Thursday, January 29, 2009

Birthdays & The Motherless Daughter

At one time I belonged to an online group devoted to women who now found themselves to be 'motherless daughters'. While I do not believe such commiseration is necessarily healing, sometimes we frail humans need to be reminded that we are not alone in our griefs and sorrows. And when those griefs and sorrows feel singularly unique - when we get the 'Job complex', as we are often wont to do - finding another human with similar travails is at the very least bandaging. (I believe I just created a word - "bandaging" - but it's the best idea I could come up with for what I envision. I envision loss of a mother like a wound - open, sore, never fully healed but, when bandaged, at least free from outside irritants.)

But I digress...

Almost 100% of the ladies who were part of this group, all in a wide range of age, religious, and socio economic demographics, found their own birthday to be one of the most difficult days to eek through each year. Regardless of how fresh - or how long 'bandaged' - their grief may have been, their personal birthday was painful.

Birthdays and the motherless daughter provide more reflection than they do for the average woman. While we all bemoan extra wrinkles, more grey hair to cover (or not to cover), breasts that sag a bit more, jeans that don't fit right (of course we blame the dryer for this problem)...a motherless daughter has an extra ache. We have an extra age spot that will not be covered. We have another milestone marker to cross - we start counting birthdays in terms of how many with mom and how many without mom. For regardless of gender, it is our mother who has known us longest. While our great and good Savior reminds us succinctly in Psalm 139 that He has known us before conception, He has also gifted only woman with that gift of foreknowledge where her child is concerned. Foreknowledge as compared to an earthly father.

The greatest earthly tie to the day of our birth is our mother. Hers was the womb, hers was the pain, hers is the only really accurate story we care to hear. And when she is gone, her story has left with her. For the beauty of a memory and a story of our history, is the first-hand account.
And sorry to say, but no scrapbook will ever fully encompass this story. No father will ever fully recount the occasion. No sibling will ever know the details. And no medical file - which, yes, many motherless daughters cling to - will tell the emotional side of the birthday.

Birthdays and the motherless daughter are unique in their difficulty. They require a sturdy faith - a constant recitation of Psalm 139 - and the good presence of mind to allow one the gift of not celebrating. Sometimes not celebrating is the best gift a motherless daughter can receive.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I'm Frugal So I Don't Have To Be Cheap

A very wise woman once told me that she is "...frugal so I don't have to be cheap." Wise beyond her years - perhaps some of her college roommate's vast intelligence rubbed off on her...I'm sure that' it. It's a succinct comment but something to which I am personally devoting 2009. Being frugal so that I do not have to be cheap.

Now "cheap" will have different definitions for people as will "frugal", yet I do believe that they should never be complete synonyms. In my financial brain I make some distinctions:

Frugal people go to restaurants with coupons and gift cards. Cheap people go and bring home purses full of little packets of jam and honey and Splenda.

Frugal people rinse out Ziplocs when appropriate. Cheap people rinse out Ziplocs even when black mold has been growing on whatever was once inside the Ziploc.

Frugal people shop using coupons and sale papers and may have a "system" for doing so. Cheap people sign up for free food programs even though they know the program really wasn't intended for someone in their economic bracket.

Anyway - I'm frugal - so that I don't have to be cheap where it comes to other people in my life. For our family it means shopping wisely so that I could shop for someone else if necessary. It means using coupons so extra could be purchased and donated elsewhere. It is wisely knowing when the Target clearance racks are well-stocked so gifts could be purchased for others without somehow negatively impacting my family. It is knowing how to cook and using that knowledge - for ourselves and for other people.

To that end, I'm thinking that a post in this regard is called for on a somewhat regular basis. Just what do I (and others I encounter) do to be frugal?

Here's the hint for this week: is a free service listing the sales from most major grocery stores in a given metropolitan area. A database exists popping out the sales for the current week along with whatever coupon is available and doing your math for you. This one keeps the 'price book' that some savvy shoppers rely on to remember when bread is really cheapest. The print out provides the name of the item, coupon available, final price, and (most interesting to me) the percentage saved off the regular retail price.

No fees are involved - registration is required - and the creator simply asks that when you use the site's list on any given week, you purchase items for a food pantry or other donation along with your regular groceries. Your "donation" is your giving it others.

This one is addictive if you love saving money in the area that tends to suck up the second most money in households (after mortgages). Eventually you may find yourself not buying anything unless it is at least 50% off the regular retail.

I'm working on being more I don't have to be cheap.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Motherless Daughter

When my mother went home to be with her Savior, numerous well-meaning people gave me little devotional books to help me cope with my loss. My loss was deep, however, deeper than the words on most of the little booklets currently on the market. I noticed that the givers of such booklets generally hadn't experienced great loss, or hadn't experienced deep thoughts. Sometimes both held true.

My deepest comfort is still found in that all-encompassing providence of God. For in the reckless tsunami that is cancer, there are far too many pieces of driftwood available to the care givers. These pieces represent different doctors, bright & shiny treatments, and diets of various mixtures of greens or proteins or minerals. Each piece comes by and it's the care givers who must determine if grasping at this piece is worth the energy that will be consumed. Were it not for the full, unconditional life lived in the peace of providence, each piece of driftwood not grasped would be seen as a lost opportunity. Each flotsam would be a potential cure, unfounded.

Yet even in the peaceful haven of providence, a grief is most certainly observed. For death, as Lewis succinctly stated, is a 'severe mercy'. And those bits of severe mercy vary based upon the loss. The severing of spouses is the tragedy of all love stories - the knowledge that in almost every marriage one lover will go to death before the other renders each marriage a potential tragedy. The raw hurt of losing a child is that pain of death not easily described by someone, such as myself, who has been so blessed as not to experience such a pain. My severe mercy was the earthly end of my experience as daughter to a mother. It is a loss not easily explained.

Six months after this lost, I was still searching for someone who could explain to me what this process was. This grief seemed to have a life all its own. While the grieving experience is somewhat universal, and surely shared as best it can be among a company of believers, this experience was unique in my circles: I was officially a motherless daughter. I felt that I should have a title, though one did not exist. I felt that when I explained to those around me to excuse my behavior for I was now a woman without a mother, it should have been better understood. It was not.

I have since come to realize that the life this grief has is often the life of my children. This motherless daughter was now struggling to be a mother to her own daughter (and sons). I was desperately missing my generational connection. I could not find the feminine rudder I longed for. I had lost my tie to my birth for, while my father has been ever-present, simply by virtue of being male we missed some of the bonds I had with my mother.

And even as I type this I am realizing that this will make no sense to the vast majority of people. What is missing in the sea of Christian self-help tomes is something specifically addressing this life experience. Perhaps something to prepare a woman for the loss her mother - a loss that will be important regardless of the closeness of the daughter and mother. And while I cling to the hope of reuniting with my mother in glory - while I revel in this peace of providence, I still struggle from time-to-time in this current waiting room of life.


Incidentally, one writer has observed this need and writing a book, appropriately entitled Motherless Daughters....perhaps the best currently available, but wholly secular in its perspective.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Left Behind

It really stinks to be left behind doesn't it? Not 'left behind' in the Jenkins/LaHaye meaning of the word, but I mean as a class of people. I have been left behind for much of this campaign season, and I am still pondering just how far we've slipped down the slippery slope of ecumenism.

In keeping with Presidential tradition, our 44th President began his day in a church service. The church which, reporters have stated, he will "probably" join (it seems the Obamas have not had time to find a house of worship). Why will they join it? Well, because it's close to their new residence. Now, to be fair to the Obamas, this is all media conjecture and I'm going to pray that our new President has enough spiritual sense to pick a house of worship based upon the pulpit, not the proximity.

The service, if you missed it, was "inclusive". Prayers were offered to the God of vagueness. A God that may be Jehovah just as he may be Allah. Just as Oprah will often extol "amazing grace" with absolutely no concept of this from a Christian sense, so our leader worships using hymns which may be near and dear to those of us of a Judeo-Christian heritage but which, unfortunately, call on a God open to interpretation. My personal prayer is that this God was specific to the worshippers - my personal opinion is that I should not hold my breath. (Note at this point, that this vague notion of God is held by multiple Presidents including both of the Bush men so this is not a critique relegated to a party or a specific person.)

During the course of our day we have been told that to really mark the occasion of Roe V. Wade our new President will be signing his first executive order. Sorry evangelical Christians - it's the beginning of your values being left behind. Your money is going to be used to fund abortions out of our country - overturning a Bush-signed order banning its use. A whole class of people - born and unborn - left behind.

Rick Warren offered up a prayer which, for the most part (and I'm hoping in total), became more of a farewell address in my mind rather than the prayer of a beginning. Apart from a veiled reference to the Koran (yes - he named our God using a Koran phraseology), this portion cannot be tossed out in any form:

"...I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life, Yeshua, Isa, Jesus [Spanish pronunciation], Jesus, who taught us to pray:

“Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen"

However, as if to remind us that we are not to be tolerated ("we" meaning those of us following the one true God - author of inerrant Scripture) the inauguration actually kicked off on Sunday, with a prayer of invocation by openly gay Bishop Gene Robinson. To say Robinson allowed for a generic definition of God would be an understatement. Christianity was, again, left behind and put firmly in its place.

Being left behind will be the hallmark of the next four years. It's not a shock - we've been edging that way as a nation long before this election. Perhaps it's all done in an effort to get us off our complacent, cerebral behinds and start our own marches on Washington. How easy it is to fight from a keyboard, from a church pew, from behind a theologically conservative tome by the latest author out of a proper seminary. Yet we are a group of people not eager to produce speeches of the "Dream" variety. We don't do much marching, we have forgotten picketing, and we teach a conservative worldview but forget that we are blessed when the world curses us. We need to remember that when the world calls us 'haters' we are often doing something right. When we are mocked for our ancient, archaic beliefs we have succeeded. And when we vote the opposite of Hollywood we have been fully left behind.

And that's a good thing.
The photo is what is left to the altar to "the unknown god".

Monday, January 19, 2009

Yoga-ing Life

I am a rather big fan of yoga. Not for the meditation aspects, as I believe a Christian woman searching for meditation needs to go to her Lord, but for the flexibility it can help maintain in this aging body. I have been remiss in any form of organized yoga for the past couple of years, but I know enough from memory to move about with relative ease (notice I didn't use the term "grace" body type was not designed to move gracefully anywhere). And I believe if it weren't for my well-earned fears of what may happen, I still could do the ol' back bend from standing position. Alas, I could hit my head, cause a seizure, break my neck, crush a disk, throw my back out.....and I haven't even touched on my fear of heights (suddenly going from my whole 5'7" frame down to the floor - backward - induces vertigo...)

Yet I am finding that while my body is maintaining some measure of flexibility, I am losing that flexibility in most other areas of life. I've never seen much 'grey' in life - I was raised on a healthy diet of sauerkraut, Velveeta grilled cheese, and black & white. Not much room for grey. Even after the "enlightening" experience of college, my flexibility - the mostly absent grey - still didn't poke it's head from the abyss of black & white.

I have gone through some periods, to be sure, when I questioned whether this lack of flexibility should be worked upon. Should I try some yoga on my life - on my worldviews? Could I do miraculous things with my rigid views with just a bit of life yoga thrown in? I've known so many people in my life who have this flexibility. They become what they know their 'audience' desires of them without a moment's hesitation. These people are usually very well liked. They don't speak up, much, and when they do they usually make sure their audience will agree with them before the speaking begins. I believe they are yoga masters.

In the end, however, I find that the yoga masters really lose their appeal when there is a fight to be fought. When life becomes a battle - which all of it should be for a Christian - I think I'd rather have the black & white, inflexible folks on my side. I can't imagine going to war with someone who sees grey on a battlefield. I'm not sure I want someone terribly flexible contending for the faith with me (no matter how cool some of those human pretzels appear). These human pretzels tend to emerge from battle unscathed regardless of which side they fought on.

And when I finally come up for air, after raising children entrusted to my care and keeping, I believe I'd much rather see our time together in black & white, rather than in grey. I believe I sleep better at night believing they have learned battlefield skills rather than yoga.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The End of a (Musical) Era

It was 2nd grade and my eldest was still firmly entrenched in the little school we liked to call "KCS". The school has long since been brought low (okay - it was shuttered - closed - shut-down - tossed out like a holey sock...) but the thing that remained even after Ethan left its halls to be home edumacated? Piano lessons.

We (yes "we") began in 2nd grade. I rightfully utilize "we" because it is I, his dutiful mother, who produced the payment each week and I, his dutiful mother with musical dreams, who felt that piano quite possibly would produce a mathematical and musical genius. Horowitz and Einstein rolled into one - this would be what they'd say of my eldest child.

I believe it's a testament to our general sticktoitiveness that Ethan has continued in these lessons up to this point. We both have a hard time disappointing people and, perhaps, a hard time saying "no". And, I'll be frank, shutting the cover on the keyboard of Ethan's lessons really represents yet another landmark of childhood tossed aside like Teletubbies (yes....fodder for another post) and Kratt's Creatures (anyone? anyone?)

Yet as the months and years have passed, the practice schedule has gone something like this:

Monday - 30 minute lesson
Tuesday - we both forget that he should practice since we JUST had lessons
Wednesday - "Did you practice?" "It's on my list to do" "So not yet?" "Noooo....."
Thursday - "You didn't practice yesterday did you?" "No - I'll do it twice as long today"
Friday - "You really better practice hard on Saturday! I pay for your lessons you know...."
Saturday - "Practice the piano" At this point a 30 minute practice occurs, mostly filled with his memorized favorites and scales.....the kid LOVES playing scales
Sunday - day of rest....since there is no apparent pleasure in the piano he chooses not to play

It seems that it's time to stop taking the dead horse out back and beating it to death. It is a credit to Ethan's kind constitution and our relatively bump-free existence together that he has not stomped and whined for this moment at all. Surely his lack of practice enthusiasm was a tip-off that devotion to the instrument was not to be a hallmark of his piano experience, but never did he truly bemoan the piano or the lessons. Ethan just kept on as he usually does with most tasks.

I know I hang on to too many things in life which serve as landmarks, memory points...I am my mother's daughter. But I will miss seeing that little boy, who has since grown quite lanky, sitting at the piano playing a little ditty he has grown rather fond of. It is, truly, the end of a musical era in our home.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Family Fun or Real Simple Parenting?

Sometimes I feel's Polish guilt I do believe. (I'd call it "Catholic guilt", which I believe is a properly sanctioned and identified term in most circles, but I have never personally been Catholic in spite of being raised by a lapsed one.)

Child-rearing is an adventure filled with contradictions in advice. Some fool-hardy souls with the flare for crafting subscribe to Family Fun magazine and learn that they have really been falling short in the Valentine department and should have started working on the homemade chocolate hearts back in January if little Sarah wanted to share a true "hand made" gift with those she loves. Never mind the Father's Day guilt from never, ever having taken a bag of cement and crafting it into hand made stepping stones out to the hand-carved porch swing for dad. Evidently a tie no longer screams "I LOVE YOU". Who knew?

Then comes the Real Simple magazine, landing in the mailbox with a thud and often so heavy it kind of tilts the box to one side. The cover is almost always one central color with one central theme and extremely....wait for it......simple. Granted, their version of "simple" usually comes with price tags over $100, but no one ever said simplicity came cheap. I mean, think of the Amish, as simple as they are those greedy women want big bucks for their 'simple' quilts.

Same goes for parenting. I wander between Family Fun and Real Simple when it comes to my children in spite of the fact that I'm probably more of a Real Simple Family Fun kind of gal. I'm feeling content with my decisions until I realize that Madeline has never been to the great sewing class that a mom mentions, nor has she taken gymnastics, taken horseback riding lessons, or joined the recreation badminton team. I thought I was doing great with Ben between violin and baseball and Lego League, but how well rounded can he be without orchestra, football, basketball, and culinary instruction? Then Ethan - well I ought to give up since he's now a teenager - but I messed up when I didn't fill our lives immediately with swimming lessons, T Ball, Pee Wee League something, and chess club from his birth.

Why the guilt? And why do perfectly logical parents feel that to raise well-rounded children they must be actively engaged in something outside of their familial circle during every possible season? And why do children beg for such things? Oh, to be sure, some are the next (insert famous athlete) and truly enjoy it (as opposed to having a father living vicariously through his young prodigy). But could it be that because we, as parents, have had a really hard time learning to say "no" that our children have just never learned to accept it? Could it actually be that if forced to live a Real Simple life, our children wouldn't be any worse for it and - shocking as the thought may be - they would learn to find fun and enjoyment in a slower life that includes time with a sibling they previously swore up and down was NOT God's gift to anyone in particular?

The same parents who are fighting for each minute - each second - of their child's life to have meaning then go and fill these truly brief windows of time with so many externals that their memory banks are going to be filled with teams and coaches and campers and dance competition. There won't be room for memories of a home and parents and siblings. There is no longer time to forge any sort of personal relationship with their Lord - though there is probably a great youth group that will fill their time somewhere along the line.

Have we all forgotten the admonition to "be still"? Psalm 46:10 reads "Be still and know that I am God..." In some cursory study of the passage I found the Hebrew utilized for our English "be still" is raphah and could literally be translated as something slack. The Psalmist admonishes us to be slack - to almost 'drop everything' if you will - in an effort to know our God. We are given a lesson in slowing down....and in so doing we may further come to know our Lord. Yet we refuse to give this gift of stillness to our children?

Too often it's noble to say "no" to a material request, but to say "no" to an activity is akin to a bad parent who really wants to raise the most unpopular kid in school. We can say "no" to a cell phone, but not to yet another class party. Saying "no" to the party would be contrary to Family Fun parenting. Yet, when am I supposed to give my children these moments of stillness if each moment is filled with something? And since when do we trust our children to make these major decisions?

So, yes, sometimes I feel guilty....but then I get over it really fast and realize that I cancelled those magazine subscriptions long ago. The gift of stillness that I give to my children will serve them far better into adulthood than the gift of yet another fencing class. Instead, I work more at my need (or learning to realize that I need) to "be still".

Monday, January 12, 2009

Congratulations, Juan...You Just Won the Immigration Lotto!

In an effOrt tO be a fully infOrmed citizen, I signed up fOr email updates frOm bOth majOr candidates during the past Presidential race. I had Hillary updates fOr a while as well, but Once sOme fund raising agreement was made between her and the Other candidate these updates stOpped because her campaign disappeared. Uh-huh. Any One else smell the stink Of cOnspiracy in that One?

Anyway, imagine my pure jOy when I received a great OppOrtunity tO win a ticket tO the inauguration (that One was purpOosely nOt capitalized...I'm nOt 'feeling' the capital for the OccasiOn this year). It seems that if I make a dOnatiOn of any size - yes, "even $5" - my name is entered intO a drawing tO earn a place at the inauguration. WOw! This IS a change - a hOpe even - I'm smelling the sweet smell Of ChicagO wafting into the District of COlumbia. GOOd stuff!

SO, thinks I, what else cOuld bring the struggling masses hOpe (fOr a price)? SOme thOughts fOr the future Secretary Of Chance Games:

Immigration Lotto For a very small donation, your name will be entered into the Immigration Lotto with drawings to be held on a monthly basis. Should we draw your name - we'll use the one listed on the Money Order - you will be given immediate citizenship. Only illegals need apply. In an effort to ensure the proper Juan Valdez obtain the citizenship, it is highly suggest that a DNA sample be attached to your Money Order.

Beatification Bingo Because we think you're all just perfect 'saints' for donating to the messiah, each state will host bi-monthly BINGO games at just $5 per card. Win the most rounds and you get to be saint for the month! Not limited to just Catholics, we are an equal opportunity BINGO game showing no religious discrimination.

Name That Pooch As much as we'd love the girls to name their new 'doodle, it seems only fitting to give some canine-challenged child the OppOrtunity to name the first dog. Send in your idea along with a $10 check made out to "B. Obama". The winning namer may attend a White House naming ceremony and stay in any One of our fabulous empty bedrooms - Wm. Clinton will be handling those reservations.

Drop The Bomb Because we understand that there are some voters out there who are currently feeling disenfranchised, we offer the opportunity to 'drop the bomb' on one country of their choosing. We would prefer a country currently give us problems as these pesky foreign affairs tasks are really taking us away from quality 'infrastructure' time. Highest bidder will choose a country and push the button on a live airing of the Oprah show.

I can't make this stuff up! Here's a copy of the email I received:

Your ticket to history

Leah –

Barack Obama will be sworn in as President of the United States of America on January 20th, 2009.

It will be an unprecedented event in the history of our country, and hundreds of thousands of people will come together in Washington, D.C. to share the moment.

Supporters like you made this happen. You know that real change comes from the bottom up, not from the top down, and Barack and Joe want you to join them on this historic day. They want to start off this administration with the people who worked so hard and will continue to fight for change with them.

Between now and January 8th, 10 supporters and their guests will be selected to join the Inaugural activities.

If you make a donation — in any amount — to make the Inauguration a success, you and a guest could be flown to Washington, D.C., put up in a hotel, and be there as Barack is sworn in as the 44th President.

Make a donation of $5 or more right now. You and a guest could receive your ticket to history.

Unlike past inaugurations, this year’s event will not be paid for by Washington lobbyists or corporations.

This campaign was funded by 4 million ordinary people giving only what they could afford, and Barack and Joe are counting on you again. Help start this administration off right — independent of the special interest donors who have shaped Washington for too long.

This Inauguration will be open to as many Americans as possible. We’ll all come together to celebrate the hope and optimism that define this movement for change.

But you could be one of 10 selected to join us in Washington for all Inaugural events. Any donation you make between now and January 8th counts — whatever you can afford.

Show your support for a different kind of politics and a different kind of inauguration with a donation of $5 or more today:

The Inauguration will be a once-in-a-lifetime event. I hope you can join us.

Thank you,


David Plouffe
Campaign Manager
Obama for America

P.S. — If you cannot make a donation, you and a guest could still be selected to receive your ticket to history. Learn more here.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Friday's Observations...on wasting time, 2009, & Dave Ramsey

Have you ever noticed that some dentist and doctor offices impose a fee if you do not show up for your appointment? Sometimes it's the full cost of the missed visit, sometimes a token amount. Either way, you don't show up - you wasted this professional's time - you pay the fee for doing so.

Well, you want to talk about class bias, why is it when we show up and the doctor has been called into surgery or a dentist has left with an emergency there is no remuneration to the patient who shows up only to be told rescheduling is necessary?

It happened to us today. The kids only attend classes one day a week at the local Home School Building. Today, upon showing up in their science class, they were simply informed that the teacher did not show up. They were sent to a 'study hall' to await my arrival and/or their next class. Now I do not blame the school for a teacher's absence. These things happen. However, because I pay per class and because we only meet once per week, missing one class is probably akin to missing a week's worth of classes in a traditional school.

Now, anyone want to bet that I won't see a credit for this missed class on my bill? Anyone?
I finished the book We're Just Like You, Only Prettier: Confessions of a Tarnished Southern Belle this afternoon. It was a complete and utter HOOT! (That's a technical term and should not be confused at all with Hooters...very different....) Celia Rivenbark would be the Southern 21st century equivalent to Ms. Erma Bombeck. A wise and witty woman with that finely honed ability to see the incongruities and oddities in life AND just say it like it is. She has an "Edit Button" even more unused than my own.
Is it just me, or does 2009 seem ripe with major decisions? Perhaps it's more the folks I am often surrounded by, but this year seems to be heavy with indecision or perhaps not 'indecision' as much as the knowledge that major decisions will have to be made. To further confirm this in my mind, I did a cursory search of various books in the Wyoming Public Library as I watched the kids "read" Garfield Eats Lasagna or whatever deep book my homeschoolin' kids are a'readin'.

My term of choice was "Dave Ramsey". The balding, Cheney-esque, Fox News contributing finance plain talker. Guess what? Not a book on the shelves and anything currently out had a "HOLD" on the book. I did not bother to place a hold on any such books - in our house a "HOLD" is needed on some construction jobs more than anything else.

Now if Dave needs work done at his estate he has paid for with the $40/ticket price (and that's just the basic 'level') he charges at his seminars...well, he should feel free to call Providence Custom Building Services....I'm sure space could be made in our schedule for a working road trip.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Those Stinkin' Scrapbooks

Sometime before I had a child a well-intentioned girlfriend invited me to a 'home party' for some product that was really fun (translated: if you come and buy something I can get free stuff). We were DINKS (double income no kids) and home parties were still all the rage. I was assured that this was no Tupperware, and no make-up would be applied to my face, nor would I actually have to do any cooking to enjoy my experience. Sign me up!

It's probably a really, really good thing that I don't completely remember who invited me to this party, though there is a little part of me that wants to 'blame' Pam. Pam? I'm thinking it was you......

We entered a lovely Dutchy-clean home where the owner already had young children & probably had plenty of Tupperware and Mary Kay. Instead of worrying about burping her plastic ware and maintaining a fresh face, she had shifted her anxiety to her photographs. And in the true spirit of female sharing, she was going to give us a piece of that anxiety to take home like a parting gift. I really would have preferred a goody bag filled with candy but it's photographic anxiety that I received.

Thirteen years later Creative Memories continue to haunt my memory-keeping abilities (or lack thereof). As if training my children in truth & wisdom & all things proper is not complete enough, I now have to wax and wane obsessive over the archival nature of my photo storage. Not only do I have to remember to bring the camera with me, I need to take the resultant photos and crop, cut, paste, embellish & write captivating captions . No pressure there.

And has anyone truly escaped the irony that the more mothers obsessively scrapbook, the more time they spend away from their families? After creating all kinds of fabulous photo opportunities ("Quick, Junior, jump on the lions mane...this will be great for the Zoo layout!") obsessive scrapbooker proceeds to lock herself into her new scrappin' room to crop and paste and caption. Junior is just going to have to learn to love microwaved Hot-Pockets for dinner...Mama has scrappin' to do. Then there's the cropping weekends where scrapbooks become a competitive sport with Muffy attempting to outdo Bette in her clever use of grommets and razor blades.

Then there are the truly in appropriate situations that have suddenly become "scrap worthy". While my dad was spending time in the hospital recovering from a triple by-pass, his duty nurse was telling me about her last patient and his photo-snapping wife. It seemed his own cardiac experience was to be the subject of its very own Creative Memories album complete with pre-op and post-op photos. My guess is that she asked someone to snap a few in the Operating Room if at all possible.

To which I can only ask: Does Creative Memories make stickers for this occasion? I can only imagine that an entire line of medical emergency template and stickers. Each disease with its own surgical stickers, each rehab stint with its own "AA"-related die-cuts.

And as I sit looking at my own pile of photos and scrapbooking supplies and well-intentioned pages, I am constantly reminded that my treasures are not to be stored up where "moth and rust destroy.." or where non-archival paper eats photographs. As I look through my dad's photos take on Iwo Jima and at various locales during WWII, I am struck by the fact that his non-archival paper has held up just fine. And as I look through boxes which my mom simply labeled "MEMORIES", it hits me that going through this box of loose items feels more real - more truly like her - than a contrived book with perfect lettering and "layouts" that some publisher or consultant decided was absolutely PERFECT for first day of school photos.

My stinkin' scrapbooks will continue to haunt me until I am no longer capable of being haunted. My earnest hope is that in creating these behemoths of 'memory keeping', I do not miss out on opportunities better kept in boxes labeled "MEMORIES".

Incidentally, the photo is of my mom - the keeper of memories in boxes. I will tell you that as one who has lost her mother, I do not (DO NOT) regret that she never left behind a scrapbook.