Dec 30, 2013

All My Columns from Menstuff.org

A few years ago I was invited to write a monthly column for menstuff.org on the subject of divorce, children, custody and motherhood.   I kept my archives.


 September 2007 - In Their Best Interest

"She must be selfish to give up her kids like that."

"Why doesn't she fight to keep them with her?"

"A mother will always get the kids unless she's a drug addict or abusive!"

"What kind of mother doesn't want her kids?"

"Why would a mother abandon her children?"

"She must be unfit if she didn't get custody."

"I wonder why she lost custody?"

"Dead-beat moms give up their children and walk away."

"Maybe she gave up custody because her boyfriend doesn't want her kids around."



Selfish....unfit....drug-addicted....abandoning...

Selfish...selfish ...SELFISH...



And if she happens to be a fit and loving mother and does not have custody, she must have lost it against her will after a court battle, out of some extraordinary set of circumstances. Of course she fought for it, as a fit and loving mother never abandons her babies............RIGHT????

These are common general assumptions about non-custodial mothers. Sometimes they're true.

Rarely, if ever, do we hear mention of the possibility that the circumstances warrant that maybe the father is more capable and has more resources to care for the children at the time.... and that maybe mom realizes this?


Could it be that the most loving thing for the mother to do might be to recognize and accept that the father is in a better position to meet the children's needs, and thus not stand in the way of the children being raised in the best possible environment to receive love, safety, nurturing and security (within the confines of a divorce situation, which of course will never be even remotely close to "ideal")? That just might happen to be under dad's roof, even if mom is a loving, caring mother who would give her own life to save her kids if it were necessary.


And oh my God, what a heart-wrenching decision that is to make. I know, because I was faced with that decision ten years ago.


I want to share my own, unique child-custody experience. It may or may not be applicable to another. I don't claim to be presenting the only way. ... just the way it was and is for me and my family. What worked for us may not be appropriate for another family. However, I feel that our present system does not adequately address the possibility of fathers retaining custody without non-custodial mothers commonly being reduced societally to the status of "unfit".


In spite of a lot of society-induced guilt, worry and - more than anything - just missing the daily contact with my kids, I chose to relinquish physical custody to my children's father. I still shudder while writing those words. Phantoms of those old loop tapes in my head still play faintly in the background: "selfish, unfit, abandoning..." But they're very, very faint these days. I know they are not true. And I can see, standing there in photo frames on the shelf next to me, two grown men who do not have reason to doubt the unending and limitless love pouring over them from both their father and their mother. They know mom and dad don't hate each other. And unlike many children of divorced parents, they KNOW both Mom and Dad.


I cannot, at this time, revisit the painful, soul-crushing feelings attached to the events surrounding my divorce and custody issues. During the worst times, I was life-threateningly ill, both mentally and physically, and even today I'm not sure that I am strong enough to dredge up those feelings and risk becoming engulfed in them. So i'll try to leave the touchy-feely stuff out of this.


Effective co-parenting after divorce is complicated and tricky, requires a lot of persistence, creativity, flexibility and tolerance in both parents as well as in any new significant-others who may enter the picture. It also requires a whole ton of restraint as far as keeping the resentments (that probably caused the divorce) under control and away from the kids. It requires a respectful interaction between the parents, which displays civility and mutual respect while not giving the children any false hopes that mom and dad are "getting back together." Above all, the kids can have continued regular contact with BOTH parents.


As parents, we brought these human beings into existence with our own flesh and blood. We owe it to them, to ourselves and to each other to fully give them our hearts to the best of our ability, even in spite of our mistakes and shortcomings in the marriage. 



October 2007 - Bring Me a Sword

"Then the king said, "Bring me a sword." So they brought a sword for the king. He then gave an order: "Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other." The woman whose son was alive was filled with compassion for her son and said to the king, "Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don't kill him!" (1 Kings 3:24)
 
Cutting children in half... doesn't sound too healthy. Kids need roots, stability, a sense of belonging...and of course, wholeness.

It must be difficult to be whole while feeling like a rope in the middle of a tug-of-war. My former husband and I decided not to bisect the kids' living situation. So while retaining joint legal custody, all physical custody was his. 
 

I fired my lawyer who was pushing for the standard "change the locks and get a restraining order" with my taking everything possible, including the home and kids. No no no. We wrote our own divorce agreement, and set up a "visiting" schedule for me, the usual Wednesday nights and every other weekend. That schedule was just a formality and we didn't find need to stick to it. Our boys were teen and pre-teen at the time and had the usual erratic schedules anyway. 
 

I moved out into a small apartment a few minutes away, not suitable for kids but it was what I could afford. It seemed more practical than trying to "split" the home (which we would have had to sell). I also saw fit to leave most of the assets in the home where my kids were living to make sure their basic needs could be met.

My former husband kept what he called an "open door" policy, meaning I had the key to the home and was, as he stated it, welcome at any time. This, I believe, was a huge part of maintaining some continuity for the kids. Sitting with my boys in the living room waiting for a pizza delivery, discussing school or new video games while i washed dishes... sometimes it almost seemed "normal" again, even if it wasn't officially my home anymore. It was difficult saying goodbye until next time, but then I don't claim that this was easy.

I admit that it became exhausting at times living almost a sort of double life along with a disability. Having held the role of "super-mom" for over a decade, I wanted to continue to actively parent as much as possible. Teenage boys can appreciate a pot of homemade chicken soup when they come down with a cold, or knowing mom's available to listen about having the cat put down or breaking up with a girlfriend. They need Dad. They need Mom.

My boys would joke about how they made out well by getting "double" the birthday and Christmas presents. For awhile, we had two of each celebration, which seems kind of standard following divorce. When I remarried, I also added two adult stepchildren (and their mother) to the family. Holidays became even more "interesting" then (the stuff movies are made of!). Although challenging, we managed to "consolidate" holiday celebrations somewhat. When ex-spouses can be civil with one another, and new spouses can tolerate (in small doses) former spouses, holidays are survivable.

Being open to the idea of enchiladas for Christmas dinner or Pizza on Thanksgiving helps. Buffet restaurants help, too. Traditions may have to change, but family and love are what matter most.

Confusing as our custody arrangement was at times, it worked. In spite of health, I managed to remain a strong presence in my sons' lives. They turned to me with certain needs, while to their dad for others. Sure, it's far from the ideal of a healthy mom-dad-kids household, but there were no alienated parents. 
 

Nothing tears my heart out more than hearing of a parent (generally the father) being driven out of the child's life. I've seen the negative results of having an absentee parent carried well into adulthood. Divorce may dissolve a marriage but it shouldn't dissolve a parent.  



November 2007 - Finding Myself

I don't understand that expression at all.  Why do people need to run
off to "find themselves" when they're right here?  They always were
right here.  Isn't there some sort of song with "wherever you go,
there you are" in the lyrics?  It's true.  I think that you have to
either lose something or never have it in the first place in order to
"find" it.

We live in various roles throughout our lives.  Son, daughter, parent,
sibling, spouse, worker, boss, etc.
These are what we DO;  but they really aren't who we ARE.

This became very apparent to me after having defined myself as
super-mom for years.  When that role became adjusted to non-custodial
parent, it was as if my etch-a-sketch picture of my life had been
turned upside-down and shaken.

Fast-forward to 50, so many things have changed in my life and in
myself, I wouldn't know where to begin.  So I sit back and smile.
I've had such ups and downs, but I'm off that rollercoaster ride now.
 When I decided I'd had enough, I pulled the brake and got off the
ride.  And to think, I could have done that at ANY time but never
thought to do something so simple;  instead, I was looking for
something so much more difficult and complicated.

Sort of like Dorothy running all over Hell and back trying to get out
of Oz and go home.  Turns out she could have done it any time.  (We
gals really do love shoes!)

When I surrendered to disability instead of fighting it, I was forced
to stop everything I thought I was supposed to be doing and look
inward towards spiritual abilities.  When I did that everything fell
into place.   Everything i do now, seems one event leads to something
else, and positive things seem to  "happen" all around me, even in
spite of negative things.  Maybe they were there all the time.  If I
die tomorrow, I can honestly say I lived well.  And everything was
exactly as it was supposed to be.

Running around looking for ourselves somewhere on the outside seems
kind of silly when we're already here on the inside.

A quote from Eckhart Tolle:  "You cannot find yourself in the past or
future. The only place where you can find yourself is in the Now."
This, in my opinion, is pure brilliance.


 

December 2007 - The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

Kids, Baby Jesus, Santa Claus, Christmas trees, kids, baking goodies,
decorating, kids, exchanging gifts, carolers, home-made cards, kids,
eggnog, families together.... oh yeah, did i mention kids?

I remember those Christmases fondly, in spite of our problems.  There
were two bright-eyed little boys waking up before dawn to sneak
downstairs to check out what we... err.. I mean Santa brought.  There
were sticky little fingers dipping into the cookie dough, and candy
sprinkles everywhere.   Hanging in the hall was the Christmas
countdown calendar that refused to alter the passage of time no matter
how hard those kids tried... it wasn't a time machine, guys, sorry.
And that timeless Chipmunk song played while little plastic toys were
dumped from stockings... and the glorious Dogs Barking Jingle Bells
song...  Those were some of life's finest moments.



Later came the visits to grandparents' houses where there were always
too many presents and more sugary creations.   A valuable lesson I
learned was that fewer presents are better than a truckload.  Hours
and  hours of "this is nice, next..." or "i have one of those already"
or "ok now.. I'm hungry" or "he got more than me!" or "this isn't the
right one"... or "his was more 'spensive than mine!"... or "it's
already broken.."  Come on, after five or six or nine or twelve in a
row the magic tends to fade...  Uh oh.  "Batteries not included?"
Everybody knows robots and remote-control cars aren't very amusing
when they just sit there.  "Wind up" toys?  What the heck are those?



Now, for the hard part, and I will try to keep my keyboard dry.  In
December of 1997 I moved out a couple of weeks before Christmas.  It
was weirdly disorienting.  That early in the separation there was
understandably a tremendous amount of tension between my husband and
me.  Depressed, confused, broke, healing from surgery, anorexic and
being kickstarted into early menopause left me feeling hopeless,
guilt-ridden, and suicidal.  There, I said that word.  Then being laid
off from my minimum-wage job the day before Christmas Eve didn't cheer
me up much.  (do i hear a violin playing?)  I chose to spend that
holiday alone, a huge mistake.  Don't do that.



More than anything, I missed my sons.  I ached to touch and smell them
and watch them doing everyday stuff.  I missed trying to kiss them
goodnight even though they thought they were too old.  I even missed
their fighting with each other.   Sometimes I drove to their home and
sat in my car to be close to them.  I wanted to be near and available
all the time.  They had schedules, activities, school and friends and
were too old (11 and 14) to just hang out with mommy somewhere for
hours.  At first, I had tried to withdraw because the goodbyes were so
agonizing that I didn't know how to handle my own emotions.  That was
wrong and I should have realized that. But you can "should" on
yourself all day and it accomplishes nothing except burying you in a
pile of  "should."  That sounds stinky.



Eventually, unscheduled open visitation was arranged, often while
their dad was away or busy.  I was respectful of their home and
privacy and didn't barge in without calling.  I didn't help myself to
anything without asking, even though it still felt like "home" to me
for several years.  The kids occasionally came over to my place but
they were so much more "themselves" at home where they weren't the
visitors.    In their earlier years, we had apartment-hopped
repeatedly until we got into a real home.  We felt it was important
for them to maintain that sense of home, even if it was disrupted and
rearranged.



So, being an absent parent on a holiday sucks.  If old traditions are
too painful to touch, then make NEW traditions. Devise a new plan,
swallow resentments and be as pleasant and cordial as possible.  It's
ABOUT THE KIDS, not about the failed marriage. The parents can bicker
and fight all they want some other time when the kids aren't around.
Young people aren't stupid. They notice underhanded, snide little
remarks, sarcasm and catty little digs towards ex-spouses or new
significant-others.   If everyone gets together it's important to be
polite and friendly, yet without giving off false-reconciliation
vibes.    It's unfortunate when an ex-spouse won't cooperate and
insists on either the negativity, or indulging in romantic reminiscing
in front of the kids, who shouldn't be burdened with either.



This year I look forward to the holidays.   I can see pictures from
the past two Christmas gatherings in our home - of myself, my current
husband, both my sons and their father... all of us standing together
in front of a dazzlingly-decorated plastic Christmas tree topped by a
color-changing fiber-optic angel – and all of us with genuine smiles
on our faces  (except for the angel who must have been uncomfortable,
considering the location of the tree-top).



Ten years ago  I had no idea it could be this way.  Maybe it's not
traditional, but it's my family.



I have referred to the politically-incorrect "Christmas" holiday, as
that's what my family celebrates.  My former husband and I still
haven't split up the Christmas decorations in the attic.  All those
special ornaments with sentimental meanings.....maybe some year, maybe
never, but not now...


Peace...



February 2008 - Half-price Chocolate and Other Joys

February always makes me think of Valentine's day.  Half-price
chocolates on the 15th come just in time after the post-Christmas
half-price chocolates have been devoured.  Those hold us over until
Easter.


Valentine's day reminds me not only of romantic love, but also of the
love of children.  As a photo album preserves memories, so does a
blank book in which to jot down a few accounts of the innocent
inquisitiveness and pure joy found embedded within the words of the
wee folk.


As soon as they learned to verbalize, my boys spoke often about life,
food, finances and chickens.  I treasure this priceless book of wisdom
as much as our photo albums.  Following are a few of my favorite gems:


When I grow up, I'll be a man..Mom, when you grow up you'll be a grandma.

It's hard to save up money 'cause it's fun to spend it to buy stuff.

If you smoke it makes you dead, but if somebody kills you it makes you
dead faster.

I want to eat my apple off the cob.

My wife and I is gonna have six babies.. Mom, you can have three of them.

Water is good, it tastes like spit.

I want to marry Grandma so I can be Daddy's daddy.

Love feels like "warm".

This onion is 6 years old - I counted the rings.

Breasts aren't on people, they're on chickens.

Inside my skull is a brain and inside my brain is letters and stuff..

My drinking stomach and eating stomach are full, but I still have room
in my dessert stomach.

I'm not allergic to the cat, if that means we have to get rid of it.

I like the way chickens' knees bend backwards.

Mom, if you find any money hangin' around on the ground, in cash, put
it in my bank.

Did you know we're always losing our skin?  So when you vacuum, there
are piles of skin everywhere.

I got a new box of crayons..It has red, blue, green, black, and skin.

The cat must be magical because he can reach his head all the way back
to his butt.

When you go on field trips, you always have to hold hands with the
ugliest girl in the class.

Did you know there's a center for missing and exploded children?

Salami has little eyeballs in it.

Are people made of light meat and dark meat?

A mutt is a ton of dogs mixed together.

Women have 'aviaries' in their stomach to make eggs

You can really MAKE noodles?  I thought they just picked them off trees.

I can't go back to sleep once I take the boogers outta my eyes.

It's better to receive than give...unless it's somethin' you don't like no more.

Why do all old men look like turtles?

I think "diorama" is the funniest word in the world - because it's
almost like "diarrhea"

That would be cool if a bald person got dandruff.. it would all come
off in one piece.

I don't wanna pay a sewage bill when I grow up.  I just wanna take a
dump in the yard to save money.

I am a man, 'cause I have hairy legs.

Fish sticks are made outta live fishes...but they're dead now.

Do bugs cough?

How to make pickles:  They grind up apples and mush them up.  Then
flatten them and make them smooth...Then they are green pickles.

When is it gonna be tomorrow?  Is it tomorrow today?  Today is
tomorrow from yesterday.

If I close my mouth I can think.

I have two grandmas...but one's an uncle.

Is Campbell's soup made from camels?

I don't want to eat the part of the chicken that lays eggs.

Snowmen can't play, 'cause they would get sweaty and melt.

We can buy a house if we don't eat dinners or buy stuff.

You can get lots of money if you buy lots of things all the time,
'cause they give you change.

If you eat a chicken heart then you have two hearts, but one's in your stomach.

If you were a skeleton and you ate something it would just fall right out.

Do deers eat round things, 'cause round things come out?

Your skin doesn't do anything except hold your blood in and your
bones, and your brain does everything else.

When the cat closes his eyes, he looks Chinese.

What does the president do, anyway?  Just sit around and write on papers?

Pineapples come from Hawaii pine trees.

A snake can't bite you if you step on its head.

Spaghetti is a whole bunch of rice stuck together.

This is a chicken breast, 'cause I think I got the nipple...it's chewy.

"Gay" means happy....or when a boy loves a boy.

Credit cards are infinite money.

That Queen (of England) is too old.  Why don't they fire her after 4
years like we do the President?

Our nation's capital is not a state, and not IN a state...it's just
floatin' around.

"Pops"...is that a kinda music, or a bunch of dads?

If Jesus had a kid, then God would be it's grandpa.

I just don't understand girls.  They just don't make sense...

 


March 2008 - A School Crisis

"When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on." -
Franklin D. Roosevelt


 
Most of us have been there at some point in our lives.

Sometimes it seems to take a scare, a disaster, or a "close call"
situation to remind us of what really matters. Trying to sort out
feelings of guilt, confusion and the heartbreak of a broken home is
enough, without the addition of having earth-shaking events to stir
things up even more.


I used to have frequent nightmares about my sons being in dangerous
situations where I could not get to them.  I'd wake up crying and
drenched with sweat.  Living in a separate household made it
impossible to get that "reality check" of tiptoeing into their room to
see and hear them peacefully snoring away.   I couldn't call on the
phone in the middle of the night to ask it they had survived the
earthquake, fire, alien attack, sand storm, abduction and sale into
slavery, spontaneous combustion, poisoning, choking, being MIA or DOA
or whatever other darned thing I dreamed about.  So I'd pray and try
to go back to sleep.


March stirs up a particularly disturbing memory for me.  I'll never
take anything or anyone for granted, nor will I find security in
rationalizing away fears with concepts of "odds".   Relax, the chance
of your kid being present in a school shooting situation is less than
the chance of getting randomly struck by lightning.....


Well, we're having a storm today.  I think I'll stay indoors.


That morning of March, 2001, I was getting ready for work when....
ZAP!!  I turned on the tv and saw the news, and felt the same
sickening terror I had felt in my dreams.  It was only a 20-minute
drive from my work and home to their house... yet on the day that the
gates of Hell opened up and spewed gunfire through the busy courtyard
at Santana High, everything seemed to be stuck in slow-motion.  That
20-minute journey felt like an eternity, like one of those dreams
where you're peddling a bike like crazy but barely inching long, or
trying to run but you're stuck in some sort of thick goo.   I
eventually located my son who was a freshman at that school. He was
physically unharmed, but obviously in shock as he explained how he had
been only five feet from flying bullets.  Thank God he was safe, and
that I could be with him.  My other son was at home that day, although
he had gone to look for his brother.  I could not reach their father
until later in the day.


The following days were filled with memorials, tears, hugs, and
emotions I can't even begin to explain with words.  There was also a
renewing of friendships and counting of blessings..  People cried
together and prayed together, and united in mourning and fear.  My
family seemed re-bonded in ways that had previously begun to loosen.
We changed.   Hundreds of families were affected by the violent murder
of two children, physical injuring of 13, and the terrorizing of
hundreds or more.


We wept at the site on which a young student's life was senselessly
ended.  My son showed me where he had been walking when he heard a
"popping" sound (something totally unexpected that no student is
prepared for) and we traced the path he had taken in his successful
flee for safety.  I just can't begin to imagine the horror he must
have experienced during those minutes.  Confusion and panic lingered
like a thick fog in the air.  I could feel terror etched into this
space.  Life was surreal, as if living out a Stephen King movie with
the theater doors locked.   Innocence, sense of safety and security,
and the juvenile perception of immortality dissolved.  There were no
"extra lives" like you get in a Nintendo game....just one.  Our
loved-ones and friends could be taken away at any moment.  How could
life be so unfair... sometimes it just is.  The time to live and love
is now.


I couldn't help but feel I could have stopped this from happening if I
had still lived with my kids and their dad - even though I realized
that guilt wasn't rational.  But nothing was rational at that time.
From this nightmare, there was no waking up.  There was only a very
gradual and painstaking process of grieving and healing.   It left
deep scars.   Sometimes things happen that we just can't understand or
justify... We can only acknowledge that evil does indeed exist in this
world.


Keeping in communication with schools and staying updated on school
events is kind of a challenge for non-custodial parents.
Schools tend to send out information to only the child's primary
resident household and it's up to the parents to contact the school or
to keep one another informed (kids don't remember to relay the same
information twice, we're lucky if they remember to bring home their
stinky gym clothes twice a year).


Even divorced parents need to remain close to their minor children,
emotionally and geographically.  I cannot stress that enough.


We can't wait until we reach the end of the rope before we tie that knot.



 April 2008 -  Honey, We Need to Talk
 
"So when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then
you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of
what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it."   -Jiddu
Krishnamurti


We may be listening...  but are we actually HEARING?


Too often, we may find ourselves speaking to someone who is so busy
thinking about what they are going to say next that they don't hear
what's being said. Have our lives become so mentally cluttered that we
don't have time to really hear?  Or do we hear the words but miss the
meaning because we are thinking about something else, or we assume we
already know what that person is trying to tell us?  How could we know
what they haven't finished saying?


Let's pay attention to something our child, spouse or friend finds
important to share with us.  It's not difficult to set aside a few
moments of undivided attention to open our mind and heart, take
sincere interest, be fully present and HEAR what they have to say.

Body language and facial expression can add another dimension to what
is being said.  Becoming sort of "connected" with the speaker allows
us to get a peek of what's behind their words, where truths reside.
Then not only do you hear the words, but also whether or not they are
sincerely spoken.


Not now... later... got more important things... not enough time....
too tired... too busy.... tv show is on...

If not now, WHEN???


I can remember times, as a teenager about a million years ago, when I
wanted so badly to be heard...not told what I was supposed to think,
but be given the opportunity to express my own unique views and feel
valued as an individual.  If parents aren't willing to listen to their
kids, someone else will be...and not necessarily with good intentions.


So I went out of my way to encourage my own kids to talk.

Listening can be one of the most valuable skills a person can learn.
If face-to-face conversation is awkward at first, try turning off the
television and play a board game together.  It's amazing how much
connecting and sharing can happen with your opponent while  jumping
checkers or sinking battleships... (beware of the Hungry Hippos,
though, no human voice can be heard over those)


Cooking together is another good activity to open up communication.
Then there's eating together, or fishing, walking, a ride in the car,
working on art projects, weeding the garden, gazing at the stars, and
a list that could go on and on of things that could be done together
while encouraging discussion about anything and everything or nothing
in particular.


So turn off your computer now and go challenge your kid (or spouse or
parent or whomever) to a conversation-provoking game of scrabble...or
build a birdhouse together... plan a trip... bake a batch of
snickerdoodles... conduct a science experiment... plant a tree...go
bug catching... But most importantly, LISTEN.  You may learn a whole
lot that you didn't know before.


What?  Huh?  Oh, sorry honey... I wasn't listening...



May 2008 - Mothers Day

Along with warmer weather and beautiful flowers, the month of May
brings us Mother's Day.


Then next month there's Father's Day.    I think there's even a
Grandparents' Day.


I don't remember being a kid.... But I have fond memories of being Mom.
Of course, I'm still Mom.  My kids are just way bigger than me.


A few years ago, I wrote this poem.
The ending makes me cry even though I'm the one who wrote it.
geeez!


OF MOTHER AND MOM

A mother gives you birth...
A mom gives you love...


A mother fixes your wound...
A mom kisses your owie...


A mother makes a sandwich...
A mom puts a smiley-face on it..

.
A mother takes you for a stroll...
A mom takes you on a safari...


A mother reads a bedtime story...
A mom makes up a bedtime story..


A mother turns out the light...
A mom chases away the monsters...


A mother fills the bathtub...
A mom adds the bubbles...


A mother washes the windows...
A mom lets you finger-paint on it first...


A mother defrosts the freezer...
A mom lets you make a snowman...


A mother signs your report card...
A mom is proud you did your best...


A mother bakes cookies...
A mom lets you sneak the dough...


A mother gives you lunch money...
A mom gives you ice-cream-man money...


A mother plants the garden...
A mom plays mud-pies with you...


A mother folds the clean laundry...
A mom lets you play in it...


A mother vacuums the carpet...
A mom plays vacuum spaceship with you...


A mother holds you when you cry...
A mom feels your pain when you cry...


One day you may say good-bye to your mother...
But your mom will always be with you...


Because a mother may or may not live in your home...
But a mom always lives in your heart...



June 2008 -  Fish Guts and Snail Goo

June brings us Fathers' Day.  For the mom's day it was flowers and
brunches, for dad's it's cards with pictures of ducks or fish on them,
macaroni mosaics, and maybe mow the lawn for him and cook some steaks.
Well, that's the generic greeting-card version, anyway.


When the kids are little, it's kind of fun to take them shopping to
pick out a gift for the other parent.  This is where the dollar stores
come in REAL handy, knowing that if they break something you're not
gonna be out more than a buck.  It's really special to kids to be able
to buy a gift with their own money (that you just gave them for doing
chores).  When they get older, they're on their own.


But when parents have split up and the kids are young, I believe it's
important to continue helping the kids with the gift-giving.  We were
fortunate in that regard.  One year for mom's day the kids and their
dad took me to Disneyland.  The boys weren't yet old enough to drive
or take me on their own, so I appreciated the thoughtfulness on their
dad's part.   On a dad's day one year I took one of the boys to an
aviary to pick out a canary, something their dad had been wanting.  It
was rewarding to me to see my son's pleasure in giving that gift.  I
think the key here was that the kids were old enough to understand
that we were no longer "together" even though we weren't fighting
anymore.  No romance-reminiscing, no sniping at each other, none of
that stuff went on.  So it worked for us.


I have two sons.  I was relieved not to have had a daughter.  I don't
think I would have had any idea how to do all the "princess" stuff
little girls seem to like.

Having been kind of a tomboy (is that the right word to use these
days?), I didn't care for dolls or wearing lacy dresses.  I wanted to
BE Mighty Mouse, Popeye or a cowboy.  I have memories of going fishing
with my dad and watching with fascination as he cleaned fish in the
kitchen sink, especially the process of cutting open the belly to see
what sort of cool and colorful stuff our catch had consumed.  We also
played a delightfully-disgusting game in the yard at night with
flashlights, called "Captain Crunch".   Upon encountering a snail on
the ground, one would shout "Captain!" and that would be followed by
"Crrrrunch!"  and necessary removal of shoes before entering the
house.  No father/daughter dances like the schools have nowadays.
Icky.


Now in his 80's, my dad's dresser is still graced with the
yarn-wrapped, styrofoam-headed, clothes-hanger dinosaur I gave him on
Father's Day in 1963.  Cool, Dad.


Captain...



  July 2008 - How Did It Get So Late?

"How did it get so late so soon?
It's night before it's afternoon.
December is here before it's June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?"
   -Theodor Seuss Geisel


My youngest son has just graduated with two degrees from U. C.
Berkeley.  He worked hard and earned it.  I think that at least some
of what we divorced parents did must have been right.  So was spending
a couple of days with my husband, my brother and my former husband
while the Graduate showed us around the Bay area.  There was way too
much to see in two days, and just hanging out with my son was awesome.

I loved San Francisco, being an old hippie and all that.  Seeing my
son's apartment for the first time was....well, let's just say...
interesting.  He moved away from home on his own just after turning
18.  That was hard for the parents, but he learned so much about
living as an adult and being on his own.  Not being a party-guy, he
chose to live off campus. He seemed to adapt well to apartment living
(except for the iron burn on the carpet).


It was fortunate that all of us were able to get along well enough for
this visit and celebration to go smoothly.  All the more reason to
cultivate a "burying the hatchet" relationship with an ex-spouse if at
all possible.  At a time like that, it's all about the kids.
(and of course,  the tie-dye, rock 'n roll and patchouli)


From the first day of kindergarten, to college graduation...
Wow.


Just how DID it get so late so soon?

(and I think I got someone else's mirror.  I keep seeing some old lady
in this one...)



August 2008 - Being Fifty-Something

"Women get psychic as they age. You never
have to confess your sins to an older woman.
They always know."
-Andy Rooney


So true!  Sometimes it almost feels like spying, except it's unintentional.
If only I'd been able to do that when my kids were young...


Being a fifty-something woman today is so much different from the way
it was for past generations.  No short permed gray hair and granny
clothes yet.    I eat healthy food (well, and some junk food too),
wear wonder bras, and get lots of water, sleep, and sex.  Sunscreen is
no longer an option.  The glute and pec machines at the gym are
special friends that I visit frequently.  I like myself more.  I don't
ask if an outfit makes my butt look big, that's what mirrors (and
gyms) are for.


And you know what's weird?  I went to the doctor's office, and the
doctor was a kid.  And so was the pharmacist.  Am I getting older, or
are they letting kids practice medicine these days?


Now I have to share something that gave me such a chuckle... Just the
other day one of the neighbor kids, who is about five or six, saw a
Christmas card photo I made for my husband of me wearing a skimpy
Santa's Helper suit, high heels and makeup.  He asked "Who's that?"
and I told him it's me.  He said it must have been when I was much
younger.  I told him it was last Christmas.  In the next priceless
moment, his eyes went from the picture to me, and back to the picture
then back to me.  "Then why do you have all those 'winkles' now?" he
questioned innocently.  I briefly explained to him that the picture
was taken in bright light and with makeup.   I'm sure that went right
over his head, and now he probably thinks I'm magic.  I spared the
details about light reflectors, creative posing, and the wonders of
soft focus that miraculously flatter women of any age.  By golly, the
kid got his first experience with finding out that a lady in a picture
doesn't really look the same in person.  This knowledge may come in
handy when he grows up and tries internet dating.


Later the same afternoon, I found myself trying to explain to a little
neighbor girl why my pet snake laid an egg that is not going to hatch.
 I told her it is because there was no boy-snake around.  She looked
confused.  So I explained that it is like when chickens lay eggs that
don't turn into chickens, they are just "egg" inside and we eat it.
She looked even more puzzled now.  I reassured her that it doesn't
have a chicken inside it, and that we are not going to eat the snake
egg.  I think cleared it up.


I'm gonna be a rockin' grandma someday, I just know it!



September 2008 - Our First Grandchild

"Becoming a grandmother is wonderful. One moment you're just a mother.
The next you are all-wise and prehistoric."
– Pam Brown


Those people... those people that constantly brag about their
grandchildren, with bumper stickers, wallets full of pictures that pop
out at the least mention of anything... Little Johnny makes a
mudpie... Little Suzie ties her shoe... whoop-dee-doo!


How annoying, until now.  Let me explain (briefly, I promise!).

I am now a step-grandmother, and really excited about it.  Holding
this sleepy little bundle, I could just imagine the wondrous mischief
he's gonna get into some day.  I'm sure I'll have a lot to say about
him to every stranger I run into on the bus or in the grocery store in
the future, but I'll try to restrain myself somewhat.


There are two "real" grandmothers.  But unless we're discussing
genetic stuff, "step" is irrelevant.  So what will I be called?
How do I refer to myself, say, on a card and gift to the child?  "From
Grandpa and his wife"?  nawww..


And I can't see my grandbaby calling me by my first name.

I play with the thought of being "Grammy" or "Nana" (don't like that
one), or the too-long "Grandma Mary Lou"...  "Granny" sounds too
old...  Perhaps the baby will come up with some ideas - Gaga-goo-goo
comes to mind.


I think my own sons will be uncles of some sort.  Not sure how that
works.  Blending families is an adventure... someday I guess I should
describe my own experiences with that.


Perhaps I'll be "Cool Grandma"...  (the one with lots of candy, and
cartoon bandaids, stories about evil clowns, and the vintage nursery
rhyme book with creepy pictures)


I had not held a new baby for 22 years.   It was kind of scary.
Yet TOTALLY cool...


"Prehistoric"???  Now wait a minute!!!!


October 2008 - Up In Smoke

We awakened on a Sunday morning in October of 2003 to the wind blowing
leaves and twigs against the window, and a faint smell of smoke.   I
panicked, threw on some clothes, ran around in circles, and then
started instinctively packing photo albums, medications, and a few
treasures into the car.  This was the morning of the Cedar Fire here
in Southern California.


It was a strange feeling to evacuate our home.  We left with our pets
and a few belongings for my stepdaughter's house to the north, but
that city was threatened by another fire so we came back home.  We
left again and tried to get to my parents' house on the coast to
escape the smoke which was making it hard for me to breath.  All the
roads were jammed... so we came back home again.


I felt trapped within a huge glowing inferno. The power lines had been
burned, so that night I sat alone and terrified inside the house by
candlelight.  I was answering phone calls from family and friends
while my husband, his son and some of the neighbors went up onto the
hills behind us armed only with shovels to save our homes.  I thought
we were going to die.


The fire department was not available for our neighborhood, as they
were battling the same fire a few miles north of us.  It's a helpless
feeling to be on your own with no emergency services during a
disaster, and I sympathize with all who have experienced similar
scenarios.


I tried to keep in contact with my sons living in a city to the south
of us, and found out they were waiting to be evacuated because the
opposite side of the massive fire was threatening their neighborhood
also.  The only road between our homes was closed, as the fire was
raging along both sides of it for miles.  This was one of those times
I felt like a mother hen needing to gather her little baby chickens up
together for safety, but couldn't.


On the radio they said to use air filters, which we had, but we
weren't able to without any electricity.   We sealed the house and
stayed inside, and I used wet washcloths over my face to breathe.
Ashes were floating through the air, some holding the shape of leaves
with their intricate vein structure still intact.  We slept on the
floor near the front door just in case...  All night the horizons were
lined with an eerie orange glow, as I'd imagine a sunset on a strange
dark planet might appear.   I prayed - a whole lot - and then some
more.


After the fires were out, the air was unsafe to breathe for days.  It
was as if we were blanketed by a heavy brown fog, and soot and grime
covered every surface.   Even in the daytime it was dark, as the sun
hovered overhead like a huge red orb glowing in the sky, and the air
was thick and smelled of smoke and chemicals.

We survived.  So did our family, friends and our pets. We had a home
to which we could return.  Not everyone was so fortunate.

This was a time to really count blessings.


Only 4 years later, we had another firestorm.  This was named Witch
Creek Fire. When we evacuated, this time I had a better idea what to
grab, although it seemed less important to save any "stuff"....  It's
ONLY stuff.   I didn't panic immediately.   I stuffed all my birds
into one small carrier cage, put my pet snake in a plastic box, and we
took the dog on her leash.   We jumped into our Toyota Dolphin that
we'd purchased just a couple months before, and it came in quite
handy.  The roads weren't as congested as in the previous fire,
although destinations were still very limited with numerous blazes
spread throughout the county.  Ash, grime and bad air lingered for
quite awhile afterwards, but once again we were among those fortunate
people whose homes were spared.


The unavoidable travels through large burn areas were almost beyond
description... miles and miles of ash, charcoal skeletons of trees,
chimneys standing alone where homes had once stood... burned cars,
downed powerlines... we even found one of those new "plastic" fences
that looks like wood, that had melted like stretched taffy.

It was amazing to witness the tremendous strength of those who
suffered great losses, as well as the generosity of those who reached
out to help.


When October rolls around once again and those warm dry winds kick up,
I'll be sleeping with one eye open.    Our jack-o-lantern will
probably have an electric candle in it this year.


November 2008 - Empathy and the Scary Monster

How terrifying can it be to brush your teeth, even if you're only
three years old and there's a dinosaur on your toothbrush and a fuzzy
blue creature on the toothpaste tube?  Oooh, here's a good way to get
out of it - cry "scary monster!" and refuse to go into the bathroom...
 And if you pronounce it something more like "keddie mossa" and
elaborate that it has "eyes, teeth" you're sure to get out of having
to brush your teeth and face this demon!


Kids... the stuff they make up...  but it's just possible that they
aren't intentionally making it up.  Perhaps they're just expressing
themselves coming from a simpler, more innocent and open minded
perspective.   I mean, really... I had made-up friends that I played
with as a kid... never monsters, but usually animals who talked to me.
 They seemed very real at the time.  I won't get into my pet rubber
band named Crabby Appleton, though.


My son went on with this "keddie mossa!" routine for months.  He got
really upset, and the terror on his little face was intense.  When I
turned on the bathroom light the monster always disappeared...
temporarily, anyway.


Eventually I learned that it was easier to be sure the light was on
before he came upstairs to the hall that opened onto that evil
bathroom... with that scary monster lurking in the darkness.  Still,
it was kind of creepy.  What the heck did he see that I didn't?
Extremely creepy, actually, considering the consistency of this
creature's nightly presence.  I found myself scanning the room
sometimes, too.


One evening when he stood in the hall fearfully staring into the
bathroom at the Keddie Mossa, instead of picking him up I got down on
the floor next to him so I could put my arm around him while he told
me all about it yet again.   With my eyes at the same level as his, I
looked into the bathroom with him....

KEDDIE MOSSA!!!!!  EYES, TEETH!!!


Yep.  I saw it.  Poor little guy, this WAS darned scary!  A little bit
of light shining into the dark bathroom from another room illuminated
a metal ceiling vent fan which reflected back two shiny screws,
slightly below which could be seen a line of vertical "teeth"... big
long creepy SHARP teeth...  which actually was a shiny part of the
slotted cover of the vent.  Two glowing EYES and a row of grinning
TEETH, hovering just below the ceiling!


I hugged my little guy and apologized for not believing him, hugged
some more and I probably cried.  Poor kid. I turned the light on and
off, held him up at different levels and then let him actually TOUCH
the keddie mossa.  It never returned to haunt us again.


This became a powerful lesson to me about empathy and exercising more
patience with others and trying to see situations through their eyes,
too.  What might be just a metal ceiling vent cover from one viewpoint
can be a nightmare from another perspective.


Imagine the GROWN-UP "monsters" that could be conquered with just a
little more patience and empathy...


December 2008  - Sensing

See, hear, touch, smell, taste...  Do we take these abilities for
granted?  I often do.  I have to remember to be thankful for these
senses which give me pleasure, pain, warn me of danger or illness, let
me know when the dinner is done (or more often in my case, OVERdone),
and pretty much enable me to function in and interact with my world.

Imagine being born without one or more of the five basic senses.
Perhaps this is the case for you.  It seems to me that it would be
difficult to even know what that missing sense would have been like if
we had never experienced it in the first place.  How would you explain
what the color royal blue is to someone who had never experienced
vision?  Or describe the warble of a songbird to someone who is not
familiar with the concept of sound, much less the difference between a
birds' song and a ringing telephone?   How about describing the aroma
or flavor of a fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie to someone who has
never experienced the delight of "sweet" or "chocolaty" or "buttery"?
 (now I'm hungry)


I often ponder the possibility that there are more senses beyond the
standard five.  I believe that all of us have additional senses, but
few of us are willing to use and trust them.  Intuitive abilities are
used by animals all the time.  Their survival depends on them.  They
often seem to "just know" things.  They don't question how they know,
or doubt it or think, "oh my goodness, I must be evil!"   They simply
use the abilities given to them.


I think that little baby people are also born with these intuitive
abilities, but they learn to suppress them when they find no need to
use them.  Maybe parents and teachers even discourage it.  Little
Jimmy couldn't have seen a ghost, there's no such thing as ghosts...or
is there? Eventually, these abilities go the way of the appendix or
tonsil and just kinda hang around and make a nuisance of themselves
once in awhile.  Until, like the tonsils, it's discovered that just
because we didn't understand it's purpose doesn't mean it was useless.

Some of us still have use of intuitions that we've managed not to
suppress.  We may feel ashamed, set aside or weird.   Knowing negative
future events before they happen can bring on a feeling of guilt for
not having acted upon the knowledge or hunch... yet who would listen?
Maybe there weren't enough details available about the event to affect
it - like knowing a plane will crash but having no idea where.  All
aviation can't be grounded because some crazy lady had a vision!  Or
maybe in attempting to change it, the "future" would no longer be the
"future"... and we're not supposed to mess with the future (are we?).
 It makes my brain tired to think like that.  Stop it!


A difficult thing is describing what it is like to "sense" with an
ability beyond the usual five senses.  Sort of like explaining color
to someone who has never seen or the bird's song to someone who has
never heard, it's nearly impossible to explain the experience.  It's
really cool to meet another person with similar experiences.


Sometimes knowledge comes to me as a voice that blurts out of my mouth
before I  think about it (my husband might say I do that all the time,
but I don't mean like that) and says something like "we're gonna have
an earthquake".  Or it may appear in my mind as a little floating
thing like inside those "magic eight ball" toys.    Once I  "read" a
future event, in my mind, as text printed in a newspaper headline.  It
might appear as a dream that's more vivid than usual.  More often,
information appears to me as mental images.  Not recognizable images
(trains, dogs, trees, etc.) but more like strange and unfamiliar
pictures that aren't really pictures (again, hard to explain).  It's
like seeing, only without looking through the eyes.  Sometimes it's a
way of "reading" people, or sharing thoughts and knowing what they are
going to say a few seconds before they say it.  Actually hearing, only
not with the ears..  or speaking without really speaking.  Or just
picking up on "vibes", like feelings... Sort of..


Dogs "sense" good people and bad people (unless they're fooled with a
juicy steak).  Mountain lions can "smell" fear.  Wild birds know which
berries are edible and which are poison.  Ants seem psychically
connected with one another.  A flock of birds or school of fish are
able to all turn at the exact same moment, without texting one another
with "left turn in 20 seconds".   I've discovered old dogs tend to be
"talking dogs".  They're just full of messages for us if we listen to
them.  I love old dogs...


It could be that having a usable sixth sense is genetic.  My mom had
it and one of my sons does as well.   I think we could all tap into
some of our unused senses once we turn off our logical, skeptical, and
thinking minds (for a little while) and pay closer attention to how it
could have been that we knew who was on the phone before we answered
it.  It's gotta be more than coincidence when we start singing a song
and then turn on the radio and hear it playing... often.   Or when we
are sending an email to an old friend we haven't spoken with in a long
time, and click "send" just to find an incoming email... from that old
friend.  Coincidences are probably very rare.


February 2009 - That's What's-her-name
""If you want to win friends, make it a point to remember them. If you
remember my name, you pay me a subtle compliment; you indicate that I
have made an impression on you. Remember my name and you add to my
feeling of importance."
--Dale Carnegie


Dude, that is RIGHT ON!


I forget names quite often.  If I'm not one-hundred percent certain
that I recall someone's name correctly, I either don't address them by
name until I know it for sure, or simply confess that I forgot it.

I was cursed (or maybe blessed?) with a double name.  It's not that
difficult to learn "Mary Lou"... or is it?  Teachers, especially, had
a hard time with it.  So they called me "Mary" even though I insisted
I was called by "Mary Lou".  Funny that other kids always used the
correct name.  It was adults who didn't get it.  Even my grandfather
messed up and got the wrong name most of the time.


Later I found that bosses and coworkers had trouble with my name.
Mary Ann, Mary Jean, Mary Jane, Mary Kay, Linda Sue, Betty Lou, Mary
Jo, Joann, Luanne, why not just call me "whatever"?  One boss who
called me Mary Jean told me it was "close enough".    It's almost
embarrassing, like should I correct them every time or just respond?
A local politician always greets my husband by name, then looks at me
and says "hi, how are you doing?".   I guess that's better than using
the wrong name, but definitely didn't win MY vote!


You would think that with as many people who start singing "Hello Mary
Lou Goodbye Heart" when I tell them my name, they'd remember it!
Seriously though, associating the name with a song like that is a
great memory tool, just don't sing it out loud...


I try to associate names with specific facial features, while striving
not to stare at that feature.


Addressing someone by an incorrect name doesn't do much in the way of
cultivating a business relationship or a friendship.  It says "you're
not important to me."


I have a personal policy that whenever we are out traveling and
souvenir-shopping, I will always purchase anything that has "Mary Lou"
imprinted on it (as long as it's not too expensive).  It's so rare to
find, although there is plenty of "Mary Ann" stuff.  The sight of
"Mary" on something just doesn't spark that familiarity thing inside
like seeing my real name.


Hearing my name, that's a most wonderful feeling.  I rarely hear it,
but will fall madly in love with whomever speaks it... Try me!  (ok,
well, kidding about the love thing, but it WILL get my attention and
make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside)


So that's my experience.  Hearing one's name spoken opens a sort of
connection between human beings.   Don't hesitate to ask when you
forget a name.  People don't usually bite.


If you want your son to grow up tough, name him Sue.  (like the Johnny
Cash song)


To challenge your daughter, name her Mary Lou.


 March 2009  - a poem
PUZZLED
(1997)


Open the box..
Anticipation...wonder...

excitement....
The picture on the cover is complete and SO beautiful...
Perfection...
Will all the pieces REALLY fit together???
Are they ALL included, or could a few be missing?
Let's try... I LOVE a challenge...
Start with the frame, the edge pieces are easy..
Now find the four corners...
Here they are, now the rest should follow...
This will take some time, but it should work..
And I know it will be fun and rewarding,
Working towards the final outcome,
And finally inserting the last piece in triumph...
Even if some places might be a bit trying...
Patience...persistence...
planning.......
Please don't...if you remove those pieces I can't complete it!
Put them back, don't destroy them.. please..please........
Now they're gone...I'll try to put it together without those...
It will just have to be missing a spot, but it should still work...
Not going to give up that easily.....
No!! don't shake up the box!! I had them sorted out by color...
Why did you do that??? Why??Why????
Now I will have to start over... sorting...sorting...sorting...
...
This is NOT as enjoyable as it is supposed to be...
As a matter of fact, it is rather unpleasant now...
Please stop!  Put down the box, please!!!
Now you have scattered the pieces all over!!!
It will be impossible to put the puzzle together now...
The wind is picking up, an icy chill surrounds me..
I am alone...isolated and cold...so cold...........
And darkness approaches rapidly...
So dim it is difficult to see now...
The darkness frightens me....and I am alone....
The pieces are blown in every direction
I desperately try to pick up the ones nearest me
Before they are lost completely...
Frantically reaching and grabbing as the fragments are slipping away...
Now they're scattered everywhere..
So many have disappeared...
I will NEVER put this together now...ever.....
Even if they WERE gathered up, too many were destroyed...
Bent, scratched, ripped...damaged...imperfect..
.ugly.......
What point is there in trying to complete a damaged puzzle???
No one can appreciate it...
It will never EVER be as beautiful and complete
as the picture on the box.......


April 2009 - Hidden Disabilites

Why does an apparently able-bodied person park in a handicapped space?

Why can't the person in front of you move faster?  Why can't healthy
people carry their groceries?  Why does that employee need so many
bathroom breaks?  Why do people ask stupid questions?


People with hidden disabilities are everywhere, or at least those who
are fortunate enough to be able to get out of the house.  Hidden
disabilities are physical or mental disabilities with no obvious
symptoms, yet affecting the everyday lives of many people.


Those with hidden disabilities usually want to live the same as anyone
else.  They shouldn't have to explain their disability to everyone, or
be judged for needing to ask for assistance, accommodation, or simply
a little patience. It's important to preserve their dignity and
respect.   It seems that employers are not as accommodating to those
with hidden disabilities.


Many of us judge people without knowing their personal circumstances.
 But without walking in another person's shoes, it's hard to
understand how something we find to be simple and routine may be a
major effort for a person with a hidden disability.   Reacting with
judgment, ridicule or impatience does not enhance the experiences of
others or ourselves.


Sitting down with our kids and explaining both visible and invisible
handicaps can help them to understand and learn to be patient with
others who may be a little slower, look a little different, or need
special attention or accommodation.  Kids can be cruel (although I
believe that adults often have them beat in that regard).


Next time you're waiting at a stop sign for a healthy-looking
pedestrian to cross the street at a snail's pace, be patient.  Keeping
an open mind about people can add tremendous peace to our own lives,
as well as allowing others to participate in and offer their own
unique contribution to society.


July 2009 - Summertime

So here it is, July.  That's when we have fireworks and picnics and
sunshine and all that summery stuff.


Put on your sunscreen.


If you have kids around, observe their joy.

Look at a tiny child's face, watching fireworks bursting overhead in
sparkling colors of gold, pink and green that shimmer and float
gently down and dissolve...


That kid's not thinking about when he tripped and skinned his knee
earlier, or having to go to bed tonight... he's taking in the
magical splendor of seeing mysterious and fantastic colors in the sky.
 Oooooohhh...


He jumps up and down when he hears the big "boom!"  Aaaaahhhh.....
His eyes become enormous and round, and his pupils enlarge in the
darkness between the fireworks.


The colors are reflected in his sparkling eyes.  Oooh..
He smells the smoke in the air, and all that his senses are taking in
create lots of cool little events happening in his brain.


He is fulfilled with joy and wonderment, and nothing else in the world
matters to him at this moment.


Kids can teach us a whole lot about life that we forgot.


We get busy and worried and cluttered and forget to just live in the
present for awhile.


This summer be aware of pleasant things
like the simple comfort of warm sunshine on your back and the salty
smell of the ocean breeze if you're near the ocean.


Melt into the sweet icy cold sensation of a chocolate milk shake, or
see how far you can spit a watermelon seed.


Listen to the birds' chirping mingled with the sound of kids laughing
and playing in the park.


Get on your knees and look into the grass, at a child's eye level...or
better yet, a turtle's eye level!


Observe the complex communities of insects doing whatever they do.
Far too exciting to miss... really!


Blow soap bubbles and watch them drift in the air in perfect spheres
of swirling transparent rainbow colors.


What could be better than that!

Enjoy this moment.


And blow a bubble for me, too.


September 2009 - Have a Good Cry

"An onion can make people cry but there's never been a vegetable that
can make people laugh."
-Will Rogers


I have to disagree with that one, having giggled at the sight of an
occasional carrot or cucumber.


Should a parent tell a son to stop crying and be a man?  That's
telling him that men don't cry, or at least
that they shouldn't.  So, when emotions overtake him and he can't hold
back the tears, he feels like
something is wrong with him.  I think he should be allowed to express
his feelings.

I'm referring to genuine tears - not whining and manipulation.  That's
something else.


Crying is a natural response to grief, loss, pain and sometimes to
frustration or fear.
Or onions.
 

Some people even cry when they're happy.  It's a readily-available,
drug-free release of emotion.
And it's safer than punching a hole in the wall.

Nobody should have to feel ashamed of shedding a few tears when they feel sad.
It's human.


Crying also is a way of expressing frustration.  We women are great at this.
When all else fails, I cry.  It may not solve the problem directly,
but it helps clear the mind.
And a clear mind is more likely to be able to come up with a practical
solution to the problem.
So there!


There are times when it's socially inappropriate to cry (like at work).
I've felt  the tears well up and had to slip away to the restroom.
I would guess that if a man did this, he'd be less likely to have a
fellow employee
walk up and give him a hug than a woman would be.
Again, I'm just guessing.


Crying can be so cathartic. Indulging in a good cry relieves stress.
It's cleansing, and can make
a person feel renewed.   My dad used to tell me "The more you cry, the
less you pee."  Not sure
if that's any real benefit or not.  But since I was a girl, I was sort
of given permission to cry.


For some reason, it seems less socially acceptable for males to weep.
There's really nothing unmanly about it though.

Remember the shortest and possibly most stirring verse in the Bible:
 "Jesus wept."


Why not pull out that old VHS tape and watch "Old Yeller" again.
Have a little cry with the kids.  Let them know it's ok, and
discuss what everybody is feeling.


Then go on to something happy.

Laughing is even better.

November 2009 - Blending Families with Pumpkin and Pecan
Once again the holidays are almost here.  My family celebrates
Thanksgiving and Christmas.


When my husband and I got together about a decade ago we each had two
kids from our previous marriages, ranging from ages twelve to twenty.
It's been somewhat challenging every year to figure a way each of us
could spend the holidays with our own kids, while celebrating together
as a couple.   Sometimes it's been impossible.


Today our "kids" are all grown up, with significant others of their
own.  One of my sons lives out of town and returns home to visit twice
a year.  I cherish those brief visits.   We also have a grandchild (on
my husband's side of the family) who is old enough this year to really
get into the whole celebration thing.  There are former spouses living
nearby who also wish to spend the day with family.


So... there's the possibility of rotating, being with one side of the
family on Thanksgiving and the other on Christmas;  and then switching
the following year.  But that's never worked out.   Sometimes we are
invited one place, or the other, or both.   The closest thing to
success has been inviting everyone to just stop by our home any time
throughout the day.


It may get confusing, but I'm thankful to have my family with which to
celebrate while so many people can't be with their loved ones for the
holidays.


I have no room to complain about who eats pumpkin pie at which house.
Besides, pecan is better according to my dog Angie who stole over half
a pecan pie from the kitchen counter last year.


December 2009 - Sticks and Stones

Yesterday while shopping in a large discount store I heard a small
child scream.  I turned around to see a woman, presumably the mother,
roughly jerk her little boy by the arm and yell at him from about a
foot away.   As if this weren't upsetting enough already, the words
she shouted turned my blood cold.  "You're a piece of (insert crude
word for excrement here)!"


The child couldn't have been older than two or three!   Expecting it
might become even more physical, I stood there staring at this woman.
She saw me, and stormed away with the child still under her arm like a
football.


I can't even imagine calling the driver who cuts me off in traffic
what this woman called her little boy.  Of course kids need to be
disciplined, but yelling at them just reinforces bad behavior.
Being called a horrible name like that by a loved-one is a destructive
attack on the soul.


There are so many different views on how to discipline kids.  It seems
to change all the time.  Doing a time out, taking away a privilege or
treat, removing the child from the scene, all seem to be popular
suggestions.   There are different views on spanking.   Discipline is
up to the parents to agree upon ahead of time when they're not angry.

Hateful words leave no scars that we can see on the outside, but it's
like cooking in a microwave.  It works from the inside out.


When my sons were small and my patience wore thin, I learned to use my
mom's method.  She taught me this when it felt like I had no choice
but to raise my voice to make my kids behave.  She said the more you
yell, the more they act up and don't listen.


The secret was to whisper.  They see you saying something and can't
hear it, so they calm down quietly to listen.  Then you can regain
some control over the situation.


It works.  It really works!


During the holidays, stresses seem to increase.  Kids get excited,
stores get crowded and parents get tired.


But that's no excuse to say horrible things to those we love.


February 2010 - Resolutions, uh huh
February... a time to give up on those New Year's resolutions we make
every year but don't keep.
Every year I make the same ones, to drink more water every day and eat
more fruits and vegetables.
Every...year.

But then the diet colas and coffee call out to me, as does all that
candy.  No, a carrot stick isn't the same kind of sweet as a candy
bar.  I won't fall for that.  I love sugar.

I'm doing better about drinking water as long as I work out, it just
becomes a natural craving after exercise.
An apple before and banana after (or the other way around) seems to be
satisfying, although not nearly so much as chocolate.

I've got one of those virtual trainer things with the balance board,
where it's kind of like a game to work out.
It's an alternative to going to the gym on the days I don't feel like
driving in traffic.  I'd recommend it for almost anybody except maybe
advanced bodybuilders and athletes who wouldn't find it a challenge at
all.  It's teaching me yoga.  If only I could balance myself so I
don't have to hold on to a chair, but that's improving a little.

Kids need more exercise than they usually get.  Video games make it
easy to sit around and exercise nothing but thumbs.
Now there are games that can get people out of the chair and up
jumping around and swinging their arms.  Get those for the kids!  It
might help burn off some of the calories from the colas, nachos and
nutty-bars that are served for school lunches.  I wish they had
invented this when my kids were young.  Today after lunges and
knee-bends I tried a game where you crazily flap your wings to fly
like a bird... just like in all those flying dreams!   I'm sure it
looked ridiculous.  My dogs gave me some really strange looks.

Of course outdoor play is the best... but when that's not possible
there's always virtual snowboarding in the living room.


May 2010 - Fibromyalgia Awareness Day
Fibromyalgia Awareness

May is the month for fibromyalgia awareness.  Many of us are aware of
it all the rest of the time as well.  It touches the lives of family,
friends and co-workers.   I share my experience in hopes of helping
others who are affected in some way by fibromyalgia.


Imagine waking up in the morning after a short, restless sleep.  Your
body aches like the flu is coming on, yet there is no flu.
You can't move your head without feeling stabbed in the neck, and your
lower back aches when you roll over.
You get out of bed and take a pill for pain, have a little decaf, and
wait to feel like a human being.  In a couple of hours,  you're
already exhausted and need to rest.  On top of that, you feel kind of
useless and guilty for not accomplishing nearly as much as you feel
you ought to, and this makes you feel sad.  Welcome to a day in my
life when fibromyalgia is in full bloom.  It may vary from person to
person, but one thing in common is pain.


I've always been tired, but figured it was from keeping house and
chasing two little boys plus sometimes daycare kids around all day
without a break.  Eventually my fatigue was diagnosed and treated as
depression.   I couldn't keep up with the kids very well anymore, and
was thankful that they were no longer needing me to do everything for
them.  I could take a nap once in awhile, or sit down while they
played without having to jump up every couple minutes, as toddlers
seem to require parents to do.


I think I was supermom, at least for awhile.  But there were a couple
of turning points that told me I was slipping.  My youngest had lost a
tooth and put it under the pillow for the tooth fairy.  Both boys
ALWAYS got a silver dollar for each tooth (we went broke when my
oldest had to have 13 surgically removed all at once, as he had
supernumerary teeth like a shark).  But this time the tooth fairy
messed up and didn't get up in the night.  The next morning, the poor
little guy checked under his pillow and my heart sank.  I forgot.  I
failed.


A similar occurrence was when one son had an awards ceremony at school
that I was to attend.  I forgot, and he called me from his teacher's
cell phone, almost crying.  I threw on some clothes and rushed there
in time to see him get his award.


I feel that I failed my sons in so many ways.  When they were older
and their dad and I were split up, it seems that so many of the times
I tried to spend with them I was having pain... really horrendous pain
in the belly.  So I'd just sit with them and talk.  I was so depressed
and exhausted, I couldn't "parent" them the way I feel a parent should
do.  Anxiety.. guilt.. What was wrong with me?  My sons were the most
important thing in my life!


Fibromyalgia can cause depression and anxiety.  I've been depressed on
and off since I was a child, and had some strange pains in the
ribcage.  Those were diagnosed as "growing pains" when I was about ten
years old.  Sharp, stabbing, doubling over pains were for growing?
I was an overachiever, a perfectionist... so maybe it was
stress-induced.  Through my teens and twenties, monthly cramps were
incapacitating, causing dizziness and being unable to stand.  The only
relief was bed rest, massage and heat for about a day and a half.  I
got lectured at school over my absences, and how that's not a valid
excuse to stay home.   I was taken to the doctor when I passed out at
school, and was told that I "passed out from pain" and released.  At
nineteen, my fatigue was diagnosed as "weakness illness" (whatever
that is) and was inappropriately put on anti-depressants that made me
sleep 14 hours at a time.  I missed too much work.   In my thirties I
had migraines where I felt my head would explode.  Some days I'd feel
like there was hot acid rushing through my veins.  Again, dismissed as
depression.


Back in those days, it seems that fibromyalgia was not recognized at
all.  Thus, the patronizing and dismissive diagnoses of "growing
pains" and "weakness illness" were made.


Today, fibromyalgia is what's left after they rule out everything
else.   I had just about every test imagineable.
There is no cure, just management of symptoms.

On a good day, I can get some things done.  But if I do too much, I
pay dearly the next day.
On bad days I have to ration my energy out to basics, and take naps.
The dust will wait.  Prioritizing is important, and things-to-do lists
are mandatory but flexible.  I find that I'm becoming more forgetful
all the time, and that does scare me.


There are no miracle cures.


As far as I know, most fibromyalgia sufferers do not want pity.  But
we'd gladly accept some help with the housework, cooking, a shoulder
massage, or just a friendly visit.


Family comes first, even if it's only a phone call or email.  There's
never too much pain to hear news like my son(s) buying a new car or
getting a promotion at work, or to have time with my husband or sing
with my grandson.


With parenting, love is not enough.
But sometimes it's the best one can do.


Fibromyalgia Awareness Day
May 12, 2010
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder characterized by widespread
musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and multiple tender points.  It may
cause sleep disturbances, morning stiffness, digestive disorders,
anxiety, TMJ, cognitive or memory impairment, visual disturbance, and
other symptoms.


The cause is unknown.


 July 2010 - Keeping Kids Safe

There's something so awesome about seeing one's kids grow up to be
happy, successful adults.
Just thinking about it fills me with joy.  Now I understand what my
mom used to tell me.


It was scary raising kids twenty-some years ago.   And it's maybe even
more scary now.  There were predators then, and predators now.
But it's so much easier for them to reach the kids now.   It's
heartbreaking to see a story about a stranger luring a kid through a
social networking
site.  Privacy settings aren't necessarily private - plenty of people
know how to get around those.

Some parents have no idea what's going on when their kids are using
the computer.  Kids are constantly coming up with new ways to hide
things,
sharing secret codes between one another (like announcing that mom
just entered the room so hide what you're doing),
sending pictures they think nobody but the recipient will see, and I
don't even know what else.


But who is really at the other end?  Maybe a friend or classmate; but
maybe not.  Is it a 13 year old, or is it a 45 year old pretending to
be a kid?


I remember my parents telling me about "kidnappers" as we called them
back in the olden days when I grew up (the dinosaur days, when color
tv was first born
and a computer was a giant contraption that filled a whole room, with
all sorts of flashing lights and spinning reels).


When my sons were very young, we weren't internet people yet so I
pretty much taught them the same things my parents taught me about
those kidnappers -
don't trust a stranger, don't accept food or get in their car or help
them find a lost puppy - that sort of thing.

But now, I don't think I would know what to tell kids.  Even parents
who assume they are on top of things, may not be at all.

Sometimes parents are unaware that they are putting their children at
risk.  Pictures of little Jimmy or Suzie are adorable.  Of course
we love to show off our kids and grandkids.  And most of the time it's
probably fine.
But it's not like taking a picture out of our wallet and showing the
grocery store clerk.
When pictures are online all sorts of strangers can view them (even if
set to private).

But where it REALLY gets risky is when a child's full name is displayed.

It's often not that difficult to find someone's location when you have
a person's name and maybe a few names from friends' lists to
cross-reference,
where friends and relatives may give more information on their own locations.

Predators can be intelligent, slick, calculated, and patient.  Why
take the chance?


Kids deserve to be kept safe and have the chance to grow up happy,
healthy and successful in whatever they choose to do.


December 2010 - Holiday Time Travel

Why is it that the older I get, the faster time passes?  It seems like
I was just putting away Christmas stuff, and here it comes again in a
few weeks.


I "just" bought my fishing license (in January) and now it's going to
expire... and I only caught two fish all year!

Why do catfish swallow the hook?  This was a baby catfish, so darned
cute that it reminded me of Hello Kitty.
I cried.  I love Hello Kitty!  I hope it survived, so I can catch it
again some day when it's bigger and eat it.


So, if time goes by faster and faster all the time, am I gonna run
into the Future Me eventually?  If time were bent like a piece of
paper, that might happen.


The Future Me can give me hindsight advice so I can.... wait...
uhh....  if I did something differently, then Future Me's advice would
have to be something else.


Or maybe I am already Future Me?   I could talk with Past Me and tell
her what's going to happen, if she'd promise not to change anything.
Maybe that already happens, and it's why sometimes I know things
before they occur but can't make anyone
believe me, so it doesn't change.


Oh how time travel makes my brain hurt.

Just keep those Morlocks away.  They really creep me out.

Back to the present day, and speaking of presents...

I do most of my holiday gift shopping online, especially when there
are free shipping specials.
It's so much simpler that way.  Then a trip to the mall can be just to
enjoy the decorations
and watch people scurrying around in a panic trying to buy those
perfect gifts for loved ones.

Squirming, sugar-infused children standing in line to sit on Fake
Santa's lap and cry...
while I sit back and sip my mocha latte and savor every moment...


Happy Holidays.


March 2011 - Commitment
Later... sometime... maybe... i don't know... in the future... we'll
see... hopefully...

Are these familiar?


If you're like me, you like to have a specific plan and a time frame
rather than be left hanging and wondering when (or if).

Sometimes you can't just hope something will happen... you have to
MAKE it happen.

I prefer "yes" or "no" or "next Tuesday" or "four o-clock" or "April
first" or any such
commitment instead of "sometime" or "eventually" or  "we'll see".
I like to have a plan.


Back in the day when I was an administrative assistant, if my boss
brought me a job to do and I told him
"I'll do it eventually" or "I hope to get it done soon" I would have
been fired.


In our private lives we need to be as accountable to our family,
friends and neighbors as we are at work.
They deserve that from us as much as an employer does... even more.

TODAY is a good time to start taking action, making plans and commitments.
Be someone that others can really count on.

Or just sit around thinking "probably should" or "in the future"...
sometime, maybe...


Leaving people wondering "if" and "when" is a way to control others by
keeping them waiting on you.

Of course sometimes circumstances mean a plan has to be changed or a
commitment delayed.
But it's better at least to have tried.


I thought sometime I'd write about this... maybe.
I kept hoping it would get written, but nothing happened...
sometime... eventually...
It was gonna be January... now it's a little late.
Procrastination.


Make a goal, set a time line, make yourself accountable to others...
Then FOLLOW THROUGH.


April 2011 - Food For Thought

It seems that parents are always trying to get kids to learn to
appreciate vegetables.
Remember the joke, "What's the difference between broccoli and boogers?"
And the answer, "Kids won't eat broccoli."  Ewww!


I believe it's helpful to teach kids (and adults) that not only is it
important WHAT you eat, but HOW you eat it.

I like to think of it as "mindful" eating. Using all the senses. Take
time, eat slowly, take small bites and chew well.
You will get more benefits from the food than just nutrition. You feed
your senses when you take time to appreciate the appearance of the
food.


Savor the scent and flavor of the food, and take note of the textures
and even the sounds (like crunching).
This will slow you down, and eating more slowly also gives your "I'm
full" alarm a chance to speak up before you overeat.

With kids, you can make a game out of it.  Of course, they enjoy foods
that look fun... like smiley-faces or little animal-shaped things.
(Turtle pancakes, anyone?)
Have them close their eyes and smell the different foods and guess
which is which.
Marvel at how you can't determine flavor very much if you hold your nose.
Which foods are crunchy, and which are squishy?

Make dinner a fun, social time and not a time to discuss Timmy's D in
arithmetic or Suzy's dentist appointment tomorrow.
(When I was a kid, it seemed that dinner time was when most of the
yelling happened.  Not good for the digestion.)

Indulge in that small slice of double-chocolate cake even more slowly,
to allow more pleasure-time for your senses.


Like some other activities, sometimes slowing down and making it last
gives you more joy, and we all can use more joy.
In contrast, if you really dislike something but have to eat it, think
about something else entirely and just get it over with. Yukky!

We may have been taught to not play with our food, but I disagree.


Now go eat those little broccoli trees, and don't use your spoon to
flip peas at your brother.


December 2011 - Not Now, I'm on the Phone
Is it just me, or is anyone else terribly annoyed with cell phones?
Actually not the phones, but the use of them.
Everywhere, people are talking or texting to someone.  On the
treadmills at the gym, the grocery store, in restaurants, and while
driving (even though it's against the law).

Why not enjoy that workout time as your own?  Or decide for yourself
if you should buy brown or white rice?


What freaks me out is knowing all these phones have cameras,
especially when I'm changing clothes at the gym.  You never know.
What happened to the joy of solitude?  Or being available to say hello
to someone you meet in person, without a phone call in progress?
People talking on phones don't say hi or make eye contact in person.

The phones themselves are pretty awesome.  They do just about
everything, including ghost hunting.


It's just that it concerns me when people seem to be afraid to listen
to the thoughts in their own head.


I like music and conversation;  but I also enjoy quiet.
When I drive, I listen for engine or tire sounds (first sign of
trouble usually) or sirens, or cars honking or people cursing from
their windows.
When walking, I prefer to hear if a person or animal is walking up behind me.
I'm not paranoid... just being aware of surroundings.


But back to cell phones.  I have one, which I mostly use for emergency.

The other day my shopping cart was run into by another cart.  The
woman was on her phone and said "I can't talk
while I'm 'driving' this thing" into her phone... yet didn't even look
at me, much less say anything.


But the following experience just blew me away (and inspired me to write this):

It was Halloween, and I was handing out candy to the little monsters,
movie stars and fairies.
They would walk up to the porch and shout "trick or treat" and almost
all of them said "thank you" when I gave them a handful of sweets.
But there was one girl who walked up to the porch and held out her
bag, while continuing to blab on her cell phone.
Oh come on..  Get off the danged phone or don't come begging for candy.
She never said "trick or treat" or "thank you".  Just held open the
bag without even making eye contact with me.
Must have been a terribly important call... the red shoes or the black
ones.. oh my God isn't that new boy at school cute...  I got my nails
done at Fifi's...  blah.


Will kids visiting Santa this year ignore him while texting "I'm @
Santa" to a friend?

When people are talking or texting with someone else, or listening to
earphones, it says to me,
"I'm not really present so leave me alone."


Bye, got 2 go.  C  U  L8R  PPL  U  R  Gr8
    -----Sent from my iPhone----- haha


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