This post appears on my other blog…a way, way, different beast.
I felt that it was a good post to share here as it represents a big leap in my ability to be brave and put myself out there. So, here it is:
Going Live…and Going Out on a Wire
This post appears on my other blog…a way, way, different beast.
I felt that it was a good post to share here as it represents a big leap in my ability to be brave and put myself out there. So, here it is:
Going Live…and Going Out on a Wire
The past few months have brought a lot of changes to our home. Some has resulted in relief, some in absolute chaos, and one in sad acceptance of how tenuous our grasp on life can be.
At the top of our stress list for the past fourteen months was having the paternal figure living with us. Assume that there is one person in the world whom you recall having seen a few times per year (and also assume that you and this person are polar opposites) and that person falls upon hard times and you are their only salvation. Not only does that person move in, but then blatantly disrespects the rules of the house and the lessons you are trying to instill in your kids. Yeah, it was that awesome.
The good news is, he’s gotten his own apartment now and our
peaceful semi-peaceful mojo has filled the house again.
In August I was faced with the traumatic reality that my forty-
*****th (number redacted to protect the vanity of the blogger) birthday was approaching. Each day seemed to bring another gray hair, another wrinkle and some other mortifying symptom of aging. On August 15, as I was wallowing in my own self-absorbed personal aging crisis, my grandmother passed away. I not only had my ass slammed to the proverbial mat, but I had to get back up, get in the car with my husband and drive to the mountains to find the parental units, my brother and my kids who were camping and couldn’t be reached by phone. Few things suck as bad as having to tell your mother that her mom has passed away and having to deliver your kids through their first experience with death.
The most recent change has brought another stressful situation to an end. Three years ago we enrolled our kids in a local charter school. We’d heard great things about it: kids learning Spanish & Latin in the third grade, playing in band in the fifth grade, reading classic literature and a focus on education. There were some draw-backs (shorter summers, school uniforms, etc) but the benefits of a classic education model seemed to outweigh them all. And so, we enrolled them. Right away our kids hated it. There was no support for kids coming in from schools with lower (née regular) expectations and our kids were missing some basic knowledge that their classmates possessed. They fell behind in a few subjects and struggled. It became apparent that nobody was interested in helping kids learn, they were expected to sink or swim, and our kids were sinking. Not only was the school failing them academically, there was no personal support, no interaction between teachers and students that would foster a pride in the school. Everyone, including parents, were expected to tow the line and never question the process. Yet we did. We questioned. And we finally found the answer at other schools. Our kids are now back in the public school system. In the first six school days, my middle schooler has gotten after-school help in math and band on four different days. My youngest is reading far better and all of them come home happy and do their homework without trouble. The stress level in our house has plummeted and we are finally optimistic about school.
All of the changes, the good and the bad, have forced us to evolve as a family and our evolution has been a joy.
This is what made me laugh the hardest all week, and it isn’t going to win me any “Mother of the Year” awards (and let’s be honest, that ship sailed long ago!).
The Middle and the Baby were engaged in a little after-dinner sparring match (we are all in martial arts, it’s what we do, we find joy in physically punishing each other, it’s our love language). The rules were set by me, or rather they developed as the battle went on. No elbows. No knees. No nut shots. Other than that, expect to get back what you give.
It was a truly amazing battle. They were throwing some stunning combinations, working on blocking and counter offensive moves. The Middle tried to restrain The Baby, who dropped his stance, broke the clench and kicked back as he stepped away. The kick landed squarely on the upper middle thigh of the The Middle. The Middle dropped to the floor (he’s our more dramatic child) hands lodged between his legs and began to roll on his back while telling his brother, “you’re not supposed to kick me in the nuts.” To which The Baby replied, “I didn’t kick you in the nuts, I kicked you in the labia!”
And that’s when I left the room, laughing uncontrollably and trying, through tears of laughter, to tell The Hubbin’ that he did a piss poor job of having “the talk” and he’d better get in there and explain to his sons that they cannot kick or be kicked in the labia. Those are just the simple rules of battle in our home
In general, when you mention going to the dentist, people recoil in horror. Most people react much as they would if being invited to an afternoon of listening to fingernails being scraped across a chalkboard or, maybe, water boarding.
I think that people really are missing the enjoyment that comes from dental work. No other stories can compare to ones involving a public mishap with a cotton filled mouth that still hasn’t regained sensation. It’s my opinion that the dentist is the source of more good laughs than any other professional.
The Baby is in afternoon Kindergarten and so our dental appointments have been scheduled together. Today, he sat in a chair next to me, reading a Superman story to me while my teeth were scrapped, poked, prodded and cleaned. When my cleaning was done, and while reveling in the minty freshness of the moment, I leaned toward the Baby and asked him, “How about a nice fresh kiss?” He recoiled in horror. The dental hygienist also became very quiet and the room filled with an awkward and heavy air. I’ll admit that my feelings were a little hurt that my youngest would not only refuse to kiss me in public (I already have a 12 year old who is denying me public affection) but would react with such disgust at the request. I was also indignant that the hygienist was avoiding eye contact and acting like I had committed some reprehensible act in demonstrating love for my child.
“Why won’t you give your mom a kiss?”
“I’ll give you a kiss,” he said, “but not a French kiss.”
And suddenly I realized how a simple unclear word had turned me from a loving mom into a sick predator. And I realized that their horror was justified.
It seems that more and more frequently I am faced with things that make me realize just how fast my youth has gotten away from me. Sure, there are the every day things that I recognize and acknowledge as being a part of my new, slightly aged being: laugh lines that linger, a metabolism that has slowed (to the pace of a damn slug!), aching joints and the realization that trampolines are my enemy (ask any woman who’s ever birthed a child).
Despite the physical deterioration though, I’ve maintained some illusion of youthfulness. I think it may have to do with my interests and zest for life. In my mind I am still a vibrant, exciting, fun-loving, adventurous, youthful girl.
And then, yesterday, something happened that brought that delusion to a crushing end. One of my best friend’s daughter–a little girl that I helped welcome into the world, who I helped to teach walk, who I baby sat and read stories to, and cuddled, and loved with every ounce of my being–turned 21 and I was stunned.
“How the hell could this happen?” I asked my husband. “How can she be 21?”
To which my husband responded, “You do realize that next week you’re going to be the mother of a teenager don’t you?”
And one more delusion went up in a thousand flames that burned with the heat of a thousand hells.
I am, by no means, a do-gooder. I try to be a good example to my kids and do the decent thing as much as possible but I honestly don’t seek out opportunities to help others or lessen someone’s burden. I’m not bragging about this, I just honestly feel so overwhelmed most of the time about the things going on in my own life that looking past my own storm clouds to offer shelter for another is difficult.
That said, when my friends or family really need us, we will do what it takes to help. We currently have three extra kids in our care (and their dog!) because their parents were suddenly transferred to Wyoming and everyone agreed it would suck for the kids to be yanked out of their school for the last five weeks of the year. Having six kids, aged 5-12 in one house takes some planning but it’s totally do-able and the kids…well, they are kids. They leave some clothes laying around the house, but they pick them up when you ask. They sometimes get too loud and rambunctious, but they quiet down or go outside when I ask. They are in bed by 8:30, in school from 7:30-3:00 and they help with chores any time my own kids are doing theirs. It really has been a nice experience.
In stark contrast is the other house guest situation we have going on. Over a year ago the paternal unit moved into our house. He didn’t really have any options. He was in poor health and, due to some problems with his documentation, had been deported from Ireland after having lived there for 18 years. He showed up on our doorstep with nothing but a back pack. Over a year later, and with his health much improved, he is still living with us and, seemingly in no hurry to leave. I know it seems cold to want your dad to move out but the fact is this isn’t someone who really was a “daddy” figure in my life. I visited him 1-2 times a year when I was a kid. He called me periodically. While he was out of the country he would email once every month or so and we saw him 5 times in 18 years. The bond isn’t strong and he’s always been more interested in being a disciplinarian than a father. He has lived alone for thirty years and has no awareness of what it’s like to be considerate of others. I spend as much time picking up after him as I do my kids and the three bonus kids. I follow him around the house turning off lights, radios and TVs that he’s left on, having to scrub silverware that he’s left with food on it during his late night feedings and driving him to this place and that. I’ve found that asking him to do/not do things results in zero change (very similar to my pre-teen!!). We can’t discipline or have a discussion with our children without him interfering and trying to be the disciplinarian. He’s made minimal effort to really get to know my kids, mostly he just wants to teach them about things that interests him (the historical relevance of Bangers & Mash isn’t as interesting to my kids as just eating it).
At 15 months our family is stressed and needing to return to our former family unit. Despite my having researched, taken him to AND requested the application for low income elderly housing he has made ZERO effort to complete and send in the application. There is a waiting list so my mind keeps adding that unknown time stamp to the already unknown date of when he’ll actually complete and submit the application.
It is beyond frustrating that a 5, 7 and 11 year old have made more effort to adapt to the rules of our home, have shown more appreciation for being here and have a more solid exit plan than a 64 year old man.
I’d love to be one of those cavalier people who swears they don’t make New Years Resolutions. I love the thought of living my life without being bound to the activities of modern society, not following the herd, rising above the convictions of mere mortals. Sadly, I am deeply entrenched in group-think on this one. The beginning of the year just seems to be the best place to make a resolution for change. There is an entire year ahead of you (which makes it SO easy to measure the timeline of your goals), the calendar is full of crisp, white boxes (in which you can write in your deadlines or accomplishments) and, well, everyone else is starting too!
This year my resolutions have come about after a detailed assessment of myself and a cold hard look at my life. In my real life I’m a nurse, and that’s what we do, we assess. It’s a little harder to turn those observations on yourself and to recognize what is so glaringly apparent when looking at others. In my assessment, things aren’t looking too good for the old girl. At 43 years of age I already know that it’s a matter of time before certain things start happening. Age related disease processes begin at ages much younger than I am now and only begin to show themselves in the later years. I’ve always convinced myself that I have good genetics so I have a little more lea way in my life. I can be in the sun more, don’t need to worry about what I eat or if I have one more cocktail. The thing is though, that as I’ve aged so have my relatives, and our health issues are becoming more apparent.
As a family, we really do ok. It isn’t that each of my elders has become debilitatingly sick with numerous age related illnesses. The problem is that for each of them that has ONE disease, I recognize that I am now at risk for every one of those diseases. There is the family member with diabetes, the one who had a stroke, the one with kidney disease, the one with Alzheimers, the one who had cancer, the one who had emphysema, the one with high blood pressure and the one who died of a heart attack. Now, at the advanced age of 43, I have a risk for each and everyone of those and it’s scary as all hell. That’s just the genetic round of Russian Roulette that I’m playing though. Once you factor in the damage I’ve done to myself (the sun, my eating & exercise habits, stress, weight, etc) you just have to sit in a corner, rocking and asking, “what the hell have I done to myself?”
And so, my friends, as to my New Years Resolution, it is simply this: do all I can to avoid an early and tragic death (oh, yeah, this is the desperation resolution!). To meet that goal I have to do all those things that end up on the typical resolution plan: more water, more exercise, more relaxation, less crappy food, less stress, less weight, less sunshine….Oh, yeah, and if I should die in a tragic car accident I want it known that I will be one pissed off poltergeist for having lived my last days on earth in such healthy depravity!
PS- please note, that my New Years Resolution did not start until January 6, so I do have a little bit of the rebel alive in me yet!
Christmas is over. The rubble has been shoved back under the tree until someone (though I’m not entirely sure who that someone is) takes the initiative to put the less fortunate and less loved gifts in their proper places. The tree is still decorated and standing, and honestly, there’s no real time line on that being taken care of either. The new year is just around the corner.
At the end of every year, I think we look back and look ahead. We weigh the accomplishments of the past year with the possibility that exists in the coming year. Personally, I wouldn’t rate 2013 as a year in which I have accomplished a lot. My big accomplishment of the current year is in having survived it. That really sucks to admit. I definitely had big plans for the year: I was going to get healthy, lose some weight, write like I never had before, blog regularly, spend more and better time with my kids, explore my spiritual inclinations. Guess what? I hardly accomplished any of that. At the end of the year I am feeling like a failure and like I have spent the entire year falling ever further behind in my work obligations, my personal interests, my personal and familial relationships and in my own personal and spiritual awareness.
I think that part of my issue is with the amount of time I have spent doing for others–one particular “other”, actually–which has left me overly stressed and without the energy or desire to do anything else. Couple that with the demands of my job and the business that comes with raising three boys and I feel completely empty. I do have a suspicion that part of my problem is that I haven’t made any time for me. How crazy is it that the one thing I seem to crave most (some sort of creative expression) is the first thing that goes when life becomes overwhelming? Why is it so much easier to pick up the tv remote than my computer when I have those few precious minutes at the end of the day? Maybe part of the problem is that, while I feel like I am drowning in these words that so desperately want to escape me, it may not be safe to give life to those words. There is a continuous battle between what I want to say–the thoughts I need to purge–and the realization of how damaging those words can be to others. And so, I soldier on. Walking the delicate balance that it takes to keep as much peace in my life as possible. Quietly absorbing the frustrations of others. All the while hoping the hope that “next year things will be better”.
I’ve been telling my husband (and myself) for months that I need a haircut. Now, generally, by the time I start talking about needing a haircut I’m really 1-2 months past the point that I really needed one. This morning I was trying to decide just how long ago I’d first mentioned the need for a haircut. It was about a week before we were leaving on our vacation, which would put it around June 19. Yeah, June, people. Four months ago! So, I decided that all else be damned, I was going to get my hairs did today.
I left the kids with strict instructions to start cleaning the “boy cave” or to call their loved ones and start saying their goodbyes, dropped the paternal unit off for his dialysis appointment, and headed to the hair salon.
An hour later I walked out with a freshly cut and styled “do” and was feeling on top of the world. About that time, as happens sometimes when I do something nice for myself, I started to think that I need to make more of an effort. I work from home and, quite honestly, spend most days looking like a bag lady. My sweat pants are “comfortably” worn, T-shirts perfectly thread bare and there is always a hair tie within 3 feet of where I am in the house. Even when I do put on makeup I don’t make much of an effort. So, when I got home I decided to go all out and do up my face. I loaded up on products guaranteed to reduce any signs of actual skin coloring and then set about to create the “smokey” eye look.
After taking some pics and sending one to The Hubbin’ (he says he was at a charity golf tourney!). I swear my eyelids started to feel fatigued around that time. And then they got itchy…and red. I removed all traces of makeup and before I’d left the bathroom they were swelling. The red, puffy itchy eyes is really a far less sexy look than I was going for. It seems that being a TomBoy is a little more realistic for me. Apparently my face can’t handle the demands of being a “girly girl”. But I do have this one photo to prove that just one time I really did make an effort
In doing a photo-a-day Twitter contest that was set up by Kelby Carr at TypeAParent.com I had a shocking realization. The assigned photo for the day is “Blog” so shoved aside my work computer (Dear employer, please note this really took just 2-3 minutes and I am dedicating the remaining 23 hours and 50 minutes of the day to my duties…with 7 minutes factored in for peeing) I fired up my own computer and logged on to my blog. Now, I know I haven’t been a busy blogger, however I was shocked at how long my blog has been neglected. You can see by the dust and cobwebs that a new post was far overdue…which is why this little gem is now out there in the universe. You’re welcome…
I love all of my children equally. Each of them has their own wonderful traits and aggravating behaviors that cause me to be amazed as they each grow into their own unique human beings.
That said, I do recognize that I’ve always been more consciously aware of things that happen with The Baby. I’ve spent the last 5 1/2 years exercising my erratic, ADD-addled brain to be more present and to take note of things. It isn’t because I love this boy any more than the rest. I think it is because I recognized this boy, and each milestone associated with him, are flames that will someday be diminished.
He is my last baby. I don’t know if I would have chosen that to be the case. I think I would have loved to try one more pregnancy in order to have a sibling closer to him in age. Maybe one more try for a daughter. The fact is, my body couldn’t tolerate another pregnancy. Hence, the decision was made.
So, I nuzzled against that little bald baby head a little longer and sniffed at his fresh baby skin, knowing that this would be my last baby.
I didn’t rush him to get out of diapers or to give up the sippy cup, because I knew that once the diapers and sippy cups were gone they wouldn’t be back.
I didn’t encourage him to walk early and I
am fairly certain am pretty sure I never kicked his legs out from under him as he learned to walk away from me. I only seared the image of those pudgy legs into my brain, knowing they would soon become the long, strong legs of an active boy.
Last year, when we found out that he had missed the cut-off date for kindergarten because he was born four days too late, I rejoiced. I got to keep my baby home with me for another year.
And, today it happened…and I fell apart. And I am so filled with pride and joy and heartbreak as my baby takes one more step.
It is Tuesday afternoon and my family is on the final leg of a very long summer adventure. We are hours from home and the spirits of the Middle have been lifted again.
Early yesterday morning, after waking up at 4 am to catch an early flight, our traveling
carnival group of seven boarded an American Airlines flight from Honolulu to LAX. As seems to happen more often these days, our group was seated in different rows. The Oldest & the Middle (who seem to have found a new appreciation for each other as traveling companions, if not as brothers) begged to sit together. As we landed in LA I reminded them to check for their belongings.
It wasn’t until and hour later, as our connecting flight to Las Vegas was getting ready to board, that the Middle realized he’d left his iPod in the seat back pocket. He began crying right away. It’s important to note that this iPod wasn’t a gift. The Middle saved his Christmas and birthday money until he could afford to buy it himself. He’s had it for a year, so he was 9 when he made this very special purchase. What upset him the most though, was that his vacation pictures were on his iPod.
I ran back to the gate we had arrived on and went to the agent desk. After standing there (and being blatantly ignored by a female agent) for six minutes, I asked another agent who was by the door, if the plane was the same one. I explained what had happened and told him which seat my son had been in. He let it be known that he didn’t want to help and that he had no interest. He essentially told me that it was our tough luck. The plane had been loaded and was set to return to Hawaii. After I begged he said he would check “in a minute”. He walked down the ramp, returned & told me it wasn’t there and “must have been cleaned out when they cleaned the plane”.
Late last night, still mulling over the lost iPod and with a nagging suspicion that the seat back hasn’t really been checked, I took a chance and turned to Twitter. American Airlines responded right away and requested the flight, seat and item information. An hour ago I was notified that the iPod has been found in Hawaii and arrangements have been made for its return (not to be bitter but, had the agent really checked for it this could have been wrapped up in LA and without a shipping charge).
Anyway, I am very grateful to both Twitter and American Airlines for making it possible to locate The Middle’s iPod so quickly. The boy has learned his lesson and will always check the seat back pocket on future flights. And he will have to forever live with the knowledge that his iPod has been to Hawaii more times than he has.
I was having lunch with a friend of mine recently. I hadn’t seen her in over a year and she is now ridiculously cute and pregnant. We were talking about her pregnancy complications, having spent some time on bed rest, and she mentioned that, because of her “advanced age” (she’s 35!) she was considered a high risk pregnancy to begin with. That got me thinking. If, at 35, a woman’s age is “advanced” where does that leave me? I’ve decided that there are certain things that I, at 42, am far too elderly to include in my activities.
1) Pregnancy. Ok, I know that women all over the world are having babies well into their 40’s. The fact is that I lack the bionic genetic mutation that makes that possible. Carrying The Baby wasn’t good for my body. I spent 4 1/2 months on bed rest and was in preeclampsia when I delivered. Not to mention, I seem incapable of giving birth to anything other than boys and if one more drop of testosterone enters this house pretty sure my testicles will drop
2) Flashing my boobs Oh, yeah. I’m not proud to admit it, but I’ve done it. The unfortunate effects of 42 years of gravitational pull and nursing three children have ensured that those days are far behind me.
3) Throwing my panties onstage. To be truthful, I never had the experience. I’ve been to so many concerts and was never really moved to drop trou and toss the undies onstage. Sadly, those days are behind me. First,it’s kind of pathetic to be doing in your 40’s and second, the band really doesn’t need to dodging such a massive ball of flying material.
4) Flirting with a cop to get out of a ticket. Again, been there, done that. At 40 it’s just pathetic and increases the likelihood of getting a ticket. I’ve found that playing the responsibility card is better. “I’m sorry officer, I thought my son was choking and I was trying to get to a place so that I could pull over quickly and do the Heimlich”.
5) Recreate the kitchen sex scene from 9 1/2 Weeks. First of all, at 40+ the floor is hard, people. It’s cold and hard and when you have three kids your ass sticks to the juice spots on the floor and you risk getting Fruity Pebbles up your hoo-hah.
6) Wear a baby doll dress, baby doll T-shirt or Daisy Dukes. No matter how nice of a body you have, unless you’re a teenager or a 20-something, you have no business wearing a baby doll dress, baby doll T-shirt or Daisy Dukes. Really. It’s just sad.
That’s my preliminary list. You can be assured that each of these has been crossed off of my “Things To Do” list…with a Sharpie! I’ll have to apologize to The Hubbin’ for crossing off #5, but really, I think he knows.
Yesterday afternoon I was listening to a talk radio program and one of the on-air personalities made a comment that I found to be very simplistic and, at the same time, inflammatory. So, I guess it’s time I stick my neck out there and get involved with some controversy.
First, let me say that I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican (and no, that doesn’t mean I am with the Tea Party, or any of the other smaller parties). I am simply an unaffiliated voter. So, how would I classify my political views and what has been my political influence? Well, I am the biological offspring of a Democrat and a Republican. There are two places in the world that I would consider Home: western Colorado and Portland, Oregon. Having spent most of my time in a small town I would say that I am more strongly influenced by my experiences here. And so, I would consider myself a conservative with liberal tendencies (though some of my very conservative friends might call me a liberal with conservative tendencies…either way). I prefer to vote according to the issues and what I personally feel is important, I don’t agree that any one political party or group of people know what is the best in every situation. Nor do I believe that politician’s really have the best interests of their constituency in mind.
So, back to the radio program that inspired me to forge ahead and put my beliefs out there for the world to pick apart. During this program the host and her guests or co-hosts were discussing the recent and sudden increase in suicide rates for males in their 30 and 40’s. One of the women stated (and this isn’t an exact quote as I was caught off guard by the comment), that this is what the “gun nuts” (that part would be a direct quote) don’t understand, that they just want more guns available without taking into consideration things like suicide. I find it appalling that she would make such an off hand remark. Suicide is a terrible epidemic and it is tragic that a person gets to such a desperate point that taking their own life seems to be the only answer. But, you can’t throw suicide into the pile of arguments being used in an attempt to further gun control measures. Removing and or controlling guns won’t stop suicide, there are far to many methods by which someone can accomplish it once they’ve made that decision.
One of the arguments they brought up is that there need to be checks, before a person is allowed to purchase a gun, that would identify people who are undergoing psychiatric treatment for depression (as well as other psychiatric diagnoses). The problem with this argument is that you would be allowing the government to access your private, health-related records, and impose limits on your civil liberties based on the information they find. That might seem like a perfect answer when dealing with people who are suicidal or have murderous intent, but those people can’t always be identified. And, where does this “profiling” stop? Do we allow a limit on the number of prescribed pain medications for a person who has been treated for depression? That would prevent an overdose, even if the intent doesn’t currently exist. Perhaps the government would then see fit to prohibit alcoholics from obtaining a driver’s license in an effort to reduce alcohol related automobile fatalities. What if you were diagnosed with a terminal illness? Could someone tell from your medical or psychiatric records if you were buying a weapon in order to commit suicide or simply because your grandfather had been an excellent marksman and you’d always wanted to learn to shoot as well?
I know, some of these examples seem to be ridiculous. “That would never happen,” you might chuckle to yourself, while shaking your head at my reactionary imaginings. The thing is, we never imagined that our right to bear arms would be infringed on either. Doesn’t it say, right there in the Second Amendment to our Constitution, that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed”?
Am I a “gun nut’? Well, I own guns. In my home there are a number of handguns and rifles. For the record, I am a responsible gun-owner. My weapons are kept in a safe so that my children can’t play with them. I do own guns that have been described as (and no, they are not created, marketed or purchased as) “assault rifles”. Do I need these guns? At this time I don’t have a need for them. I am not even a hunter (and, for the record, our right to bear arms isn’t a right to bear arms in order to hunt!). So, why do I have them? Well, I enjoy going out with my family to shoot. We are taking the opportunity to teach our children to have a healthy respect for and understanding of guns. Typically, when we go shooting, it involves several generations and/or extended family and friends getting together and bonding over a shared interest. Sometimes we shoot at targets and sometimes we just shoot the shit out of some cans. And, it’s fun!
In addition to target shooting we have guns for self-defense. While we aren’t exactly Doomsday Preppers, we are fully capable of defending our home and children at any time. If we needed to hunt for food, and I know people who fell on hard times and were only able to feed their families because of the meat they hunted themselves, we could do that as well.
So, yes, I have guns, but I don’t think of myself as a “gun nut”. I cried for days after Sandy Hook, and every time I see a picture of one of those beautiful people who’s lives were taken. But, I firmly believe that the change that needs to come in order to reduce gun violence and suicide is a change in our mental health system. We need to be able to offer more acute intervention and long-term support to people who are struggling with mental health crises. I wish that more people would focus on the mental health crisis in the world than on weapons. Guns are really just a tool, and we are instilling a false sense of security in our population by enacting restrictions on this one tool when there are so many others that will take its place. We need to get to the root of the problem: our broken mental health care system.
I don’t claim to have exceptional children. They aren’t well-behaved, they only stretch their vocabulary when it comes to learning prison vernacular and they don’t seem motivated to succeed (even if its only to prove me wrong).
The Middle seems to have a particular penchant for trouble-making. Yesterday I received two calls from the Dean of Students about his behavior. The first is related to a bit of black market trading that happened on the playground. Apparently, the Middle enacted a repossession clause. Any items traded from The Middle to Student A are apparently open to being repossessed if left unattended, say in Student A’s desk. The Student and teacher disagreed and he was taken in for stealing. As it turns out, the object in question wasn’t even his but had been lifted from his little brother.
The second incident happened during class. The Middle, and his classmates, were looking up word definitions in the dictionary. The boy came across the word “Penis”. I really don’t need to explain that any further do I?
While you might think that being sent to the Dean’s office twice in one day is terrible for (oh, did I mention this?) a fourth grader, that didn’t even tie the record. In the third grade he went to the office three times in one day! The last trip was because he got in trouble in the halls on the way back to class after his second trip. (You see? This is the kind of crap I’m living with!)
You can imagine my surprise this evening when I checked my email to find a letter from his math teacher announcing that not only has he been moved to the next math level but she wants to test him to see if he can move to one beyond that.
It seems he is an evil genius (and, some may say, a chip off the old block).
I’m generally pretty amazed by some of the things The Baby comes up with. During his five and a half years on earth he’s proven to be a pretty unique person. Oh, he has his “follower” moments. Case in point, just last night he came into the house crying. He told me he needed a glass of water to take outside because he was going to need to “wash something down”. I,
reluctantly quickly paused my television show to ask some very pointed questions about why he’s crying and what he’s planning to “wash down”. He cried, “The Middle swallowed the thorn off the bush & now I have to do it too”. He was pretty adamant that, “a bet is a bet”. I assured him that his brother is full of crap, not thorns, and that he had no reason to eat one himself.
Aside from things like that, though, he’s his own person. That is very clear today as he has been up since 6 am waiting for his dentist appointment. While other kids have to be dragged and drugged in order to assure proper dental hygiene. My kid was dressed and ready for his 11:00 appointment by 6:15!
Several years ago, when I was dating The Hubbin’, we took a little road trip. While the rest of the Spring Breakers headed south to tropical locations like Mexico and Florida, we took a decidedly different route and headed to Vancouver, BC.
After a brief stop-over in Portland to spend the night with family, we hit the road again. As we merged from NE Halsey onto NE Weidler a forrest green car pulled up along the passenger side and the driver began to urgently motion for me to roll down the window. My mind raced with all the possibilities that would cause the degree of urgency he was showing. I was 98.9% sure that there wasn’t a dog tied to our bumper as we hadn’t brought a dog (still, only 98.9% sure). I imagined some part of The Hubbin’s car must have fallen off and was now lying in the road. It was a relief when I rolled down the window and Oregon Dude, as he’s come to be known, waved and yelled, “Welcome to Oregon!”, before driving off. (Yeah, that’s not where we thought the story was going either!)
All these years later that one moment has stuck with me and has been passed on. To this day every time I see a car with an Oregon license plate I welcome them to Colorado–or New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho, Texas, anywhere really that I happen to be–with the same enthusiasm with which Oregon Dude welcomed us. And so, dear people, if you happen to be driving through (insert any state here, I travel for work so this could happen anywhere!) and some crazy lady, acting on behalf of (whichever state you happen to be in) just wave and keep in mind that she might just be passing on the love!
So, just to catch you all up on the craziness of the past few weeks…
After the dreaded call that my dad was missing things were crazy for a few days, calmed a bit, then got bat-shit crazy again. Here’s how it all shook out:
The original call came on a Saturday. The Guardì called from Dublin to tell me that my father had been reported missing. He’d gone to Liverpool, England and was due to return on Tuesday, the 19th. They confirmed that he’d been in the return flight to Dublin but nobody seemed to have seen him since then. The hospitals were contacted several times, the US Embassy was involved, I was making arrangements to get an emergency passport as mine expired two years ago. Monday I got a call from the Gaurdì. Upon entering Dublin, my father was found to not have his work permit in order and was deported to Boston. We breathed a sigh of relief, knowing, at least, that he was alive in the US somewhere. He hasn’t phoned, but that wasn’t surprising as he rarely phones & I assumed he didn’t even have our number with him since he hasn’t expected to be in the US. Friday night he showed up on my doorstep, obviously sick. And filled us in on the past few days.
While in Boston, with nothing but the clothes on his back and arriving in the middle of one of the worst winter storms all year, he withdrew the $300/day allowed by his bank card until he could book a flight back to the UK. Upon arrival he was denied entry (surprising for someone who’d JUST BEEN DEPORTED!!!!) and was going to be sent back to Boston. He refused to go to Boston because of the weather conditions & his lack of adequate clothing. He was kindly deported to Miami this time. After spending two days in Miami, he caught a Greyhound bus to western Colorado and a taxi to my doorstep.
He was noticeably sick, I’ve honestly seen more color on the recently deceased. I let him rest Saturday & took him to the ER Sunday. In a week and a half he’s had several blood transfusions, one kidney removed and is now learning the lingo of a dialysis patient. All of his assets and records are in Dublin. He has no insurance, no income and mo doctor, so we’ll have to figure some things out. But he does have a very nice room with new linen and a new bed to retire to once he leaves the hospital. Eventually he’ll look back at this time and wonder which was the worse turn of events: renal disease or living with his grand kids
There exists in the world a distinct period of time. You don’t really notice it while you’re in it, it’s more easily recognized after it has passed. In hindsight you will look back at that period and remember the carefree way with which you’d gone about your days. Maybe you’ll look back with regret at how thoroughly engrossed you were with your own life and the time that had passed since you’d last reached out to others. But, while you’re in that period of time, oblivious about what’s to come, things seem ok.
And then you get the call that your dad is missing. Not just missing now, but missing for four days. Now, your answering questions over the phone to the authorities in another country. “When did you last hear from him?” It’s been several weeks, which is normal for us. “Was he in good health?” No. I wouldn’t say he’s been in good health.
And now I wait. Thousands of miles away. With nothing to do but wonder why I didn’t reach out more frequently and if that last email was really the last words I’ll ever hear from my father.
As a parent I’ve done one thing right over the past year. Well, maybe there were…well, there was the time when…wait, no…yeah, just the one thing.
Anyway, I did one thing right. We were faced with an upheaval with regards to the kids’ school. One was going to be going to middle school, one going into the fourth grade and, after five years at the same school, we were told that our kids wouldn’t be allowed school of choice. Both boys would have to go to a new school.
Since we live very close to the local charter school we took a chance, filled out a mountain of paperwork and got The Oldest and The Middle onto the waiting list (numbers 20 and 21 respectively). A couple of months later we got the call that they were in.
Right away I was impressed with the advanced curriculum. My kids were both learning Latin and Spanish in addition to the other core classes. Having taken quite a bit of Spanish myself during college, I was excited for the chance to share this new language with them. My mind was in constant motion trying to remember what I had learned so many years ago. Not just the nouns and sentence structure, but how to conjugate verb forms.
I began to realize that there are certain words and phrases that are easily recalled and others that I struggle with. It makes me think a lot about the science of memory. Why do we remember some things so much easier than others? Is it that I learned and remembered certain things because they were so important to me at the time? Did I recognize these words as fundamental to my future survival and lock them away in a special file for easy retrieval? Or, is it because of the importance these things hold in my life now? Did I search more deeply through my files to retrieve them because they are fundamental to my survival now?
Either way, it’s troubling. The fact is, based on my current understanding of, and ability to use, the Spanish language I can order food, cocktails and find a bathroom in any Spanish-speaking nation (not only can I order a beer, wine or vodka in Spanish, it seems I’ve retained the ability to do so in sign language as well).
Even more disturbing is the fact that I can clearly instruct someone “take off all your clothes” (I’m sure there’s a story there and you can be sure I won’t be sharing it).
The fact is that all of my imagined bonding with my children over a new language isn’t shaping up the way it was supposed to. There won’t be any leisurely afternoons spent talking about our gringo family members behind their backs. No long conversations about Bless Me Última after we’ve all read it (in Spanish, of course). My kids will be just like me, using every bit of Spanish they know to order enchiladas a là diablo and una cerveza at a dive just outside of Cancún. Oh, and ordering people to take off their clothes.
That’s the whole apple & the tree thing at work (or: la manzana y el árbol)