Category Archives: Family

Stepping out

1st stepsTwenty-one years ago, days shy of her first birthday, I let go of her chubby little hand and away she went.

Then she kept on going. In preschool, she was queen of the monkey bars. In junior kindergarten, the most popular girl in the class. In fourth grade she had a reputation on the soccer field as being the player who made the most spectacular tumbles but popped right back up and raced down the field to get the ball back.

With a sense of her own gifts as a leader, she seemed to relish being in the middle of the action, wherever that was. And whether it was orating in the Damon Speech contest, or portraying Viola in Twelfth Night, or the many times she stood, bedecked in paʻu, lei poʻo and kupeʻe on various kahua hula — to be on stage was like being home to her.

When she was four, she was in her first performance on an elevated stage at the Waikiki Hoʻolauleʻa. After their final number, the little dancers left the stage to great applause. Eager to praise and congratulate her, I raced backstage to find her dissolved into tears. “I want to go back up there!” she wailed. “Why can’t I do it again?”

When it comes to stepping out on her own, my girl is just getting warmed up. At 22, having long since let go of my hand, she has all the confidence she needs to make her own way in the life that lies before her.

So today I blow her a virtual kiss, and with a heart full of pride, watch her step out into the adventure of adulthood.

Happy Birthday, my angel. E kūlia i ka nuʻu: strive for the highest.

Trouble in paradise

Look, I understand that listening to someone who lives in a tropical paradise whine about her problems is not what you signed on for, but can I just have one more swing at it? Then, I promise, pau.

First whine: I’ve gotten accustomed to people (and when I say people, I’m including the quadruped member of the family) being healthy around here, fully functioning and at the top of their games. So when they’re not, it’s a bit of a challenge for yours truly.

Three weeks ago, it was our boy who suffered surgery on the sole of his foot. Originally there was thought to be an inclusion cyst there; turns out it was a rather large plantar wart. Upshot: doctor’s orders to be 100% non-weight bearing on the foot for a full three weeks. Crutches only, no walking, no driving even. Definitely no surfing, which is probably the biggest difficulty of all.

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I was going to say this looks worse than it is, but the truth is, it’s exactly that bad.

So, it has fallen to me to do for him all that he cannot do for himself. I do however draw the line at  bathing; it’s been a couple decades since I’ve had that responsibility, and that’s exactly as it should be. I did go to the pharmacy and purchase a bath bench and a special plastic bag for covering his leg so that he could perform his own ablutions without compromising the dressing, so you can’t say I’m not doing my part.

But that still leaves making his breakfast (and washing the dishes), packing his lunch for work, then driving him to work and picking him up in the afternoon. Then making his dinner and washing those dishes (which I’d be doing anyway, so that sort of doesn’t count). It feels almost exactly the same as having a school-age child, which, as I recall: I DID THAT ALREADY.

And on top of all that, my four-legged baby also had to have surgery last week to remove a few cysts on his tummy and chest. Which means the poor guy has been relegated to the Cone of Shame. So I’ve been administering pain pills and antibiotics and wrestling him into the COS so that he won’t lick or chew the stitches. Bless his heart, he’s been awfully patient with me and the whole process; I think if I were in his shoes — paws? — there might be some inadvertent biting here and there.

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Such a good boy

And finally there’s the fact that I may or may not be about to have a birthday in a couple weeks, to which I have to say: UGH.

I know, I know; as my dad used to say, any day above ground is better than the alternative. But can I just say, birthdays at this age and stage just serve to remind me that I get to deal with fun stuff like:

  • hot flashes
  • a weird bald spot on my forehead
  • growths
  • those pesky seven pounds I mysteriously put on in the past nine months, that appear to have no intention of going anywhere anytime soon, South Beach be damned
  • being closer to 60 than to 50

The good news is my birthday consistently falls during Spring Break, a week off for The Coach, so for the past twenty-plus years I’ve celebrated on a (mostly) annual ski trip to Colorado. Maybe it seems odd that an island girl would enjoy snow skiing in the Rockies, but I learned to ski — and got hooked — in college, and ever since it’s been the best vacation activity I can imagine.

The bad news is this year we are staying home. That has to do with the construction being approximately a month away from completion, and we have yet to make a decision about the wood for the bathroom cabinets, a ceiling fan, wall-mounted (or table?) lamps for the bedsides, a desk or desk design for the southwest corner, and a bookshelf configuration for the northwest corner. Plus the fact that a new bedroom and bathroom cost roughly ten times your average ski week. So, okay, I can live without a ski trip this time. However, I’m also missing our girl’s birthday. Hers is the day after mine, so we have always had a joint, two-day celebration.

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What my baby girl and I WON’T be doing on our birthdays this year

But for the first time in 22 years, we won’t be together on our birthdays. Which I’m trying my hardest not to dwell on, because it just makes me more blue. Recently when our girl and I have had a chance to talk — which hasn’t been often, given my various commitments [see above] and hers (being a junior in college; nuff said) — she has asked me what I’d like for my birthday.

Oh, Sis, where do I start? I just want to hang out with you, go get pedicures, tell funny stories about the night you were born, eat cake and pretend all the other nonsense [see above] isn’t happening.

That would be a great birthday present, but I suppose I can live with its deferral. Time moves on, after all. Stitches will be removed, crutches and Cones of Shame eighty-sixed, and building projects completed. It’s even possible I’ll come up with a solution to the pesky seven pounds.

So, there’s nothing left to do but wind down the whine. Thanks for letting me get it off my chest.

Now back to our regularly scheduled P in P programming. Look! Sunrise over Koko Head:

IMG_0400I feel better now.

Random thoughts for Friday

1. Tonight The Coach and I are going out for dinner at a nice restaurant for Valentine’s Day. Yeah, we know it was yesterday; the flowers have already begun to wilt and the chocolates melt. But you know what? This way works for us. For one thing, yesterday was a school night. Kind of hard for teachers to go out for Date Night when they know they’ll be waking up, as usual, the next morning at 5:00. Plus, when you’ve been married 27 years, you have quite a few Valentine’s Days under your belt and so it’s okay to let them go by with just a card and a kiss on the actual day. Also, unless you started planning shortly after New Year’s, do you know how hard it is to get a reservation anywhere on February 14th? At our age and stage, let the kids have ’em; we’ll just settle for the next day, after the crowds subside.

2. But I’m going to ask our waiter how many proposals happened last night. Assuming young men are still into that sort of thing. I really have no idea, but from what I hear, it seems like men of what used to be known as marriageable age are either putting off the whole proposal/getting married thing or just forgoing it altogether. Which you can understand, given that they have, at that age, bigger fish to fry. Like getting a good job — or any job. In order to pay off their mountains of student loan debt. Then, when they’ve got all that more or less under control, you think they’re going to want to take it on all over again, with a big Say Yes to the Dress-type wedding? Not hardly.

3. Our boy falls into that “marriageable age” category, and is actually seeing someone who could potentially be a spouse, so I suppose I have a close-range view of that whole phenomenon. At 25, he’s in no hurry whatsoever to take that step; doesn’t feel ready for it all, and says so. By comparison, his grandfather, at age 25, had already been married for two years and had a baby. So there you go. Times change.

4. And anyway, I’m not ready to be a grandmother — although I could handle mother-in-law, I suppose — so this works out fine for all parties. Although it’s Kupuna [Grandparents] Day today for the kindergartners at The Coach’s school, and he’s having to fill in for a couple of the little ones’ absent grandparents. So I guess he’s getting some practice at it.

5. Speaking of our boy, it’s a good thing he does have a job with benefits, because he’s about to go in for minor surgery on his foot, next Tuesday. He seems pretty relaxed about the whole thing, which is quite a relief because his tendency is to be somewhat, shall we say, dramatic about anything involving needles in his personal space. I went with him the other day for his pre-op medical clearance appointment, and when the nurse suggested he get a flu shot as long as he was there, you’d have thought she’d just asked him to donate a kidney. Wimp.

6. One of my New Year’s Resolutions has to do with a better — maybe the word is regular — job with my housekeeping chores. It would be great, I thought, to hire someone to come every other week or so. But that’s not exactly in the budget, so then I had the brilliant idea of “hiring” myself to do it. I mark on my calendar the days the “cleaning lady” is supposed to be here, then I set aside those days to do all the things a real cleaning lady would do. If I had one, that is. So far this has worked exactly … once. I totally skipped it this week, but in my defense (I can’t believe I’m “defending” myself over this. So lame.), what with all the construction going on, what would be the point?

7. I’ve had it in mind to post more regularly about life in my Hawaii, as I did last October. Little ideas for topics pop into my head from time to time, but as you can see, I haven’t gotten around to it yet. (Is it just me or does this whole post seem like it has way too many run-on sentences with commas sprayed everywhere like so much, um, fertilizer? If so, sorry.) Anyway, one of my ideas came from a sort of field trip The Coach and I took to a farm last weekend. I took a bunch of pictures to show what a Hawaiian farm looks like, and how it differs from farms elsewhere. So in lieu — or in advance — of a whole post, here’s a couple shots of the crop, taro (kalo, in Hawaiian):

Taro is grown in muddy-water rice paddy type plots known as lo`i. The one on the left has been recently planted; the one on the right is more mature but not yet ready to harvest. And yes, it’s raining.

Here’s what a taro plant looks like up close. In the Hawaiian diet, the whole plant is used, from the root, which is where poi comes from, to the leaves.

Just like Lewis & Clark, only traveling from the other direction

This is Part I of the story of our “move” later this year. I can’t fit the whole thing into one post, so it’ll have To Be Continued…

We all know Horace Greeley’s counsel: “Go West, young man.” Ever the contrarian (as well as neither young nor a man), I am turning that on its head, and going East.

The other day as I was scribbling some memoir-ish thoughts about how I made the decision to move back to Hawaii from California three-score years ago, my memories were filled with the usual Hawaii imagery: sea, sand, sunsets, palm trees — and how they all combined to persuade me that leaving the mainland then was best for my twenty-something self.

That turned out to be a very good decision, because two years later I met a guy who also was born and raised here, went to California for college, then moved back home. We fell in love (Happy Valentine’s Day, Honey!), got married, and were perfectly content with the idea of living happily ever after here on our little island in the middle of the Pacific.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the mainland. Some of my best friends live there.

But sometimes circumstances — in our case, an opportunity plus a certain fatigue — combine to persuade you to go back the other way, which is how we will later this year be heading off to Oregon.

But not forever; only for about four months. So not exactly a move, per se. But kind of.

The opportunity happened because our girl, a junior in a lovely liberal arts college in Oregon, is volleyball player like her dad. She was recruited out of high school by a coach who is also an old friend of ours, a guy who grew up here. For the past three years, he has been dropping hints to The Coach to come up there and be his assistant.

All that time The Coach has had his own team to be responsible for, so it was easy to brush off all the hint-dropping. But the fact is, coaching high school girls has gotten a little less fun every year. No doubt about it, his team has done consistently well, he loves his players, and they love him back. However.

The parents. Oh, those parents.

Parents of student athletes these days can be, you know, you’ve heard all the stories … nightmarish. A couple years ago The Coach started to feel a little like Rick in The Walking Dead: a survivor surrounded by flesh-eating zombies. At one point he had to say, that’s it; no more parents in the gym, watching practices and questioning the goings-on therein.

While possibly trying to eat some poor coach’s brains.

Of course not every parent is that way, but still, it’s a wonder anyone signs on to coach any high school sport anymore. After 30 years, The Coach knew that he had seen it all and done it all — at the high school level — and why not just step away from it before total burnout set in? So the hint-dropping began to have its desired effect and the idea of coaching our girl in her senior season took root.

But how to make that happen? Because actually coaching is just a part-time gig for him: his full-time, i.e., “real,” job is teaching P.E. to young elementary students. Which, as you might imagine, keeps him plenty busy. Ever tried keeping up with, much less instructing, two dozen six- and seven-year-olds on a playground for 35 minutes straight, six times a day? I rest my case.

So, to sum up: 30 years of coaching teenagers plus the same 30 years of teaching little kids, equals oh man, am I tired and in need of a break.

As in, a sabbatical. But not a sabbatical to coach volleyball, exactly. In order for him to get approval to do this, he has to be studying something or working on a project that he can show is going to make his teaching, when he comes back from the sabbatical, ever so much better.

The project he came up with, proposed, and will be working on while coaching our girl and her team in Oregon, is pretty cool. But it’s a story — with pictures! — for another day. So stay tuned.

The invisible (wo)man

Honolulu is a big city, nearly a million people live on my little island, but really it’s just a largish small town.

Put in terms of degrees of separation: if you’ve lived here for any amount of time, especially if you were born and raised here, we’re talking more like one or two, certainly not six.

A month ago The Coach achieved a bit of a milestone with respect to his coaching career. Let’s just say it was a very, very good night for The Coach and his team.

That night he received over 20 congratulatory text messages, and nearly as many emails.

The following night, a Saturday, we had been invited to go out to dinner with our best friends, and upon entering the restaurant — which is a pretty small restaurant, by the way; maybe two dozen tables — we saw three couples we knew, who all made a point of coming over to our table to shake The Coach’s hand and congratulate him on his achievement of the night before.

Sunday morning, The Coach and I went out for breakfast at our favorite little (yes, also tiny; what is it with us and small eateries?) neighborhood coffee shop, and two more people recognized him and offered congratulations.

So I’m married to something of a local celebrity. Which is kind of a challenge for me, on a couple levels. For one, I don’t possess even close to the same kind of face or name recognition that my husband does. In fact, apparently I have an ordinary, sort of forgettable face, because it’s rare for people to remember me, even after being introduced to me multiple times. This happens all the time.

On the other hand, no one ever forgets The Coach. So therefore, in these sorts of public situations, we’re kind of having the opposite experience.

I’ve gotten used to it. I admit it’s still irksome to have to re-introduce myself to people I already know, but because I no longer expect people to remember me, I’m mostly done being overly bothered by it. I’ve accepted my invisibility.

And being invisible is not so bad. In a way it’s a good fit for my personality type, which is introverted. (INFJ, for you Myers-Briggs folks.) Being invisible allows me to do a certain amount of observation, while I’m going mostly unobserved. Meaning that, while you’re engaged in conversation with The Coach and ignoring and/or forgetting me, I, on the other hand, am mentally salting away all sorts of information about you.

I’m not saying I missed my calling or anything, but I might have made a good spy. Hmm, I wonder if the CIA has any openings for middle-aged, nondescript matrons. Because I think I can do invisible like a pro.

29 years

Every year on December 5th, The Coach and I celebrate our anniversary.

And by “anniversary,” I don’t mean our wedding anniversary. It’s the anniversary of our first date.

And by “celebrate,” I don’t mean we actually have a celebration of some kind. More like we remember the day, or recognize it, or briefly acknowledge it.

And by “every year,” I don’t mean every year, exactly. Often, in the past two or fifteen years or so, only one of us may have remembered December 5th and gotten a card or something (this year: yours truly). I have to admit that some years both of us have forgotten the day. More than once, several days will have gone by when one of us will say, “Hey, wasn’t December 5th a few days ago?”

Anyway, 29 years ago, The Coach and I went on our first date. It was not your conventional dinner-and-a-movie type of thing, which may have been part of why it was so much fun. And why we still celebrate it. Only, not exactly, er, celebrate [see above].

This is where I could probably throw in a whole bunch of cliches about how 29 years ago I never could have imagined what my/our life would be like at this point, blah blah blah. It pretty much goes without saying, right?

I mean, today I’ve washed a whole bunch of dishes, done a load of laundry, scrubbed two bathrooms, washed some windows, and gotten the spare bedroom ready for a houseguest. And that was before lunch. But after I had made breakfast and The Coach’s lunch, read the paper, did the crossword, walked the dog and paid a couple bills.

On my “anniversary.” Somebody bust out the champagne.

So, yeah, maybe not exactly the future I pictured 29 years ago, but whose is? And anyway, you know what I think is the point of celebrating/recognizing/acknowledging (let’s face it: HAVING) a 29th first-date anniversary? It’s that it serves as a reminder that, no matter what the ride has been like for nearly three decades on our roller coaster of life — we got off to a pretty good start.

This was not our first date, but maybe four days later. Good grief, we were young

This was taken at a party a few days after our first date. Good grief, we were young.

Thanksgiving reflections II

I’m just a tad frazzled at the moment, what with all that’s on my pre-holiday to-do list (and our girl comes home tomorrow! Hulō!), and for some crazy reason I scheduled three appointments today which have me driving all over Creation Honolulu. So perhaps it’s best for all of us if I just re-post a Thanksgiving reflection.

Here’s something I did about a year ago, when I was engaged in remembering people from my past:

She came from American aristocracy: her maiden name was Adams, and her family had been in this country for who knows how many generations. And she came from money; her father was a banker in San Francisco who had hobnobbed with the robber barons.

So she was accustomed to a certain way, not to mention quality, of life. I got my first glimpse of this when I, recently engaged to her grandson, was invited to Thanksgiving in her home. At just the right time, after a time of cocktails and polite chitchat on the lanai, we were asked to make our way to the dining room for dinner. That the table was lavishly set you can imagine; each place setting had multiple pieces of china, crystal, and silver to contend with. And a finger bowl.

Now, I was — am — no country bumpkin. My mother had schooled me well enough in etiquette in my growing-up years (and believe it or not, I got further instruction in college, of all places) that I knew which fork was which and that my bread plate was on the left and so forth. I also knew not to pick up my spoon and start on the soup course before the hostess did. But it was my very first encounter with finger bowls.

For people to whom appearances matter, how one conducts oneself in these types of social situations makes all the difference. It was clear to me that this was a whole new ball game, and while I definitely did not have the home field advantage, for my fiance’s sake, I had to step up. So I did.

Nonchalance was my middle name, but you better believe I was carefully watching the rest of the group, taking my cues from them. The staff, two elderly Japanese ladies in starched white dresses and aprons, came in with each course and served us individually, always from the left (recently I saw this played out briefly in “The Help” — did you catch it? when a maid tries to serve one of the white ladies from her right side, and the lady, with a frown, makes her shift over to the left).

I might have been just a split-second behind the rest of the group that night, but I think I gave a pretty seamless performance. I got thrown off slightly during the dessert course when Misayo was attempting to serve me hard sauce and I thought it was ice cream. I’d never seen hard sauce before. And frankly, I can’t recommend it.

Anyway, when it came time to use the finger bowl, I peeked under my lashes and watched Baba, then daintily dipped my own fingertips in the warm, flower-scented water. No one would ever have guessed it was my first time.

I was there again many times over the years, of course, and always behaved utterly appropriately; I knew what was expected of me in that situation. She never said anything — that wouldn’t have been her way — but I knew I had her approval. And for my part, I knew, though would never have told her: I wasn’t about to be intimidated by a little finger bowl.

photo credit: diplomatickitchen.com

I am hosting the dinner again this year, and definitely busting out the good china and silver, but sadly, there won’t be any finger bowls.

Thanksgiving reflections I

The spring of my sophomore year in high school, one of my best friends, Gail, got word that her dad had been offered and had accepted a job that meant they would moving back to the mainland.

This was all fine and dandy with Gail’s two younger sisters and her parents, but it was not at all fine with Gail. And because it wasn’t with Gail, it wasn’t with me.

So the two of us hatched a plot. We decided that since by the fall of the next school year my older brother would have moved out to attend college in Indiana, Gail could just stay on in Hawaii and live in my house, thus being able to finish her last two years at our high school.

We arranged a meeting of the two families to talk this proposal over, and somewhat to our surprise, our parents agreed. (Then we left it to the four adults to work out the details of figuring out Gail’s room and board, and other arrangements we weren’t capable of wrapping our adolescent minds around.)

I have to digress for just a moment to say: Do you know anyone who would do this nowadays? Just leave their 15-year-old daughter to live with an unrelated family for two years, 5000 miles distant, and trust that everything would be all right? I don’t think I do. Still amazes me, 40 years later, that we pulled it off.

Anyway, although Gail and I were the same age and the same grade and both mostly easy-going individuals, our first couple months in this new arrangement were bound to have their rocky moments, and in fact they did. We struggled a bit to get along until finally we reached a pivotal point where, from then on, all was well.

It happened on Thanksgiving.

My memory’s a bit vague, but as I recall, we had spent the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving just sort of sniping at each other: not flat out fighting, but not really getting along all that great. I’m sure there were tears. My poor mom must have been wondering how she was going to manage cooking for a bunch of guests and at the same time be there for a hanai (foster) daughter who was spending her first Thanksgiving away from home and family.

One of the families that was invited to our home that year was the Wilsons*. Mrs. Wilson was a colleague of my mom’s, and had what you might call a splenetic personality: she seemed to be perpetually in a state of ill-humor. At least that was our teenage perspective; I’m sure she was probably a totally decent, happy person.

Anyway, we were barely into the first course when Mrs. Wilson, after asking several questions about our temporary adoption arrangement, pronounced that it would never work: “By the end of the two years, they most certainly won’t still be friends,” was I think how she put it.

Gail and I looked at each other. At that moment, we could see in each other’s eyes, we had the same thought. The two of us, not in any kind of athletic way, but in more of a psycho-emotional way, are deeply competitive. (I don’t have time to go into our online Scramble games; suffice to say that neither of us likes to lose to the other.) And the gauntlet had just been thrown.

We determined then and there that no matter what, we would stick together and make this thing work, if for no other reason than to prove Mrs. Wilson wrong. I’m sure Mrs. Wilson had no idea that she became the motivation for the success of our relationship going forward. But that day, with our plates before us piled up with turkey and trimmings (because we had also planned some sort of challenge to out-eat each other — competitive; told you), was the beginning of Gail and me becoming not just best friends, but sisters.

Because in the end — and we had a private little commemorative moment on our graduation day — we could proudly tell Mrs. Wilson or anybody that we had weathered those two years and most certainly were still friends. Now, every Thanksgiving day, Gail and I make a point to call each other to say Happy Thanksgiving, and we always remember Mrs. Wilson and the challenge she put before us, and how it changed everything.

Happy Thanksgiving, Sister!

*names changed to protect the not-so-innocent

Random thoughts for Friday

It feels like I’ve been drifting about this morning without a coherent thought in my head.

Unfortunately, this is the norm for me.

And I would love to post something that tells an interesting story or makes a certain point — a point! what a concept! — but at the moment I’m afraid the best I can come up with is sort of a random list.

We’ll get back to the whole point thing on another occasion. She said, hopefully.

1. I have to go to the store today to buy milk, which reminds me of a weird postcard that came in the mail yesterday. It was a legal notice, regarding a class action related to organic milk. I know, right? — Huh? Apparently there’s a suit claiming that a certain organic milk dairy, which supplies to Costco, Safeway and other retailers, “violated state consumer fraud and deceptive business practices acts,” and as a purchaser of their milk products I may be entitled to compensation.

Which gives new meaning to the term: “milk money.”

Anyway, I’m trying to figure out what this all means, and more importantly: What did they do to my milk??

2. I also got a call yesterday from my financial advisor that we have, over the years, earned “rewards points” from a certain debit card, and if we don’t use them by December 31st, we lose them. I don’t know about you, but I hate having this kind of pressure hanging over me. Or pressing down on me. Whatever. On the other hand, I think — well, more like I’m crossing my fingers — that we might have enough points for a flight to the mainland, so I’d better get on it.

3. That rewards points thing is a bit frustrating because it falls into the category of Things That I Have Time To Do And The Coach Doesn’t, Because He’s Teaching Children All Day Long And I’m Not, So It’s Easier For Me To Do It, But I Can’t Because The Account Is In His Name.

I need to figure out a shorter name for that category.

4. So Thanksgiving is looming ominously right around the corner, which I may have mentioned once or eighteen times, and I’m making progress on my grocery list but still have quite a ways to go. Like the bird, for one thing. (If I were smart, I’d pick up a few things when I am at the store later getting the hopefully-not-tainted organic milk, but that may or may not happen. Which may or may not be a reflection on my, um, smartness.)

You know what I have the hardest time with, with Thanksgiving? Not the cooking; the cleaning. It just seems endless.

And I hate to admit this kind of first world problem, but I have two refrigerators and at the moment they are both full. So I’m not sure where the Thanksgiving stuff is going to go unless I get busy clearing out the fridges. Sigh; one more thing.

5. Lately I’ve been having more what I’ve come to think of as old lady moments. Like the other morning when I woke up, creaked and groaned, and thought, “I may have overdone it a bit yesterday with the exercise.” And I hadn’t even done all that much. And you know that book of Nora Ephron’s called, “I Feel Bad About My Neck”? Let’s just say I’m getting to that point myself, neck-wise.

6. A number of years ago I “had my colors done,” you know, where they do this analysis on you and tell you what colors you should and shouldn’t wear. Turns out I should never, ever wear black. Which most of the time I’m fine with, because I don’t care much for black anyway. But there’s this one holiday party that The Coach and I attend every year that’s a little dressy, and I found this darling Little Black Dress online that I really want to buy for it, but … I’m not supposed to wear black.

Sorry; another first world dilemma there.

And side note to The Coach: I’m thinking it’s time to change your look up. The black suit? Maybe not this year.

7. I’m super excited that our girl is coming home for Thanksgiving, except for one thing: the four of us will be sharing a bathroom. Ever since the Great Master Bath Shower Disaster of three or four months ago (story for another time), The Coach and I have been using the kids’ bathroom down the hall. Then our boy moved back in, which made three of us sharing, and by next week it will be four. Four full grown adults. And all their products.

Another side note to The Coach: this bathroom remodeling project? Is it ever going to happen?

8. Now for a little weather update: Today is the first day that it kind of feels like fall here. It’s a bit overcast, but not raining, there’s a nice cool breeze — just a tiny indication that we might be in for something other than sweltering, for a change.

9. Have you ever noticed that the people who go on and on about how we all must be more tolerant, and not stand for intolerance wherever it rears its ugly head — are really kind of like, um, bullies about it? Just sayin’.

10. It bothers me a little that I haven’t posted anything with a picture since I finished the 31 Days thing a couple weeks ago. I don’t necessarily have anything I can think of to show you, though, so I’m just going to throw up this random shot from my photo library, of a sunrise in Fiji:

Doesn’t have anything to do with anything, but it’s pretty, no?

Have a great weekend!

There are two kinds of people in the world …

Yesterday I was chatting on the phone with my mom about Thanksgiving next week, and the lead-in to the Christmas shopping season.

“Soon,” she said, “it will be time to go on our annual shopping trip.”

“Oh, right!” I replied. Translation: “Ugh.”

My mom, an elderly widow, has more or less lost her confidence in her own ability to buy gifts for people. I’m not sure when this all happened, because there used to be a time when she was quite a respectable shopper and gift-giver.

But now, for kids’ and grandkids’ birthdays, she mostly gives gift cards or cash, and for Christmas, she makes me asks me to take her to the mall, where I pick out gifts for all the people on my side and she pays for them.

I love my mom so much, but this event is really challenging for me. I’m thankful it only comes once a year. Because when it comes to shopping for Christmas, we ascribe to different philosophies.

You know how when people want to make a certain point they’ll say that there are two kinds of people in the world? Then they go on to describe two antithetical human characteristics and place everyone in one or the other of those categories. Well, I happen to believe there are two kinds of gift givers, and in this sense my mom and I are … opposites.

One type of gift giver wants to give you something you really want or need, and will directly or indirectly try to figure out from you what that is. Then they will go out and buy you that exact thing, and when you open it up on Christmas morning, there it is: the very thing you said you wanted. A tidy little arrangement, with minimal surprise.

The other type of giver doesn’t necessarily consult the recipient, but instead thinks, “Based on what I know about this person, I think he/she would appreciate having X,” then goes out and finds X and wraps up a gift that will most likely be more of a surprise than in the first scenario.

Granted, the risk the second type of giver takes is that she will have read the signals wrong and gotten a gift that for whatever reason is less than appreciated by the recipient. But success hinges on that conditional: “Based on what I know about this person.” In other words, there’s a little more work — in the sense of thoughtfulness — involved in this type of gift-giving.

I believe the burden is on you, the gift-giver, to know who you’re giving to. And I get that it’s hard during the stress of the Christmas season to get it exactly right with every single person on your gift list, but still: when we’re talking about your family, shouldn’t you sort of have a clue as to what might float somebody’s boat? Or at the very least, you get them something you think “looks” like them, you know?

(And as you can imagine I tend to have a hard time when people approach me with the dreaded question: “What do you want for Christmas?” My answer is usually — through clenched teeth — “Oh, you know me; whatever you think I’d enjoy.” I’m still trying to make converts, but I suppose it’s a lost cause.)

Oh, well. The way I’ve learned to deal with the fact that my mom and I are different in this respect is by changing my expectations for her (and probably more importantly: for myself). Our little system, where I select all the gifts and she pays for them, works for her, so it has to work for me. So here’s what I do: I just make a separate gift list of all the people she wants to buy for — based on what I know about them — then we go straight to each place where those things are, buy them, and we’re outta there.

That’s right: no browsing, no “What do you think of this idea?” — no discussion of the merits of one over the other. A shirt and a pair of pants: perfect; box it up, and let’s go.

This requires me to behave like the first kind of gift-giver, which obviously I’m not, but if I unclench my teeth and think of it as something like having fluency in a foreign language, well, then I guess it’s win-win for everybody.

Plus it’s something I get to do for my mom, and isn’t that, at least somewhat, what Christmas is about?