Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dear Middle Aged

It's been a very long time since I subscribed to a daily, local newspaper. I suppose part of that is due to the fact that newsgathering online is just so much more quick and convenient.  Although, when you read the news online, there really is something missing that you can only get with sitting down in the evening and reading the local paper.  I do miss that, and I think I'd like to bring that back into my daily routine.

I suppose I was a teenager when I started looking forward to the daily paper in my hometown.  I could quickly and easily check the local theater and see what was playing, read the births, marriages and death notices, skim through the letters to the editor and see what was on the minds of locals, check to see what Garfield and The Family Circus were up to, and always check in with Dear Abby.

Since I don't read the daily paper anymore, I'm not even sure Dear Abby is still a feature or what kind of advice she might be giving these days, but back in the days of my teenage years she was one smart lady.  So often I'd read the letters and they could have been letters written by me, or my friends, or someone I knew.  It was quite often rather uncanny to me to realize that complete strangers were dealing with situations exactly like my own, or those of people I knew.  Dear Abby's advice was always really good, full of wisdom and compassion but firm when it came to doing the right thing.  She was very pro-family, anti-nonsense and always advised young people to respect their parents, teachers and those older than they were.  She also always advised teenage girls that staying pure was a very good thing and never to do things because they felt pressure to do them. I loved Dear Abby, and that she stood for what was right.

I thought about her daily column the other day when I was taking laundry out of the dryer.  Every once in a while in the middle of doing some sort of every day thing (or when I say something and I hear my mom's voice come out of my own mouth) I get this sort of bizarre flash like a neon sign in my head that reads "Hey Carla - You're Middle Aged!"  It's not as if I don't know it, or that I sit around thinking about it, but every once in a while that fact hits me and if I were entirely honest, I'd admit it feels pretty bizarre. I don't mind being middle aged, but saying that I am suddenly makes me feel strange, if that makes any sense at all. That was the thought I had while unloading the dryer. Now that I've finally made it to "middle aged" it sometimes feels like I have this giant treasure chest full of good advice I've been given over the years, that just wants to spill out.

What caused me to think of Dear Abby as I was being Laundry Princess, was a little tidbit of advice I'd heard years ago about cleaning your dryer's lint screen.  Apparently, if you use dryer sheets or fabric softener, the residue from those things can build up on your lint screen and can actually cause your dryer to overheat from being clogged up, and start a dryer fire.  The test to determine if your lint screen needs a good cleaning is to run some water over it (from the tap) and if it runs off instead of running through the screen, it's time for a good soap and water cleaning.  I don't use those products (I use dryer balls from the dollar store, and they work just fine) so that's not an issue for me, but I remember when I first heard about it how surprised I was.  I'd never thought about it, and never realized how dangerous that could be, but I was sure glad someone took the time to pass along that advice.  It's probably saved countless dryer fires as a result.

I got to thinking after that, how many times I've heard great advice from people and I never bothered to pass it on, either because I'd forgot about it and just stored it away for personal use later one, or any other number of reasons.  I suppose if I tried, really sat down and examined all areas of marriage, motherhood, homemaking, cooking, gardening, and other practical areas that us moms engage in all the time, I could come up with a ton of advice I've gleaned over the years from those who are older, smarter and more experienced in those areas than I am.  The thing is, I always feel like I'm so busy living the advice to ever bother to express it.  Every once in a while one of the kids (or Kev) will say "why do you do it that way?" when I've done something that seems odd or unusual to them.

The dryer balls are a perfect example.  Just this afternoon I unloaded a pile of towels out of the dryer then tossed the dryer balls back into the machine.  Kev was standing there and looked at me real funny and asked why I did that.  He had no idea that I use those, and when he'd seen them out of the dryer he thought they were a kid's toy, and never gave it a second thought.  When he saw me toss it back into the dryer, he later confessed he thought I was a nutter, and wondered why I was throwing toys in the dryer! I had to explain to him what they are and what they do, and then it all made sense - but prior to that he had no idea.

There are so many little things like that.  Some are practical, some are way-of-life types of things, some are just using wisdom in relationships with your spouse or children.

On the practical: for removing crayon marks from walls and wallpaper without ruining the paint or paper, spray a small amount of WD-40 on a clean rag and gently rub.  It comes off like magic.  To clean the WD-40 off the wall, use a small amount of soap and water (a drop of dish soap works fine) and wipe the area down, then wipe again with a cloth moistened with plain water.

On way-of-life: when babies first begin to eat solid foods, always introduce veggies before you introduce fruits.  Fruits are naturally sweeter and if you introduce those first, they will develop a "sweet-first" appetite. By contrast, if you introduce veggies first, and a wide variety of them, they will develop a more "healthy-first" appetite.  Now I've never studied this out, but I did it this way with all my kids and they all have a good appetite for healthy foods (minus the teen-junk-food-years that we all go through).  I've also seen and known kids who always get and always have sweets, and that's all they seem to ever really want. A very unhealthy appetite that will always catch up with you later in life.  Usually in the form of love handles, cellulite and much more serious health problems such as tooth decay and heart trouble.

On wisdom for mommies: Never force your child to clean his plate.  If a child is hungry they will eat.  If he isn't, all you're doing is creating a huge stress factor for yourself and the child and turning the dinner table into a battle ground that the whole family has to endure.  Kids are generally more hungry during a growing spurt, so give them a bit more food.  When they're going through a phase of not being very hungry, give them smaller portions and don't freak out on them if they don't eat it all. Never ever ever make food, a source of power/control.  Studies suggest (and it sure makes sense when you think about it) that this can be a direct cause of eating disorders for many people, when they get older. (I made the mistake of doing the whole "clean your plate!" thing with my second oldest daughter, only because I was a young mom and didn't know better back then. I still regret it to this day.  I've never done that with any of the other kids and they all have perfectly normal appetites and are healthy kids, praise God.)

On wisdom for wives: marriage is hard work and you'd be wise to make more plans for your marriage, than your wedding.  Have you ever known anyone who spent a year or more planning for their wedding?  I think we all have.  While nice weddings don't just happen, and they do require a lot of planning and details to look after, there are many young women who genuinely put more effort into that one perfect fairy-tale day, than they ever do considering the fact that once it's over, the real work begins. You have to learn how to peacefully and happily get along with someone who may have quirky little habits that you weren't aware of.  You may have some quirky little habits of your own that could quite easily drive him a little crazy. There's the whole sharing-space thing, financial planning, family budgeting, child-rearing, family schedules, education, and about 92 billion other things that will come up through the years that you likely never once imagined while you were picking out the perfect colored flowers for your wedding bouquet.  So plan the wonderful wedding, it will be a beautiful day to remember when the clothes dryer dies, the microwave dies, and the car wont start all on the same day you woke up with the flu and the youngest just puked all the way down the hall, and you're the only one there to clean it up.  Those days will come (and more often than you think) and you'll want to be ready for them, as much as you were ready to walk down the aisle in your stunning gown.

Now, advice being a lot like opinions (and we all know what they say about those - they're a lot like armpits, and some really stink) this advice may or may not work or sit well with you, personally. It has however worked for me, and if in some small way I can pass it on and make someone else's life a little easier for it, then that makes me happy.

I'd like to hear from you too.  Either in the comments or on your own blog, if you'd like to share some advice (in any area) that was given to you, that really helped or made your life easier in some way.  If you decide to blog a little advice post for your readers, please do leave a link in the comments?

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