March 19, 2013

A departure.

Posted in Life Lessons, Parenthood tagged , , , , , , , , , at 11:19 am by openendedcomment

A new Pope was installed today.  As a woman who was raised as Catholic, this should be an important day for me.  It should be a day to embrace my faith and feel more connected to my church and to God.  I know this intellectually but emotionally and spiritually, I feel only confusion…detachment and sorrow.  I want to believe and I do believe in God and in the basics but in the church itself…in and for that I feel only loss.

This Pope embraces care of the poorest among us, he is a scientist and a Jesuit.  He believes in furthering education and humility.  These  are all wonderful things.  He spoke of and has acted on purging the church of the sins of its leaders.  That is a good thing too, and high time.  Today he spoke of love.  Love for those who most need it and love for those who least deserve it.  That is exactly what I have waited for the church to speak of and to act upon.  I ought to be eleated…but I am not.  I am not because though he spoke of love he remains firmly rooted in the archaic notions of women’s role being minimal at best and in women having no place in the church’s leadership.  He is traditional (in the sense of the church) in his stance on reproductive rights and even birth control.  Perhaps hardest for me is that he, together with the church’s leadership, remain resolute in their opinions and teachings on homosexuality.

I can’t agree.  I can understand that these are the church’s teachings, but for the life of me, I can’t understand why.  I’m not talking about other religions who may agree with the Catholic Church on some of these social justice lines, frankly, that isn’t what I’m concerned with.  I am selfishly concerned with my religion and the church I was raised in and more specifically with how on earth I can justify raising my own children as Catholics today.

I’ve asked.  I’ve spoken to priests and to very devout friends.  They’ve all given me the exact same BS lines and quoted the exact same scripture at me what seems like thousands of times.  No matter how often I hear it, I know it is not true.  I know it isn’t true.  The scripture they quote can easily be refuted with another verse in another chapter.  Besides, I do not and have not ever taken the Bible literally.  How can I?  How could anyone with an analytical and developed mind?  Knowing the Bible has been written and rewritten for political purposes over a millennium with entire sections removed and added for various reasons…knowing that the original disciples, the original priests and leaders of the church were allowed to marry and that women did have a larger role in the church for centuries until someone decided they didn’t…how could I?  And this is just the New Testament.  The Old Testament is clearly up for interpretation.  Please, please don’t comment on this part with any “Adam and Eve” stuff here.  I mean, really.  If Adam and Eve begat Cain and Abel, how did Cain and Abel procreate without committing incest?  If you truly belive that “traditional” marriage is between one man and one woman because “the Bible says so” then please explain why half of the Old Testament had numerous wives. If we’re going straight “traditional” as our guide, then Cody and the Sister Wives are our model and…well…please let’s not agree on that, OK?  And why and how on earth is it that the exact same scripture used to justify this hatred was used to justify laws prohibiting inter-racial marriages?  Look it up.  Exact. Same. Scripture.  Frankly, I’m offended.  I believe that God is offended.  The Bible and God’s teachings are those of love.  To use bits and pieces to promote hate is antithetical to Christianity and it makes me sick.  Further, if abortion and birth control are so wrong, why did the church assist with birth control (granted it was rather crude in form, but still happened) for women for centuries right up until the nineteenth when it became a social issue?  C’mon people…get some new material.

I want to raise my children with religion.  I want them to have the peace and knowledge that I do, that there is a God and there was a Son.  That their conscience is more than a conscience and that the traditions of communion and confession are important and true.  That said, I will raise good people.  I will raise children that believe in forgiveness over judgement.  People that understand tolerance and justice on a far deeper level than they know bigotry and hate.  I want to provide the world with four individuals who know how to question and think for themselves while rooted in firm and unshakeable values…and knowing what I know and hearing what I have heard from this place I used to find such comfort, I no longer know how to provide that for them.

And I need to.

They miss the ceremony and the tradition.  Sometimes I do, too.  We walked out of a mass several months ago when a deacon took to the pulpit and eschewed hatred and judgement for many that I love and millions who should find comfort rather than persecution in the arms of God.  I took one look at my four babies and knew in that instant I could not allow them to hear such things.  That even though I had always explained our family’s feelings on the issues after a mass, that by having them exposed in any form to such outrageous statements while telling them to “believe” was inexcusable as a parent.  So we walked.  It’s been bothering me ever since and today, of all days, I miss my church.  In writing this I can understand that I miss the idea of my church…of what I thought it to be for so many years.  I miss the comfort I found as I kneeled and prayed, enveloped by a sense of tradition and the teachings of Christ that I had chosen to acknowledge…of redemption and of love and of charity and peace.  New beginnings and eternal life.  I know that I will never go back, not the way I once was.  I don’t know what I am anymore, clearly not Catholic.  Not really.  To continue to identify as one seems unfair to those that actually are and a departure from what I know in my heart to be right.  I know that for my children I will have to find something different.  A compromise of what I know to be true and what I believe they need in their lives.  I will likely always cross myself and carry my rosary.  I will never waver from fish on Fridays.  As a family, we will still pray before dinner and still say the Hail Mary at the graves of those we love and lost.  I will find something new, someday.  In the meantime, for the church of my childhood and my grandparents, I will pray.  I will go again to the Basilica of Saint Mary and I will kneel before Our Mother and light a candle the way I have hundreds if not thousands of times before.  I will quietly ask that she bless me on this journey, secure in the knowledge I gained at the feet of Father Milano, that no matter what I am taught or told in my life and regardless of by whom, if I take the Spirit as my guide and listen in reflection to the truth of my conscience, I will be on the right path.

And for today, at this moment of what may be great change but still not great enough, my path is away.

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February 11, 2013

Married: With Children.

Posted in Life Lessons, Parenthood tagged , , , , , , , , at 12:31 pm by openendedcomment

In the past several months (years) I (like every other married person) have had countless conversations about what it takes to make a marriage work.  There are a million books on the subject and each proclaims to have the special sauce/secret recipe/ultimate rules for making it successful.  But they can’t, right?  No one book or one Doctor or one Marriage Counsellor could possibly know what it takes to make a relationship that is unique in every situation apply to all situations.  What about blended families?  What about young couples without children?  What about mature marriages after divorce or death of a spouse?  How could one set of rules possibly fit for such diverse situations?

They can’t.  They never will.

My family is a blended one with three exes and four children, three of whom we have full custody of, one who we share with his dad.  We’ve been married for eight years and have been together for ten.  We’ve been through three custody battles, job loss, family loss, new homes, new careers, a special needs child and are in the teen years with two.  In reflecting on how-the-hell-we’re-still-together I’ve compiled this list. Our rules, our secret sauce.  Use at will.

1.)  Go to bed angry.  I don’t care what the books say, sometimes it’s best to be angry and just sleep on it.  The biggest fights in my marriage have taken place late at  night because neither of us will back down. Chances are, when you wake up and aren’t so God-Awful-Tired things will look better.  If it’s a weekday you’ll have even more distance to calm down while you’re at work or doing dozens of other things.  By the time you see each other the next evening, you’ll either be over it or be too busy with life to really find it important.  If it’s a major deal, send an email and let the other person think about the issue and respond without the heat of in-your-face emotion. But…and this is important…do not sleep apart because you are mad.  Sleeping apart is saying that you’re done sharing that martial bed space with your spouse and that is not OK.  Get in bed, turn your back if you must, shut the fuck up and go to sleep.

2.) On that: It’s OK to talk it out electronically.  If you have children in the house, it’s actually better.  They don’t need to see/hear you arguing with each other.

3.) And on that note: Don’t worry if your children do witness the occasional argument.  It is fine for them to know that adults who love each other don’t always have to agree and that if a relationship is important, you work through the hard times by talking it out with (hopefully) some respect.  I think this is especially important for blended families as these children are already aware that marriages can end. But do try to limit the yelling and details when they’re in ear-shot.  It’s amazing what they hear and repeat…invariably at the most inappropriate times.  My youngest once detailed a disagreement over beard trimmings in a sink.  The way he explained it we (husband and I) both sounded bat-shit crazy, which we may be, but that’s not something the neighbors need to know.

4.) You’re going to fight about stupid things.  Really, really stupid things.  You’re going to do this because you live together and sometimes you’re going to want to hurt that person who makes you nuts and leaves socks in the living room and dishes in the sink but you won’t…you’ll just imagine it, and that, in my mind, is fine.

5.) Accept that your spouse isn’t going to parent the way you do (especially true in blended situations) and that as long as you know when to hold your ground and when to concede, that’s fine.  If the “other” parent is involved, you are not the parent.  You are an authority figure in your home, you do deserve respect, you do get to make rules and you do deserve to be heard.  But…and this is a tricky one…if the other parent is not involved or minimally involved, you are the parent and you need to accept it and behave like one.  If you can’t accept this or don’t want this, you have no business marrying someone with children.  Even if the “other” parent has custody now, that doesn’t mean they always will.  I’ve seen this countless times.  Bonus children are a wonderful blessing and a massive source of conflict.  The children may question your right to have a say in their lives and your spouse may over-ride you.  You’re going to be livid and you’re going to argue about it.  OK.  As long as you love those children and treat them as your own (both the good and the bad, i.e. praise, love, kindness, care along with discipline and consequences) you’re most likely going to be fine.  Insane, but fine.  Worried sick, but fine.  In other words, exactly like every other parent that’s ever existed.

6.) Siblings fight.  Parents who aren’t in blended families worry about this.  Parents with blended families obsess.  It’s perfectly normal.  They aren’t always going to get along and as long as it doesn’t escalate into something dangerous or destructive, calm down.  My sister once broke my brother’s leg and then, jealous over the attention he had in his cast, she bit his good foot.  And they love each other.  They really, really love each other.  These things happen…find me a set of siblings who never fought as children and I’ll find you a purple unicorn with glitter hair.

7.) Don’t let your children’s fights become your fights.  If your children are arguing with each other, it’s natural to want to get involved and end it.  To a degree this is fine.  But only to a degree.  When you and your spouse are pitted against each other by your children and find yourselves saying things like “But, he pulled her hair!” and “She started it!”…you need to knock it off.  Part of how children learn to handle conflict as adults is to handle it in childhood.  Let them.  Save your sanity and wash your hands of it.  Unless it’s dangerous/destructive…then see #5 and be a parent.

8.) Teenagers suck.  Teenagers will fray your nerves to the point you want to flip out on the nearest individual. Unfortunately, this is usually your spouse.  Vent, but don’t yell and please remember that being teens means they’re leaving soon and despite your current feeling, you will miss them.  Terribly.  I haven’t yet experienced this but I’m told it’s true.

9.) If you don’t have sex at least twice a week/four times a month/whatever the book says, it doesn’t mean your marriage is failing.  It means that you’re normal, you’re tired and sometimes, you haven’t even had time to shower.  It happens.  As long as you touch each other, kiss and are available physically and emotionally, all will be well.  We once read a book that said we should be intimate at least four times a week for optimum satisfaction in our marriage.  We (I) panicked.  Four times a week?!?  I mean, maybe on vacation, but…were we failing?  Doomed? Now, my husband and I are both perfectly functional and attractive (to each other) people with normal sex drives.  But for a few months, things had stalled (see 1-8) and we were worried.  We were worried because our friends said they had sex all of the time and we knew we weren’t so naturally, we felt there was something wrong.  We followed the book’s lead and after three weeks we decided that a. we were fucking tired b. being “ready” as in shaving, lingerie, staying up until the kids were all asleep is way too hard to do that often and c. our friends were lying bastards.  We let it go and just pipe up if one or both feels like things are slipping.  Pressure gone, sex life better.  Point is: Relax.  Every couple has their own rhythm and own times when infants, jobs, teens, whatever makes intimacy a challenge.  It always sorts itself out.  If not, don’t worry, there are pills for that.

10.) Do new things.  Together.  Remember that you aren’t as old as life makes you feel and figure out how to try to enjoy life…not just each other, but life itself.  It’s worth it.

11.) Don’t share the bills.  Most couples I know who “share” or “split” bills argue about it.  We made a decision many years ago that one is charge of them, updates the other and both have equal say in how it is handled.  No “his” and “hers” accounts.  Separation leads to questions about “fairness” and that leads to resentment.  This is especially true when one spouse out-earns the other or is tasked with giving the other “spending money” this is not a parent/child relationship, you are partners and partners share the business.   Generally one is in charge of payables and both partners have equal access to the information and resources.   If you must have your “own” access to funds, do it with a credit card that is in your name only and pay the damn thing off regularly.

12. Set goals together, both financial and lifestyle. By doing this you’re working toward something as a team and being a team is what it’s all about.

13. You don’t have to share everything.  Really.  Maybe you’re the type of person who has to tell your spouse every single detail of your day, but we aren’t those people.  We’re happier with the highlights and when both parts of a couple are as busy we are, relaying the work day on a play-by-play level is not only boring, it eats up the “off” time…which makes no sense.  Most people work to live as opposed to live to work.  If you work to live and then spend all of that living time talking about working, what’s the point?

14. Cut out the assholes.  We all have them.  Friends and even neighbors or distant family members who bring drama to our lives.  If someone disparages your spouse to you or, worse still, is disrespectful or down-right mean to your spouse in their presence, you need to get rid of them.  By all means, try to have a conversation about the situation with the offender first, but if it doesn’t get better, cut them the fuck out.  Your marriage comes first.  Your spouse should never have to ask you to do this.  Be a grown up, recognize the situation and protect what is most important to you.  It may be hard, but it is the right thing to do.

15. Embrace the crazy.  There are things about your spouse that are utterly, totally, unquestionably strange.  Chances are that these are the very things that person you adore is most sensitive about.  Love them for it, not despite.  Do this and you are validating that you love that person because of everything they are, not even though.

16. Score cards are fine.  Everything you’ll ever read will tell you not to keep score.  I disagree.  Keeping score and fighting about it constantly;  not a good thing.  Being aware when you’re doing way more than your share and making your spouse aware is a way of communicating before you get to the point of seething resentment.  And that is a great thing.  You’re in this relationship, too, and you also have a right to be supported.  In our home, I’m the one who’s usually accused of “keeping score.”  I do the vast majority of housework, children running and almost all of the errands.  I tend to get pissy.  But, I also don’t want to let these things go to “his” list of responsibilities as I want it done my way.  Needless to say, this has been (by far) the hardest one for my husband and I.  We’re  getting better at it though (as in I’m trying not to be impossible and he’s trying to let me talk about without getting angry at the utter insanity of the situation)  and the more we talk about it, the less anger we feel.

17. Go away.  Get out of your surroundings, even if it’s just checking into a local hotel for the night.  Not everyone can afford (much less has access to the child care it takes) to go on a  two-week romantic vacation or to have “date night” weekly, again, as all the books say.  But, that said, almost everyone can manage a night or two away a couple of times a year.  Take what you can get.  Hole up in a room, order dinner and just be together.  It is worth every penny.  And don’t feel like you have to act like you’re on your honeymoon.  Do whatever you feel you need to do as a couple to rest and enjoy.  My husband once slept for twenty-two hours of a thirty-six hour get-away.  I ended up reading and enjoying a long soak in a  hot-tub alone.  We’d planned for dinner, dancing, hiking, swimming, golf…none of which happened unless you count ordering a pizza to the room as dinner, but the fourteen hours of “vacation time” we had together were far better for the twenty-two hours of sleep he enjoyed and the relaxation I found.  Whatever works.

18. Be adaptable.  Things are going to change, likely more than you (or I) can possibly fathom.  Be committed to changing with each other and refuse to be fixed in the person you married as your ideal as opposed to the person you’re going to be married to three, five, ten or even thirty years down the line.  Sounds simple, but failing to do this is the cause of most marriages ending.

19.  Failure is not an option.  It just isn’t.  If you refuse to allow your marriage to be something that could end, chances are it won’t.  My dearest friend, Glitter, doesn’t use the “D” word in her home.  She uses the F word and the S word…lots…but not the “D” word.  This is her rule, but I’ve stolen it and I’m pretty sure she won’t mind.  Think of it  like Voldemort.  If you don’t say it, it doesn’t happen.  Again, sounds simple, but it’s the little things that matter.

I suppose I should do a number 20 to round this out, but really, that’s about it.  That’s how we do it. We don’t over-think the details and try our best.  We do fight and we do occasionally feel the need to run screaming from each other.  But for the most part, we love and respect what and who we are as a family, a couple and people.  These are our rules.  I am sure there are tons of happy marriages who keep it together by doing the exact opposite of what I’ve written.  No relationship is identical to another and no set of standards works for all couples at all times.  As it should be.  And as the blog states in title, this too remains open-ended.  As our lives change so will our rules, we’ll adapt and learn and hopefully do so for many, many decades to come.

January 8, 2013

My own advice.

Posted in Life Lessons, Parenthood tagged , , , , , , , , , at 12:23 pm by openendedcomment

Until I was thirty  I made resolutions…and each year I managed to break them, one by one.  At thirty-one I stopped and allowed myself to just accept the way life is/was and to not put such pressure on myself to change.  Through the past five years I’ve learned that while acceptance and peace are good things, so is the occasional kick in the ass and measure of accountability.  Sometimes, you, or in this case I, just need a Mom.  As my Mom has already raised me and as I don’t feel like fighting with her all over again (teen years were staggeringly bad) I’ve decided to treat myself the way I treat my children.  To expect from me what I expect from them.  If I were to look at myself as a Mother as opposed to…well…me…would I be proud? What would I tell myself to do?  What advice would I give?

1) Get healthy.  This encompasses many things.  Instead of stating I’m going to drop 20 pounds and work out five days a week while cutting all nicotine I’m wrapping it up into one…good health.  My goal is to be better to myself.  To care about what goes into my body and how it functions. 

2) Study and have my work reflect it.   If I am to take a really objective look at myself, I’m not doing as well as I ought to be and that needs to change.  I’m going to learn more about my industry and apply new ideas to my position and company this year.  It’s time to make 2013 a profitable one.

3) Do my chores.  This is pretty obvious..my house is sort of falling apart as I’ve become rather lazy.  I used to make sure dishes and laundry were done and that beds were made before I left for work, but in the past three or so months I’ve let it slip.  Time to get in gear.

4) Go to bed on time.  I need more sleep and there’s just no excuse for this.

5) Take my vitamins. 

6) Give it my all…in all things, even when it’s hard.

7) Don’t swear (I have the mouth of a sailor when angered/annoyed/etc…) 

8) Reward good behavior.  This goes to treating myself well, something I forget to do and something that may seem odd as a goal but one I think it’s time for.  My husband and I don’t even buy each other birthday or Christmas gifts.  We spoil our children, but never ourselves.  In truth, he’s better about this than I am.  If he really wants to go to a game, he goes.  If he decides he needs some new clothes, he buys them.  If he feels he needs a night out, he takes it.  I don’t…I always feel as though it is selfish of me and that is something I have to get over.  Maybe it’ll mean buying myself a new bag, even if my old one really could go another season…or getting a manicure more often…or nights out with friends, just because.  Whatever it is, I’m going to recognize that it’s OK for me to have things, too.

Last but not least…to work on what I started in 2012.  Forgiveness, peace and learning to let things and even on rare occasions, people…go.  To move toward a life filled with the people, values and experiences I choose as opposed to those I feel forced to deal with.  To me, to have that kind of life…that is the ultimate goal.

December 21, 2012

All I want for Christmas.

Posted in Life Lessons, My Five, Parenthood tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 11:06 am by openendedcomment

Dear Santa,

I know it may seem odd to get this letter from me, especially as for the last thirteen years I’ve been you when it comes to gifts and stockings and cookie eating (thank you for that) but in writing to you this year I suppose it’s more about the idea of you…what you stand for…the wonder and the miracle of the season.  I could really use some wonder and what I want may take a miracle, all making you the logical choice for this date.  I know that I haven’t always landed on your “nice” list, I’m the first to admit that to be true.  But from what I understand, you’re a forgiving and jolly sort who can overlook certain things.

This is the season of possibility, of love and togetherness.  Of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street” type of things.  I was raised on it.  I believe.  I promise, I still do and as you’ll soon see I wouldn’t be writing if that weren’t true.

This year for Christmas I want something that money can’t buy.  I’m looking for a gift of Christmas itself, of Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men.  Of being what we sing and living what we say.  I have prayed each night and every day, I’ve written letters and put good karma into the world.  I’ve asked directly and I’ve quietly waited…and now as all else has failed, I’m trying you.  You who embody Christmas itself and the promise of your most heartfelt desires and deepest of wishes coming true…even if for just one day.

Please, Santa, please…if you can…please let my children have a Christmas filled with family and joy.  Give to my husband the gift of reconciliation and brotherhood.  To my Mother and Step-Father a time of hope and possibility.  To my Dad a time of knowledge that he is the glue that keeps me strong, to my friends the gift of faith and grace that they may know a year without pain, to my dearest friend the gift of return, that some of what she has put into the world may come back to her.  To my oldest friend the gift of health for her Mother, to my cousin and thousands like him, the gift of equality in all things.  I know this list is long and it may seem I’m asking for too much…a few will do in a pinch…but if there is only one thing I can receive, let it be this, the gift of healing and of strength to the Mothers and Fathers and Brothers and Sisters who have angels not on their tree this year, but in heaven far, far too soon.  I heard the bells ringing for them this very morning, all twenty-six have been given their wings. I’m afraid it won’t be Christmas for those left here this year but someday and sometime  it will be again and when that day comes please, please be there for them.

Thank You, Santa.  You made so many childhood dreams come true that even though I fill stockings now, part of me still believes in the promise of you.

Love,

Heidi

December 17, 2012

When there is no reason.

Posted in Life Lessons, Parenthood tagged , , , , , , , at 3:05 pm by openendedcomment

I’ve been reading.  News Sites, Blogs, Facebook…reading everything everywhere and each place I turn it is there.  The stories of children lost.  Stories of parents hugging their children a bit harder, saying “I love you” one extra time and even one picking their child up from school to go to a toy store.  Because they can.

I read another story, of someone criticizing saying “if it takes this to make you hug your child, you’re doing it wrong.” And that one hurt me.  That one actually made me mad.  You’re not “doing it wrong” you were just reminded how blessed you are to have that child and to need to express that love.  To be comforted by small arms and innocence and the hope that is our children.  To need to love them more now than ever is a good thing.  A right thing.

I spoke to a Mother I know on Friday night who was compelled to meet her little boy at the bus stop instead of waiting for him to come into the house on his own because those few extra minutes without him next to her was just too much to bear.  My cousin wrote he had to stop himself from returning to his daughter’s school this morning for one more hug.  I could barely let mine go today. And  none of that is wrong.  It is natural. It is the promise of the possibility for healing and change that we combat what can only be called an act of pure evil with a massive outpouring of love.  Kindness.  Care and yes, smothering affection. As though we were and with enough of it are smothering the flame of evil and hurt burning in those that would commit such atrocities against the very best of us.  There is nothing more right than that.

I hold firm that though I do not and though none of us may ever really know the reasons for last Friday or for any of the other tragedies that occur far too often, that the root of it all is not one gun, one law, one doctor or one game but rather the culture of violence,  tolerance for cruelty and ignorance of illness we have allowed to grow like an insidious vine, cutting off the beauty and life to our most prized flower.  Like the vine, it is not enough to trim it back when it becomes an issue for it only returns, stronger than ever, hell-bent on accomplishing its task.  We must dig it out.  Destroy each fiber and then, as any good gardener must, check and re-check to ensure it never, ever returns.  We have to end this and more than the ending we must care…with tender and vigilant dedication care and cultivate the best we have among us, the children, the future of who we are.  We must provide help where help is needed, be aware of those struggling among us and protect what we old most dear.  Changes must me made.  And change will come.  I believe that. When the grieving as a nation abates from acute shock to an ache and before we file this away as something that happened once upon a time, change must occur.

For now, for today, for many tomorrows we will grieve.  For some the grief will never end.  For them, I will pray.

December 14, 2012

The Catalyst.

Posted in Life Lessons, Parenthood tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 11:27 pm by openendedcomment

This is not going to be a popular post and at this point I just don’t care.  I can’t change what occurs in every other household but I can damn well make decisions in my own regarding my own family and my own children when it comes to something I know to be true to the very fiber of my being.

For months now my husband and I have made the decision that in this home and for our four children, violence is not tolerated, not allowed and not welcomed.  We do not allow them to watch violent movies.  We do not allow violent video games of any sort.  We did meet all sorts of resistance from them when we made this choice but at the end of the day it is not their decision, it is ours.  Just as they are not raising themselves but rather it is we who have the honor and the privilege of raising them,  we are not here to be their best friends but to ensure their safety, health, education and to provide love and guidance whether they like it or not.  We are the parents and that is our role.  Period.

I know that most parents of 9, 11, 13 and 16 year olds allow Halo and Modern Warcraft and all sorts of other games.  I know that almost every single one of their friends play these games.  There was a brief time when we too allowed this.  I justified it with the constant barrage of really, truly amazing parents I know being seemingly fine with it.  Parents with good, no great children that are a part of our lives being allowed to and seeing that they are weren’t affected.  I was an idiot and it ranks right up there with the biggest mistakes I’ve made as a Mother.  Before anyone is overly offended, let me be clear:  Your choices for your children are yours…but mine…mine for mine are just that.  Mine.  My instinct told me no, but societal norm allowed me to say yes and it will take me a long time to forgive myself for that.

Our catalyst was the Aurora, Colorado, massacre.  I watched the news coverage and saw an anchor go from somber reporting of a four-year old killed in her Mother’s arms to a story regarding Lindsay Lohan in under ten seconds.  Within seven hours of the tragedy, she and we moved on.  The headlines on MSNBC and CNN did not last an entire day at the top of the news sites.  They were there, but buried beneath election and celebrity news.  The thought and worse yet the reality that our culture is one in which such soul-crushing pain and violence can be brushed aside within a news cycle is something I can’t comprehend and it boggles my mind that any human being can find this acceptable.  The worst part of this is knowing that children, my children, are being raised in a place and in a mind-set of this kind of life-altering tragedy being commonplace and therefore acceptable…sad, but acceptable.  Painful, but a part of Modern America.  No.  No way am I going to accept that we as a culture can be faced with and can move forward from this kind of thing numb to it all.  How ingrained in our world is the loss of innocent life that we no longer are shocked by it?

I am not a law-maker and I don’t have a time machine.  I can’t change the access to guns and the laws governing them (though I can damn well try to and make a great deal of noise doing so)  I can’t go back in time and raise my children in a place before Columbine…Virginia Tech…Aurora…Oregon…today.  I do not have the ability to raise children who are unaware of such tragedy, who do not accept mass murder of children and “shooter” drills in their school as par for the course.  No matter how much I wish and regret that it is so, no matter that is actually sickens me that this is the case, there is not a damn thing I can do to keep them from accepting this as a part of life.  But I can do something.  I have to do something.  At the very least I may endeavor to maintain any shred of innocence they may have left, these children of mine.  I can hold them closer to childhood, a place this fear should never touch. I can do my utmost to allow them to feel outrage, shock and pain at an act which is the very definition of these things.  I can do that by not exposing them to blood, murder, death and the ending of life on a daily basis through games…winning by the kill…for it is not a game.  It is not entertainment.  It is not normal.  It is not even tolerable and it is not something that anyone, especially a child should be numb to.  To allow it to be so is a tragedy unlike any other imaginable.  To stand idly by and believe that constant exposure to violent death will not affect young minds is, to me, inane at best.  Of course if affects them.  Everything they hear, see, taste and touch affects them.  Why do we attempt to instill our values in our children if not to have them live those values?  Why do we speak to them of love and tolerance and friendship if that is not what we wish?  And if that is true how do we go from that to having them run off to the basement or their rooms to gleefully slaughter enemy soldiers in a virtual world and then fail to see the sickening irony of it all?  And no,  I do not feel that today or any of these  tragedies we have faced in such close proximity are caused by video games or by movies…but the pervasive culture of violence we are raising our children and young adults in can no longer be ignored.  My God, we have got to wake up.

The pain…the unthinkable, unimaginable and overwhelmingly unbearable pain so many are facing tonight and all of the nights to come…I can’t begin to say I understand the depth of this.  I can pray for their healing, pray for it to never happen again.  I can cry and I have cried untold tears this afternoon and evening.  I can feel but I cannot begin to understand.  None of us do and God willing, none will.  It is not the fault of any parent of any child who does these things.  It is not the fault of a game or a movie.  It is not the fault of a law.  But, when so many tragedies continue to occur here and not elsewhere…not to this degree…not with this kind of regularity…when this undeniable truth is faced, it is time we begin to take notice and past time we follow with action.

They are our future.  They are our legacy.  I am not asking any other parent to change their own values and their own rules…that is not my place…I am merely changing my own.  I am doing so because maybe I’m not as alone in this as I think I am.  Maybe I’m not the only parent who has taken this stand her home.  And if I am not, I want you to know that you’re not alone either.  None of us are and maybe, just maybe it’s time we start acting like it.

December 13, 2012

Let’s talk about sex.

Posted in Parenthood tagged , , , , , at 11:29 am by openendedcomment

In nine days, according to the Mayan Calender, John Cusack and a bevy of  very convinced “Preppers” the world as we know it will end.  I don’t exactly buy that (if  I did I assure you I would not be spending one ounce of time on a  computer much less sitting in traffic) but I do believe that my world, as I know it, has come to a shattering and screeching halt.

My two eldest children are talking about sex.  Not as in they want to know about it/let’s have the birds and the bees talk/what-does-that-mean talk but as in they know people who are having sex, one of them has been pressured that he’s not c00l until he has sex and on top of that they are teenagers with raging hormones which I am trying desperately to rein in variety.  It is killing me.  The world is ending and I want to run away screaming from this alternate universe in which my babies are contemplating and coming dangerously close to being in situations where they could have babies…and…I mean…how in the hell did this happen?!?!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know exactly how this happened.  I was once thirteen and then sixteen, too.  I totally get that part of it and that is the reason I am so damn freaked out. What I do not and will not (I fear) get is how I ended up a Mother being faced with this situation.  How and why and just how did they get this old?  And for that matter, how am I old enough to deal with this? What has happened to my nice little world of soccer and hockey and play practice and not worrying about anything other than what time they go to bed when at a sleepover to worrying about where they sneak out to and who they sleep with?!  What on earth is going on that this is even remotely possible..?  I am at a loss.

My daughter, bless her sweet little self, started this revelation by coming home and announcing that she wanted a purity ring.  My husband paused for about .2 seconds and then responded with “OK, let’s go to the jeweler and how big do you want it?” Exactly the response you expect from a Dad the first time he hears his daughter talk about the s-word, he sprinted to buy the modern-day equivalent of a chastity belt.  My son, faced with his first girlfriend and a sophomore in high school is hearing from other sophomores and juniors how great all of this is and as any red-blooded boy would be, is curious.  I am petrified.  We have had all of the talks and we have discussed the importance of this decision and the risks involved and everything else to the point that even I am tired of hearing it.  But what keeps me up is the nagging question of…is it enough?

God I hope it’s sunk in…it has to have sunk in. 

Our daughter, when asked why she wanted the ring and what it meant to her explained to us that many of her friends were engaging in sex and almost every one of her friends’ older siblings in high school is, and as she’s starting high school next year she wanted everyone to know she was going to wait so that she wouldn’t be pressured.  Now, I feel I deserve massive credit for simply blinking hard and taking a deep breath as opposed to  either a) grabbing her and sobbing with gratitude or b) dashing to the liquor cabinet and guzzling something in order to process and calmly respond.  Instead, I asked her how she felt about her friends that were making those choices and what her understanding of the risks associated with it is…and I was impressed with her response.  I asked her to relay some of this to her brother to better help him understand from someone not his parents.  She did.  I asked how many of her friends (her close group) also had purity rings, she responded almost all and the ones that didn’t were asking for them for Christmas.  I now truly love all of those girls.  Talk about “good” peer pressure…

But despite the fact that I am admittedly thrilled with my not-so-little girl’s response and approach, I still feel as though my entire world has been turned upside down…that I am at the edge of a cliff I am nowhere near ready to go down…and I am worried sick about what the next eight years have in store.  My baby, my youngest son, is going to be ten years old in three weeks’ time.  In a matter of a few months I will have two children in high school and one in middle school.  Next year is my last year with a  child in elementary school…and I am left wondering what I’m going to do about it all.  I realize the entire world will not stop turning merely because my children are growing, but for me, it feels as though it has.  I need to be more aware now than ever before.  I have to strike a balance between engaging them daily to understand and be involved in every aspect of their lives while keeping enough distance to respect the young adults they are becoming as being capable (and though I hate to admit it, necessary in order to learn) of making their own decisions.  I have to be just close enough to be aware yet far enough to prevent them from hiding from me.  And as I type this, I have on my computer a picture taken only five years ago…little faces almost unrecognizable as the four people who call me Mom today.  I am proud of who they are becoming but I miss so very much who they were. 

I realize that stopping the world is a bit much to ask, but could we just slow down?  or let me catch up?  Something? (sigh) Oh well, today I have no time to figure out that possibility.  Today I have to work, get children from A to B several times and on the off-chance the Mayans are even remotely right I suppose I should stock up on a  few extra cans of soup on my way home.  And maybe a gun.  In case the ring ever fails.

December 10, 2012

Sugar Cookies and Champagne.

Posted in Life Lessons, Parenthood, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , at 8:06 pm by openendedcomment

This is the first Christmas in forty-four years of life my husband will not spend the holiday with his family.  Every Christmas morning of every year he went to his Grandmother’s home.  It is always difficult when traditions change, when childhood, no matter our age, takes its final bow in the known and predictable ways and places of our lives.  Christmas, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or Birthdays…for each of us there is that one thing, that one person or activity that we always do or always see because we have always done so.  For him, it was Christmas at Grandma Jane’s.   Cousins everywhere and platters upon platters of sugar cookies so thin you can almost see right through them.   It was thirty-plus people in their Sunday best (because when your Grandmother tells you to dress up, you do), it was coffee and champagne by the case,  catching up on who is having yet another child (Irish Catholic family, someone is always pregnant) and an annual time of  simple togetherness.  It was his connection to a man he loved dearly and knew for far too short of a time,  the Father he lost at twelve years old.  These past few years they and it meant even more.  It and she has been the family he felt he would always have, through these difficult past two years they were the people who he knew would never leave him.  His Grandmother is still with us, but for the first time she’s not up for the Florida to Minnesota trip.  As it is also the first Christmas since his Mother passed this makes it an especially difficult year and despite mine and the children’s best efforts, we can’t seem to get him in the spirit.  I suppose it is like this for all of us at one time or another.  I remember when my Grandmother on my Father’s side passed…Chrstmas with my Nana had always meant Norwegian pastries, Lefse, Herring and the Lutefisk my Poppi would drown in butter.  It meant the Moe family and singing and laughter and seeing a side of my Dad that was reserved for Grand Forks, a softer and more relaxed, quicker to laugh version of himself…something I wonder if even he realized.  It has been over fifteen years since my last Christmas in North Dakota and almost a decade since I saw the Moe family.  I make the krumkake and flatbread, the english toffee and the divinity for my family now…there is song and laughter…though I’ll happily admit that the lutefisk is not a part of the tradition I carried on.  I do this to honor the family I miss, to give my children a grasp of their heritage and a piece no matter how small, of the Christmas’ I knew as a child.  I do it to give my Dad a taste of the home he was raised in.  This year I will do this for my husband, too.  I may not be able to provide the cousins, but I can make the cookies.  If I am lucky, having our little family around him will provide the security and steadfast comfort he needs.  In time our own family will surely grow and perhaps much like a Scandinavian Christmas without Lutefisk, while not identical to what we were raised in, it can become something even sweeter- A holiday that respects and embraces what and who we were raised with while allowing us to make it our own.  This year on Christmas morning we will open gifts according to age, youngest first, and on Christmas morning there will be champagne…just like Grandma’s house…but this year, under no circumstances will we be driving in a blizzard in our Sunday best.  Cheers!

November 19, 2012

Drinking Poison.

Posted in Life Lessons tagged , , , at 2:56 pm by openendedcomment

I read a quote not too long ago that read “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” That resonated and still echos in me as a true statement and one I need to take to heart.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about this as of late.  In endeavoring to be a better person as a whole and forgive/let go of anger/move forward I’ve found there are more obstacles than I anticipated. More questions and fewer answers than I’d like. For example, at what point is it actually dumb to just let it go? When does it become a masochistic act to allow pain to continue? Is it really possible to forgive and forget or is it better to forgive and remember? And what about when you want to forgive but the forgivee just won’t stop doing the previously unforgivable? How do you forgive as an individual when as a couple (talking about my husband and I) you were wronged?

All of these questions weigh heavy on my heart these days.  In some instances it’s been easy enough to just do the right thing and move on, in others…not so much.  A few of these situations came to a head over the past weekend. I was faced with people I didn’t want to be faced with and put in situations I had no desire to be in.  But there it they and I were. And as I dealt with (or in some cases didn’t deal) with it all I thought again of the poison that all of this negativity is.  And I know it has to end.

There are people and situations I’d like very much to move on from, situations that happened, can’t be undone and I’d rather not have the lingering effects touch my life and the lives of those I love.  I know in order to do this I have to let it go and move forward, but the how to do that eludes me.  I can forgive anything.  I just can’t forget.  I don’t need revenge and I don’t want vengeance.  I just want peace.  Simplicity.

I suppose the only real course of action is to do what I know to be right.  To offer forgiveness to some and to ask for it from others. I suppose it isn’t the right approach, but I’m fairly certain that in some cases these messages won’t be received well and I suppose that’s what has stopped me from doing it sooner.  But maybe that’s the real meaning of the message…to just get rid of the poison.  Literally,  To not over-think the what-ifs of it all, to just do what I can do and to know that where it goes once it leaves me is not my choice to make.

Wish me luck.

November 3, 2012

Censorship.

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 9:13 am by openendedcomment

I feel that there is a disproportionate amount of prejudice, hurt and hatred being spewed these days.  I can’t stop it all but I can end some.  For those that asked, that’s why I declined to approve some comments on my last post.  It wasn’t written as an open debate on religion and politics but rather to explain my own personal view on the matter and to encourage others to examine their own personal view before voting.  I had and have no intention of telling someone else what to think or why.  I don’t believe that’s right.  I have no intention of promoting cruelty and pain be it intentional or not and therefore will not allow it on something over which I have control.  Open discussions are one thing, blatent attacks, comparisons to crimes and name calling are quite another.

I hope that after the dust has settled and the votes are all counted that we are closer to unity and acceptance for all as a society, but that’s just me.  That’s what I want.  That’s what I pray for.

 

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