A Teenage Driver And A Parent Who Means Well

Published in The Ferndale Record-Journal, November 25, 2009

Here are a few things I am not interested in: Vampires, werewolves and moody teenagers.

Having said that let me qualify it slightly. I have a teenager. Sometimes he’s moody. He just got his learner’s permit to drive a car, and I’m wildly interested in that.

This teenager is the fifth of my five children, and it’s his turn. But it has been a long time since the last one learned to drive and I’d forgotten what that means.

The first thing it means is that I have to be a better driver than I normally might be. Little rules and regulations I take for granted and fudge occasionally are things he’s required to know and practice before becoming a licensed motorist.

These days I drive more deliberately than usual because I don’t want to be an example of what not to do. But even those of us with the best intentions fall short sometimes—way short.

This week on MSNBC.com I read a story out of Monroe, Ohio:
“A top cop mistakenly shot himself in the thigh after giving his daughter a lesson in gun safety, police said.
“Middletown police Chief Greg Schwarber, 54, was preparing to clean his Glock .45-caliber pistol on Friday and didn’t realize the gun was still loaded, according to a police report.
“When officers arrived, they found the chief lying on the floor with a towel covering his leg. Schwarber was taken to a hospital for treatment.
“The hospital had no record of Schwarber being treated or admitted. A home phone number for him couldn’t be found.”

Well, the hospital may have been able to cover up this incident. But the press latched onto it and I’m pretty sure it’s a gun safety lesson his daughter will never forget. Well done, Chief Schwarber. Way to drive home a point.

Another parent with pure intent was my niece. On a road trip through Nevada, she felt compelled to demonstrate to her young daughter the evils of gambling.

The details are sketchy, but something like this: They stopped at a gas station with slot machines. In answer to a question, and in an effort to dispel any idea of the glamour of easy money, my niece slipped some coins into one of the slots.

The short story is she won $50. What did she say to her daughter? “OK. That was a bad example.”

Parental lessons gone awry are nothing new. But I don’t want to be the one to show my new driver how easy it is to get a speeding ticket, or what can happen if you nick a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

It reminds me of parents who encourage their children to be good sports in the game, and then end up slugging it out or talking trash with other parents, creating not only tension, but sometimes tragic results.

The absolute truth is that the things we do and say are on display to our children—always. It’s scary, but true.

So, I get to be more road wary, which is a good thing, and I get to have a teenager who wants to go wherever I do hoping he can drive, and that’s an even better thing.

Vampires, werewolves, new moons, twilights, and eclipses are getting all the adolescent attention right now. But thankfully, at our house, there’s a teenager who’s interested in little more than one thing—driving.

Now, let’s see if his mom can learn how to quit punching the gas on a yellow light.

The Thing About November..

Published in The Ferndale Record-Journal, November 11, 2009

I like November.

I like the flashy leaves, the wind, the cooler, bordering on cold weather. I like a late World Series, Thanksgiving, pecan pie, and the promise of December’s holidays.

But the real reason I’ve always liked November is because it’s my birthday month.  I get a little goofy inside when Halloween’s over and I suddenly realize it’s almost here.

November days until my birthday are just preparatory. I’m not sure for what, exactly. There doesn’t have to be an event, a party, or anything thrilling planned to make my birthday extraordinary.  But, hey—it’s MY day. I know I probably share it with a lot of other people. I even know some of them. But it feels like it’s all about me.

I have to credit my mother with making birthdays an exceptional experience. They were always a big deal, and I perpetuated the tradition with my own children. Surprises, balloons, friends, cakes, parties, dinners out, presents—they were always extravaganzas.

I’ve learned that when you’re an adult, you usually have to plan your own party, except for when little children and spouses make an effort to fuss over you like you’re nobility. That’s always nice. But minus kids or a significant other, you get to do whatever you want and that’s not bad either.

Best birthday ever? My 17th.

My boyfriend, who lived about 40 miles away, told me to expect a surprise. I knew it wouldn’t be a visit from him, but he was nothing if not a romantic. Whatever it was, it was going to be great.

Around 5:00 p.m. I watched a flower delivery truck pull into our driveway.  The driver handed me a dozen red roses and a gift card that I still have. Yup. The boy pulled through in a big way.

That night, my best friend, Lila, came over for a dinner Mom made at my request. Roast beef, homemade Au Gratin potatoes, and for dessert, a Tunnel-Of-Fudge cake. And yes, it was as insanely delicious as it sounds.

After these tasty eats Lila and I went to a movie, then I came home and shut myself into my bedroom all alone with those fragrant roses. Every deep breath reminded me that someone was in love with me. How awesome is that?

I haven’t had a worst-ever birthday. I think it’s because I expect them to be fun. Phone calls, Emails and a little extra attention go a long way with me. I don’t consider myself high maintenance, although others may argue that point.

I worry very little about aging, so the numbers don’t matter. Although, lately I’ve become slightly unhinged at the thought that I’m considerably older than I feel, and I know the end of this story, which is, with any luck I get to grow even older.

So, I anticipate my birthdays, no matter the year, and feel a kind of sweetness about having a day all to myself, even if people standing in front of me in line at the post office don’t know it. I know it, and that’s all that matters.

Eleven other perfectly good months come and go. But when the wind starts to howl and Jack-o-lanterns begin rotting on porches across the nation, my inward excite-o-meter begins to rise, looking forward to the love and remembrances coming my way.

It’s November, and it’s my birthday.

Things That Make Me Go .. “GAH!”

This post is not rocket surgery.. nor is it meant to offend anyone, although it might.  It’s just me, sitting here, musing about annoyance.

Here are a few things that for me,  produce eye-rolling and unmuttered phrases of disgust.  Why unmuttered.. you ask?  Because I really am too nice (or chicken) to say much of this out loud. So instead, I write.

1. Unrequited love for the New York Yankees: New York fans need to get over themselves. This is not the greatest sports team ever. They’re good, but not the best. Just because they’re from New York doesn’t mean anything. People call New York City the greatest city in the world, and that may be true. But the Yankee Fan Machine makes me crazy.

2. Gaga grandparents: Let’s be honest. Your grandchildren are no more precious than anyone else’s. They may be adorable, gifted, and have chubby cheeks that look like they’re storing nuts for the winter, but they’re no cuter or more desired, beautiful, special, divine, dazzling or talented (or any other adjective you put in there) than mine.  They are yours, you love them, and that’s good enough.  No need to whip out the professional photos of Dakota Cheyenne Isabella Madison Chloe Makayla in her first dance recital to prove your point. A simple cell phone shot will suffice.

3. Michael Bolton and Barry White: Bolton sounds like he’s either going to explode or summon neighborhood dogs on the high notes. His nasal rasp makes my eyeballs bleed. And White’s music tries so hard to be sexy that it’s just embarrassing. Especially when I’m grocery shopping and the muzak oozes  “I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby.” His moaning makes eye contact with fellow shoppers humiliating, not to mention intimate. I think once I was accidentally engaged in the tomato sauce aisle during “Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe.”

4. Tepid water: Really? I’m paying for this meal and you offer me water at room temperature? If I ask for it (and I never will) that’s one thing. To assume I want it is another. Pour me an icy, bordering on too cold, tall one. Then refill the glass with ice water. I mean.. I want to hear the ice jangling around in the pitcher you bring to the table. If I want lukewarm I’ll buy bottled water off the shelf.  Pass the ice, please.

5. Animal clothing: If you’re a circus animal, maybe. If you’re a domestic pet, you shouldn’t wear clothes. Although I’m somewhat amused by this, I’m told animals don’t like it and therefore people shouldn’t clothe them. I suppose my real contention here is with owners who dress their animals because they like to treat them like humans. I believe that animals are not human. I don’t know what they prefer.. I just know that most of the time they look silly in sweaters, dresses, or pant suits. Although I once knew a bassett hound who really rocked a striped hoody.

Dear Gods Of Baseball…

If it’s not too much to ask, can you please provide teams I care about for the next World Series?  And if one of the teams has the words “New York” in the name, can it please be the Mets?

The only reason I rooted for the Phillies this year is because they weren’t the Yankees.

Baseball gods, people get silly about the Yankees.  Fans strut, pound their chests and give the rest of us the finger.  I have nothing against Yankee players, except maybe Derek Jeter and his claim that the fifth World Series win was the most special of all. But c’mon. Really? The “we’re all that” attitude is wearing a little thin. Especially when in recent years, the Yankees clearly haven’t been.

I don’t like not liking the Yankees. I wish I did. But I really don’t. In my estimation, there have been maybe three good things about them, all of which are no longer relevant:

1. Joe Torre (a Dodgers/Yankees series I would’ve watched)

2. Tino Martinez in pinstripes

3. George Costanza as assistant to the traveling secretary

It’s hard to overlook Johnny Damon defecting to the dark side after Boston’s triumphant season, and Alex Rodriguez morphing into someone that old school Mariner fans don’t recognize anymore.

So, baseball gods..  how about a surprising match up for next year?  Not just the Yankees and (insert team name here).  It’s fun to watch good baseball, but there are other great teams. Can we please watch them play in the World Series, too?

Lou Piniella once said that any given team could beat any other given team on any day. I understand that bringing the best together is what the World Series is. I just don’t believe that they are the only good players in baseball.. or even the very best ever.

So, how about next year, gods of baseball, you shine down on someone besides the Yankees.

Alot of us would really appreciate it..

Oh, and while you’re at it.. if you have a minute, could you please see to it that Mariano Rivera breaks a finger or something?

Yours truly,

Friend of baseball, but not the New York Yankees