goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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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.

 

 

 

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Family Ties

Following the Christmas holiday I don’t need to tell YOU that your family is……..well, challenged.  I have one myself. I had an aunt that my mother disliked so much she never talked to her brother but, because of family dynamics, I needed to allow her to sing her warble of some song I didn’t even know at my wedding.  I had another aunt who, in the 1950s got a (whisper here) divorce and all we ever heard was “don’t come running home to us if you have problems with your husband.” Not exactly a helpful life lesson.

So, we all have less than perfect families, and if we are true to form, we don’t do such a great job at parenting. We do what we know, so unless you have sought out a parenting class, you will have a tendency to teach your children in the same dysfunctional way you were raised.

In the interest of changing that here are TEN RULES TO BETTER FAMILY LIFE:

  1. Recognize that the reason you love your friends more than your family is because your friends let you do the shit your mom and dad won’t. That doesn’t mean that shit is good. It still is shit. Your parents literally cleaned up your shit as a baby and into your childhood, but  now it is time for you to realize that your actions have consequences and you really need to accept responsibility. When you grow up, your relationships with the long term people who are on your life path AKA your family, will improve.Illustration by Nate Powell.
  2. Let go of anger. We want to be RIGHT! We want others to know they are WRONG! Let it go. It is not a helpful manner of communication. If you really feel strongly that your little sister or your second cousin is on the road to perdition, sit down calmly, maybe with a cup of lavender tea (ha ha) and ask why they feel their pathway is going to bring them the life they want. LISTEN.  They probably will not come around, but at least you’ll understand better and maybe they will turn to you when they recognize they need to change their ways.being kind
  3. Look in the mirror. Recognize your own flaws. Now praise your skills realistically. Understand that each of us is made of the entire ability spectrum. You and your buddies are not the only ones who can do things right. Even your parents get it right some of the time.looking-in-the-mirror
  4. Learn from others. Yup, even that warbling aunt of mine probably had something worthwhile to share with me……hard for me to imagine but I am remembering her with a child’s memory. If you are an adult, you can go where I was unable to perceive.learning
  5. Look at your children. We watched Home Alone again this Christmas and a few things were obvious to an outsider that the family members did not perceive. Be fair when you think over your kids’ strengths and weaknesses. Don’t have them do what YOU wish you could have done as a kid if they are not interested. Help them develop their own interests. Help them learn to read and research. Your-Kids-Look-up-to-You-for-Guidance
  6. Look at your children again. Help them learn life skills like cooking, sewing buttons and hems, how to wash laundry and iron to press a shirt to make a good appearance,  and how to swim.  A man who expects his wife or girlfriend to do all the cooking does not realize the stress that constant task causes. More importantly, he never sees her face light up in pleasure when he prepares her a nourishing meal. A man who can cook is sexy.LifeSkills-750
  7. Look at your children again. Teach your kids to change their oil and their tires. You may not be that proficient yourself. Learn it together. Your daughters too.  Watch your tendency for sexism. Let your sons and daughters learn they can access the entire array of  arts and skills.Nike-Voices-Feature
  8. Tell stories to your kids. Turn off the television and the electronic gadgets. Have one evening a month (or more) when you gather to share the stories of your childhood. Keep it as upbeat as possible. Your baggage with your parents need not be their baggage.  Tell about adventures you had when you were tested and succeeded. Tell about times you thought you could do something but failed and how you responded to that experience. Let them tell stories too. Use a talking stick to pass the right to talk around the circle. talking stick
  9. Explore together. Food is an excellent vehicle for exploration. Move away from what you know. I remember when we visited England for the first time and I asked for bangers and mash at a pub because I had read about it in numerous British stories,. The server paused and then said, “You know that is nursery food?” In other words, for little kids. That was okay, since it was a new experience for me, but it is not okay for you to turn to mac and cheese every few days. Time to learn new tricks. You are an adult now. You have control over your gag reflex and will not barf into your plate. Really. Taste new things. You need not repeat if you honestly do not like it. But your world will open when you explore the amazing variety of flavors from all over the world. 11646-learning-culture-through-food-mexico
  10. Realize, if you change your ways, your birth family members may make some snarky comments. That’s when you get to practice your smile and say, yeah! I’m doing great and I’m proud of my kids! And mean it.keepgoing


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Are Adults Incapable of Responsibility?

We have known for over 30 years that tobacco caused cancer and yet adults are still smoking and chewing.

We hear there is a national epidemic of diabetes, and yet more and more adults are overweight.addiction

Each day people head to the bars or the liquor stores or the pot shops or their local dealer to get what they use to try to escape their reality.

Each morning people report to work hung over and perform less than their best.

Every day there is another news item where some innocent person was shot accidentally by a gun going off unexpectedly or handled by a child.

 

tv-dinner-feltEach night people turn on the television and then zone out, zombie like, listening to laugh tracks in mindless shows. Or talking heads who provide analysis over what someone in the public eye really meant when they said whatever.

Few people read more than headlines. Fewer people know the difference between a news article and an op-ed (opinion or editorial).

Few people meet with others to work on community efforts of any kind.

Few people meet with others who are not like them.

Few people strive for excellence and accept mediocrity. Einstein-Mediocrity-Quote

Few people understand the issues that are facing their own communities, let alone try to get a handle on the national situation or anything else going on in the world.

Few people are working to try to better the system.

angry-familyPeople know who they hate but not why. Most of the time they are people who are different and unknown. Other are family members.

Few people set goals. Fewer know how to work towards them.

Some people have an image that the boogeyman is going to get them. He may be a zombie in the apocalypse in some scary alternative future. It might be the drug crazed homeboys from the bad side of the tracks. It might be the mother-in-law with her fruitcake. So they need a weapon and they are not afraid to use it. They will kill a person they say.

Few people know how to cook from scratch.

Few people know how to change a tire.

Few people know how to sew a seam or a button.How-to-Sew-On-a-Button-38

Few people know how to set a budget and live within it.

Few people would know what to do if the electricity failed for more than a day.

Few people would know how to survive if the store shelves were empty. If they could not gas up their car. If the cell phone network failed.

Many people complain about about how the kids today don’t know how to hold a job or be respectful and they refuse to admit they are parents with problem kids.

The list goes on……and on…..and on…..when will each adult stand up and assume responsibility?

Lessons

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A few years ago I took care of a 10-year-old while the mom worked Fridays through Mondays.  So after school on Fridays and Mondays and during the weekend, the girl would spend time with us. She wanted to do what she did at home, park in front of the television all day. What we did was involve her in all the things we normally did including food shopping and meal preparation, sewing, some light cleaning, and other normal activities including going to church.  We chatted at the dinner table and shared stories about things we had done that day.

We read together and played games and yes, we worked on homework also. She hated that.  She was not used to being accountable for doing her work.

One day the mom was also with us as we went somewhere in the car.  I was driving and I pointed to a road sign, one of those orangey-yellow ones that showed a curve coming up. I asked the girl if she knew why the sign was yellow.

Now this was the kind of question I had been throwing at my children since they were little to get them thinking, so I did not think it was particularly difficult.

Not only did the girl have no idea but neither did the mom. So I stepped them through the logic, asking the colors of the traffic lights and what the green, yellow and red mean. Once we got through the typical giggle that yellow means go faster and agreed it was a caution color, I figured they would get the connection. It didn’t happen so I simply said “yellow signs are warnings. Not hard rules but strong suggestions for safety.  So when you are driving and see a yellow sign, know there is a caution there, something to be careful about.”

Instead of the “oh” acknowledgement I expected, the mom got angry and shouted “Is everything a teaching opportunity for you?”

Yes.

I make enough dumb moves in my life. If I can avoid a repeat bad performance, I will. But there has to be some brain involvement to think about why things went less than smoothly. Otherwise, rinse and repeat will be the life activity, not the life lesson.

As a parent, I have the responsibility to raise my kids to be healthy functioning adults. To help them develop their own skills to be able to do what they need to do and to make decisions as wisely as they can. To love them enough to not always do what is easiest.  To love them despite their own stumbles in their choices. To love them enough to expect they will succeed, knowing I have done what I can to teach them life skills.traffic sign

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A friend of mine moved to Croatia after retirement. Her parents were from there and she had fallen in love with the country whenever she visited family. She knew her small retirement funds would stretch farther in that economy and so made the move.

Much of her experience is joyful. Much of it is similar to the life she would have had she stayed in California. But there are differences.

She often says that the Adriatic nation’s male dominant culture is where the US was about 50 years ago. Little boys seem to be raised that they are the correct ones, and she often sees adult women deferring to their 10-year-old sons.  She sees young women who feel they are unable to do what they want because of the roles society has given them.  What amazes her is that women are the ones who perpetuate this situation. They often are very angry and domineering to other women, trying to maneuver for a small bit of power in their restricted world.

When I hear this current contrast I remember the way I felt growing up wishing I was a boy not because of gender confusion but because I recognized, even as a 5-year-old, that boys could chose to do whatever they wanted but girls had to comply with more rules. I knew that was not fair, not equal. I wanted to be able to chose my own pathway.

And when I hear woman friends talk about statements their boys make that put women down and laugh because they think it is funny, I see we have not come so very far after all.equality-of-sexes-8-728~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Facebook has a lot of nonsense and a few bits of wisdom, I have seen a theme more and more recently, mostly posted by adults in the 50-70 age bracket. Generally it is a list of all the things we did as kids that kids today can’t/don’t do. We rode bikes without helmets.  Sat in cars without seat belts.  Got spanked. Had chores. Were respectful to our teachers.  Went to church.

The punchline: we turned out all right.

The concept: Kids today are not well behaved and as nice or respectful as we were.

What is missing is the understanding that we are the current kids’ parents. We raised them to be the way they are.

So either we didn’t like the rules we had as kids and changed our parenting methods in reaction or we just abdicated our responsibility without any thought.  We wanted to do what we wanted to do without any thought to the consequences down the road.responsible parenting

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Also on Facebook I get into some conversations with people who are strongly anti-abortion but do not want any sex education in the schools. They feel that this is the family’s responsibility and yes,  I agree, information about the maturation of the body is part of what parents should be discussing with their kids.

Age appropriate discussions should start when the kids are toddlers about touching and move on to making responsible decisions about all things through childhood. Before age 10 the understanding that their body will be going through a normal change needs to be started. Before age 12 kids need to learn that their body may get some feelings they never have had before and there are responsibilities to take on, things to know, so they don’t have unwanted consequences. They need to know about pregnancy and disease.

But many parents don’t have these discussions. Many feel it is “not the right time yet”. Many deny their own sexual feelings as a part of the human body’s system. Not discussed, it is secret and forbidden. Normal feelings are understood to be dirty and should be hidden.

And so, unless we empower the schools to step in, we have a problem. We have 12-year-olds who are sexually experimenting. We have 14-years-olds having babies. We have 18-year-olds with sexually transmitted diseases that will affect them the rest of their lives.

Abortion is a horrible choice. No question about it. But without education and availability of birth control, it is going to be a part of this culture with all its ethical and biological issues.sex ed~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Consequences. Life happens. You can’t control all of it. But with a brain attached, you can think through your options and develop strategies to avoid unpleasant repercussions. Learn your lessons early to avoid rinse and repeat.Rules of life

 

 

 

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Celebration of Life

My youngest, Sam, is now 20. Wow…where did the time go?  He was born when I was 40 and no, he was not an “accident”. Mature but still active hormone production was partly the cause for a  two-year effort but I also miscarried (1 in 4 pregnancies end in a miscarriage and I fit that statistic) and he actually was conceived one month after the D&C. I suggested to my OB-GYN that perhaps older women have more “gunk” (no, not a medical term) inside and maybe zygotes have more trouble attaching to the uterine wall. She thought it an interesting concept and was planning to review the literature.

Anyway, life with a baby and toddler and young munchkin can be full of excitement but when Sam’s dad, Dave,  was diagnosed with brain cancer before Sam’s 2nd birthday, that additional factor added a new dimension.  Dave swore to my mom he would live long enough so the baby would remember him. And he told me to keep life as “normal” as possible, so there was Cub Scouts, and family trips, and singing with the Nashville Boy Choir, and so much more.

FL SW hats

Flight attendants borrowed the kids’ Disney hats to present the safety talk-said it was the first time everyone actually was watching,

What was a 3-5 year life expectancy crashed 10 years later.  Dave died in his sleep the night after Sam’s 11th birthday. My daughter Lisa demonstrated some wisdom telling Sam how my father had died the day after her 14th birthday.  She said she believed he had waited until she was old enough to understand it was his time to go and while she would miss him, she would carry him in her heart forever. While Sam did not find complete solace in her words, they struck a chord and helped.

A year later my mom’s struggle with post-surgery complications ended three days after Sam’s birthday. (Doctor, the surgery was a success but the patient died.) And a year after that, two days before Sam’s birthday, Dave’s older brother also ended his fight against cancer. yahrzeit candle

This one week in October is powerful. At the time of Dave’s death I was very careful to help Sam see that his birthday was not ruined at all.  In fact, the timing  helps us remember and memorialize these special people. We light a yahrzeit candle and spend a few minutes sharing memories….celebrating life in its best continued form.

We chose this pathway instead of focusing on the pain of the losses. After all, in many ways, they are still with us.


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Do You Think?

Someone on my Facebook feed today wrote something that has me perplexed.

She actively posts articles pertaining to her beliefs regarding religion and politics and although we often have different viewpoints our discussion has always been done with cordiality. But a little while ago she wrote that she did not have time to check all the facts on the posts she forwarded. She said there is so much information out there she has to be satisfied with what she thinks is valid. facebook like dislike

The reason she said that is because I had posted, once again, information that showed that what she had posted was not accurate. I actually had not written anything myself, just posted the source.

See, when I read something that appeals to my sense of greed or outrage I IMMEDIATELY try to verify it.

This incident brought to mind something that happened a few years ago.  I knew a women who had a 5th grader who could not add, subtract, multiply or divide. She could read well but not answer questions about the content. She would could not find things to do and had be kept busy with supervision or would just sit and stare. This child was perfectly able to sing all the Justin Beiber songs and had memorized facts about her favorite actresses and singer. Her mom felt there was nothing wrong with this situation. It appeared that mediocrity was acceptable.   Closed-Sign1

It seems to me that there are many people who are similar. The desire for knowledge, for information to analyze seems to be missing.  The ability to analyze facts and think things through is not a common trait. People are accepting everything a talking head may spew without any question because much of it resonates. Others are not even aware there is anything they need to know about current events.  Getting by is good enough. They’re not happy but have no idea why or how to work on changing things because those thinking skills have never been developed. So, they hide with drugs perhaps, to keep from feeling miserable or maybe just “bored”.

Life is too short and offers too many choices to leave them to others. Be involved. Be a thinker.

“I must judge for myself, but how can I judge, how can any man judge, unless his mind has been opened and enlarged by reading.”     – John Adams


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Parenting Myself

So many people have been trying to help me move through this incident.  The most common thing people have said is “that’s why we have insurance.”  And that is true. She will get the medical care she needs at no cost to herself and the electric scooter will be repaired or replaced.

The concept of insurance is to protect against loss. Without it, the financial burden would be hard to cover, without a doubt.  I have, even in periods of my life when I was stressed financially, always carried insurance.  When I am the responsible party, the LEAST that can be done is cover the costs to try to get things back to where they were before the accident happened.

Many people said, “it was an accident, not something you planned to do.” Well, true. I did not start my day saying “hmmmm, wonder what it would feel like to hit someone with my car today.” But it has been a sort of nightmare concern of mine for years. I always envisioned my brakes failing…something where I was not in full control. Can’t duck this accident that way. But yes, it was an accident.

Other people have suggested that I will learn from this. Very true. More diligence when driving. I long ago put away the cell phone. I turn the radio off when I am in heavy traffic or nearing the last few turns trying to find a new place. I keep distractions down to a minimum.  Yet I know, as you probably do too, there are times when I know I am on “automatic.” I arrive home and wonder how tuned in I was sometimes. This time, though, I know I was alert…and yet I missed seeing her, so obviously I was not alert enough. Something to be more aware.

The best comment one friend made was to ask how I would parent my kids if one of them had had this accident. That was good. That gave me something to build back with.

Because I would not want any of my children to be feeling the way I do.  So what words of wisdom could I share with them to help them?

I think it is good that I am so bothered. It means I consider life to be precious, that I have no right to hurt someone or affect their life in such a negative way.

Have I been free from causing other people pain in my life before this? Not only no, but hell no. I am not going to go into details but I will admit that I enjoy using big words whenever I talk with my older kids’ father.  Okay, that kind of nastiness doesn’t get far from the Goodie Two Shoes standard, but there have been a few other people who have had their lives disrupted because of me. Not happy about it  but I have been able to work  through those situations by recognizing that those people played an equal part in the failure of what happened.

This woman was merely crossing the street….completely innocent…and perhaps that is the thing. Recognizing that other people make their choices and I make my choices and sometimes things will happen that cause them to bump.

Not happy. But yes, an accident. I get it.

It amazes me that so many of the bystanders made a similar comment: “At least you stopped and helped.” So many people run from the consequences of their actions that my staying and admitting responsibility was unusual? That is a pretty sad comment about society.

But before you agree, remember YOU are a member of that society.  And your actions are part of what we consider when we talk about society’s values. Set a good example and perhaps more will follow.

Okay, so I will move up out of this funk I think because of your words and your help and my own basic who I am. Let us all be a bit kinder.