Life & Whatnot, Random Observations, The Mom Part

The Death of [Ms.] Manners

I swan, nothing sets my teeth on edge like the disappearance of titles and honorifics in our current society. [I offer a hearty “thank you” to Mr. Dad over’ta thedaddyblitz for reminding me of this particular peeve in a recent  blog entry.] Lordy, I know that I sound old writin’ this, but, back in my day we used them or were seen as disrespectful lil’ upstarts.

3f383c86731116d864ba410db84fe79cimage via

Using good manners isn’t just a sign of good breeding or a reflection of your family, it confirms respect — for yourself as well as the person you’re addressing. An important ingredient of good manners is showing special respect for your elders and persons of authority. I see “grown-ups” constantly shaking their heads and bewailing the state of our youth culture and their utter lack of respect for others, especially for authority.

Titles such as “Doctor” or “Professor” or “Officer” signified that the person was an authority, or at least adept, in their field. They had training and were therefore authorized in their function. They held a position of consequence. Their words and actions deserved consideration. Even elders without professional titles were called “Mr” or “Ms.”, “Aunt” or “Uncle” — their title implying a significant status.

Being “on a first name basis” actually used to have heft and meaning. It used to be that first names were used solely among immediate family and friends. It signified a level of intimacy between peers. It relaxed the rules and placed you on a level playing field with one another.

Nowadays, practically everyone insists on being called by their first name. Not only our friends and relatives, but also our doctors, teachers, and even pastors insist we call them by their first name. Intentionally or not, this removes them from their place of special status — and ultimately places them in the common place of “just one of the guys.” There is no clear significance to their vocation or their chosen career. Their authority then becomes negligible, even inconsequential. So who cares what they have to say? It begs the question, Why should I even listen to you? 

It’s as if no one deserves authority or respect anymore. Like school children yelling, You’re not the boss of me!, our society insists that everyone is exactly the same. Is it any wonder then that good manners, on the whole, are quickly disappearing?

Life & Whatnot, My Family, Random Observations, The Mom Part

Nature vs. Nurture

Anyone who has children knows that the whole nature vs. nurture argument is practically moot. No matter on which side of the argument your loyalties tend to be, your own children are likely to make you question your own position.

According to Saul McLeod,

In practice hardly anyone today accepts either of the extreme positions.  There are simply too many “facts” on both sides of the argument which are inconsistent with an “all or nothing” view.  So instead of asking whether child development is down to nature or nurture the question has been reformulated as “How much?”  That is to say, given that heredity and environment both influence the person we become, which is the more important? (full article)

For what it’s worth, today I lean strongly on the Nature side of the debate. I find it very hard to believe that children are born as anything even resembling a “blank slate” to be formed exclusively by environmental factors. And, while I’m certainly not an expert, I do have a lot of children … including identical twins. They are all very uniquely different.


After taking several psychology courses in high school and college and reading practically any psychological literature concerning nature vs. nurture that I could get my hands on, I was solidly of the opinion that Nurture ruled basic outcome.

But, in 1995 something momentous happened that made me reevaluate my stance. My husband, who was adopted when he was only three days old, and I met his birth mother and her family for the very first time. He and his birth mother had the same smile and even the same laugh; their philosophies and educations were similar and they shared the same quick wit and dry sense of humor. It was unbelievable and wonderful to witness. I’d met his adoptive family five years earlier and, while some similarities were present, he seemed to me always a singularity in his family; but meeting the genetically linked family … well, everything seemed to click right into place. In fact, I remember having a very sober moment of clarity and thinking to myself, Ahhh. Now Marc makes so much more sense. In fact, his biological family actually mirrored my own. I was immediately comfortable in their midst. And, if memory serves, my husband was too. And yet, there were glaring differences.


The frightening truth is, I have serious doubts that my sweet spice would be the same amazing, frustrating, incredible man, husband, and father he is today had it not been for the intervention of his loving adoptive parents. His experiences, economic challenges, spiritual influences, and early life choices would have been, could have been, so drastically different. What sort of man might he have become? One thing I know for sure, his steadfast devotion to duty and family is so obviously a byproduct of the closely-knit, supportive, and secure home environment the Allen family provided.

So, I suppose that the debate isn’t as simple as one or the other. It seems more likely that the answer falls somewhere on the spectrum between the two. Who knows really? Gah! Maybe it has something to do with birth order…

What are your thoughts?


Life & Whatnot, My Family, Random Observations

Death Calls Me Home

The Wolfe once declared that you can’t go home again, but I’ve found that to be painfully untrue. Here, in the early dusk of Life, Loved Ones continue to fade away … like leaves and first loves and morning glories under the setting sun. Each sad and grateful passing beckons my beleaguered bones back to the bittersweet haunts of my very first Grand Adventures. Oh yes, and petty mischief.

Over and over I am called to revisit these grounds of Origin against my will as sweet memories and pangs of regret swell in their Battle for Attention. I am perplexed by Observance: everything dwindles twixt each visit to this place called Home. Billie Bob’s Thus-n-Such was buried by WalMart. Old-man Hooper’s Grocer doesn’t feed anyone anything anymore. But, the pawn shop will gobble your goods for quick petty cash. Yes Daddy, our once-green-and-fair hamlet now reeks of Progress and Old.

So, were the flowered walls of my youth always this sticky and confining? Was the green green yard where we chased bouncing rabbits with laughing fingers always this brown, wet, and small? The giant robust arms of my favorite climbing tree are now brittle and tired like Me. The squeaky colorful swings finally rusted into Ruin.

The heavy crystal ashtray, the one dripping with diamonds that cast prisms in Mother’s eyes, always waited with me for your return back in the day … the incense of coffin nails reliably announced your Presence and was always powerful enough to make me drop my dollies and run to your Embrace. There are no more marshmallows under the dining room table. Where did they go? Why aren’t they here anymore? Time surely swallowed them while it devoured my Childhood. And, when did I outgrow this giant little bed? Memory insists it was never this tiny during evening prayers with Daddy. “Give me the wisdom of Solomon, God. I want to be rich just like him.”

The floors of this Haven are now settled, sunken, and sullen. Or, is it just Me? Yes dammit, I curse the bloodstain on the carpet where you stumbled — Helpless and Alone. But by God, these blessed golden frames stand Witness to your Virility. So strong and proud in your Navy Blues. So painfully Handsome in your Sunday Best. Always happy with a hammer in your hands. Ivanhoe! Everything Good sprang from the sweat of your beautiful, curly Brow.

Your empty blue bed and my heavy heart sag with sadness. I bury my face in the sheets. They drink my Tears and together we mingle. But, your trusty pillow still smells like You. And, I will always look like You. Tell me, will your fragrance linger as long as You did? Will I? Everything dwindles except for this Grief which swells and looms larger and larger each time Death calls me Home.

on the passing of my father, april 25, 2016

Father’s Day 2015
Life & Whatnot, Random Observations, The Mom Part

That Kid!

Gabbi, my thirteen year old who had the unenviable blessing of falling smack dab in the middle of the birthing order of Clan Allen and who landed as my “middle child” has always been my most … shall we say, headstrong kidlen. She’s the sort that makes grownups smack their forehead and sigh, “That kid!” Oh, the tales I could tell. Suffice to say that she is the Allen I’d least likely expect to receive an unexpected kindness from. Bless her heart.

Yesterday this lil’ wonder decided to gather a small bunch of wildflowers and leave them on my desk for me. I was plumb flummoxed. I really cannot find a way to adequately express in words just how much, and just how deeply, this unbidden thoughtfulness touched my heart.

that kid

It reminded my of my days as a high school teacher. It seemed every year there was always “That Kid.” You know, that one student who managed to stick up so far in my craw that I wanted to pull my hair out in frustration. That one kid who seemed completely unreachable, and truth be told, at times even appeared unlovable.

Here’s the miracle. It never failed. That was always the one student who broke my heart … and then crawled right into the broken space and nestled in for the long haul. 

To this day, so many years later, whenever something brings “That Kid” to mind, I say a quick prayer for them wherever they are in Life. Some of those children are in their late-thirties and forties now. The lil’ stinkers; they’re still in my heart. And, I’m glad. Because, dagnabbit, I love “That Kid.”

C’mon fellow grown-ups, I’m thinkin’ you can relate.

Life & Whatnot, Random Observations, Sunday Reflections

What Are You Waiting For?

Not long ago, I ran across a really nice set of calligraphy markers and thought Holy cow, I still have these? Cool! I’ll use them now. I was so excited that I’d found these amazing markers and was totally stoked to use them. Recent events have reminded me that life is short, so I was grinning from ear to ear as all sorts of imaginative designs went whirling through my head, and I thought Maybe I’ll even frame it! as I got ready to create. (I just love little moments of excitement like this, don’t you?) Yeah well, apparently I bought these prodigious pens back during the second Bush administration because when I finally set these magnificent markers to parchment, the lil’ bastards were as dry as a bone.

Profound wisdom from Mr. Edward Albee.

I’ve always been in the habit of buying fun and pretty things (especially when they’re on sale). I’ve also always been in the habit of setting these fun and pretty things aside. Of course, I always intend to use everything I buy. I’m not looking for an award in accumulation or anything. But some things are so fun and pretty I dare not use them except, you know, for “special occasions.” Presumably this means that I’ll use them to honor or impress someone who is special. Right? Well, since neither Jessica Lange nor the Adele have offered to visit my home any time soon, my good intentions oft turn into things akin to dried-up ol’ useless marker sticks.

So, what exactly is a special occasion? When is a day truly worthy of Fun and Pretty Things? Aren’t I special enough for these things everyday? If a friend asked me this question, my immediate answer would be a resounding:

Hell yeah, Girlfriend!

Of course you are worthy

ALL day EVERY day.


So why don’t I offer myself the same respect? I was so upset by those damned dehydrated markers that I mentioned my plight to a dear friend of mine.

She shared her sympathies as well as a sad story about a beloved relative she once had who did the same sort of thing I was doing. She said that after this relative had died, she and her mother had gone to clean out and organize this woman’s belongings; and while there, they came across set after set of lovely nightgowns and dressing gowns, still carefully preserved in their original wrapping papers and boxes. Just stacked neatly on a shelf. Waiting for a special occasion. It seemed wasteful; but even worse, it seemed so sad. Didn’t she deem herself worthy of wearing a lovely peignoir? Why hadn’t she wanted to go to bed looking like a million bucks? Oh sure, we all have our own cherished comfy cotton jammies, but do we never have an opportunity to wear something truly delicate and lovely … just for ourselves?


So I decided to get a new set of calligraphy markers. These are even better than the old (brand new, dammit) ones because not only do they still draw, they’re also double sided. Score! As you can see, they’ve already been used several times.

my new pens
These beautiful bastards are outta the box!

I’m no longer waiting for a special occasion because today is a special occasion. I encourage you to do the same. Wear that slinky negligee, open that extraordinary bottle of wine. Burn and enjoy those fancy shmansy candles – you know the ones – and sport those ritzy designer shoes. Who cares if you’re just dashing over to Sprouts. You’ll be lookin’ good and feelin’ fabulous. And when you get back home, drag out that awesome fondue set, the one you bought for that lavish dinner party you never got around to hosting, and treat yourself today. What are you waiting for?


Life & Whatnot, Random Observations, The Mom Part

Part of the Main

Standing back and watching the crowd of chatting and laughing relatives fill my sister’s living room for my father’s 90th birthday party, it dawned on me that all of these wonderful and unique beings gathered for celebration were actually related to me. That somehow, miraculously, God had seen fit to intertwine the lives and love of all of these individuals within one family. It was my family. I belonged with them and to them, and they likewise with and to me.

Daddy 90 Bday

Isn’t it amazing when you think about it in the larger context of humanity? Somehow, miraculously, we are all related as members of one ginormous family: the human family. We all belong to something so much bigger and even more significant than ourselves. We, all of us, have our own strengths and failings, hopes and dreams, our own loves and losses. No matter how small or insignificant we may feel at times, we are always an important and relevant piece of the whole that is mankind.


Beauty Advice, Direct Selling Advice, Life & Whatnot, Random Observations, The Mom Part

Feast on This Friday

We humans, especially we female humans, tend to look for happiness, influence, and inspiration from outside sources. Why is it that we feel we need to be on the sidelines cheering everyone else on and supporting others to achieve their dreams and goals? Though there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a supportive friend and ardent ally to others, how long has it been since you’ve been that attentive to and wild about yourself?

Here’s a thought to feast on, Friends…blow your mind