Another Summer Fades Away

This time of year is always bittersweet.  Summer always goes by so fast, and then the kids are back in school.  My daughter went back to college, and my son in back in high school.

I always have dreams about what we will do as a family in summer.  The kids are older now and doing their own thing so family time is precious.

Trips to see my mother and assist her also compete for my time.  I don’t know if this stage is temporary, but right now my mother’s memory problems seem to make her more relaxed and more pleasant of personality than what she normally is.

At this time of year I often think about how I’d once thought about homeschooling my kids.  I wonder what homeschooling families do when mom gets sick.  I have been slogging through some medical issues since spring and this thought just crossed my mind.  My mom didn’t home school us, but she wasn’t “allowed” to be sick.  When we were old enough my sister and I could help with various chores.  Probably at a certain point we were too clueless to offer help.  My dad would have never thought to vacuum or load the dishwasher or deal with school issues.  What happens to home school when mom is sick?  My dad would have been qualified to teach some high school math and most college math I am sure, but he would have never made the day to day commitment to do so.  He did help us from time to time, but often his answer was along the lines of “You can use calculus to solve this in a matter of seconds”, but since we didn’t know calculus we remained puzzled.

This year my son is taking chemistry and will be reading some Hispanic literature as it was written in the original Spanish.  Two things that are certainly far above my pay grade.  I did take some high school and college chemistry, but most of what I learned is stuck in a locked compartment in my brain, and I don’t have the key anymore.  Reading literature written in Spanish….not in my skill set at all.  I could attempt some French literature, I suppose, but my brain is rusty there as well.  I’m grateful that my son has school and sports to keep him stimulated.

The bloom of summer is fading for me, just as it is for the world.  Time for the next season.

Dad

My dad has been gone for almost one third of my life.  I think of him often at this time of year.  In my mind he is a tall quiet guy, waiting for something….what that might be , I am not sure. After my dad passed away it struck me how similar my dad and I were…I wished I would have realized this when he was still alive.

I came across some old census records from when my dad was a child.  It is hard to picture him as a child.  He was the youngest in his family.  His family had lived comfortably before the Depression came along. When my dad was born though they were struggling. From what I gather my paternal grandfather never bounced back after this, either economically or psychologically.

I sense my dad knew from a young age he would have to make his own way through life. He started working at a young age. Later he would join the military and finish college. After that he would meet my mom.  I admire that he took time to serve in the military. He’d always taught us to be respectful of veterans.  He’ d always wanted to make sure that we were aware of dates such as the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, in which US military personnel had lost their lives.

My father always struck me as an old soul. Perhaps it was because I sense he didn’t have many years of a childhood that were carefree.   He had very old fashioned beliefs especially in terms of religion.  He was extremely intelligent in certain respects, but in navigating relationships with people,  there was always some awkwardness.

Beyond the quiet intelligent man that the public saw, he had another side. His other side was controlled by alcohol.  While it was not entirely the alcohol that made my dad sometimes difficult to get along with, the alcohol sure didn’t help.  Why did he drink..who knows, I can only guess.  I’ d always  thought there was an element of depression and anger that he was trying to manage.  Along with that I also thought there seemed to be a ghost of sadness that haunted my dad’s side of the family.  This ghost was only hinted at though, people just weren’t  open about the it struggles with mental health.

Despite my dad’s inner struggles, I always admired his work ethic. He didn’t want to stop working.  He had already become sick, and his death would only be a few months away when he finally quit his job.

While I never talked about it with him, I always suspected my dad and I both had a strong need for quiet.  Sometimes our shyness made it difficult to communicate with others.  Our words sometimes tumbled out in a way that seemed awkward to others.  I’ve really tried to work on this especially in the past years.

If I could go back in time I wish I would have tried to get to know my dad better.  I wish I would have been able to figure out how to let down some of my own walls and get my dad to do the same.

I originally posted this 2 years ago.  Since then, through researching my family tree, I found an old class picture from when he was in the eighth grade.  He is the tallest in his class but somehow gives the impression he wants to be invisible.  Or else he just didn’t want his picture taken.  I was happy to find the picture as there were few childhood pictures of dad.

As I have mentioned elsewhere in my blog, my sister is an alcoholic as well.  I don’t know if my dad and sister had a genetic vulnerability to alcoholism, but it sure is a tough disease.

I apologize if you have already seen this posted.  I am confused about trying to repost an old post and I am not sure if  it had went through on the other tries.

 

The Circle of Life

14549882916_0032a05d95My son has his driver’s license now.  I wasn’t quite ready for this, but his dad and I certainly appreciate being released from some of the chauffeuring about town.  On the other hand I used to have some good conversations with the kid in the car.

As our kids become more independent, my husband and I are watching our parents become more frail.   I watch my mom struggle with with both cognitive and physical issues.  How long will my mom live in her frail state, a decade?  Mom’s struggle to stay independent means she’ll see suggestions to make her like easier as people trying to boss her around.  I’m a nurse.  Spending time on the other side though, as a family member, through ER visits, hospitalizations and doctor’s appointments is eye opening.  Many wonderful caregivers, some not so wonderful.  Some definite concerns during the ER visits, the most basic of nursing care needs to be addressed along with the more complex tasks.

My husband is watching his dad become more frail.  I sit on the sidelines and watch the difficult family dynamics.  Dynamics that are perhaps changed by the presence of my father in law’s second wife, who he married very late in life. His children have less of a voice as his wife claims to know what is best for him.

I frequently visit the website of my “hometown” newspaper.  This week I saw that a former classmate had died.  She was a woman.  As far as I can tell, it has been the guys I grew up with who died early.  I was surprised to see her name.  We weren’t close, but I still wondered what happened to her, what caused her to die relatively early.  I also a former coworker in the obituaries, see her name was another surprise.

The circle of life comes with much joy, but also sadness.  I’m not ready for the s.adness

Moves Like Jordan

We pulled into the parking lot  of  some might call the den of iniquity, more commonly  known as your typical American public high school.  No driver’s license yet, he still needs to catch a ride from mom now and then.  My son’s face breaks into a smile as he spots one of his skinny long legged teammates.  He leaps out of the car with a quick goodbye.

Leaving the parking lot, I spot all the usual sights.  Individuals much too manly to wear a winter coat.  Kids laughing, walking in to the school. The brisk weather makes their walk a bit more hurried, as if they have a sense of purpose for the day.

For about a minute, years ago, when my son was still shorter than me, I thought about homeschooling my kids, but it never happened.  I imagine if I had homeschooled my kids, at this point it would joyless for him.  A teen boy at home with his mom all day?  I’m not vain enough to imagine that I am the end-all and be-all of human companionship.  Plus there is no way I could teach calculus or physics or any other number of classes at this point.  And god forbid anything should cut into my internet surfing time on my days off. When my son shares something new that he learned from his day, I’m happy.  I don’t have a fear of my son being exposed to ideas that are new or different.

My son is more of a social animal than I am.  Well, actually lots of people are.  I imagine at this time, he and his friends are quickly gorging on lunch, while making quick conversation.  He is at that envious age where he can eat lots and lots of calories.

Sometimes he’ll tell me about a free minute at basketball practice where they clown about and pretend they are Michael Jordan or some other well known NBA star, name forgotten by me.  At the end of the day, on the way home from practice, in the car he and his friends will joke and give each other shit about something that happened during the day.

My son is happy and that means a lot to me.  I count myself lucky to observe his joyful, carefree moments.  Soon enough, he’ll have to cross over that treacherous gorge from childhood to adulthood.  We are in no hurry to have that happen.

Gorge: a narrow valley between hills or mountains with steep walls,  there may be a stream or river running through it.  It can also mean to stuff oneself with food.

Inspired by today’s daily prompt, gorge.

Summer Snippets…Soil, Part 2

Son, I wonder have we provided you the right soil in which to thrive?

Will you form deep roots, grow solid like an oak to protect you against the storm?

You are the tallest tree in our little forest, they say you grow like a weed.

But it is not just height you need.

You often look so carefree, your beautiful smile.

Other times your face is like stone, determined to keep thoughts inside.

Already, you have some scars, you think you are physically invincible.

We have but a few years before the world says you are an adult.

You are ready to branch out into the wider world.

Yet I can’t forget it was just yesterday you were the smallest tree in our little forest.

 

Family Motto, and other thoughts

Surfing the internet the other day I came across a blog where the mother included the family motto.  I can’t remember the whole motto, but I do remember it included the line “Creating a Family of Significance”.   I wonder how one defines a family of significance? Would my family live up to her definition?   Her blog was full of those sorts of posts where one can measure their success as a parent.  Nine things you should never do for your kids, four things you must teach your kids, blah, blah.  Well I have already found out I am lacking as a parent because I don’t make my teen do all his own laundry.  I’m probably also lacking because my husband and I haven’t created a family motto yet.  I can’t really think of anything lofty, perhaps “In all things love, with plenty of fun and good food along the journey”.

While wasting more time, I came across an odd post about a Roomba and some dog poop.  You can use your imagination to figure out what happened next. Apparently the owners of the dog and the Roomba had autoprogrammed the Roomba to run in the middle of the night.  I have to say I was a little suspicious of the post.  I don’t have a Roomba, but if I did I’d almost surely trip on it going to the bathroom if it was running in the middle of the night.  My own dog would wake up and get aggravated with the Roomba, thus waking up the rest of the household.  A Roomba doesn’t look very big to handle dog hair.  They seem rather expensive just to free you up from the physical annoyance of doing vacuuming the old-fashioned way.  And if the Roomba doesn’t have the intelligence to avoid a pile of dog poop, it probably wouldn’t know to avoid whatever potential obstacles could be found on my son’s floor.  Writing that sentence, I know that could spark a blog post for those perfect moms with family mottos.  I still vacuum his room for him, and he still leaves the occasional set of earbuds on the floor.

Teaching Your Children

We teach our children many things. Some things we teach directly, like how to tie their shoes or how to ride a bike. Children learn by watching our behaviors, whether they be positive or not. We teach values to our children, perhaps hoping they will travel the same path we do in life.

I was reading a blog post from a dad who expressed the thought that traditional femininity was something his young daughter should be taught, and he would be active in the teaching process. By traditional femininity here I mean notions such as women should have long hair, women should strive to look conventionally attractive and they should cultivate sweet demure personalities. The girl growing up in this household would have little freedom.

I was brought up in a religious household where there was a certain brand of traditional femininity was taught. It was especially focused on females having little freedom, even as adults.

Growing up, I would often bristle at the things I was taught. For the most part I wouldn’t express it though. Having grown up in a household where a certain brand of femininity was taught, I realized certain things. These things wouldn’t have to apply to femininity alone, but anything you might think is important to teach your child. Your child will:
1)Buy into your value system
2)Maybe adopt some of your values but not others
3)Totally reject your value system

If your child doesn’t buy into your value system, eventually they will go their own way, no matter how hard you have tried to make them conform.

Some things my parents taught me I eventually tossed aside. Some other things they taught, though were definitely good life lessons.
Some of these include:
1)The value of reading and the library…My parents were both readers in their own way. My mom especially loved the library and we went there often as children. There was always a bit of excitement hoping you would find a hidden treasure.
2)My parents believed in making do. There was never a big rush to buy a new car, or other expensive purchases, even though they could afford it.
3)They were impeccable with their finances. They were both good investors. They would be horrified to pay a bill late. Of course due to hard work and some luck they tried to live their life together in a way that there wouldn’t be any worry. I realize that despite hard work, many people still have a hard time financially.

Now just because they had these values doesn’t mean their children necessarily grew up with the same values. I would say I am good with reading and making do. I don’t think my husband and I will end up with the same kind of nest egg when we reach retirement, but we do try to do our best. My sister, has probably destroyed her finances entirely in part due to her alcoholism.

Some things you might think are just common sense, things that everyone teaches their kids. Years ago, I went to visit my sister, long before I knew she struggled with alcoholism, and some things shocked me. She had many things stored at room temperature that you would normally keep in the refrigerator(at least at our house). I never asked her about it, but it was definitely a what the heck moment.

My husband and I have values we hold important. We hope we’ve taught our children well enough to be kind out in the world. Some of the smaller stuff though, it won’t be the end of the world if they change their mind.

Prodigal Daughter

There she is, my sister, whatever she does she consumes my mother’s attention.

Somehow it is silly, isn’t it, to think my mom could change her ways for just a day, and perhaps see that her other daughter might need her mom in some way.

I’m a grown woman.  I should know better by now.  I’ve been caught off guard by a difficult situation.  I need someone to talk to.  Why though at this point should I feel an ache that this person should be my mother?

All of my mom’s energy is yet caught up again in my sister’s addiction.  In a conversation the other day I gave my mom an inch and she took a mile.  A mile to talk about my sister.

I wish my mom’s mind could slow down for just a minute to see past the world of my sister’s life.

 

Carrying on the momentum of the march….education would be a good place to start

I’ve heard a lot of messages come out of the Womens’ March.  I wonder which, if any of them, will gain any sort of momentum, and result in real change and better lives for the most marginalized in our society.  I believe education would be a great place to start.

I have to say though, I’m skeptical.  I live in a progressive, liberal university town.  No Republicans need run for local office.  That doesn’t stop property developers from trying to run a small scale Trump empire though.  Said property developers, might vote liberally, but they still have the ethics of Trump.  Our city council bends over backwards to make it easy for them to do business here.  Oh wait that it isn’t about education, I digress.

As someone who attended Catholic school for 12 years, I assumed the public school system offered a noble ideal of equality of opportunity for all.  The reality, this simply isn’t so.

There is a notion being floated in the aftermath of the march that feminist means you are free of prejudice toward others.  Or perhaps feminists are equating themselves as a group who deeply care about those less fortunate than they are. I don’t see it play out like that in my community though.   The racism and classism might be more covert, but it is there.   The liberal white university employed mother often lobbies for a system where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  I don’t mean that just in terms of money when I speak about rich and poor.

What to do to improve education?  I don’t have the answer.  It probably won’t be glamorous. It might mean hard work. It might mean writing to elected officials. Elected officials that might not answer back. It might mean going to school board meetings to offer commentary.  If you have deep pockets you could donate to arts and sports programs at struggling schools. Or you could use those deep pockets to purchase band and orchestra instruments  for those who cannot afford them. If you know a lot about science, perhaps you could be involved in the curriculum review committee the next time the school district is looking to purchase textbooks.  The suggestions of what any one individual could do to help improve education are probably endless.

This is a post I wrote about how I see education in my little part of the United States.  It might not be the most well written post, but I stand behind the message.  After the election in 2016, I reposted my thoughts with additional commentary.  My thoughts were inspired by going to my son’s basketball game.  As I watch my son and his peers, some of whom he has known since kindergarten, I wonder what the world holds in store for him. While these kids were all little boys once upon a time, and now are teens, many of whom are taller than me now…this still amazes me…despite their size, we still need to look after them.   We can do better, for our daughters, sons, and all the children in out country.

If I had marched…

Why would I have marched…..

To see the development of a real health care plan that could lend a hand to my sister with both issues of addiction and mental health.  The ACA provided her with a very high deductible health care plan.  It is hard to get help if the first several thousand dollars come out of your pocket…several thousand she doesn’t have.  I don’t understand how people think the ACA benefits someone like her, or a man in her same situation.

To call out the so called Christians who have an opinion about how each gender behaves and should function.  To the greasy unkempt guy who thinks himself a marriage expert and likes to perpetuate harmful stereotypes that he believes are divinely inspired.  Oh, and stop being the modesty police, and breathlessly talking about how the women folk are causing the brothers to stumble if they show a hint of cleavage. The little women who stand behind these preacher men, you don’t do women any favors. Oh, Emerson Eggerichs and Shaunti Feldhahn, you can stop with your gender stereotypes as well.  I can’t imagine my work being centered on this kind of nonsense.

To eliminate subtle but harmful gender expectations in the workplace.  Outright misogyny or misandry should not be tolerated.

For the parents out there that let their kids listen to music where every other word is ho or bitch, well I don’t know what to say.  You probably don’t give a fuck what I have to say.  I met one of your little teenaged darlings recently….to his mom who doesn’t care she is raising a little misogynist…stay klassy lady.

To make sure that we are doing right by kids from disadvantaged backgrounds when it comes to education.  I see everyone is an uproar about Betsy DeVos.  But can anyone tell me what Arne  Duncan has done the last 8 years to improve education, at the classroom level?

For the people in my life who just stood there and did nothing to call out injustice to women or perpetuated harmful stereotypes…screw you.  Yes that includes people close to me.

Before we all go making an idol of Planned Parenthood, ensure they are providing quality care….in the case of my sister, they did not.

To make sure the condition of women doesn’t slide backwards to some sort of old world antiquated notion where women were barely human.

To nurture a system where the average Josephine has a voice,  and to have journalists who will give her a voice.  I could really care less about what any celebrity has to say.

To nurture a system where there is an abundance of highly qualified candidates for public office.