Monday, January 30, 2017

Here Comes Another Birthday

   Here comes another birthday.  At my age birthdays zoom by faster than mile markers on an interstate.  I’ve never been one to putter along at the speed limit, so before I know it, there’s another candle on the birthday cake.
          Should you feel the need to wish me a happy birthday, here are a few do’s and don’ts.
          One, do send cash or gift cards.  Any denomination will do.  I have a healthy respect for money, both my own and that of others, so any form of moolah is appreciated.
          Don’t waste your money on anything else, especially if it has to be dusted or worn.  I abhor dusting, so anything that requires display or upkeep is a no-no, likewise with clothes.  I do not wear pink, ruffles, or spandex.  I look ghastly in anything from the “autumn palette,” and should you buy anything in my correct size, I will be forced to deny you guessed it right.
          I also suffer from lactose intolerance and cannot eat bananas or anything with brown sugar.  My IBS makes me less pleasant than I used to be.  
          So, it is best to stick with a gift card.
          Two, do lie to me.  When you send your wishes, be advised lying to me about my age is not a sin but a kindness.  Feel free to shower me with blatant charity about my age.  Yours will be a heavenly reward.
          Tell me how youthful I look for someone in her “fifties.”  (Any younger and I will suspect sarcasm is your motivation.) Ask about my anti-aging regimen since I do not look a day older since the last time you saw me.  Practicing in front of a mirror before we meet is a good idea.
          Never, ever, use the word “spry” in your birthday wish to me.  It is a nasty, little, four-letter word I have come to despise.
          Now that I have stolen your good will and cheer, now that I have completely discouraged you from coming near me on or around my birthday, please know that I wasn’t always this touchy and crotchety.
This isn’t really who I am.
          It’s those infernal birthday candles that keep growing in number on top of my cakes. It’s that old lady with gray hair and wrinkles who looks back at me in the bathroom mirror who is to blame.   

          It’s that constant reminder that I zoomed past my youth and the golden years, and I am racing toward the end zone. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Tazas (Coffee Cup) Book Club


Six years ago, nine, cool, writer chicks decided to start a book club.  Fascinated by the magic of words and how they come together to create stories, we wanted to talk about the books we read.  Half of the nine were published authors; the other half wanted to be. 
          Once we agreed on the idea, we thought it best to wait until the new year.  We chose our first book, our meeting date, and on some basic rules. As the day approached, we needed a place open late enough for us to meet after our regular, weekly writing group.  We chose a coffee shop that had just opened in the area.  
          Hey, we cool, remember?  Writers, books, coffee shop.  Where else would we meet?
          Our coffee shop closed this past fall, but the book club is still going strong.  Six of the original nine members are gone, but we have replaced them with three others.  Whenever you get a discussion group together, it is always difficult to make sure everyone gets a say.  By keeping it to a group of six, those of us with “stronger opinions” are reminded to let the quieter ones speak.
          We started 2017 with book number forty-six. We meet every month or six weeks.  We have read historical and modern fiction, a lot from best seller lists, but we have also read mystery, fantasy, science fiction, and memoir.  We have read books from all age groups and books on craft as well. We have read some amazing books and some real stinkers.
          Now that our coffee shop is gone, we have searched for a new place to meet.  We tried Starbucks, Panera, and a new sandwich shop, all in the same general area.  None have the same feel as Tazas did, so we keep looking. Out of necessity and hunger, we met at IHOP one Monday, and we find ourselves returning there.  At nine in the evening, we have the place pretty much to ourselves, besides their Harvest Grain pancakes are healthy and delicious.

          Since the coffee shop is gone, we have dibbs on the name.  The Tazas Book Club sounds much cooler than The IHOP or The Harvest Grain Book club; after all, as writers, we are aware of the importance of branding ourselves.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Elephant in the Room



I always early vote and this year I could not wait to get it over with, so I went as soon as early voting started in my tiny town in Texas. Up until THE MOMENT, I did not know who I was going to go with – Trump or Clinton – so I went with my conscience and voted for Trump.  I believed the media, the newspapers, the polls, and Facebook that Trump was going to lose and decided to go down with the ship.
Yes, I voted for the Trumpster.
I left there thinking Clinton would win the popular vote and thereby, the electoral college. It was what the press and the national news and Facebook predicted. I was prepared to accept that, but at least I took a stand and hoped the new President would show more mercy on those of us who voted against her than Obama did, the days before being REPUBLICAN became synonymous to a bad word.
Anyone who truly knows me or follows my rants on Facebook, knows that I was as appalled as the next person that Trump made it this far. 
Back when we had seventeen yo-yo’s bidding for the Republican candidacy, I started my study to see who I would back.  I whittled it down to two, and believe me, Trump was not one of them.  By the time the GOP convention started, I was horrified that my party was about to be represented by him. 
No, I did not watch the debates.  Why?  I had watched some of the early matches among the many Republican wannabes, and I watched both conventions, but I did not watch the debates.  One, I was embarrassed by it all, and two, it was discussed at great lengths in all the media and social media for days afterwards.
Facebook was enough for me. 
My family and close friends know I lean Republican, and some make fun of me.  I get introduced, “This is Raquel.  She is Republican.”  It is usually followed by a snicker and a few giggles.  My family and close friends, the very people who should know me well, who should know my heart and have seen me in action.  They should know how I feel about equal rights, where my loyalty and compassion lay, that I am as appalled by his crassness and lack of political protocol as they are, but I could NOT bring myself to vote for his opponent. 
I took a stand and got criticized for it. Hurray for the right to an opinion and a free vote.
I guess they expected less of me.  I should have voted for who they wanted.  Maybe I should have hidden under a lie and told them I voted for Clinton, but I do not feel a decision that causes embarrassment or shame is a worthy decision, and I refused to be bullied.  

My true friends have stopped harassing me; my family hasn’t disowned me. But  now I have to live with, “This is Raquel.  She voted for Trump.”  

Monday, January 16, 2017

List of GOTTAS

          Now that the Christmas decorations are packed away, it is time to move on into 2017.  Anyone who knows me will not be surprised that I make yearly goals, lists and lists of things that “GOTTA” get done. 
          These are not resolutions, those pesky things people profess to do then abandon by mid-February.  Unlike the forgotten exercise equipment, the unused gym membership, or the hobby accessories that get thrown away at Easter, my “GOTTAS” are based on goals that will get done.  It is do or die.  Literally.
          G – these Goals are contingent on dates, amounts, and completion.  They are Gaugeable. I have to lose ten lbs. to be at the weight for my height.  I lost thirty-five lbs. last year; I will lose another ten this year.
          O – these goals are of Obvious necessity for my own physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.  I need less stress; more fun.  I need to do something Out-of-the-box; learn something new to stay young and healthy. I must do new things or else I will become obsolete.
          T – these goals are painful Truths, things I should admit to and demand for myself. I must give myself permission, power, and priority when overwhelmed by the wants of others.  
          T – these goals are Time-bound; Time is of the essence; not only for someone of my age but for anyone with a goal in life. I am not getting any younger, any more flexible, any more energetic.  I do not have that many years left to get everything done on my bucket list.  
          A – these goals must have an element of Altruism, unselfishness, giving forward.  I mustn’t forget to share my good fortune with those who aren’t as blessed. My brain years for Art and creativity.  My right brain would like a go at it after years of left brain dominance.
          S – this goal yearns for Spirituality and calmness of spirit.  It yearns for less Stress and more Smiles, enjoyment of a life well-lived.  The new year provides a chance to Start over and try Something New.
          So here they are – my GOTTAS.  Based on this criterion, I am scratching things off my lists and adding others.  No sin in admitting that what worked last year will not make it onto the list this year. 

          Happy New Year to you. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Being the Parent of a Teenager: Public Enemy # 1

  
For twenty-five of my thirty-seven years in education, I was a classroom teacher.  For twenty of those years, I taught children ages twelve through fifteen, the threshold into adolescence.          
We all went through it; most of us survived. Often compared to the midlife crisis of our later years, this age surpasses it as the most formidable period in a human being’s life span. How we get through one shapes how we get through the other, so I made it my mission in life to know all that I could about my clients.
          You go to bed a child and wake up to puberty.  Where there was no hair, it has sprouted in several private places.  Where your dulcet voice once danced in the air, you honk and squeak.  Where your arms once fit your favorite long sleeved shirt, your arms now dangle past your knees.
          You suddenly notice half the world is of the opposite SEX, and SEX suddenly takes precedence over your train set or your dolly.  EVERYTHING reminds you of sex and you start to worry about your eternal salvation. 
          Your parents become Public Enemy Number One. They are slave masters, jail wardens, old people.  Every time you ask if you can do something, you already know their answer – No!  Can I stay up late?  Can I go out to see my friends? Can I grow out my hair?  Can I get a tattoo?  Can I get a piercing? 
          Your hair is oily.  No matter how much you bathe, you stink.  Your nose and ears grow before the rest of your face, then pimples start invading the terrain and eyebrows grow together and you feel like a teenage werewolf/Peewee Herman.
          Teachers want you to pay attention to the lesson while you are seated next to the most beautiful/handsome kid in the class. How can they expect you to concentrate? Not only do your parents drag you to church but Mom insists you wear the outfit Grandma gave you for your last birthday.  It is hard to act cool wearing corduroy.
          Parents have a lot to learn about adolescence and when asked my advice, I offered what I could.
          It is a necessary and important step in human growth.  The child is morphing from child to adult.  The teen is in transition and the road is slippery and tricky, and it varies with each teen. What works with one child, may not work with the next.
The child needs a parent, not a friend, but being one does not exclude the other.  Just like we were there to help them learn to walk and talk as babies, we need to be there to help them learn to walk and talk as adults. Talk to them when everyone is calm; no one is angry. And LISTEN to what they have to say or don’t say. Learn to read between the lines.
Keep them busy. Find what they like to do and get them involved in that sport or hobby or activity.  Steer them in the right direction with the right friends, like kids at church or school groups. Invite their friends to your house so you can know and meet them, but stay out of their way.  They are your teen's friends, not yours.   
Like it or not, rebellion is a part of the road to independence, but teaching them how to be independent varies with each teen. How one teen reacts may not be how his brother or sister will.  Learn to let go. A little at a time is best for both of you. Give responsibilities that earn them rewards, like free time or parole.  Drive them to and fro from activities.  Meet the other parents.
Always allow them to call you if they need help, need to be rescued, need an excuse to get out of something they do not want to be pressured into doing by others. No questions asked. At least not then.
          For some teens, the transition is subtle; for others it is not, but it is inevitable.  
          A mother of five teenagers once told me she wished she could freeze them through their teen years, then defrost them in their twenties. I offered no consolation. I told her it does not work that way. Her five would still have to go through adolescence, and it was better for them to do it then and not later.
          Getting a child through the teen years takes the two of you, parent and child.