All posts tagged #niephews

Bollards to You and Other New Words

Operable Bollards

Bollard. Returnship. Showrooming. All but bollard are new, made-up-to-fit-the times, words that I learned this week. In an effort to learn these words so that they will flow seamlessly from my mouth I’ve been told to use them in sentence a few times.

Returnship.
I came across this word in the Wall Street Journal Returnship is an internship for people returning to the workforce. The WSJ blurb reported that Goldman Sachs, among other companies have “short-term paid jobs” for people coming back to work after taking time off.

I’ve experienced internship envy before. I desperately wanted the job at CBS that my niece-in-law took or the one with the United Nations that my nephew filled. When caught between what I’m doing and what I think I want to do next, an internship offers both parties a chance to see if there’s a fit in job responsibilities/skills and culture.

Showrooming
This is what the lady at Target was doing the other day. I just didn’t know it had a name other than comparison shopping. But if you comparison shop online while standing in front of merchandise in-store, you are showrooming.

I’m not sure I’m the showrooming type. When caught between looking for cheaper shampoo online or buying the fairly priced bottle in front of me and not driving, parking, and walking through another set of aisles, I usually grab what’s in front of me. And if I’m buying something significantly more expensive, say a new TV, I’ve done my comparison shopping online at home. That must make me a home-showroomer.

Bollard
Every thing has a name and the little posts that prevent cars from driving into the front of buildings, usually important buildings, are called bollards. Who knew? Sailors perhaps, since the word has been used to describe the posts used to moor ships for many years. But an academic friend found an “operable bollards” sign on his campus the other day and wondered, “What is this and what is a non-operable bollard?”

I don’t imagine I’ll use bollard much in casual or formal conversation. If I need to warn someone about an upcoming bollard, I’m going to say, “Hey, watch out for the post,” not, “There’s a bollard obstructing our ingress/egress.” Come to think of it, I don’t use ingress or egress very often either.

Words open new worlds. A returnship brings new work opportunities. Showrooming brings cost savings. And bollards bring the lowly post up a few notches in status.

Aunt with Niephews

Facebook cover image_Aunties Day_July 22 2012_Savvy Auntie

“You’re a good aunt,” Carla said, “I’m not sure I’m even invited to graduations.” My friend was commenting on the number of family graduations I attended this past spring. One niece graduated from college, another from high school and a goddaughter marched out of eighth grade.

“Oh, I’m not sure I’m always invited. I just ask for the date and show up.” I responded. “I consider it part of my auntly duties and privileges.”

Jane Austen wrote, in a letter to her 10-year old niece, Caroline: “Now that you have become an Aunt, you are a person of some consequence & must excite great interest whatever you do. I have always maintained the importance of aunts as much as possible…”

Unlike Aunt Jane, I place the importance of the aunt-niephew  (my collective noun for nieces and nephews) relationship on the niephew. He or she is important, not me.  I am not a person of consequence simply by being an aunt. However, I am guilty of trying to “excite great interest” at all times.

I’ve been an aunt forever.  I am the fourth out of five children and therefore acquired niephews quite easily and early in life.  I was aunted for the first time at age 10. Today I have 23 niephews (including great and great-great) and several other young people whom I consider honorary niephews, as well as multiple godchildren. I certainly don’t have the same relationship with each of them, but their presence does inform my identity as Aunt Julie.

From my perspective an aunt is always there for you. She is an open door for when you want to talk, be heard and be engaged. She is a confidante and a friend who gives it to you straight in a safe environment.  An aunt is part of the conversation around the table, listening and inserting her views on topics she thinks people should be talking about.

One of the benefits of aunting is collecting auntidotes. An auntidote is part antidote, part anecdote and wholly my take on my experiences while aunting.  It is informed by what I believe defines “aunting”: humor, honesty, empathy, impartiality, nuance and a little rule bending. An auntidote may offer observations, advice, encouragement and/or insight on all the things that encourage, impede, confound and catapult us through the world.

Here’s one from last year’s beach vacation with my brother’s family, offered in honor of Savvy Auntie’s Day, which was yesterday – July 22nd. This post was held up due to a full weekend of aunting with a young nephew. I never knew that hermit crab races could be so interesting or a dying mole so distressing.

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The silence in the car is louder than the a million vuvuzuela’s at a South African soccer match.  It challenges me to keep quiet when my impulse is to fill the void with observations: “Look at that sky.”  Ask a question: “So, do you have a crush on anyone?” Or, read a sign on the side of the road, just like my Dad, “Stomach issues, Come to Indiana’s Stomach Specialists” But I don’t. I hold my tongue and find I’m also holding my breath. So then I just breathe in the quiet and out the tension.

I’m not sure if my 17-year-old niece feels the tension. She exudes a certain teenage tension now. Angst of being on a family vacation without a sister or friend to pal around with. I’ve dragged her along on an outing – a made up outing actually – with me, just to get her out of the house while the rest of the family – her younger brothers, mother, and father go on a boat ride. She hates boats, she says. I share her lack of enthusiasm.

She was always game for a ride with Aunt Julie when she was 8, 9, 10, even 12 years old.  She jumped at the chance to ride up front – something she rarely got to do with two older siblings claiming dibs on the shotgun seat. She would play with my phone and make up riddles or rhymes.

But today, this teenage niece controls any display of playfulness or interest in conversation. Today, this teenage niece has her own phone on which she sends and receives text messages, breaking the silence in the car with a click, click, click, and click.  So I listen to the clicks and I observe, silently: “What a beautiful sky,” I remark, silently, on the billboards: “Thank goodness I don’t have stomach issues,” and, I resist asking, “Who are you texting, is it a boy?”  I can wait until she’s ready to talk again. Being together is good enough for right now.

 

 

 

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It’s at close to Leave It To Beaver as I/we get. My brother’s family visits my lake cottage every July 4th. He and his wife bring anywhere from three to five of their children and assorted playmates for a week’s worth of beach time bonding and blueberry pancake breakfasts. Friends from the city weave in an out of the activities adding another three to five to seven more people at the dinner table. Scattegories (a game where answers to categories have to begin with the same letter) teams challenge each other post-dinner for the most ridiculous answer. This year’s winners were all generated when we had to come up with answers that started with the letter “O”.
• Something found on a hike: Onions
• Items in a salad bar: Oysters
• Things at school: Obnoxious children.

My brother and my 10 and 12-year old nephews caught 14 Coho salmon from Lake Michigan this year. I threatened them with pizza for dinner if they weren’t successful – guess it worked. Husband grilled perfect salmon filets for four nights running with no complaints. It’s hard to believe that I rejected salmon the first time I ate it. But a salmon patty made from canned sock-eyed salmon is about as different from fresh caught lake salmon as a cocoa bean is from a chocolate truffle.

These lake vacations do and do not resemble the lake vacations my family took when we were children. We stayed in rented cottages where Mom had to pack sheets and towels for the week. Dad wore socks with his Bermudas shorts and Mom tried to stay out of the sun. The fish we caught were either returned to their lake home or begrudgingly eaten by all of us. Air conditioning was something we left behind.

Instead of Scattegories we put together puzzles (minus one or two missing pieces) over the course of the week, played endless rounds of Gin Rummy or Rummy 500, read books, and bathed in the lake after sweeping the beach of dead alewives.

I treasure this week with my brother, sister-in-law, cousins and niephews (my collective noun for nieces and nephews) because I feel I’m part of a happy family sitcom snapshot of Middle America – the laughing and fun part. And I’m exhausted by this week because I am not a mother or keeper of a large household outside of this week and I feel as if I’m part of a dysfunctional family sitcom snapshot of Middle America.

I don’t normally push two shopping carts through Costco for a week’s worth of provisions, and still need to go to the grocery store. It’s rare for me to run the washing machine every day or go through all my dishtowels in one meal. Cleaning the floors on my hands and knees? Unheard of unless the brownies/ice cream/syrup dessert mixes with the spilled lemonade. I do sweep on a regular basis. So it’s different for me to just stop and give in to an acceptable level of sand in the house. My hair hasn’t seen a blow dryer, or my eyelashes a mascara wand in seven days. I’m afraid no one noticed.

Over the July Fourth week I get as close to June Cleaver (without Wally and The Beaver to call me Mom or pearls around my neck) as I ever will. Making my house a place to gather and do and laugh and sometimes even learn something.

“Dark chocolate,” I announced as the answer my teammate and I had come up with for items found in a desert that being with a “D.” Guffaws, belly laughs, incredulous looks from the kids in the room.

“The category is desert not dessert,” my brother said.
“Oh no,” my teammate and I convulsed into laughter. “How did we read that wrong?”
“Because you didn’t have my fourth grade teacher,” my 18 year-old niece said, “She told us to remember that there are two S’s in dessert because you always want more.”

And just like in a modern day sitcom, it is the child who teaches the adult a thing or two.

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