Divorcing My Kid

I was once like you are now
And I know that it’s not easy
To be calm when you’ve found
Something going on
But take your time, think a lot
Think of everything you’ve got
For you will still be here tomorrow
But your dreams may not~ Cat Stevens, 1970

I have three older children. One is a freelance writer. I know more about why dogs chase their tails and how to choose the right asphalt than I really needed to. Fortunately, I love to learn and each one of the topics sends me down another road. The chances of boredom in this field is pretty slim.

Child number two is almost through the 1 year probation for his job. He’s come so far in that year. Not only did he start as the pandemic hit, he had to work from home starting with day one. This job gives him many opportunities to excel and enjoy. The first major project assigned to him is almost to fruition. One day soon, I hope he can get out and meet people instead of just going from home to work and back again.

Child number three opted to become a zookeeper. That’s all I know. A year ago, she cut me out of her life. We used to go on trips together, concerts, etc. If it sounded good, we went. I guess I was trying to make up for not being able-bodied for the last two years she was home before college. I’ll never know. I received one email telling me to leave her alone. That missive arrived the night before I had a major surgery.

So, this is the divorce. Her pictures are on the wall because I can’t bring myself to put them away. I’ve sent the final note that she’s always welcome, but I have to move on. I catch her out of the corner of me eye sometimes. Her voice comes back on snowy days. I hope she’s happy and healthy. I hope her dreams come true. Just like most parents, I hope she finds her happiness. I wish you peace, love, and hope as you navigate the waters of life.

Don’t take anything for granted. Last year proved that the human race is far from being in the driver’s seat. I always thought my little family would be around to share traditions and start new ones. We never know what is around the corner waiting for us.Stay the course even if it hurts.

A Mother’s Love

“And he said, “Let me tell you a secret, about a father’s love
A secret that my daddy said was just between us
He said daddies don’t just love their children every now and then
It’s a love without end, amen, it’s a love without end, amen”- George Strait

I hadn’t heard this song in quite a long time. It popped up on the music service I use under the music list of “Time Capsule.” Tucked between “99 Luft Balloons” and “Pink Houses,” there was a song recorded in 1990 that knocked me down. Substitute “Mother’s love” in the lyrics and that sums it up.

Those tiny humans grew up. Sports, Band, Speech and Debate, Robotics, and Scouts consumed entire years of our lives. My life as a mother was all boxed up with my kids’ activities. I’ve asked adults I know from that time if I was what is now called a helicopter parent. Overwhelmingly, the answer was no. Many of them said I was just a big kid as I planned and participated in their activities.

Now, they are adults. One I see daily. One lives out of state and COVID-19 changed things, but we talk at least weekly. The last one, well, I don’t know much. Literally everyone says to give it time. It’s been over a year, with the exception of 24 hours in August, since I was cut from her life. There’s a puzzle piece she holds that fits right in my heart. I literally have no idea why she did what she did.

But, I want her to know that I will always be here. I wish she would contact me. And that she knows it’s a love without end, Amen.

Being Human

And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time
‘Til touchdown brings me ’round again to find
I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh, no, no, no
I’m a rocket man
~ Sir Elton John

Feeling grief is probably one of the most human things we do. It’s a strange feeling that you may not recognize until the moment has passed. Grief may linger or shoot through your life like a rocket. Either way, grief leaves its mark.

People grieve over different things. Last week, some people were grieving over money lost on the GameStop run. There are television commercials, such as the one where a young woman is grieving her car “Brad” in an insurance commercial. A lot of people grieve material things, even briefly such as when the last cookie is eaten.

No one can tell another how to grieve or what to grieve. It’s an intensely personal process. I feel like 2020 was one big grieving moment for the world. People died. Livelihoods crumpled. In the United States, the whole political process gave us plenty to grieve. Around the globe, there is now a line dividing life before and after COVID. If you don’t feel some grief over 2020, I would be surprised because of all the activities of life that are still impacted by a virus.

Me, well, I have an odd way of compartmentalizing grief. It’s kind of like a ranking system. Sure, when my last coconut-caramel cookie is eaten I grieve. It’s different than other types of grief for me because I know I’ll be able to replace that cookie next year.

My first service dog passed two years ago. I’m still very much in the grieving process. One of my friends had to euthanize her first service dog last week. She is grieving by posting pictures on her social media. Every time I see one, I grieve for both of us.

I also grieve relationships. I once thought that family was forever and we’d always have each others’ backs. For almost a year I have been grieving the realization that that is a line from a television show. Reality is much harsher.

I am already grieving some changes that I know are coming. I’ve started to fill the sandbags I’ll need to hold back the flood of tears to come. At first, I thought this was fear. Then I realized that it was a slow creeping up of grief. This is profound grief. Life-changing grief.

So, what can we do? That depends on your world view. The Greeks used the word agape to describe unconditional love. Perhaps if we share more agape, we can heal some of the grief. Think how much relief we could feel if we lived with agape as our guide. I’m not a philosopher, but I think I’d feel pretty good receiving love right now.

New Year

It’s January 10. I made it a whopping 10 days. Like many, I’m still doing one step at a time. Some people can do a day at a time. Others can do a week at a time. I’m sure there are others who do more. Each person moves at their own pace. I’ve always told people that as long as you are moving forward, you’re successful.

Sometimes I’ve felt like a fraud. I’ve pasted on the smile (you know the one). I’ve talked the talk and walked the walk, even though it’s not real. Why do we teach our kids about “white lies?” Because life has taught us that we will get kicked around. We will be lied about. We will tell those “white lies.”

I lived most of my adult life trying to be what is now called authentic. I’ve also lived it trying to be “real.” Since I decided 2021 would be a year of reflection, here’s today’s reflection: I am enough.

Five Years

I abandoned my blog five years ago. I got a job working with incarcerated youth. I was able to teach again. Teaching really is my first passion. Some of the residents wanted their GED and worked their tails off to earn the degree. Some did it so they could parole. Some told me it beat sitting in school. The last group did it because they were told to by the powers in charge of their lives.

I loved that job. Sure, it was challenging. I had to figure out how to reach each student individually. These kids came from such diverse backgrounds that a lot of flexibility was required. I also had to put aside preconceived notions and my feelings about crimes. I worked with students charged with drug dealing, students on weapons charges, students on sex offense charges, and occasionally students with murder charges, I’m sure there was a myriad of other charges I was not aware of, Yet, these were young adults who were being given a chance to change.

So, I taught, It’s what I do. Slow, fast, patiently, or firmly, I taught. Because that’s what teachers do. We teach. Teaching is a calling. If you think it’s just a profession, you don’t understand. I’ve been a licensed teacher since 2007. I’ve actually been teaching since 1986. I taught afterschool enrichment. I taught Deaf community members how to get the help they needed. I shared knowledge with my Girl and Boy Scout Troops. I taught others how to do certification procedures. I taught.

Recently I received a text from a former Girl Scout. She told me that the time she spent with me showed her how to spread the seeds of knowledge, She thanked me for not giving up. She thanked me for giving of myself. I really needed to hear her words that day. I occasionally hear bits and pieces about other youth I have spent time with. Each moment is tucked away safely.

The greatest gifts I have ever received were thank yous. If you have the opportunity to say thank you to a teacher, please do. That is the fuel that keeps us going.

Peace.

Yeah, 22

Middle turns 22 today. It’s the second year he hasn’t been home for me to do the traditional birthday celebration. Sending a cake would be very messy. Convincing his roommate to string up balloons and banners would be hard. So a box of goodies went in the mail.

I want to say how proud I am of Middle. He is working in a small field of study. No easy routes to success. Hard work followed by more hard work. It’s funny when we try to talk about what he’s doing since the topic is so far outside of my understanding. He still laughs at my attempts to understand. A good thing, I guess.

Today I hope he looks back and sees how far he’s come. I hope he hears all of us cheering him on. It’s not been an easy or perfect path, but it is his path. And I’m really proud of him.

Social Cues

I think we all struggle with this. The situations are never cut and dried, so a template is useless. But we can learn from each other. We can learn through experience. It may not be fun, but it is possible.

I find that reading body language gives me mixed results. Is someone mad at me or restless when they have their arms crossed? Are they laughing with me or at me? Did it suddenly go quiet? Was it something I said or did?

Here’s what I have learned. Stop thinking YOU did something. It sets off a negative cycle that can end up in a really awkward place. Instead, move the conversation forward or excuse yourself (oh, hey, I see Frank over there!). Don’t dwell on it. There’s plenty of time while you are trying to fall asleep.

 

 

Generalization

I’m tutoring now. One of The concepts in Language Arts is Generalization. I teach my students that generalization is not something they should resort to unless they are 100% certain that what they say/believe is 100% accurate.

Since it is almost impossible to say anything that holds 100% accuracy, generalization should rarely come into play. But what about when you have the same experience over and over? While it may not happen every time, it still seems to keep happening.

My brain keeps telling me it’s my fault. I’m doing something wrong. I made a bad decision. My friends and family are quick to point out that the only “bad” decision I’ve made is to keep falling for it.

And so, because of a few, I’m changing. I’m not going to keep falling for “it.” In my case, “it” are people who consistently take advantage of my generosity. You see, I’m a firm believer in pay it forward, karma and all the good things in the world. Lately, I’ve been getting blindsided by people who are not on the same page. They take and then expect more. Nary a thank you in sight. I’m not talking buying a friend some lunch. I literally let someone take a 7-week vacation from their responsibilities. They lived in my home, ate my food and asked me to drive them places (no, they didn’t have a car). They criticized me and made it so my family avoided coming home each evening. Today I spent 2 hours “cleaning” what was supposedly already clean (and my standards are basic sanitary, not white glove).

So, I am done with people like this. I am generalizing that people who don’t say please and thank you are not on the same page and don’t deserve to enter my life. There it is…100% of people who take and take without saying thank you aren’t worth my time. I feel a social media cleanse coming on.

Sometimes, you just have to generalize to understand something.

 

Erased

Something happened today. It wasn’t earth-shattering. But it did help me understand more of the current conversation around having disabilities “erased” by the media and society.

I was in a public location. I found the two-stall restroom…one for disabled individuals, one for non-disabled  individuals. Both were occupied and one person was in line in front of me.

I had my service dog with me. I was toting my backpack with my IV medication in it. The people in the bathroom had just come from a meeting we were all attending.

The disabled stall became available. The person in line in front of me took it, leaving me the other stall. The one that wouldn’t fit both my service dog and me. One that I had to put my backpack in my lap just to use the toilet.

I put my dog into a stay just outside the stall. The non-disabled individual started talking loudly about the dog being loose in the bathroom. All I’m trying to do is take care of business.

Later, in the meeting room, our eyes met. There was no apology. Just a sort of condemnation in her eyes.

She could have waited the 20 seconds and taken the other stall. I guess I could have waited the two minutes to use the disabled stall. But….I really feel she should have been the one waiting. Courtesy. Giving the disabled person the space to take care of business would have been the right thing to do.

For those who take the time to read this, and don’t “need” to use the disabled stall, please consider who else may be waiting. Sure, everyone would like the stalls to be larger. Some of us NEED the larger stalls. Be courteous. Thank you.

The Naughty Porcupine

Editor’s note: This is a true story. No allegory intended.

Youngest took a summer internship at our local zoo. It’s been two weeks and every day we learn more about the animals she is responsible for supervising. Today, even though giraffes and lions are her assigned area, she was helping out in the American porcupine exhibit.

One of the porcupines (there are 2) recently had surgery and is on “vet watch.” This entails a keeper having eyes on the porcupine all day long. It turns out that this particular porcupine likes to stick his paws in crevices.  And he gets stuck…alot. Her job was to get him unstuck.

The porcupine also enjoys climbing trees like a sloth instead of like a porcupine. He gets stuck about three feet off the ground. The keeper is supposed to go tap on his claws to remind him to move. Hold that thought….

As Youngest is sitting in the rain, making sure the porcupine doesn’t get stuck, a zoo patron comments to his young son about  the “intern in the wild.” Youngest wears a shirt that boldly states “INTERN” across the back. Another patron comes by and asks her if she’s worried about “being shot” by quills. Youngest, in her nicest voice, informs the patron that according to the information sign RIGHT THERE, porcupines do not actually shoot quills. Besides, she has heavy-duty work gloves just in case she has to handle the porcupine.

As youngest relates this story, she keeps referring to the porcupine as “naughty.” Hence, the naughty porcupine. Ah, the joys of the animal kingdom.