Griswold Roadtrip…Jones Style!

1968 Rebel 770 station wagon by American Motor...

Dear Aimee,

Do you have any ideas for great family summer fun? I always want to make plans, but before I know it the summer is over and we still haven’t done anything exciting.

Bummer Summer – Elk City, Oklahoma

How about taking the old family roadster for a 3,000 mile cross-country trip? That’s exactly what I am doing as I am writing to you. Pray for us. When I was a kid, this was our summer tradition. One night in May, Dad would set us down and reveal the much-anticipated family vacation destination. Then for the next couple of months, we would plan, thumb through the Mobile Travel Guide, trace our route on the atlas, and dream about our upcoming trip. My brother, sister, and I would actually sleep in the van the night before we left because it made vacation start one night sooner. We always got a new toy or book to enjoy on the ride, and Ritz crackers with a can of squeeze cheese was always tucked into the back of the seat. Sure there were hours of endless highway, but we made up games, told stories, and somehow found plenty of things to do despite the absence of DVD players, iPhones, and XM radio. Everyone just enjoyed being away from the daily grind. Dad was off-work, Mom was off her diet, and we got to eat out almost every meal. It was heaven. So when the weather starts to heat up and the end of the school year is near, the MapQuest website starts calling my name. This summer we’re making the trek to take the little princess to Disney World, and taking the scenic route, the 3000 mile round trip scenic route. I won’t sugar coat the experience and tell you that we have sung camp songs and eaten ice cream 24/7. You stick a family of six in a 10×5 space for forty-six hours, and you’re bound to have some squabbles, enforced moments of silence, established anti-touching rules, and some colorful language used now and then. However, what you also get are fits of laughter, surprising moments of sibling cooperation, unexpected talks about life with your teen, and moments of oohs and ahhs when your kids realize that the places in their history books actually do exist. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t always drive. I love jumping on a plane and reaching my destination in a matter of hours, but the time we have had within the confines of the family roadster have no equal. It’s time that plucks my heartstrings and binds us together even closer as a family and yes, at times closer than we really care to be. My offering is to clear the calendar, fill up the tank, check the oil, download an itinerary, and rediscover the great American road trip. Remember, you do have to return with every family member you leave home with, and strapping anyone to the top of the car is considered cheating and illegal in most states. Have fun and safe travels!

What to Expect When Expecting: How about a Dad?

Dear Aimee,

I recently saw “What to Expect When Expecting” and thought it did a good job of showing how a Dad can be involved in the birth and the raising of a child.  But Dads still don’t get the respect they deserve in our society.  Any thoughts on why that is?

Curt- Cordell, OK

I have not seen this movie, but I have read the book cover to cover when I was pregnant with my first son.  I’m guessing the movie has taken some creative liberties.  Seeing how there was absolutely no plot or story line in the written version.  Your question intrigued me because you are right.  Society has a great interest in the role of the mother.  Is she staying at home? Is she working?  Can she divide her time effectively?  Mother’s Day is better than Christmas to the greeting card industry, and this matriarchal holiday garnishes one-fourth of all flower sales.  How does Father’s Day measure up?  Good old dad only receives about 60% of what is spent on mommy dearest.  Why is that?  Statistics reveal that approximately 4 out of every 10 children will go to sleep tonight in a home where the father is absent.  So that sad fact alone could account for the depressed Father’s Day sales.  Perhaps this knowledge and acceptance of absentee fathers has created low expectations about dad and his place in the family.  We could have a deeply introspective and enlightening debate about the fatherless generation over chai tea lattes and still walk away shrugging our shoulders.  The why’s and how’s could fill an ocean, fed by the tears of countless children’s heartaches and disappointments.  What can be done? The one place you can have an immediate effect is in the lives of those around you.  Whether they are your own flesh and blood, adopted kids, step-children, or fatherless kids that have been placed in your path; you alone can start raising the bar for what a father should be.  There is a song that my siblings and I chose to play at my father’s funeral back in 2004: “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon and Garfunkel. My dad always loved that song and in retrospect I think it was his anthem, a melodic reminder of his chosen role in our lives.  Dad may not ever get the flowers and the mushy cards like Mom, but where a mother feeds the heart with love and compassion, a good father gives the soul the foundation it needs to feel secure navigating across this world’s often dark and turbulent waters.  Being a Dad isn’t just about biology, sometimes it’s simply geography.  Someday you may get an unexpected Father’s Day card from a boy, not because you were his biological father, but simply because you were the Dad that was there.

American Horror Story: Little League Chronicles

Dear Aimee,

I was at a child’s soccer game recently and was mortified by the behavior of some of the adults in the stands. Is it too much to ask for parents to behave more maturely than the kids?

Silent Objector – Clinton, OK

Such non-sportsman-like behavior was present, on a much larger scale, as far back as the ancient blood bath competitions performed in the Roman Coliseum. Lines were drawn, sides were chosen, and the battle raged. Man seems to have an innate desire to war and fight. In the days of old, this trait served him well. Territory was conquered, kingdoms overthrown, and governments established. However, now that we are no longer a race of people in the midst of a territorial war over the planet, where do we channel this aggression? Little league sports seems to the venue of choice. The incredible paradox is that we as parents behave like children, and then expect our children to act in a more mature fashion. One mother may yell, “Stick it to ‘em, Jack!” after her son was fouled in a game, but at home when the same boy seeks revenge against a sibling, she harshly disciplines him. A father may scream, “Oh come on, Jill!” when his daughter misses a goal, and then later doesn’t understand why his little girl has no self-confidence. Perhaps a dad shouts, “What kind of call is that, Ref?” and then can’t comprehend why his son appears to have no respect for authority. I know these examples hit home. They do for me as well, but a bad parent is one that thinks he or she does it right all of the time. A good parent is their own worst critic. They have the wisdom to look inwardly and the courage to make the appropriate corrections in their own behavior as needed.

When the competition gets heated, the referee is being unfair, or the other team is cheating, it’s hard to let those things slip by unchallenged. We have always got to remember that our little ones are looking at us as examples on how to handle life and all of its challenges. A screaming fit may get you a win now and then on the court or the field, but there will be times in life when such behavior will get you thrown out of the game, job, or relationship. We are human and history proves that fighting against wrongdoing and striving for the win is in our nature, but to help our children win the game and then fail at life doesn’t quite balance out. Self-control is one of the most difficult character attributes to maintain. It is a battle that rages constantly on the plains of our own hearts and minds. Our human desires and passions can be formidable adversaries, but the man who conquers these, has conquered indeed. “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” – Solomon, Proverbs

Do you shower or sprinkle?

Baby shower- comestível chocolate truffles.

Baby shower- comestível chocolate truffles. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Aimee,I was recently invited to a baby shower for a woman who was having her third child.  It seems showers aren’t only for new mothers anymore.  Am I the only one who thinks this is a little odd?

Coming Clean about Showers- OKC, OK

After doing some careful Googling, I have discovered that showers for subsequent children are primarily an American thing.  Gatherings surrounding the birth of a child date back to ancient Egypt, and various religious and cultural influences have certainly put their mark on the event. In the spirit of uniting all countries in the celebration of life, I have compiled a plan that incorporates the best of baby showers from across the globe.  It’s called: Around the World in 80 Minutes.

First of all the elderly women in the family take the expectant mother and cover her from head to toe in oil, help her into a tub of lukewarm water, and take turns bathing her.  She then is lavishly adorned with garlands of jasmine and placed upon a swing covered with flowers where she glides to and fro as female friends shower her with gifts to aid in labor.  Our expectant mother will hang these gifts on the wall of her house.  Wooden bowls and linens used to be customary, but perhaps syringes of Demoral and the contact info of a good anesthesiologist would be more appropriate today.  The women then dress our mom-to-be with colorful garments and elaborate jewelry, and proceed to feed her spoonfuls of homemade herbal concoctions guaranteed to expedite a healthy delivery. Meanwhile the rest of party will be busy slaughtering a sacrificial animal and dividing the meat into three parts; giving a portion to the poor, taking a part for themselves, and leaving the rest for the expectant family.  During all of these festivities, the menfolk have it the easiest.  According to tradition, all they have to do is retire to the next room and get sauced.  Now that’s a shower I would pick up the local society pages to read about.

In conclusion, I have determined that each culture definitely has their own way of celebrating life that reflects the value they place upon it.  It really is no surprise that the sprinkling tradition (the urban term for showering a mother for subsequent children) is becoming so popular in America.  We are a country of excess and over the top indulgence.  I suppose if there is any worthy subject for such displays of attention, new life is a noble cause.  I am by no means a Miss Manners or an Emily Post.  The social blunder of such a thing may be lost on me, but over-celebration of life will never be a faux pas in my etiquette book.  I will save my disdain for the day when we as Americans no longer stop and take the time to honor the one miracle we cannot create nor replicate. The miracle of life.

Aimee Jones is a small town columnist and aspiring novelist writing from the Great Plains of Oklahoma.  Click Follow to receive The Plain Wife by email.  Thank you and Happy Reading!

 

Homeschool Moms: Are They Smarter Than Their 5th Grader?

Mary Boyer, the first teacher in Upper Arlingt...

Dear Aimee,

I am not too familiar with homeschooling, but as an educator have seen pros and cons. Why is it that a teacher needs a degree to teach school, but a parent can home school without having any higher learning?

I can speak on this topic with some authority. My kids have experienced the gamut of education alternatives. They have been in public school, private school, and home schooled.

Which one was the best? The one we were doing at the time. They each have served their purpose, had their own strengths and weaknesses, and have instilled invaluable lessons in my children’s hearts.

I believe your question on certification of instructors boils down to the fact that we live in a free country. How we choose to educate our children, as long as it is helping them to achieve the necessary milestones, is completely up to the will of the parent. A public school teacher must meet requirements because they are an employee of the state. The state is endorsing them as professional educators by employing them and paying them. Therefore, guidelines and educational requirements have been put in place to ensure quality of state offered education. At home, it’s a different story. Some states require regular testing, lesson plan submissions, and curriculum approval of home educators. Oklahoma is very lenient on what it requires of a home school parent. As with anything, there are those who will take advantage of the situation and allow their children to slack off, but honestly in my time in the local home school community, it was just the opposite. Every parent I met had very high expectations for their children.

My last point strays from your question a bit, but I can put my finger on one thing that has disappointed me on my tour of educational opportunities in Oklahoma. There is always someone with no regard for any other type of education that is different from the one they are involved in. Private who hates public, public who hates home school, home school who hates private, you can pretty much make a circle of disdain and follow it around until your head spins. It’s the old “if you aren’t doing it like me, then you are doing it wrong” mentality. We all want affirmation that what we are doing is right, and imitation is the highest form of flattery. But, I applaud the parent who makes decisions based on the good of their child even in the face of adult peer pressure to do otherwise. (Sorry kids, peer pressure isn’t checked at the door when you graduate high school, it follows you all the way through.) When critiquing other’s methods, it is always good to remember that most parents love their children and want nothing more than to see them achieve all they were created for. It is important to keep one another accountable, but as long as children are growing and prospering, leave some room for different. In this big world full of pressure to be the same, sometimes a little different is exactly what our children need.

Aimee Jones is a small town columnist and aspiring novelist surviving and thriving on the Great Plains of Oklahoma. Click the Follow button at the bottom of the page to recieve The Plain Wife writings by email. Happy Reading!

“I got the moves like Jagger…” Really? You do?

A picture of a pair of Grado SR-60 headphones ...

A picture of a pair of Grado SR-60 headphones used to illustrate the design of "supra-aural" (on the ear) headphones in the article Headphones. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Aimee,I feel the music my teen listens to is rude and inappropriate, but of course they disagree. Where do you draw the line on music and language in the home, and how do you enforce it?

One day my husband and I were riding in the car and he was singing along to a country song. He knew every word and seemed to be enjoying himself. I tuned in and noticed the lyrics were about this guy leaving his wife. I turned down the volume and asked him if there was some hidden message in his lively karaoke rendition. He just paused and stared at me quizzically. He had absolutely no idea what he had been singing about. After a few minutes, or hours, of me lecturing him on all the reasons why such lyrics are the source of all marriage degradation in the United States, he switched the station. I may have been a little dramatic, but my point is that many times songs slip into our playlists unchecked. Your teen may not have any idea of what the real message behind the tune may be. The best method I have found is to print out the lyrics and sit down for a heart to heart. This seems to garnish better results than a knee-jerk censorship. The goal is to help guide your teen to develop similar values as yours, and sometimes a calm, rational, and honest conversation actually works.

As for the language, I can appreciate how some words take a thought to the next level or up the intensity of a statement. My father called these “colorful” words, and I have been guilty of spicing up a phrase or two myself. However, I don’t want my kids’ opportunities in life to be limited by an untamed or offensive tongue. So I teach them that there is such a thing as vulgarity, and the strength by which others accept it varies greatly. Therefore, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and keep your public language clean. Listening regularly to music with harsh lyrics makes it easier for an un-choice word to slip out at an inopportune moment.

Lastly, filling your mind, life, and day with positive words can only be a good thing. There is so much negativity in the world we can’t control. I want the things my teens choose to invite into their day to be good and uplifting. That’s my rule, but they don’t always agree. So I will leave you with my last bit of empowering advice for when reasoning, explaining, and talking with your teen doesn’t seem to work. This is a phrase my own kids have come to know and love. “I am the queen, this is my castle, and my word is law. I may not be able to enforce the “off with your head” clause, but I certainly have the authority to execute your media devices anytime I wish. So let’s see some smiles and a little show of appreciation for the benevolent ruler that I am.”

The Plain Wife column appears in The Daily Elk Citian, The Cordell Beacon, The Tuttle Times, and makes cameo appearances in The Mustang Times, The Choctaw Times, and The Minco-Union City Times. Click the follow button at the bottom of the page to receive The Plain Wife by email. Thank you and Happy Reading!

Everything Sounds Better With a French Accent

Deutsch: Eiffelturm Français : La tour Eiffel

Deutsch: Eiffelturm Français : La tour Eiffel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Aimee,

I have been married for two years and feel like we are already becoming an old boring couple. Is this what I can expect from now on?

-Bliss or Bust, Mustang, Oklahoma

I have a bit of French ancestry which I grasp onto with white knuckles. So when I had the opportunity to attend a dinner hosted by the founder of la Madeleine French Country Cafe, Patrick Esquerré, I enthusiastically Réspondez S’il Vous Plait’d.  The purpose of the gathering was to sample their delicious French country cuisine and gain a little knowledge of what the restaurant has to offer.  True to my people-loving nature, I was more interested in the story of how this darling French man started the la Madeleine legacy in 1983 with one little café in Dallas, Texas.

In my short time of talking with Mr. Esquerré, I was reminded of why I love with all things French. Whether he was talking about tomato basil soup or the construction of the first cafe, it was as if he was speaking of a great love affair.

When asked what his strategy was for developing such a successful business, he responded with the following three steps: Listen, adapt, and surprise.  In the beginning, Patrick kept a keen ear to what his customers wanted. He then modified his plans to please those requests.  Lastly he sprinkled in thoughtful elements that would surprise and delight his guests.  As I sat at the grand opening of the sixty-first la Madeleine, I could see how carefully each element of his strategy had been woven into the dining experience.

Impressed as I was with his business sense, it was the nugget of wisdom he shared next that left me starry-eyed.  He said, “This is also the way to win a woman’s heart. You must listen to her, and hear what it is that she wants.  Then you adapt to her.  You don’t expect her to change to match you.  Lastly, you surprise her with romance to make her eyes light up and bring a smile to her face.” Absolutely charming, no?

I have since written these words on my bathroom mirror, and am considering getting a tattoo that reads; listen, adapt, and surprise, but in French of course.  Okay, not really, but it is fabulous advice for maintaining and growing any relationship.  How often would an argument be resolved if each person listened carefully and was willing to make small sacrifices to adapt to one another? And when was the last time you swept your spouse off his or her feet with a random act of kindness?  Dear reader, here is my advice, courtesy of Monsieur Patrick Esquerré.  “Ecouter, adapter, et surprend!”  If applied diligently, those three words could rekindle your marital bliss and if spoken with a Parisian accent, well who knows where that could lead.

“The Plain Wife” column can be viewed regularly in The Cordell Beacon, The Daily Elk Citian, and The Tuttle Times, and makes cameo appearances in The Mustang Time, The Choctaw Times.  Click follow at the bottom of the page to receive The Plain Wife by email.  Happy Reading!

Facebook Love!

Dear Aimee,

I am so tired of Facebook, and people talking to “friends” that they have never really met. Those relationships cannot take the place of real friendships, and are a distraction from taking care of those around you.

As a stay at home mother, my opportunities for random personal encounters are few and far between.  At least around Christmas time the FedEx guy makes regular stops.  The ironic thing is that within my little home, I interact with about one hundred different people daily.  No, it’s not the voices in my head, but a little social media outlet called Facebook.

In any given group of adults, bring up the word Facebook and you will soon have two factions.  One will think it’s the degradation of communication as we know it, and the other group won’t hear them because they are updating their status. I belong to the latter group.

Recently I attended a social media conference and was in absolute heaven.  Not because I was in a fancy Nashville hotel room all to myself for three sleep-full nights. But because every other woman was there with their phone in hand, snapping pictures of food and people, updating their status, and tweeting any and every detail of the conference.  As I ate dinner with a group of attendees, it was perfectly acceptable and even encouraged to tweet and post during the meal.  Conference leaders were not offended when you picked up your device during a presentation to post a quote they just coined.  Instead they reinforced the behavior with retweets and thank you posts later.  I remember thinking that this must be what it’s like to attend one of those Star Trek events where everyone is dressed up as their favorite character.  It is empowering and affirming to be around people who think the way you do.  Now if only there was a conference centered around the love of cake.

The point of this rambling is to say that Facebook is obviously not for everyone.  It is a tool for reaching out to friends new and old, but does not fill the need for true friendship.  My life is full of people who I have deep soul bearing relationships with; my husband, four kids, extended family, circle of help-me-bury-the-body friends, and church family. These relationships require large investments of time and energy, which is why I’m happy with the casual cocktail party going on at Facebook. It is a welcome relief and respite to have a place where my “friendships” are satisfied with just the push of a like button.  As with all good things in life, moderation is key. Facebook is an amazing tool that can enrich your life, expand your horizons, or help grow your business. However it will never suffice as a main course, but works well as a delightful and complimenting side dish.

 

Haters on the Highway

Traffic slows to a crawl on the Monash Freeway...

Traffic slows to a crawl on the Monash Freeway in Melbourne, Australia through peak hour traffic. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Readers,March has inadvertently been a month of internet specials, my columns have included websites and various nuggets of wisdom I have gained from my regular net surfing. I will finish up this month with an anecdote that I found to be poignant and applicable. In the book Quitter by Jon Acuff, he addresses the topic of haters. Hate is a strong word. I was taught to use it only in the most extreme cases, like when talking about spiders and taxes. But in today’s vernacular, it’s more of a casual term addressing those who like to throw stones and focus on the negative aspects of a situation. We’ve all come across haters at some point in our lives. Whether it’s in the workplace, the home place, or our virtual places, negativity runs amuck. Jon Acuff is an author, motivational speaker, and has ninety-one thousand followers on Twitter. His enormous fan base constantly streams incredibly positive feedback about his book, speeches, and thoughts to his desktop. In a recent keynote address, he admitted that regardless of the ninety-one thousand fans, one negative comment, one critical statement, or one hater can derail his positive train of thought. Isn’t that the truth? No matter how many good things we hear throughout the day, it’s the criticism that keeps us company as we drift off to sleep at night. As most successful men, Jon has an incredibly wise wife. She asked him one day, “Why are you chasing haters on the highway?” He looked puzzled and asked her what she meant. “Well, Jon. Let’s say you are driving down the freeway and someone gets upset with the way you changed lanes. They zip past you, honk their horn, and give you the universal one-finger hater salute. It’s irritating, you might vent a little, but then you continue on your way. You don’t chase them down, follow them until they stop, and then knock on their window saying, “It seems you might not like me and the way I drive. That really bothers me. I was hoping we could have a little heart to heart and resolve the issue between us.” That would be insane and might get you shot.” This was an ah-ha moment for Jon and for me too. Why do we let people who are not in our inner circle of influence have such an impact. There will always be haters on the highway of life, but to spend too much energy or time trying to reconcile what might be petty and unreasonable demands will only distract us from our greater purpose. Be respectful, consider others feelings, tread gently through life, smile, nod, and let the haters fly on by. Making sure the next time a fellow driver’s lane change upsets you that you take careful measures to not be labeled a hater on the highway of life.

Aimee Jones is a small town newspaper columnist and aspiring novelist writing about surviving and thriving on the great plains of Oklahoma. You can receive The Plain Wife by email. Simply click the FOLLOW button at the bottom of the page. Thanks and happy reading!

My Favorite Dress I Never Wear

The Torn Gown

The Torn Gown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dear Aimee,

It’s time for a spring wardrobe overhaul.  Any tips for closet must-haves this season?

I would love to pretend that I am the authority on clothing trends, but my season switch consists of changing out darker colored track suits for brighter colored tees and cropped sweatpants.  I do enjoy keeping up with what’s going on in the fashion world, but in this case it would be “do as I say” instead of “do as I do”. 

I can pass along some tips, ideas, and resources that I think are brilliant and practical.  The first is of the former and comes from an interview with the fashion icon Carolina Herrera.   The View ladies asked the designer of feminine elegance what every woman should have in her closet, and her reply spoke to my frivolous and artistic mind.

She said, “I believe every woman should have a beautiful gown in her closet, even if it’s never worn, but simply hangs to inspire her.”

Don’t you love that? I have two prom dresses from the nineties and a couple of full length bridesmaid dresses, but somehow they aren’t quite the source of inspiration I think Ms. Herrera was speaking of.  She may be on to something though. One of my most memorable days was walking with a friend through the über expensive couture gowns at Bergdorf-Goodman’s in NYC; touching each dress, and letting the fabric run through my fingers while dreaming of the event such an exquisite gown would attend.  So I have decided to keep my eyes open to the clearance racks and the nearly new shops to find something that makes me feel beautiful simply by being in its presence.

The last bit of advice is more practical.  There is a blog called The Tiny Twig.  The creator Hayley has a section called Less Fuss where she gives real life tips about every aspect of a woman’s life including a wardrobe and beauty section.  It’s a great place to browse and get ideas for sprucing up your wardrobe whether it’s through fun new colors or bold and edgy accessories. She has also written a book called The No Brainer Wardrobe that is invaluable for transforming your closet from a storage room of the clothes you never wear to a wardrobe of pieces you love.  So before you hit the spring sales, visit www.thetinytwig.com and set a little dress money aside for that dreamy work of art that doesn’t hang on your wall but in your closet.

The Plain Wife column appears in the following Oklahoma papers: The Cordell Beacon, The Daily Elk Citian, The Tuttle Times, The Mustang Times, The Choctaw Times, and The Minco-Union City Times.

Aimee Jones is a small town columnist, blogger, and aspiring novelist writing about surviving and thriving on the Great Plains of middle America. You can receive The Plain Wife posts by mail. Simply click the follow button at the bottom of the page. Thank you and Happy Reading!

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