Screen time or face time?

There is a commercial on TV that drives me crazy.  It’s by Xfinity.  There is a little boy running around the house looking for his daddy. They are playing hide and seek.  He finally finds his dad in the closet, who is watching something on his IPad.  He looks up at the kid (his son!) and says “Ok now you go hide and I’ll find you.”  And goes back to watching his IPad.  So clearly his plan is to stay in the closet and watch his show and ignore his son for as long as he can get away with it.  Somebody actually wrote that commercial and a bunch of executives thought it was a good idea.  The message seems to be; Dad likes TV better than playing with his son. Isn’t that great? As an educator with a special interest in early childhood development I see how technology and screens can be an asset for kids. But they can never replace actual face to face interaction between parent and child.  This commercial seems to be saying that they can.




I think I’m going to a movie tomorrow. It seems weird to even say that.  My daughter invited us to go with her because her husband is working late.  We talked about it and then decided, why not?  After the movies we’ll get dinner. We will probably bring it back to the house (let’s not get carried away) but it sounds like the most normal, outgoing evening I have had in a year. I also got a text today from my friend who loves concerts of all kinds. She asked me if I would go to see Lady Gaga with her at Wrigley Field this summer. Um, yeah. If, by August we are at a place where Lady Gaga can perform at a venue of 30,000 people, I am there.

That light at the end of the tunnel may be getting a little brighter.

Grief at Any Age

My uncle is most likely going to die soon. He is 96 years old. At that age it is certainly not a tragedy and in a way it will be a blessing. He has had dementia for a couple of years and his life is pretty limited now.  My dad is the youngest of 5 boys.  He and his brother are the only ones still living. So once this brother dies that will be it. And as old as 96 is, losing the last member of your nuclear family is a sad milestone.  My dad talks about it every day. He gives me an update on his brother that he receives from his niece. He discusses whether or not he should go to the funeral, if there is one. (He lives in New England.)  I feel for him. Of course the pandemic has made this potential loss especially difficult. My cousin talks about how she has not been able to see her dad in person for almost a year. And now that he is in the hospital she has been able to see him but he is not very responsive.  I take my dad to visit his brother every year, usually in October, but of course we did not go last year. He hasn’t seen him in 18 months.  When you get to be 94 you lose a lot of people along the way.  That is the price for living a long life. Tragedy? No. A cause for grieving?  Definitely.

TV as Reality?

I was talking to some friends a few months ago, before the second wave of Covid. We had taken the opportunity, during a lull in the nightmare, to get together.  We started talking about TV shows we were watching. And one of my friends said “You know how you get so into a show that you think it’s real life?”  Now the example she used was Breaking Bad, wich led us to tease her about being a meth cook and dealer. But she had a good point. A really great TV show can pull you in, especially when you are watching episodes night after night. I find myself some days thinking “I wonder what is going to happen on Mad Men/Ted Lasso/Downton Abbey/Sopranos/Bridgerton etc. etc. tonight.” (Well, I think we know what’s going to happen on Bridgerton…..) Sometimes I get a little worried about myself and my sense of reality. Why am I thinking about TV in the middle of a work day?  Do I think I’m a member of the New Jersey Italian mafia? Am I an English duchess from the 1800’s?  What’s up with that?  But on further reflection I have decided that TV is a good escape from reality and when the shit is hitting the fan during the day it’s nice to think about someone else’s problems and know they are not mine.

Luck of the Irish

Many things remind me of my mom and one of them is St. Patrick’s Day.  She was born in Dun Laoghaire, which is a small town just outside of Dublin. The Irish have a reputation for being drinkers and people who like to have a good time.  My mother did not subscribe to this stereotype. She had seen too many of her family members descend into alcoholism and, while not a teetotaler she was a very occasional drinker. Another stereotype of the Irish is their no nonsense approach to parenting. Now we’re talking. I did not know this as a child but when I look back I see that indeed she was the typical Irish parent. She clearly loved us but she did not ever coddle us. We were not allowed to stay home from school unless we were throwing up or running a fever.  I can remember on more than one occasion the school secretary calling home to tell my mom that I had indeed thrown up or that I was running a fever.  Only then did I get the coveted go home pass.  You fell down?  Get back up.  You’re  tired? Go to bed. Her brand of parenting made me the resilient person I am today, which is a positive. The fact that I rarely call in sick unless I am vomiting or running a fever?  Can’t take a mental health day?  Maybe not so positive.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


He is the alpha cat who keeps killing birds and has been grounded. Harry does whatever he wants to do and no compromise is accepted. Every night my husband goes to bed before me. I go upstairs about an hour later (he’s a morning person, I’m a night owl) and sure enough, Harry is sprawled across my side of the bed. And Harry doesn’t curl up, no sir. He lays stretched out as long as can be, as if to say “I dare you to move me. I am king.” But I do move him because even though I’m a night owl I eventually need to go to bed. So I pick him up as gently as I can and slide him over to the middle of the bed and lay him down again. But no, that is not where he wants to be. If he is not taking up my entire spot he is not happy. So he stands up, walks to the end of the bed, sits down and stares at me while I read.  Then he jumps down and saunters away, as if to say, I didn’t want to sleep on your stupid bed anyway.  

The Passage of Time

Our church has started gathering in person again.  It has been great; talk about your Zoom exhaustion. Zoom meetings at work all week and then a Zoom church service?  Ugh. So we are finally back in the building. And I noticed a couple of things.  Most of the adults I saw on Sunday look almost exactly the same. Sure, a year has passed but really, adults don’t change that much. Habits, personalities, quirks, body language; it’s all still there. 

My friend who talks kind of slowly and deliberately.  The woman who bustles around the building as if she has an important appointment. The ditzy lady who is easily confused.  The sweet, kind woman who has a smile for everyone. My friend who talks too much. It’s as if a year never went by.  And that is comforting.  But then there are the kids. As an educator and a mom I have always marked the passage of time by child milestones; what grade my kids were in, the start of summer, the beginning of a new school year, graduation from preschool, elementary, junior high and high school.  The kids at my church have really made it obvious that we have been apart for a year. They are taller, smarter, funnier, prettier and more mature. It is delightful to see them but also a little disturbing. This is what happens to kids whether or not we pay attention.

So let’s try to do just that.

Dear Old Dad

I love my dad, of course I do. He is almost 94 years old and as is common with his generation,  he is used to be taken care of by women. He was the youngest of 5 boys and lived at home much longer than his brothers, who all married young. His mother doted on him.  He went directly to married life with my mother and that lasted 54 years. When she died my sister and I filled the role.  And then my sister moved to Florida and now the mantel rests solely with me.  Taking care of my dad consists mostly of catering to him. For a 94 year old he is quite independent. He can drive and does his own shopping and laundry.  But, much like a child who has been indulged most of his life, he wants someone to be at his beck and call.  Did I mention that he lives 35 minutes away?  It may matter to me but certainly not to him. My husband’s birthday celebration was this weekend. “Are you going to come and pick me up?” he asks. Because even though he drives he does not do so at night, nor do I want him to. So I ask one of my daughters to pick him up and bring him to my house.  And then I prepare the appetizers, serve drinks and dinner, serve the cake that I made, organize the gift giving and then oh yes, I need to drive him home. 70 minutes round trip. Why doesn’t he move closer you ask?  Well, good question. I have asked him multiple times to move closer. We had many false starts and then he announced recently that he wants to die in his house. So I guess that means moving is out.  But yet he thinks nothng of calling me and telling me that his dishwasher, garage door opener, computer or phone is broken and he needs us to look at it.  I think he does have some awareness of how demanding he can be because he wrote this in my husband’s birthday card along with a check for 50 dollars:

This is for gas

That brings my ass

To your house for some sass

And good cooking by my favorite lass.

To Be Live or Not to be Live?

I can’t decide if I like the virtual life or not.  Sometimes it’s great. Got a meeting?  Just sidle up to your computer, press join Zoom meeting, and there you go.  It’s nice not to have to get in the car and go to another building, walk down the hallway or drive to the city where a conference is being held.  People tend to show up more often and even be on time when meetings are virtual, or at least closer to it.  It’s easy to have multiple meetings in one day with different teams because I don’t have to factor in drive time.  So there are a lot of positives. But. There is definitely a down side.  I “attended” a two day conference recently and while it was really nice to stay home and do it, it was difficult to be motivated when all you have to look at is your screen. When you go to a conference you can people watch, you can walk around and collect all the free goodies they offer (pen, anyone?), you can go out to dinner with colleagues and even attend the happy hour that many conferences host. We are already talking about next year’s conference, which will be held in Orlando. I think after spending the last two days glued to my screen I’m ready for that.  

My Neighbor the Bird Lover

We have owned cats for 31 years. All of our cats have been outdoor cats.  Of course they kill the occasional chipmunk, mouse or bird.  It’s the circle of life, survival of the fittest etc. And we have never once had a complaint. Neighbors have always loved our cats. They are friendly and approachable.  Until now. A guy moved in behind us. His parents have lived there for a long time but he moved in to help care for his ailing father. He is apparently some kind of bird lover. He has every possible kind of bird feeder in his yard as well as a bird bath. It is a little like Disney World for birds but also for our cats, especially our type A male. He’s killed a few birds over there. Of course he brings them into our yard and gifts us with them. One day the animal control officer came to our door.  This guy had actually lodged a complaint about our cat!  You live 50 feet away; how about knocking on our door and discussing the problem?  Once we found out who lodged the complaint we went over and talked to him. As expected he had no social skills, which is probably why he filed a complaint instead of coming over to talk to us.  We came to an uneasy alliance; we let our cat out in the morning and evening when the birds are not out and now we have to tie him up if we let him out during the day.  

The most disturbing part of this whole event, besides tying our cat up, is the difference between my reaction to this guy’s complaint and that of my husband.  Jeff is patient and tolerant about this guy’s issues with our cat (he can’t help that he’s anti-social, he doesn’t know how to talk to people, loves his birds etc.) I am impatient and intolerant of this guy’s issues with our cat (he is a bad neighbor, needs to get a life, etc.).  This is sort of a microcosm of our relationship and to have it confirmed by the actions of a pesky neighbor is either comforting because we still understand each other after 33 years, or it’s discouraging because I am still the intolerant and impatient one after 33 years.