Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Teaching My Daughters What A Pen Pal Is In The Age Of Social Media

Last week, I introduced my daughters to the old school concept of pen pals. In enthusiastic mommy voice, my explanation went something like this, “When I was your age, I had what’s called a pen pal! We wrote letters back and forth to each other, and even though we never met, we became friends. We would write about what we liked and didn’t like, and we’d ask questions about each other, and sometimes, we would even send each other stickers! Plus, wouldn’t it be great to get a letter in the mail that’s just for you?” As my seven year old stared blankly at me after my pen pal description, I was left thinking that I may have overhyped it.

That is, until the pensive look on my older daughter’s face turned into a smile. Because my younger daughter has a cousin in New Jersey that is only four days apart in age (shout out to LiAnna), I was actually trying to gear the conversation towards her.  But with her older sister on board, I figured her acceptance of the idea would follow. And then I remembered that my girls are complete opposites. So, what one finds interesting, the other naturally detests. Fallon, my oldest, wound up writing a letter to a friend who moved away last year. As for LiAnna in New Jersey, I’m still working on it.  At the end of the day, a letter was written and put in the mailbox. Mission accomplished…sort of.

I have to admit that I was a little surprised by the effort it took me to get the girls interested in the pen pal idea. Based on my short description, you might think this took only minutes. However, this whole process, from explanation to finished letter in the mailbox, took a few hours.  You might be wondering if my girls have IPhones or Facebook accounts or any other technology that enables them to communicate immediately with someone. Though they have Skyped a few times from my laptop, the answer is no. My kids are currently phone and text-free kids. So it’s not like they were frowning upon the antiquated snail mail concept. They just simply weren’t as interested as I thought they would be.

So, that’s when I started wondering about letter writing in general. Technology has completely squashed the need for it. As I sit here with my laptop, writing this blog that has the potential of reaching a significant amount of people all over the world, I don’t want it to seem like I don’t appreciate our culture of instantaneous communication. But I also can’t help but think how nice it would be to get a letter in the mail that isn’t a bill or a random catalog from Omaha Steaks. Not to mention, the pleasure of writing back has always been special to me. But in our technology driven world, has the art of putting pen to paper been lost? Does letter writing have a place anymore? If we can’t quickly “like” a “status”, would a letter in the mail from a friend get lost in the abyss of our daily shuffle?

Obviously, my daughters’ lives at seven and ten years old are not too busy. Even so, I’m not sure if the pen pal idea will stick or if they will see the value in it. At the very least, I am happy to have familiarized them with letter writing. Even if they only write and receive one letter, I hope they find those few moments of pure joy when opening the mailbox and finding a letter from a friend. 

*This piece was published on Scary Mommy on August 25, 2015.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Downy Wrinkle Releaser

Did you ever have such a lazy day that you exited your house in a shirt that was so badly wrinkled that it looked like it had been chewed up and spit out by a hippo?  No?  Lucky you, then. 

There aren’t too many things in life that I cannot stand to do, but I truly despise ironing.  Years ago, in an effort to avoid ironing, I purchased a professional steamer, which has been nothing short of a miracle throughout my life.  That is-until I had children.  Once my girls were part of the picture, steaming clothes became something that seemed as ancient as going clubbing until seven in the morning.  Who has time for steaming clothes when you have real family emergencies such as finding the backup security blanket, taking the crusts off of the bread before a meltdown ensues, or reading that princess story for the hundredth time?

What I’m trying to say, in the longest winded way possible, is that the older I get, the less time I have.  And steaming/ironing clothes never seems to make it to the list of things I should do on a daily basis.  Enter Downy Wrinkle Releaser.  Now folks, this is not a new product.  Some of you may have been using this for years.  So, what I’m sharing with you is not groundbreaking.  But for those who have never used it, let me enlighten you on how absolutely fantastic this product is!

After a few sprays of the bottle, it immediately starts working its magic on your wrinkled clothing.  All you need to do is use your hand to smooth out the wrinkles.  Easy peasy!  The total process time is about one minute, but depending on how much spray the garment needed, you may need to give it a few extra minutes to dry.  Another added bonus-it smells like freshly laundered clothing.
Take a look at the before and after shots below. 


So, if you have days where the thought of ironing makes you want to go back to bed, or if you’re like me, and simply don’t have time for ironing, I would absolutely recommend getting a bottle of Downy Wrinkle Releaser.  You can find it at your local grocery store or at amazon.com for roughly seven dollars.  Though the price is a little steep, it lasts a very long time, and is well worth the extra time you save from not having to lug out the ironing board!

Just a quick tip-they also make a travel size version, and I bring it with me on every vacation!  It truly has been a life saver! 

Monday, August 10, 2015

City Girl Gone Country

Spending most of my life only minutes from Manhattan has really shaped who I am as a person.  I absolutely love who I have become as a result of my environment.  I am confident, bold and really don’t care what people think about me. However, it has been brought to my attention that due to the cultural differences between where I come from and where I now live, people here in Florida may not fully understand or appreciate my tactlessness when it comes to speaking my mind.  Most people from my neck of the woods are blunt, honest and direct, and if you are extremely lucky, we will give you a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” dose of sensitivity. 

Here are a few examples for your enjoyment. 

  1. When you have broccoli in your teeth, we are going to tell you.  And instead of sounding sweet, it might sound something like this, “Go check a mirror and get that shit out of your teeth.” 
  2. When my cousin doesn’t want to talk to me anymore on the phone, he doesn’t make excuses.  He just stops, sometimes mid conversation, and says, “Yeah, I’m done.  I’ll talk to you next time.”
  3. My old boss used to love having me around because when we were done with a long day and someone wanted to get an after-work cocktail, instead of coming up with fake reasons why I couldn’t, I just said, “Nope.  No thanks.  I just spent ten hours with you.  I’m good.”  

And the best part about being from this area is that no one gets offended by abrupt truths!  It’s just the way it is.  As long as you are honest, regardless of your tone, people respect you.  Growing up, my friends and family always told me the truth, rather than sculpting words into something nicer, but further from what I actually needed to hear. I didn’t have any friends who kissed my ass.  And to this day, I am thankful for that.

But now that I no longer live in a tough as nails environment, it hasn’t occurred to me to try to adapt.  I am what people would describe as a hard person.  Not much affects me in a significant way.  Sympathy and empathy do not come easy for me.  I’m not affected by what people think of me.  When someone doesn’t like me, their words, however vicious, simply have no meaning to me.  Now, I do have my version of kryptonite, but no one has ever guessed correctly on what it may be. 

Why am I telling you all of this?  Because being a hard person in a softer environment is not an easy merger.  When I first moved here, I felt like I was trying to decipher the DaVinci code when it came to meeting new people.  Why do they smile so much?  Are they really that interested in my life or are they just being nice?  Their tone sounds too upbeat-are they telling me the truth?  Do I have broccoli in my teeth?

Over time, I have come to admire the differences in the people I have met here.  Luckily for me, I have found some really wonderful people who are just the right mix of sweet and blunt.  These people make me believe that I am capable of obtaining a better balance with regard to my extreme personality traits.  Although I waver back and forth like a seesaw on whether or not Florida is the right place for me, they have made it easier to adapt.  You see, I’ve learned that people from the south have something that my northern brethren simply don’t have-and that is, patience. 

My reality is that I’m not going to morph into a softer person.  The people in my life now have been patient with the process of learning who I am.  They have been open to understanding that what I say, I say out of concern, rather than to just be a rude jerk.  And although the cultural differences are not always pleasant for anyone who deals with me on a regular basis, so far, the South prevails in accepting me, flaws and all, into their lives with open arms.