The Tip of the Day

December 7th, 2009

Who invented tipping? How did such a silly system get started, who makes the rules, and why are they in charge of my money? I’d love to know who “they” are so I can ask some questions that never seem to be answered.

Who gets tipped? Who decided who gets tipped? You tip the waitress, but not the cook. Tip your hairdresser but not if she owns the salon. Tip the paperboy, but what if you pay your bill by mail? I never see the paperboy. If he gets no tip, he won’t know if it’s because he leaves the paper in the bushes every day or if I’m just cheap. I never have a chance to tell him.

Cab drivers get tipped. Bus drivers don’t. Bus drivers have a harder job! And what if the cab driver owns his cab, is that like the hairdresser who owns the salon? How would you know if he owned the cab?

When I was a waitress, a hundred years ago, we expected a ten percent tip. We were very happy when we got fifteen percent and anything higher was like Christmas. Dinner for four might be around $20, and if we got $2 that was fine. Now, dinner for four at the same kind of place is probably $40, and a $4 tip would equal the percentage we got back then. Dinner is twice as much, the waitress gets twice the tip. But the wait staff expects $6 to $8 instead. Inflation, they say. But if food prices are inflated, tips are automatically higher at the same percentage. Why did the percentage increase?

And why do we tip based on the check anyway? I have had dinner recently with the same friend at the same restaurant several times. One evening, we had steaks and appetizers, and the meal was fairly expensive. More recently, we had sandwiches, and our bill was less than half what we’d paid before. We were in the same restaurant, in the same room, the waitress did the same amount of work waiting on us, and we stayed about the same length of time. So one evening, she earned $4 for waiting on us, while another she earned $8, and the only difference was the type of food she carried out to us. Not only is that senseless to me, it’s unfair to her! While we sat at her table in the crowded room, other diners came in and ordered expensive meals, but she missed the bigger tips because we weren’t that hungry. Why don’t we tip based on length of time at the table or how many trips the wait staff makes to refill glasses and bread and get your steak cooked correctly? (Actually, I do base my tip on these things. Why doesn’t everyone?)

I don’t want to search for the sign that says not to tip the valet, or figure out how many bags I have to know what to tip the bellman. I don’t want to decide if the doorman has done enough to merit a tip or just a thank you, and what do I do with the concierge? People, let’s rebel! There is enough anxiety in the world. We should be enjoying the strolling violinist, not thinking about whether we have to tip him. If Congress wants to pass a helpful wage law, how about one that makes businesses pay people who work for them and outlaws tipping? It’s always right to smile and thank someone for good service. It’s extra nice to send a note to management complimenting an employee who has provided excellent service. Let’s spare them the insult of not being tipped correctly by someone who couldn’t decide what tip was expected!

Holding Ava

November 30th, 2009

*note: This article originally appeared in Wings of Hope Magazine. Ava is now one year old. This post is to remind her mother that time flies.

I held my friend’s granddaughter yesterday. She is eight weeks old, chubby and happy with big curious eyes taking in the brand new world. With the wisdom of one so new from God, she regards everything without judgment yet, just taking it all in.

I love tiny babies, the newer the better. I love the baby smell, the downy hair, the soft as silk skin. I pull her against my chest and look deep into her eyes, and stick my tongue out. She smiles and sticks hers out at me. We are playing.

I want to tell her mother, a girl I’ve known since she herself was a baby, to quit work, leave the dishes, forget the laundry. Just sit and hold your baby and play, I want to say. She’s growing up every day. This time is gone in a flash, you can never get it back. Just sit and hold your baby and play.

Real life doesn’t work that way, of course. Onesies need washed, dinner needs cooked, work must be done so that bills can be paid. Mom needs a break now and then, too. And no matter how many people tell you that time flies, you never learn until it’s gone anyway. But still, I say it—just hold her. Just hold your baby and play, because tomorrow she’ll be gone.

My babies are nearly grown now, but I haven’t learned the lesson. There are clothes on the floor and science experiments growing in glasses in their rooms, homework undone, curfews broken. I find myself chanting at times “just a few more years!” I’m wishing away their teens over dishes and clutter. I don’t listen when a wiser mom with grown children says to me “Just play. Just stop worrying about the house and the homework and enjoy your children. They’re growing up every day. This time is gone in a flash and you can never get it back.”

And that is why, I believe, grandchildren are the most precious gift that we’re given. Because then we know. Time is gone in a flash. You can never get it back.

The Facebook Club

November 23rd, 2009

I’ve been out of high school a lot longer than I’d like to think about. I really hadn’t kept in touch with my friends. The ones I spent the most time with moved away, and I’m not good at maintaining long distance contacts. But with “social networking” all the rage, I got a Facebook page, and suddenly there were people I hadn’t seen in years, asking to be my “friend” and posting 30 year old memories. And it was like we’d always been together.

I went to a fairly small high school. I knew everyone in my class, along with most of the kids in the three years before and three years after I graduated. Give me a few minutes and I’ll name’em all. I knew their siblings and their parents.

The funny thing is that I guess my memory isn’t as good as I thought. I get friend requests from people I don’t remember until I look them up in the yearbook. I can’t remember who were siblings and who were cousins. Some people I remember well from grade school but was surprised to learn they were still around at graduation. Or that they weren’t. Looking through the yearbook, I’m shocked to see how many people I haven’t thought about at all since we left. I knew all these kids. Didn’t I?

So I have renewed close friendships, happily made new ones, dug out old pictures and newspapers, and rebooted my memory. I’ve chatted long into the night with some people, while I may just leave birthday wishes on the walls of others. I admire all the children and (GASP!) grandchildren, and pray for parents who are getting along in years. As I see my own children growing up and preparing to leave high school behind, I’m learning to cherish that time.

The best part is that it’s not at all like high school. We share a history, which gives a foundation to new friendships. Some of us share specific stories and memories. But the petty things which kept us in our separate cliques, the insecurities that kept us from talking to someone different from us, the jealousies that kept us from being happy for someone else’s success, are gone. We don’t have to keep up an image anymore—the jock, the good girl, the brain, the doper. We’re not the Breakfast Club anymore. The dumb kids aren’t dumb. The pretty girls are still pretty, even if they’re chubby now. The jocks have brains and the brains are coaching their kids. And we all have real feelings and dreams.

So here’s an apology for any hurt feelings I caused. Some forgiveness for hurts done to me. A thank you for little acts of kindness and a promise that if I ever get rich, I’ll buy pizza at Fred’s for everyone to pay back all the pizza I bummed when I was broke. I was blessed to have such friends when I was growing up. I’m blessed now to have them back.

The Guilt Fairy

November 16th, 2009

I am never going to win an award for being either mother or daughter of the year. I know I’ll never be mother of the year, because my 18 year old daughter is always telling me how bad I am at motherhood. I’m sure she’s a much better mother, despite having no children yet, than I’ll ever be, and I concede that title to her (in the future—the DISTANT future!)

I’m trying to do better in the daughter category, since becoming a responsible adult is on my to do list this year, and being a good daughter is what a responsible adult woman does. I was reminded of that this morning after church, while chatting with a neighbor in the parking lot. “In less than three years, all the kids will be gone and I’ll have more time to volunteer,” I said. “That’s right, but then it’ll be time to take care of your parents,” she reminded me. “It’s a blessing that you still have them to care for.”

That certainly jolted my womanly guilt fairy. She’s been slacking lately, and I’ve let myself make excuses for not doing all sorts of things women “ought” to do. Grocery shopping? Send the teenager. House cleaning? It’s not that bad, and no one is coming over. Sending cards to friends and relatives who are sick/having a birthday/need a friend/mourning? I’m out of cards, and the teenager doing the grocery shopping wouldn’t pick up the right ones. That’s a stretch, so I knew the fairy was not doing her job. Helping my aunt with my elderly grandmother. Okay, the fairy must still be living in the area, because I do feel guilty that I have not been more help. But the excuse fairy is working overtime to come up with reasons for not volunteering, the best one being that since she didn’t call to ask, she must be doing okay without my help. That’s pretty lame, but it’s all I got.

Now the guilt fairy was home and paying attention. I was going to have dinner with my mother in just a couple of hours. Mom’s been having a problem with double vision lately and it makes her dizzy and seasick. Just the day before, she had stayed home from a picnic because she felt unwell. I knew that my daughter (the future good little mother) had already volunteered to cook dinner later. And I knew that Mom probably didn’t feel up to cleaning the house. The guilt fairy saw a perfect opportunity.

An hour before dinner time, I presented myself at Mom’s, ready to do my part as a good daughter and clean her house, including all three and a half bathrooms (my own dirty bathroom being ignored as usual.) I felt quite self-righteous and my halo had a new shine. My mother looked at me like I was nuts. “I got up and cleaned and dusted everything the other day. Maybe it doesn’t look clean, but I can’t tell since I can’t see straight!” she said. The excuse fairy was right on that, throwing the guilt fairy down and sitting on her. Mom cleaned, it looked fine to me, okay, let’s eat!

I am never going to win the daughter of the year award. But one of these days, when Mom actually needs it, I’ll clean all three and a half of those bathrooms. For now, I’ll just give thanks that she doesn’t need it yet.

The Cat’s Meow

November 9th, 2009

Do you speak cat? My poor black kitty has walked around all afternoon screaming at the top of his lungs for no apparent reason. He has food. He doesn’t seem to be hurt. I petted him for half an hour. I think this is the kid-equivalent of I’m Bored.

Apparently his brother the gray cat won’t play with him. Gray kitty is sleeping on the back of the couch, where he’s been most of the day, and he’s just not up for a good romp today. Old kitty won’t play, either. She just hisses and smacks him. So there’s nothing to do. And unlike a kid, I can’t threaten to make him clean his room.

My kids thought we should get a dog. I love dogs, but I don’t want one. A dog is like a three year old that never gets any older and always needs taken care of. A cat is like a rock star, and you are the manager who makes sure he’s happy. There’s always the possibility that you could be fired.

Dogs bark, you tell them to shut up, and they shut up. Tell the cat to shut up, and he’ll walk over to you, peer into your face, and shout “MEOW!” He wants what he wants, and he wants it NOW.

So I picked up the nasty baby toy he found in the yard and dragged in, and I tossed it across the slick floor so that he could chase it. That was fun. He chased it, caught it, and brought it back for another round. We played that game until he was tired of it, and I went back to my computer work. And he went back to yelling.

Do I Know Where My Children Are?

November 5th, 2009

I spend lots of time trying to make people believe that I am a competent adult and responsible parent. It’s hard work, but I am determined to fool at least some of them. My kids aren’t making it easy.

Every day, I fill out permission slips and absence notes and request forms and hand them back to the child who needs them, ready to go back to school. Every day I get calls from the school office asking for permission, absence excuses and requested information. My children apparently suffer from a condition that does not allow them to return a form to it’s place of origin.

It’s not just the high school children who have this problem. My college age son is unable to even request the correct form to get scholarship money sent to the right place. He is “too busy.” I managed to navigate the web and find the phone number for the correct school office for him and e-mailed an address for sending out the form, so that all he needs to do is make a phone call. No word yet as to whether he found time to do that.

I’m not the only parent with this problem. One dad I know told me that when his daughter was a Senior, he bought a steno pad, signed every page, took it to the office at school and told the secretary to simply write in whatever she needed. He told the secretary that if she thought it was okay for the kid to go, he trusted her judgment. He got a lot more work done after that, since he didn’t have to answer the phone every day.

I think my older daughter only appears at school long enough to get permission to leave again. Today she started off going to the local university for a college fair. She went from the fair to a quiz bowl match, and from there to a Kiwanis luncheon. She says she might get to school in time for her art class last period.

The younger one is already practicing to get out of school over the next two years by becoming an office assistant. She knows that as soon as she has her license, she will be able to run errands for teachers, seriously cutting down on time spent in class.

I pay tuition for these children to attend this school. I should be allowed to pay by the hour.

I believe the school must be subliminally transferring knowledge to them all over the city. They must be learning something sometime, since they do exceptionally well on standardized tests. They’re getting A’s in their classes. It’s hard to argue that they aren’t getting a good education. But I wonder, after graduation, if they’ll recognize their teachers!

The Pig Flu

October 26th, 2009

This flu shot thing has me in a quandary. My philosophy is that the farther you stay from doctors and hospitals, the less likely you are to get sick. We are generally a pretty healthy family.

When my children were small, I did take them for the mandatory vaccines, but while the oldest saw the pediatrician on a fairly regular schedule (he was the first child and weighed only four pounds when he was born,) the youngest got her shots from the health department (where they were free,) and didn’t see the doctor until she went for her school-ordered Kindergarten checkup. (Please don’t call Childrens’ Services. She’s 16 now, and she’s fine.)

I personally have not had a shot of any kind since I was 12. I’m…..older than that now, and it doesn’t seem to have hurt me. I get the occasional cold and I probably had the flu about five years ago, but that’s life. I’m way more afraid of getting Guillian-Barre Syndrome that of getting any kind of flu. I logically believe that it is very unlikely that any of us would have complications that would result in hospitalization, much less death.

But a friend of mine died. Not just someone far away on the news, an actual person who had been as healthy as the average middle-aged adult and thought he was going to stay home from work and play around on Facebook for a few days. I thought hard about that. My son called from college to say he had a fever and flu symptoms. He knew people who had H1N1. I tried not to worry about it, knowing that he would almost surely be fine even if he had it, but he is in Boston and I am in Ohio. What if he got really sick?

I finally decided that I won’t get a flu shot. There is a shortage, and there are people who will be seriously worried if they are denied a flu shot. I’m okay with taking my chances.

Walmart People

October 21st, 2009

How many of you have seen the peopleofwalmart.com website? Come on, admit it. You looked at fifteen pages before you could quit. It’s amazingly funny and shocking and campy. I immediately thought of the Walmart Bingo game my kids sometimes play on boring summer evenings (there’s a Christmas version for boring winter vacation time!)

This stuff is funny because these people seem so clueless as to why other people are staring. They don’t seem to realize that their car modifications are not cool. That their fishnet stockings don’t quite blend with the zebra striped top that isn’t long enough to cover the beer belly. They don’t get that they really don’t look much like Elvis, and that if Elvis were still with us, he wouldn’t look like that anymore either. Where do people like that come from? Why are they running around loose? Why don’t they know how funny they look?

We can laugh at them because we know that we are ever so much more sophisticated and fashionable. Never would we appear in public that way! Not for any reason! Well, except for the other day when I stayed home from work sick and my daughter needed me to bring her geometry book to school. I tried to get her to come and meet me at the car, but she couldn’t. I had on warmup pants. That wasn’t too bad. I combed my hair. It was flat and flyaway, but it seemed passable. The tshirt was snug and I wasn’t wearing a bra, and putting one on seemed way too much trouble, so I put on the other daughter’s pullover jacket (even though it was 80 degrees.) Then I put on my flipflops and took the book to school. Fortunately, only the principal saw me. The look on her face was priceless. If she’d had a camera, I might even now be gracing a web page with a funny caption so that other people could point and laugh.

Busy, Busy!

October 15th, 2009

Time flies when you’re being a mom. The kids are back to school, I’m back to work, I’m starting on a new career and trying to maintain my house. When I saw how long it had been since I last wrote for my blog, I was amazed. Seems like I just posted last week!

But time has gotten away with me and I haven’t had time to think of a single profound thing to say. Except that Labor Day is gone, Volleyball season is just about over, and it will be Thanksgiving before you know it. Time is rushing by. So pay attention! You might miss the whole thing!

Next week, I’ll say something profound or funny. Maybe.

Someday, My Prince….

September 22nd, 2009

My blog title promises that you will get glimpses into the life of a princess. Just think about that. You come here and read that headline, and get all excited thinking you’ll finally know how royalty really lives. And then you read about me cleaning my bathroom.

When a friend helped me set up the blog and chose that title, I thought it was funny. I’m not a princess. I’m like the total opposite of the prissy, girly-girl image. I made him take it off. But he seemed so disappointed that I let him put it back. I didn’t figure anyone would ever read it anyway.

The more I think about it, though, the more I think he may be right. I may not have a crown in my jewelry box, but I think I’m destined to be a princess. As my sister-in-law has pointed out on more than one occasion, I think the rules don’t apply to me. She’s right. My mom doesn’t allow eating in the living room, but I eat there. It’s not that I think rules are unimportant. Other people need them.

I have always wanted to be a princess. My cousin and I would lie in bed at night when she came to visit and talk about what our lives would be like when we married our princes. How we would have lovely clothes and maids and canopy beds on pedestals with velvet curtains all around. I was so sure it would happen!

So why does the life of a princess involve cooking and cleaning? Where’s my driver? There is not a single velvet thing in my entire bedroom! The only princess who ever cleaned anything in a fairy tale was Cinderella, and that was only until her prince came. WHERE’S MY PRINCE?

Personally, I blame it all on Walt Disney. All those princess movies with the helpful little birds and animals were far too believeable. I had long hair, why couldn’t I be Rapunzle? He even taught us to all sing along– “someday my prince will come….” Why didn’t our mothers tell us that when he got here, we’d have to pick up his socks every day? And that princes don’t like canopy beds with velvet curtains? And that crowns are heavy and make your neck hurt?

So maybe the life of a princess isn’t as carefree as a Disney movie. And maybe even real princesses sometimes clean the toilet. Occasionally I even follow the rules. Velvet curtains would just get dusty. But my prince is coming.