With the holidays hard upon us, I have to ask an important question: do kids’ tables still exist during festive occasions? In my childhood, they did. Of course with eight or ten kids at the party, parents found it much easier to isolate all of us at one central location rather than sprinkle us among the adults where we’d outnumber and outmaneuver them.
I believe I continued the tradition with my own family. I’d blame the small size of our early apartments rather than any conscious decision. We had to break into mini-groups. However in gatherings with my husband’s extended—and extended, and extended—family, the issue rarely surfaces. Every party is a buffet, and people hunker down wherever they can find a square foot.
Fast forward to the third generation. My sister tried to have a kids’ table several times. This has fallen by the wayside, perhaps because we both have opinionated, stubborn children who refuse to take orders, such as “Sit at the kids’ table.”
The grownups’ table used to represent status, a step forward from childhood to adult. I looked forward to my own transition. I remember one of my last Christmas family dinners with my aunt and uncle. My aunt broached the subject of seating oh-so-delicately . I believe I was about 16 or 17. She phrased her request so deftly, I thought she was telling me I’d be at the adults’ table. I believe she mentioned my increasing age and ability to take responsibility. You guessed it! This translated into yet another year at the kids’ table, ostensibly as the leader. I was not fooled.
Now people give good reasons for phasing out the kids’ tables, other than wanting more control over their offspring. Parents cite family togetherness, setting a good example about manners and conversation, encouraging intergenerational cross-fertilization of ideas. Regardless, in my corner of the world, fewer folks set up these enclaves. The one exception seems to be wedding parties. Maybe the per-person cost for meals is so extravagant, even parents aren’t willing to see good food thrown out in heaps.
I’m not enamored of kids’ tables. I can take ‘em or leave ‘em. I know sometimes children’s conversations and insights are hysterical and fascinating. In other instances, they are whiney, rude beyond words, and annoying. I have about a fifty-fifty chance of preferring any given adult table over kids’. I’m fortunate because I can exercise choice in the matter. Now that I’m legally of age (three times over) I could automatically be eligible for adults’. However, with my height, less than five-feet, I’m shorter than many preteens, so I still qualify to sit at any kids’ table in view.
Sometimes the big barriers in life aren’t abject poverty, dreaded disease, or death. Sometimes it’s the subtle ones set upon us by time and place. We don’t know they are there; if we sense them at all, we choose not to turn and face them.
When I applied for a job as a writer at Hearst Corporation in New York in 1961, I was required to take a typing test. “No typing test, no interview.” I took the test and was offered a job in the ranks of those who could type 70 a minute. All the while, I had to insist upon the interview I had been promised.
In college, I took sound advice and studied education. I began to pay for my schooling by working as a staff writer at the Salt Lake Tribune – at 75 cents an hour. That I was making a living writing didn’t occur to me.
Something similar was at work when I married. My husband’s career took precedence; that was how it was done. Then there were two children, carefully planned, because that was how it was done. I happily accepted a new direction to accommodate my husband’s career and the life the winds of the times presented to me. I left my writing with hardly a backward look.
Writing as a career was not a consideration. It didn’t fit any of the requirements of the time. So when I gave it up, it didn’t feel like I was giving up much. But I was. My dream of sitting in an office, a newsroom with a pencil in my hand was a victim of the status quo. It never occurred to me to just strike out in my own direction – my husband and children needed me. My husband and I built a business. We raised a lawyer and a mathematician, grew in joy with a grandson, lived through floods and moves, enjoyed travel. I didn’t write for forty years.
In midlife I became aware that there was an empty hole where my children had been. The hole was more vast than the space vacated by offspring. I knew I not only would be able to write, but also I would need to write. After all, I dreamed writing, lived writing, loved writing.
One day, I read that those who live until they are fifty may very likely see their hundredth year. That meant that I might have another entire lifetime before me – plenty of time to do whatever I wanted. In fact, it’s my belief that women in their 50s might have more time for their second life because they don’t have to spend the first twenty years preparing for adulthood.
So I sat down and began to write the “Great Utah Novel.” I thought it would be a lot easier than it was. After all, I had majored in English Lit. Writing a novel should be pretty much second nature. It wasn’t long before I realized that it wasn’t as easy as writing the news stories I had written as a young woman. There were certain skills I didn’t have; there was plenty I didn’t know about writing.
After writing about 400 pages (easily a year’s work), I knew something major was wrong. I took writing classes at UCLA. I attended writers’ conferences. I read up on marketing. I updated computer skills. All the while I wrote and revised and listened and revised again.
This Is The Place (http://bit.ly/ThisIsthePlace) finally emerged, about a young woman, Skylar Eccles, a half-breed in Utah where she was born and raised. Half Mormon and half another religion. Skylar considers marrying a Mormon man in spite of her internal longing for a career. By confronting her own history (several generations of women who entered into “mixed marriages”) and by experiencing a series of devastating events, she comes to see she must make her own way in the world, follow her own true north.
Much of what I wrote about is my own story. I’m glad that I waited until I was sixty. I believe that forty years brought insight and a unique vision to the story in terms of the obstacles that women faced in those days. I really like being proof that a new life can start late – or that it is never too late to revive a dream.
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Carolyn Howard-Johnson, a novelist and poet, brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her “How To Do It Frugally” series of books for writers and the many classes she taught as instructor for UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program. The books in her “How To Do It Frugally” series of books for writers have won multiple awards. She is also the recipient of a number of community awards. The author loves to travel and has visited eighty-nine countries. She has studied writing abroad. She admits to carrying a pen and journal wherever she goes. Her web site is www.howtodoitfrugally.com.
The huge silver maple in front of our house in the parking strip began shedding sections of trunk and branches. I might have thought the sky was falling, until I saw the entire road blocked by wood. These weren’t a small inconvenience. They blocked the entire road, smashed cars parked underneath, and required emergency (and expensive) removal by tree services.
Needless to say, the city forester told us the entire tree has to come down. We’ve adjusted to this order, but every time I look at the plant, my heart contracts. It’s got to be about 120 years old, 75 feet high, and 15 feet in diameter. It’s kept us cooler in the summer and served as home to birds, squirrels, probably other critters I don’t know.
What I didn’t realize was the amount of affection our neighbors held for our giant. I’ve never met so many residents as I have in the past few weeks. Without exception, they all bemoaned the pending loss. I began to hope the tree is able to receive some of these good feelings as it prepares for termination. It’s given us so much, it deserves to know of our appreciation.
So I began to wonder if trees have consciousness or spirits? When I was a child of about eight, I thought everything had a life-force. Small animals, bugs, flowers, trees, perhaps even rocks and earth. I later learned this is called animism, the belief that all objects and creatures possess a spiritual essence, common in primitive cultures. Little did I know I was dabbling with philosophy and anthropology, but I managed to outgrow the cumbersome compulsion to apologize to every ant I stepped on or insure all my dolls received their bottles.
However, my animism reactivated toward my tree. I think of what the tree must have been like when it first started growing. Since I live on the plains, prairie was all around, not forests. Did it grow from natural seeding, or did a human coax a sapling into survival? How many parents and children stood in its shade as it grew, thankful for its shelter? Did it feel pain when branches broke in blizzards?
There are religions and spiritual values that believe in the consciousness of all things, or at least living things. Some people who believe plants can feel and react, have systems similar to nervous systems of animals.
One of these was poet Joyce Kilmer. “I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree,” he wrote. This classic exposition about a tree contains in its simple lines the entire relationship of living things to one another. “Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree,” he finished.*
So when the noisy, violent chainsaws start up outside my house and bite into my maple, I hope on some level it realizes how much it will be missed.
*An interesting aside, Kilmer died in battle during WW I, cutting short his outpouring of poetry and making him one of millions sacrificed throughout the centuries on the altar of human brutality. No tree would put a bullet through a living thing’s life-source.
(In this guest article, Dr. Laurie Weiss points out the benefits of work that you really enjoy.)
When I was about 12, I learned a secret! I could do something I loved (at the time it was sewing) and, if my mother approved of it, she would think I was working (as I was supposed to) when I was really playing. It’s a secret worth sharing because it made all the difference.
My life has been richer, fuller and more exciting than I ever imagined it could be. During my undergraduate career I agreed with my physics professor to not pursue advanced courses because, after all, I would just be getting married. I did get married and worked to put my husband through graduate school. Fifty-six years, two children and five grandchildren later, I can look back with amazement.
Along the way I have also been a lab technician; a science teacher; psychotherapist; trainer of psychotherapists, teachers and business professionals; lecturer in 13 different countries; executive and life coach; a business owner; and author of 8 self-help books (with spines) and assorted other materials. I have also been blessed by elephants in India, walked on hot coals, visited Camelot, flown over the pyramids, and viewed the erotic temples at Khajurajo, India.
Two accidents (my introduction to transactional analysis in 1968 and to feminism in 1970) led my husband and me to create a business and personal partnership that far exceeded my wildest expectations.
Having the tools to make a positive difference in people’s lives turned out to be both intoxicating and addicting. And the kind of learning I was exposed to along the way transformed how I experience the world. When I considered retirement, I discovered that it was difficult to have the kind of meaningful conversations I love and that people actually pay me to have. So I keep on looking like I am working but really playing.
Then about 5 years ago another accidental encounter led me in a new and fascinating direction. I was introduced to an almost unknown healing method. You can ‘look inside the book’ at http://www.BooksbyLaurie.com/go to read about that strange experience in my newest book Letting It Go: Relieve Anxiety and Toxic Stress in Just a Few Minutes Using Only Words (Rapid Relief with Logosynthesis®)
I am committed to helping people learn to love and appreciate themselves and each other. I have an unshakeable belief, based on over 45 years of experience, that people are doing the very best they can with the resources they have available to them at any given moment.
Laurie Weiss, Ph.D. and her husband Jonathan B. Weiss, Ph.D. live and work in Littleton, CO. They are the only Certified Master Logosynthesis Practitioners in the US. LaurieWeiss@EmpowermentSystems.com
My dentist and hygienist tell me at every visit, “Keep up the flossing.” And I do, even though not everyone agrees about the benefits of the practice. Those who favor it think, In addition to the potential for reducing cavities and gum disease, flossing makes their mouths feel fresher, cleaner.
Flossing seems to have become wide-spread in the 80s. Prior to that time, I can’t remember a dentist pushing the practice nonstop. And late in that decade a variation made its mass-market debut—the flosser pick. Pretty clever. It eliminates the onerous chore of pulling out the floss, cutting it, twining it around your fingers. Plus it often comes on colorful and artistically designed holders.
Therein lies the problem. Flosser picks are so cute, so appealing, thousands are using the tools in any location they find themselves. They then abandon the devices, dropping them randomly everywhere. I happen to see the ones outside. They dot sidewalks, parks, beaches, gutters, streets, playgrounds.
I wonder if our collective dental health has improved significantly with the proliferation of flosser picks. Perhaps they’ve simply become substitutes for cigarettes. Many of us seem to be orally fixated. Since we can’t suck our thumbs in public, we substitute food, gum, nail biting. And cigarettes. Now that cigarette smoking is frowned upon socially, have people switched in flosser picks?
I’ve got to believe that flosser picks are just as much litter problemsas cigarette butts. They’re not biodegradable, they’re ugly once abandoned, they can stab toes and soles, and animal health would be threatened should any ingest the flosser picks. In the litter competition, flosser picks are challenging the butt’s domination.
Here’s the kicker: you may pat yourself on the back that you’re using flosser picks even if they create a bit of litter. But experts say picks aren’t as effective as the old fashioned string floss. So don’t break your arm congratulating yourself.