Where have all the manners gone?

As I wrote last week, I was visiting the southern states of Florida and Georgia with my daughter. The metropolitan feel came out of our Orlando and Tampa ventures. But there was a drastically different sense when entering the city of Savannah. Even though it was the celebratory “season” of St. Patrick’s Day, it was different from the party scenes in Key West during New Year’s Eve celebrations or Florida Spring Break festivities.

We were graced with the genteel nature of the south in our visit to Savannah. You could feel the embodiment of aristocracy in the stately buildings on Whitaker Street or the elegant lifestyle on Bull Street. Even the Spanish moss cascading off the tall oak trees evoked a sense of curtsying maidens and tuxedoed gentlemen retiring to the smoking room.

Oh, the days when manners meant something. If we could go back to, or move forward to a time when manners meant/mean something; where our elders were treated with respect and civility, temperance in speech was practiced and virtue was a badge of glory.

I am a dichotomy in terms. I am a very independent woman. If I were childless and single, I would be very successful in my career as I am outgoing, determined and intelligent woman.  But I am married with children and I love the aspect of being a wife and mother. I would love to be at home baking, cleaning, sewing and volunteering with my time. I miss being flexible for my family now that I have a fulltime job outside the home.

I am old-fashioned and yet if I weren’t married, I would be a very modern woman. That seems strange but I love being married. I love my focus being on a house in order and a family in order. I want my family to be courteous, kind and a good example to others. I want them to be good stewards in the community by making sure that we give back both in community service and in an active church life.

Modern or old-fashioned, I do know that I would always have my manners; I would always have my “please” and “thank you’s” and I would address individuals as Mr., Mrs., or Miss when appropriate. I do see this as greatly missing in this society. I think that families are not honoring the etiquette that was so important in the past and they are missing many aspects of a time long gone. I think that the demise of the wife taking the husband’s last name has caused a confusion as to how to address adult women. I understand professional titles and my taking my husband’s last name had nothing to do with me losing my individuality. Believe me, even as a married woman who proudly took her husband’s name, I am an individual.

I am not a friend to my children. I am their parent. I am the parent that can speak about anything and everything to her children and they can say anything and everything to me. We speak about personal, worldly, out-of-the-box topics, but I am their parent. I expect them to respect my authority and I expect them to listen to me, learn from me, and take orders and guidance from me. We have a great deal of fun but when the fun goes too far, and they start treating me like a friend, I let them know.

What I mean by that last statement is, I don’t want to be talked to like I am their friend. I want proper and respectful English used, no swearing, no inappropriate words. Sometimes, my son gets carried away and I have to remind him that I am not his buddy and proper language needs to be used.

When I was growing up, I spoke to my friends differently than I would speak to my teacher, or parent or other person of authority. I would not use slang around my elders and would address my elders with the proper title. I knew that there was an invisible line that separated me from persons of authority. I was, and still am, okay with that. I believe that there is a pyramid and the higher you move up on the pyramid, the greater expectations people will have of you.

Let me go one step further, I don’t want to see my pastor out getting drunk. I am not saying that they shouldn’t do it; I just don’t want to see it. I don’t want my choir kids to see me getting drunk and I don’t want to see my president “yucking it up” on late night television. I know it is done to “bring them down” to the level of the common man, but let’s be real; many politicians in Washington D.C. are wealthy. And I don’t want them to be at my level. I want them to have a better grasp of things than I do. I am aware of this and I do not begrudge them. I applaud them for being successful enough in their business life that they are wealthy. I don’t want them to be on my level. I do not want to see them in a way that would not make their mother or pastor proud or would tarnish the position in which they hold.

That means, yes, I do have higher expectations of them. Because they were chosen to be a person of authority, I do believe they should act in a way befitting their position. Just like you would not see me in a mini-skirt or a string bikini; not just because I shouldn’t wear them with my body-type but because I am a 50+ year old woman. Mini-skirts and string bikinis are for those of younger age. I would say by your late thrities, you should start steering away from skin revealing clothing. Late night television is a lot of fun but not a place for politicians.

Don’t get me wrong, these thoughts came about because of my visit to Savannah, and I know that there is a lot of degradation, salacious acts, lying and cheating, just like many communities in the world. The difference is what happened behind closed doors, stayed behind closed doors. (What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.) My grandfather probably said it best, “Don’t share family secrets.” What he meant by that, was family problems need to stay within and handled by the family. Problems are not meant to be publicized and become the fodder for gossip.

I don’t want to know the sex acts of celebrities. I do not want to know what my friends do behind bedroom doors. I don’t want to hear swearing in public places because you don’t know who could be walking by and you should always want to come across in a positive light, if at all possible. I love the parents that openly swear and speak of personal things in front of their children. I want my children to have respect for me. How can that happen if a bunch of trash is coming out of my mouth.

As we get further into the political season, we all get to hear the bashing that will happen amongst the candidates. Another great saying my grandfather had was, “Don’t try to raise yourself up by putting others down.” If you degrade someone, then others will feel they can do the same to you. It is a vicious circle.

I never heard my mom swear. When I was older she told me that she didn’t swear because she had too much respect for herself. Wow, what a concept to have respect for others AND yourself. I wish there were more people out there who could have that same respect for themselves.

I admit it. I have sworn in my life. I have even sworn in front of my children. I have yet to reach the level of respectability that my mom has for herself.  I am a work in progress and I do feel horrible when I say something or do something that is not to the standards that I strive to achieve.

Think about how you portray yourself. If you are a church going person, would your words and actions be acceptable to your congregational family? Would you be embarrassed to have your children speak with their teacher or principal about your words and actions? If you don’t care, then that is a whole other problem. If someone was describing you and you did not know it was you, would you be proud to know that person or ashamed?

Our world needs to think about the genteel South, even if it is an old wives tale, of their cordiality, their soft words, their proper manners.  I listen to a lot of old-time radio, so I do know there was a time when it was expected, not a surprise to have a door opened for a woman or a “please” and “thank you” regularly said. There was a time when children addressed all adults with a proper title. You don’t have to be uptight or a snob to use manners and be polite.

I have hopefully instilled in my children a sense of respect in their lives. Maybe they can be strong and continue on this tradition into future generations. Time tarries on and I must close for now and say, “Thank you for reading my blog. I hope your day is filled with love and joy.”

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Savannah, GA: St. Patrick’s Day and all that is southern

Today, I will wear green so as not to confuse people. As an Irish descendant who is protestant, I should be wearing orange, but I will follow the tradition of wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day. Now there are a few different ways to look at my desire to wear orange.

  1. I am protestant and that is what protestants wear on St. Patrick’s Day.
  2. I am defiant because I am a protestant and I wear it as a symbol of taking a stance against the Irish Catholics. (I don’t like that one)
  3. I like to be different.
  4. I like the color orange over green.

An article written by the National Geographic in 2006 says that, in Ireland, it is considered bad luck to wear too much green. Green is the favorite color of the Good People. If you wear too much green, you might be kidnapped, especially if you are a child.

A crazy American city to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is Savannah, Georgia. Known as the second or third largest St. Patrick’s Day parade, I overheard revelers say that the parade will last 4.5 hours. The website Savannah.com says that over 300,00 people will visit Savannah to help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

My daughter and I were there over the weekend, not to celebrate the holiday celebrating St. Patrick, but to visit the Juliette Low birthplace . Juliette Low was that founder of Girl Scouting. As we were visiting colleges in Florida, I thought that this would be a good chance to run up to Savannah. I knew that Savannah was a wild time over St Patrick’s Day and that our visit would not be a normal visit, but it was the time we had available. We were not disappointed.

Crazy, crazy, crazy! That is how I would describe it. We arrived at lunch time and the streets were packed with green; green clothes, green hair, green faces and of course, green beer. It was a city filled with green, and St. Patrick’s Day was two days away. (I found out later that the partying had been going on for two weeks. The Savannah.com website says that the festivities began on March 2nd and will culminate with the parade today. Our tour driver sounded very fed up with the revelry.)

The best partier  I saw was an older woman, in a wheelchair who had a green wig and was dressed in head-to-toe green. Her husband was next to her in a green sports jacket and plaid green pants.I missed getting a photo of them but I looked at them and thought that this was not just a party town for the 20+ scene. It was for all ages. There were parents with their children tagging behind, babies in strollers and dogs, so many dogs! The funny thing was there were quite a few men in kilts which is actually Scottish. The Irish did adopt the wearing of kilts but it wasn’t until the 20th century. I guess it is just a way for men to take the chance to wear a skirt.

We arrived in Savannah at lunch time and fell into the sea of green. We headed to eat and since I knew we would be in Orlando for St. Patrick’s Day, I decided to eat my Irish meal in Savannah. I won’t mention the place where we ate because I would not recommend it. Being from the Omaha, Nebraska area, where the Reuben was created at the Blackstone Hotel, I am particular as to my Reuben. This Reuben was not made with a corned beef roast. It was a deli, composite-type meat. It had the flavor (sort of) of corned beef, but did not have that great texture. At my home, Reubens are always made the day after St. Patrick’s Day. My difference is I use pumpernickel bread instead of rye. You would never make a Reuben with anything but from a corned beef brisket.

After a mediocre lunch, we walked. Now I will tell you that I am very directionally challenged. I always tell people who if I say turn right, you should probably turn left. We walked, and walked more. I guess it gave us a better view of the historic district  of Savannah. Full of beautiful structures, statues, squares and stories, Savannah is a great place to learn about the growth and struggles of our country in the south. During the Civil War, Savannah was spared destruction by Sherman’s troops when the mayor of Savannah made a deal and gave Sherman the city.

In Savannah there is so much irony. It is said that they do not “tolerate” gays and yet there are clubs for female impersonators and then there is the story of Jim Williams (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil). This book, based on facts, is filled with intrigue, homosexuality, murder, double lives and more. During our guided tour of Savannah, the guides washed over the Mercer Home; Mentioned it but never went into a conversation about what happened behind the closed doors. There are tours specifically set to tour all of the key houses, businesses and places around the book, but for our tour guides, it is a non-event.

We had 28 hours in Savannah, Georgia. It was not enough time to get the true feel of the city, especially since it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend. It was enough time to get a taste of the city and it may make me want to return for a third time, maybe for a St Patrick’s celebration or to see the more genteel side. If I return for the St. Patrick craziness, I will need to return for a longer time and to make sure I have enough green (or orange) so I fit in.

How ever you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, do it well and safely. There are pub crawls all across the United States and there will be a lot of corned beef and cabbage eaten. Maybe if I wasn’t with my teenage daughter, I might have been able to get a little wild and crazy with the Savannahians and their guests, but then I am sure I would be regretting it now, so maybe not.

Even though I am missing the food tradition today, I will get home and we will have our corned beef and cabbage, boiled potatoes and Irish Soda Bread dinner. On the next day, we will have Reubens.

Savannah has a long tradition of St. Patrick’s partying and being hospitable to its guests. May we all get lost in our partying when feasible and hold on to our traditions and create new ones to carry on.

Slainte’!  (meaning health in Gaelic)

Defying Gravity or When did I get old?

I know where I was when It happened. I don’t remember the date or time; maybe I was trying to deny the inevitable and erase it from my memory. But it happened, I stopped being “that girl”. No I don’t mean that ditzy Ann Marie from the 1960’s tv sitcom That Girl; I mean the girl who rock stars make a connection; the girl who could garner a smile from a total stranger.The one who the lead singer targeted in the audience.

I was the girl who stood out in a crowd. I am not being conceited because I was far from a strikingly beautiful person. My face was a little too full and I was never a thin person. But my grandfather always made me his photo test subject because I was photogenic. Maybe it was my smile or my blue-blue eyes. Whatever it was, I knew that I could capture the attention of XY gene carriers on a stage. I could feel their eyes connect with mine. Sometimes it was electric. I would smile and that smile was reciprocated. Sometimes their smile was a shy little smile and others an, out there, full grin. And while I could have been imagining it, I don’t think so. Because I remember when it ceased; more importantly, I remember how I felt.

Most times, this happened when my husband was with me; sitting (or standing) right next to me. It made me feel special. I was proud that I could catch the attention of someone other than my husband. No don’t get me wrong, I love my husband and would never do anything to lose his trust. And while this sounds very shallow and women out there may tell me I am demeaning myself, I was glad that I could stand next to my husband and know that I looked good for him and he could feel proud to have me next to him. And… other men knew that he was lucky to have me going home with him. It was nice to know I “had it.”

It was in 2010, the 35th anniversary tour for Air Supply. Kent likes to go to concerts and this was one that he really wanted to see. I agreed, even though I wasn’t readily familiar with the songs tied to the band name. (I am bad connecting song titles to bands. I was/am very familiar with their music. Now it all brings back sad memories).

Kent was excited for this concert. Famous for love songs that caused teen girls to swoon in the arms of their boyfriends. I am sure that Air Supply was responsible for many late night entanglement of arms and legs; you can imagine the rest. How could you not want to declare your undying love while, .“Lost in Love”, “All Out of Love”, “The One That You Love”, “Sweet Dreams”, or “Making Love Out Of Nothing At All”, played on your transistor radio. It was going to be a romantic evening, alone in a crowd, with my husband, I thought.

It was a small venue. We were in  a hotel meeting room area at one of the local casinos. The stage was set up and metal folding chairs were parallel from the stage edge to the back wall of the venue. We chose our seats and then chose them again. We kept moving around until we found, what we felt were the perfect seats. We were in the third row, square in the middle of that row, center stage. I was ready for a night of swooning with my husband.

I know it was the 35th anniversary show (I know that because I have a guitar pick advertising their 35th year tour) but WOW, Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock looked old. Their faces were fake baked (at least I thought their tans looked fake) and that really brought out Hitchcock’s silver fox colored hair. But what should I have expected from a band that was formed in 1975 and was still on the tour circuit. I would guess it had not been an easy life. Plus they were 60 and 61 years old.

The lights went down; you could feel the excitement, electricity in the air. And then the band came out, full of energy, even though they looked old, playing, singing with the same, smooth sounding voice, playing with eloquence and moving across the stage. And then the time came. It was time for “the contact”. Hitchcock’s eyes met mine. It was just a short glance and then, his eyes went to someone else. It felt like a cold, blank glance. I felt cold, unattractive. No, I felt old! and I was under the age of 50. I had lost it. Even thought the concert was great, the lack of an eyelock, is what stands out in my mind.

That was the beginning of a new era in my life. I was no longer “that girl”. I have been to concerts since 2010 and every concert is the same, I no longer have the same appeal. I am older. I am not the kind of “girl” who rock stars want to lock their eyes with. I am pretty sure that I still cause my husband’s heart to flutter. But I don’t think that men on the street look at my husband and say “What a lucky dog!” I still try to get the eye contact, but it is not meant to be.

I don’t know if I am okay with that, but it is what it is. I have yet to find a natural way to truly hide the wrinkles. I let my hair go natural and while there really is not that much gray, in fact very little, my hair does not have the same luster if I don’t add color. (By the way, after a year of no color, I have an appointment tomorrow). My face is finding gravity; my body is finding gravity. And it is taking more time to keep all that is me, together.

There are many reasons that I am blessed to be married to Kent. He puts up with all of my emotional days; days when it is hard to think positively and my mood comes out in my words. He puts up with my body changes and my, set in stone, beliefs. When my friends tell me that they don’t celebrate birthdays anymore, I say, “Heh, it’s better than the alternative!” I do believe that and while I believe I look pretty darn good for someone over 50, I wish I looked about 40 again, that was a good time for my face and body. So while I may look good for my age, and it is a compliment to hear, I wish I could learn how to naturally learn how to defy gravity and not look so old. I can’t see being so vain that I go under the knife.

I will age gracefully and maybe I will always look younger than my age, but I don’t know if I can accept that all of the things that are impossible to do at my age, are gone from my life.

Or maybe I should not limit myself. I have always said that if no one told me I couldn’t do something, that I could do anything. Maybe I should put that into practice. While I will never have another baby, maybe I could build up my stamina and canoe like I did as a teenager. (Somehow though, I think my all night partying days are over; that doesn’t even sound appealing to me anymore.)

To borrow an old, worn out saying, “You are only as old as you feel”. Maybe this is my inspiration to quit feeling sorry for myself and start feeling younger so I can truly reflect my youthful self.

How do you go about keeping yourself feeling young? How are you working at defying gravity and not needing to ask that question, “When did I get old?”

Now off to work out and start my new attitude! Okay, kidding! I am going to make some coffee, I think a chocolate peppermint latte this morning, and get ready for work.

taken just yesterday
taken just yesterday
At a volleyball coaches training with Karch Kiraly (natural curl in my hair)

At a volleyball coaches training with Karch Kiraly (natural curl in my hair 2010

It's all about the blue eyes. 2012

It’s all about the blue eyes. 2012

I can see a change over the years. I don’t know how it happens but it is a reality and definitely better than the alternative.

I guess I should just look at it all and age gracefully.

I am who I am…a pontification on a changing life

I am Jane Van Horn. While I am always a mom, my life changed 11 months ago when I left my career as a mom/wife/volunteer and became a full-time employee for a Fabulous church camp. I have struggled over the past 11 months trying to juggle the mom/wife/volunteer and employee “balls”.

The volunteer ball dropped. I could no longer handle that aspect of my life. I guess, luckily, one of my volunteer jobs was out at Camp Fontanelle, where I became employed. I took a diminished capacity in my Girl Scout volunteering. I went from being a leader and a volunteer leader manager and a product sales coordinator to just a product sales coordinator. My volunteering for my church almost completely stopped. Life Changed!

My children, being almost 16 and 18, do not need me in the same capacity as before. While, at least for the next 26 days, I have to drive to my daughter to non-school activities, my children are very independent. They handle doing their own laundry; they drive to school activities; they are able to prepare their own breakfast and lunch and can make dinner if I am not around. Life has changed!

When I was a stay-at-home mom, I always felt that I could be doing more. My home could be cleaner. My ironing could be done in a more timely manner. My files could be better organized. I was always cooking and baking and I was heavily involved in my volunteering and the lives of my children. I ran all of the errands for the family and felt I was the manager of the house. It was what I dreamt of all of my years as a youth and young adult. I was (am) a traditional woman. I wanted to be a “housewife” and mother.

What I found out after I started working full-time was that I was doing a great job as a housewife and mom! While I was not as organized as I wanted, life ran fairly smoothly in our household because my life revolved around making sure everyone was where they should be, on time and they had what they needed to get their job done, whether it was school, extra-curricular items or anything for my husband. WOW, how life has changed.

What these past 11 months have taught me is that I truly loved being available. I loved being the person that people could count on being there, doing “this” and organizing “that”. My going back to work, in an employment capacity, was always discussed. I think I was in denial that it would ever happen. When it happened, I thought I could handle it all.

I couldn’t/can’t be the person that I was for 18 years. I have not adjusted well and I am a work in progress. My new reality has not been a smooth transition for me, my husband or my children. I have let things drop. And my going to work full-time did not mean that they could pick up the things that I previously, did because they live busy lives as well. Life has changed and we still don’t know how it will evolve.

For those stay-at-home moms out there, keep doing what you do and now that you are making a difference in the lives of your families. Be confident in what you do, but don’t take lightly your responsibilities, you never know when your life may change.

I was blessed to be able to have time to spend with my children. I had six years where I was the homeschool mom. It was time that I will never forget. Our children are who they are, strong, independent, intelligent, well-rounded, of strong moral character partly, because I was there to guide them and be that positive influence. While I have not been the perfect wife, I tried to be available to make sure that my husband’s life ran smoothly. I was his secretary, sounding board, friend and lover.

While my circumstances have changed, I am who I am. I am still confident, interdependent, a strong believer and a person who wants to be the best I can be for the world. As my life evolves, I will see how this thing called life plays itself out.

Eleven months ago, I quit writing because of my life change. On this Ash Wednesday, my Lenten “give up” is not giving up but giving back. It is time to start writing again and trying to make sure my life evolution is directed by me and not a reactionary change.

Please be patient with me as I work on being the director of my life. For these 11 months, I have been reactionary. It is time to take back control. So while my writing is a little rusty, at least I am writing again.

Find your Lenten give back and work to improve your life!