with me.  I had a much longer list when I started this rant, but I can’t remember the rest of it.

Any funky stuff going on with you?

 

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One Small Step, One Giant Leap… Again

Off she goes, into the wild, blue yonder

Off she goes, into the wild, blue yonder

Nothing makes a parent’s heart melt quite like their baby’s first, tottering steps into the safety of their loving arms.  Enjoy those moments, because as soon as your kids master walking, they start to run – away from you.

When they are babies, we are our children’s entire world.  Then the tentative steps of the toddler lead them to the wonderful, terrifying discovery that the world is much bigger than just Mommy and Daddy.  How much bigger dawns on them when they step into the great unknown of their first classroom.  Life moves forward in leaps and bounds once school starts and your baby’s feet are firmly set on the path of their own destiny.

Time is a juggernaut gaining speed at an alarming rate – junior high, high school, college; up, up and out.

Our 24-year-old daughter, Liz, left for a new job in California 12 days ago, on Mother’s Day.  It’s a wonderful opportunity with a company she loves.  She’s thrilled and we are excited for her.  Yet I realize with a sinking feeling that she is now more than half this big, wide continent away from me.  And it’s not the try-it-on-for-size, I’ll-be-back-home-in-a-couple-of-months move of young adulthood, but the bubble-wrap-the-wine-glasses and call-the-movers move that means it’s for realz.

Our 22-year-old baby, Gwen, graduated from college 5 days ago.   She’s still deciding what her next step will be, but she’s bound and determined that whatever it is, it won’t involve taking up residence in her old bedroom at home.

 My first blog post was about the pain of Gwen leaving for school, and now that leg of her life’s journey is over.   How can that be?   She was a 4-year-old traveling in her cardboard box time machine barely a day ago.  Last summer I lamented as I put her on a plane to England for a semester abroad.  Now she’s talking about getting a job playing the drums on a cruise ship.  Good God, what’s next? Will I be waving goodbye tomorrow as she boards the space shuttle?

My husband and I have raised two girls into young women who are our pride and joy.  Now they are taking giant leaps forward into their own brave, new worlds.  They strike out full of confidence and bright, shining dreams for their futures.  I am so proud.

It’s every parent’s hope that their children will be able to stand on their own, two feet.  But it’s the ironic truth that if you do your job right, they’ll use those feet to walk away from you.  That’s how it’s supposed to be.  You revel in their independence but at the same time, oh, how you miss them.

byebyebaby

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Lost: One Husband. Substantial Reward For Safe Return

deadendGypsyroad2

Many women suspect their husbands would be lost without them.  I have proof.

We were visiting my parents and Mom needed something picked up across town.  My husband offered to drive me, chivalry giving him an excuse to show off his latest toy.  Getting my gadget-loving guy a GPS had been a stroke of gift-giving genius on my part.  It was also practical.  Bill would rather spend 40 years wandering in the desert than ask for directions.

He typed the destination address into the GPS’ keypad as we backed out of the driveway. “Calculating route,” said a surprisingly sexy, woman’s voice.

“Turn right on Lincoln,” the sultry voice continued, “and travel east 2.1 miles.”  Bill seemed mesmerized.  He could barely drag his eyes from the screen to watch the road.

“The satellite tracks our location,” he explained, “then Gypsy figures the best route.” He smiled as proudly as if he’d invented the thing.

“Gypsy?” I arched an eyebrow.

“Oh.  Ha ha!  Just a little nickname.  You know, for GPS?”  My macho husband actually blushed.

“Turn left on Mackinaw and travel north for 4.7 miles,” Gypsy said, seductively.

“I don’t think Mackinaw goes through,” I said, doubtfully.

“Gypsy has the latest maps,” Bill said, firmly.

The route looked more familiar with each passing mile.  “Mackinaw dead-ends at the highway.” I stated, sure of myself now.  “This will take us miles out of our way.”

“I think Gypsy knows best,” Bill said, his smirk so condescending he might as well have patted me on the head.

“But, but…” I sputtered, “are you going to listen to her instead of me?  I grew up here.  And I’m your wife!”

“Continue north on Mackinaw for 3.2 miles,” Gypsy purred.  She and Bill acted as if I wasn’t even in the car.

Gypsy’s frequent reminders were the only sounds heard for the next 5 minutes.   I sat slouched in stony silence with my arms folded across my chest.  Then I sat up straight.  I started to smile.  My smile stretched from ear to ear by the time we reached the next stop sign.

“Continue straight for 1.4 miles,” Gypsy commanded.

“Well?” I said, innocently. “You heard her.”

Bill didn’t respond.  He was busy contemplating the steep, grass-covered hill that arose straight ahead of the T-intersection at which we were stopped.   He turned right, scowling.

“Recalculating route,” Gypsy said.  She didn’t sound quite so sexy now.  In fact, she sounded annoyed.

So did Bill as he muttered, “Oh, shut up,” and flipped the GPS to “Off.”

He swallowed his pride and asked me for directions after just a few minutes.  I showed restraint and didn’t tell him to get lost.  Instead, I told him where to go.

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Help Wanted: Bon Vivant

helpwantedbacchus

Wanted: Self-starter for the position of raconteur, bon vivant and all around Renaissance woman.

Job duties to include:

  • Exploring…life.
  • Writing…when the muse strikes.
  • Strolling… a beach, hiking a trail or striding down city streets.
  • Partying… hearty. An almost bacchanalian appreciation for good food and wine required.
  • Contemplating… the meaning of life and one’s belly button in equal measure. Best accomplished stretched out in a hammock.
  • Sleeping…late. Occasionally announcing your intention to rise and greet the dawn gives as many brownie points as actually doing it.
  • Singing & dancing…enthusiasm more important than ability.
  • Traveling…first class and all expenses paid to fun and exotic locations.
  • Reading… whenever and whatever you want.
  • Watching…chick flicks, Fellini art films, trashy TV, etc. Must be able to express opinions on a wide variety of cultural topics, from the sublime to the Real Housewives.
  • Hobnobbing…with fascinating people.

Ideal candidate will possess the following qualifications:

  • Gently seasoned. Old enough to have been around some; young enough to be able to get around some.
  • Eager to learn new things.
  • Willing to set out at a moment’s notice for the next adventure. Said adventure is guaranteed NOT to involve roughing it at a level below three Michelin stars, activities that cause up-chuckery, or rats and bugs.
  • Able to speak several foreign languages.  Willingness to fake it by speaking English with a foreign accent is just as good.
  • Smart enough to realize you’re not that smart.
  • Able to laugh, long and hard, at yourself and those around you.

Salary: commiserate with whatever your little heart desires.

Perfect employee in search of ideal job.  Potential employers encouraged to send offers care of this blog.  

What’s your ideal job?

 

 

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How To Avoid Being A Clueless Dolt This Graduation Season

Photo of “The Graduate” courtesy of “The Graduate”. Funny how that works.

 

Three generations of alumni attended my nephew’s graduation at Michigan State University.   We linked arms as we sang the school song.  I looked around the auditorium and tears filled my eyes as I realized…most of the people there were clueless dolts.

Another graduation season is upon us.  Here’s how NOT to be a clueless dolt.

To Go Or Not To Go

You’ve been invited to a family member’s graduation ceremony.  Unless you live on a remote island and the supply boat is not due back for 3 months, you are expected to be there.  You can’t use your busy schedule as an excuse.  It’s May.  EVERYONE has graduations, weddings, first communions and other events booked 3 to a weekend.

The key point to consider is if one of your OWN children will soon be:

1)  graduating 
2) having their First Communion or Bar Mitzvah 

3)  getting married

If your kid is in 4th grade, you’re probably going through a dry spell as far as major life events.  You might be able to blow everyone off for a couple of years without serious repercussions.  The closer it is to your D-Day, however, the more compelling the argument for attendance.  The only way to ensure attendees bearing checks at your party, is to go to everyone else’s shindig.

A family member will rarely challenge you directly for missing their event, but it will never be forgotten.  Years from now, you and your sister will be rocking side by side on the porch at Happy Acres Nursing Home.  One random remark about her son Joey and the fact that you missed his graduation will be thrown in your face.  The years of pent up resentment will erupt like a puss-filled boil being lanced.

The Pomp Is A Victim Of Circumstances

Many seem to be unaware of the protocol at a graduation ceremony.

1)  Dress code:  A graduation is a fairly dressy event.  This is the time to shine with your good flip-flops and relatively clean Budweiser T-shirt.  If you get a rug burn on your butt-cheeks from the auditorium seats, your Daisy Dukes are probably too short for this occasion.

2)  Speakers: Unless you’ll be at the few schools who have booked the President or Kim Kardashian, the speaker will be a big donor.  He will relate, in excruciating detail, how he started with nothing but a diploma and wound up with a chain of 20 car-washes.  Resign yourself to 1-1/2 hours of mind-numbing boredom.   Always introduce yourself to your neighbor before snoozing on his shoulder.  Under NO circumstances is it acceptable to bring a pillow to the ceremony.

3) Cheering:  You are proud of your young relative, and rightly so.  When he walks across the stage and accepts his diploma, make sure you have stopped jumping up and down, whistling, cheering and blowing air-horns by the time 2, or at most 3 more graduates have followed him across the stage.  I am a stickler on this point.  After all, we want to be considerate.

4) I’ve got mine:   Thank goodness your last name is “Aarons” and not “Zombrowski.”  Your kid is done and you can leave.  As you and your 24 relatives stand to gather up belongings and screaming young children, as you step over the other attendees to get to the aisle, make sure you duck down a couple of inches.  This conveys to the people behind you, who just missed seeing THEIR graduate get her diploma because of your mass exodus, that you feel bad for them.

Party Hearty

A graduation party is as American as apple pie.  It’s a coming together of young and old, neighbors, friends and relatives, all there to celebrate a momentous occasion in the young person’s life.  (Like weddings used to be before bridezillas decided they would prefer destination weddings that make it impossible for guests who are old, poor or have young children to attend.)

If the party is at someone’s house, prepare to dine at folding tables set up in their garage.  On the plus side, you’re assured of a smorgasbord of yummy, homemade desserts.  On the down side, you may end up with questionable potato salad,  resulting in 100 guests urgently queuing up to use 1-1/2 bathrooms.

If the party is at a restaurant, make sure you find out ahead of time who is paying for the meal.   I cannot stress this enough.  A discreet question could have saved everyone embarrassment at a family graduation I attended.    It wasn’t until the waitress brought the bill that I discovered my sister and her husband were picking up the tab.  Imagine how I felt when I found out I could have ordered surf & turf instead of splitting a burger with another thrifty relative?

The Gift

This is a minefield.  The problem is figuring out the right dollar amount.  Should you give more for high school and less for college, or vice-versa?

The question is complicated if you have already had some graduations in the family.  Do you remember what you gave somebody 5 years ago?  I don’t.  But I guarantee your sister-in-law knows to the penny.  If one kid gets more than the other, there will be holy hell to pay.

You don’t want to get the reputation as a cheapskate.   But you also don’t want to give your niece twice what your miserly brother will give your kid.

For friends, you just have to wing it.  For family, I suggest a conference.  Hammer out the terms beforehand – establish a pay scale so there are no surprises.  Just make sure you get buy-in from all the siblings.

A Word About 8th Grade Graduation

While 8th grade graduation is certainly a milestone, it’s not really much of an accomplishment.  Parents who don’t force their children to at least finish grade school face charges of negligence in most jurisdictions.  A new outfit, a little cake, and a few pictures are nice.  If you go for a limo and an all-night party at a fancy hotel you look like a self-important twit who is spoiling his poor child rotten in an attempt to impress the other parents.

Armed with my practical advice, you should have no problem sailing through this graduation season.  And if you do find yourself dashed on the rocks of graduation etiquette, just send up a flare and I will arrive with the life raft of my valuable opinion.  Just keep bailing.

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