Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Extreme Sibling Rivalry

                                                                                                Julie Kemp Pick

The holidays bring out the best and the worst in families. My brother and I don't necessarily see eye to eye on everything, but he is always the first person to make me laugh when I need it the most. We could be arguing one minute, not talking the next, and yet he'll still come through for me in his own way.

Recently, I asked him a medical question, and within seconds he told me to pull up my yearly test results online. Though he is not a doctor, he spent more time explaining every detail of  a routine CBC (complete blood count), than any of my own doctors ever did. For example, if your RBC  (red blood count) is low, you may need to add more iron to your diet, but it's important to discuss it with your doctor first. Of course this conversation kept me in my pajamas through lunchtime, but knowledge is fuel for the brain.

Although my brother has battled devastating health issues since childhood, it is with his research on diet and exercise that he has become his own medical miracle. Through it all, my brother never complained and always approached every obstacle with strength and humor. He inspired my boys to start working out at an early age, and they continue to spend quality time together at the gym with my husband.

This brings me to a letter I came across in Ask Amy, an advice column featured in the Chicago Tribune. A woman wrote in about her half-sister who lost contact with her family after an incident with one of her grown children. The icing on the cake was that she "...refused to celebrate birthdays and holidays with us anymore. No gift, no card."  Lost in Lauderdale decided to take matters into her own hands when she contacted her half-sister's bosses to let them know, "She has on more than one occasion helped herself to pens and Post-it notes from her workplace."

This was not enough to ease her pain, "I also let the IRS know that she may not have reported all the waitress tips she earned while she worked at a restaurant." Afterward, Lost in Lauderdale was astonished that her family wanted nothing to do with her when her half-sister was clearly the one at fault.

After reading this, I felt quite relieved that I don't have a sister or even daughters. Though I doubt that my daughters would be vicious toward each other. They would probably just repress any ill feelings they had, and take them out on me in my old age. At least, I don't have to worry about my boys behaving that way; that's what their future wives are for.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

SLH Thanksgiving Contest: Pilgrimage To Grandma's

Susanna Leonard Hill is hosting a Thanksgiving Contest to write a 250 word or fewer kids' story or poem beginning with, "They were supposed to go to Grandma's for Thanksgiving, but the blizzard came in fast..." Thanks to Susanna for organizing this event, and be sure to visit the other creative entries. The contest is running through the end of Thanksgiving Day, so join in the fun.

                                              Pilgrimage To Grandma's

They were supposed to go to Grandma's for Thanksgiving,
But the blizzard came in fast.
They tried starting up their snow plow,
It was no use without gas.

Mama quickly gathered supplies,
To fashion homemade skis.
She brought back greasy chopsticks,
So they could zig-zag through the trees.

The children created their own goggles,
With paper clips and transparent tape.
This would surely help them navigate,
Through their blustery escape.

Papa loaded up an empty carton,
Filled with lots of delicious treats.
Including some of Grandma's favorites,
To be gobbled at the feast.

They tied it up with shoelace,
And pulled it with a string.
As they skied down the hillside,
With the grace of soaring wings.

She dropped the pencil with a start,
As her mom barged into her room,
"Time to get ready sweetheart;
Grandma will be here soon."

After her jiggly necked grandma strutted over,
The family all gathered around the stable.
Thankful that they survived another year,
From not being served up on the table.

-Julie Kemp Pick


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Middle Aged Bragging Rights

                                                                                                Julie Kemp Pick

Do you ever notice how some people can't go one minute without bragging? They start at a young age, and every conversation turns into a competition. They go to the best schools, graduate with the best jobs, marry the best spouses, and move into the best homes according to them.

After their gorgeous and gifted children move away, they come to the realization that they have very little to talk about. They're at that awkward age where their bodies are creaking, and their weight is shifting in the wrong places. Trapped in middle aged limbo; too young for retirement, yet too old to sit in a chair without dozing off. If only they had grandchildren to bounce on their knees, before their arthritis kicks in.  Suddenly, a group of friends are gathered around their picnic table bundled up in blankets; beside a roaring fire on a balmy summer evening  playing the latest board game.

It's Toots and Bladders, Battered Hip, and Crazy Mates all rolled into one. The game where it pays to decay. A player draws the first card which asks, "Have you ever had a cyst lanced from your perineum?"  Raymond answers "yes," collects $200, and advances his miniature oxygen tank down the board.  Pearl throws the dice, and lands on Constipation Blvd. Everyone presses their buzzers at once. To break the 4-way tie Lexi shouts out, "How long has it been?"  Pearl answers "5 days," Raymond 3, Lexi 2, and Leonard adds, "since lunchtime."

When Leonard proudly admits to having hair plugs he is forced to move his miniature enema kit into the Unnecessary Cosmetic Procedure Pavilion forfeiting his next turn. Now the competition has shifted from earlier conversations about material possessions to who has the largest surgical scars.  The couples are thrilled to have something to talk about, even if it means battling it out to see who has suffered the most.

Lexi draws the final card which reads, "Congratulations on your 5th anniversary of being cancer-free..." Lexi couldn't believe that her husband and closest friends remembered that it had been almost 5 years to the day since she underwent her last radiation treatment for breast cancer. She was so excited that they went to all the trouble of ordering a customized version of the game just for her. Then she reads the rest of the card, "...and your mother-in-law will be joining in the celebration tomorrow, when she moves in with you after her hip replacement surgery." With that, everyone turns their winnings over to Lexi, after they pry her hands off of Leonard's hair plugs.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

For The Sake Of Arguing

                                                                                               Julie Kemp Pick

The phone rang just as I was about to leave the house.
Mom: It's raining hard now, so you don't have to take me to physical therapy.
Me: But it was raining earlier.
Mom: Yes, but I'll just cancel my appointment. That way you won't get wet.
Me: You weren't worried about that before. I told you I don't mind. Besides, I made you lunch, and didn't you want to go shopping first?
Mom: Yes, but it's too much trouble going back and forth in the rain.
Me: It's not coming down as hard now, and don't you think you need the therapy to get stronger?
Mom: Well if it's not too much trouble.

Later that afternoon my mom told me that I really should be more patient.

This made me think about other ridiculous arguments I've had throughout the years. Shortly after I started driver's ed, my dad suggested that I drive to work. As I was pulling out of the driveway, my mom came home. She hopped in the back seat, while my dad sat by my side. All was calm, until I had to make a left turn without an arrow. My dad was telling me to be assertive and speed up before the light changed, while my mom was telling me to slow down. Instead, I got so nervous that I backed out of the intersection and waited for the next light. Needless to say, neither of my parents volunteered to take me driving again.

The summer my younger son turned thirteen was during travel baseball season, so we decided to have a little celebration after the game. We ordered pizzas, and brought a cooler filled with soft drinks for the team. Earlier that evening I asked my husband to pick up a few bags of ice for the cooler at McDonald's. He asked me how much it would cost. I told him 99 cents a bag. Then he wanted to know how much other places in the area were charging, and was I sure that was the best price. I assured him that 99 cents was the best rate in the Chicagoland area, and that if he wanted to miss his son's birthday to scout for 97 cent bags of ice in Wisconsin, I'm sure that he would understand. Of course, he still had to make some calls just in case there was a fire sale on ice at the end of July.  It took me a long time to thaw out from that whole experience.

After all these years, my mother still puts her foot on the imaginary passenger side brake whenever I make a left turn. As for my purchasing power, I'm in charge of finding the best deals on cars and the occasional travel destination, but I never go further than my freezer for ice.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Can't Stanza Pressure


Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for leading another monthly meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group. Feel free to stop in, pull up a chair, and join in on these worthwhile discussions from around the world.

Can't Stanza Pressure

Cross the t's,
Dot the i's.
Proof the pages,
Prioritize, scrutinize, strategize.

Let the caffeine drip,
Careful not to burn.
You've waited long enough,
Now it's finally your turn.

The house is quiet,
But who to call?
Then you see the proverbial,
Writing on the wall.

The TV Guide highlights,
A movie of the week.
With a plot that's so familiar,
You let out quite a shriek!

A deep breath is taken,
You begin to unwind.
As you never got further,
Than the initial outline.

You'll get a fresh start tomorrow,
With a clear head.
Set a goal of 5000 words,
While watching sports in bed.

It's an ongoing saga,
That always ends the same.
Yet you can't stop playing,
The procrastination game.

-Julie Kemp Pick