It takes a lot to ruffle my feathers. But once they're ruffled, I am never complacent.
Yesterday I got a bill from our Homes Association. In addition to the regular itemized dues and trash pickup, there was a $35.43 charge for "leaf removal". Huh? No way to opt out. Complacency out the window.
I made a call to the "Treasurer" whose name was on the top of the bill. I explained that I wasn't interested in leaf removal for several reasons: We have almost an acre of land, and if we were to rake all those leaves to the curb, we should have started a month ago. Besides, I explained, we mowed/mulched in one easy step. That decaying leaves are good for the lawn. And furthermore, I like fall. I like the colors of the leaves, I like scuffing through them as I walk to the end of the driveway to get the paper. I have fond memories of my kids in the front yard, bundled up in the chill of the autumn air scooping them up in their jacketed arms and throwing them up in the air and falling around them. And most importantly, in this economy, I thought it was fiscally irresponsible charging 137 families $35.43 apiece. (I work at a Free Clinic where $35.43 would buy a handful of meals) Undaunted, I went on to say that I considered a pristine leafless yard a luxury. Fluff. I told her that I thought that perhaps an online survey was in order, to poll the folks who were funding this insanity and get their thoughts.
Jeanne explained it to me this way. The Association thought it would be nice to have all the lawns clean. "After all," she explained, "It just makes the whole neighborhood look nice." (I wonder what the Homes Association thinks when our teenagers' friends tp the front yard???) She chastised me for not attending the Homes Association Meeting where I could have voiced my concerns. (That particular meeting fell on a night where Wood was out of town and I was at a volleyball game with Meghan) I did ask how many families attended the meeting and she told me that it was about 25. My math says that that was 18% representation. (Don't they have to have a quorum to spend 72% of peoples' money????)
It was clear that Jeanne was not hearing me. Oh, she got quiet in all the right places. As our conversation wound up, she told me that she was brand new at the Treasurer's job, and that she "was already sorry that she'd taken it on". I am sure that I am one of the reasons! She suggested that I write to the President of the Homes Association, as well. I did that, and will let you know what happens.
Andrew, freshman journalist at University of Nebraska/Lincoln and I had a text-exchange last night.
Me: 8:18:07 pm Fair warning: Tomorrow's email topic is "Kids who never email"
Andrew: 8:34:07 pm Well I'll make sure tonight that I can only be considered a "kid who doesn't email very often" instead of one that never emails!
I am not sure what I am supposed to do with that. In my naivete, I thought that cryptic message meant that before the night was over that he would email, thereby removing himself from the never category. Didn't happen.
This is the same kid that last Friday twittered "Didn't even realize it was the weekend until I got back to my room after classes. Yeah." And in an email to his sister Mary said he wasn't too sure when he was coming home for Thanksgiving, in fact he didn't really know when Thanksgiving Break was.
I think this kiddo is spending too much time behind the eyepiece of his school-issue Canon DSLR.
Kathleen is living in Chicago, interning at her second theatre gig, The Eclipse. She recently found a job at The North Face Store. Her Outward Bound experiences and her love for the outdoors landed her the job (and maybe the look of desperation on her face helped!!!). On Thursday, a "regular" came in. This is a homeless woman who the store sees on a regular basis. She has some mental deficiencies. No comprehension of basic addition or concept of money. She comes in and tries on clothes. She doesn't try on shoes/boots, though. Her feet are bloody from blisters and wet from the elements. While she was going through her try-on routine, another customer asked Anthony, one of the North Face employees about the woman. The customer listened and said he wanted to buy her a pair of shoes. Anthony said, "You know that these shoes are $150+ right?" He knew. So Kathleen and Anthony worked for the next half hour finding this homeless woman the perfect pair of shoes. North Face threw in a 25% discount and several pairs of nice warm socks. And the customer spent more on this stranger than he did on himself.
The woman left the store, stopping people as she walked toward the door to her life on the street, showing everyone her new shoes.
This story needs no conclusion or editorializing. No, this one stands on its own.
Sex, violence and sex combined with violence work the shock movie genre. Chain saws, razors and buckets of gore are designed for shock value. I read about these movies in articles such as "Shock and Yawn" by David Ansen. (Newsweek, October 26, 2009) I read about them, but I do not understand.
If the value is to shock then my question is "Why?". Shock for its own sake? Push the limits of obscenity for what purpose? To challenge complacency? For what end?
How does mutilation move an audience to change? Change what?
So someone wins the Ugly/Nasty Contest? What exactly have they won? A few minutes to relish the trophy while waiting for a new director to cut deeper, take sexual violence/performance to new levels of theater?
How about this? How about reading the papers for the shock value of child abuse? Why not be shocked into advocacy for children? Or read about domestic violence and step up to that need? Visit a military hospital. Look at those brave women and men who have seen and suffered the horrors.
If that is too difficult, too shocking, too much of that blood-stuff then we can start with the less visually messy.
Look long at the effects of the economic situation. People surviving, but only 'just'. Watch those desperate faces at library computers as they search for work. Follow the homeless as they struggle for food and shelter.
Go to a funeral of a member of the military and observe the obscenity of pickets claiming to speak in the voice of God.
Not ready for human abuse to be prime time? Animals suffer horribly from the perverted human need for gore. Maybe that can shock out of complacency and into action.
What is wrong here? Why do we need 'entertainment' that is designed to show us degradation? We are better than that, right? Why am I so consumed with sadness as I type this?
On Monday, October 26, progress is about to interrupt our communication. The expression that works here is "going dark". Seems that a cable hook-up might finally happen. Our dial-up connection will be sporadic at best until change over is completed by very early November....at least that is what I have been told.
I will miss you. Each time I write a blog, I know you are with us...with Four Ordinary Women...so please check every day to see if we are active. Consider rereading the newest blogs and adding your comments. Consider rereading older blogs that you might have missed.
Consider how we might meet you in person through your book clubs, church groups, organizations. Each time we are invited to speak with a group, we learn. We learn about the depth and power of communicating from the heart. We learn that our book has touched the hearts and spirits of our readers. We are touched by sharing the time with you, Gentle Readers. Our website gives contact information. fourordinarywomen.com So...talk to you soon.
My mother accepted the change from wife to widow with great grace. Within a year of Dad's death, Mom sold the home and moved into an apartment becoming the independent woman. Granted, the apartment was not far from the family home and from my sister who lived a few houses down the block. Mom created her card playing social circle, continued to sew and read, and became the unofficial 'ear' for the other women in the apartment. Mom listened and helped.
When Mom's car had more scraps and dents than Maaco wanted to tackle....when the concrete curbs and telephone poles were marked with red auto paint....when Pete, the mechanic, could no longer accept her business...the time had come. We had to sell her car.
Time isn't gentle and Mom's decline went far too quickly. She left the apartment for assisted living. Even after she was moved to the locked-door Alzheimer wing of the facility, Mom continued to enjoy going 'for a ride' often asking that we circle Wyandotte County Lake where she and Dad had enjoyed fishing. She loved the Fall colors. She loved the search for Bittersweet to decorate her night stand. Often, she wanted the window down so she could smell the dampness.
Eventually, the rides to the lake would end almost before they began. We would get to the Manor's parking lot exit ramp and Mom would say it was time to go home now...before it got to dark to see any more colors. Mom thought we had already looked at the spill-way where she always remembered the stories of Mark's climbing escapades. She thought we had looked at the beautiful oranges, yellows and reds that she called nature's best.
I miss her. I miss the way she was before dementia took her. And I miss the woman she became when she looked at me with uncomprehending eyes. Not that she didn't know me. She did. But she didn't know her place in this world. She seemed so sad and lost. I do miss her.
But Mom never lost nature's best colors. That might be why this time of year feels so soft and looks so glorious...and why my face is wet with memory.
In the beginning the 'distance' might have been a football field or any version of a race. A sports phrase became cliche because it fits so much of what we do. The difference being that in a sporting event, we see the end-point--the uprights, the checkered flag, final score, the finish line. Day to day takes a different kind of perseverance.
We might hope for, work towards a specific result, but we don't know the distance. Some might say that positive thinking will get you what you seek, that if one believes, success will happen. Others might say that commitment and determination are the qualities needed for reaching any goal. Still others will say that any outcome is part of a Larger Plan and we should accept whatever results. Not my choice.
One of my elementary school teachers, a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth, had a rule for test study. "Pray like everything depended on God, but work like everything depends on you." She covered both sides of that Larger Plan without giving her students any reason to make excuses. I liked that.
Four Ordinary Women has benefited from the persistent commitment of Patti's husband, Wood Dickinson. Take a look at our website www.fourordinarywomen.com Look a bit more and enjoy our blogs as listed on the website. They are beautiful. They have taken a tremendous amount of Wood's time and talent.
Have you ever been really good at something and been asked to share that hobby with someone just learning? Maybe play tennis or golf with a total beginner? Patience, right? Takes unbelievable patience to pull it off without deep sighs, barely perceptible shakes of the head and a sore spot from biting the tongue. Wood is computer expert and we are rank duffers, but I have never felt his impatience even when I ask the same stuff over and over.
I have often talked about the steep-learning-curve that has taken us from writing to publishing to marketing to distributing. Patti has used the expression, "slogging through waist deep sand" to describe parts of this adventure. There are days when her words felt exactly right. However, we could not have come this far without the constant commitment of Wood's perseverance.
Another fair warning, Gentle Reader. This is a ramble, unstructured and without a worthy conclusion.
A conscious decision needs to be made. Forget it. Forget the list. Forget the spider web of thought that clings with sticky residue. Move all those moments of meanness out...away...gone. Erase any long term lingering thoughts that keep the dregs fresh.
This isn't forgive and forget. Too often forgive is a phantom, only vague and indistinct. We think we forgive. We say we do. But the next time a pinch happens, the dregs resurface, good as new. Forgiveness is hard.
There is the forgiveness of the Bible, 70 X 7. Corinthians admonishes not to keep a record. "It is in God's hands" is a waver and a waver diminishes my responsibility. St. Francis' verse is a goal, but pretty impossible for most of us. And there is that "if only" as in If Only She/He would apologize, all would be forgiven. Not so. It helps but forgiveness needs much more. Forgiveness needs change. I might forgive 71 X 7, but by that time, my turn is definitely winding down.
Some would say that those 'dregs' are life lesson...that we need them to make good decisions. Maybe. And maybe they are stepping stones to a better way of handling those life lessons.
And I admit that forgetting is as close to impossible as forgiving. Further, I know that I need to step away from several 'lists' that have been growing uglier. And I am trying. But how does a person step away without walking away? How can we forget without relegating the person to a totally different place in our life?
Disengage? Disengage from the patterns that allow the list. But that comes very close to disengaging from the person. And sometimes keeping a person close might be worth fighting the list and accepting that getting pinched is part of the bargain. But why must renewable pain be part of a relationship? How important is it to stay close to hit-and-run?
Wish I could ramble this one to some kind of conclusion. I can't.
Never, ever let the gauge register less than half. Life long self imposed rule and do not remember a time when I let that travel security blanket fall. Until today. Sounds like a Murphy's droplet when refills are every few miles. But Murphy likes the elbow to elbow kind of pressure and I am scrambling to make today happen as planned.
Thunder and lightening through the night so sleep was brief and surface. Alarm was not suppose to be set, but 'not-suppose-to' is a hedge. It went anyway. Usual coffee and bagel to start the morning and bingo! Murphy #3 in the form of a filling falling out. Not just any filling but my golden-pirate-tooth that secures my place in Frank's gang of shark fighting ship mates. Dentist leaving town tomorrow so a scramble to find a slot for me. Not yet.
Had to cancel another medical appointment for this morning, hoping to reschedule. That phone call hasn't been returned.
Bob off to the range and I discovered a plumbing issue that I cannot handle with patience and a plunger.
Best (and only) dress-up blazer at the cleaners and ready on Friday.
Hey, Gentle Reader, this is NOT a laughing blog! Why?
Because....after weeks of trying, we get our important, but brief, TV interview on a local news show. Four Ordinary Women had one day notice and Murphy must have doubled with laughter knowing that Murphy's Law is definitely Law. But we are doggedly persistent. We might not get our full fame allotment of fifteen minutes, we will prove that Murphy is no match for Four Ordinary Women. Check Loren Halifax, WDAF TV Fox 4 at about 12:50. Then let us know what you think.
Steve and Lisa walk across the field separating our places. They come bearing gifts. Lisa has read our book, Four Ordinary Women, and she talks about her reactions to our words, to our stories, to our connections with her life. They are a wonderful couple with earth solid values and hearts stretched by years of sharing their values. To me, they look like a young couple in love with one another, not old enough to have a married daughter and a college son. Lisa brings the gift of validation. Through our book, we have touched her deeply. She wants copies to share our stories with her family. And eggs...fresh eggs from their hens. Body and spirit are fed.
Mary Ann phones and asks that I meet her where she is working on St. Anthony's fundraiser dinner. She is a friend from high school...fifty three years since that graduation. "For my boyfriend", she says as she hands me a bag of candy---mostly chocolate. She always refers to Bob as her boyfriend. "The second sack is for your Sammy". Sammy loves flashlights and Mary Ann has given us a jack-o-lantern light complete with batteries. Mary Ann has never met Sammy, but she loves him because I do.
A 75 year old man, Bob, is using a come-a-long to ratchet a four hundred pound tractor tire off the lug nuts and closer to the trailer. By himself. By himself---he gets is handled. I do the step-and-fetch-it kind of things, helping where I can. But he does it....by himself. Finally, we have the huge tire loaded on the trailer and are heading towards Platte City where a repair shop can fix the damage.
Once we find the place, a young man named 'Bud' (honestly) and his helper roll the tire off the trailer, smiling as they ask how we managed to get it off the tractor, onto the trailer and delivered. He said, "You guys are still smiling??" He was so like by Uncle Bud---tall, strong and the definition of good natured. This young man honored what my husband had handled. I like that a lot.
My friend just phoned with a story of her weekend trip to Texas. She shared the touching moments, the poignant sense of this beautiful story. She gave me a part of her daughters...handed their beauty to me. A gift.
Wood, Mary Morgan and I were in West Texas this weekend. Mary and I made a quick run into Target to pick up a few odds and ends. We went to check out, and the cashier was putting each item in its own bag, so I told him, "It's okay to pack them full, the fewer bags the better."
This teenage kid stopped in his tracks, looked at me aghast and said, "Ma'am. Ma'am. WHERE DID YOU GET THAT ACCENT? You must be from OHIO or something." I laughed out loud. I looked at him and said, "I thought it was YOU with the accent!!!" He laughed in response.
Boy, all depends on where you're coming from, huh?
Although I had no intention of being funny, Melinda was laughing. She is scary-smart and has a way of hacking off the fat to pull out the thought needing expression. We have been long distance friends for many years but the reconnects are never awkward.
Actually, whatever made her laugh (and call me on my misbegotten statement) isn't important. Our conversations always lead to new ways of looking at both the current topic and a lot of life decisions.
There has never been a time in my life that I did not long for a spiritual belief system that sustained. Being raised a Catholic, and nurtured by Dad who believed to his core, made the early years safe. At this moment, I can feel the comfort of those years.
The process of maturing is on-going and isn't always accepting of early comfort.Reality crowds in and beliefs are challenged. Melinda's laughter is often one of those challenges. I am profoundly grateful.
Recently, my son, Dan, suggested I read Huston Smith's books on comparative religions as a way to continue my search. These are books that will require rereading. They are not for the casual moments.
What I do believe, and believe constantly despite dead ends in my search, is that it isn't enough to be part of tradition and community, though these are vital to human comfort. We do need to be part of something more than ourselves.
What a waste to attend a church service and walk out into a life that doesn't require more than the hour each week. Couldn't we feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, care for the children, seek social justice, welcome those we see as 'different' IF religion meant the same as spiritual? Wouldn't those women and men who perform these works be joined by thousands more if religion required that we be part of something more?
No matter how many times I revisit my beliefs, I never find the end point. But searching is learning, and I think it is good to search.
Nana: "How about some oatmeal for breakfast?" Grandson: "How about a cookie?" Nana: "How about a cookie AFTER the oatmeal?" Grandson: "How about a cookie now?" Nana: "How about oatmeal AND a cookie for breakfast?" Grandson: "How about that cookie now?"
This being said as he walked to Nana's special Granny-Cupboard.
SPE Sammy, age 2 1/2, has the condition called SPE. He is always Specific, Persistent and Expectant. He has it dialed: Ask for exactly what you want. Continue until the message is heard. Fully expect that the good will happen. And, as his three year old cousin once decided, "Nanas don't say 'No'. They can't. They are Nanas."
Pretty amazing lesson here.
Imagine what our relationships would be like if we adopted Sammy's SPE. No more hinting, pouting, whining, beating around that overused bush. Straight out expression of our wants and needs. Straight out and honest effort to say what needs to be said. Then we continue with calm persistence until we are heard. No anger. No shouting. No "Why-don't-you-ever-listen-to- me?" Express the need with total belief that the listener will respond.
And then go stand by the right cupboard fully expecting that the good will happen.
I love Kansas City, Kansas. Born and raised there with the absolute best of neighbors and friends, circumstances that created a remarkable growing-up space.
Today, Keeler Women's Center sponsored a chili cook-off and talent show in the lobby of KCK City Hall. Martha, my friend since college, and I went to offer our support for the outstanding work done by KWC. Sister Carol Ann and Sister Barbara were there, gracious and welcoming as always.
The faces of the earth came to the event. We were all there, all colors, sizes, ages, ethnicities, civilians and uniformed police and fire personnel, enjoying the lunch hour in a hometown, down-home, KCK, handclappin', smile sharing moment.
No professional group could have been more appreciated than the Unified Government employees who stepped up and shared their talents for music and nonsense. There were tears for the beauty of "God Bless American" and tears of laughter for Barbie and her space monster boy friend.
Gourmet, I am not, but 'adequate-plus works' just time. Sometimes, like when I make Greek Wedding Bread, the results are terrific. And the sticky buns really are delicious. Just ask Molly.
Salads, soups, chili, casseroles, breads and desserts get the plus side of my ledger. Meat? Not so much. Brisket and oven roasted meats are difficult to mess up, but I can fry a beautiful steak or a fine pork chop to crispy critters in the the time it takes to say "Turn off the smoke detector!"
A church sale had piles of clay pots called Romertopf. The 'pile' should have been my clue that recycle trumped frequent use. But, being a sucker, for a $2.00 price tag I hurried home with the pot, stopping to buy a plumb chicken, some celery and onions.
Thinking like Julia, I planned a nice rice dish, a salad and an huge apple pie to top off my Romertopf dinner. Staying with Julia's methods, I slathered on the butter after washing and stuffing that bird. Even at this point, the smell was terrific, though the fit of bird to pan was a bit tight.
Soaked pot (cold water for 15 minutes), cold oven, and 450 temp reached gradually. Two hours later, the chicken was golden though the pot had no juices. Ummm...odd, but maybe the meat is all tender and moist with that butter bath.
It was. Dinner an A+. After the dishes were dried and put away, it was time to make the brownies for tomorrow's event. Back to the oven controls, whipped up the batter while the oven came to temp...but it didn't. It came to fire---smoke and fire, actually, while those not-so-vanishing juices blackened the oven floor.
Forty-five minutes later, I had enough of the mess cleaned to turn on the self-clean cycle and finish the job. Rubber gloves blackened and sticky, yucky bucket of water, kitchen smelling like burned bird and a batch of brownies waiting for a turn.
There is zero chance that I am a grump. Zero. Each time I think, "Well, maybe...just maybe I need to work on more 'up' and less grump, something wonderful happens. It just did. An email from my son: "Mom, Frank, (his son, my grandson) is so delightful that it is delightful to me to think about how delighted you and Bob will feel when you are around him." Tears. Those joy kind of tears that punch up from the heart and clog the throat. How could a woman with knowledge of this depth of father-to-son love feels anything but joy. And my son shares his son with me in emails like this. No room for a grump.
A Star Trek episode had children dealing with Grumps...Grown Ups. At least, my memory has the kids working around the cranky behaviors of the adults in the colony.
I think I am a grump. I don't want to be, but hints are piling on. Rereading my blogs and a few chapters from Four Ordinary Women is hard-core evidence that 'grump' is the noun that works. Some of my writing reads as if I am soured on life, lamenting one thing or another. I am not!
The odd thing is that I am one of the happiest and most contented people I know. If I had to come up with something I want more of, it would be family time. That's it.Not clothes. Not jewelry. Not a replacement for my '99 Buick GrannyMobile. Not a bigger house. Not more travel. Not fine dining.
OK...maybe a few more boxes of Orville's Kettle Corn in the cupboard would post some security on that evening habit. A paper fairy to make decisions and clean my desk would be nice. That sums up the current and most pressing needs of my life.
Well...except... There is an 'except'. We, the four authors of Four Ordinary Women, have been enriched by time spent with women's groups. Our quest is to find more opportunities to share the stories of your lives as we meld with the stories of our lives. Each time we join a group for conversation, we are realize the common yet extraordinary threads of connectedness. We come away appreciating the time and the company.
If you are in a group or know of a group that would enjoy sharing this experience, please do contact us. There is a contact button on our website, www.fourordinarywomen.com We would love to hear from you.
What Keeps Me Awake At Night is the title of a chapter in our book. This blog probably qualifies as a revisit-ramble. Last night was a 1:32 AM to 4:58 AM time of fractured sleep. Made perfect sense to get up, inhale some coffee and work on a blog. Trouble is that a daily blog does tax my brain and three hours and 32 minutes of mental blogging does not guarantee a coherent piece of writing. But then I have never been known for, or even guaranteed, coherent blogs. Rambling. Just might be my travel of choice.
One of my tangents was focused on how we make decisions as to when it is time to quit...accept and move on...be at peace with...quit.
"Quittin' Time" was a beer promoted by a convenience store. The advertising pictured hard working folks earning that six-pack to ease the day...a brew to move away from the stress and into the calm.
Strictly on the QT. Isn't that an old expression that means something like quiet tip? Probably a bit of gossip that was meant to be passed on but had to maintain the escape clause for the whisperer. And, as with most gossip, a way to promote self. Odd how so much of gossip is prefaced with, "Bless her heart, she just...." As if blessing her heart cleanses our spite.
"Quick Trip" stores still around? Might be the same a convenience store that sold the brew. Fill the tank, grab the milk, a pack of M & M's and maybe a lottery ticket and move on...in and out...get what is needed and out the door.
My favorite QT is quiet time...even if it does come in the dark and fracture that sleep. More often than not, quiet time is a time of balance and perspective. A ramble though all the reasons to justify quitting leads to the same destination. Don't. Don't quit. Don't quit on a relationship...or a project...or a belief...or whatever gritty bit of irritation is wearing at the moment. Little is accomplished by a quick trip or a premature quitting time. Nothing is accomplished by mean-spirited QT exchanges. Sorry to be corny, but the pearl only grows from the grit and irritation. And wasn't it Hemingway who used Aristotle's thought and wrote about healing to strength from the broken places?
I did not hear President Obama's remarks when told he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. It has been reported that the President said he was humbled by the honor and that he did not feel he deserved to be in the company of past recipients.
Prior to being elected president, Barack Obama's public record does not indicate anything that would place him in the company of Gandhi, Elie Wiesel, Mother Theresa or Dr. Martin Luther King.
President Obama has been in office for 10 months and his popularity in other countries is impressive. Working with a Democratic Congress has meant that rancor on domestic issues has been somewhat diminished. He has visited other countries, held countless gatherings in the United States and spoken about transparent government. Health care has been a priority and discussion regarding the 'wars' is a lead issue.
I admit that my knowledge of specific criteria for the prize is sketchy, but I have read a great deal on the lives and work of Elie Wiesel, Mother Theresa, Dr. King and Gandhi. From the work of these people, the criteria seems obvious.
The decision by the Nobel Committee is troubling. I would like to read both the stated criteria and nominating material as it followed the requirements.
Perhaps President Obama might consider declining the prize based on his own belief that he does not deserve to be in the company of others so honored. His presidency certainly has time and circumstance in which to earn the Nobel Peace Prize that will be awarded in four years.
And finally, these comments are not intended to diminish my respect for President Obama or my respect for the office of President of the United States. Rather, I write them hoping for understanding and balance when transparency seems so vital.
Each time I read about failing schools, drop-out rates and dumbed-down curricula I am usually reading a lament about the quality of teaching. No Child Left Behind was primarily directed into the schools, attempting to address many problems including functionally illiterate high school graduates. Though worthy in concept, NCLB addresses the problem at second-stage rather than source.
A recent email circulated a circa 1930 eighth grade graduation test. The email talked about the amazing depth of the testing and the fact that "only an eighth grade education" was not synonymous with under-educated. In fact, the email challenged college graduates to take and pass the test.
Elementary teachers interact with students approximately six hours a day for 185 days each year. Middle and high school teachers have far less one-to-one contact with individual students. Principals and counselors are expected to be behavior specialists fighting the daily disruptions that are crushing the educational process. In School Suspension is just one of the strange concepts developed to remove kids from the classroom while accepting that parents don't have time to step-up to the problem.
Of course, there are problems in our schools. My return to college when my children were in elementary school was prompted by witnessing the problems. I was determined to be part of the solution.
Teachers do not need a defense from me. Day after day, teachers return to the classroom. Most are determined to make a difference, to address the problems and educate our children. And the rewards certainly don't come in the form of high salaries. The rewards come because students are important and teaching is a way to be part of the solution.
Teachers cannot monitor nutrition, hours of sleep, quality of friendships, choice of heroes, time spent on video games, texting with friends, homework completion, hanging out at malls, forms of discipline, behavior expectations and television, music and movie choices.
Teacher definitely do not need a defense from me. What they do need is a new paradigm in which education is pushed higher up the scale of cultural values.
Eight kids, a mom and a dad, and two spouses. Six geographical cities represented. All part of an email experiment. In the past, I have sent group emails to my college kids, and then the ones that are married with kids get individual emails. The kids still at home get no emails unless it is to say, "I guess you are not planning on having a weekend.....unless/until that train wreck of a room of yours is cleaned up first. And we are going to use my definition of clean, not yours." Not too sure why this method of communicating got started, but this week, I decided to shake things up. One massive group email. If everyone hit "reply all", this would be a terrific way to keep in touch.
We got off to a stutter start. Claire got a little too excited telling me the story about how she had two people over for dinner the night before, cooked a nice roast, and after dinner decided it would be a good time to do the self-clean oven routine. Long story short, the oven caught on fire, because of the grease that was on the bottom of the oven because the aluminum pan she was using had a tear in it (she wondered why she didn't have many drippings for gravy.....) The fire department came (I never did hear what they had to do to put out the fire) because the highlight of the evening was that my three year old grandson Ben got to sit in the fire truck with a fireman hat on, turning the steering wheel from side to side, etc. He got an invitation to come by the station sometime. (Bet that's on the schedule for today!)
The upshot here is that within twelve hours, every one of my kids had responded. And not in a vacuum. Responded to what had been said by the other siblings....
This is a new phase.....and I am still adjusting. The house is not as full anymore. Not full of voices, not full of laundry, not full of the remnants of a kid-cooked meal of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese --- orange powder on the counter and little orange crescents in the sink. Now we stay in touch differently. But I guess the mom in this picture is a little bit transparent. Needing to hear from the nest of kids who grew up under this roof...needing a quick snapshot of what their lives look like at this moment in time.
My dad, the second child, was born October 12, 1910, ninety-nine years ago. Within a few months of his birth he was christened in the same delicate white batiste gown preciously worn by his first born sibling. In the late '30's and early 40's, my brothers, sisters and I each had our turn wearing the gown.
In 1959, my first born was baptized in the gown. My four other children were carried to church in this beautiful garment and my dad was lovingly pictured with each new baby. Sadly, Dad died before his great grandchildren were born, but a part of him accompanied them to church.
Five years ago, the little outfit was carefully laundered and ironed so that it could be taken to Poland for the baptism welcoming our newest grandson into the church family. Two years later, Dad was 'present' for another visit to the sacramental font. And now, on Saturday, October 10, our newest grandson will be baptized wearing this 100 year old treasure.
Today, as I ironed the gown, I was surprised by the emotional gift that overwhelmed...amazing. Daddy was with me. Mom, too. My five children... from babies to the wonderful adults they have become... My youngest three grandsons who have filled my retirement with such joy...
One hundred years of family...my heart truly does overflow with gratitude.
I watched Dr. Phil's show yesterday on teenage shenanigans. In the seventies, when I was a kid, shenanigans could be defined as chewing gum in the Catholic high school hallway, sneaking a cigarette in the parking lot during senior out-to-lunch days, passing notes right under Sister Mary Katherine's eyes, short-sheeting a summer camp mate's bed, or making ridiculous prank calls (pre-caller id) and inquiring whether the refrigerator is running. Giggles and a hang-up. Calls made after midnight earned triple daredevil points.
Today? Twelve and thirteen year old girls in the school bathroom taking pictures of themselves with their shirts off, and sending this picture to select boys. The statistic? A staggering 54% of girls in this age category have actually done this. WHY? Isn't this outrageous acting out? Are these kids so starved for attention, that this is the new normal? A result of Britney Spears as role model and "inadvertent" wardrobe malfunctions? Or is this putting into kids' hands technology they aren't ready for? I mean, really, what does a twelve year old need with a cell phone? Sitting in the carpool line at my daughter's middle school...there isn't a girl that comes out of the building without a cell phone. Every last one of them, doing the one-handed thumb thing, reading their messages, walking by all their friends, seemingly oblivious.
Talk? Nah. Texting trumps a real conversation any old day!
Compared to many newspaper accounts of road rage this, that I witnessed, could be called minor. But it wasn't. It was frightening because a person was so enraged by a relatively small happening.
Narrow country road, beautiful mid-day shadows shaping the curves-- Large SUV moving at 30 mph, the posted limit-- Tiny red car tailgating, seeming to herd the SUV, attempting to force more speed... SUV dropping a notch or two on the speedometer... Rear view mirrors 'lost' the red car as it came too close to be seen... Crossroad marked by a stop sign..too late and too little distance for the car to avoid 'bumping' the SUV... And it was bump, not a crash or even a hit...
Driver of the SUV angrily approached the driver of the car, raging... An apology came through the barely opened car window, driver cringing low in the seat..."I am sorry, so sorry...I am sorry...sorry...I am late for an important, Oh, I am so sorry."
"I don't give a d____ if you are sorry or not. You hit me. You have been tailgating me for over a mile. What is your name? Give me your name?"
Eventually, the name was given and the SUV driver returned to the vehicle and the incident was over.
But was it? What depth of anger exploded on that country road? Of course, tailgating is dangerous, but it did look as if the SUV was taunting by size and diminished speed. What need was soothed by shouting demands, all sense of civility gone? Bullying? With an automobile? Proving what?
Another wonderful group of women shared our book at the Basehor Library on October 5. Laura arranged the gathering, welcoming us with her beautiful smile.
As the women gathered, they talked among themselves, about neighbors, fellow church members and answered prayers, plus snippets of family-talk. The feeling generated was one of small town caring and sharing.
Before Patti, Jo Ann and I were introduced, Laura was thanked for all her community efforts, the outreach she managed through the library. Public words of appreciation for Laura were very important to these women. How great is that!
By now, the room was congenial, relaxed, accepting---and we were introduced. The two hours went very quickly as thoughtful questions and interesting comments came from the audience. Actually, it didn't feel like a situation of speakers-and-audience. Rather, we were ordinary women sharing ourselves through conversation, smiles, eye contact and laughter.
One of our expressed purposes in writing Four Ordinary Women was the fostering of woman-to-woman communication on as deep a level as the each situation permitted. Each of our author events has been blessed with women who shared this purpose.
Law of Logical Argument: Anything is possible if you don't know what you are talking about. Perfect! (And thanks, Tim.) I love this stuff. This is one of many extensions of Murphy's Law that makes perfect sense as it brings smiles and laugh-out-loud fun. And you know what? We rarely know what we are talking about---if 'knowing' means that we have all the facts. Bits and pieces do not a truth create. Too many personal filters (prejudices) and too many spin experts keep truth shadowed. The flip side of this one is the excitement of discovery and exploration---going forward when the end is not in sight...genuine risk taking. Good-bye gossip and hello authenticity.
We know that scene well. The feeling of helpless hopelessness...that awful realization that nothing can done...powerless. Reaching for comfort is needed. To sustain we have to find some wiggle room--a way to get out from under the pain. Sometimes, the comfort is food or drink...or both. Neither works. Both lead to a new guilt, but a guilt that is easier to handle than the one that triggered the pain. This new guilt is one that masks the hopelessness and one that we say we can control. We just need to stop.
While walking at the park I shamelessly eavesdrop whenever the conversation is close. Usually, there are just snippets because the see-saw of passing keeps contact to a minimum. It is nice to hear couples sharing their stories and parents laughing with the kids so I listen and we smile when they look my way.
Today was different. A young mother needed something...some comfort, some pain relief. And it was pretty obvious that food was her pill of choice. Dad and kids walked together, but several steps behind mom as she struggled to carry her weight. They seemed to be giving her space. When Dad and the kids laughed, Mom angrily shouted for them to keep up. One of the girls asked if they could stop on the bridge and look at the water. Mom's sigh was annoyed. She stopped dead-still, back to the family, foot tapping, and waited while they looked.
No way for me to make this my business. None. I could smile and say something inane..."beautiful day"...but it wasn't a beauty she could see. So I just said, "Hi. Cute kids. Nice day to be together in the park." And I moved down the path...helpless.
by Pat Antonopoulos The first chapter in our book is titled: Parenting: What I Learned From My Children. The lessons continue and the chapter should have said Learning From My Children.
Not all the lessons are ones I want to learn. Not all are the lessons that come with that joy of parenting. Not all are lessons that I will grasp the first time. Some lessons hurt enough to wish for yesterday's ignorance.
When a child is very young, we easily fix their hurts. Recently, my 2 1/2 year old grandson talked about burning his thumb on the stove. "I cried and Mommy held me til it was better. Mommy does that. Mommy makes me better."
Teen hurts go deeper and happen at a time when our children are struggling for independence and a stronger sense of self. Often, the teen pushes away and doesn't trust parents to make it better. Through their growing years we have worked to teach our teens the ways of independence but the lessons get garbled in peer pressure, hormones and cultural expectations.
Sharing the pain of adult children seems to go deepest into our layers of protection. Their adult pain feels raw, partially because a parent can be helpless to change the situation. We know our control is limited---or, most likely, non-existent, but still we want to hold until we make it better.
When an adult child seems to be saying that he understands that a parent's love and pride are not dependent on station in life or material success yet isolates himself as if the opposite were true, something is wrong...very wrong. When an adult child is experiencing something that he labels 'failure', the dark takes over. This helplessness is as unbearable as any pain.
A friend recently sent a card with this quote: "People can only see a little way down the road. But (A Higher Power) can see the whole trip." Wish I could get a peek at that map.
My daughter, Mary Morgan, a third year nursing student at Regis University, is currently doing her first rotation. The lead-up to this was two grueling years doing all the prerequisites to arrive on the doorstep of hard-won scrubs and a stethoscope around her neck. She is spending her first two weeks of rotation in a nursing home. I am frequently graced with her immediate response to what is going on at school, with her spur-of-the-moment cell phone calls as she walks back to her apartment, oftentimes breathless, with the sound of the weather, be it wind or rain, as a backdrop.
This afternoon she called to tell me about Elaine, her patient for the next two weeks. She and Elaine sat at a table this morning, eating breakfast with another student/patient duo. The other student was feeding her patient some baby food-like concoction. This woman couldn't talk, nor could she feed herself. A pause in the conversation, then Mary said, quietly and with a catch in her throat, that she looked over at the woman halfway through the meal, and she had a single tear running down her cheek. We talked about that...and I could hear the struggle in her voice. She talked of how this woman was someone's mother, someone's grandmother, someone's sister, maybe someone's spouse.
I got off the phone and prayed that she never, ever lose this sensitivity. That she never just considers a tear rolling down a wrinkled, well-worn cheek to just be part of the job. That sometimes, it's important to feel that empathy deeply enough that it hurts, that witnessing another's pain, be it physical or emotional, is a privilege and an honor and that she always hold that honor gently in her heart.
And with that, the sturdiness to weather whatever comes her way in the line of duty.
A caution, Gentle Reader...I ramble better than I edit. This qualifies as a ramble.
If I am fortunate enough to be attending a poetry reading, I am mesmerized and rush home to find my poetry books that disuse has pushed to the back of a shelf. Listening to poetry is symphony. Reading poetry is learning the scale, often taking several rereads to understand. The exception is receiving a poem or a bit of a poem sent because it has meaning to one of my sons. He discovers the beauty and depth---and I receive the gift.
The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, KCPT PBS, spotlighted a poet living and teaching in Wichita, Kansas. The poet invited the camera to record as he worked with ".59 pens and .99 spiral notebooks". The gentleman tagged himself a 'computer virgin', saying his finger has never touched a computer. His finished product was typed on what he called "an old fashioned typewriter. (Of course, I couldn't help thinking that The NewsHour and Mr. Lehrer should highlight Four Ordinary Women. We, too, have a unique story worthy of the spotlight.)
This took me back to a delightful meal conversation at House of Menuha. It has been several weeks so I will not trust my memory of names and methods, but our range of styles was as different as our personalities.
Some of us sharing that evening did write exclusively with computers, aching for the keys if responsibilities kept them away for too many hours. From concept to completion, the computer is the favorite tool of some writers.
My bedside table, my desk, the computer stand, a small counter top in the kitchen and even the microwave serve as file cabinets for my bits of thought scribbled and stacked.
Most writers used a combination of methods to reach the same goal and I am not clear on exactly why the gentleman poet distinguished between computer keys and typewriter keys. New tech and old fashioned tech produce a printed page. The end isn't dependent on the means.
As always, a rambler does eventually arrive at an end place, but the destination was not mapped. This is one of those times.... Enjoy this amazingly beautiful day.
Sometimes we forget. In the rush of errands, obligations and the stress that keeps us keyed to rush-mode, we forget. If we have a tendency towards the belief that the Pope isn't the sole owner of infallibility, we forget that disagreement isn't a call to temporary dismissal. If we haven't had much success lengthening that short fuse, we muddle reason with anger and prejudices. If we know people though the movie or TV screen we are duped into styles of communication that we profess to disallow in our homes. It is easy to forget that nice not only matters, but is what makes the day-to-day the gift that it is. An elderly clerk at the grocery manages a real smile even though retirement was interrupted by a broken financial promise. A stranger phones with a sincere compliment about a recent venture. A good friend comes to share the discomfort of an embarrassingly unsuccessful afternoon. Long ago associates offer advice regarding an unexpected problem. Close and trusted friends always---always---appreciate the smallest effort. Joggers and walkers nod and smile at each passing. The UPS guy still smiles after the trek up the long driveway that is too narrow for his truck. A local fire fighter waves grandparents into the drive and invites the 2 year old to 'operate' the pumper. Our postal clerk keeps a basket of suckers for the kids who share the line with parents or grandparents. These are not small things. These are individual markers of a universal. Nice happens.
A huge sand barge grinds upriver sucking muck from the bed and funneling it to side barges, balancing the immense weight. The north side of the river walk vibrates as the BNSF coal train slows for the Parkville crossing. Walled by water and rail, English Landing Park maintains the green comfort of a people place.
Families wait for a turn on the sand volley ball court, cheering for strangers and the good serve. Bicycles are for the 8 to 80 group, all helmeted and giving way to joggers. Dogs walk their people, straining to catch a whiff of other breeds pulling---wanting to run.
This evening the wind was wonderful pushing against forward motion. I love to walk in wind. It forces an awareness of every step, every effort. It makes me want to run. And I suspend the need for any sense of time---until the Park University music marks the 15 minute intervals. What a gift!
Monday morning, 8:00 AM, and only four in the pool. We barely made a blip on the usual echo that seems built into the walls of high school swimming pools.
For years, Bob has been the sole male in the group dutifully coming because he knows how much I relish the hour of cool water and self imposed solitude at the deeper end.
We rarely follow the instructor's shouted routine, instead swimming to whatever tempo fits the morning. When the group is large this is fine, but on Monday, we decided to stay with the instructor, laughing about finally getting the behavior disordered couple to join the group.
M., the lifeguard, climbed down from the tower-chair and pulled a lawn chair close to the pool's edge where we clustered to start the warm-up. M. is friendly with the uninhibited charm that grumps and smiles with equal intensity.
"So uh... you guys are like fun to watch...uh.. so how long you guys been married?" Who knew we were even being watched! Who knew that we would stutter over finding the right answer.
"Not long enough" and "Better ask her" were the first attempts. M. laughed at our confusion and didn't let up. "So...how long?"
"Well, we met in high school, lost track of one another and reconnected about 25 years ago...so I think we have been married close to 25 years, give or take." We all laughed at my attempt at numbering our time together.
"Nope. It will be 28 years the first of December. Maybe about December 3 or December 6...or close to that date." Bob had the years, but not the date, that we should celebrate.
We had a fun morning as the nonsense escalated and the hour ended with my promise that I would check the date and have the answer on Wednesday.
This isn't a senior moment or a brain fog story. It is just the way we have always been. The exact information is printed on a small card tucked in a drawer, should it ever be important to someone. Of course, we have checked it, made a mental note to remember and promptly forgotten again.
I think this means that the years ahead are more important than the years past--- and that the now is most important.
I had a teary, homesick phone call from one of my out-of-the-house kids the other day. This particular kid just graduated from Knox College last spring, and is now finding her way as a newly-launched adult in Chicago. She had an internship at The Vitalist Theatre that began in early June, and it is stuttering to the end as she wraps up assistant-stage-managing "The Night Season". The good news is that she has another internship at The Eclipse Theatre beginning in October, with a two week overlap with The Vitalist. This new job is a step up....she will be dropping the "assistant" prefix and stage-manage! It is during those two weeks that she will find out what she is made of, working two full-time jobs and putting a lot of miles on that rusted blue Schwinn.
As we talked through life's highs and lows.....the highs --- how the new job will be only a five mile bike ride from her apartment, instead of the six and a half miles she has been peddling. Inclement weather? Not to worry. The buses in Chicago are equipped with bike racks on the front! Also in the going-well column is that she has a third interview with North Face. A job that pays a real salary, instead of the paying-your-dues internships that are resume boosters and put very little food on the table! The lows include some boyfriend issues, a tangled web of decisions waiting to be made. She needs a backboard, and I am happy to fill that role, although I probably interjected my two cents more often than I should have. And she got quiet. And I kept saying, "What, Kathleen?" Wanting her to fill the silence so I knew how to proceed in the conversation. And she said, "Mom....I just need a weekend at home. I just need some time to talk at the end of your bed."
You know those times when you are in perfect synchronicity with someone else? How both of you know exactly what the other is thinking/feeling without any more words that that?
Some of the most important moments in our lives have happened with a kid perched on the bottom of our bed. Me at the pillow end, the kid in question at the bottom. Facing each other. The perfect combination of eye contact and closeness to make the rest of the world fall back. And all that matters is the two of us. Allowing the power of family, this kid of mine that I physically brought into this world after carting her around for nine months to emerge. Now she, at 23, still feels the pull to revisit that place where problems get solved, tears are okay, the Kleenex box between us. And whatever is wrong, while maybe not righted at that very moment, is more clearly understood just having shared it with someone who loves them so very much. Just putting words to the feelings in a safe place. There is something sacred about that.
At the end of the bed.....we've talked about broken friendships, promises and boyfriend splits. We've waxed poetic and shared fears, worries and hard-to-put-into-words disappointments. It's where Wood and I heard about first dates. And last dates. Where I heard every last detail about the Father-Daughter Dance at Bishop Miege where Wood Dickinson took three daughters to dance. Where we talked over where to go to college and where they got a speeding ticket. And why they missed their curfew....again. All of these conversations took place as the day wound down. When the harshness of the world outside our windows seemed to retreat a bit.
Yes, we've lost some sleep over those late night conversations. But I've gained so much more. This tradition made me a non-believer in bedtimes. Too rigid. I don't shoo my kids to bed. I welcome them to ours.....to sit a spell. It is, hands-down, one of the Dickinson Family's best traditions.
Some years ago, there was a movie or a TV program called "Up The Down Staircase". Never watched it but loved the title. Something, some force is pushing down yet going up is worth the contradiction. One of the natural world's 'up the down staircase' is the salmon, ready to spawn new life, fighting upstream currents and hungry bears. Don't see any hungry bears lurking about, but feel the pull of oppositional currents.
It has been so easy to share joyful moments of Four Ordinary Women with you, Gentle Reader. And there have been many---Keeler Women's Center, Rainy Day Books, Westwood Hills Book Club, Borders on Metcalf, Cedar Roe Library, House of Menuha--times of friendship, connection, gratitude and validation. But not all experiences surrounding the life of a new book have been completely positive. There is interesting work in discovering and handling the currents. Challenges are constant. And, of course, the negative makes the positive more important. Which makes those of you who participated in our author events very appreciated. Thank you.
"Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person." Back When We Were Grownups by Anne Tyler
Found this quote on one of my mini-mountains of paper---those scraps where I scribble bits and pieces of wisdom. Other scraps told me that I was thinking about evolution when I started clipping these bits together.
Evolution in the natural world created the perfect match of trumpet flower and hummingbird. The giraffes' size and neck allow the animal to eat what other animals can not reach. Adaptations of the physical world--adaptations that are 'finding voice' of survival.
Finding our emotional and spiritual voice is more difficult. Finding that voice is a level of self-direction, of becoming our own ideal. Matching behavior with the values we want to emulate is a daily challenge.
Our lives take us into places we had not imagined, with people we would not choose and in we ways we could not have predicted. The becoming can be a challenge. Our evolution can get bogged by the weight of circumstance.
Self-direction chosen by our will and our spirit can be supported by a circle of friends, enriching one another with strength of purpose and the courage of truth. Finding the group that nourishes where we hunger can help us become the right person---the person we choose to be.
I always know when something out of the ordinary has occurred. Not out-of-the-ordinary like my kids decide to clean up their rooms without me going through my hair-standing-on-end rant. The kind of out-of-the-ordinary like a connection has been made that far transcends hi-how-are-you. When that kind of connection happens, I lay awake and look at the ceiling. No amount of pillow-punching cures it. I just have to wait it out.
Last night I sat around the table, graced with the company of twelve women who at six o'clock were strangers, and by eight o'clock were ---- something more. The common denominator was a love of books. Curiousity about how Four Ordinary Women came to be. These women wanted to know how it happened. How we got all our feelings and experiences on paper.
Well, one piece of writing at a time. And four years of broken pencil lead, pink eraser debris and balled up paper. Yup, nothing glamorous about that process.
Around that table was a therapist, a woman who'd just had knee replacement, a woman from England, a young mom of three and B, that mom's mentor, who was just so enthusiastic and spunky and likable and then a woman who'd written her life story for her family.
Twelve of us. Sharing a meal. Sharing ourselves. Tentative at first, but then as the dynamic came together, more risks were taken. And that, that is the beginning. We all have a story to tell. Our journeys are far more the same than they are different.
Menuha is Hebrew for rest. House of Menuha expands the definition to purposeful rest. Last evening, September 23, Sister Annie welcomed twelve women to share the Menuha time and table. Many ages and life callings were represented as we shared the meal prepared by volunteers. Within the short two hours, we became connected on a purposeful level of rest and refreshment. Hearts did speak to one another. Generous women of conviction and caring supported one another in the atmosphere created by this house that purpose built. It was a privilege to be part of the group. www.menuha.org opens a door to gracious acceptance of our efforts to become authentic women.
If you, Gentle Reader, are a regular visitor to our blog, you know I can get mired in something that struggles in the beginning---and completely flounders at the end. That 'something' often lurks at the edge of my awareness for weeks as I try to sort the slots.
Communication is the 'how' when we want the 'why' of relationships. We care about another person and we want the best for that developing relationship. Communication is the 'how' of that growth.
Knee-jerk verbal put-downs directed at others and self deprecating whispers used against self have to be first cousins, if not blood.
Cannot imagine any relationship being improved by the quick tongue that blurts the negative. Even if the negative is directed at someone who is not present, the damage is real. We emotionally back away not wanting to be the recipient the next time a harsh remark is thrown. We learn to mistrust.
Where is the source of the belief that negative words should always be spoken? Why are we so quick to find fault?
Maybe (and this is a quarter's worth of home-spun) we carry that negative with us because it became part of us in an early formative time. Self-criticism gets awfully heavy and shame sours joy. Guilt suffocates and we cannot sustain it without relief so we morph guilt into anger. Trouble is that the anger is often very misdirected.
"Nana?" Conspiratorial whisper from a five year old. "Guess what, Nana? Pirates don't work on Halloween."
"Oh? Um. Busy on the high seas, are they? Well, what about Robin Hood? Or that Knight with all the tough-to-sew shine? Those guys do Halloween?"
"Nana? This is for real! I need to ask you something. Is it OK to ask you for something? Can you mail my scooter to Greenville. I NEED it so I can drive like Cruella when I wear my new costume."
Nana's no fool, right? I get it. Say no more.
Back story. Back story is now a buzz word for a simple way to fill the blanks. So a quick replay of July. Then four years old, Frank was continuously tearing up and down the driveway doing wheelies, near crashes and midair turns while shouting, "Puppies. Where are the puppies?'
Disney created this androgynous creature, Cruella DeVille---flying fur cape, coal black hair with one long white streak and the bony structure of a cloth draped skeleton. Her henchmen drove the Cruella-Mobile with the abandon of the guy who owns the insurance company.
If the sun did come up this morning, then Frank will not only get his new costume, but the Antonopoulos Delivery Mobile will make the 17 hour drive. What good is a costume without the vehicle for wheelies, near crashes and midair turns? I love being Nana.
I learned to knit in college. Sort of an earthy endeavor. Some people did sororities. I knit in overalls.
And I have been a knitter ever since. Oh, that doesn't mean that knitting is front and center. I alternate between compulsive knitting (in the bleachers at my daughter's volleyball tournaments, in airports, on the front porch) and knitting sabbaticals.
I'm not really an event-knitter. I gave that up a long time ago. Never could hit the Christmas/birthday deadlines, and I would get stressed out about that and suddenly the pressure to knit-on-demand took all the fun out of it. I didn't like getting up in the morning and finding "finish sleeves" on my to-do list, right next to "pick up dry cleaning".
Case in point. A Halloween sweater. Orange sweater, with triangle eyes, nose and toothless grin in black on the front. Yes, Mary Morgan was going to be the recipient of this sweater. Kid #5. What could be cuter on a first grader? Halloween came and went. We added three more kids. Life got in the way. The sweater sat, unfinished and neglected on the needles. Kid #8 blows by first and second grade. I find the first-grade-sized sweater in the closet. Still on the needles. Now the caboose is in third grade. It's September. We're in now-or-never mode. Only one problem. This first grade sized sweater is going to be a bit snug on third grade Margaret. Who cares? Where is it written that everything you wear has to be comfortable? Halloween morning dawns. We stuff her into the sweater ("we" because it was a two-man job) and off to school she goes. Mom of the Year, right? And I have to admit, I really liked the "Oh did you make that?" themed remarks on the sidewalk of the elementary school....
But I never knit when I am stressed. Just feels like too much relaxation when I am desperate for answers, solutions....it's hard to pace when you are knitting, unless you are okay with the ball of yarn following behind you on the floor.....
And as my friend Jane says, "So if your entire family shows up with new socks and sweaters, am I to assume that all is well at the Dickinson house?"
One of my sisters has detail memory that is beyond my understanding. Because she is 18 months younger than I, we lived the same day to day through our high school years. My high school memories are more smiles in the fog. Her memories are names, dates, lunch menus and who won what games during gym class. She can pull up conversation details from elementary school. And there I am, standing in that fog again, knowing how much I loved school but wondering if she and I attended on different planets.
Another sister and I went to daily Mass for many years. At this moment, I can experience the 'feeling' of the 6:00 A.M. walk to church, the time in childish prayer and the immersion in belief. Feeling is, again, what seems to matter most.
When my family gathers for holidays, there is that inevitable conversation peppered with 'remember when'---some laughter, some tears. Much of the picture isn't tucked away for me. The feelings are there and I can be overwhelmed not knowing exactly what triggered the quiet gasp.
Gatherings of retired teachers are huge store houses of what-we-should-have written-for-a-book moments. Again, the details...and I have over 25 years of feeling-storage. Often another person's words do bring up some specifics, but I usually have to work at finding them.
A friend speculated that I lived too much in the moment...that savoring the now kept me from holding the parts of the whole. This friend also said that I operated more emotionally than rationally so the rational details slipped away. Maybe...but I know I deeply miss what seems so elusive.
Alice went through the looking glass to find her alternate universe. "Eat this." "Drink this." Alice did.... and she became what she wasn't. Had Mr. Carroll lived today,he might have added, "Wear this." to further the transformation of Alice.
Architectural innovation gave us buildings of reflective glass so that when we peer inside, we see the outside. Discussion, two sides of the mirror, was once a way to make progress, but fails when winning the point trumps the learning. An absolute belief in one side of righteousness is more destructive than conscious lying to distort and win the claim to that righteousness. Just below our awareness, we have a twitch in our personalities for each friend and each situation...an adjustment in our reflection. There is wavering depth to the looking glass.
Funny --- it dawned on me this morning that the vernacular has changed at the Dickinson house.
It used to be that we had "the big kids" and "the little kids". I was taking "the big kids" to school, or taking "the little kids" to the pool. And now there are no little kids. (Although Margaret Dickinson will always be the "baby of eight".)
Now we have the "kids out of the house" (four of them), "the college kids" (two of them) and the kids at home (two of them). How did that happen? This is a common theme in my blogs. How did we go from diapers to curling irons in every bathroom? How did we go from strollers to jalopies with collision-only insurance? How did we go from subtraction worksheet homework, to math homework that requires a graphing calculator and paper to match? From baby teeth to retainers? From slip-'n-slides in the backyard to Outward Bound adventures far from home?
This week I was reminded of how much I like each stage. I watched my JV volleyball kid (okay, I do labels for my kids in the blogs because I know that you can't remember all the names of my kids!!!) play in a game. A goof up, and then a little "coaching" from the coach on the sidelines (I know that's a lot of "coaches" in one sentence, but I didn't want you to think that I coach from the sidelines --- not one of my vices) and then I could see her regroup. Suck it up, as the kids say. Shake it off. (This is the kid who used to be a bundle of tears on homeplate if she swung at the wrong time)
Andrew, freshman at UNL is taking a photojournalism class this semester. The assignment was to go take pictures of a person. Andrew told me he'd done the assignment but wasn't happy with it. Long story short, he decided at the last minute to redo the assignment and had an encounter with a homeless man. Take a look: www.adickinson.wordpress.com
And then there's Mary --- third year nursing student. She called with big news yesterday. She gave an enema to a dummy. (I couldn't make this stuff up) I didn't ask the details. This is the kid who still doesn't understand how funny she really is. (Years ago, my two high school kids would call for a ride home after cross country practice. Mary would answer the phone. Act like she was a Chinese carry-out restaurant with her version of a Chinese accent. The cross-country kids would say, "Mary --- GET MOM" and she would be asking "You want fried rice with that?" Every afternoon.)
Kathleen had an interview yesterday for a stage-managing job in Chicago. They called her. Good sign. She has been beating the sidewalks looking for work. Actually she has been pedaling the sidewalks on her trusty, rusty Schwinn. Her internship is up at the end of October. She has been diligent, unfailingly optimistic and determined. Some mighty fine qualities.
This weekend we are taking our first grandchild, Ben to the circus. He just turned three. So I will have my fix of half a dozen trips to the bathroom and sticky cotton candy fingers, and wonder in his eyes. Lucky me.....all ages and stages at once.
We moved to the area in 1964 and my children grew up a bike ride from Cedar Roe Library. Our "Four Ordinary Women" writing and support group began meeting at the library in 2001. Last evening, September 16, 2009, we were privileged to have an author event in the meeting room at Cedar Roe Library.
1964 to 2009---45 years of connection that shaped our lives.
The book signing was amazing. Library personnel were most gracious and attentive. The chairs were filled with a receptive audience who offered comments and questions.Friends and colleagues from years past came to share our evening.
Today is my 71st birthday and last evening at Cedar Roe was a very special gift. My sincere thanks to everyone who gave me this once-in-a-lifetime present of time, appreciation and validation. Happy Birthday to me.
Granted, the past is relegated to the unchangeable. No do-overs, no rewinds. Not even slightly erased, unless time does the dimming. Not obliterated, but unreachable. And the future? Try to control that bit of life and see how many times those lines blur into unplanned and unforeseen. So we are left with the moment. And I don't even know what that means. This second-to-minute that I am typing? Do I make this my 'moment'? But family is waiting for a meal. A nagging injury wants ice water and sympathy. The to-do list is longer in this moment than it was two moments ago. An unforeseen business situation looks insurmountable. So maybe the moment is really this day...this portion of what has been given to me to live and to love. Maybe the moment is a figment of my mind-set that isn't time related at all. Even though I am alone in this room, this house, I am surrounded by everyone who matters to me, by every experience that provided me with an understanding that challenge is not synonymous with discouragement. Maybe living in the moment actually means living in history...personal history, family history, the history of becoming. Now that makes for a most impressive moment.
Just back from a whirlwind weekend in Chicago. We left here early Saturday morning (still- dark-out kind of early!) --- Wood and I and a near-comatose Meghan. One tired girl from a week's worth of school and volleyball (And staying up too late on Friday night with her friends -- which began with a carload of kids to Chipotle -- all clutching $7.00 as they debarked in a fashion very reminiscent of the clown-car routine at the circus, and then back here to hang out)
We got to the airport and right off the bat we were going to be an hour late leaving Kansas City. Chicago was fogged in (I knew about the wind thing, but not the fog) Fortunately, one hour didn't turn into two, then three. We took off and landed, with just barely enough time to eat two small bags of peanuts (they gave me two, I didn't ask for seconds! Haha) and skim the airline magazine. (I did find an ad for an exercise machine that promised that you could use it for three minutes a day and it would be the same as using weights, cardio, etc. Hmmm. A little steep. $14,000. But you could rent it for 30 days....) I was even lucky enough that the man in front of me didn't feel compelled to slam his seat back and put his head in my lap. He kept his seat in the full upright position. (I have no idea what he did with his tray table)
Checked into the hotel, and took a cab over to Kathleen's apartment. She has a roommate. Adam. Really nice young man. Graduated from Knox in 2008 and works at The Vitalist with Kathleen. Those two ride their bikes together to the theatre each day. 12 miles round trip. Adam is a friend. A brother and sister kind of relationship. He cleans the bathroom and she handles the kitchen. Nice give and take.
Saw "The Night Season" that night. Kathleen's first professional theatre debut as Assistant Stage Manager. She exudes a love of her work. Passion for theatre, working to make the whole experience come off seamlessly. A proud mom moment. She has had a terrific first experience. A wonderful community to step into....and we got to take a snapshot glimpse into her new life....where she cooks, stores her bike, sits to read and oh yeah, "breaks a leg".
by Pat Antonopoulos Every day is a host of birthdays. Every day has celebrations. Our rituals bond our connections with our family, our friends, our communities and our world. We create the memories and forge the conduits that bless our lives.
For some celebrations, gifts are important and for others the gifts just don't matter. Food takes on a special kind of nourishment when we offer favorites as a way to acknowledge a birthday.
Banner, balloons and cards with just the right message make the ritual visible and the celebration brighter. Lighted candles honor the years just completed and blowing away the fire opens us to the coming year.
So...Happy Birthday to everyone and especially to my daughter-in-law and to the husband of a dear friend. September 14 is very special because it is the day you began the journey that has graced our lives.
The Senator from South Carolina broke decorum and angrily yells as the President of the United States. The message was personal, "You are a liar."
Past Presidents have had to tolerate Congressmen and Senators refusing to applaud and/or stand in respect. There have been some booing from the chamber.
Daniel Schorr and David Gergen are two favorite political analysts. Both men are historians and astute students of American politics. Both spoke on NPR today and mutually agreed that the outburst from the Senator from South Carolina crossed many lines. The Senator has apologized. He could not do otherwise.
To paraphrase Mr. Schorr, "There is no situation in American today where people do not hesitate to yell in anger, to shout in protest."
Balanced and fair, David Gergen did recall other moments of breach in the Chamber, but none so egregious.
And as is my habit, I want to pull this down from the women and men who represent the highest symbols of our country. I want to pull the core concept into our cities, our neighborhoods and our personal lives.
I have little doubt that the gentleman from South Carolina was overcome with his anger, that he momentarily lost his sense of time and place and that emotion won the moment.
Anger does triumph far to often. "She/he made me mad. I have been tolerant, but this is too much. In this situation, my anger trumps everything. I win."
We, too, experience the same brain-blocks as the Senator experienced. We react with more emotion than reason. We erode our culture with the belief that anger has a right to be expressed in any circumstance.
And, Gentle Reader, I sorting my own emotional jumble with the absolutely reasonable assumption that you have important insights...that you can help sort the authenticity of justified anger and the respectful expressions of that anger. You are very appreciated.
"Depression Hurts" Tag line of the pharmaceutical push to sell a drug. No argument. Depression is unbelievably destructive to every life touched by the ripple. No way in and no way out. Family and friends struggle to find the way into the damaged place that allowed depression to consume. The depressed loved one pulled in all the openings and disallows entry. A stand-off. In the old western stand-offs a fast moving horse and a rapid-fire-pistol-rescue were scripted. In the depression stand-off, rescue is a foreign concept to the depressed who refuses 'better living through chemistry" and scoffs at talk therapy. No argument--depression hurts.
There is that cliche visual of rays leaving the center...like a sun flash-opening the dark. Maybe the reverse is just as powerful. Maybe small and separate bits finally reach a place where illumination bursts into a powerful awareness.
Authenticity. Not "genuine article" authenticity as in name brand shoes, purses or whatever product commands the current highest market place dollar. But authenticity of what makes us individuals, what makes us genuinely who we are.
A few of the most recent rays opening the core have been the movie, The Soloist, a few hours at House of Menuha, a recent and fairly major set-back, a phone conversation with a stranger, a developing conflict that was both business and personal and a calming and insightful conversation with my oldest son.
Somehow these bits and pieces fit right into my personal weirdness of the week. And, even though I am writing this, I have no idea where it should go--- or how to find the last period for the last sentence. But I absolutely know it has to do with judging others and the measures by which we find them lacking. I absolutely know it has to do with a belief that a judgement has to reach both ways if it has claim to authenticity. A negative evaluation of another person just evaporates into vapor if we allow ourselves a pass on the same behaviors.
Saturday nights. The Dickinson's are creatures of habit. 4:00 Mass, then home to figure out what the teenagers have planned (never happens that we know that before Mass), get them where they're going, and then Wood and I head to the bookstore. One of two "big box" conglomerates. There we go through the front doors together, wander separately because our taste in books couldn't be more different, and then meet in the coffee shop.
Last night, I made a stop at the Information Desk. I wanted to find out where I could find that new, couldn't-put-it-down book called Four Ordinary Women. Haha. So I walked up to a young bespectacled twenty-something young man and said, "Would you check on the availability of a book for me?" "Of course." he says. "Ummm (I didn't want to look too sure of the title, lest I be discovered...Four Ordinary Women." He types that into his computer....."Oh, yes, by Pat Antonopoulos?" "Yes, that's the one." "Let's see....looks like I can order that for you." I clear my throat....I have absolutely no theatrical experience and none of this is coming naturally to me....."You don't carry it here?" "Ummm (now he's saying it...) No, I'm sorry. But it looks like the Zona Rosa store and the Plaza location have it in stock." So I look appropriately crestfallen, and wander away.
Is this the shameless self-promotion the publisher is talking about????
....my new favorite visual...can't you just feel the frustration as the sugar-ooze slides down the bark? Hammering away with nail-hard motivation and--OOPS-- Is that Simon and Garfunkle singing, "Slip-sliding away".
That, Gentle Readers, is my visual for my blogging.
You are there. You are reading our blog. The numbers tell me so. But where are your words? Where is our interaction?
When my genetic material got mushed in the baby blender, the 'funny' gene didn't happen. That, I gratefully and positively, leave with Patti. She IS funny. So we sort of balance. My brass mirrors and spoiled sports are spiffed up by her cars without wheels and her yellow vomo-catcher that the kids can smile about.
But I don't 'see' you, Gentle Readers. I miss you---even if I don't know you.
How can I learn from you, if you don't teach with your words. Tell me where I am wrong? What rings false? What rings true?
Want to share? I do. I want to read what you write...to know you through your written thoughts.
So how about it? How about nailing a message to the tree?
...for football. The huge business season has started...the hype, the hero-waving, the gladiator feel to the arena. Pre-season, tail-gating, scheduled games and the Super Bowl selling will continue until February. Athletics are trained, skilled and high dollar players in the economy that is Football.
Fans are pay-as-you-go and the TV remote is easy to use so there is no incursion. Participation is by choice.
At one time I did make the choice. I loved the high school Friday night games and cheered the Chiefs when Lennie Dawson quarterbacked in the 60's. A few years ago, we sat in the snow watching the Chiefs and the Lions at Arrowhead. Loved it!
What changed? Maybe a situation that was quickly relegated to old news. A story detailing the treatment of dogs has affected me deeply. We don't own a pet...haven't had a dog since my children were young. My adult children have dogs that are well cared for and genuinely loved.
I feel sick when I think about dog-fighting and about adult people cheering the vicious bites and the bloody pain. I feel sick and sad when I see the pictures of maimed animals and read about the torture.
And this horrible treatment of animals and football have melded. Because of the easy reparation and the quick forgiveness, I have lost any sense that football is a game. It is strictly business and the bottom line for business is a dollar line.
Wednesday night. Countdown to Meghan making her first solo drive from the driveway to school. All of two miles. Backpack. Check. Volleyball bag, complete with knee pads, shorts, t-shirt, Gatorade (strawberry) and shoes. Check. Lunch, turkey sandwich, three oreos, pretzels and a banana. Check. And ---- (drum roll here.....) the car keys. The car is in the driveway, aimed the right way to prevent any backing up into the house before the sun is up (not a way to start the day from a position of strength!) and all is at the ready.
After dinner on Solo-Driving-Eve she and her dad go out to check the car for gas (the last kid to drive the car was one of my college kids who is not known for keeping the tank topped off) and Wood shows her, just as a review, how to turn the headlights on.
The morning dawns. A quick bowl of Cheerios for Meghan, I hug her goodbye, following her out into the driveway so I can get the newspaper. I scoop it up, and head back down the driveway, fully prepared to jump sideways into the grass if she gets a little heavy-footed with the gas pedal, getting started. I joke with my kids all the time about getting "run over by a bus" when we talk about the time that I do not plan to spend in the nursing home....) And I listen. There is no purr of an engine (although this clunker hasn't purred in years..) There is no engine sound at all. She is sitting in the driver's seat, totally baffled. "The car won't start." I say, "Hmmm, maybe the battery is dead." And simultaneously, we say, "Ohhh no. We turned the lights on, but we didn't remember to turn the lights off."
A complete fizzle. Wood took her to school.
But this morning...she drove out of the driveway, grinning from ear to ear, hands at ten and two o'clock.
Kids are all back in school. This morning, I began my annual kitchen clean up. After a summer of kids making everything from homemade salsa, Kraft mac and cheese, frozen pizzas and fruit punch Crystal Light around the clock, let's just say that the kitchen needed a little work. Admittedly I am a little OCD about my kitchen. I don't like dried dishwasher gunk on my plates, cups or bowls because they haven't been put in the dishwasher correctly. I mean we've got a good quality dishwasher, but the kids think that means that any cooking utensil goes in the dishwasher without so much as a quick rinse in the sink.
As I cleaned cabinets and rearranged some things, I realized just how tired some of my kitchen things were. I mean, I still have two Revere Ware antiques...one a frying pan, the other a double boiler (but I only have the lid and the pot because I sent soup down the street to an elderly couple years ago and they never brought the middle part back. I sent the kids down once to ask for it, but they didn't seem to have any idea what my kids were talking about.....Note to self: Tupperware next time) I found a pathetic Rubbermaid strainer. It's sunshine yellow and somehow the little holes sort of melted together and only about 1/3 of the holes are capable of straining liquid. I threw that thing away. And promptly got online and ordered a 3-piece graduated stainless steel set from Williams and Sonoma. (I plan on cooking 30 more years to justify the cost!) Cloth pot holders. I wouldn't wash a car with them! Tattered, scorch marks, dingy. Into the trash. Ditto the kitchen towels. Ditto the corn-on-the-cob prongs. Rusted and unappetizing.
So the clean up has turned into a clean out.....three decades is long enough for the ragged, tattered, dated kitchen appliances/utensils/essentials to be expected to do their job.
Next purchase....a brand spanking new ice cream maker. The one we have is a wooden one, mostly dry-rotted, and you have to hand crank it. The most charming part, however, is that as you crank, the ice chips and rock salt spit all over the counter and floor. Rustic. Annoying.
Yup, this desperate housewife's kitchen needs some spiffing up.