Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Ear Piercing . . .

In many Italian families, when baby girls are born, they usually get their ears pierced as infants.  However, my mother elected not to that that with me and I decided to get mine pierced when I was a tween. She took me to the family doctor, who took out a curved piercing implement, did each ear separately and inserted some surgical black thread so the hole wouldn't close while it healed. It was painful. Not so sure if I had a "do over" I would have done it again, but no regrets.

When I had my own daughters, instead of following the old tradition, I did what my mother did and left their ears alone. I figured if they really wanted to get their ears pierced one day they could make that decision for themselves. However,  I didn't foresee that my older daughter would want to make that decision at 5 years old. She came home from kindergarten one day asking if she could get her ears pierced because "so-and-so" had their ears pierced.  I might have taken her to get it done, but I wanted to be sure she really wanted her ears pierced for the right reasons and not just because someone else had them. I told her ear piercings are permanent and she couldn't change her mind after the fact. I agreed that she could get her ears pierced if she still wanted to do it when she was seven. That way she would have plenty of time to think about it and, if she still wanted it done, we would do it a month before her birthday and then we would get her earrings for her birthday presents. She agreed.

Two years is a very long time to wait when you are 5 years old, but she did. As her seventh birthday drew near she reminded me of our agreement and said she still wanted to get her ears pierced.  My stomach did a flip flop because I knew she had no idea of the pain involved no matter how I tried to prepare her. I found a jewelry store that pierced both ears simultaneously, because knowing my daughter, if they did them one at a time she wasn't going to stay for the second ear.  This time they used some sort of "gun" which injected little earrings right into the lobe and both ears were done! It was relatively simple. She was a little trooper. Of course, as it often is with younger sisters, my younger daughter also wanted hers pierced, but I made the same deal with her.

For my daughter's birthday she got three new pairs of earrings: gold balls, pearls, and diamonds (her birthstone).  You would think that chapter was now closed. Nope.

Three or four years later "so-and-so"got a second piercing above the first one so she could wear two pairs of earrings in each ear.  A new fad that was probably started just to drive parents crazy. My daughter came home wanting to get a second piercing in each ear.  Now I am a reasonable person and I live to make my children happy, but I wasn't going along with a fad and add two extra holes to my daughters head. So I told her no, that wasn't happening.  I explained that sooner or later this great new "look" was not going to be popular and she would be stuck with these extra holes in her ears forever. Besides that, and as a compromise, I told her if she wanted that "look," they have earrings that are designed to make it look like you have two piercings without going through another ordeal. That seemed to satisfy her.

To this day she still only has the one piercing in each ear. I think I made the right call.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Teacher's Gift . . .

Picture it. Third grade in an elementary school in 1995. It's nearing Christmas and the parents of my daughter's third grade class decided to take up a collection for one really good gift from all the children, instead of a lots of little gifts.  The parents agree, and a nice little sum of money was accumulated.  One of the mothers, who was also a teacher, suggested getting Mrs. Glazer, the teacher, a set of beautiful art books for the classroom. Everyone agreed this would be a perfect gift that would not only benefit our children, but many future students who would be in her class.  I wasn't present when the gift was delivered and opened, but I heard about the aftermath for days, weeks and months after in the schoolyard while waiting to pick up my daughter.

It seems the old expression "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth." did not apply here.  Nor was the gift graciously received. Rather, the teacher was offended and told the parents, in so many words, that this gift was not for her at all, but for their children. There was nothing personal about it the gift.  Naturally, as you would expect, the parents were now also offended as they put thought into the gift and probably had to add to the sum of money collected in order to purchase it.

Fast forward to the end of the school year. June was fast approaching and there was little matter of the end of the year gift for the teacher. Normally I wouldn't be involved in these matters, I would just be contributing whatever amount was agreed on for each parent.  However, no one wanted to be responsible for purchasing the year end gift from the class. So they all got the bright idea to ask me to do it. I wasn't involved in the Christmas fiasco so I had no hard feelings one way of the other. And, when they approached me to buy the gift for the teacher and something additional for her aide, I said yes.  I wasn't afraid of taking on this project and suffering the consequences.

I decided to keep my daughter home from school for a mother-daughter day. I planned to go to the mall with her to do some shopping, pick out both gifts and allow her to have some input.  Afterwards we would go to lunch at a nice restaurant.  Off we went to Macy's!  My first and only thought is that the teacher wanted something personal and what woman doesn't like jewelry?  We went directly to the jewelry counter and looked around. We saw a nice pair of dangling earrings that seemed elegant to me (but what do I know) and my daughter approved. With the few dollars we had left we were able to get another pair of earrings for the aide.  Mission accomplished! I asked for gift receipts just in case Mrs. Glazer didn't like the earrings (you never know.)

My daughter and I went to lunch at a restaurant near our house, that I drove past twice a day for three years, taking my younger daughter to her school. Of course we were going there from the mall instead of my house, and having directional dyslexia, I got us lost somehow.  So, I simply drove home and started out again and this time we made it to the restaurant and had a nice lunch. (I wonder if my daughter even remembers all this?)

The day of the gifting finally arrives. The gifts were to be presented to the teacher and aide in the classroom during a special viewing for the parents of the Family Tree projects that the children were supposed to be working all year. ( I say supposed to be because some looked like they were prepared the day before.) The albums and pictures were on display and all the children had a little something to say about their families and ancestry.  I was standing there with the gift receipts in my bag just waiting for the reaction to the gift.  Mrs. Glazer could not be happier with her earrings and came over to thank me. I told her if she would prefer a different style I had the gift receipt, but she refused, saying she loved them.  The aide also came over to thank me for her lovely gift.  All's well that ends well.

P.S. Valentine's Day is around the corner. If any men are reading this blog just remember to go get your lady jewelry. Forget the roses, they die. Forget the chocolate, that lasts less time than roses. Jewelry lasts forever and I have yet to meet a woman who doesn't like jewelry.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Family Tree in Cross Stitch . . .

My older daughter was married in July, 2016.  I wanted to make her and her husband something special for Christmas. I knew she was very interested in researching her family tree, as well as her new family's genealogy.  I've written a couple of blogs about each of our experiences.  This blog will be a continuation of sorts.

I like to make unique things. When I thought about it making a family tree I got excited because I knew my daughter and son in-law would appreciate it and it could even become a family heirloom. I started looking for cross stitch patterns, but much to my dismay, most family trees begin with one person and record their maternal and paternal sides. I wanted a tree that would be a record of both sides of their families and have room for their children.  I came upon a picture online of a large tree with the silhouette of couple under it.

I thought about how I might be able to turn this into what I wanted to make. First I would need to make it larger and turn it into a graph pattern.  Thank goodness for online sites that will take any picture and turn it into a graph for cross stitch or crochet. Here's what I got:

The next thing I wanted to do is take my daughter's favorite engagement picture and try to substitute it for the couple in the picture. I edited the picture down to the couple, changed the color to black and white, changed the size to match the size of the couple in the picture and use that as my new silhouette. I outlined both my daughter and her husband so I could use two different colors, a light and dark gray, to distinguish between the two bodies. Here is the graph and the cross stitch equivalent.

With the silhouette of the couple in place, I went ahead and finished the tree and all it's branches.  It was easy enough to place the couple's names and wedding date in the center of the heart made by the branches.  It was a little more difficult trying to add the names of their parents and grandparents and not disturb the flow of the branches. Using a light and dark green floss for the names, I counted and slightly eliminated a few stitches to allow the names to fit in.  The dark green floss was used to highlight the "family" surname on both sides. Once it was done and framed I couldn't wait to give it to them for Christmas.  I can add a title to it "Our Family Tree," and children's names if they want down the road.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Pussy Cat Hat . . .

In September 2015 I went back to crocheting. I thought I'd make a couple of blankets for Christmas and call it a day. Instead I have been crocheting almost non-stop ever since.  I've used many, many pounds of yarn and made dozens of things. After not crocheting for about 25 years or so, I found that, like Stella, I got my groove back. I started thinking that while I can crochet, maybe I should plan for the future, in addition to making gifts for the present. I've made quite a few little baby things even though there are no babies in the near future. And I asked my newly married daughter if she would like me to make her anything. She kept telling me she didn't need anything right now. I was thinking maybe some heirloom quality items she could save for the future like a table runner, but her mindset is in the present.

And that brings me to her one request . . . a pussy cat hat in pink. She plans to attend a women's march in a couple of weeks and wants to wear the hat.  She is making a statement for women's rights. I am doing my part by getting the yarn and crocheting. The hat only took a couple of hours or so to make. What baby wants, baby gets.  Here I am modeling it. I hope you get a good look because I have a feeling I will remove the picture shortly . . . and I was right, not a great look on me.

P.S. My daughter liked the hat so my mission was accomplished!

And here is the crochet pattern for anyone who is interested in making one of their own: Pussy Cat Hat Pattern in Crochet

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

People Come, People Go . . .

I haven't blogged much lately. Last year I only posted seven blogs. It was a busy year and there are only so many wedding blogs one can write. Then there was the election. Politics is a touchy subject. People will read something and agree with it or not. The number of stories on a daily basis was, and still is, overwhelming. I read and heard enough about all of it not to want to write anything. And who cares about my opinion anyway? And this is a small, personal blog. I can't always blog things I would like to blog because the people I would be referencing have the link and could read it. The last thing I would want to do is offend or hurt anyone's feelings, so I censor myself. But I find that even when you don't intend to hurt or offend anyone, it still happens.

Today I have an experience I would like to write about, but I won't. Instead I will say relationships can be complicated, even when they don't seem so. I thought I understood people, especially those I know personally, but I don't. I have had people close to me who are willing to discuss issues that come up between us for the sake the relationship and others who will just cut me off without a word of warning, without any regard for the numbers of years we have known each other and all that has transpired in that time. It leaves me to wonder if they ever valued me or the relationship in the first place?

I'm sure many, if not most, people have gone through similar experiences one way or another. You can't make sense of it, you just have to deal with it. If it happens enough times, with different people, you can think about it, maybe grieve the loss and eventually move on. You can't control what the other person chooses to do or how they react. They have to do what they feel is best for them. And I get that, even though it's not what I would do. I wish them well in their lives and in all they do. "For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven."

Depending on the depth of feelings and the involvement in each other's lives, some people can and do leave a void in your life that needs to be filled. How each one of us handles that varies. I have found that keeping busy and distracted allows for time to help the healing process. And, the way I look at it is that it gives me the opportunity and time to spend with family and others who are close to me. Life goes on.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Scholarships and the “Careful” Screening Process . . .

The happy ending

Scholarships are hard to get. You have to have excellent grades and also score well on the SAT’s and/or ACT standardized tests. In our experience those were the two main factors considered. They will say extracurricular activities play a role, the college essay is a factor, community involvement is considered. I think the things come into play when grades or test scores may not be as high as the college is looking for.  Some private high schools also give scholarships. They are based on grades and test scores to their own standardized exam.  Here is my daughter’s experience with scholarships.

When my older daughter graduated from intermediate school she applied to various high schools. She took the exam for Catholic high schools because the public schools she applied to were highly competitive. My daughter graduated intermediate school as valedictorian and needless to say her grades were nearly perfect. When she took the entrance exam for Catholic school she knew she had done well. She even completed more of it than one of her friends, who was the valedictorian at another neighborhood school. The day scholarships were announced to the Catholic school they both applied for, my daughter did not receive a call, but her friend did. We were bewildered as to how can that be? Both girls were valedictorians and my daughter was certain she had performed better on the entrance exam. Of course this was a Friday afternoon so we could not inquire about it for her. On Monday morning my husband, who is much more patient and tactful than I am, called the school and asked them why our daughter did not get a scholarship when her grades were outstanding and she felt she did very well on the exam. He just wanted to know where she fell short. He was told they would get back to him, but they do have a "very careful screening process."  In no less than thirty minutes I received a call from the school telling me my daughter had been granted a full scholarship. No explanation as to how she fell through the cracks of their careful screening process. When my daughter got home from school I let her know the “good” news. She was less than impressed and really very irritated. She felt slighted, overlooked and they had ruined her chance to enjoy her accomplishment because it had come after the fact, when other students had already made it known they had been granted scholarships. It would look like she was a “second thought” because if she truly deserved it why wasn't she selected during the screening process. Fortunately for her, her first choice of public high schools had accepted her and she was able to decline the scholarship.

Fast forward four years. Once again it was time to apply to schools. My daughter filled out quite a few applications, took a prep class to do well on the SAT’s and ACT exams, and she had a very good average from a highly regarded academic high school in New York City. Acceptance letters started pouring in. Many of them offering scholarships. Of course she was waiting until they all came in to make her decision. One school never replied. It was my alma mater, St. John’s University. She asked if I would call them and ask for her application fee back since they did not bother to even notify her if she had been accepted or not. Once again she was disgusted. I called them and explained that my daughter had applied and received no answer from them so we would like a refund of our application fee. The woman on the other end seemed perplexed. She disappeared for a few minutes. She returned to the phone and asked me if my daughter would fill out another application. I told her I was sure she would not. Then she said she would look into it and call me back.  Less than an hour later my phone rings. It’s St. John’s University offering her a full scholarship! I thanked them. I thought this was good news. My daughter came home and I told her what happened. She rolled her eyes and launched into a little rant. This was exactly what happened to her when she applied to the Catholic high school. She wanted no part of St. John’s. She had already gotten a half scholarship to Hofstra and she wanted to go there. Her father and I agreed.

After she accepted Hofstra’s offer to attend she gets a phone call from them. I listen in on the other line. The admission’s officer introduces himself and tells her that Hofstra would like to offer her a full scholarship instead of a half scholarship and that they would be sending her a new letter confirming this offer shortly. He just wanted to let her know it was coming. My daughter thank him. She got off the phone to tell me (not knowing I had listened in). More than a few days had passed and no letter arrived. My daughter started to believe that maybe she didn’t hear him correctly. Of course I knew she had because I heard it too. I told her to call and check on the letter. They confirmed it was coming and that she had been offered a full scholarship. The letter did arrive. She picked the right school and went there for four years graduating Summa Cum Laude, with highest honors, double majoring in Television/Communications and English. 

Moral of the story: If you think you deserve a scholarship and don’t get one, call and find out why.  You may have just fallen through the cracks.

Monday, August 1, 2016

A Pep Talk . . .

There are times in life when we could use a pep talk. Here's one.

Often, in life, we get in a rut. We do the same things every day, week in and week out. We are almost robotic. It's so easy to just roll with the flow. Changing things requires some effort, maybe a lot of effort. Life can be tiring, it can wear us out. But, while we are stuck in our routines and are waiting for something to happen, we are losing precious time. Time to make memories, time to try new things, time to take chances and look for opportunities to make our hopes and dreams a reality.

When a new year begins, when there is the birth of a new baby or wedding in the family, when we graduate college, when we get that first promotion at work, we can see all the infinite possibilities ahead of us. We believe we can do anything we put our minds to. We are motivated to reach our goals. We may take steps towards those goals and gain momentum. But life is unpredictable. We may hit a little bump in the road that derails us for a time and makes us feel like giving up. Sometimes we are disappointed and frustrated and lose the desire to stay on track. Sometimes a devastating loss can send us into a depression that is hard to get past. It's those times when we have to pick ourselves up and use our internal dialogue to help ourselves remember what we want and what we need to do. Every day that we are "stuck" is one less day we are living life and moving towards our goals. 

I know in everyone's life there are highs and lows. It's easy to be positive and energetic when you feel everything is going your way. But when things don't always go they way you want or expect them to, that's when the hard work begins. The only person you have control over is you. You have one life to live. You shouldn't waste one minute of it. Don't let anything stop you from living your dreams. Break through the depression, the frustration, the disappointment and push yourself to move on. It will get easier with each passing day as you move further way from the bad experiences and start creating new good experiences. 

And if, along the way, you see others going through their own struggles in life, throw them a kind word, a helping hand, a hug or a prayer to help them get past the bumps in their lives.  Helping others is a great way to heal ourselves and push through our own pain.