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Monday, June 10, 2013

Northeast Ohio: land of the great

It happens every time our family travels anywhere outside of northeast Ohio; the grass is naturally greener.  We have fanaticized about living in the south, where the sweet tea flows as smooth as the chatter from a belle sitting through the afternoon sun on a front porch rocker.  We have dreamed of living in the mountains, where only the tougher than nails survive.  We have even dreamed of living at the edge of the ocean, where beach bums, millionaires, and fishermen redefine harmony and all sing Jimmy Buffet songs.
But at the end of the day, we are still born and raised northeast Ohioans.  And the truth is that maybe living in northeast Ohio isn’t so bad.  I dare even think that, if we put the time into it, it could be as romantic as the place where the southern mountains meet the ocean.
Northeast Ohio has great things and great people that make our part of the world something absolutely wonderful.  We get to experience all four seasons, which the rest of the world may know as spring, summer, fall and winter, but we know as mud, humidity, colorful, and cold.  Our weather is always changing and keeping us on our toes, and we all know that if the weather one day does not suit, one simply has to wait until tomorrow.  Our general lack of sun saves us heaps of money in sunblock and sunglasses, and the other days of lousy weather sends us back inside to work to be the ultra productive people that we are.
It’s true that we here in the heart of the country have a tremendous work ethic.  We are the steel mills, the farmers, the businessmen and women.  If there’s ever a task that you want done, a good Ohioan will make sure it’s done the right way and done quickly, mostly with the help of a neighbor or two.  We are a folk so friendly, I dare say that people from other parts of the country would be a tad intimidated if they experienced how we strike up conversations and make connections with complete strangers.  Before too long, those strangers become friends and we’re inviting them over for some of the greatest food in the whole world: Ohio cuisine.
I’ll tell you from experience that you will not find a decent pierogi, ring of kielbasa, bratwurst, fry pie, or plate of mashed potatoes and meatloaf south of the Mason Dixon line to save your life.  Solid, standard foods like sauerkraut aren’t on every corner, and if you want something to drink, my word, do not ask for a pop.  (The rest of the country will never quite catch on to the correct terminology for a carbonated beverage.)
We have clambakes and buckets of salt in our garages next to our cans of bug repellant.  Our cars aren’t afraid to drive through the snow and we are not afraid to admit to using the air conditioning and heat in the same 24-hour period.  We say things like “you guys” and stand by our sports teams through the thick and thin because we are committed to ourselves and our home.  And above else, unlike our neighbors to the south, we are never “fixin’” to do anything.  Chances are much more likely that we just do it and get it done because there is that slightest chance that tomorrow might bring warm, sunny weather, and we would much rather be outside grilling our brats and drinking an ice cold pop with our pals from down the road than doing whatever it was.
The rest of the world may never understand the majestic ways that we have, and maybe that’s how it was meant to be.  We don’t need to be glorified by the media or across the silver screen, and I don’t even need to ask about what makes this home of our so great.  I already know the answer:  you guys.

When I grow up

My children sat around the table and talked about what they wanted to be when they grew up.  For kids, this is almost as exciting as deciding what the theme for next year’s birthday part will be, but usually doesn’t change as much.  I love when kids daydream about their adult future, though, because they have no idea that it involves things like salaries and taxes and leaf blowers and nose hair trimmers and heating pads and the right to fall asleep on the couch 30 seconds after the dinner dishes have been put away.
Instead, they see the world at their fingertips, full of possibility, hope, and dreams.
I once had the pleasure to work with a bunch of second graders and I asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up.  At first I heard the typical answers.
Policeman.  Teacher.  Video Game Arcade Owner.  Professional Athlete.  It was a great combination of service related careers and the dreams of children, which was exactly my point in asking them.  When you’re in second grade, you have a lifetime ahead of you—you can literally be and do anything you want, thanks to the opportunities we have in this great country of ours.
My own children have dreams of their own.  My oldest wants to be a weather woman.  My son aspires to do anything that allows him to wear camouflage and be in the woods for days.  My youngest daughter, a blond with a wild head of hair, wants to be a musketeer.  And not the Micky Mousketeer, a real one with a sword and a feathery hat.
But when I asked them what they want to be when they grow older, they hadn’t an idea.  Because that’s where I’m at—I’m already technically grown up, old enough that I can’t wake up one day and say, “wow, I’d like to be a park ranger.  Better get started on that now.”  But I’m not quite yet grown older, because try as I may, I still feel like I live most of my life in a childhood fog, marveling at shooting stars, whipping snowballs in the winter and drinking from hoses in the summer.  
So what I can do is decide what I want to be when I grow up.  Or grow older. Or something like that.  
When I grow older, I want to be organized.  I want to not wake up one morning and realize that we are out of clothes and that it would make more sense in my schedule to buy more pants because I don’t have time to do laundry.  (This may or may not have happened this week.  Don’t tell my husband.)  I want to have a full refrigerator with food that is not out-of-date, moldy, or unrecognizable.  I want to move my couch and not find dog hair, socks, game pieces and barrettes and instead find, well, just carpet.
I want to be leisurely.  I want to have standing lunch dates that last a minimum of two hours.  I want to go to the grocery store and stop to talk to people instead of waving at them as I zoom by at warp speed in search of lunchmeat and pretzels because lunches aren’t going to pack themselves.
When I grow older, want to be spunky.  I want to be that person who sings in her car at the stoplight and wears bright clothing and takes up Bollywood dancing on a whim.  
And finally, when I eventually grow up, I want to keep dreaming so that if I wake up one morning and feel like being a park ranger, I’ll learn a few new plants or animals and put those hiking boots to good use.

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