March 15, 2012

The root of it all.

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , at 3:35 pm by openendedcomment

My family is wide-spread on one side; sparse on the other.

My father is an only son and I am his only daughter.  His cousins are all far older than him and after my Grandparents passed we rarely saw any of them.  Most I wouldn’t recognize on the street. In fact, my Godfather and his children (not blood related) are the closest thing I have to “family” on his side.  My childhood memories revolve around the smell of baking cookies in their Grand Forks home, my Nana’s deft hands forming rosettes and krumkake and the card games played at their kitchen table.  Lutefisk that my Poppi would always make me try one bite of (and I never, ever had more than one)…the Moe family coming through the door in a burst of song and laughter. Summers at Horseshoe Lake with third cousins and my great-aunts, all long since passed, forming pasta on the long wood table.

My Mother’s side is larger (much) but tossed all over the country.  Some in Seattle, some in Georgia, others in the Carolina’s, Louisiana, Wisconsin and most recently into New England.  Years back (25) we would have the occasional Christmas at my Grandparent’s home.  A dozen cousins would pile in the family room and proceed to drive our parents insane for a few days while on a perpetual sugar high from Nana’s exemplary baking.  We would laugh at our parent’s attempts to act like everything was fine when Bakka (Grandpa) would run madly through the house at 1AM (long story; he was wonderful) and shake our heads at our uncle’s sheer joy when the Prune Whip was served (yes, they really ate and enjoyed such a thing.)  But, time passed, we all grew and aside from the loss of our Dear Grandmother…we hadn’t been together since.

Enter Facebook.

Many of us are now connected.  We now “know” each other’s lives.  Without this media that many claim serves to disconnect; I would have little to no connection with so many that in so many ways I am more connected to than any other people in the world. My grandfather passed in 2009. We all gathered in Burlington, Wisconsin.  We ate, we drank, we laughed, we caught up and we reminisced.  We all realized as we left that Sunday afternoon that we may not all be together again.  Certainly not anytime soon.  Through this and because of this (along with being a Mother and having my own little “roots”) I felt the need to further explore the why and how of our loud, smart, acerbic and fiercely independent selves.

Ancestry.com  Best. Site. Ever.

Though it is the best site ever, I am not the best researcher ever.  It took me two years to finish what I started the weekend I returned home from burying Bakka.  What I found stunned me and filled me with immense pride and respect…not pride in myself, but pride in who I had come from and respect for what they had done to provide me and my children with the lives we lead.

If you read my blog you know that I am 1) opinionated 2) a rabid patriot 3) exceedingly concerned with justice and 4) always right. (actually that number 4 is only if you’re married to me…but I digress)

As it turns out, I come by all of this rightly.  As it turns out, the family I had thought was at most three generations off of the proverbial boat is in fact one of the oldest in our Country. My 10th Great-Grandfather arrived in the Colonies in 1628-1629 (records aren’t clear…though my 9th great grandfather DID marry a Mayflower passenger!).  My 7th Great-Grandfather was a Captain in the Revolutionary War.  They built this place.  Literally.  The family home outside of Boston is still standing.  Their graves are historic markers. Holy Sh*t.

Image

Captain Graves

It gets better.  Their families were among the aristocracy of England.  They owned Wolf Hall…where Anne Bolyn was housed as she awaited her trial…we are talking Baronesses and Lords and Ladys and all of the things I always dreamed about as a little girl reading Jane Eyre…I…me…I am actually a part of it all.  Yippee!!!!  AND on my father’s side..the immigrants from Luxembourg?  Not so much.  Immigrants, yes…but direct lines to the Duchy of Luxembourg.  They bailed as in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s being tied to the King of France was not a good thing to be.  That certainly explains the old european mine cut diamonds I have from her side…I never could figure out how someone from such humble roots could have such amazing family jewelry passed thorugh the generations or why or how her parents could afford to educate all six of their daughters at a private convent.  That simply wasn’t done in the first twenty years of the last century, not for rural girls in Minnesota.  It all makes perfect sense now.  Yes, I realize that I sound like a babbling idiot but I honestly did shout when I confirmed the line and did in fact get up and do a little dance.

Then I thought about it. A day or two passed.  That’s not what I’m proud of.  That wasn’t what was keeping me up at night researching and digging through record after record connecting the dots. That’s not what I care about.

They went through Hell to get here.  They gave up so much for the unknown and wilderness that was a new and largely unknown land.  They did it for freedom.  Not freedom from actual servitude; far from.  They left for freedom of self. They did it for their ideals.  They did it for me.  For the thought of someone like me, generations removed where their legacy would grow…for us.

They knew that there were no guarantees of success; but they had to try.  They knew that their lives here would be short.  They did it for their children and their children…for every soul that lived and lives as an American.  Free. They fought and they bled for the formation of America.  In my research I found that many fought with their pen as well as their sword.  They wrote this grand social experiment into existence. They turned their backs on what was safe; reliable and sure and charged headfirst into a chance at something better. Reading their stories; their accounts (I was blessed to find many) I was humbled in a way I’ve never been until now.  And while that line of my lineage as well as that of my father’s Luxembourg family was very impressive to me and certainly the more pedigreed; it does not discount the other two parts of my American whole.  My Maternal Irish…they were poor and proud and fierce and made a life despite so many prejudices against them on both sides of the ocean.  My red hair and pale skin proudly declare me as blood of their blood, too.  My Father’s Norweigan Father…he and his brothers were tall, strong farm boys raised in North Dakota by parents determined to provide their children with something better…something more.

At the end of the day I am a part of them all.  No more Baroness than Farmer; no more Daughter of the Revolution than Irish Laborer.  They, through generations, came together and obliterated all class lines and prejudice ceilings.  They formed a family that branches through all of the wars fought and all of the blood spilled.  They did all of this and I am the living proof that is is possible.

I am like them, too.  I fight for what I believe in and would do anything to provide my children and their children with a life better than my own.  And that is then point of this…at the root of it all, we are all like them.  We all want better.  We are all capable of blurring the lines of social, religious, political and economic divide that today, at this moment seem so very defined and clear.  We just have to decide that it is worth it.  In the generations to come my 5th great-grandchild will look back and wonder at our lives.  I want that woman or man to know as I know, without a shadow of a doubt that their family was on the right side of history.  I want that individual who will be tied to me and to those before me to feel the same pride I feel in the who and the why of me.  I owe at least that much…both going back and looking forward.

In the meantime…Saturday is Saint Patrick’s Day.  I plan to drink my whiskey; sing a few songs a bit too loudly and bat my green eyes at everyone I can.  Oh, and I’m ordering a flag.  Of my newly discovered coat-of-arms.  To display at our family reunion this summer that I did, after several years, finally manage to get organized.  Even though it’s a bit pretentious it is undeniably cool.  Cheers!

    Image

March 7, 2012

The State of Hockey.

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 4:08 am by openendedcomment

Tonight I am a very, very proud parent.

My eldest son is headed to Sectionals for the CI Floor Hockey Tournament…and he is…beaming. 

For him, even more so than other young men, this means everything.  From age 4-8; he participated in traditional hockey.  We are in Minnesota.  Hockey is a way of life.  A rite of passage.  My husband coached and it was their “thing.”  For our son, it was his place of normalcy.  Hockey was where his difficulties didn’t matter…he could skate.  Well.  His ability to read, to write and to add were utterly insignificant on that sheet of ice.  At age 7, the social aspect of the game was minimal at best.  At age 8, things began to be difficult for this sweet, sensitive boy of ours.  At age 8 there were sleepovers.  At age 8 there was elbowing and tripping and occasionaly checking.  At age 8…hockey no longer worked for him. 

From 8 to 14 there were little options for sports.  For him.  There were leagues for children with physical disabilities; a category he did not fit into.  There were leagues for children with average abilities both mentally and physically.  He did not fit in there, either.  For six years, he bravely went to his little brother and sister’s games, cheering them on with a smile on his face…but the void was there.  I hated it for him.  We hated it for him.

Enter high school.  The CI League.  Enter confidence.  A letter jacket.  A place to belong and to excel.  What this has done for him…the ability to be a part of a team, to be a needed and valued member of something bigger than himself…it is difficult to put to words.

I cried the first time I saw him play.  I cried when his team went to the State Soccer tournament.  When he received his letter.  When he tried on the letter jacket I brought home for him and literally shook with pride.  His successes mean everything. 

For our son, our special and amazaing son, life will not always be simple.  He will always overcome more challenges than most.  But now, he will always have this.  These memories.  The strength of success and the power of pride to fall back to.  He will always carry with him the knowledge that he can succeed.

In Minnesota, this most fridgid of states, March means State Hockey Tournament.  It’s an Event.  18,000 screaming fans in a sell-out crowd and literally millions of television viewers.  It’s actually a holiday for some schools.  Even a few businesses.  One whole town.  Seriously.

For every child that ever laced a skate, be it Mighty Mites, Bantam or Varsity, this is it.  The big dance.  The moment you get to skate to the camera, wave and throw out a “Hi Mom!”…the moment you’ve dreamed of. 

It’s also the State CI Hockey Tournament…Sections this week, State next.  They play on glossy gym floors at Bloomington Jefferson rather than the shiny Xcel Center.  There are no television cameras, no scouts in the stands.  No one scalps tickets out front; but there are t-shirts sold.  It is their day.  Their big dance.  Their moment in the sun…

…and in some ways, it matters even more.  Out of this tournament there will be no scholarships signed; no players drafted.  Out of this group something even more profound will occur.  These boys and girls; soon to be men and women; will feel what for them is far too rare.  Total success.  Utter joy.  They fight as hard or harder for their victories both off and on the play floor.  They wave to their families and bask in the glory of the game.  They are kind out there.  They truly wish the best for each other and for the opposing team…they want to win, but feel terrible for those that do not.  Sportsmanship takes on a whole new meaning with this group.

Their schools don’t announce their wins every week.  They don’t have pep rallies.  I doubt very much with our school’s varsity hockey boys headed to that biggest of all hockey tournaments in the country that the majority of the student body is even aware that some of the very best of them are quietly and with great dignity heading to their own big game tomorrow afternoon…right there in their district.  They have homefield advantage.  They earned it.  They don’t carry the same moniker…they are a team combined of three different schools as no one has enough players with their unique qualities to form a full roster.  They don’t care.  They play as one.   

Dog had a game tonight, too.  We hockey parents are a good group.  We form little families (that happens when you’re trapped in rinks together for four months a year.) We know each other; all of the children and what matters to each of them.  Tonight, several of these wonderful people wished him luck and congratulated our son on his big upcoming game.  A few of the Dad’s high-fived.  Two Mothers said they would try to come.  It was all he could talk about in the car…how people were going to come and cheer him on…that he would have so many fans for his team…how wonderful that would be.  There are so few that they notice each and every one.  Every face; every shout of encouraagement, each clap of every hand matters so much

Two such different tournaments in this town of mine…one no more important than the other.  It’s the State of Hockey, baby, and it’s Tourney time…so let’s drop the puck and rock the house.  Good luck to all of our boys; stay safe and make a few memories.

Go Wildcats!

March 6, 2012

I need a hero…or, enough of this shit already.

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:21 am by openendedcomment

From a presidential candidate’s speech at a religious organization’s meeting:

“While the so-called religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the outset that we have far more critical issues to face in the…election; …the humiliating treatment of our President and Vice President by those who no longer respect our power–the hungry children I saw in West Virginia, the old people who cannot pay their doctor bills, the families forced to give up their farms–an America with too many slums, with too few schools….These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues–for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barriers.”

This is not Obama, not Clinton, not Romney and certainly not Santorum.   This was Fifty-Two Years ago.  John F Kennedy during the 1960 campaign for the Presidency.  Aside from a few, short lines removed regarding communism and the space race…it is all still true.

Enough of this.  Enough of this political posturing and bargaining and..well…bullshit.

I am an American and as an American I demand that we do better.  Try harder.  I demand on the backs of my grandparents and great grandparents and on the lives of their families, friends, brothers, sisters and fellow citizens who gave everything they had and everything they were for our right to live in this, the greatest society ever known to man, to do better and Knock. It. The. Hell. Off.

Immigrants flocked to our shores and built this nation with little more than a dream of what could be. I’m a European mutt born of five boats that I can trace and dozens of dreams. Because of that and of them I have a responsibility to care.

As I told my son’s teacher the day she had the audacity to remind me that she knew how to do her job (this as he was failing) It is, in fact, my job to ensure the proper and correct raising of my son in all areas of his life…I reminded her of this and went on to tell her that as I was damn well going to do my job she had better understand that included ensuring she did hers.

Same goes for our elected officials.  I may be only one Mother, one parent, one citizen, one small and seemingly insignificant suburban woman in Minnesota…but I’m a loud one.  I am the proverbial squeaky wheel and if I only squeak here…online…to a few that bother to glance at what I write…I will still squeak away…sooner or later, I won’t be alone.

It’s been too long and we’ve been pushed too far and we parents are a demanding sort.  Especially the suburban-types.  Imagine a few million hover-moms all over Washington’s Business…you want some change?  You want things organized once and for all?  Get a working Mother on this mess and it’ll be cleaned up in no time. This is going to be simple.  It needs to be as Washington, as of late, has the maturity level of a bunch of 12-14 year olds.  

1)  Stay out of each other’s business.  Yes, big religious groups, this means you.  I believe in God and I believe in His place in my life and that of my family…BUT…I do NOT go around telling everyone else what to believe and why.  It’s rude and it pisses people off.  It starts fights.  Sometimes people get hurt.  No one will stop you from practicing what you believe to be right and good.  By all means, continue. You have the right to feel/think/say whatever you wish about whatever you choose.  You do not have the right to legislate your religious beliefs.  Back off of any and all religious issues that have turned political.  This includes gay marriage, birth control…all of it.  Stay in your own space.

2)  Share.  Yes, I know…it’s a super-tricky one.  Share.  We are a charitable Nation…clearly.  But we are not charitable to and with each other…and THAT needs to stop.  Give me a committee of coupon-cutting, budget-stretching parents and we will feed every kid in this country a Hell of a lot faster than any “Poverty Zsar” or whatever they’re calling it/him/them these days.

3) Everyone has to help out around here and, by all means, let’s keep it fair.  10%.  10% across the board flat federal tax rate.  Two exceptions and six exemptions. That. Is. It.

Exceptions: 

1) Anyone or any family unit at 200% or less of Federal Poverty Levels.

2) Any Active Duty Service Member during service and Any Widow/Widower of a Service Member Killed in the Line of Duty for LIfe.  They’ve more than paid their fair share.

Exemptions: 

1) Children.  Two thousand per child.

2) Healthcare.

3) Mortage Interest.

4) Taxes paid.

5) Donations up to 10% of income to $250,000 per year annual household income and 5% above that

6) Educational Expenses.

Sound too simple? Good.  Sound like a loophole with the 5% for charitable donations?  Tough.  If we want to take care of people in this country and beyond; we incentivize helping. It still means they pay 10% on the remaining 95% of their income.

Did you know that in 2006 there were 86,585 people working for the IRS?  At an average salary of $50,285? (most recent stats I could grab from government site…I’m a blogger and this isn’t a thesis) Did you know that if we enacted this we could cut at least $3,483,176,000 from the federal payroll?  As in 80%…’cuz by enacting this plan, or something similar, it’s just not that tricky anymore. Oh, and we collect more money.

Where will they work, those poor displaced IRS agents? Well, let’s chat about jobs, shall we?

Unions…

4) If you don’t do your work, you don’t get your allowance.  Uh-huh…now I’m going to piss a few people off.  May as well, I’m on a roll.  They had their time and they had their place and they were very, very necessary once upon a time but that time has in many ways and in many circumstances, come and gone and more often than not they act to discourage growth and job creation.  Just ask the auto industry.  Or a manufacturer. There are so many government entities and laws that ensure worker’s safety and rights that the entire point of unions has changed dramatically…or at the very least been duplicated. We have minimum wages, OSHA, DEC, DOL..it’s all there to protect workers and it will all still be there to protect workers and well, enough is enough!!!

I’m not saying obliterate or outlaw unions; but they do need to be down-scaled and downgraded from running our country.  Think I’m being extreme?  Our politicians are afraid of them.  Find me a democrat running for re-election in Senate or Congress that will speak out against the unions.  Good luck.  They won’t because they are owned by them.  They (unions) control their (politicians) ability to be elected.  Don’t worry, I’m not only referring to democrats, the religious right does the same thing with republicans.  I’ll get there.

Back to unions.  And schools.  They are related.

I love my teachers, the ones I had and the ones my children have now and many, many more I know.  I do NOT think they are paid enough and I do feel they are underappreciated.  However…the fact that our schools are failing cannot be ignored and the fact that bad teachers, failing teachers are almost impossible to fire is not OK.  I work in sales.  This means I am paid for performance.  My husband worked in manufacturing.  If his plant failed, he did not get a raise.  In most jobs in this country, if you don’t do a good job, you are disciplined..warned, and after a few too many warnings, you are let go.  That’s supposed to be how it works, even with unions, but it isn’t…the NLRB ensures it.  This rule of “do your job and do it well in order to a) keep your job and b) get raises (if the company isn’t broke)” applies to servers, accountants, sales people, store clerks…everyone but union employees and most especially teachers…the people with the most important jobs in our country.  As rash as it sounds, it has got to change if we are to give the next generation a fighting chance…which we must.

I know this sounds harsh and cruel and utterly insane…but, newsflash, we can’t afford it (the entitlement mentality) anymore.  Life isn’t fair and not everyone gets a trophy.  Someone has to win and some people who do a better job are going to get paid more.

Schools: No testing to performance; that is inane.  No “rating” scale…it is subjective.  A clearly defined set of job expectations and duties and a reward (i.e. raise) for those that succeed.  Rated system TBD. Good teachers get more; great teachers get lots more.  Incentives for great ones to go to and teach in less advantaged districts. Big incentives. 

We can use all of the IRS money we save and a third of the former IRS employees we get rid of can go to work auditing all of those idiotic government entities that make zero sense but pass every year buried in thousands of pages of crap we call a “budget.”  The other two-thirds can get busy auditing the CRAP out of the healthcare companies, Medicare and Medicaid putting an end to the waste and fraud which, last I checked, costs enough to cover their salaries AND THIRTY PERCENT of the costs of healthcare for our seniors.   A few of the stragglers can be sicced on the pharmaceutical companies…to negotiate the same rates other countries enjoy.

Speaking of negotiation…no more lobbyists in Washington.  They are parasites.  They can put their power of persuasion to work lobbying Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, Big Financial to get their houses in order and Fortune 1000 companies who manufacture over-seas to come back to the good ‘ol USA to build.

So…let’s see…we’ve got the whole religious mess handled, taxes are fair(ish), deficit on the way down, education’s getting better, people are eating, we are taking our meds and caring for our seniors, Service-members all get a much-deserved raise, we respect our Vets, we tick off a bunch of people but we figure out how to make life fair and we all get paid what we’re worth instead of what we decide we deserve and as a result, we can afford to actually make shit here again. Oh, and as we’ve learned our lesson regarding staying out of each other’s business, there are more families created, less protesting and less overall angst.  Which is good; because stress causes eating and eating causes obesity and well, we all know what an issue that is.  Maybe we should subsidize victory gardens…victory over our own health.  Free seeds and informative sites on home gardening.  Hey!  Schools could teach gardening and have gardens at the schools as an elective course…and donate the produce to the school kitchen to make healthier meals more affordable!  I mean, really people, this is not that hard to figure out.

That was ONE HOUR on a cheap Toshiba lap-top.  So, candidates, what do you have?

I am NOT a hero.  I am not all that bright, I didn’t go to an Ivy league school, I didn’t even make it through my state school…I had to go to work…and, frankly, I had a really good time at school; not so much in class but campus was great.  I know that what I wrote isn’t all overly practical…but I had an hour.  It isn’t fleshed out.  What is your excuse?  Where are the heroes?  Why can candidates, for decades, repeat the same thing and we, as constituents, buy it?  Why don’t we demand more? Why don’t we expect more?  What are we all so afraid of?

Look, I know that when I post this to Facebook I’m going to lose a few friends…and that’s OK.  I’m not afraid to voice my opinion and I’m not afraid to squeak my wheel.  Someone has to.  If you don’t agree with me…good for you.  It’s your right not to.  It’s your right to say what you think.  It’s your responsibility to demand a leader who will at least try to solve our problems and make some attempt to clear the honey-do list of our country.

I promised to address the religious political puppeteers…and I shall.

JFK, who was a flawed and faulted man, and a hero all the same…because at least he had the courage to say something…went on to state the following, which I feel is appropriate to close with, imagine if this were true not only here but in other countries as well, especially those of our enemies:

“:I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish–where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source–where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials–”

And on that note, I leave you with these four words:  EFF THE SUPER PACS.

March 4, 2012

We Salute You.

Posted in Life Lessons, Parenthood tagged , , , , , at 5:13 am by openendedcomment

Last night, my husband and I took our eldest two to see “Act of Valor.”  I’d seen the previews and was curious after reading that actual Naval Seals were among the cast. My husband was all in because the previews promised explosions and all sorts of cool “toys.”

Dog was at our neighbor/cousin’s home and Captain America was at a sleep over with a fellow boy-scout.  As we had deemed the absent two too young for the rating,  we took advantage of the opportunity to view said film without having to hire a sitter,

Girl child was not pleased with our decision. She had zero interest in a film dedicated to “boy stuff” and had a huge chip on her shoulder as her plans for the night had fallen through.   Our eldest son, as is his way, was happy to go to/see wherever and whatever Dad thought was a good idea.

Four tickets, four sodas, one extra-large with butter popcorn, three treats, one random twelve-year-old boy trying to pick the Girl up in the concession line, one Dad threatening one twelve-year-old boy later, and we were finally seated.

…two hours passed.  For two hours Girl had stared with rapt attention at something she had never seen before.  Our son, in a total departure from his normal state, was motionless.  My husband, stoic and silent, reached for my hand.

We were, in simplest terms, humbled.  In a silent theatre we wept.  Every. Last. One of Us. Not only my four…the theatre.  Not a dry eye.

We were not moved by the way in which lines were delivered, nor were we blown away by special effects.  It was more pervasive than that.  It was the eyes of the men on that screen who had been there and may go yet again.  It was the simple and staggering courage depicted which spoke more eloquently and stirred our souls in a way no perfectly crafted actor could ever dream to do.

It was real.  It was raw. And even the most jaded pubescent mouth was shut by sheer awe.  They’d had no idea. But then how could they?  They have not known this war, not really.  They’ve been raised with it but have never felt it.  It is not like other wars.

This is not our grandparent’s war. In their time, in their war, almost everyone had an immediate family member that went off to fight for Freedom. In our parent’s war they all had a friend or a cousin who had had a draft number that was too low.  In their wars, all were touched. Today, in our war, that is not the case. Today many of us only know of soldiers.  Today, we see it on the news in a way that makes the fighting, the danger; the sacrifice and the substance seem somehow less real.  Less personal.  My children, until now, knew no-one that had been a part of it all.

Our middle child, Dog,  plays hockey.  My husband coaches.  He is one of three Fathers that do. One is a Doctor and the other a Teacher.  On Tuesday, the Teacher goes to War.  Again. Our children, Dog and his team-mates, it’s as thought they’re not sure how to process this.  They want to send him care packages and videos and emails…and of course we parents will help them to do all three…but Dog has asked some difficult questions, too.  He wants to know that Coach will be safe.  Coach is (thank God) from what I’ve been told, in a very safe area.  I have iterated this to my sweet boy what seems like a million times.  But still, he worries.  He’s never known anyone who went to War and he loves his Coach.  We all love Coach.

Coach is a Father of four.  He is dedicated and driven and has been a blessing to all of our boys over the past two years.  He is a Husband, and his wife is…well, you know those people around whom you just feel…lesser and as though you need to try harder all at the same time?  Not because they say or do anything to make you feel that way, but because you know deep down that they are just a better human being?  She’s that woman.  All you can do is like her.  They were college sweet-hearts. They still hold hands.

He leaves so soon and she is so calm.  My God; they are so good.  Last night, in that silent theatre as names of Seals we have lost since that cruel September Day rolled over the screen, and as the tears fell from my eyes and the eyes of hundreds of strangers around me…the thought was as clear as the New York sky that fateful morning before our world changed.

I owe them so much.

My daughter was 2 that day. My youngest not yet born and my other sons not yet mine. If not for those men; those women…this man…this woman…would I lead the life I live?

I owe them everything. We owe them everything.

My children learned last night.  They were taught a lesson I’ve never had the power to convey. The Girl had a million questions as we filed out of that silent theatre. She was assured that Coach’s role was and is nothing like what she had just seen, as we passed Veterans quietly nodding and whispering to their companions that yes, what they’d just seen was all correct and no, it was not dramatized. If anything, they had chosen not to portray some things that could be hard, for we who do not see with their eyes, to comprehend.

The Eldest, my sweet son who sees only the good in everything around him, he knew somehow how to move through all of the questions swirling through our heads to the thought that rose above them all.  As he passed a man wearing his Navy Hat, leaning on his cane, though he was younger than my husband…”Sir, is it OK if I say thank you?”  He said this shyly; nervous as he raised his hand to a salute.  He is the best of me.

Coach D, if you should ever happen to stumble upon this, we pray for you, we are proud to know you and we salute you.

March 1, 2012

Losing it.

Posted in My Five tagged , , , , at 5:23 pm by openendedcomment

About a week ago, my girlfriend and I had a discussion…well, more like a b–ch fest, really,  about how hard it is being in our thirties.

She is one of my five and that means that she and I tell each other pretty much everything.  Glitter, (obviously not her real name but she will get it) is gorgeous.  She is of the opinion that as time has marched on, she is less stunning than in past years.  I disagree, but then I’m not really coming from a good point of reference. I am not gorgeous.  Not now, not in the future and not when I was younger.  I am, however, an overachiever.  For me, the loss of a youthful aspect of myself is not so much my looks, but rather the feeling of having done more than others at my age.  I used to walk into a boardroom and enjoy the look of shock on people’s faces when I opened my mouth.  As in “Wow, this girl actually knows her sh-t!” For Glitter, it was the feeling that when she walked into a room…any room, all eyes were on her.  And they either a) wanted to be her or b) wanted to bed her. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, Glitter is not vain.  At all.  Her being beautiful was/is no different from me being ahead of my peers.  It just was.  She didn’t ask for it, she just had it. It was a part of our identity, these traits. 

A part of ourselves that we are, as time marches on and age evens the playing field, losing.

So the conversation went to a very difficult question:  Is it better to have been that beautiful and lose it, or to have never really had that be a part of your identity so it doesn’t bother you as much when its gone? I mean, you have to understand that neither of us have a filter when we speak to each other…but a woman we know who is the kindest, sweetest, most brilliant specimen of the female mind…but isn’t exactly “pretty”…at all…is this whole aging thing hard on her, too?  To be blunt, looks were never a part of who she was, instead it was/is her mind, and that’s just getting better. If you never were all that successful in your younger years, do you feel what I’m feeling?  That I’m hitting a point where I’m going to be the one impressed with the young chick in the room? Is it so wrong that that actually kind of upsets me? 

How does this aging thing work? Why can’t we just accept it?  So many do…are she and I inherently flawed? (Actually, don’t answer that) Does everyone at this point in our lives hit that wall of “Oh, sh-t, I’m actually getting older” and do each of us have that one thing that triggers it?

For me, it triggered about three weeks ago.  I was in a meeting that was, frankly, above my pay-grade.  It was my turn to present and all eyes were on me…and it hit me.  I’m expected to know this stuff.  Not it’d be very, very impressive for me to come across as a subject matter expert, but that they were already anticipating I would be.  I looked like I should be.  WTF?

When did this happen?

Inside, I still feel like that 22-year-old who had no business holding the title I did.  Inside, Glitter still wants to wear a bodysuit and a mini-skirt with 6 inch heels…to a club.  But she doesn’t, because she knows that it would be highly inappropriate.  PTA Moms don’t do that. 

Maybe there should be a mandatory class at age 30.  “Identifying and embracing what you’re about to lose.”  Then maybe we’d appreciate it while we still can…

I would be remiss not to point out that there is far more to me and to my self-identity than being ahead of myself professionally.  There is waaay more to Glitter than being beautiful.  There were times in her life where she hated it…hated being seen as the “hot chick” instead of the smart girl or the funny woman; both of which she happens to be. 

Having other things that you are proud of and that are a part of you does not, unfortunately, distract from the nagging feeling that a part of you is slowly fading away…

When is this acceptable? At what age do we become comfortable with the aging process?  When do we feel like we look? Do we ever? Does my Mother feel her age?  Do I ever want to?

Ugh. 

Perhaps I need to be enlightened or deep enough not to care…I’m sure that’s the answer.  There has to be something in the self-help section on Amazon for that.  When I find it, and when I’m mature enough to accept it, I’ll let you know. 

In the meantime, I need to call Glitter and talk her into a joint botox appointment.

Zomberella

Posted in Parenthood tagged , , , , , at 2:21 am by openendedcomment

They are strange, gross and highly entertaining creatures.    They kick up their “baby testosterone” during football and hockey games…grunt, growl (I’ve heard it) and spit…only to get into the car (away from all team-mates) to shove their lower lip aaaalllll the way out and sniff to me “Mommy, that mean #27 elbowed me and it hurts a LOT and he called me a jerk.” With big puppy dog eyes…delivered in the saddest, most pathetic voice you’ve ever heard or imagined.   Tough in public, big babies at home.

They are boys. And despite all of the equality speak; they are different.

Take my 10-year-old for example.  He was given a perfectly good name.  A saint’s name; an apostle’s name.  A boring, stoic and respectable name.  In Kindergarten, he began to refer to himself as “Dog.”  I declined and dismissed this.  He wrote on his papers.  In the upper right-hand corner.  I corrected him.  He persisted.  I came to class to volunteer to teach art.  Twenty-Four short people had not received my message, which became clear as they stated “Ummm..Dog’s Mom?  Would you look at this?”  and “Can Dog and I have a play-date Friday after school?”   I spoke to his teacher.  Apparently, Hamster and Cat’s glue-eating were more pressing than my son’s new moniker.

After a year of this, I gave up.  He now goes by his first initial-Dog.  As in D-Dog or G-Dog….you get the point.

The point IS that Dog does whatever Dog feels is the manliest thing to do.  He is not alone in this.  Dog has a brother, Captain America.  Captain is 9.  Captain, unlike Dog, hates all organized sports but instead idolizes all things military.  He knows the name of every tank and plane ever in any battle in most countries.  Captain and Dog share a room that reeks of baby-testosterone.  And of said boys…because no matter what anyone else tells you, boys don’t like to shower.  At least not with soap.  My daughter thinks they are the height of rudeness and points this out at every opportunity.  She also sprays them with Febreeze.  Sometimes, I thank her.

Boys will be boys is a saying we hear in my house daily.  It’s not said to dismiss poor behavior, rather to calm my daughter down when they do things like glue their butt shut with gum while attempting to blow a fart bubble (yes, you read that right.) Or when they take every. Single. Cabinet.Down in the kitchen at 5AM because Wonder-Dad taught a 5-year-old how to use a power tool.  We say these things so that when they are who they are…we don’t feel the need to commit them…or at least seriously consider an evaluation.

We need to understand in our home (and in our world) that boys and girls, men and women, though not better than each other are very, very far apart in what we feel/think/do on an instinctive level.

Name a woman who, at any point in her life, would think to eat a blow-pop with the express purpose of getting to the gum as “it’s the stickiest” in order to place it…ahem…and then pass gas in an attempt to make a bubble.  Beuller?  Beuller?  Thought so.

Sometimes, in order to preserve my marriage, I need to remember that.  Sometimes, as a wife, I need to remind myself that just as boys will be boys, men will be men and sometimes I have to let it go when he watches Speed channel in bed…or when he misses the fact that I am not, in fact, the laundry/dish/cooking fairy.  Sometimes he needs a little reminder….and sometimes I have to remember that reminders do not equate to nagging.  It’s all in the delivery.

It starts at birth.  My daughter potty-trained with little issues and sat like an angel to “do her business”.  Not my sons.  1) They wouldn’t sit.  They had seen Dad and Dad didn’t sit.  2) Dad would not sit as an example to them…he was actually pretty amused that I even brought it up.  So 3) I had to make it a game.  Super fun to explain to guests for about 2 years (they are 18 months apart) why there was a bowl of Cheerios in every bathroom.  “No, it’s not gross…it’s how they pee”  insert shocked look from everyone that entered my home during that time “I drop it in the toilet and they have to try to sink them.  It’s the only way they have any aim at this age”  Yes, I resorted to teaching my sons how to “sink” the cereal and basically tuned “it” into their first joystick.  Whatever.  It worked.

As they grow older, nothing changes.  You have to break it down to their level and actually think at their male level… if you don’t, bad things happen.

When I say “please find somewhere to put that frog that isn’t in your room or any common living area” I have to be more precise.  Or it ends up glued to my daughter’s pillow (yes, true story…apparently it wouldn’t “stay there”…don’t worry, frog lived) or when Dog is told to write a “modern fairy tale” for school…and I am called about it…because he wrote a book called “Zomberella” in which the title character is bitten by flesh-eating monsters and at the end of the gruesome tale bites her prince so he can enjoy the wedding feast with her.  That was today’s reminder…think like a boy if you don’t want to deal with the boy.

There are wonderful things about these little males.  Aside from entertainment value.

Instinctively, my boys are protective of me and of their sister. When they aren’t trying to ruin her life.  They know how to love but they don’t wear their emotions on their sleeve.  Except with me.  Which I hope never changes.  They burp and they fart but they also have an amazing work ethic.  They would rather pee on a tree (we are past the Cheerios phase); but they know how to take care of their home.  They are good with their hands and quick on their feet.  They can not dance but they do sing.  Loudly.  Off-key. They are men’s men in training and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  They are, come to think of it, exactly like their fathers.

Boys will be boys. And I for one am damn glad.