Sunday, September 26, 2010

How to be a Cool G'Ma

I’ve learned a lot about grandparenting since my first grandchild showed up five years ago. Now that I have four of them, I consider myself a professional grandparent. And I’ve learned one important fact in the past five years: Times have changed since I raised my kids.

I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about grandparenting, to save you from some of the embarrassing problems I’ve faced. Here goes.

First, determine what kind of grandparent you are, so you’re clear about your goals.

1. The “Kick-Back Boomer” type tends to take a “whatever” approach to grandparenting, and goes with the flow. She’s likely to be chill-axing on the couch with the G-kids watching “Jersey Shore,” playing “Angry Birds,” or reading to them from “Twilight.”

2. The “Bad-Ass Granny” type views life as an action film, preferring a Harley over a rocker. She likes to challenge her grandkids with exciting adventures like competing in Japanese game shows, running with the bulls, and playing Guitar Hero: 3-D.

3. The “Handy Helper” grandparent wants to help her grandkids learn a useful skill, such as knot-tying, hair-braiding, or fire-starting. But she also enjoys learning skills from her grandkids, like My-Facing, party-hosting, or shizzle-speaking.

4. The “Cartoon Character” grandparent wears her gray hair in a bun, sports an apron decorated with cats, and knits yard-sized shawls. If you fall into this category, you need to dye your hair orange, replace the apron with an Aerosmith tee, and ink your own tats.

Next, determine what you want to be called. Not surprisingly, many grandparents today don’t like the old-school term “granny.” If you’re looking for a new handle to use with your grandchildren, here are some popular suggestions.

For the woman formerly known as “grandmother,” try: Big Mamma, Earth Mother, Diva, Glamma, Grana-Banana, G-Ma, Mambo, Mother Superior, Queen Mother, and Your Highness.

For the man formerly known as “grandfather,” how about: Big Daddy, Captain, Chief, Coach, Doc, Glad-dad, G-Pa, Moneybags, PopPop, Professor, and Grumpy.

Finally, you must learn what to say and what NOT to say in front of your grandchildren. The quickest way to break down communication between you and your grandkids is to use a grandparent cliché. Bite your tongue and use this Translation Chart for alternatives to outdated utterings. For example:

What your grandparent said: “Your music makes no sense…” What you will say: “Want to hear Lady Gaga on my iPod?”

What your grandparent said: “Doesn’t that piercing hurt?” What you will say: “What do you think I should get pierced next?”

What your grandparent said: “You’re wearing that!?” What you will say: “Could I borrow your outfit?”

What your grandparent said: “The Beatles were so groovy!” What you will say: “I’m twittering Justin Bieber.”

There’s so much more I could teach you, but it would fill a book. Hmmm. Not a bad idea. Of course, by the time it’s published, no one will know who Lady Gaga is, piercings and tattoos will be out of date, and names for grandparents will be fo shizzle. No worries. In a few months my five-year-old grandson will be six and I’ll be able to update you with a whole new list of “how to be a hip grandparent” tips.
Fo shizzle.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Too much Peace and Quiet

It seemed as if everyone fled town on Memorial Weekend. One of our neighbors went to Tahoe, the other to Hawaii, and our good friends headed for Italy. Our son took his family away in a motor home, and our daughter attended a reunion with relatives-in-law.

We were left behind to behind to celebrate the four-day weekend on our own.
Since every hotel and RV park was already booked for the weekend, we decided to take a day trip and get out of the hustle and bustle of the suburbs—people partying, swimming, BBQing—and go somewhere with peace and quiet.

We chose Colma, AKA the “City of Souls,” where the deceased population outnumbers the living, 1.5 million “souls” to 1,600 residents. Why go to Colma when we could have spent a day anywhere else—relaxing in the Wine Country, shopping in Carmel, or exploring San Francisco? Research for my next book, which is set in a cemetery, and features a spoof of vampires, zombies, and other members of “the living dead.” (I really need to start setting my books in places like Paris or New York.)

Plus we’d been everywhere else in the Bay Area.

Colma was founded as a “necropolis” in 1924, and offers 17 cemeteries for humans, plus one for pets. Apparently, the city of San Francisco ran out of room for its dead, evicted all existing cemeteries in the city limits, and relocated them to Colma. It turned out to be a fascinating and unique city, nestled along El Camino Real, between Daly City and Pacifica. The motto there is: “It’s great to be alive.” I don’t think my town of Danville even has a motto.

Passing up the monument shops featuring fancy granite headstones and flower marts with “easy to install” bouquets of floral arrangements, we headed for the pet cemetery called Pet’s Rest, (not to be confused with Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, where the pets actually came back to life after they were buried.) This pet cemetery is filled with tiny headstones that mark the names of well-loved pets—“Shadow” the rabbit, “Gyzmo” the dog, “Mr. Furry-Face” the cat. They’re buried here, along with the occasional bird (“Tweety”), fish (“Ahab”), lizard (“Godzilla”) and monkey (“Darwin”), plus thousands of other well-loved companions.

Next we headed for Hills of Eternity and located the grave of Wyatt Earp, the famous lawman. There are lots of well-known names resting in Colma, like William Randolph Heart (he’s at Cypress Lawn), Joe DiMaggio (at Holy Cross), and Emperor Norton (Woodlawn). There was even an award-winning musical filmed in Colma called, appropriately, “Colma: The Musical.” I don’t think we have anything like that in our Valley—“Livermore: The Western,” “Dublin: The Thriller,” or “Danville: The Comedy.”

At the end of the day we agreed, Colma is certainly a peaceful place, with its immaculately kept lawns, colorful floral bouquets, and quiet pathways. But it’s a little too quiet for my taste. After a few hours I missed the sound of kids splashing in the pool, the smell of barbecued chicken, the sight of friends and family gathered at the picnic table.

Colma: A nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. I prefer life in the Valley, with or without a motto. But if you insist, how about, “Danville: Bring on da noise!”