Mom 2.0

When I die, many, many years from now, at least one of you—maybe all of you—will speak at my memorial party. (Yes, party and not service!) I know I have been annoyingly providing suggestions for my obituary (lots of details but I want it to paint a picture of me too), the music (Barry Manilow among others), and thoughts on the dress code (nothing dreary).

Dad and I were watching a show on TV the other night—Grace and Frankie with Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. I particularly love Lily’s character, Frankie. The particular episode which precipitated this story was called “The Road Trip.” Frankie convinced Grace to go on a road trip in search of Grace’s old love, who Frankie was able to locate using her superior stalking skills.

Frankie said something that made me jump up and run to my desk so I could write what she said down, knowing I would forget it in the morning. It was so me—a description which I told Dad should definitely be used in my eulogy.

“I am an amateur sleuth with limited self-control and a computer.” Come one, girls. You all know this would make a great opening line at my eulogy or eightieth birthday roast. Does it not sum up me during this part of my life?

Think of all the people I have been able to find—both living and dead. Remember how I took the yearbook I found in the attic, which was from the year Dad graduated, and set out to find its owner? It did not belong to Dad.

I found the father of the owner and even spoke to him on the telephone. He told me where she was currently living, but mentioned he had not spoken to her in years.

I hung up the phone feeling happy that I had located her, yet at the same time, quite sad to hear an elderly father share this information with me, a stranger. So I took a photo of the yearbook and her diploma (which was tucked carefully inside) and mailed it to her. I got no response and concluded she did not wish to be found. Maybe she is in Witness Protection?

Anyway, the point is that I have become “the amateur sleuth with limited self-control and a computer.” So when the time comes, remember to include those words as part of my story. You will have other thoughts and memories I am sure, but you know this speaks of Mom 2.0


I Survived a Dangerous Toothbrushing!

I made a little mistake the other night, and I made Dad promise not to put it out on Facebook even though I admitted it was sort of funny. Actually, it was so funny that I could not stop laughing. I then said, “It can go in my eulogy, just not on Facebook.”  I even told Kelly and Mark, but again, restricted the telling of the tale.

Then I thought, I am not afraid to make fun of myself, but nobody else can unless I initiate the mockery.

Let me first defend myself by reminding you all that my vision is very bad. The error I made was done with my glasses off and my contact lenses removed—and I was tired. Those are all my excuses for what I am going to admit to you.

I decided to try a new toothpaste. It was a whitening toothpaste, and I thought I would give it a try.  It is packaged in a shiny red tube—very attractive. So I grabbed my toothbrush and reached for the shiny red tube. I put plenty of “toothpaste” on my brush and shoved it into my mouth. Remember, this was a new variety to me, and I was visually impaired. I was not thrilled with the flavor, but I continued for a moment more. Then I reached for my glasses. I grabbed the wrong tube. It was not toothpaste I was using. It was generic Bengay!

“Oh, no,” I yelled to Dad after reading the label which warned to “get medical help or call poison control immediately if swallowed.”

Well, I reasoned. I spit but did not really swallow. I decided to do a little late-night research before panicking. I started typing into Google, “Brushed my teeth with,” and before I finished, Google read my mind and finished with “Bengay.” Since my mouth was not on fire, I was not vomiting, having difficulty breathing or feeling lightheaded, I believed my time had not come. I was not committing suicide by ingesting Bengay. Just to be safe, I took the suggestion of rinsing my mouth with water and drinking some milk. But was generic Bengay more toxic? Was a playing a dangerous game by not calling poison control or go to the Emergency Room? I decided to live dangerously.

Fortunately, I did not wake up at the pearly gates, but I learned the lesson to segregate my toothpaste from the Bengay. I suggest the same to all of you.


Moving to Dublin

I had an eye-opening conversation with a priest recently during which I was lectured about the official policy of the Catholic Church regarding funerals. It appears that any of the funerals since 2000 (I have also seen 1989 thrown about too so I am not certain which is correct), where eulogies given in the church, were allowed because of rogue parish priests. I learned that “at funeral Masses there should usually be a short Homily, but to the exclusion of a funeral eulogy of any kind.” Furthermore, secular songs or readings are also prohibited.  So I don’t know how Queen or Celine Dion music was allowed, but I am in love with the compassionate priests who allowed these songs to be played.

The purpose of the funeral mass, “contrary to common assumption, is not to celebrate the life of the deceased but to offer worship to God for Christ’s victory over death, to comfort the mourners with prayers, and to pray for the soul of the deceased. Relatives or friends who wish to speak of the deceased’s character and accomplishments can do so at a prayer service to be held in a home or funeral home or at the graveside following the rite of committal.” That is what I read and what I was told by the priest.

I truly never knew this, particularly since I have been to numerous Catholic funerals where words of comfort and perhaps a favorite song were part of the service, which helped me get through a loss of a loved one. Having gone to just two where this was not done, I saw a difference. The impersonal nature of what is the official Catholic way did not help relieve my sorrow. I left feeling empty and did not understand why it must be this way. Why did a father have to leave his daughter’s funeral upset rather than comforted because he was told a eulogy would not be permitted? I do not understand.

I was told that no one but a priest can stand at the “ambo” (pulpit), which confused me because I am positive I have witnessed non-priests standing there to give readings or make announcements such as telling me to remember to get my ashes or that the church was collecting for the bishop’s annual appeal next week.  But according to the conversation I had with the priest that is incorrect.

This particular man of God was quite adamant that the homily be only about the reading and how the life of the deceased’s followed the scripture readings, and that is it. I asked if a brief eulogy could be given after “the mass is ended, go in peace,” and I was told in no uncertain terms that it could not. Yet I also read that “the priest may allow a relative or a friend to say a few words about the deceased during the concluding rite.” (He never mentioned this.)

Under no circumstances “can the deceased person be referred to as being in heaven.” (I read this on, and that is what the priest told me because the deceased is “not in heaven but in purgatory.”)

He suggested that the eulogy be done either at the funeral home, at the “meal of mercy” as we call it in our family, or at the gravesite.

I think we should move to the parish of Father Joe Mullan of Dublin, who said, “to forbid someone speaking seems unnecessary to me, harsh even; why not allow one of the community to speak about the deceased and the way in which their life was God’s gift to the world.? We need to move to Ireland then. But I guess if we have a President Trump, then that may be a good idea. Or I can find a rogue priest or a new religion! I have a lot of thinking to do.

Roll Your Eyes and Snicker

Roll your eyes and snicker if you must. You must know I would write about this someday, and the timing couldn’t be better. Last week I went to a family funeral, and the week before, our country saw the funeral of Nancy Reagan, which was on the anniversary of the outstanding ceremony posthumously honoring my long-deceased relative in London. My hobby is researching the dead, so with all of that, I have amassed a lot of thoughts on my own final service. (Did anyone laugh when they heard that Nancy planned her funeral?)

I have read a lot of disappointing, inaccurate, and incomplete obituaries in my time. It is crucial that it must be correct so that someone researching our tree one hundred years from now knows my maiden name, married name, name of my parents, including Grandma’s maiden name, and the name of all my children and grandchildren. Don’t omit my complete date of birth as well as the fact that I was born in Morristown, New Jersey. And please add a paragraph or two about what a fun and interesting person I was. (I will send you a few sample templates if you wish!)

Pictures in the obit are fine, but don’t use one of twenty-five year old me unless it is adjacent to a photograph of ninety-five year old me. I would be happy if you used the photo on my Library of Congress card. It’s a good alternative to any picture of me taken in the seventies.

As the family photographer, Kelly is responsible for the slide show, so start collecting the pics now. I think that if you go back to some of my earlier blog posts, you can begin to put together a nice folder of “Mommy through the years.”

Remember the music. After the funeral in London, I told Dad I thought a bagpiper adds a nice touch. “Taps “is also nice, but I don’t need both. Since I live in South Carolina, a twenty-one gun salute could easily be arranged by asking all my Second-Amendment-loving friends.

I learned there is a big difference between a professional bagpiper and a third-string bagpiper, but sometimes there is no choice. If one of the grandchildren becomes a trumpet player (we still have Dad’s old trumpet in the attic), then that gets my vote; otherwise, Aunt Ar and Aunt Ellen can hum “Taps.”

During the slide show, I have assembled a list of five songs lasting just about twenty minutes. If you must choose only one song, then it must be the Barry Manilow song, but you could dance and sing along to the rest at what Aunt Ar calls the “meal of mercy” after words. (Sorry to those who dislike Barry. It is my last wish!)

  • Can’t Smile Without You- Barry Manilow
  • We’ll Meet Again- Sinatra
  • 50 Nifty United States (This is in honor of my license plate game. Wendy, you must discuss this at my eulogy.)
  • That’s What Friends Are For- Dionne Warwick
  • God Only Knows- Beach Boys
  • (Sandstorm- Darude. If there is time, in honor of my late-found love of football.)

There must be a eulogy or a roast at the meal of mercy. There is no negotiation on this! My guests do not need to wear black, unless they don’t look good in colors. But pink, blue, green, yellow are fine. No orange. Who really looks good in orange?

I want to be cremated, and no open casket. If some of you need to peek first to ensure you are rid of me, that is okay.

I have given some thought to Aunt El’s idea of turning my remains into jewelry that you can all wear, but that is her thing. I don’t want to take that away from her. I will think about where the ashes should be sprinkled. Dad says on the golf course, but that is for him. I will let you know my preferences.

Oh, yes. The last thing is the flowers. I like lilies and daffodils. Just not roses or dandelions. But don’t spend a lot of money on that. I like basil too, and I have lots of rosemary in my back yard if money is tight the year I die. So there you go. Have I left out anything?

As an alternative to this, you can throw me a big party for my 80th birthday, and follow all the above instructions except for the obit and the cremation. Then I would get to enjoy the party!

The Main Man From Castlebar

I mentioned that I met two people during my 2014 visit to London that have made my list of the most interesting people I have met. The first was my globe-trotting friend who goes by the handle of “Bumblebee,” and the second was the Prime Minister of Ireland, known there as the Taoiseach (pronounced “tea-shock). I have tried to understand their government, particularly since they recently had their own election and no one got enough votes to be elected. But I am not trying to teach you the ins and outs of Irish politics but to explain my story of meeting the man.

The invitation was from the Mayor of Castlebar and the Prime Minister. My first thoughts were of fashion. What do we wear? I was told “business casual,” so after carefully researching what this meant in the UK, I decided on a suit with a nice scarf. For men, all that we could deduce was it meant “no tie needed”, just a sport jacket and a shirt with a collar. So Dad did not pack a tie, and he was the only man at that ceremony not in a suit with a tie. He felt awkward, but everyone was so happy to have a relative, even the distant cousin in-law, that it did not matter.

Would I meet the Prime Minister? Oh yes. In fact, we were seated in the first row of the church with him, and later at the Irish pub, at what Aunt Ar refers to as “the meal of mercy, we were seated in a roped-off area with him, several local mayors, and a prince.

When he learned where we lived, he called me “Carolina,” and when I mentioned that I was originally from New Jersey and Dad said he worked for Merck, we were surprised with his comments. He told the story of meeting the CEO of Merck, and he stated that he wanted to meet his boss. “I don’t mean Chris Christie,” he said. “I want to meet ‘The Boss’—Bruce Springsteen.

Now I have no idea if I would agree with him politically. I know only that he supported gay marriage in a Catholic country, so he can’t be all bad. And he gave me a present, so how nice was that!

So even though he may not be the most fascinating person I have met, he is the most influential in his world. I thought it was very cool! (By the way— I like the idea of bagpipes at my funeral!)At cemetery

Thank You Very Much

Over the years, I have taught you many important skills and lessons. Among them are how to use the potty, tie your shoes, make your bed, drive a car (the scariest by far), cook, and do your laundry. Once I felt you mastered a task, I moved onto another. But there is one lesson I somehow can’t let go of, and to this day, I know I am still a nag about it. This is writing thank you cards.

Sadly this has become a dying art which I blame on technology and non-nagging parents. Today thank you notes are disappearing, replaced with emails, texts, and private messages via Facebook. While I am not a fan of these forms of communication for giving thanks, I can accept this because at least the receiver of the gift is acknowledging their gratitude and receipt of the present. If I stick a check in the mail, I am satisfied with an email acknowledgement. With the exception of shower and wedding presents, article 1, paragraph 2 of my thank you policy states, “in the event that the giver is able to make eye contact with the receiver, no further thank you’s are necessary after the fact.”

If the giver clearly took time choosing or making the gift, a text thank you is never ever sufficient! There is a mathematical equation which illustrates this:

Effort of gift = effort of thank you

Two examples demonstrating when a formal thank you is necessary versus when an in-person thank you is appropriate (to me) come to mind. I made a lamp for Grandma and Grandpa. You all know the one—it was covered with old photos which I decoupaged onto the shade. Since I was able to hand it to them, give them a hug, and witness their excitement, according to my thank you policy, no follow-up was required. But when I assembled a photo calendar filled with a multitude of photos spanning over fifty years, and the said calendar was mailed to the recipient, then that gift clearly required a hand-written note or a telephone call.

Hospitality also necessitates a thank you note or phone call. The first time I spent the weekend at Dad’s parents’ house, I followed up the visit with a thank you note. They were shocked with my politeness. Clearly their reaction demonstrated that either no one ever thanked them for their hospitality or my act was not familiar to them because they never taught or were taught this basic courtesy. I have pounded and pounded this into your heads over and over, so I hope you do so with your own children.

Apparently I am not alone in my feelings, because the art, or lack of, writing notes to acknowledge gifts was the subject of a “Dear Abby” column this week:

If there is one topic that shows up repeatedly in my mail, it’s thank-you notes — or, rather, the lack of them. It’s such a common aggravation that I receive dozens of complaints in every batch of emails or letters I receive. While letter-writing may always be a chore to some people, there are occasions when the written message is the only proper means of communication.

So there you go. It was in the paper, so it must be true. But sometimes, it’s nice to get one for not reason.

Thank you note

Road Trip with the Wee Ones

Road trips with children today are as easy as plugging them into a DVD where they can watch their favorite movies for hours. An alternative or additional form of entertainment is the IPAD, which enables the kiddies to play a plethora of games. As you all recall, this is not what we did.

When you were 10, 8 and 5, we embarked on the trip to Memphis where Daddy was working at the time.  With a lot of careful planning, our travels were quite fun and not at all the disaster I envisioned.

I purchased several organizers with multiple pockets which we filled with games, maps, books, and snacks. We had several cassette players so that you could listen to music and books on tape. I recall that Kelly recorded herself reading a few of Casey’s favorite books that were not available at the library or bookstore.

We made bingo boards so that you could see who could get three-in-a-row of items such as cows, churches, horses, bridges, and signs viewed outside the window of our minivan.

I printed up pages and pages of maps, which I filled with colored shapes placed stategically throughout the maps, so that when one of you said, “Are we there yet?” I could answer that we were at the yellow triangle on page two (of at least fifteen) or the red square on page eight. Those maps worked quite well in enabling you to get a picture of exactly where we were and stopped those pesky questions.

Then there were the competition games like the Alphabet Game, which required each person to go from A to Z by locating each letter of the alphabet on a sign, building or license plate. The only rule was that no two people could use their letter on the same sign as another.

We also played a name game, in which one person would say a name, such as Mickey Mouse, and the next person would take the last letter of the name (“E” in this case)  and have to use that letter as the first letter of a new name. So Mickey MousE could become Eddie MunsteR, who could become Richard NixoN, and so on.

“Who am I” was a guessing game of twenty questions where each person would ask a yes or no question until one of us guessed who their person was. (“Am I a boy?”, “Am I a cartoon character?” “Am I younger than twenty?”)

We would play our games until tired or bored and then move onto individual quiet time for listening to our music or reading/listening to books.  You know my favorite was, and still is, the License Plate Game. You have all stopped playing that game long ago while I continue playing it today—everyday. I have two APPS on my phone so that I can find all 50 states in any order while simultaneously looking for them all in alphabetical order. You know that is definitely a subject for my eulogy someday, so someone should always know what states I am currently seeking. (You can  check my phone for that anytime!)

Our trip was broken up by our visit to Washington, DC, Dollywood, and the Great Smoky Mountain Park. We met Dad along the way after our tour of DC, and I believe the Dollywood and the Smoky Mountains were on the return trip.

I am imagining this adventure gave Grandma and Grandpa some uneasiness like it would if any of you embarked on a similar journey with your children. Thankfully I did have a cell phone, but it wasn’t at all smart. Still, despite its inability to do anything but place a phone call, I was able to call for directions when we got hopelessly lost on Capitol Hill.

You were all very good travelers, but I am definitely patting myself on the back for all the genius planning that made it such a success! Now I am ready to take that road trip to California!