Nine Irish Kids and the Power Codes

My mom is one of nine Irish kids who grew up in Howell, Mich. The tight connections among her siblings — my aunts and uncles — make for mega family reunions and for volumes of stories.

One story is about family population tracking and keeping peace during family meetings. My Aunt Kate — a mentor in all things Kate and the youngest of the nine — generated and assigned — in descending numeric and alphabetic power codes — to help everyone remember their “pecking” order in the family.

Numeric codes were assigned — from eldest to youngest as follows:

  1. Diane
  2. Susan (my mom)
  3. Gerry
  4. Betty
  5. John
  6. Steve
  7. Julie
  8. Dan
  9. Kate

Single, alphabetic codes were then matched to the number of offspring or pets each of the nine introduced to the family. For example, my Aunt Diane has four children. Their codes are 1A1, 1A2, 1A3, and 1A4. My mom had just two — my sister and I. So, we are 2B1 and 2B2. My cousins and I have learned our power codes do little to help trump discussions, decisions or euchre contests.

How do in-laws and future generations fit into this power code scheme? I am sorry to admit this. But, I lost the memo at my Aunt Gerry’s in Melbourne, Florida. It’s probably matted to the bottom of that empty keg we drank on St. Patrick’s Day 10 years ago.

So, how much of this story do you think is blarney and how much do you think is fact?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I Love Michigan: Ann Arbor

I can’t help it. This post and those that follow are going to read like a script for those Pure Michigan ads. However, I don’t need a script. All I have to say is off-the-cuff, from the heart and Pure Michigan.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of a date day with my husband. We stole away to Ann Arbor for the afternoon and then to his brother’s house later that evening.

Why Ann Arbor? It wasn’t for MTV’s casting call for the Real World at Scorekeepers. But, isn’t it great that filmmakers think Ann Arbor is a great city? It has urban appeal, a great mix of people, and the University of Michigan campus.

Anyway, why Ann Arbor? The bargain book shelves and tables at Borders’ flagship store on Liberty. Great people watching from Amer’s big plate-glass window. Nickel’s Arcade and the University of Michigan are beautiful even under a gray, cold March sky. March Madness at Buffalo Wild Wings on State Street.

Plus, Ann Arbor has a permanent signature on our relationship. My husband and I spent nearly one year of our dating lives there. Our first date was on the patio at Good Time Charley’s. Then there were Saturday afternoons goofing off at Pinball Pete’s, Middle Earth and The Little Brown Jug; a Valentine dinner at Palio’s; autumn strolls through the Arboretum; and haunted hayrides at Wiard’s.

One more very special connection to Ann Arbor is family. I am proud and boastful to mention a number of relatives live there or nearby. Rest assured, my husband, children and I will be spending many more fabulous Saturdays re-visiting and creating memories in this fabulous urban landscape.

Live Your Dash

Within the previous 24 months, I have experienced the death of many family members and friends. I have lost two grandparents, two uncles, an aunt, a long-time family friend and the toddler son of a cousin. The death of so many woke me up. I realized my time on this planet is limited; and the time my family members and friends have is limited, too. During the holidays, one of my aunts included the following with her annual letter …

HOW DO YOU LIVE YOUR DASH?

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of his friend. He referred to the dates on his tombstone from the beginning to the end. He noted that first came his date of birth and spoke the following date with tears. But he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For the dash represents all the time he spent alive on earth. And now only those who loved him know what that little line is worth, For it matters not how much we own — the cars, the house, the cash — What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard — are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left that can still be arranged. If we could just slow down long enough to consider what’s true and real. And always try to understand the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger and show appreciation more. And love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before. If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile. Remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy’s been read with your life’s actions to rehash. Would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent your dash?

— Anonymous

This reflection resonates with me because I believe its message is a common theme playing in current happenings around our globe.

Seven, Silent Monsters

I have seven, silent, but ever-present monsters prowling around in my head. Winter blahs, cabin fever, parental stresses, unrealistic expectations, inner negative talk, ever-growing to-do list, and time thief, are “The Seven”. For a lack of a better term for these negatives, I call them monsters. They remain silent because until now, I have not given any outward indication to their existence.

“The Seven”, however, have drawn swords, and are challenging me to a fierce battle this winter. I am motivated to fight and banish these silent monsters. Ignoring them is not my style. Giving into their negative energy is not an option. I refuse to encourage them toward a more public presence.

By nature, I am an optimistic, extrovert, who enjoys social occasions and people. It is foreign to identify a struggle with “The Seven.” Acknowledgement — I believe — is the first step to winning these solitary, inter-connected wars. Next, is to fight.

Upper cut to the winter blahs. No more thumbing a nose at snow, arctic cold, and limited daylight. I will take Zumba classes, ice skate, and run indoors until frogs croak Spring’s arrival.

Box it out to cool cabin fever. Stirring a little crazy is just what I need to break out for good times with family and friends. Ann Arbor is on my list for the next two weekends.

Front kick parental stresses. My faith prevails. I am ready for whatever is on deck. My ability to love, nurture, teach, inspire, learn and discipline strengthens every day.

Knock out unrealistic expectations. Spotless and always-organized are not realistic daily goals for my house, which is home to four active people and a lovable, playful dog. There will be days — in the near and distant future — when performance please me, but not you. So be it.

Round kick inner negative talk. Body types, genetics and past experiences brought on by school mishaps, social challenges and stupid choices cannot be undone. I learn valuable lessons from living life and from others. I will cheer loudly for positive thoughts.

This fight is nearly won. I am sweating. Are you? I saved the most notorious confrontations for last. One is with ever-growing to-do list and the last is with time thief.

Swipe a blade to that ever-growing to-do list. My concentration is on action items already occupying PDA space. Child care, academic success, professional development, volunteerism, household chores, pet care, family relations, friendship development, social calendar, marital bliss and new acquaintances are just a cliff-note version of what my responsibilities include. When does it stop? Does it ever?

Fast feet catch time thief. Set the clock for me. I am taking time to read books, spend time with family and friends, volunteer, strengthen spirituality, pursue hobbies, develop professional ambitions, pamper my body, watch quality entertainment, and listen to good music.

What a match-up. The adrenaline is pumping through my veins. I feel better already. Do you see any monsters? I don’t right now. But, seeing some green along with a dose of Spring-like temps wouldn’t hurt, either.