Time to Celebrate

Isn’t “Fall Back Day” the greatest? You know, the day we “fall back” to Standard Time. The day that Daylight Saving Time ends.  I like it so much, it just might be my favorite holiday.  Oh, I know, it’s not really an “official” holiday.  But it should be.  In fact, they ought to just call it Mother’s Day and forget about that inferior shorter day in May. 

After all, if you’re a mother with kids still at home, isn’t time the one thing you wish you had more of? Time for yourself or your family or your laundry.  Time to make it to places on time. Time to do things you never do, like catch up in the family scrapbook/photo album, have lunch with a friend, fix your broken earrings, read a book, get 8 hours of sleep.  If you’re not a mother, you probably wish you had more time, too.  And the only day that actually gives you extra time is Fall Back Day, coming to a clock near you this Sunday.

Yeah, I know, it’s only an hour, but beggars can’t be choosers.  My to-do list is so long right now I’d be happy to take advantage of even 15 extra minutes. (And life just seems to go in slow motion when you need to get things done, doesn’t it?) And evidently with DST, thought up by Ben Franklin in 1784, a little time goes a long way.  According to webexhibits.org, an online “museum”, Daylight Saving Time reduces energy usage in some locations, and helps the economy (more daylight time to shop!). 

This year, the end of Daylight Saving falls on the day before my birthday, and I couldn’t think of a better present.  How will I spend those 60 precious extra minutes? Maybe reading the newspaper. Or cleaning my house, since my 85-year-old mother arrives on the same day to spend two weeks with us.  (Fall Back Day would also make a great “National Day of Service”, where everyone would pledge to use the extra 60 minutes to volunteer in their community.)

Maybe I should follow my own advice, published nine years ago in the Dallas Morning News, on how to make the most of this unique day (updates are in purple):
 

-Plan to use the extra time first thing in the morning, before distractions get in the way. Make sure you let your kids stay up an hour or so later than usual the night before. Otherwise they’ll wake up at the usual time (which in my house, can be the same time I arise or earlier
for my 10-year-old) and your precious moments of freedom could disappear. (That is, unless the one thing you never have enough time for is your family. In that case, rise and shine, everybody!) (If you’re a walker, early morning is smart because pedestrian fatalities increase three-fold in the evening right after the switch.)

-Don’t set your clock back before you go to bed – wait ’til the next day. There’s more dramatic impact when you wake up, look at the clock and for a brief moment think something like, “If I don’t get up now, I’m going to be late for church!” and then realize, “Aahh, it’s really only 6:30 a.m., not 7:30!” That is the blissful, annual moment when time is actually handed to you on a silver platter – so set yourself up to savor it.

-Plan ahead what you’re going to do once the time has arrived. 

 -Be thankful that you live in Texas (well, at least on that day), as opposed to Arizona, Hawaii and the eastern half of Indiana, where daylight-saving time is not observed. (Horrors!)  (Indiana is now on board)

 -Be flexible and have a sense of humor. Your best-made plans may have to be put off another year after being up all night with a sick child, or a neighborhood kid selling something rings your doorbell early in the morning and wakes everyone up.
Then again, you could always vow to take your next vacation across a couple of time zones…
###

Time to Celebrate

Isn’t “Fall Back Day” the greatest? You know, the day we “fall back” to Standard Time. The day that Daylight Saving Time ends.  I like it so much, it just might be my favorite holiday.  Oh, I know, it’s not really an “official” holiday.  But it should be.  In fact, they ought to just call it Mother’s Day and forget about that inferior shorter day in May. 

After all, if you’re a mother with kids still at home, isn’t time the one thing you wish you had more of? Time for yourself or your family or your laundry.  Time to make it to places on time. Time to do things you never do, like catch up in the family scrapbook/photo album, have lunch with a friend, fix your broken earrings, read a book, get 8 hours of sleep.  If you’re not a mother, you probably wish you had more time, too.  And the only day that actually gives you extra time is Fall Back Day, coming to a clock near you this Sunday.

Yeah, I know, it’s only an hour, but beggars can’t be choosers.  My to-do list is so long right now I’d be happy to take advantage of even 15 extra minutes. (And life just seems to go in slow motion when you need to get things done, doesn’t it?) And evidently with DST, thought up by Ben Franklin in 1784, a little time goes a long way.  According to webexhibits.org, an online “museum”, Daylight Saving Time reduces energy usage in some locations, and helps the economy (more daylight time to shop!). 

This year, the end of Daylight Saving falls on the day before my birthday, and I couldn’t think of a better present.  How will I spend those 60 precious extra minutes? Maybe reading the newspaper. Or cleaning my house, since my 85-year-old mother arrives on the same day to spend two weeks with us.  (Fall Back Day would also make a great “National Day of Service”, where everyone would pledge to use the extra 60 minutes to volunteer in their community.)

Maybe I should follow my own advice, published nine years ago in the Dallas Morning News, on how to make the most of this unique day (updates are in purple):
 

-Plan to use the extra time first thing in the morning, before distractions get in the way. Make sure you let your kids stay up an hour or so later than usual the night before. Otherwise they’ll wake up at the usual time (which in my house, can be the same time I arise or earlier
for my 10-year-old) and your precious moments of freedom could disappear. (That is, unless the one thing you never have enough time for is your family. In that case, rise and shine, everybody!) (If you’re a walker, early morning is smart because pedestrian fatalities increase three-fold in the evening right after the switch.)

-Don’t set your clock back before you go to bed – wait ’til the next day. There’s more dramatic impact when you wake up, look at the clock and for a brief moment think something like, “If I don’t get up now, I’m going to be late for church!” and then realize, “Aahh, it’s really only 6:30 a.m., not 7:30!” That is the blissful, annual moment when time is actually handed to you on a silver platter – so set yourself up to savor it.

-Plan ahead what you’re going to do once the time has arrived. 

 -Be thankful that you live in Texas (well, at least on that day), as opposed to Arizona, Hawaii and the eastern half of Indiana, where daylight-saving time is not observed. (Horrors!)  (Indiana is now on board)

 -Be flexible and have a sense of humor. Your best-made plans may have to be put off another year after being up all night with a sick child, or a neighborhood kid selling something rings your doorbell early in the morning and wakes everyone up.
Then again, you could always vow to take your next vacation across a couple of time zones…
###

Witches, Sharks, and The Generation Gap of Fear

Just in time for Halloween: A study by Finnish researchers says kids get more scared when watching scary movies with their parents than when they’re by themselves.  According to a new study published in the journal Child: Care, Health and Developmentchildren were four times more afraid of the events on the screen when their parents were watching, too. The researchers suggest that in spite of the soothing that parents may offer, a kid picks up on more hair-raising moments with parents, thanks to a parent’s facial expressions or physical reactions, and in turn the child gets more scared.  I had to laugh.  Because any time I’ve ever watched movies with my kids, they’re not scared in the least by the “scary” parts, and get downright annoyed (and these days, embarrassed) with my visible reactions.

And I react a lot.  Don’t you think some movies today are far scarier than those from eras past? Though Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch of the West in “The Wizard of Oz” is still probably giving kids nightmares (waking up from seeing her green face in my dreams is one of my earliest memories), I would think kids would be losing a LOT more sleep over the technically possible stuff on the screens today: a giant snake and huge attacking spiders in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” (a complete nail biter/hair-raiser in my opinion); a man who stalks kids and shoots at them in public in “Jumanji” (very creepy– and too close to real headlines for me); an evil principal with a torture closet in her office in “Matilda” (she makes the Wicked Witch look benevolent); and a T Rex smashing a Jeep with children inside in “Jurassic Park” (I cried and screamed at the same time– no joke).  When Allison, my teen, recently saw the aforementioned dinosaur flick for the first time, she not only loved it, she and her friend watched it more than once, and asked me to rent all the sequels as well.

Maybe being computer knowledgeable almost from birth has made our kids unimpressed with what we parents from the “Dark Ages” would find scary. Oh, they still get scared–  just by different things.  When asked what movie scared her the most when she was younger, Allison replied, “The Muppet Christmas Carol! I used to leave the room every time Marley and Marley came on.” The two “old men” from “The Muppet Show” shared the Dickens character of Marley and she said they were really creepy, rattling chains and talking in a weird way.  Hmmm…puppets? I don’t think puppets would scare me. She also reminded me of the time she was so creeped out, she had to take off her 3-D glasses at the IMAX theater when we went to see “The Magic Box” (“Siegfried and Roy take you from their record-breaking Las Vegas show to their home, a wildlife sanctuary where they romp freely with their world-famous white tigers and lions!”)  (Gee, maybe that’s the one movie where we’ve both been creeped out…   )

My tiny 10-year-old, Emmie the Fearless, says she can think of no movie that’s scared her, and I can’t either.  For her, I think scary stuff makes her like a movie even better. Gives her a triumphant sense of accomplishment when it’s over, like she’s taken on an obstacle and defeated it.  I think it all started several years ago when she was age 5, when I was out and Andy let her watch “Pirates of the Carribbean”, something I’d declared off limits to her until she was older (leave it to Dads to do stuff like that, huh?).  “I wasn’t scared at all!” she said as she excitedly recounted everything upon my return, beaming from ear to ear.  Recently when Allison and her friends were watching “Jaws” one night, Emmie begged to watch it the next day. In spite of her fearlessness and exposure to many “scary” movies, I had serious reservations. I saw Jaws when I was 13 and experienced my first sleepless night ever.  I mean, I was so scared afterwards, I envisioned sharks coming up out of the toilet to get me, and tiny ones dripping from the bathroom faucet.  So scared that to this day, every time I hear Barry Manilow sing “Coud This Be Magic?” I think of seeing that movie and remember the fear– the song was playing on the car radio as my parents and I drove away from the theater.  I told Emmie about this, and she laughed and reminded me that we all had seen the shark used in the movie, at Universal Studios in California– “Looked pretty fake to me!” she said. 

So I braced myself and watched it with her, again.  Thirty-four years later, not quite as scary. But still heart-pounding at times. And completely gross toward the end.

Emmie liked it so much, she checked out books from the library about sharks and wrote a report about them for a class project.  “I want to see Jaws again!” she announced.  
Who knew there were so many sequels?!
###

Search for a Cure

I get sidetracked a lot when I’m cleaning the house, but sometimes that’s a good thing.  Like the other day, when something caught my eye as I was throwing away the “dog newspapers”– the ones we put on the kitchen floor for Luke when we’re going to be gone awhile.  Luckily, this particular issue of the Dallas Morning News was “unused” and I sat transfixed, reading a story about a suburban Dallas family with 3 children, beaming at me from the crumpled paper in matching black sweaters. 

Just a few years ago, Michelle, the mom, had been a typical “normal” mom, encouraging the kids to do their homework, volunteering in the classroom, cooking with her daughter, cheering her son at his hockey games…and then her behavior started to change. She stayed in her bedroom a lot, reading romance novels.  She’d say strange things.  At first, doctors thought it was some kind of depression but it was eventually discovered that she has frontotemporal dementia.  I’d never heard of it before.  Nicknamed “cancer of the soul”, it’s a fatal disease that slowly destroys brain functions such as social skills, language, empathy and compassion.  Adults with FTD regress to childlike emotions and behavior, ending up in their own world. The husband/dad in this family first suspected something was wrong when his daughter said to him one day, “I can’t remember the last time mom hugged me or kissed me or told me that she loved me,” and when he told his wife, she brushed it off and said, “I’ll get to it.”  Eventually she was roaming the neighborhood in her bathrobe and jeans, digging in trash.   The family now visits their mom/wife in an Alzheimer’s care center– she has a distant look in her eyes, doesn’t talk, and sometimes pretends she’s jumping rope.  The daughter, now 15, can’t handle the visits and wishes her mom would just hurry up and die.  The entire family is stuck in an awful waiting game.  While some FTD patients seem to have a genetic link for the disease, many others do not– Michelle falls into that “struck at random” category.  There is no cure, and FTD currently affects 250,000 people in America, usually between the ages of 40 and 60.  Michelle is 49. 

Talk about “hitting close to home”.  A suburban stay-at-home mom in her late 40’s with children, including a teen daughter.  Talk about being thankful for health! It also made me check out the Association for Frontotemporal Dementias (AFTD) website, to see what’s being done in research.  It looks like there are a few dedicated researchers out there who have made some strides in creating treatments that lessen the severity of symptoms, but it’s not exactly a disease that gets a lot of attention.

I wanted to do something to help.  As I navigated through the site’s “Donate” page, a logo caught my eye with the words, “Goodsearch. You search, we give.” Have you ever heard of Goodsearch? It’s a search engine, like Google, that you can use to search the web, and every time you search, the nonprofit of your choice earns a penny.  Seems small, but I probably do at least 10 web searches a day, and if everyone does the same, that could be a lot of money.  I went to the Goodsearch site (www.goodsearch.com)
and read more. The beneficiaries are numerous (over 84,000 nonprofits), and just about anything you can think of: ALS, SPCA, Special Olympics, schools, AFTD…   What a great idea, and it’s been around since 2005, featured on major network news programs like ABC and CNN.  You can search the web via the Goodsearch site, or install the Goodsearch toolbar on your computer for free. It’s powered by Yahoo, so if you’ve ever used Yahoo search, it’s basically the same thing.  They also offer “widgets”, and I plan to put one on my blog sidebar soon.

So, I wanted to share this information, since it’s one of those “why not?” kind of things that makes a lot of sense, does a lot of good, and doesn’t take a lot of effort. And if you think it’s as great as I do, pass it on.  Maybe the power of the Internet can eventually raise enough funds to wipe out these awful “surprise” diseases, or at least find a cure.

Whose Room Is It, Anyway?

Amid all the news hysteria yesterday about the runaway balloon over Denver and the possible 6-year-old pilot on board, another news story about another Colorado family quietly got my attention: the mother of one of the Columbine High School shooters has broken her 10-year silence.  In an essay for O magazine (naturally), Susan Klebold reveals the constant guilt she’s felt over the years, the many letters she’s written to victims’ families, the shock over finding out her son had been suicidal and wasn’t necessarily looking forward to prom like she’d thought.  “We didn’t know that he and Eric had assembled an arsenal of explosives and guns,” Susan Klebold wrote.  My heart goes out to her and any parent who has lost a child.  Her experience and those of others whose children have led a secret life are a wakeup call to parents on many issues, one being “privacy and kids”. The idea that a kid’s room is his “private sanctity” is heinous. 

I agree with what a local radio talk show host said this week about the subject: “When you start paying for the space, it’s yours.  Until you do, it’s mine.”  And that means I have the right to walk in my kids’ rooms at any time (well, I do knock first to make sure they’re dressed).  My teenager huffs and puffs about this rule, especially since I’ve started throwing anything left on her floor down the laundry chute each day while she’s at school.  But when I explain that not only do I own her room but have paid for just about everything I’m throwing down that chute, she (amazingly) is at a loss for words.  Some parents whine about how giving kids privacy is so important, that they have to call something their own– who the heck taught them that? These are the same parents who usually let their kids have a TV and/or computer while ensconced in their bedrooms, another parenting move which I think is wrong and another way to further remove parents from having insight into their kids’ life (and which I blogged about at
neighborsgo.com). 

Not sure who started it, but this notion of “kids’ almighty privacy” is no doubt exacerbated when parents never have to clean their kids’ rooms, but rather employ hired cleaning help.  Or those who always let their kids do (or not do) the cleaning.  While anyone who has read this blog for long knows I’m all about kids and chores and cleaning their rooms, parents need to be the ones to clean their kids’ rooms at least once or twice a month, preferably when their kids aren’t home.  It’s an easy way to see into their lives without being overly intrusive. Are they sneaking food into their rooms? I know one binge eater’s mother who might have been tipped off to this problem if she’d been the one to empty her daughter’s trash or flip her mattress.   Susan Klebold might have found the guns and ammo.  While I haven’t made earth shattering discoveries, I have found, while cleaning, overdue library books, notes from school that should have been given to me, outfits I’d purchased still in the bag and past the return date…

Modern homebuilders have also encouraged the “separation of parents and children”.  My husband and I spent an entire year looking at prospective homes from 2005-2006, and I’d say 99.9% were designed with a “split master”– i.e., master bedroom downstairs, kids up.  Or master bedroom in one wing of the house, kids far away in another, “because parents want to be away from their kids,” explained the realtor, laughing.  Huh? I have to wonder if the houses in Littleton, Colorado were similar.  The house we finally decided on, with the master and kids (shock!) on the same floor, had been on the market, sitting empty, for a year.  “It was not having that split master that made it hard to sell,” a neighbor once said to me.  Sad.   As much as my kids can drive me crazy, I would not want to marginalize them like that.  If they’ve got a fever in the night, I don’t want them to have to walk  to Egypt to find me.  If they’re sneaking in past curfew, I want to know.  I’ve had parents tell me, who live in houses with the “split”, that their kids’ rooms are a disaster because they rarely go upstairs.  “What happens up there, stays up there,” one mom told me.  “I get lazy.” 

Well, it’s too scary of a world out there today to “get lazy”.  Not only should parents peruse their kids’ rooms whenever they want, they should have access to their kids’ computer, Facebook page (either as a “Friend” or simply whenever they ask), etc. and not be averse to looking in a kid’s journal if other signs point to trouble (and keeping quiet about it unless there’s a life or death situation).  Susan Klebold admits she might have been able to intervene in her son’s life had she seen his suicidal writings.  Knowing what kind of music and movies your teen likes, and I mean really knowing, doesn’t hurt, either, although I’m averse to punishment for what you might discover. (You cannot legislate taste!)

Teens need more choices and freedoms, not more privacy, to give them a sense of “ownership” and independence.  Like the choice to wear what they want (within school dresscode limits), the freedom to babysit or mow lawns or do other jobs to earn their own money, the choice to make good grades or not, the freedom to be at the mall with friends without a parent in tow.  And they need to be talked with, often, about anything and everything, at the dinner table, in the car, wherever, instead of treated like they’re some alien being whose silence shouldn’t be pierced and who need to be “left alone”.  Teens may say “Get away from me!” but they’re all crying out on the inside for their parents to keep paying attention to them, just like when they were toddlers.  And though they may not be putting marbles in their mouth anymore or skinning their knees, we have an even bigger job of “watching out” for them as they get older. 
We just sometimes have to do it in private.







Laughing Outside the Box

Has being a mom for almost 15 years warped my sense of humor? I mean, my body will never truly be the same (in soooo many ways) due to giving birth to two children and my memory has suffered as well, but, I never thought my presumed “high brow” sense of humor might change.  But lately I’ve found myself laughing at …gulp… Billy Ray Cyrus and the cast of the TV show, “Hannah Montana”.  Billy Ray Cyrus— the guy who used to wear a mullet? Who made millions off of a stupid country song and an even stupider dance?  Wouldn’t liking him be about the same as saying you like monster truck races and SPAM sandwiches? But, as much as I hate to admit it, every time I catch a snippet of “Hannah Montana” whenever my daughters are watching it, he makes me laugh.  And so do some of the other people on that show.  I’m amazed, and I’ve thought about this phenomenon a bunch—is Disney throwing some kind of subliminal stuff through the airwaves that’s causing this? Or is it really funny? I’m someone who laughs at Conan O’Brien, Amy Poehler, Steven Wright.  I love offbeat stuff like the movies “Best in Show” and “Strictly Ballroom” and TV shows like “The Simpsons” and “Parks and Recreation”.  “Hannah Montana” is not exactly in the same category, and not something you’d find on my Facebook Favorites. 

But yet, again and again, it cracks me up.  While it’s nice to have things in common with your kids…I wasn’t counting on that being one of them.  What’s going on here?

Maybe I like Billy Ray Cyrus because he portrays an uncool dad.  In one episode, he won’t let his daughter go on a trip to Europe until she improves her grades.  In another, he embarrasses her as he drops her off at a party, by sticking a megaphone out of the car window and announcing that her dad had to drive her there.  It’s one of several punishments after (if my memory serves me correctly) she tries to drive a car without having a legitimate license.  (Wonder if he’s like that in real life.)  But admiring his parenting techniques and laughing (out loud) at his corny jokes are two different things.

To help me find out if I’ve gone “off the deep end” or if that show’s script and actors are truly funny, I enlisted the help of my husband.  We usually laugh at the same kinds of things.  If he laughs at the show, it must be funny.  So we watched an episode last night, with no kids in the house.  (What a date night, huh?) Unfortunately, Billy Ray hardly appeared.  We did laugh at the short kid, Rico (Moises Arias), and at the kid who plays Miley’s brother (Jason Earles).  But as we sat there watching, I realized that Andy wasn’t a good subject for this experiment.  After all, in addition to the stuff we both find funny, he also likes reruns of The Gong Show and The Dukes of Hazzard.

So I’m going to throw it out there to my blog readers—if you’ve seen the show “Hannah Montana”, do you think it’s funny at all?  (And if so, do you also like Larry the Cable Guy and going to Branson on vacation?)  Click here or see below for a link to online episodes if you’ve never seen it (might want to fast forward through the overplayed theme song.)  Please leave a comment here or email me to let me know what you think.  Because I really want to know if Disney has created something more than just another vehicle with which to sell music, movies, clothes, and bed linens.  Or, if I should be very, very worried. ###


 


http://disney.go.com/dxd/index.html?channel=153586&playlistID=169441&playlist
PanelID=dxd_media_playlist&#/videos/tvshows/

Two Simple Words That Mean So Much

Isn’t it great when kids show appreciation? Like the girl in my Scout troop who always gives me cocoa at Christmas and writes a thank you note.  Or the boy in Emmie’s class who gave me a hug when I showed up to volunteer one day.  Or Emmie, yesterday afternoon  — I had promised to take her to get a new gymnastics leotard, and even though she had to clean her room and pay for half, she said, “Thanks, Mom!” as we walked to the car, new leotard in hand. 
“Thank you for being appreciative,” I said. 

When teens show appreciation, it’s so great (and so rare) it almost takes my breath away.  Rarely do teenage sleepover guests thank me for making cinnamon muffins for breakfast.  Or for picking up all the soda cans and popcorn bowls left behind when they’re gone. Or for putting up with hearing loud singing at 3 a.m.  This past weekend was high school homecoming, our first as parents, and we hosted a pre-dinner/dance reception and photo opp at our house for 12 teens and their parents. Andy and I worked hard all day Saturday getting the house and yard and food ready, while Allison was treated (by a friend) to a manicure/pedicure in the morning and taken to a makeup session by another friend in the afternoon. (I had to keep reminding myself, “This is not a wedding, this is not a wedding…”) That evening as the group prepared to leave our house and head to the festivities, only one teen stopped to shake my hand and say, “Thank you.” I almost fell on the floor and kissed his feet. (No wonder he was elected freshman homecoming king.)

Even though our house shined like a new penny, Allison said that no amount of cleaning would help it.  “I don’t like the layout,” she announced just before the guests arrived, “and the outside colors are bad, too.”  A couple days later, I looked over her shoulder at some of the pictures from that night that were being posted by the group on Facebook.  Our winding staircase was used in many of the group photos.  “Doesn’t that look nice,” I commented on one. 
“It was horrible,” she said.  “Everyone looks squished on those stairs.”

Later she got annoyed with me when she overheard me talking to another parent on the phone– I was asking them if they’d recovered from Homecoming yet.  “Why would you say that?” she asked later in disgust.  “It was MY homecoming, not yours.”
Amazingly keeping my cool, I explained that I’d spent all day Saturday cleaning the house (and part of another day) when I would have rather been doing something else.  I reminded her I didn’t get to sleep until 2:30 a.m. Saturday night because we had to pick her up from the after-party, after I’d stayed up most nights the past week until 1 a.m. trying to get things done.  I also reminded her I attended the “Mum Exchange Cookout” the week before and took photos for her, and how we’ve been opening our wallets continuously for the past several weeks regarding homecoming, buying tickets to the football game, the “freshman after-football game roller skating party”, the “Freshman Homecoming T-shirt”, the Freshman dinner, her dress, half the cost of her shoes, half the cost of her makeup, a $10 box of “lingerie tape” to hold up the afore-mentioned strapless dress, a $7 bottle of spray-on tan, a $15 brow wax PLUS tip and tax, the food and drink for our reception, the sodas we brought to the cookout, the ridiculously gaudy fake “arm mum” we bought for her date… did I see a glimmer of understanding cross her face? Nah, it must have been something flickering on the computer screen.

Last night, she came back from a movie outing with her friends feeling very sick (school’s been on fall break this week).  She had fever and was coughing.  When I headed to bed around midnight, she called out from her room, huddled under her comforter.  “Can I have another blanket?” she asked weakly. I went downstairs and got one, and covered her up. 
“Thank you,” she said.  ###

Just Tell Me What To Do

Some days, don’t you want to be on auto-pilot? Like, not having to make a lot of decisions or worry about much other than following instructions and just “being”?

You know you’re a person with a lot on your plate when you’re grateful for the computerized directions at the gas pump.  Seriously– sometimes when I put gas in my car, I feel fleeting relief at having someone (or some”thing”) tell me what to do. “SWIPE CARD”– you got it, chief.  “SELECT GRADE”– no problem!  “LIFT LEVER”– anything you say, bucko!  I set the nozzle on the “hands-free” latch and lean against the car, taking a two-minute vacation and a deep breath (although not too deep so as not to OD on petroleum fumes…)  Managing self, job, a tween, a teen, family schedules, housework, numerous volunteer activities and numerous “other tasks as necessary” can make anyone’s head spin.  If only some days, someone else could take care of the “managing” part of the equation, for more than just two minutes.

I think that’s why some of us make lists.  It’s like handing over everything you have to get done to a piece of paper, and somehow the paper becomes the manager. It helps you kind of clear your mind of worrying about the big picture and concentrate only on a list of tasks.  Then, making checkmarks or crossing things off is like reporting back in–“See, I’ve done that! And that! And that, too!  Woo-hoo!  Paper, aren’t you proud of me? Do I get a raise?  Hello??”

I think our need for unburdening ourselves of so much decision-making is also why flylady.net, dinewithoutwhine.com and other daily task-oriented websites are so wildly popular.  (Flylady.net sends out constant email reminders, all day, of what stay-at-home people might want to be doing at any given time to help get things under control– one reminder is all about getting “dressed to the shoes” in the morning; another suggests which room in your house to clean on a particular day; another reminds you to “Get to Bed and don’t stay up too late”.  Some days she tells you it’s time to clean out your car; another day she tells you to clean out your purse.)

I think I’d like to have something similar to our family’s GPS, when we set it to the “Austin Powers” voice.  Although our GPS has sent me woefully astray, it sure is fun to get lost hearing Mike Myers (or a decent facsimile) in that crazy British accent sing out, “Groovy driving!” and “You’ve reached your destination– Yeahhh!”  I’d love to be able to plug my To-Do list into a device like that in the morning, and hear Austin guide me through my day.  I could hit a button and hear him say,  “Do a load of laundry.”  “Answer emails.”  “Update your calendar.” “Walk the dog.” And then when I finished and deleted each task, I would hear his voice say, “Groovy, baby!” or “Shagadelic!” How fun would that be?!  And you know, there are so many GPS voices available now that my electronic manager would have to have lots of voices as well.  Let’s see, some days I could listen to the inspiring voice of Richard Simmons (“Cmon, just one more task and you’re done with the list!  There, you’ve done it!! Now go reward yourself! You deserve it!!!); or a torchsong diva like Celine Deon (“You are…de greatest mother… in de vorld! Vel, other dan me!”) or even Martha Stewart (“Time to wash the dishes– and speaking of that, it’s a good thing to store dishwashing liquid in an antique glass bottle next to your sink.”).

If only someone would invent that!  For now, I’m glad that at least I have a husband who wakes me up every morning (and lets me know what day it is), a library who calls to remind me when my books (and tapes, and DVDs) are overdue, and kids who let me know (loudly) that their bathroom is out of toilet paper.  After all, I can’t remember everything!