Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Out of Order

When we can't find anything else to blame for our behavior or our idiosyncrasies, my two sisters and I naturally blame our parents. When that's a bit of a stretch, we like to at least give them peripheral blame, as the producers and directors of our family birth order.

Being members of a three-sibling family (although we are now, at least theoretically, mature adults), the simple Oldest/Middle/Youngest Child birth order has been our easy scapegoat for an array of characteristics.

See, we grew up in the sixties and seventies, when the average family size consisted of 2.5 children.

I, apparently, was the .5, making me not fully qualify as a complete human being. As the Youngest, I allowed this diminished existence to roll off my shoulders, because Youngests are easygoing "peacekeepers." (In retrospect, that trait is likely developed as a result of being tortured by older siblings.) Youngests are also said to be "spoiled." Yes, I got away with loads more than did my older sisters, but I tend to differ with the idea that I was pampered. If I was truly the center of my parents' universe, would my mother have left me behind at the beauty salon when I was six, with her reflecting on my absence only after someone questioned my whereabouts?

No, she had no opportunity to pamper me. She was too busy dealing with my sister DC who, as a Middle Child, was occupied with "trying to be unique." The Middle Child tends to feel attention-starved. In DC's case, she found ways of distinguishing herself. She learned to ride a unicycle and to juggle, and when these activities didn't seem to do the trick, she took to sticking voodoo pins in all my dolls. An example of unique or of deranged? Regardless, it was an attention-getter. (She grabbed more attention with her memoir: http://dcstanfa.com/.)

And however my parents might have decided to treat either of us, it didn't really matter. Because most of the decisions in our house were made by Lori. It did us little good to argue with Lori. Lori was the Oldest Child. Destined to be an attorney long before she got her law degree, her first-born leadership trait (read: bossiness) could sometimes work to our benefit. (Oh, she negotiated a BIG CASE for me, after my dad found my contraband when I was 16.) It could also work against us. (Our principal, Sister Ann, labeled her a "ringleader" at our Catholic grade school, and the reputation carried down, however undeserved or not.)

Birth order, in our family and in most families of our generation, meant something. It's why many presidents have been Oldest Children, many entrepreneurs are Middle Children, and many comedians are Youngest Children. We do what we what is expected of us, thanks to our parents' birth control practices (or lack thereof).

Sadly, the Blame of the Birth Order doesn't carry the same weight now as it once did. The average family currently consists of only 1.8 children. Parents with one or two children can't easily pinpoint these birth order traits. Of my two sons, my oldest has called his brother the bossy one, and my youngest has said his older brother was spoiled.

And where does all this leave my niece and my nephew, who are each an Only Child? In family-dynamic chaos perhaps. A bit of the Oldest and the Youngest, wrapped into one, and altogether neglecting--not without irony there--the Middle?

Bring me back the predictability, the semblance of understood order of the 2.5-children families. We knew who we were. We knew what was expected of us. We knew whom and what to blame.

Bring it back.

I'm the youngest, after all. So I should get what I want.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Filling the Bucket

I sat down recently to write a blog post, and ended up instead drafting my Bucket List.

It's not for public consumption because: a) It still needs refining, and b) Some items may be embarrassing, illegal or a combination of both.

Just to clarify: I have not been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, and I'd like to think I still have another 30-plus quality years ahead of me.

However, it's never too soon to make plans for the rest of our life, is it?

I suppose such a list must be fluid, changing with the ebb and flow of our personal world. If I'd written such a list at age 11, it would have included meeting David Cassidy. (David? Are you reading this? I've moved on, but if you'd like, call me!) At 18, my list would have included hang-gliding. (Sprained my ankle the very night before I was scheduled to go. Now, I'm afraid to fly on a jet, let alone jump off a cliff with just a pair of flimsy wings and naive enthusiasm.)

Our plans and priorities change. But as we get older, our most steadfast dreams of accomplishments and experiences seem to endure. Perhaps we should think about that to-do list while we're still of able body and able mind. While we still have decades to tackle it.

Plan and save for that dream trip before we're living off a fixed income. Take that class before we forget why we wanted to learn about something. Pursue that thrill-seeking adventure before our doctor or our fears nix the idea.

Make the list now, and start checking off items, one by one.

Excuse the cliche, but time flies. If we wait too long? We may find ourselves afraid of flying along with it.

So, what's on your Bucket List?

And does anyone have David Cassidy's phone number? Because I can't wait around forever for him to call.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Top Ten Reasons to Consume Mass Quantities of Caffeine

10) Might have been best to be alert before hitting "send" and emailing that totally off-color joke to your in-laws and entire corporate board.

9) Four out of five doctors recommend a morning pulse.

8) Operating heavy machinery while under the influence of no caffeine is more dangerous than doing so after 12 beers.

7) Caffeine-deprived women will pull a tampon out of their purse at a morning meeting and try to write with it, just trust me.

6) Your name. Your address. Your marital status. Too easy to forget these minor details without a daily jumpstart.

5) OMG! No caffeine? Just kill me! Now!

4) The workday, sadly, doesn't begin at noon.

3) Liquor tends to be socially frowned upon at 8 a.m.

2) A can of sardines and an airline-sized bottle of vodka packed during a pre-caffeine stupor do not a child's school lunch make.

1) "Morning talk we'll good later me after caffeine lots OK?"

Monday, January 11, 2010

As the Eagle Soars

I have never been a quitter.

Sure, I was kicked out of Junior Achievement at age 14 (clearly not Entrepreneur of the Year), kicked out of CYO Basketball at 12 (clearly not Most Valuable Player) and kicked out of Girl Scouts at 10 (clearly just a bit of a shit when I was entering the sixth grade).

But I never quit anything. No, if something in my youth demanded a great deal of dedication and effort, I found it easier and more entertaining to just get myself officially dismissed.

In retrospect, perhaps it was my fool-proof way of avoiding true failure. Because what I likely lacked, early on, was a work ethic. That, plus a demonstration of self-control and appropriate behavior. (Please don't think less of me for this.) (Hmm. Is that even possible?)

I have a work ethic now which might make even Donald Trump proud. I haven't been kicked out of a single organization, or been fired, in my entire adulthood. And I still haven't quit anything. (Except countless diet and exercise programs. Give me a break here.)

But that work ethic is nothing of which to be particularly proud. It's expected of a middle-aged adult. And it took me thirty-something years to nurture it.

Son #2, at age 18, has already had it for years.

Tomorrow, he will officially receive his Eagle Scout badge. The honor is the culmination of years of Scouting activity, hours of training, and days of volunteer efforts.

It's just one of many accomplishments he has already achieved. In his short life, he's accomplished more in the areas of academics, athletics, career and social service than many young people even consider.

I won't elaborate, because like any good son, he reads his mother's blog. And I embarrass him enough on a daily basis. Suffice it to say, I'm more than a little proud of him.

Not bad for a kid who, at age 2, was kicked out of his daycare center.

They clearly didn't know what they'd be missing.

Monday, January 4, 2010

So Close and Yet So Far

Ah, the end of a year--of an entire decade--and the fresh start of a new one. Time to reflect upon our accomplishments. We've come so far in 2009. And yet...

NASA found water on the moon, but aviation security failed to find explosives on an airline passenger.

The people of the United States became open-minded enough to finally elect a (half) black man as president, yet still displayed century-old prejudice through a symbolic effigy hanging.

Electronic media technology allowed immediate and widespread dissemination of news, but the interpretation of newsworthy remained questionable (endless marriage scandals), self-serving (Balloon Boy's father), or sometimes both (the Gosselins).

Paul McCartney, at 67, showed us he can still make heavenly music, but John Lennon is making music only in heaven.

College enrollment for young people in the U.S. is at an all-time high, especially among women. Stats for educated females in Afghanistan? Not so great.

Attributed partially to the bad economy, the U.S. divorce rate dropped slightly. And state governments are making a special effort to keep gay marriage divorce rates particularly low. (Oops. Sorry. Forgot my blog vow to avoid controversy.)

Medical scientists were successful in quickly creating a vaccine for a new strain of flu, but have been unable yet to prevent AIDS or cancer.

More than 350 million people are finding "friends" on Facebook, yet the keywords "people estranged from family" still manage over 3 million hits on Google.

So close, and yet so far. Happy New Year, all. And in 2010, may all our dreams for a happy and peaceful world come true.