Thanksgiving Madness

Ahhhh, the end of November. You know what that means. Thanksgiving is ready to spill its bountiful cornucopia all over us. Are you ready for the psychological obstacle course known as Thanksgiving dinner? Just like evergreen trees are to Christmas, gaudy cakes are to birthdays, pastel eggs are to Easter, and candy hearts are to Valentine’s Day, the family meal centered around turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce defines the holiday of Thanksgiving — yet it’s rarely as benign as a chalky pink piece of candy that says BE MINE.

Don’t get me wrong, I love having the generations all gathered around one table to laugh, share, and love. I love my family. Not only do I love them, they’re a hoot. Where do you think I get it from? But often coming along for the heartwarming ride is the knowledge that over wine, green bean casserole, and Haas Gooey Cake, I get to be put on trial yet again for that thing (or two or three) I did god knows how many years ago. And by this point so many of the stories brought up are so old that there’s probably more imagination in their re-telling than actual fact. Or so I like to say anyway. I mean, no one could be that bad when they were young, could they?

Thankfully, the holiday spirit that envelopes my family is plenty big enough to wash over many and my brother is often also the object of ridicule at these joyous functions. Believe me; I’m only too glad to share in the glow of the dinner table spotlight. Topics that are often revisited have to do with our childhood and our inspired attempts at killing each other or our driving our mother insane. I tell you, I cannot wait until my children are old enough for this holiday tradition and I can start to tell stories on them. Although quite frankly, looking back on it, I think my mother just has way more material to work with. Poor woman.

This Thanksgiving, to add to the joy, we’re going to throw three dogs into the mix as well. Oh, big deal you might say. Well, these dogs haven’t met yet, and being in my family, of course each one has its own little quirks…doggy eccentricities let’s say.

One of them is a mammoth of a German Shepherd puppy named Resi who is absolutely flippin’ adorable but a little shy and new to the family. She’ll have to quickly learn to hold her own against two brutal hell-hounds. They’re not the mighty, snarling beasts like at the end of Ghostbusters, but as you regular readers will know, my Rufus and Petra can be just as vicious as Zool’s protectors even if they are only about 5 pounds each with limited reach. They’ve fended off their fair share of UPS drivers through the window I’ll have you know, and I’ve yet to be murdered in my sleep, or taken hostage by the mailman thanks solely to my diminutive four-legged protectors.

Despite her size, Resi is still young and she’s afraid of new things, bless her heart. And when she sees a dreaded “new thing,” she tends to stand there and bark at it as puppies so often do. But so far, these new things haven’t been able to hop around and generally be annoying. Her encounters have been more on the inanimate side, like sculptured pigs sitting on an end table and the like. Well, that’s about to change.

Rufus really wants nothing more than to be friends with his four-legged cohorts, yet he has absolutely no sense of boundaries with other dogs so will do whatever he can to coerce them to play whether his attentions are wanted or not. He’s like that annoying little weasel who tries to steal chickens in the Looney Tunes cartoons who just won’t give up.  Or the kid whose name you learn in the restaurant because the mother is constantly “Rufus stop that, Rufus get down, Rufus leave him alone, Rufus stop licking her in the face for goodness sake!”

Petra, like Resi, is sometimes fearful of new things, and when she’s afraid, she also stands there and barks. Oh joy. I can see hear it now. “Battle of the Barks.” She has the additional quirk of wanting to burrow and hide when she’s very afraid. Under what, it doesn’t matter. Under furniture (whether she fits is irrelevant), under blankets, under people. Under something, under anything.

If our dinner table stays upright, I’ll eat my hat. I’m definitely taking bets on all hell breaking loose and the turkey going airborne. I think I may just come out of all this with some decent spending money.

Thinking about what’s to come as I write this blog I’m reminded of one other part of the holidays that I do quite enjoy…drinking. Thanks be to the Holy Spirit for that which is called wine. Without thee I know not what I would do.

Being a Kid is Tough Work

It’s not easy being green…or a kid.

Lots of adults – too many adults – think that childhood is an easy time.  They think that kids are carefree and have nothing to worry about.  Well, childhood should be an easy time, with no cares or worries, and in a perfect world it would be, but we do not live in a perfect world.

Kids face stressors of all kinds and always have. They have to go to school – and if they are not good students that’s one type of stress, and if they are good students, that’s another kind of stress, and if they have to deal with bullies that’s another type of stress, and if they are shy and have difficulty making friends – even if they aren’t subjected to bullying – that’s another type of stress, or if they’re popular and have to maintain a certain circle of friends even if they don’t want to because “it’s expected,” that’s another type of stress.  Well, you get the picture. Stress.

Nowadays there’s more than ever for kids to be worried about. Take for instance, the chat my daughter’s teacher had with her class last school year about possible shooters in the school and how they’re basically all screwed anyway.  And then there’s the fact that my daughter went to a college conference in Baltimore recently – one of her concerns included whether or not the convention center would be shot up…given Baltimore’s latest activities in that regard. Many kids face this fear in this day and age and truly, that’s just a sad testament to our society as a whole.

Then there’s home life, which can be more complicated now than ever before, considering the proliferation of different family units – single parents, same-sex parents, step-parents and step-siblings, and so on. Which can be just fine and dandy inside the home or it can be incredibly complicated depending on how the family meshes – but the external stressors that kids in these situations sometime face can be overwhelming.

And then there’s the parents. Regardless of the type of family unit, most parents are loving and treat their kids well…but there are always the exceptions. And while the percentage of “bad parents” may be low, that still means there are hundreds of thousands of parents who have no idea how to treat kids, and shouldn’t be parents in the first place, frankly.

And all that brings me to the real subject of this blog entry, which is how frustrating it is for teenagers to be lumped into a single mass.

“All teenagers are sullen.”

“All teenagers are moody and antagonistic.”

“All teenagers have teenage angst.”

I disagree with all of these statements but none more than the existence of “teenage angst.” Not all teenagers have teenage angst! And what the hell is teenage angst anyway? There’s no “adult angst” and believe me, I’ve seen plenty of adults that ought to have it.

Oh, and just because a teenager doesn’t want to be social or outgoing, even among family, does not mean they are sullen or moody or antagonistic. Perhaps they’re introverted. Perhaps they’re shy. Perhaps they have a lot going on in their mind and life and they’re distracted. Perhaps they just don’t like you. They should be allowed to do their own thing so long as they’re not being outwardly disrespectful. Speaking of which, I’m a firm believer of “respect is a two-way street.”  There is no minimum age for deserving respect. All too often adults think that kids, simply by virtue of being kids, do not deserve even a modicum of respect, thereby completely invalidating their feelings, and this is just wrong.

But how should we treat teenagers who do have angst? (Note the intentional lack of “teenage” preceding the word angst.)

Are they to blame for giving into their feelings – when adults certainly never hesitate to give in to theirs?

Kids have a lot to be anxious about. For some, it’s worse than the norm.

Having anxiety and depression is like being scared and tired at the same time. It’s the fear of failure but no urge to be productive. It’s wanting friends but hating socializing. It’s wanting to be alone but not wanting to be lonely. It’s caring about everything then caring about nothing. It’s feeling everything at once then feeling paralyzing numb.”

That’s a quote to think about, and to remember.

All of the stresses that affect kids are magnified a hundred fold if they do suffer from anxiety and/or depression.  First off, anxiety and depression are medical conditions. That’s what a lot of adults don’t seem to understand. Oh, they might “get it” regarding themselves or other adults.  They just don’t seem to understand that kids can suffer from these same conditions.  I mean, why would they?  They’re kids, in the prime of their carefree days for goodness sake.

Second, a lot of this angst is caused by external forces.

Take girls, for example. It’s well documented that boys and girls do equally well in school until they get into their teens, when the scores for girls (speaking overall here – there are always exceptions) go way down in certain subjects. Like math and science. Why? Because even today – even today! – girls are not expected to be good at math or science! And they are treated accordingly. No wonder their scores go down.

Then there’s the fact that once girls become teenagers, they “blossom” as the saying goes, and all of a sudden they’ve got to deal with the “opposite sex” coming onto them (or not). Not to mention ridiculous dress codes that make it abundantly clear that their education is much less important than a boy’s and instead they should focus on not distracting the male students from their studies.

Of course boys have a similar and equal kind of stress when they hit puberty, as there’s a blinding rush to turn them into adults and no innocence seems left to any kids anywhere!

Bad parents also cause their kids a lot of stress and anxiety. Some parents emotionally abuse kids, even if they don’t physically abuse them, threatening to withdraw their love if the kid fails a test, for example…or irrationally and insistently pushing the kid into sports when he or she would rather be on the stage let’s say, just so they can relive their old high school quarterback days.

Something else to think about: When parents have a bad day, who are the first ones they take it out on?  Their spouse, sure, but who’s next? The kids. Right. (I’m not talking abuse here – that’s a whole other issue – I’m talking about being in a bad mood, snapping at the family, being curt or short in your tone, and having no patience for anyone.) When kids have a bad day?  Who can they take it out on?  No-one. Why? Because they get punished. For belligerence. For having a bad attitude. If they go to their room and try to stay to themselves because they’ve had a bad day? They get punished. Why? For being sullen.  For being anti-social with the family. For ignoring their parents. For bringing the mood of the family down. Kids are expected to be on perfect behavior at all times or face the consequences.  Who can live sanely under those kinds of expectations!? Yet many adults expect them to do it.

My point in all this rambling?  Simple. Let’s cut our kids some slack, shall we? Kids have feelings and personalities all their own just as adults do. They shouldn’t be dismissed just because they’re kids.


having a good kid meme

A Special Thank You

Thanks go out to a myriad of family members for their service to this great country of ours…including no less than five uncles (4 of whom were brothers). But a very special thanks go to my Dad and my Brother. I have respect for you both in so many ways, this being just one of them. I love you guys. Thank you for your service.



Scary Parents

Halloween normally conjures up thoughts of ghouls, goblins, the afterlife, and phobias. The holiday itself is pretty simple: the dressing up, the trick-or-treating, the scaring people, etc. But the underlying metaphors of the deceased seeking vengeance or just acknowledgement, and bringing to light the things in life we most fear, are quite complex albeit common thoughts.  However, watching a movie marathon the other night (of course, me and movies, right?), which included The Addams Family and The Addams Family Values, had me linking this Spooktacular celebration to an area of my life I never thought it would intersect: parenting.

Yes, this Halloween season I’ve been thinking about parenting. More specifically how I believe that Gomez and Morticia Addams might just possibly be the ultimate parents. Okay, I know, but hear me out, hear me out.  Seriously, from the movies and the early t.v. show (which was amazing by the way), there is a good argument here.

gomez and morticia retro

They never shout at their kids. They never force them to be who they’re not. They’re always supportive, constantly giving Wednesday and Pugsley encouragement, and regularly back them up on their ideas no matter how crazy they may seem. If anyone speaks out against either child, these devoted parents immediately jump to their defense while also checking to make sure the kids didn’t, in fact, do some horrible good deed. They put up with the explosions from well-timed dynamite, the science experiments that set the house ablaze, and foster a love for animals by allowing the odd pet or two such as an alligator, octopus, a lively bear (rug), and a poisonous spider, just to name a few. In fact Gomez and Morticia actively encourage Wednesday and Pugsley’s individual hobbies and eccentric creative interests. They deal calmly with the sibling rivalry that often involves medieval weaponry and amazingly complex booby traps. And like all parents, they wonder if they’re “doing it right.”

morticia retro

In case you don’t remember, in The Addams Family Values, Gomez and Morticia send their kids to a summer camp because they are persuaded by external forces that it’s best for the kids. Of course, it’s a terrible idea and they never would have sent them to a place that didn’t appreciate their umm…individuality… if they hadn’t had a seed of doubt about their parenting skills planted in their heads by the nefarious villain of the flick. So here they are worried, like all conscientious parents would be, just trying to do the right thing by their kids to make sure they grow up properly.

morticia and gomez current

Also, in that movie they showed their vast reservoir for acceptance in the face of diversity. Or at least Morticia did. When their baby is “ill” and turns blonde (gasp!) and “normal” (in the All-American, Stepford, take-you-home-to-meet-the-parents sort of way), Morticia reads him The Cat in the Hat. Mind you, she doesn’t want to. She’s dreadfully sad that all of the characters live at the end. It’s rather obvious that she’d be more comfortable reciting Dante’s Inferno, something from The Brothers Grimm, or perhaps a few chapters from Faust, but instead of trying to force her own personal affinities onto this changeling in her arms, she instead recognizes what he needs and sucks it up with a little Dr. Seuss.

morticia gif

Empathy, love, acceptance, and support. These are the pillars of the Addams parents. I mean, honestly, can you think of a better pair of parental role models?

There’s No Crying in the Dollar Store

So. Do you ever look at something that in and of itself is completely benign and straight forward, but taken into context with the memories that item brings to mind can leave you awash with forgotten emotions? At best you feel a twinge of heartbreak or perhaps a smile from some long ago happy day or at worst you’re left blubbering in the seasonal candy aisle in the Dollar General Store in town.  Which is exactly where I found myself a few days ago.

Now I’ve never bought candy at the Dollar General Store in my town as I’m something of a candy aficionado and I prefer the “good stuff.” Quite often you’ll find me at the Cracker Barrel for the old-fashioned candy they sell (Peanut Chews, Maple Leaves, and a good brand of old-style Almond Brittle are among my favorites) or I scour the internet for the chocolates I can’t find elsewhere (Ice Cubes come to mind) and of course the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in the outlets near me see my face quite frequently because I admittedly covet their chocolate covered strawberries and other decadent goodies.  But I digress. Deliberately so.

Anyway.  While at the dollar store, I stumbled across two types of candy that I would often purchase this time of year for my Great-Aunt Bunny while she was in a nursing home.  You guys may remember Aunt Bunny, I’ve talked about her before. She’s from the West Virginia crew of Mooney girls who tried the patience of their mother and are now undoubtedly livening up the realms of Heaven.

Well, for Christmas, I would send her this huge care package of goodies that included the best kinds of her favorite candy but other treats as well that she wasn’t supposed to have…but no one could take away from her since it was in the form of a present.  This tickled her to no end.  We’re talking a huge box full of stuff, it looked like I was preparing her for a trip through the Serengeti. If it was a trip to be sustained on sugar and junk food that is.  I took my self-imposed obligation seriously and my search for the perfect candies and snacks to include each holiday started early, probably right around this time of year. Which is why seeing the candies at the Dollar General Store hit me so hard I guess.

Aunt Bunny was never crazy about chocolate although I always sent her a bit…one year it was Chocolate Peppermint Penguins and one year it was Buckeyes, always something different.  Mostly her stash was filled with things like Claeys’ Hard Candies of all sorts (licorice, lemon, horehound, rootbeer), old-fashioned Ribbon Candy, a type of old-style hard candy as shown in the photo below, peppermint sticks, Divinity, Maple Leaves, and, because it couldn’t be all sweet-stuff, I’d include pork rinds and the like as an extra tasty treat.  Bless her heart, Aunt Bunny always tried to eat everything immediately, but eventually she had to hoard it and ration it out piece-meal so as to enjoy it longer. Although I don’t think it ever lasted much past the New Year.

I think I enjoyed finding the items to include in her goodie box as much as Aunt Bunny enjoyed eating them.   I won’t be doing it again this year.

And that’s how I ended up a teary-eyed fool at my local dollar store. I’m sure I was a sight.

Strangely enough, I had a dream about Aunt Bunny the next night. She was giving away all of her things. Something she routinely did in life – we couldn’t leave her house on a Sunday afternoon without being burdened down with food, drinks, some knick-knack or another. She never wanted someone to leave empty-handed. At least not us. It became a running joke in my family. I miss that joke. I miss searching for Claeys’ Hard Candies.  And I guess for a while, I’ll be avoiding the Dollar General Store.


hard candy

Dollar Store Trigger


Bunny & Family 1968

Bunny & Family 1968