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The Most Important Job in the World

What’s the most important job in the world? Nope, not being the President of the United States, although we are learning right now how leadership in that role can influence how others think about us.   But few of us can do that job well, and so, not just anyone should assume the mantle.

I’m  speaking about parenting. Many of us are parents, have been parents, or want to be parents. Many of us should NOT be parents.

Ouch! Was that too nasty?  Perhaps….and perhaps not.

Let’s take an example from something on my Facebook feed today. Facebook is an excellent way to measure the values of your extended community. Some people who post on your feed are people you know well, others not so well, and others are “friends of friends” and you don’t really know them at all. It’s a microcosm of society.  Facebook is NOT good for trustworthy news….make sure to check everything you think is news there. But Facebook is good at understanding people’s viewpoints and that is what makes up society.

This morning a friend shared a concern that a teacher friend of hers had with parents of elementary school aged children. The teacher had posted that she starts the school year each year for the past 25 years the same way. She sends home papers for the parents to complete. We know this pile, and yes, it is an annoyance. But she sends home one more that she originates. She asks for information about the child: likes and dislikes, attitudes about going to school, family life and activities and more. She said she used to receive these essays from 98% of parents, she said in the last decade she has noticed a huge decline. Only 20% of parent’s participate in this.

Yes, I know we all work long hours. Yes, I know there is a lot that needs to be done each and every day.  But, this is parenting. You had babies. Now, the question becomes, what kind of adult do you want to grow?

About 30 years ago I had to make a decision about my marriage. I had two small children (ages 1 and 3) and a husband who was self-centered and diagnosed with several mental health issues. When I saw the toddler mimicking his father’s behavior I knew I was not raising those kids in a healthy environment. I knew that my job was NOT what made money and supported the family (he had stopped working) but to raise those children to be healthy adults who not only could function in society but contribute to it.

We have lots of complaints about kids’ behavior and lack of ambition. We hear all too often that some kids lash out in anger over disappointments. We hear that there have been three generations of families on support programs.  We have a problem and it IS us.

It is parents who are not emotionally mature enough to recognize that their priority for the next 18 years after giving birth is to raise a child who finds joy in life, is excited to be intellectually curious, and enjoys participating in community service to feel a part of solutions.

Image result for intellectual curiosity

source: http://www.smartbrief.com

What? No time?  Unless you are physically out of the house trying to earn a living 16 hours a day, that won’t fly. And if you are out of the house that much, who has your child? Surely you will place your child with a caregiver who will be teaching them how to tackle life’s challenges and embrace the wonderful things.

But I think most people are not away from their children. Most people may be struggling themselves with the burdens of everyday life and may be focusing on their own needs as their first priority. And that is still not the best.

Yes, you need some alone time to regenerate energy. No question about it. I chose 5am-6am. I asked no one to disturb me even if they were awake. That was MY time.

Then at 6am we could start the kids’ day. They had picked out their clothes (with my help as age appropriate) the night before so there was no “where are my shoes” emergencies. There is time for breakfast and packing a lunch before needing to be out the door for the bus or walk or car ride to school when you start early enough.

Can’t get up that early and be functional? Why not? What time did you get yourself to bed to sleep? What kind of “help” did you use to relax the night before that leaves you sluggish in the morning?  What are you teaching your children about responsibility and how they will be as adults?  They will mimic you.

When my youngest was in high school he ran cross country and track.  After the first track meet I saw I would be sitting in the stands for 5 hours between his first and last race.  The next meet I brought my camera and started taking photos. My husband did also.  We were recognized as team photographers and allowed on the field and for 4 years we captured photos of all 80 kids trying their best. HHS April 10 2012 1600m

I posted the photos on a site where (with a password) anyone could grab them and just about all the kids and some parents thanked us for our effort, but no one took over when we “graduated”.  It really amazed and saddened me when most parents never showed up to the high school track meets, even when they were held at our school. No car? There’s a bus and there are other people you can call for a ride.  There are ALWAYS solutions. It depends on you and what you want to do with and for your children.

Just as lust is not love, having sex does not mean you should have a baby.  But if you DO have a baby (and this is for men as well as women) you have just assumed responsibility to raise them. To be better than you are! To learn right and wrong! To develop solutions to problems! To recognized they are part of a community and receive benefits from that community so make time to give something back in service!

Because parents are ducking their responsibility, the concept of “life 101” classes to be held in middle school and high school needs to include a lot of things parents USED TO teach their children. How to develop a budget and live within it. How to balance a checkbook.  How to cook so you can make healthy meals and not need to depend on frozen options that are full of chemicals. How to sew so you can at least put a button back on a shirt. How to iron. How to change a tire. How to make a goal and work towards it. How to how to how to. The list goes on.

Image result for what parents should teach their child

source: http://blog.sfgate.com/sfmoms/2011/02/07/100-things-all-parents-should-teach-their-children/

How to adult. Just because you are over 18 and legally an adult does not seem to equate to maturity with many people.  My parents had a saying that irritated me but it was a truism. At that time 21 was the age of legal majority so they would say “You do not automatically become an adult and know how to do everything when you are 21.”

They taught me much of what I needed to know and yes, some of their concepts were outdated and I rebelled.  I failed and picked myself up again and went on. That is also part of what we need to teach our kids. How to be resilient.

So, when you look at that beautiful newborn and get teary eyed over his potential, develop your plan of action. When you catch yourself spanking the 2-year-old trying to explore her world, change your parenting discipline to one that teaches with reason, not pain. When your 7-year-old tells you he hates you, explain calmly you know that feeling because perhaps right then you are hating their behavior, but you know they can choose to behave in a way that is better. When your 10-year-old gets Cs, look to your own time helping with homework; if you haven’t been you should be able to help pull that grade up to a B at least.  Long before your 15-year-old gets pregnant tell her age appropriate information  about the physical and emotional responsibility of actions….ALL actions. (Get over it people….you had sex and guess what, they will too!)

It takes work to be a parent. And to be a good parent takes a lot more work than many people are putting in.

Look around you. How many people are lonely?  Their kids have flown away and hardly ever come to visit or have contact.  How many people are so judgemental that if the child had opinions that differed from the parent the kid was told they were wrong but not why the parent feels that way.  I talked to an elderly man who was trolling the parking lot of the church looking for his daughter who was homeless. He told me how he hated her having a Latino boyfriend and had told her she could come home but not with him. He did not see he had built the wall that his daughter would not climb over.  Do you know people like that?

It starts with babies. How you raise your kids makes a difference.  Remember that each time you are ready to condemn the actions of “kids today”.

Image result for what parents should teach their child

source: http://www.excite.com/education/blog/parents-need-to-take-responsibility-for-their-childrens-behavior

 

 

 

 

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You DO have time….you have today.

In the past seven years I have really been involved in the local farm-to-table food movement. I urge people to cook from whole foods. They will enjoy the flavor so much more and they can control ingredients, getting away from preservatives that very well could be influencing your health.  But all too many people have the same answer: “I don’t have time to cook.”

Years ago I was ecstatic that my oldest son’s elementary school offered a parenting course when he was in 1st grade. STEP (Systematic Training for Effective Parenting) helped me recognize nonverbal signs when things were heading south in the kids’ behavior or my own response. I learned to stop things from escalating out of control and how to talk in a way that taught and provided discipline instead of punishment. I helped my kids learn to take responsibility for their actions and how to communicate their feelings, especially when their emotions were roiled up. And it seemed to have worked, because even if the three of them are not perfect by any means, they are wonderful active adults contributing to their communities. I have suggested this course or some other to many friends who are frustrated by their children’s behavior, since it really helped us.  But all too many people have the same answer: “I don’t have time for a 10-week seminar, one hour a week.”

Each of us makes choices, many of them, every single day. We decide simple things, like what to eat for breakfast and what to wear. And we decide harder things, like identifying the goal of the day.

Some of us are planners; we think about what we want/need to do and figure out the various ways to achieve that with all their pros and cons. Some of us never plan; we are reactors. We respond to things that go on around us. And much of the time we are surprised and maybe a little bit (or more) angry because things are not always the way we want it.

 

I want to share with you the story of one woman I never got to know until after I moved from West Virginia. Having common friends, her comments on Facebook resonated with me in many ways. A few issues were not in agreement and it was in private conversation that I learned that this woman understood her position. That nothing about her was merely reactive.

Until the shit hit the fan. Already a breast cancer survivor, you would agree with me that that should be all Paige should have had to deal with, but no. Her beloved husband collapsed with a brain aneurysm and she had to explain to their two young daughters that Daddy was never coming home. You might agree with me that that is more than any woman should need to deal with in her life.

Image may contain: 4 people, including Paige Muellerleile

Source: Paige M – too long ago

But no, still more. The cancer was back and fully metastasized throughout her body. Paige, above all else, is a realist. She understands there is not much time left.

Image may contain: 1 person, eating and indoor

source: Paige M December 2017

The pain of knowing she will not see her daughters graduate gets eased for minutes as she makes memories with them. She’s getting things in place, knowing they will be well loved by others to reach their goals, but it is not enough. There is not enough time left.

And then she posted this photo, and I looked at her…..and I see it. Life. In the moment. Participating. Grabbing all of it. Pain. Joy. Achievement. Struggle.

Paige HD

source: Herald Dispatch

So please please please look at your own life. Are you living? Go. Do.     You DO have time….you have today.


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I Did Okay

About thirty years ago I had an epiphany. My job was not the activity I did that provided income. My job, it hit me, was to raise those little munchkins I had birthed to become healthy and happy adults who could function as contributing members of society.

It wasn’t an easy road, as anyone who has walked it can attest. Having a spouse who had a completely different parenting philosophy was harder, believe it or not, than when I was a single mom.  But trying to parent alone can be a constant struggle against fatigue and a slippage of consistency.

I’m not a deep analytical thinker generally but as a kid, whenever I chafed at the rules and restrictions imposed by my parents that seemed unfair, I thought about why. What was the purpose of the rule?  Was it fair? Could my parents have achieved my compliance more readily if they had presented the need for a certain behavior a different way?  It seemed to me that the answer was yes, life was unfair to me then. easier to build a child

I knew my parents, overall, were okay. I understand better now that they had their own issues and that they did what they thought was the best thing for my sisters and me. And despite some developmental restrictions I had to learn to overcome as an adult (i.e, how to deal with anger in a way where it would not blow up into World War III) they gave me a lot of experiences that many other kids don’t get.

Our family was in no way child centric, but my parents were involved in activities that provided for my exploration and growth. Scouting, encouraging my love of reading, camping and travelling, helping us learn to swim, and PTA were things they did. There were inconsistencies about religious training and practice which I now recognize was a struggle between the way my dad and mom had each been raised. They encouraged my participation in the music education program starting in 4th grade, something I did with my kids and learned quickly to appreciate that my parents had provided that model.

What’s fascinating is that when I discuss memories and issues with my two sisters, their experiences sometimes were considerably different from mine. If that can happen in the same environment, the whole nurture vs nature concept shows up more clearly.genetics-nature-vs-nurture-4-638

Looking back it is easy to see that each of my kid’s personalities was evident right from the beginning.  They were who they are even as infants and toddlers. The way they expressed themselves, their willingness to explore or need to stay close, and their responses to me were challenging and wonderful and scary, all at the same time.  I recognized that this was my biggest responsibility in life and I knew I wanted to give them something better than I had had.

STEPI knew I wanted to parent differently but also knew that unless I made an effort to learn a new way, the guidance I heard in my head and heart would be the way I had been raised. I was fortunate that my older two kids attended an elementary school in  the “poor” neighborhood of a town in Connecticut where education was held in high esteem. (in other words, we paid higher taxes for the school system there than any other place I have lived.) The principal of the elementary school was a consummate grant writer and we had an amazing array of programs, offered free. One was a parenting class called Systematic Training for Effective Parenting.  While child raising practices have moved on, this served as an amazing framework for me to teach my kids about fair communication, accepting responsibility, and understanding that there will be consequences for misbehavior.  One of the best parts, particularly after a year or two of practice, was that we all had fewer angry meltdowns.  Me too.

I know it would be interesting to read their perspective of the experience. Now adults in their 20s and 30s, I suspect I would hear about all the horrible things I did to them. But I also think there would be many more positive issues. (I recognize that statement might be self serving. LOL)

I just came back from a long weekend to celebrate my youngest’s 23rd birthday. The joy I felt was better than any drug. I could easily see that despite a pathway taken that was not the original planned, he is doing fine. He is healthy. He is supporting himself (well, almost). He has good friends who also are finding their way along their own pathways.

One important difference, I think, between my parents and me is that I do not expect my kids to live their life the way I would if I had their opportunities.  This son struggled in school, a surprise to all of us. Yet in today’s economic turmoil, a college education is not proving to be the answer it was to my generation, so understanding there are other ways to earn the money to live is part of my letting go.  After all, earning a living is NOT the same as building a fulfilling life. My hope for this young man is the same as it was when he was born and he is well on his way to being the healthy, happy, functioning adult I tried to aim for with my parenting.

 

 

 


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I Don’t (Want To) Believe It

Hello? Does anyone else besides me have an issue with the amount of lying going on in our society?  Warning you now…if you dislike the way things are you MUST start calling people out on it.  If you are one who finds it easier to “embellish” than play things straight, you need to examine WHY you are trying to hide from your reality. And then change your ways. The pain may be intense at first, but you probably will like yourself better.

Yes, many of us know Trump lies. His supporters do not see it though; they blame any complaints as a problem with the media.  They believe the media is the one lying here.

At first, I had to wonder. After all, until recently we’ve held our leaders to a high standard of truthfulness, ethical behavior and care for all the people living here. Hmmm, would it be betraying my viewpoint to now say, Three strikes Trump! No, you know who I am….why do you know that? Because you either know me personally, or you feel my writing has had a sense of honesty about it.  I am not going to pull punches now.

Now, I’m angry and I may get a bit sloppy with my writing.

This lying has reached epidemic proportions and Trump by all means is not the only one.  He has surrounded himself with people with similar lack of concern about accuracy. Joseph Otting, Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Treasury’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, reportedly lied when he said on his resume that he holds a degree from the School of Credit and Financial Management at Dartmouth College.  But Dartmouth does not have a school by that name nor did Otting attend and graduate with a degree in anything there. He did, however, attend a four-week seminar.  Why would anyone lie about something so easily verified? And why would they WANT to lie like that? What kind of ethical consideration did they miss that persuaded them to lie for personal gain?

This lying seems to be everywhere in our society, not only with the Trump administration and wannabes.  In April there was a report that student journalists did some research and discovered that their new principal did not have the credentials she had claimed to get the job. A climate denier finally understood he was wrong in his argument but will not make a public statement.  The scientists who reported that some GE foods could cause tumors were disputed and for years worked to prove the study was correct but there is no sharing of that news.  A woman who was head of the NAACP ended up not having any African American heritage.

Deceiving takes place all over. The Senate is discussing the new healthcare act behind closed doors. In closed session even our county commission has discussed options and conducted business that affect everyone living here. And they believe because they are the ones in power, they can get away with it.

Why is lying, this deceiving, this hiding the truth from others and even oneself so prevalent?

Psychology Today says there are two kinds of lies: white lies that we we make to maintain our social status; to preserve an image of ourselves.  A strategic lie is made by one person or group to try  to  deceive another person or group for personal gain.

When we employ a white lie we are okay up to the moment when the person lied to discovers the effort. Then the liar has to deal with the inevitable loss of status.

When someone designs for others to fail, they are into a strategic endeavor to elevate themselves by diminishing  someone else. Not only is this more serious but it then begs the question about ethics.

About six years ago I had flyers printed up at a local shop where I lived In West Virginia. I had worked with them before; they took my request over the phone and I got a quote on the job. I emailed them the file and went to pick the papers up a few days later. There was no invoice.  The guy who took my call was not there and the boss laughed, saying the guy hardly ever writes up invoices. He told me they would mail one to me. A week went by, and then another and another. A couple of weeks later I went in. There STILL was no invoice but the boss charged me what I said was the quote. He then thanked me for coming back in to pay, saying most people would not do that. I said, shrugging, “It’s really simple. I try to live by the Golden Rule…..” and he jumped in and laughed “Yeah, screw them before they screw you.” I said that it seemed that if few people were paying in this kind of situation, they must follow his version, but the one I had been taught was to treat people the way I wanted to be treated.  He laughed cynically.

Every night when my parents put me to bed I said two prayers. One was the Shema, a short and simple prayer said by Jews. (Here, oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.) And then we would say the Golden Rule. (Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.)  Since attending church with Graham I hear this claimed as a major teaching by Jesus, so I expect all Christians are taught this.  Few understand that in this, as in pretty much all his teaching, Jesus was sharing Jewish concepts.

Today we have more people who are “unchurched” than attend with any regularity. However, the Baby Boomers were still part of a church going population when young for the most part.  Their estrangement from their organized religion and their avoidance of teaching their children any value of being part of a church family is a different issue. You need not believe in God let alone attend church to have good ethics and yet we tend to believe that people who identify as a practitioner of a religion have decent ethics. Or we hope so at least.

Ethics seem to not be instilled any longer. The Christian Right would say because Christ is not part of everyone’s life but I think they, as an overall group, need to clean up their own house. There are examples over and over again of condemnation of something they find offensive (pick one or more: racial equality, sexuality other than heterosexual, women who have sex outside of marriage, etc etc etc) and then discovery of one rabid preacher being found with (pick one or more: an underage girl, a teenage boy, multiple trips out of town with another woman, drug use, etc etc etc).

Ethics seem to not be instilled any longer. There is very real concern that there are multiple generations of families where public assistance is needed. Whether it is Social Security Disability and/or Section 8 housing and/or SNAP benefits, the people who control the purse strings of this nation see the problem and their solution is to stop funding programs. They seem to forget there are root causes that need attention before people can be helped, truly helped. Why do they avoid those issues? It comes down to the decision to keep some people down; the belief that truly not everyone is created equally.

Ethics seem to not be instilled any longer.  About five years ago I offered to watch a friend’s 10-year-old while she worked at times the girl was not in school. I discovered pretty quickly that she was behind grade level. I started working with her for a couple of hours, trying to bring her up to speed. One day in the car with them both I pointed at a yellow orange traffic sign and asked the girl if she could figure out why it was yellow. Not only did she not, but she started crying. And her mother yelled at me “You need to make everything a teaching moment?”  Since I treated this young girl the way I had raised my three kids, I say “YES! That is my job as a loving adult in her life. To teach her everything I possibly can to help her succeed in life.” The mom opted not to have her child stay with me (for free, by the way) any longer since I was “not fun”.  I saw a photo recently of the girl, now dressed for the prom. Gorgeous and completely inappropriate with a dress split up to within four inches of her crotch. I think that’s another one who is missing something.

But society encourages it. Most people have the tv on most hours of the day and are bombarded with an image of a life they want. Ads, of course yes, try to make us want something they promise will make life better. But also the programs watched promise if only you can do this, than all will be yours.

Most people see images of what is lauded for beauty and then feel depressed they fall short. Most people see images of new kitchens with stainless steel appliances, large closets, master “ensuite” bathrooms with separate shower stalls with rainshower heads and deep whirlpool tubs and then feel depressed when they realize they can’t afford that.  Most people watch comedy shows with a laughing soundtrack that teaches them what is supposed to be funny and then what happens is people who don’t watch tv don’t get the joke and are told them are too serious.

Most people say they are too busy to get involved in their children’s school. Most people say they are too busy or too scared or too whatever to help with some community issue, whether it is the homeless or reading to a kid in kindergarden. Most people say they are too busy to read about the issue of genetically modified foods, or why the landfill is a problem leaching pollution into the river.

Most people react in anger. Few people act to repair a problem.  Why the difference?

Why are some people able to enjoy looking beyond their own personal needs and perceive they are but a small link in the machine that is community and society. That that small link can turn a problem into a solution in progress with the companionship of similar minded people.

Why do some never see beyond themselves? Don’t they realize when they condemn how bad society has gotten that they ARE society and if they want a change, it is up to them.

Sitting back, no matter how loudly you bitch, does nothing.  They don’t want to believe that.

And I refuse to.

 

 


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Planner or Reactor?

For those of us who are Facebook people, you know there are often small surveys you can complete to find out if you know the slang used in a particular state or the foods eaten in different areas of the country. What would be interesting would be a questionnaire series to determine if an individual is a Planner or a Reactor.

For example, this past Saturday Graham and I participated in the March for Science at the state capitol in Salem, Oregon. Graham asked me early Saturday…what time should we leave?  My mind automatically went into 30 minutes to drive there, 10 to find parking, 10 to walk from where we park and add a 10 minute fudge factor and there we had the time to leave the house. Do you do that? You might be a Planner.

I’m sitting here, past noon, thinking about pizza…..and how can I work it out so we can go to a pizzeria after an evening meeting today when my husband makes a comment about pizza.  So I get off my butt and grab the bread maker and pizza dough will be ready in time for supper. Got the sausage out of the freezer, we have cheese, and there are some assorted other toppings in the frig. We’re set. How about your supper plans? Do you have them in the works early in the day (out of the freezer the night before counts) or does supper prep happen when you get that hunger pang later?  Your typical routine will very much indicate if you are a Planner or a Reactor.

When I lived in Connecticut and my two older kids were elementary school age, I often checked out the camp offerings when there was a fair in February. I couldn’t believe that action needed to be taken that early but found out it sometimes was the case that a special camp with limited spots filled quickly.

Years ago I planned a family trip to Nova Scotia. It was my youngest’s location of choice for his Golden Birthday Trip so he was involved and we started planning the summer trip in February. Good thing for the ferry, because the spots for cars were sold out by March. One of the planned events turned out wonderfully. We all like to cook so on our trips we usually try to fit in a cooking class for something local. When I contacted the chef in charge of the cooking classes I found listed, he did not have his scheduled planned out as far as July.  He asked what I would like to learn. Well, I told him I knew how to boil a lobster but another way to prepare it would be enjoyed. Or perhaps, something from Acadian cooking.  We showed up for the class, held in a teaching kitchen space at a local supermarket chain. The regular attendees had left the front row vacant for us because they had been informed about our trip and the early communication. As the chef announced we would be learning some Acadian recipes everyone cheered and one woman said that they never would have had been offered that if it had not been for us. Now, that isn’t even the end of the story! A couple of years ago, about 6 years after the trip, I received an email from the chef. It was something he had mailed out to everyone on his list that he was changing the direction of his business. I responded that it was great what he was planning to do, told him a little about my business, Can-Do Real Food, and then reminded him who I was. He remembered us and now we can compare local food concepts on Facebook.  Amazing how a bit of planning made the world a friendlier and smaller place.

Nice, but so what?  All these things, being a tad late instead of early to the March, going out for pizza instead making our own, getting the kids into a certain camp, and even making a memory with a chef in Nova Scotia, have only small impact on our day to day life. But there are other more important issues how the contrast between a Planner and a Reactor can influence the lives of many.

The concept of a happy marriage is more than happy bed partners. Yet many people forget to find out if they know how to TALK with one another and can work through disagreements.

The concept of raising healthy and well adjusted children requires a lot of planning. When you react to your child’s antics, you tend to discipline in ways that are not as well thought out if, alternatively, you had planned that lesson before it actually was needed. How would you know the lesson would be needed? You simply remember your own childhood and think how you wish your parents would have handled it. Somewhere between what mom and dad did and what you wanted when you were a kid is the right answer, but merely smacking a butt when angry is NOT what will work long term. 

The concept of leadership for any successful organization usually requires that members of that organization have a way to have their voice heard. It means the leader has to be thoughtful, willing to hear all sides, and be well educated in history, science and more in order to make decisions that are wise and sound for positive long term effect.  Choosing such a leader also requires recognition that bluster does not indicate brains, that speaking his mind does not indicate an ability to get along with others, that being the king of the empire does not translate well to leading a system with others having strong voices. 

And so now it seems that we must react because so many people did not plan well. Activism in a March for Science is but a drop in the bucket but amazing how many more people showed up to show that TRUTH and FACTS are needed…..more than showed up for the inauguration.  Activism is needed is you feel SOMETHING pro or con about a subject. 

So, essentially, planning will ease your life from some stresses but being able to get moving in reaction to events is also something needed. We must be both.


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My Real Job

I graduated from Rutgers College in 1976 and was already working for the Tennessee Supreme Court’s office of administration. They had started a judicial PLANNING office and since I had a degree in urban PLANNING, it made sense to them. I was happy for the job and my kids are now amused that my starting salary was $6,000.  That’s a year, not a month.

Tennessee-SealI enjoyed the work for the Supreme Court.  I did lots of tasks that often fall to the newest/youngest on staff but finally one piece of my education was useful and I got to be in charge of a project!  I had taken a year of computer programming in high school. I had managed to talk my dad out of the more typical college prep physics class for this newfangled concept. We learned a Fortran language and used the computer across town at the university since the high school only had a card sorter. This fantastic skill was useful to the Supreme Court because it was miles ahead of everyone else on staff and we were implementing a new court information system that was going to use key punch cards. It is pretty funny now.  But I loved it, other than not fully knowing all the court related vocabulary I needed, because I got to travel to all 95 counties in Tennessee and let me tell you, that is one beautiful state.

But a few years into that work experience I realized I was getting further and further from my education and applied for and won a job at an engineering and planning consulting firm. That one also included travel. Some to places like Little Rock, Arkansas and Bossier City, Louisiana, but I also got to spend a winter in Miami and then six months in Europe. Not bad. However, I got laid off when Reagan because President and cut funding for environmental issues as part of his economic program. I will not make a political statement here but it is tempting.ronald-reagan-24-11-82

The next few years during that recession were difficult. Planners with a masters degree could not get work so I switched gears and started in real estate. I sold houses for a few months and did okay but I never loved it. My broker suggested I start an appraisal division for him, and within two years I bought out his interest and had 12 people working for me in the booming real estate market of the 1980s.

AppraisalReportsI loved that job..half in the office writing the reports and half out and about in the beautiful northern part of Connecticut. I learned quickly that the emotional appeal many people feel about their house could be achieved in many properties for me. I also learned that many people react to the way things LOOK, not the way things ARE and pretty finishing hides a lot of shoddy workmanship.  Loved what I did. And it was in the mid 1980s that I deeply learned that THAT was NOT my true job.

My REAL job was to raise my tiny children to be healthy functioning adults.  At that time it was a challenge because my husband was a troubled person. I’ll keep it simple and just say he blamed me for red lights and the rain. I did not buy it, and the time came when I told him, for the sake of the kids, we MUST live apart. He filed for a divorce soon after. Fine.

I have always been a nice person. (There are a few that would argue about that, including him, but all those people have, like he does, a perverted view of reality and the responsibility they have for their life choices.) I listened to the question one counselor posed, “Is it important for your children to know their father?” and decided it was. And that, my friends, was probably where I should not have been so nice. But I am who I am.   So we had numerous wrestling matches over the years and now, we have some major fallout.

I wrote a blog a couple of months ago when I found out my ex had made a choice that is socially reprehensible. He is ostracized and yet, our children are torn. They do not approve of his behavior, but he is their father. And so, they feel a need to be there for him.

Yes, they had good times with him. And he helped them with challenges. But that is nothing above and beyond the scope of normal parenting. We can and should celebrate he had some normal motivations and abilities.  But we need not exaggerate it.estranged

I see the homeless here in our town and have gotten to know many as they hang out on the church grounds where my commercial kitchen is located. Without knowing any of their stories, I recognize that they have made life choices that have left them estranged from their families. And so, I understand that we have many people, operating at all levels of functionality in society, who are isolated and confused why. Few recognize that the choices made in their own behavior and the ways they treated people who once loved them and trusted them caused alienation.  Many blame it on others; it is easier to do that than recognize one’s own place in the divergent pathway.

So, I recognized, over 30 years ago that my REAL job was not what paid for the bacon, but to nurture and continue to help feed the lives of my three children.  All adults now, they are amazing young people and I am super proud of them. They have not been fault-free; that is some fairy tale not based in reality. But they are thinking and caring people who are facing their responsibilities and enjoying their pathways with close and dear friends.an nlanders

I am not ready to retire, but I love basking in the glow.

 

 


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I didn’t see that coming

Parenting is hard. Parenting with a partner is hard. Single parenting is hard. Any way you look at it, if you are doing it “right”, parenting is more than full time and you HAVE to put your own ego, your own desires, your own agenda aside.

It was when my kids were two and four years old that it became clear that my job was not my work as a real estate appraiser. My job, much more powerfully important that getting someone’s mortgage to an approval and closing, was to raise those two little pipsqueaks to be healthy, functioning contributing adults. It became apparent when my marriage was on such shaky grounds that the analysis HAD to consider what the kids would be learning if I stayed with their father.

I erred on the side of being “nice”. I told him we needed to separate. I had no plans at that moment for a divorce but I knew the kids needed a healthier environment for their daily life. I allowed him generous time with the kids and had to talk with them quite a bit when he hurt them because their needs were not compatible with what he wanted to do.

And when he filed for a divorce because he wanted to control the situation, I was okay with that. In fact, I was kind  of worried that if he knew how okay I was he would withdraw the petition, but he didn’t.  He told the kids I divorced him. I refused to talk about it with them (until they were adults) saying it was a grownup decision and both mommy and daddy love them.

I read a lot about kids going through divorce. I participated in programs the elementary school offered and we all had counseling sessions together. I was asked in a session, what my goal was. I stated, simply, that I wanted us to get along well enough that we could sit together at school events so the kids only had to play to one part of the auditorium. He said that was not his goal. He never said what goal he had.

And so, at high school and college graduations, we sat apart. Often his family sat with me. Not because they were taking my side but because they were taking the kids’ side. They got it.

He never did. He married again, as I did. And life moved on. The kids are now adults in their 30s and sometimes we still talk about what might have been. They ended up with a new brother with me and two new brothers with him. They are close to my youngest. The other little ones need them, but the new life their father has built has pushed them away.

I got news today that my ex is in trouble. That choices he has made has once again brought him into a world of hurt and he is most likely scared and unable to figure out how things turned so badly.  He has a pathway in front of him that I never dreamed he would take.

My feelings are confused. I know, intellectually, that there is nothing I did or did not do, nothing I might have done, that would have given him a different pathway. I know, intellectually, that his actions must have continued after my time with him with little thought of the consequences.  I know, intellectually, that no one can make this better for him,

However, I am surprised at how much emotional pain I feel. The “what if I had made him do this or that” syndrome is running through my gut. It is a worthless exercise. I know that.