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Sue Spitulnik

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Thank a Veteran

Today is Veterans Day. I will be spending the evening with a special group of Veterans who are my personal friends. We belong to the Rochester (NY) Veterans Writing Group. Following is part of my portfolio that is on our web-sight page:

When we gather, we catch up on each other’s news and then write for about twenty minutes from a prompt sheet that gets our ideas forming. There are usually four prompts provided by one of our facilitators. After writing, each person reads aloud what he or she has written. Members of the group then offer constructive criticism on how to improve semantics. Suggestions are made for extending the piece into an essay, short story, or whatever. That’s the plan.

This is what really happens; most of us have chosen a prompt that requires a walk down memory lane: it can be a poignant memory with a good, or not so good, outcome while in the military; a humorous escapade from childhood or adult life; something a loved one did or experienced; a subject we feel strongly about and why; or sharing what losing a loved one feels like. After each person reads, the others acknowledge that the emotions shared are legitimate, worthy, and acceptable. The military brotherhood understands the range of feelings and the impact of PTSD. It’s a safe place to share. Personally, I always need my box of tissues; that’s just how I’m wired. Funny, I can talk about a situation, but when I read my own writing, I cry. Sometimes it’s embarrassing.

The number that attends the group ebbs and flows. There can be as many as twelve people and sometimes only five. Most attendees have served in a branch (or two) of the U.S. military and others have close affiliations to a current or past military member. There are no rules other than to have a desire to write, share, and learn. And, it’s free.

Attending this group for over a year now has given me some remarkable gains — friends, understanding, and knowledge. I am part of the tribe and I belong.

My husband is a veteran, as is the father of my children. I pay close attention to the Veterans who are my Facebook friends and vote the way they do because I trust their judgement. They have paid the price for the freedoms we enjoy in this country. May I suggest, today and every day; Thank a Veteran.

Teach Your Child

National Parents as Teachers Day caught my attention because I didn’t know if they meant to recognize those parents who teach in the public/private school system so have lots of “children”, or if it was a plug for every parent to work with their own child, like no one else can. I found it to be the later. I’m glad about that because I believe a parent should ultimately be responsible for guiding, helping, and praising their own child so they can do a better job while in the school system.

When I went to school we had a class for the girls called home economics in which we learned the basics of cooking, sewing, and ironing. The old attitude that those chores were ladies work was still strong. Funny thing is, most of the young people I know now, under the age of 35ish, the guy does the cooking, and hardly anyone sews. We have become a throw away society. I think that’s sad. It’s also a big waste!

Back to the subject. It is proven, the more time a parent spends nurturing a little one, the better they do in school, barring learning disabilities. The more books that are read to them at home, the easier time they have learning to read in school. It’s a healthy cycle, and the bond between parent and child is strengthened.

I’d like to take it another step. I don’t think teens learn in school what they need to get along in this world. Simple things like balancing a check book, how to comparison shop, how to save money and not rely on credit, how to fill out a simple tax return with no special deductions, and even how to budget their time. My suggestion to you parents is the next time you do one of these chores, to include your teenager so they will at least have been shown how. Note: I get they probably won’t be interested….bribe them if necessary! Teach them any chance you get. I applaud you for trying-in advance!

Housewife Equals Stay-at-home-Mom

If you are one of the lucky moms that gets to stay home with your kids…..Please….never say you are just a housewife. You may often feel like the maid, but years from now your children will brag about the fact you were home when they got on the school bus and when they got off. And today in school, their class mates will be jealous that their friend’s mom is home and theirs is not.

I understand the economics of the 21st century. It takes two incomes to even think of making ends meet. And, this category is based on a two parent household; which is less and less common. Another thought, sometimes the second income isn’t enough to make it worthwhile for one parent to work, so they stay home with the little ones. You need to do what is best for your house, then hold your head up high and own it.

In my day as a child, very few mom’s worked. One income used to be enough to get by on, and daycare wasn’t heard of in my little home town. If there was a latch-key kid, the neighbors looked out for them, no money changed hands. Remember, I am talking little hick town, not city. I didn’t grow up in a city.

When I got home from school my mother and her best friend were often doing some elaborate craft project; leather tooling, copper tooling, caning chairs, making Christmas wreaths with real pine boughs. These things took training and practice. I think scrapbooking is an art, but it doesn’t take much training. I digress. Today, if Mom is home she is expected to be  chauffeur, chef, friend and maid. Life was easier in my day, each kid didn’t belong to six groups, and didn’t have an expensive cell-phone in their pocket.

I think I like the old days better, but I’m old. So there you go. My first thought stands, if you are a stay-at-home mom, you are so much more than a housewife. I applaud you.

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Thank an Author

This day was originally designated to thank the many authors that you lean on for entertainment, a bit of learning and for filling many hours with new friends and characters you can’t forget.

I have a new reason to thank an Author. In my quest to become a published author myself, I have joined a local writing group whose members are already published. Each month they have a speaker that teaches a fundamental of the writing process. One such talk was about “building the world” or location of the story and the characters will come automatically. I tried it, it works! Another talk was about build your hero and heroine so you know how they will act in a situation. How do you do that? Say you name your hero Jim Bob because the story is set years ago in the Tennessee hills. If you plan ahead on paper his looks, personality, religion, birth position, education, whether he likes animals, etc., as you write about the situations Jim Bob finds himself in, you will know how he would act. It really is that easy. I learn something useful at every meeting.

On a personal level, one of the authors has helped me learn some key ways to shorten my sentences while at the same time making them more active. It was a “trick” I knew nothing about, yet is so simple once someone shows you how to do it. I am indebted to B.L. She has quickly become a friend and mentor.

The fact authors want to help other authors be successful by helping them learn how to write better has made me thankful in a whole new way. I am now reading their books with a new appreciation. It is a big rush to be able to tell my family and friends, “The lady that wrote this book is a friend of mine.”

The next time you read a book by your favorite author take a minute to think about who helped him/her become a better writer and maybe even send them a thank you note for a story that touches your soul.

 

Day of the Deployed and the Family too

National Day of the Deployed honors all of the brave men and woman who have been deployed, are sacrificing, or have sacrificed their lives to defend our country. The day also acknowledges their families who are separated from them during deployment and the sacrifices they make in order for their family members to serve our country.

WOW! A military recognition day that also honors the family left at home.  I’ve been in that position and it isn’t easy!  You function as a single parent the best you can (and get used to being in charge) then your spouse returns home, and thinks he is in charge.  It’s always an adjustment to relearn how to share the responsibilities of the family and household.  Today, it’s almost as common to have the Mom gone instead of the Dad.  I would guess that’s even more difficult if the separation is for a long time.

When my nephew was deployed during Dessert Storm, I sent him the Sunday comics each week.  I got more than one letter of thanks, and it is still mentioned at the holiday dinner table.  He laughs, “If I had been a drinking man, I would have charged rent on them.  As it was, there became a pecking order of who got to read them when I was finished.  They got passed along until they were tattered.”  Those funny papers were a touch of American life and home for the guys deployed.

I recently attended a church service where a young man was recognized before being deployed to Iraq the following week.  He told us he would be back in a year, if all went well.  I hate to admit, when we said good-bye to Dillon, we were all thinking, I hope you do come back.  It made sending him off a little harder to do.

These days the deployed can communicate much easier with home via cell phones and Skype.  I thought it would make deployment easier on both sides, but a good friend, a Captain in the Army, told me it makes it more difficult for some, because the parent at home shares all the troubles (car won’t start, mother-in-law didn’t send a birthday card, child is acting out because they don’t understand where Dad/Mom is) and the person deployed can’t do anything from so far away except feel guilty for not being there. As I said, it isn’t easy.

If you know someone who is deployed, may I suggest you take the time to send them a card or stop by their house and ask the family if they need something done.  I promise, they will appreciate knowing someone recognizes the sacrifice they are making for the U.S.A.

Mother-in-law Day

It’s National Mother-in-law Day.  Some people have the good fortune to get one they like and some don’t.  It’s a lot of work to make a marriage last, then you add trying to get along with the spouse’s family and anything can happen.  Sometimes a bond can take a while to develop, other times it’s obvious from the start there will never be one.  I say, keep trying if there is some hope.  It can add to the happiness of your marriage.

I consider myself to be a good mother-in-law for one main reason.  My kitchen is usually quiet, clean and not overheated by the stove being in use all day on almost every holiday and family birthday.  How can that be?  Because I don’t care what day we eat turkey, or open presents; it could be two weeks early or a few days late, just as long as it happens.  My adult kids spend all the holidays and sometimes their birthdays with their significant other’s family because there are some mothers-in-law that have rigid rules of attendance.  I’m proud to not be one of them.

I know a family that is having a major discussion because the family reunion date picked for 2017 falls on the birthday of a two-year old.  I say the parents and grandparents come to the reunion so everyone can finally meet the baby, then have a second birthday party with the other side of the family a week later. The baby won’t know what is happening and won’t remember it anyway. But, I am not in charge, so shall keep my opinion to myself, unless you count my talking about it here.  Setting the date for any large group of people is a thankless job.  It always falls on a date that upsets someone.  I mention this tidbit because it’s an example of a stringent date keeper.

We could get carried away and mention shopping on Thanksgiving in the U.S.  Personally I like that the stores are open because every time I hear an advertisement about being home with the family I know I’m not going to be. I would rather have my family home on a different day when I don’t have to share them with two other houses they must appear at so they don’t upset someone or hear about it later.

I’ll toot my own horn about this particular aspect of being a good mother-in-law and hope even if you don’t agree with my view point, you’ll understand it works well for me.

 

Recognition Goes a Long Way

I’m not quite sure why they chose the above picture for Get to Know Your Customers Day.  I would have taken a picture of someone paying for something in a small retail store. Hopefully you have a good memory of a local Mom and Pop store where your parents shopped and the owners called them by name, or you now have a friendly coffee shop where you don’t have to tell the Barista how you want your drink prepared or a bartender that sets up your beer as you walk in the door.

I’m a name nut.  I can’t remember who sings what song, but I can probably tell you all the names of my high school class mates.  Mind you, there were only 72 in my graduating class.  I can even tell you which teachers were my older sister’s favorites.  When my children were dating, they didn’t tell me about a new interest without being able to tell me who she/he was related to in our area because they knew I would ask.  My sisters call to ask about family connections from our original hometown when they can’t remember.

I worked in a quilting fabric store for thirteen years.  I could greet about half of the people that shopped there by first name.  It’s easy for me and I believe it made each customer feel welcome and special.  My boss might tell you I did too much personal talking with them.  I might agree with her, but I bet most of them aren’t greeted that way now that I no longer work there.  In fact, I had another of the employees tell me one day I made the rest of them look bad because I did use first names.  When I think of that comment it makes me sad.

My memory is not just about names.  I hear from friends and family that they enjoy what I share here; I write about people, passions and experiences that have become part of my life, some are pretty old.

The big box stores and on-line shopping have taken personal customer service out of our shopping experiences.  And we all know, getting decent customer service via telephone is often unsatisfactory.  There is an answer.  Shop local, in privately owned stores.  Introduce yourself to the owner and let them know they are meeting your needs.  You’ll be surprised how easy it is to get to know each other’s names.  I promise they will appreciate getting to know their customer.

Grief Can Do That To You

Today is National Grouch Day. Sesame Street has Oscar the Grouch and he is constantly complaining, about something; anything. He’s a glass-half-empty kind of fellow. The picture above shows a definitely unhappy child: maybe he’s hungry; he didn’t get to have a new toy; he doesn’t know when he’ll see his Mom again because she left in her military uniform; or his father is crying and he’s never seen him do that after talking on his cell.  The reason for the tears: he just found out his favorite uncle died.

My husband and I spent the last couple of days at the funeral of his cousin Jerry. The first of fifteen cousins in his generation we had to say good-by to. It can be frightening to think our age naturally puts us in line for it to happen more often and closer to home. The fear of the unknown date can cause you to get grouchy; the riled emotions and sadness can cause you to get grouchy; trying to find a funeral home in a big, unfamiliar city can cause you to get grouchy; and so can the noise being made by other guests in the hotel you are trying to sleep in.  It’s an emotional time for everyone involved, especially for the spouse left behind that has to figure out what the “new normal” is going to be.

Jerry had been sick for a long time. Sometimes you couldn’t even tell there was cancer in his system; other times, you didn’t think he would last another week. So when the end finally came, it was not a surprise. How much it hurts was a surprise. We all said it was a blessing he was no longer in pain. We added, he wasn’t here long enough to suit us.

I’ve been to far too many funerals already. I’ll share with you that both of my parents funerals were like a party week. The relatives came, the neighbors, the friends. People we hadn’t seen in a long time made contact with calls, cards, and flowers. It was festive. The pain set in afterwards when the house was quiet, and the company disappeared. Then the mind asks, “What just happened?”

Jerry’s funeral was like that. Cousins converged on Baltimore from Chicago, Boston, Knoxville, TN, Rochester, NY, and Miami. Friends came from next door, Washington, DC and Maine. We laughed about some memories and cried over others. We hugged each other; we said I love you. One of the family members didn’t speak to me and it really hurt my feelings. I thought he was mad at me, but then I found out he didn’t talk to hardly anyone. Grief can do that to you when you aren’t ready to face it yet.

I know this isn’t my usual type post, and there are lots of other reasons to be a grouch, but this reason is on my mind. The National Day of calendar suggests spending time with a grouch on this day and give them a reason to smile or pass them one of your own. It may help them be less of a grouch, and just maybe help them to heal from the pain of loss.

 

 

Visit your Child’s School?

The titles on the National Day of Calendar can evoke much different thoughts than what the day was actually set up to recognize.  When I saw the title, Take Your Parents to Lunch, I had visions of my adult children calling to invite me to meet them for lunch, during their work day.  That would be possible for me because I’m retired, and I could meet them at their place and time of choice; in my son’s case, an hour from my house.

Alas, when I read the description, it is meant for younger parents to visit their child’s school and go to lunch with them in the cafeteria.  Mostly to learn about the process and see what a good job the school does feeding their child.  I’m a dinosaur, parents didn’t visit us in school when I went to grade school.  [And we didn’t text all day either.]  I do know a lady who had lunch with her daughter every day in school through fifth grade.  That girl just graduated from high school and choose to go to  Arizona for college.  That’s a mighty long way from New York state. None of us wonder why except her Mom.  I guess you can be too involved.  I think the term for that now is a “helicopter mom”.  It’s not always easy to find a good balance that fits the mother’s and child’s emotional needs.

Sitting here, I can’t remember ever eating out with my father.  Stopping for ice cream, yes.  The only time I can remember doing it with my mother was at a church dinner.  But, we lived in rural New York state.  At that time, fast food places were only in the cities, and we didn’t go to restaurants unless it was a very special occasion.  Now, they are both gone, so I can’t take them to lunch.  I’m jealous of people my age that still have their folks to talk to and spend time with.

I’ll suggest you make this day work for you the way that is best for your circumstances.  Or maybe, borrow someone else’s parents to take out, just because you can.  Or call your own kids, and invite them out, without a reason.  Often times we don’t realize how fast time goes.  Take advantage while you can to take every opportunity to go to lunch with your children, or parents, or cousins, or neighbors, or special friends.

 

 

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