Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My dog the blogger...

My girls and I laughed some months ago when our neighbor talked about taking their dog for a walk so he could check his "pee mail".  But now after observing my little terrier mix, I have decided he is really more of a blogger.  Lucky does not just check one or two particular "in boxes" when we are out walking - he browses a variety of sites, paying more attention to some than others.  Some he is nearly wild to reach every time we head out for a walk, others he notes in passing or only on occasion. 

Lucky's reaction to various sites also varies.  Some get a quick read, others cause him to linger and even paw around for more information, most get a responsive "comment".  Some places even cause him to burrow like the terrier he is, snuffling around to find every possible scent of interest. 

Yes,  my dog is a blogger.  Intrepid and always curious.  Good dog. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

from the middle

I haven't posted anything in three days.  The only thing I can say about that, to explain, is that I think I am somewhere in the middle of a shift and I can't quite get myself steady enough to collect my wits entirely.  I am experiencing a very weird feeling.  My reactions to various things feel different.  My emotions about various things feel different.  My thoughts are scattered and undecided, sometimes, and clear as crystal and absolutely directed in others. 

What came to mind today was that I am moving from Point A - where I've been - to some other place or at least onto some new path, and I kind of have a foot in each and neither feels 'normal' yet.  It is a feeling like none I've ever felt before.  It doesn't frighten me or give me anxiety ... I'm just kind of waiting, mostly patiently, to see what happens next.  And even that mostly patient feeling is unprecedented for me.

Here I wait.  I think I'll have to tell some stories of the past this weekend, while I wait.  Savoring my mostly patient self...hahahahaha....

Monday, February 20, 2012

Downton Abbey

In the last two or three days, I have watched the seven episode first season of Downton Abbey - a PBS Masterpiece Theater production that I have heard about for some time now.  I can't say I really enjoyed it to much, but I imagine I'll watch Season 2 when it shows up on Netflix as well. 

As I was watching the earlier episodes, I was very grateful to live in the time that I live and in the country I live in.  I can't imagine the classism, with the serving staff just as oppositional to anyone trying to strive for something more in life, than the upper class for whom they serve.  "I could never live that way!" I thought to myself. 

What struck me, as I watched the 7th episode last night, however, was how trapped everyone was in their roles.  The serving staff wishing to move ahead had no more power to do so than the folks in the upper class - to be different or strike out for change meant being cut off from whatever support system one had.  It reminded me of when I read The Help, which really struck home with me what a terrifying world it was, when one white person's complaint could lead not only to the arrest or death of the black person involved, but that black person's entire family could be turned out and shunned to the point of starving to death.  Same in this 1920s or 1930s England, I think.  If you became separated from your class of people, you could and would be shunned - even the separation was through no fault of your own. 

For all the times in my life I've said "this is not working for me" and took a different path, I am very grateful for the freedom I have had to do that.  I can't say I've ever felt entirely trapped - at least not by society or social norms.  I am only as trapped as I imagine myself to be.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A good night

My husband and kids indulged me last night, as we road tripped 2 hours to see my niece play basketball.  It also happened that my sister has my brother's 2 younger kids staying with her this weekend, so I knew I would get to see my sister's three kids, plus my other niece and nephew.  AND one of the girls on the basketball team, who was injured a couple of weeks ago, was only 12 points from reaching the 1000 point mark, so I hoped to be present for that milestone, plus I always love visiting my alma mater high school...it was a good night. 

Unfortunately, my niece's team lost, but her teammate did make her 12 points, despite really looking "off" due to her shoulder injury, so I got to be part of the cheering throng as she reached her major milestone (as a 10th grader!).  Due to the loss, my niece was not in any mood to socialize, but she sent me a text after the game, she knew we were there, and she appreciated it. 

My nephew, after complaining about how much I was yelling during the game (I am a fan - a mostly-positive vocal fan), then moved over to stand by me when I moved away from the rest of the group since I couldn't sit still and need to stand.  He loves me just like his big brother does!  My brother's daughter also came over to stand by me for a while, filling me in on her activities and upcoming events.  I also gave her the necklace I made her for her upcoming birthday and she really liked it.  Yay!

And as always, my sisters two younger daughters were full of hugs and smiles, always happy to have my family around. 

It might be a bit of a hike to road trip down for events, but I never regret it.  I love being part of my family, and my hometown community too. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Thought for the day...

My Seize the Day calendar has the following thought for today:

Courage is doing what you're afraid to do.  There can be no courage unless you're scared.  Edward Vernon Rickenbacker.

Hmmm...there have been a couple times in my life where I have been lauded for being "brave" for doing things that seemed really more like ... well, living day to day, to me.  So I got to thinking what these words mean...and whether having courage and being brave are the same thing.  Thanks to trusty old dictionary.com, here you have it:

/ˈkɜrɪdʒ, ˈkʌr-/ Show Spelled[kur-ij, kuhr-] Show IPA
the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.
Obsolete . the heart as the source of emotion.

/breɪv/ Show Spelled [breyv] Show IPA adjective, brav·er, brav·est, noun, verb, braved, brav·ing.
possessing or exhibiting courage or courageous endurance.
making a fine appearance.
Archaic . excellent; fine; admirable.

So, I guess they are the same, general concept - but it doens't fit the thought of the day, since courage is to do something without fear and the thought of day says it isn't courage if you aren't afraid.  I think perhaps you could bring these into alignment if, instead, you said that courage is facing difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without REGARD TO fear.  That you are scared and you do it anyway. 

Am I courageous or brave, particularly?  I wouldn't say so.  Facing my husband's addiction and time away in treatment, I don't think I was "being brave" when I got up and went work and got my kids to school and held things together while parts of my life were in turmoil.  To me, there was no choice - I didn't have the luxury of laying down and pulling the blankets over my head.  I don't think it was notably brave when I kicked my first husband out and quit my job and moved from Minnesota to Seattle back in 1991.  Instead, I'd say I weighed the risks and benefits of my life as it was, versus my life if I changed pretty much everything.  I voted for the unknown over the dead-end known in that case, and moved forward. 

I would agree that most of the time I certainly have "the courage of my convictions".  If I have weighed the options and made a decision and started down a certain path, I normally do it without a lot of self-doubt and fear.  Healthy apprehension and concern for where I'm headed, sure, but if I've decided and my gut is at peace, then onward and upward!    

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

And here we are at February 13 1/2...

I actually used to remove February 14th from my calendars.  Either cut it out or past a 13 1/2 over it.  I have long disliked, or even despised, this Hallmark holiday for the focus and import it puts on mushy-gushy b.s. that some people call "love". 

I haven't really given my former position much thought in recent years.  Now, from this vantage point of 40something, minivan-driving, married, mother of two, I still think it is a real pain in the hiney.  Case in point:

I have now spent about 75% of my time with my kids in the past four days "making Valentines".  Which means, at their ages, keeping after them to get them done.  The 3rd grader finally buckled down and got them done without much hoopla, but the 1st grader, who only had to write names (the to: and from:) on cut out hearts, threw tantrum after tantrum.  I told her that if she didn't make one for every kid in the class, then I wouldn't let her take any.  I know she wants to have Valentines to hand out, and she would be heart broken if she didn't have them, but she is just so opposed to being told what to do and when to do it, that it becomes a battle.  It was painful and really sucked away whatever Valentine-friendly feelings I was trying to nurture.

My husband is often good at sending me flowers or something for Valentine's Day - I won't be surprised if the local florist turns up at my office today and I will be happy if he does, but not mad or heartbroken if he doesn't.  I feel a little guilty sometimes because I do not do the same for him, or at least not very often.  He buys himself whatever he wants, so it makes gift-giving sort of pointless, even if I could think of something ... and this year, in light of the fact that I recently wrote him a very lovely love letter, I think I'm going to call it good.  I adore him, and better yet, I appreciate him, but I do that 365 days a year and don't need some Hallmark card to make it true. 

So, if you enjoy Valentine's Day, have at it.  I'll be back in sync with your calendar on the 15th! 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Remember when 7:00 p.m. Tuesday meant something?

My younger daughter has been excited for three days about a new episode of some TV show ... first it was "when is Sunday? the new show is on Sunday!", then I looked up the schedule and learned that it was on at noon on Sunday, so then it became "is it 12 o'clock yet?  when will 12 o'clock get here?" Sean and I started talking about how funny it is that our kids - in the era of DVRs and On Demand and NetFlix and all that - have no idea what it was to have one shot to catch a new TV episode and if you missed it, you were out of luck until summer rerun season.  It was kind of cool, for today, to have my kids super excited for 12 o'clock Sunday to catch the latest episode of some show...

What I remember, all these years later, is that the Wonderful World of Disney was at 6p on Sunday, Happy Days was Tuesdays at 7p, Laverne & Shirley at 730p and I *think* Welcome Back Kotter and Mork & Mindy were on Tuesday nights too at some point,, Charlie's Angels at 9p on Wednesdays (had to get special dispensation to stay up for that)...

Remember having only 1 TV and, no remote control?  Made easier by only having five channels of course. 

This story doesn't have quite the same ring as my parents' stories of walking to school, in the snow, uphill both ways, toting their books and a French horn, but I suspect it will be one of my versions of how much harder I had it in my childhood!  hahahahahahahah!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ode to a Cleaning Person

If I were really on my game this morning, I would write this in some kind of rhyming prose - since that's what "ode" means to me.  But unfortunately I had a terrible night and am a bit groggy and likely going to be very grumpy today since I was really looking forward to sleeping last night...

Don't remember if I've mentioned this before, but the backstory to my Ode is that my husband and I are not very motivated about cleaning.  Somehow, neither of us got that gene nor did we develop any kind of helpful OCD traits that make it necessary for us to live in a clean house.  And with 2 messy adults, 2 kids, 2 cats and a dog - well the house gets cluttered quick.  So, since Sean came home from treatment in September, and was going to be a SAHD for a while, we agreed that the housework was going to be his responsibility (seriously WE agreed to this).  And boy oh boy, that has not worked out at all. 

I finally told him a few weeks ago that if he did not intend to clean, then he needed to hire a cleaning person.  He also agreed to that plan.  A week later, no movement on that front and the house was out.of.control.  I was learning again the lesson about not being able to control another person and only being able to control my own reaction (which was a very timely and helpful lesson for me actually), and then my Higher Power stepped in... 

Earlier this week, a friend of ours posted on Facebook that she had a friend who needed some extra jobs to pay for her daughter to go to treatment, and our friend spoke to her trustworthiness and said that she also cleans for her.  I emailed our friend immediately - "have your friend call Sean, we need someone ASAP!"  The friend called Sean that night and after a visit to sort of get the lay of the very nasty land in our house, came yesterday to start the job.  Hurray for having a cleaning person!!!   And double hurray that we can also help out someone trying to save her kid from addiction.

The dear woman had to stack up the piles of random crap in every room, in order to clean the floors, but now I think we can actually sort out all the stuff in those random crap stacks, and order will be restored. 

My niece and her friend are taking a spring break trip in a couple months and have also promised to come up and work for us some weekend, to earn money for that trip.  Now with the regular cleaning stuff accounted for, I can set them to some larger nagging tasks like organizing my Christmas ornaments or, if it is warm enough outside, cleaning out the garage.  And perhaps I can then set my husband to some tasks like pulling off the awful fruity wallpaper border that some prior owner put up in the kitchen and re-painting!  Yahoo! 

I also have Kid 1 on a tasks to do an extra chore a day for 100 days - this because Kid 2 is on a more personal quest to resolve a particular nasty habit by avoiding it for 100 days and I needed to have a similar quest for Kid 1 since Kid 2's quest involves a prize at the end and I suppose it's only fair to reward Kid 1 for something too.  We're on Day 6 today and so far so good! 

Geez, I go back and read that list and think I am perhaps a bit of a general - marshalling the necessary troops to fight the enemy.  Too funny. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Family and "home" - NaBloPoMo 10

The prompt for today asks if I live near my family.  Depends on the scope of the question.  I guess you could say I do - I live a one hour drive from my brother's family, two hours from my sister's and two hours from my parents (in the warm weather - across the country to Tucson in the winter).  Technology allows us to call, email, text, Facebook, share photos and videos...yes, I would say we are in close proximity. 

What this prompt really raised for me was the concept of "home".  It is common to be asked "where are you from?" or "where did you grow up?" and that has always puzzled me a bit, and I use a variety of answers, depending on the source of the question.  There's the nickel tour:  I was born in one town in IL, moved to another suburb of Chicago where I went to K and half of 1st grade, then to one metro suburb in Minnesota for the other half of 1st grade, then a different 'burb for 2nd grade, then to North Dakota for 3rd-9th grade, then to a small town in Minnesota for 9th-12th grade, then two different colleges (2 years each), then to the metro area in Minnesota for 4 years (2 different places), then Seattle for 5 years (4 different places), then back to the metro area in Minnesota for 3 years (2 different places), then to a small city in Minnesota for 2 years, then a very small town for 1 year, then back to that small city for 4 years, then to our current small city where we've been IN THE SAME HOUSE for over 5 years now.  No wonder I feel the itching feet these days, with all that moving around!

With all that moving around, and with my parents having moved away from the home where I last lived with them some 20 years ago, what I learned was that - for me - "home" is where my family is.  Particularly my parents.  "Home" is the people I want around me on holidays like Christmas Eve and when I need my family - I'm not sure that the physical location matters a whole lot to me.  But what I also learned was that I want to give my children what I didn't have, which is the opportunity to grow up in a community and feel like you are "from there".  I love that my eldest daughter is now in 3rd grade with folks she knows from kindergarten, and I hope we can maintain that for her.  I always felt like an outsider at any of my schools - I hadn't been there long and I wasn't related to anyone in school or in town (for any of you who haven't experienced true small town life, it often feels like a large percentage of the school or town populations is related by blood or marriage).

My 100th Blog Post!

Just realized this milestone was here...99 items posted on this little blog-o-mine so far. And with this post, I am into triple digits!!!

I think I've been at this blogging thing for something like 10 weeks now - and I'm finding it very freeing and thought provoking and amusing and fun.  I like the writing - it's like the stuff I used to write in letters when I was in college.  I would sit in class and take notes, follow along in the book, and write letters to my high school friends.  I enjoy the writing when it comes out easily but I struggle when I want to write something that takes more effort, but all in all, once I'm writing, I'm happy about it. 

What I didn't expect was that other people would read my blog and leave such nice and friendly and interesting comments that I would look forward to opening my email every morning, not just to see what real life friends and family may have emailed me, but to see what my new blog-friends had to say.  It is a thrill to be read ... I didn't really know to expect that. 

I love to tell stories.  I love to share my observations about certain things.  I also tend to vent when I get irritated.  But what has been really great is to have a place to write down the crap floating around in my head, particularly if I can get them out before that crap starts to really spin and tangle itself up.  It organizes my thoughts to explain whatever is starting to spin and it frees up space in my head to get those thoughts out.  And often I can let certain threads go, once they are out there.  This blog has done a lot already to bring a much more relaxed vibe to my thought processes and boy did I need it!

Here's to another 100!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Relatives and Friends - NaBloPoMo 9

The prompt today is to reflect on the following quote:  "Fate chooses your relations, you choose your friends."

It is true that you don't get to pick your relatives, but you sure can take a lesson from this quote.  As an example, if my brother and I were not related, I think we could have been friends in high school. However, at this stage of our lives, we surely would not interact, absent our being related.  Which serves to remind me that I shouldn't let myself judge the goodness or friend-worthiness of others by their outward belief systems - because our sibling relationship keeps me connected to my brother, not always by his choice or mine, I do see the good in him and I think I can accept most of the time that he is trying to live his best life, just as I'm trying to live mine.  And if we can just set aside our differences, we can and do enjoy each other's company.

This is an excellent reminder, as I reflect on what I just wrote.  It is oh so common to write off certain people or groups of people because of their affiliations, or because a person was a jerk about something, and by doing so, we create a one or two dimensional version of that person and dismiss them without knowing the rest of the story.  And like many things in life, if you can raise your sights above your differences and struggles, you will probably find many more positive things in the world - including friends in the unlikeliest of places.

My sister-friend(s) - NaBloPoMo 8

The prompt for Day 8 asks whether I have a friend who is practically a brother or sister to me...it's been rolling around in my head for a full 24 hours now and I'm not sure how to answer.

Looking at the question backwards, I am lucky enough to have a sister who is a best friend to me.  That is such a gift.

I always wanted a big family - many siblings and cousins all around and in my business.  I have 2 siblings and a total of 8 cousins.  But thanks to Facebook and one side of my family's commitment to regular family reunions over the past 20 years, I have really improved my extended family connections and I love it.

I have also collected friends over the years that I would also have loved to call my family.  Some of whom remain in my life to this day, and some who didn't feel the connection to me that I felt to them.  Unfortunately, none of them are geographically close to me, but when we are able to be together, it is so happy and warm and comfortable. 

I don't want to be a [member of certain group activity]!

I should have written this on Monday night, when I was full of my righteous anger.  It probably would have been much funnier, because I'm pretty funny (if I dare say so myself) when I get royally irritated.  And truly, please keep in mind that I'm not trying to whine that I have it so hard or that my life is so difficult, this is just stuff that pisses me off.  And I started off naming activity names, and then decided I'd better not because really it isn't about the specific group - just group activities in general.

So here is the fundamental question:  when did children's events require so much parental investment?  I did not sign my children up for [certain group activity] this year because _I_ wanted to be a [member of that certain group activity].  Besides jockeying each daughter to a different location for their troop meeting, originally scheduled to be on alternate weeks, but which has since become the same night on the same week (don't get me started on that - well, yet anyway, I might get there myself), but add to it the requirement for one troop that I "co-lead" on certain weeks, that my daughter have a certain required clothing item which will have to be replaced every year or two, that I have iron-on patches to apply to said clothing item (with new ones given weekly) (which incidentally do not "iron-on" but instead require a certain type of glue and about 30 minutes of steps to make the damn things stick), rah-rah meetings on [certain food item] sales - and then the sales themselves (because I don't know who would allow their elementary age kid to go out soliciting sales in this world, but I won't), encouraged events like "lock ins" where parents go with their kids (some mothers were cooing about how fun this sounds at the last meeting and they want _us_ to all go as a troop!).  PEOPLE, I DO NOT WANT TO BE A [MEMEBER OF CERTAIN GROUP ACTIVITY]!  I might feel differently if troop meetings were more like the night we spent caroling at the local nursing home, perhaps we should fill the food bags that different groups send to poor countries, or serve at a soup kitchen, or volunteer time at the local food shelf.  I think I would be all over that, willing to haul kids and make time and help out if we are actually DOING something.  But this crap that is all about an hour goofing off at the someone's home a couple times a month, wearing our *required* clothing item with the *&&^%% patches, while our parents figure out how to sell the everlovin' [certain food item]?  Not interested folks.  I am not certain I will do anything for [certain food item] sales and hopefully we'll all get kicked out.  Did you know the kids get only $0.50 for every box?  That means $6 or $7 goes to the [certain group activity national office], which national office provides no money to the individual troops for events or expenses, or patches - that all comes from our dues.  What a freakin' racket.

I also did not intend this as a slam on [certain group activity] ... I don't care what they do with their money and I'm sure some good things happen, and certainly some parents are really really into it.  But it is a machine.  I felt the same way when my eldest wanted to join dance.  Pretty significant monthly fee for my 4 year old, plus practice clothes, plus a fancy program costume once a year (hat, leotard, skirt, plus the "right" tights, socks and shoes), plus admission to the dance shows, plus having to take a freakin' class on how to style my kids hair for said show, plus plus plus.  It also was a huge impersonal machine and I grated against it every week.  I never said a word negative to her though, if she enjoyed that physical activity, I would have continued on, with my teeth gritted.  But as it turned out, she didn't enjoy it.  Many of the girls, already at age 4, were mean to each other and my daughter did not like that at all.

I get that one of my jobs as a parent is to help with homework, to chase kids to activities, to "encourage" their participation when they just want to stay home and watch TV/play outside/whatever.  But when it is already a struggle to keep up the schedule, and to get our kids to certain activities when they are young enough to not understand why they have to stop what they are doing NOW because it is time for this other activity - why do these "machine" facilities think that parents should also be required to participate?  Am I wrong to think that some of these things - particularly when we are paying quite a bit of money for the honor of having our kids participate - should be more of the "drop off and then wait to pick up" variety? 

I believe in extracurricular activities, and have some of my own, but just because I'm willing to let my kids take part in certain groups does not mean that I want to take an active role myself.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I've been sliding and it's time to stop!

I'd like to say that the lack of "real" blog posts lately is due to some marvelous thing that is occupying my time.  Instead, the reality is that I'm crabby and I'm backsliding into some isolating and negative behaviors.  There are things I should be talking about - either airing them out here or telling them to my husband or venting them at Al Anon - and instead I tuck them away and say I'll get to them "sometime."  Hah! 

Sean says that it is common to plateau in recovery, when you might hit a spot where you just aren't getting the same result from meetings or whatever and feel like maybe you should just quit.  I suspect that's where I'm at.  I've been finding that I'm getting quieter and quieter at Al Anon - some as a result of just not wanting to talk about it, and some as a result of others struggling with what I perceive to be much larger issues than mine and then my midwestern stoicism kicks in and tells me that I must give up my spot to someone who has it worse (not a bad thought in general, but some time has to be my turn, right?).  And I've been using this blog as a method expressing my feelings for a couple months now and am finding that I am relying on the crutch of "writing prompts" to avoid what I want/need to talk about and instead spending my time writing what someone else says I should...not that it's bad that I'm telling stories of my family for NaBloPoMo, for instance, but that should be the extra post of the day, I'm thinking, not the only post. 

On a more interesting note, I chopped my hair off last weekend.  It had grown as long as I've ever had it - to the middle of my back - and it was pretty awful.  Flat and boring.  But that's what I do - I let my hair grow and grow and eventually it hits me that it's time for it to go and CHOP!  It looks good now and it is kind of a pick-me-up, as this every five years or so event of chopping my hair often is the harbinger of some new and positive step in my life.  What was funny was that last year I was thinking about cutting my hair off and then promised myself that I won't cut my hair until ____________.  Then I realized a few months ago that I had no idea what the ________________ had been.  Ah well, I trust now that whatever _____________ was, it's now passed. 

As I walked the dog last night, the following came to mind.  Does anyone have a theory on these preferences: 
I prefer moonlight to sunlight, though I am afraid of the dark.
I prefer silver to gold.
I prefer silence to noise, even though I talk to myself incessantly when I'm alone.

My Uncle Ken - NaBloPoMo 7

Prompt for Day 7 was to tell you about my favorite extended family member - I can fit lots of extended family members into this category, but am going with my longest running favorite, my Uncle Ken.  My dad's sister Sylvia is married to Ken.  I was the flower girl in their wedding when I was about five.  I thought Ken hung the moon and would spend all the time I could on his lap, petting his 1970s sideburns.  I planned to marry him when I grew up - to which my aunt would often ask "then what happens to me?"  I couldn't quite figure that out at the time, since I certainly didn't want her to go away either.  When I got a little older, I thought he looked just like Burt Reynolds. 

Ken and Sylvia didn't have kids until I was in junior high or high school, so I enjoyed many summer visits to their farm.  Ken would haul me along out into the field to feed the cattle or whatever - either in the back of the pick up or standing on the hitch of his tractor.  I remember one time his pick up had stalled out in the field, so he and I went in the tractor to tow it back, and I got to sit in the pick up and steer.  I was terrified and exhilarated at this responsibility!  I remember another time asking him what the difference between a steer and a bull was...he turned so red!  I'm not sure he ever answered me.

Ken is a small town guy, who worked hard at both a job with the phone company and cattle farming.  He loves to hunt and fish, and now spends his retirement time doing mostly that.  I still adore him.  When I took my current job, it was in his hometown and I lived with Ken and Sylvia for the first six weeks, while we found a house and such for Sean and the kids to join me. 

And just as I know he's my favorite uncle, I also know I'm his (their) favorite niece. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My grandparents - NaBloPoMo 6

The prompt yesterday was to "tell us about your grandparents".  Wow that seems like a lot for a single post! 

Unfortunately, my grandparents have all passed away.  My mom's dad went first:

Ray S died when I was about six years old.  His was the first funeral I ever attended, and I can recall seeing him in the coffin and thinking that was weird.  But I don't remember anything else about it.  He was only in his 60s when he died, not yet retired.  The story of his passing, as I recall it, was that he and Grandma were going to dinner at some friends' home.  While driving in a bitter cold winter night, the car stalled, so they were walking up the road or driveway when Grandpa keeled over and died.  No autopsy, but the assumption was heart attack.  I remember my Grandpa smoked a pipe.  He was a county engineer.  He met my Grandma when she was a teacher and they married on the last day of school (in those days, female teachers had to quit if they got married), which was also her birthday.  Grandpa was also drafted into WWII at something like age 42 and the only story I remember about that is that a sniper shot at him once and he had a overcoat or a cape-like outerwear item with a bullet hole through the hood that was hanging off his back.  I don't really remember my Grandpa but there is a story told that he asked me once when I was three or four how I liked my mother, and reportedly, I thought for a moment and then told him sincerely "well, she's not as bad as a wicked stepmother".  Nice!  This grandpa was 100% Swedish - his parents immigrated to the US in the late 1870s, as far as I know.

My mom's mom went last:

Helen S was a really great person who I enjoyed immensely.  She was 100% German, with her parents having been Mennonites (I believe) who first left Germany for Russia, but then immigrated to the U.S. in the 1880s.  Grandma was at least six feet tall in her prime, as was one of her sisters.  She had 3 sisters who were very close, even though they moved all across the country.  I remember looking through an old photo album some years ago, and finding a photo of Grandma, wearing pants and shooting a rifle.  She laughed at my surprise - apparently she and her siblings did all kinds of stuff.  I always knew I got my height and bone structure from Grandma Helen, but came to learn in my adulthood that I also got a good share of stubbornness and independence from her too.  She was only 62 or so when she was widowed.  Once, after my first divorce but before I met Sean, she and I happened to get on the subject of dating.  She told me that while she might have liked to have been taken out on a date after Grandpa died, she never ever wanted to remarry or share her home again - she liked being alone.  Tag that similarity up to me and Grandma too!  Helen was smart as a whip and interested in almost anything and everything and she loved to travel.  But she had no patience for gossip or judging other people or overt silliness.   And emotional moments were very very rare.  She has been gone now for nearly eight years ... gosh that's hard to believe.  She died just shy of her 95th birthday, having lived alone for over 30 years and independently until the last few months. 

My dad's dad was John W.  He was born in Norway in 1906 and immigrated with his mother and his 3 siblings in about 1922 after his father died.  He ended up in western North Dakota.  Grandpa passed away kind of unexpectedly in 1988.  He'd been sick though - I got married for the first time that fall and it was uncertain if he'd be able to come.  Then he fell a couple weeks later and broke his hip, went to the hospital and ended up with pneumonia...he died just before Christmas 1988 at age 81.  I visited him in the ICU shortly before he died - he had a ventilator so he couldn't talk but his eyes were just snapping and alert, and I knew he was so happy to see me.  I regret not asking more about his immigration and early adulthood when I had the chance.  He was a laborer without a lot of education.  He met my Grandma and the story we learned around the time of their 50th anniversary was that they married in January but, as she was a teacher, they kept it secret until the summer.  And Grandma's father died before summer, so he'd never known they were married.  My Grandma was educated and Grandpa was so very proud of that.  He was a terrific Grandpa - never shy about his bald head or his heavy Norwegian accent, and happy to let us tease him about it.  He rode a bike all over town and I would spent a week with them every summer, biking around and going to Dairy Queen.  He kept pigeons for a number of years.  He liked to have lump sugar with his coffee, he poured his coffee into his saucer and then would dip his sugar cubes into it and eat them, and then slurp the coffee.  I can still picture his usual cup and saucer, and learned to love coffee flavored sugar!  I distinctly remember the year that my sister usurped me as "Grandpa's girl" - as I hit the tweens/teens and she was still a cute little kid.  Hated that. 

My dad's mom was Signe W.  She was born in the US to Norwegian immigrant parents.  She had a host of brothers and a pair of sisters.  She got her teacher's license and, eventually, got a college degree after she was married.  I'm told she was a smart, hard working woman, who ruled with an iron fist and gossiped like a fiend with her sisters in law and other ladies around town.  She took good care of us when we visited, was a good cook, and was very kind to her grandkids - though I know I got spanked a few times too.  If her hair hadn't recently been "done", she'd let me comb it and put bows in it and such.  I know she laughed.  By the time Grandpa died, Grandma was pretty weak and dependent, as she had Parkinsons disease.  I'm told she was as tall as 5'9" but I only remember a pretty small Grandma, and I can remember in my childhood that she was pretty heavy with an enormous bosom, she wasted away to nearly nothing in the last ten years of her life.  She was in a nursing home for the last five or more years - many times not aware of who and what was around her.  I was living in Seattle at the time, so only saw her once or twice a year, but she "woke up" every time I was home, and every time someone brought one of her great grandchildren to see her.  When I saw her last, she had been asleep, nearly comatose, for several weeks, and yet when I came in she opened her eyes, and when I left she squeezed my hand and said "good luck to you", which was always her form of saying good bye to me.  Brings tears to my eyes even now to remember that.  I didn't make it home for her funeral, which came just over a month after I saw her, a week after her 90th birthday.

What I know is that I come from a long line of strong women, who partnered with men who recognized and valued that.  Apple doesn't fall far from the tree...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

...and now it escapes me

Last night, on my way home from work, I had a pile of posts in mind.  In fact, I was going to start the first one with "beware readers, the next 24 hours are likely to be busy..." because I expected to write post after post after post to liberate all the swirling thoughts from my head.

Our usual Friday night goes something like this:  I get home from work and change clothes and walk the dog, then we go to Subway for supper, then we go to a facility that hosts not only an AA meeting but an Al Anon meeting and provides child care (because of some signage in the daycare area, my kids have dubbed this "going to Rainbow Club"), and then we come home and after a little bit of wind-down time, get the kids to bed, usually followed shortly by me heading to bed too.  Add to last night's schedule, my need to watch my niece play BB via live stream on the computer and the disappointment that comes with watching her play her heart out but lose the game.  So by 9p, when I had gotten the kids to bed, I had lost all of those swirling thoughts to the Friday night exhaustion.

This morning I got up and had some time with myself, my coffee cup, and the laptop.  But not much was forthcoming.  I honestly have no clue what the topics of those swirling thoughts were yesterday.  I think between wrapping up the River of Stones challenge, and then starting the February NaBloPoMo challenge, I was feeling that I hadn't done much of my usual writing, and then all the possibilities started presenting themselves...but, alas, they are now gone with the wind. 

How's that "word of the year" working out for you?

So there was much talk around the blogs and Facebook this year about choosing a "word of the year"...I'd never heard that before and I was intrigued.  The word I chose was "resolve".  Like most good New Years decisions, I found myself floundering with my resolve just a couple weeks into the new year and then had a bit of an "aha!" moment when I remembered my word, and got to thinking that embracing my resolve might mean not giving it up when I start to flounder but to re-commit myself to my path instead.  I was out walking the dog one night, feeling all sorry for myself, when this revelation came to me ... it was so obvious and so basic that I wanted to slap myself in the head.  And just like that, I found myself leaving the past behind and deciding to keep moving forward, with the realization that I can't let others impact my forward movement.  I can't make that forward movement alone if others won't walk with me, and I can't use someone else's loitering on the path as an excuse to loiter there myself.  And on I go. 

This morning I was going to include with this the dictionary.com definition of my word - resolve.  Imagine my surprise when I found so many meanings!  See for yourself:


[ri-zolv] Show IPA verb, -solved, -solv·ing, noun
verb (used with object)
1. to come to a definite or earnest decision about; determine (to do something): I have resolved that I shall live to the full.
2. to separate into constituent or elementary parts; break up; cause or disintegrate (usually followed by into ).
3. to reduce or convert by, or as by, breaking up or disintegration (usually followed by to or into ).
4. to convert or transform by any process (often used reflexively).
5. to reduce by mental analysis (often followed by into ).
6. to settle, determine, or state formally in a vote or resolution, as of a deliberative assembly.
7. to deal with (a question, a matter of uncertainty, etc.) conclusively; settle; solve: to resolve the question before the board.
8. to clear away or dispel (doubts, fears, etc.); answer: to resolve any doubts we may have had.
9. Chemistry . to separate (a racemic mixture) into optically active components.
10. Music . to cause (a voice part or the harmony as a whole) to progress from a dissonance to a consonance.
11. Optics . to separate and make visible the individual parts of (an image); distinguish between.
12. Medicine/Medical . to cause (swellings, inflammation, etc.) to disappear without suppuration.
verb (used without object)
13. to come to a determination; make up one's mind; determine (often followed by on or upon ): to resolve on a plan of action.
14. to break up or disintegrate.
15. to be reduced or changed by breaking up or otherwise (usually followed by to or into ).
16. Music . to progress from a dissonance to a consonance
While I appreciate all the ways these various definitions of "resolve" fit into my plan, I actually am quite fond of #12/16 - "to progress from a dissonance to a consonance"  That's really the goal. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Seize the Day people!

This was my daily reminder yesterday and it is a good reminder for me! 

Possibilities and miracles are one and the same.

Many of us have seen happiness as a goal we couldn't find. When we were children, we were taught that "life is a hard row to hoe." We carried that over into our adult lives.

Seize the day - We let too many of our days just slide by. None of those hours can be replaced. Why worry over past failures if there is a victory to win? Why keep thinking about our faults when we could be practicing virtues instead?

Seize the day - Hold each moment tight and look at each one with wide-open eyes and mind. They are our lives, special to each of us. The moments pass swiftly into memory. Let those memories be good ones, filled with joys large and small.

Yesterday's unhappiness can't be changed, but today's happiness is my own responsibility.
You are reading from the book:
Easy Does It © 1999 by Hazelden Foundation. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No portion of this publication may be reproduced in any manner without the permission of Hazelden.

My siblings - NaBloPoMo 3

Prompt 3 - do you have siblings?  what are they like?

I have an older brother and a younger sister.  My brother and I were two grades apart in school and grew up together.  My sister came five years after me, and was six grades behind me, so we were never in school together and I recall very little of her (which feels awful to say). 

I would say that my brother and I were very similar in many ways for a lot of years, and we were quite good friends for a long time.  Somewhere, probably in our 30s, we underwent a significant divergence in our views.  I know this is slanted with my own feelings on the subject, but it seemed that I responded to experiences outside my comfort zone with acceptance and an expanding view of the world as being in shades of gray, while my brother seemed to pull back into a much more conservative, black and white world.  We are wildly divided on our religious and political views, though I think we both work hard to avoid those topics and maintain a connection, despite our differences.  I enjoy time spent with his family and I hope he would say the same.

My brother is a dentist (and a good one who doesn't inflict pain!), a Harley rider, a hunter (new hobby in the past few years), a card player, a basketball player, and a hell of a Scrabble player.  I suspect he'd love to still play Dungeons & Dragons, if he had a group to join him.  He is a good singer and a natural musician.  Sometimes I think he takes himself too seriously, but he has a good sense of humor when he lets it out. 

As I said earlier, I don't have many childhood memories of my sister.  She was always there, of course, but just part of the background in many of my memories.  She was always a happy kid and I don't recall fighting with her (though my mother might).  By the time she was in high school, I was gone to college, so my "memories" of her teen years is filtered through stories I heard from my parents.  She was the wild child of the family - breaking curfew and running around with her friends.  One summer when she was in college, she went to work in Glacier Park.  I had a job with an 800 number, so she started calling me.  We got to be friends that summer, and have been best friends ever since.  My oldest nephew publicly refers to us as the 'crazy aunts', which we learned when we helped host his graduation party last year.  Folks say we talk alike - we know that and are spooked frequently at how we are forever saying the same thing at the same time - but they also say we look alike which is freaky.  I think they are nuts but we hear it all the time.  We talk most mornings on our way to work and often in the evenings too.  I consider her daughters to be nearly mine, and I hope she feels the same about my girls. 

My sister works in marketing and she is hugely creative.  But beyond work, the rest of her time is dedicated to her three kids and their activities.  She is the best multi-tasker I have ever met and I'm often exhausted just hearing about what she has going on day in and day out.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My father - NaBloPoMo 2

Prompt 2:  Tell us about your father.

My father is Jon.  He has a very strong personality, and plenty of opinions, and while he is stubborn as hell, I have also known him to change his opinions on many things over the years and give him a lot of credit for that.  Dad will be 76 this year.  He is entirely sick of upper Midwestern winters and would prefer to be at their home in Tucson from October until May, but we stubbornly force him to stick around until November and are begging for him to bring Mom home by Easter. 

My Dad had a rough childhood and I think there was not a lot of nurturing from his parents but plenty of corporal punishments.  He spent 2 years in the Army (stationed in a pineapple field in Hawaii) but he won't talk about it at all and told me over Christmas that he had no photos from Hawaii as he had long ago burned them all.  I have no idea what that's about.  He then went to college and met my mother.  He proposed to her nearly immediately but she wouldn't agree to be engaged for over a year after he first asked her.  I used to think the high school and college photos of my Dad looked like "young Elvis" and I have no doubt he was charming and funny and sweet. 

He and my mom both had education degrees but Dad didn't manage too well in the school system.  He lasted a few years and then switched over to sales.  He did quite well in the booming farm industy days of the 1970s but then took a stab at self-employment which ended badly.  Now, looking back, I can't imagine how my Dad got through those years when we were economically devastated.  He tried a variety of jobs, including some that he hated, to put food on the table.  But I can't recall ever worrying or even knowing that things were as bad as I know now that they must have been.  Thankfully, in his 50s, he landed a job that allowed him to make up a lot of financial ground so that he and Mom could retire and I have been so grateful for that. 

I'm not too surprised, given all that I realize now, that my Dad was very erratic at times in my life.  I have my suspicions about the cause(s) of that, but for all that he did a lot of emotional damage, one thing that I always knew and never doubted was was that he loved my Mom and he loved me and my brother and my sister.  Unconditionally and without fail. 

Last week I wrote a post about a car accident I was in back in 1985...crazily enough, I was home on Christmas break from school and we got to talking about things that were important (like your child's health and well being) and I remember saying to my Dad "are you telling me, that if I smashed up your car, all you'd care about was that I was OK?" and not really believing his assurance that he woudn't give a goddamn about the car.  Well, fast forward about one month and I did, in fact, smash up his car, and had to call him from some stranger's house, crying I said 'DDDDDad, I ssss-sss-smashed the car..." and he said "Are you OK?" and "where are you?" and "we're on our way".  On our way home that night, he reminded me of our conversation over Christmas and said "couldn't you have just taken my word for it?"  Makes me tear up a little, just thinking about that.

Dad has one bad retina, so has only limited vision in that eye.  About five years ago that he had macular degeneration in his good eye.  We were all terrified because my Dad without the independence of his driving abilities etc. is really really scary.  His opthalmologist started giving him SHOTS IN HIS EYEBALL a few times a year, and I'll be damned if it doesn't keep the disease at bay!  It is a freakin' miracle. 

For all our relationship has had its ups and downs, and for all that we both have a myriad of shortcomings that cause some friction at times, I love my Dad.

My mother - NaBloPoMo 1

Having finished the River of Stones Challenge for January, I am undertaking a new one for February.  NaBloPoMo caught my attention today...

Prompt 1:  Tell us about your mother.

My mother is Mary.  She will be 73 this month, she is the mother of three, wife of my dad for the past 51 years, a teacher by trade, and one of the least reactive people I know!  Living with my dad, and the three smart-aleck children she raised, someone had to be the "straight man", right?  But it is nearly impossible to get a rise out of my mother and God knows, I've tried.  She is Swedish and German, she was raised to be very stoic and martyr-ish, and I have never seen her cry.  She loves to read - I find it hysterical that she reads all kinds of Danielle Steele and other romances, but won't read anything like Harry Potter because it is so "made up" as if romance novels aren't just as fantasic! 

My mother had breast cancer when she was 37.  She had a radical mastectomy, weeks of radiation therapy, and months of chemotherapy.  An awful couple years for her, I'm sure, but she lived.  Never had any recurrence or ongoing cancer scares.  I was only in elementary school and I can hardly remember that she was sick.  She tells me now that she would be in bed all day, miserable, but would get up and shower before we got home from school and then try to make it through the evening with us.  In my lists of things I'm grateful for, I can hardly even get through the part where I list how grateful I am to have had my mother for the last 35 years without crying...I can't even imagine what would have happened to our family without her. 

My mother's best friend was always her own mother.  My Grandma Helen died a few years ago, at age 95.  I hope I get a prompt to write about her.  She was awesome.  I am heartsick for my mother to have lost her best friend. 

In all honesty, I don't know how my mother has put up with my dad all these years.  When they were approaching their 50th anniversary, I said (only 75% jokingly) that a person ought to just be able to walk away after 50 years with no strings.  But they are devoted to each other and when I think of what they have lived through in those 50 years, I do admire their perseverance and commitment to each other and to our family. 

I love my mom.