My paternal grandmother, Nana Annie, used family holidays and functions as a forum for sharing her sage advice. At every event, some version of her extended family -- three children and their spouses, ten grandchildren and seventeen great grandchildren -- would all gather round and listen to the Ratner family equivalent of the Queen Mother dispense such words of wisdom as "A Ph.D. may make you smart, but it doesn't make you wise" and "Always wear lipstick and have your nails done; you just never know who you might run into."
I always took her straightforward, street-smart adages to heart--perhaps because I don't have an advanced degree and will look for any excuse to get a manicure. But today I am reminded of one proverb in particular. It's one she'd taken to passing along with greater frequency in recent years.
"All deaths," Nana Annie would say, "are sad. But not all are tragedies."
This morning I am packing to fly to Washington D.C. for her funeral.
Nana would have been 99 this summer. She had an amazing run and I think she knew it. She was a fighter who survived the early death of her husband (she was a widow, I think, longer than she was married) and a bout with breast cancer with grit and determination. She lived independently -- fiercely independently -- right up until she turned 98 last July.
Nana had really wanted to make it to one hundred. There was something magical in her mind about being a centarian. I, too, was sure she would make it, and was already starting to brainstorm party ideas. But sometimes bodies just don't keep up with minds, and Nana was always clear she wanted her body to go first. That prayer was answered.
Up until the last two weeks of her life she still knew it was my voice when I'd call her on her cell phone at her assisted living facility. She'd always ask how the kids were doing in school, how my middle son's Bar Mitzvah preparations were going and how the cats and dog were getting along. My answers to the first two questions were usually much more positive than the last, and she'd laugh. Then, she'd remind me that I was lucky that my biggest problem on the home front was the animals. I'd thank her for the perspective.
I am thankful I got so many years with my grandmother. And I am thankful my kids got to belong to that exclusive club of people who got to experience a great grand mother's advice first hand.
Upon hearing the news that Nana had died this past weekend, my daughter painted her nails green and topped her thumbnails off with a butterfly decal, Nana's favorite animal. I can't think of a better way to honor her memory.
I am sad as I head home. But I know, as I look forward to reminiscing with my extended family, that this is not a tragedy.
And I will plan to wear lipstick on both the plane ride home and at the funeral. Because Nana was right, you do never know whom you might run in to.
May her memory be a blessing.comments powered by Disqus
Lavish costumes, gorgeous sets, a full orchestra and a concession stand where nothing cost more than two bucks and you have a pitch perfect experience at the theater. Oh, and did I mention the ticket prices were just $10 dollars apiece? One could afford to take the whole family for a live theater experience for less than an evening at the Lego movie would cost including popcorn.
I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders -- 10 boys and six girls -- enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.
Breathe in, breathe out. Have you ever been in the heat of a parenting moment with these words ringing through your head? Then you're on the right path toward mindful parenting.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is famous for all sorts of things. Malls are packed with folks exchanging those holiday sweaters that don't fit just right. It's the week those same folks pledge to never again eat another frosted sugar cookie or candy cane (hence the sweater issues). It's also the week the media saturates the public with dozens of "Best of Year" lists.
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.