Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

10,000+ Steps Today, but 2 Steps Back: the Knee Saga, part 50

Standard

About 7:15 p.m. C.S.T., while on a rather plodding one mile walk during my youngest’s evening fencing class, my Fitbit buzzed on my wrist, confirming I had reached my daily goal of ten-thousand steps. It was a glorious feeling! I haven’t felt the buzz of my chameleon-like friend in nearly four months, and I have missed it so. The question from here, however, is how many more ten-thousand step days can I rack upfitbit-colors in the remaining days of summer?

Sigh. I suppose I shall find out soon enough. You see, I had my twelve-week post surgery follow-up today, and while things are better than they were on 9 a.m. on March 18th, April 18th, May 18th, and even June 18th, they are still not back to where they were on March 17, when the “only” orthopedic problem I had was a two cm “high-grade” tear of the proximal hamstring tendon (under my butt cheek) in my left leg (at this point, dear reader, I will refer you back to my post of May 18, “A Day in the Life of My Knee,” for the full-story about my surgery). Due to continued pain at the medial joint line and my inability to walk a mile, let me amend that, “stroll” a mile, without pain three months after surgery, my surgeon has ordered a new MRI on my bum wheel.

Once the results come in, he and I will discuss “the future.” What, oh, what will it be? If a “frank” tear, a screaming, blatant, obvious tear is evident in my meniscus, then we will be looking at another surgery, perhaps in the fall. Dear Surgeon, thinking aloud during our tête à tête today, commented that the question would then be whether to attempt another repair or to debride the tissue, leaving me sans a medial meniscus in my right knee. I quickly assured him I was leaning towards removal. I am so sick of being sidelined, that between waiting an additional quarter plus for the outcome of a second procedure that only has 60/40 odds of healing properly and would require another $#@%^!!!! six weeks on crutches or a removal that would have me walking again within days, my answer is, “Get rid of it.”  I know that undergoing a complete menisectomy is starting the clock on a total knee replacement, but that may be ten years dfrustrated-kit-247x300own the line, not my fourth surgery in two years in three to six months if the repair fails again.

Of course, the idea of waiting until the fall if surgery is indicated, gives me time to get stronger, for my very angry hip muscles to relax, for my gait to improve, for the feeling to come back into my knee (nerve damage sucks!), and for me to be in a better frame of mind. All of those things will make recovering much easier on me (and my family), and I could use a little “easier” right now; I could also use a lot of exercise “release.” When you are someone who needs exercise, who craves the outdoors, but you have to put all of those desires upon the shelf for a season, well, I think I finally know what a castrated tom cat feels like now.

Still, through it all, I have tried to maintain a good perspective, even if I have had pockets of sadness and thrown a few pity parties here and there. A dear friend of mine suffers with MS. Her physical decline started in her early 20s, when her children were very small. She is now in her 70s and has been wheel chair bound for the last decade. Before that she progressed from requiring a cane to a needing a walker. I am blessed.

Earlier this year, combat veteran Noah Galloway was on Dancing with the Stars, a show I never watch. Fortunately though, I caught the video of Noah on Facebook several months back. And I was in tears. I feel like such a complete wuss, whining about a little nerve damage and a torn meniscus. This amazing man is nothing short of a walking miracle, and my pain, or my frustration is nothing.

Indeed, compared to many millions, I am blessed beyond measure. Like us all, I have to remember that I am an eternal soul stuck in a fragile, imperfect, mortal body. I shall run, no, SPRINT, in the eternities, even if on this Earth I have to be content to racewalk. Or even sit on the bench for a while. Since I’m not quite ready to take that final step-off into perfection, I guess I shall await the outcome of my upcoming MRI and continue to bide my time in this telestial sphere. Maybe, just maybe, I can finally get some help for that torn hamstring, too.

Advertisements

She May Be a Beast, but She’s My Beast, You Jerk!

Standard

When my oldest was tiny it was pretty clear to us and others that she was a bright child. She quickly picked up on the sign language signs I taught, bobbed with rapt attention at her Baby Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven videos, chatted incessantly, and was anxious to engage the world around her in meaningful ways (like staring people down until they made eye contact with her). As new parents, my husband I anxiously looked for signs that our little bit was the second coming of Einstein, purchasing flash cards to help bolster her language skills, reading to her frequently, and offering educational programming sure to stimulate her latent genius genes. She gave us a bone here and there, gave us hope that our first born would be the next great child whiz, but nothing too astounding.

Because this stay-at-home mama needed a break from Miss Crazy High Energy, High Demand, Blondie went first a friend’s house two days a week, then to mother’s day out (MDO) the following year, where she thoroughly stressed out one of the teachers in her two year old class. Why? Simply put: the child would not nap. No, no, she insisted on being up and about during nap time, bothering the other kids and continuing to explore. The other room teacher was happy to take my active toddler to the office to make copies or walk her around through the hallways if it kept her quiet. The other teacher, however, would have none of that. She was an older woman with a military background who had had her one son, her golden child, later in life. My fair-haired square peg refused to fit into the round hole this teacher expected her to. Much to the chagrin of said teacher, Blondie fell fast asleep the moment we walked in the house. She was a champion napper for me (praise be!)!

Her strong will and quick wit made feeding, potty training, and getting her out of her crib into a different bed a real challenge. Try as I might to get her to sit in a high Jumperchair to eat, she just wouldn’t have it.  Until she was too heavy for it, I had to sit her in a doorway jumper and let her bounce and spin to her heart’s content in order to get food in her body.

I was certain she knew when she needed to use the toilet by the time she was two, maybe 2 and a half, but did that matter? No. The more frustrated I got, the more she dug her heels in. Finally, as I was heading into the third trimester of my second pregnancy, a therapist I was seeing at the time while trying to deal with my mom’s sudden death suggested I “ask” dear daughter if she “wants” to be potty trained. That was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever heard, but it worked, from that day forward, it worked. The only time we ever had another problem with toilet issues was right after baby number two showed up to usurp her place as “The Baby,” and even then her regression was short lived.

If only kicking her out of the crib so the new member of the household could have it would have been that simple! The “big girl bed” (a twin) and the new digs (big girl bedroom) did very little to persuade her to let go of her crib or the nursey. We finally broke down and bought the kid a toddler bed during the transition, storing the twin for awhile. Even then, it took much longer than expected for her to warm up to the change in space. It didn’t help that she was none to thrilled with the introduction of a baby sister into the family. Goodness, those were some difficult bed times.

In kindergarten, getting her moving and doing all that needed to be done, in order, every day, earlier than it had been done in MDO, became the big battle. The saving grace was that Mrs. Stewart, her teacher, was patient and loving, and Blondie adored her. When she could keep her hands and feet to herself, my little one shined, though she hated doing the Sight Words flash cards and phonics activities, which were her homework. She despised practicing what she already knew (or thought she knew “well enough”). End of story.

Blondie in the aisles at Target

We moved to a new house, town, and school district just up the road during the summer between kinder and first grade. I knew little about the new district or our assigned school except that it was “better” than our “good” old district. A well-informed, well-connected neighbor steered me towards getting Blondie into one of the two special dual-aged classes her new school offered, a class where first and second graders worked side by side with each other. Perfect for a precocious kid! Or not.

At the first six-weeks’ parent-teacher conference, my Blondie was “Smart! Bright! Amazing!” but by Spring Break her teacher, who had tried everything her young, childless, recently married self could think of to keep my square peg in her seat and focused on work, not cutting up, yapping, or playing, was done. Now the report was, “If she keeps this up, she’ll fail out of elementary school.” Really? My crazy little squirrel was already being doomed to failure at the ripe old age of 7? Dear husband and I were not prepared to put our daughter on Ritalin at that moment, so instead we put her in Montessori.

Montessori helped my kiddo love learning and doing again, and I loved the philosophy, but by the beginning of third grade we were really wondering if the kid would be “more likely to succeed” with meds. Work was just not getting completed; and while the teachers weren’t worried, we were. So, we went through an extensive testing process with her to find out that three of the four components used to measure I.Q placed her in the “high average” category, but her verbal component, the “I cannot process anything in my head, so that’s why it all comes out my mouth” part of the test was up in the 130’s. That number alone explained so much. Nevertheless, the therapist said no to ADH/D meds (they might help, but would likely make a few of her ever present tics much worse), pronounced her on the Gifted and Talented spectrum, and wished us good luck! I’m still unsure whether or not Montessori was the best money ever spent, as it seemed to reinforced a few of her less-than-helpful-for-school personality traits, such as a propensity to procrastinate, but at least she got to spend two years enjoying quirky kids like herself, making true friends, some of whom she is still in contact with eight years later, and doing real hands-on learning in areas and manners far different from public school.

Had we stayed in the area, we would probably have kept her in Montessori, but instead we moved to a suburb of Nashville, TN for her fourth grade year, then to Houston for fifth and beyond. She went back to public school in Nashville and stayed there through middle school. Blondie had wonderful teachers for the remainder of elementary, but the struggles with focus, drive, and attitude towards drudge work continued. I assured her teachers I was “on her,” not to worry. Her dear, sweet, sainted, fourth-grade teacher, even cried over a letter I penned confirming that I understood she was trying her best with my intelligent, but strong-willed and often complacent learner, and that I didn’t blame her for Blondie’s issues, like failing to turn in work. The poor woman was so used to getting letters from parents blaming her for their child’s failings, she hardly knew what to do with my note of encouragement and commiseration.

At various times I have been given predictions about the future of Blondie’s educational attainment that

Oh, goodness! Is my eye twitching again?

Oh, goodness! Is my eye twitching again?

echoed that of her flustered first grade teacher, and her dad and I have wondered endlessly about her ourselves. She loves to learn what she wants to learn, but grade or no grade, if she doesn’t burn to learn it, good luck getting the work done or getting her to take an interest. As much as I appreciate passion and know that grades aren’t everything, it has been hard for dear husband and I to watch a child fully capable of make straight A’s opt for less because a subject or a paper just wasn’t as important as watching You Tube How-To videos on Anime that particular week. Trying and falling short is one thing, but a zero, or rather lots of zeros, show nothing but a lack of effort.

Yet, just as she did as a baby, she has impressed us and others in many different areas. She began piano lessons at six, but tried to trump her teacher by memorizing her pieces by ear. Getting the child to learn to read music was torture— to all involved. She really had no patience for etudes, theory, and the traditional way of learning. Once we moved to Houston, I gave up on piano. Her abilities were evident, but her desire was nil. Thus, when she asked to take cello in fifth grade, I declined her request. However, she renewed her fervor for cello the following year in middle school, so hubby and I relented. Private lessons began in seventh grade; and in eighth, she got a cello for Christmas. Oddly, once the cello was acquired, her practice habits went kaput. Her desire to play was there, but it was not enough to override the attention she preferred to give other things. Plus, the kid had an issue with performing, or rather competing. She was good, very good, but as her middle school orchestra teacher noted, “It’s easy to be a big fish in a small pond.” It didn’t help that being the big fish filled her with no small amount of pride, and I don’t mean of the positive sort. It was the kindergarten flash cards all over again!

Going into high school, my oldest decided it was time to join her younger sister in the ranks of the homeschooled. Although, she is hardly homeschooled; it’s more like she’s chauffeured. Blondie, who is going into her junior year now, liked the idea of deciding for herself the trajectory of her high school years. It would have been very easy (on me) if she had opted to do some on-line classes like those offered through places like Keystone Academy, K-12, or Freedom Project. Alas, Blondie, as anti-social as she can be, thrives on discussion and classroom interaction with teachers and students. In other words, you have finally bought into my argument against government schooling and you want to homeschool, but you won’t do it at home? Wonderful (twitch, twitch).

In Houston, we are extremely blessed to be in an area that is home to such a broad variety of homeschool (HS) opportunities. Among the offerings available to assist the HS community, are several co-ops. They function similarly to a private school, but are typically based on a college model, allowing parents and kids to pick from an array of classes and pay for them individually each month. A child may do one class at such a facility, and every thing else at home, or vice versa. We have two such places within thirty minutes of our home, and were preparing to set up a schedule of classes for her at both, when, near the end of Blondie’s eighth grade year, I found out that Houston Baptist University (HBU) had begun an encapsulated dual-credit high school program based on the Great Books and utilizing the Socratic method of teaching. And joy of joys, they would be offering two classes at EE, the co-op closest to us. Blondie was over the moon.

cello-instrument-streicher-100_v-image512_-6a0b0d9618fb94fd9ee05a84a1099a13ec9d3321

So much for seeing my daughter perform at Carnegie Hall

Because of two simple classes, HBU opened up an entirely new pathway for my oldest: doing college instead of high school. We expected she would do some college work during high school, probably in her junior and senior years, but thanks to HBU’s Academy program, dear daughter’s college started at fourteen. In order to progress further, Blondie changed campuses for her HBU classes this past year. Instead of a twenty-minute drive each way for classes twice a week, we now load up, drive fifty minutes out to the main campus, then closer to two hours back, due to rush hour traffic. Last summer, she also began taking dual credit classes from our local junior college, and this summer she’s added on-line classes from BYU. Her college transcript will look like a patchwork quilt, but two years after coming “home,” my under-achieving over-achiever has nearly thirty-five college hours under her belt. By the time she is eighteen, Blondie will have her Associate of Arts and then some, or in other words, seventy plus hours.

It has by no means been an easy path for either of us. My poor car has driven many miles; I’ve sat and waited many hours; and not being as big a wiz at math or science as Blondie is at history and English has required her to get tutored by a friend’s son for high school math, which means one more place for me to drive for classes. Because of this weakness (which is shared by both me and her father), dear daughter will have her electives and Humanities-type college credits out of the way far ahead of those (accursed) STEM areas. Nevertheless, she’s figuring out what college is as a high schooler, learning to communicate with professors (including the oddballs, the jerks, and the non-communicative ones), and understanding what kind of work is expected. There is still some continued teeth pulling on my behalf, particularly for those “Why do I have to take these?” core classes she dislikes, but she’s making A’s and B’s and is excited to launch up to BYU-Idaho in a couple of years to pursue a degree in Illustration. Not too bad for a kid who almost flunked first grade.

Having my oldest “home” has been both wonderful and utterly exhausting. In the course of our crazy driving schedule (which will get SO much better for me after she gets her license this summer. Fingers crossed!), some things have inevitably fallen through the cracks. The most important for me was the time I had to spend in person (and awake) with my youngest. Her fifth grade year, Blondie’s freshman year, was almost a wash. To remedy this she began on-line classes with Freedom Project last fall. But the second most important thing that got lost in the shuffle was cello.

I’m terribly sad about this. I love the cello; so does my daughter. I adore most classical music, as does my daughter. Unlike my daughter, though, I have zero musical talent, unless you count appreciating fine music. She had a truly terrific cello teacher who was so excellent with her, and whom she enjoyed. But… just like back in elementary and middle school, you can try and fail, but you can’t fail to try. And unfortunately, that’s exactly where she’d gotten to with her practicing. So, this past week, the three of us, Blondie, her teacher, and I, put an end to two years of frustration sprinkled with fleeting moments of brilliance. Cello lessons are no more. Sigh. There was no doubt this was coming. In fact, it was already clear to me that next school year, which will be every bit as jammed up with classes in various places as this past one had been, was going to be incompatible with the schedule of practice (one whole hour a day!) he expected in order to see improvements, let alone finding a three-hour block for her lesson, including drive time. We were prepared to wrap things up with him, but he beat us to the punch on Friday, sending us packing in a rather unceremonious fashion, asking that I contact him to confirm that Blondie was or was not going to get her crap together to continue lessons with him, at least through the summer.

Well, it took me about five minutes in the car with her for us to both decide it just was time to cut bait. He’d understandably lost faith in her, and I was tired of driving all the way to BFE for her to flounder and falter and fake her way through a lesson for which she was unprepared. Listening to that was painful on many levels! Seriously, it was time to “tap out,” and that was the exact memo line designation I gave my email to Mr. Cello. I thanked him for his time, energy, effort, and patience, but it was evident her passions had turned to other things. Add a new job in to the mix of drawing, writing, academics, and breathing, and the kid just doesn’t have anything left for cello. “You have been wonderful, but we’re done.”

The response I got back was hot, to say the least. “I hope she gets her behavioral pattern ducks in a row because when she gets to college, professors will either gleefully flunk her or (more likely) dismiss her entirely. I am out of energy carrying the whole load for her lessons and if by some odd chance she comes back, I will have no more patience in regards to her practice discipline or cavalier attitude with appointment times.” Whew! I agree, however…..

Yes, getting her out the door to a lesson forty-five minutes away is a pain, as getting her out the door has always been. Yes, sometimes, that is me that makes us two or four or six whole minutes late. Sometimes there is traffic or a wreck or a slow-moving vehicle or some other unforeseen issue we can do nothing about, and we never have an hour an a half cushion in the schedule to override these problems or ensure we are there early. No, Blondie doesn’t emote anymore, so when you gripe at her or ream her for something, she is more likely to shut-down than speak up for herself, unless it is me reaming her. She is almost the exact opposite of crazy, high-strung nut ball who I had to chase down the aisles as church as a toddler. Some where, somehow, for some reason only she knows, my dear daughter has trained herself to disconnect from her emotions to the point it is hard to read what is going on in her head half the time— even for me! Unless she’s happy, that is. We are a laughing family, and she does that with gusto, but she’s uncomfortable expressing deeper, more complex emotions. As her mom, and an emotional red-head at that, it makes me a bit crazy at times, too, but I don’t dismiss her as ‘cavalier.’ Yes, if by chance she comes back [to cello], it won’t be to you. And that’s O.K. with us.

His note gave me great pause for thought this past weekend. His angry, flustered missive contained a nugget of truth about my child, but it also sought to sum up much more about her than anyone who doesn’t live with her twenty four-seven could ever know. She is ‘in college’ and doing quite well, thank you very much! She does appear (and is) dismissive and without discipline in regards to practicing her cello, which is, of course, what we paid you to teach her, but you should see her drawings! The child is amazing, better and more dedicated to honing her craft than I ever was. You should hear her discuss Aristotle or Dante or pontificate on the coolness of Euclid (math without numbers, she CAN do!). You should hear her teach a lesson or give a talk at church. That kid has a natural talent and a love for teaching that is evident to all. Yes, I’ve had to ride her about some course work, there are things this forty-four year old mom with a college degree knows about college that a newly minted sixteen-year old doesn’t. Yes, she procrastinates, which she comes by naturally. Yes, she is still working on becoming the human being God means for her to be. Aren’t we all?! Yes, she is still trying to figure out exactly what she want to do and be. Yes, she is a bit of a punk at times, but she’s a faithful kid, a bright kid, an intelligent, sensitive, pain in the butt! But she’s MY pain in the butt!mama_bear_mode-1405984

So, yes, Mr. Cello, my kid failed to meet your exacting standards (and wasted a lot of my gas and my money in the process); yes, she has interests beyond cello, and she can be terribly pig-headed and lazy about learning difficult things, but thank heavens there is more to my kid than cello! Thank heavens! we didn’t listen to her first grade teacher, but instead sought out something that was a better fit for her. Thank heavens!I didn’t put her in military school the semester she blew off turning in half her math papers in seventh grade. Thank heavens! I can see her more for the totality of who she is and appreciate that she is a beautiful, intricate work in progress trying to find her way through a complex puzzle of classes she chose for herself. I love this kid, and I don’t expect you to see the greater proportion of what makes Blondie ‘Blondie,’ Mr. Cello. There are days when even I can’t see it. But, for now, just know others before you have made dire predictions about my daughter’s future and been wrong, too! You are not alone, and she will be just fine.

Blackberry Days of Summer

Standard

It would be a marvelous thing if I could create a coffee table-sized book of happy, carefree moments from my childhood, but I can’t. By the time I came along, my mom and her first husband (not my father) seemed to be ummmm… winding down their marriage. IMG_20150525_174741_kindlephoto-19231427When I was eleven, they divorced. Then they both up and quickly remarried. Need I say this wasn’t a great time for me?

Seriously, after twenty-six years together, I kind of expected a bit more introspection before either would even consider marrying again; and I absolutely hoped for a little, “Hey, sweetie, we know this will affect your life in a major way, so let’s talk about it…”  Yeah, no, that didn’t really happen.

Adding insult to my emotional injuries, I’m fairly certain that three to five months before tying the knot again (especially with kids involved) doesn’t constitute cogitation, self-examination, meditation, deep contemplation, or any other deliberative act one might undertake before slipping a ring on one’s finger and dragging one’s child/ren into another relationship. But, hey! I was just eleven, what did I know about anything? Well, nothing except what it was like to live in a broken, busted, dispirited family not of my choosing.

There are millions of us out there, kids of divorce, and I feel I can say with absolute surety that at least fifty percent of those probably had it much, much worse than I. In all likelihood some of my struggles in processing the whole mess created by the adults in my young life stemmed from my personality type; some kids just don’t do well with sudden changes and being kept in the dark about important things. Even still, it took a fair bit of therapy in my 20’s and early thirties, and a whole lot of journaling and praying and scripture studying for me to start to move beyond what were some terribly difficult years.

Out of my experiences has grown a few parenting mantras. One of these is, “I want my kids to need less therapy than I, and for my grandkids to need none.” My second favorite mantra, and one of the prime reasons I have been a stay at home mom for sixteen years, is, “If my kids are going to be screwed up, I want it to be all my fault.” I’m rethinking that last one, to be sure, as I’m finding out certain children just don’t need that much outside help! Nevertheless, twenty-three years of marriage, a college degree, two kiddos, and a deep and abiding faith in God later, and I’ve got the past mostly…in the past.

Anyway, this post is about a few of my pleasant childhood memories, and for that I must start with a description of where I spent my “formative” years. I grew up in a small town northwest of Ft. Worth; Azle was its name, and it was the epitome of southern and redneck.

My neighborhood, which was called Pelican Bay, was way out in the sticks. It was essentially an over-sized, roughly one mile wide by two miles long, mobile home park on the edge of Eagle Mountain Lake (where I spent every spring dreading tornado season). Mother and her husband, who had just retired from the Air Force, moved out there from Shepherd A.F.B. in Wichita Falls, a larger, more sun-baked version of Azle, two hours northwest of Ft. Worth. Both were originally from the winter wonderland of Payette, ID,  so in retirement they opted to settle somewhere more hospitable in the colder months, and Azle was it.

Unfortunately, they had been sold a bill of goods about Pelican Bay’s riding stables, lake access, private club house, beach-side restaurant, cheap acreage, and paved roads. In the end, they, and some other suckers like them got shafted. The Bay never was more than a mobile home park with crappy roads peppered with pot holes the size of Buicks and big weedy lots in the middle of flea, tick, and scorpion prairie-land nothingness. Although, I will admit, during my time there, despite Pelican Bay’s deficient amenities, many, not all, but many of the mobile homes and lots were actually quite nice, underpinning, fences, landscaping and all. I’m sad to say none of it has held up. To make things worse, a friend recently sent me a link to an article about Pelican Bay having been part of a toxic waste dump before they “developed” it into the lakeside paradise of my misty water-colored memories. Joy.

The cake from my 25th high school reunion in 2014. Gads! Am I that old already?

Despite how nice our lot or house might have been, I had brick and mortar dreams, and in my teens I grew to despise everything about our tiny corner of Tarrant County. But in elementary school both Azle and Pelican Bay were home to my friends, some family, the teachers I loved, Karen, the bus driver who took me to and from school for almost my entire life and gave me my first cat, one high school, one middle school, one junior high, and two elementary schools, which were vicious rivals (our third elementary school came along when I was in third grade)– and we were all proud to be Hornets. From the smallest pee-wee football player to the biggest high school lineman, we were all decked out in green, white, and black. Azle was Hornet Town, U.S.A. For better and worse, most of the kids I started school with in kindergarten were also in my graduating class.

The neighborhood store closest to my house was a mile away near the lake, and I would ride my bike there for candy just about every day in the summer. One of the perks to that trip was “torturing” the minnows held in tanks outside of the store for the fishermen. By walking from one end of the tank to the other, you could cause the tiny fish to flee en masse to the oppose side. There was also one monster bug zapper hanging above the tanks, which glowed purple in the night and filled the air with rapidly occurring snaps and pops as mayflies and June bugs did their best Icarus impersonations every night during the long summer play season.

I don't think Coppertone made a "burqa" level SPF in 1978!

I don’t think Coppertone made a “burqa” level SPF in 1978!

Our neighborhood pool didn’t have a life guard on duty, thank goodness! My older brothers and our friends would ride up there (not necessarily together) and spend countless hours every summer. My girlfriends and I would have underwater tea parties, play Marco Polo, and see how long we could hold our breath under the water. We would also practice our crazy dives off of the (gasp!) diving board, doing our best to avoid belly flopping. I would inevitably get sun-burned to a crisp (because melanin-deficient red heads should never use Pina Colada Coppertone), but go right back out the next day. Heavens! Did I get some hellacious blisters?!

Anyway, around the corner and down the dirt road from our trailer was a blackberry patch. I can’t say for sure, but that patch was probably an eighth of an acre- pretty substantial for what seemed to me to be a spontaneously growing spot of heaven on earth.  Just about the time school would get out, back when humans ran our schools and we were out by Memorial Day, is when the berries would turn from hard, red, and inedible to dark and luscious, ready to be picked.

Along with other neighborhood kids, my brothers and I would brave the mosquitoes and the thorns (and I would try not to think about snakes), and we would fill Mother’s Tupperware tubs as full as we could with plump, ripe berries, eating at least as many straight from the vine as we delivered hwallpaper_20080925035435_18634803912ome. I always hoped for sour ones over the sweet, after all, I was the girl who ate lemons, but it was hard to resist those big, sweet berries with their cells so swollen with juice they were the size of toddler’s fist! They were quite simply: divine.

My mom would take our cache and make cobblers and jar after jar of jam, complete with paraffin wax caps. However, my taste buds did and still do prefer raw things to cooked. Raw cookie dough, raw batters (all kinds), raw bread dough, raw berries- salmonella be damned! Cook the item and it quickly loses its appeal, as far as I am concerned. Well, unless we’re talking about meat, poultry, and fish. At that point, please, please, bake, broil, baste or barbecue away!

We got a few summer’s worth of berry gathering out of that berry patch, but not much more than that. I seem to recall a conversation about the actual owner of that land, and ergo the berries, being 51TrXzGpocL._SY300_upset that people were harvesting his fruit and we had to quit “trespassing.” Later, at one point in my ‘tweens,’ I actually went Trick or Treating to a small double-wide on that very spot. It’s like the vines were the Wicked Witch of the East and someone dropped a house on them. The horror of knowing their house was sitting atop my beloved berry patch was a perfect Halloween ‘trick.’

As an adult, I’ve planted two blackberry bushes of my own. Having a memory of pain only slightly faded by time, I was smart enough to select the thorn-less cultivar ‘Navajo’ for my gardens. In childhood, it was ‘the bitter with the sweet,’ but now I know there are plenty of de-thorned alternatives, which allow berry lovers to have their cake and eat it, too.

The bush shown above is in its third fruiting season. I snapped that pic about a week and a half before the berries started turning dark, at which point my oldest daughter’s job became “fighting the mockers.” With bowls in hand, she would rush into the yard, scaring away the pesky, beastly mockingbirds who insisted upon stealing from my vines. Our cats are no good at that sort of thing, so my blondie would have to do. And she “did” with vigor!

What you see to the right is two day’s worth of berries. We were pulling a good half gallon a day for at least eight days, and just slightly less than that for another seven to ten days. I gave away many, many bags of these beauties during late May and early June. Our carpet installers two weeks ago each got a bag; lawn guys, math tutor, massage therapist, chiropractor, scripture group, cello teacher- bags for all! I was giving away so much that I almost forgot to keep somblackberriese for us.

As much as I love my berries fresh, I did consent to make one cobbler. Whiny oldest objected to the paleo recipe, so she went without. Younger daughter and I got it all. The girls and I discussed making some freezer jam, but nothing ever became of that. Could be I got sad every time I thought of boiling my shiny berries into oblivion…in sugar. Mostly though, just like my brothers and I once did, we simply ate them straight off the vine (and out of the bowls in the fridge).

I checked yesterday and only got a small handful off my vines. Today, there were none; our berry picking season has officially come to a close. The few remaining berries in the fridge are losing their tartness, so I guess it’s time to make another cobbler and wrap things up with a bow. It’s going to have to be a small one though…and very, very paleo! 😉

Bummed as I am about waiting another year for blackberry season to start in my backyard, I have two things to console me. First, Blackberries only fruit on new canes. Every year the old canes die off after fruiting and fresh ones begin shooting up near the end of the season. As I type, new canes are working their way out of the ground, giving me a glimpse of how much bigger my haul will be in 2016. Unfortunately, due the severe weather we’ve had recently, I’ve already lost a new cane…and it was as tall as me! Second, I have my memories of those more simple, more carefree days in the late 1970’s, hunting through thorn- ridden berry bushes with my brothers, cramming as many sweet and sour orbs into my mouth as I could before getting yelled at to “Save some for mom!” Fruiting season 2016 is only eleven months away. I think I can wait.

Just Some Random Thoughts…

Standard

One of the perks of being off of social media is that I’ve stopped feeling the need to post twenty times a day whenever something “striking” happens to me. Still, I feel the need to journal about some of these things, as a few are dilbert_randomtruly important. Hence, this blog post: a bunch of little things all wrapped up in one little blog bow, not twenty or twenty thousand individual posts. So, here it goes…

  • My husband started a new job at the beginning of the month. He’s in federal law enforcement, and will be for another three years or so. I’m hoping and praying this new agency jump will be his last (and best). In our 23 years together, he’s worked for four different agencies, with a 13 year stint at the FBI being his longest; his time at the Bureau would best be described by Charles Dickens’ opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”My dear hubby wanted to be an FBI agent from the time he was a little boy. Leaving the Bureau was the death of a dream for him, but after September 11, and after Director Mueller got a hold of the reins, it was a dream that needed to die.  He’s been searching for a new “home” every since, a legitimate agency (as opposed to many which have no business even existing!) where he can serve the tax payer by busting the bad guys and serve his better angels by solving the puzzles that the criminals create for my white-collar guy. He’s very, very good at what he does, and he takes seriously his role as a protector of tax payer funds. If only the government itself cared for our funds as much as he does, government spending would be half of what it is now!
  •  My oldest monkey was supposed to take her driving test last week, but alas, we didn’t have all of the paperwork we needed, nor did we have a signature from my husband, her “official” parent-teacher.
    61Bz7qJJY+L._SL1200_

    This magnet is actually on my car

    ..who is out of town until month’s end! Alas, now, it will be mid-July before another appointment at our local DPS is available (unless I can squeeze her in at one 50 miles away in the sticks!). Grrrr!! I am so ready for this child to be driving herself around. Despite my dear daughter’s recent accident and other harrowing experiences teaching her to drive this past year, I can’t fathom parents (or kids) that aren’t chomping at the bit for their sixteen year old to take that leap. Sadly, that seems to be the new norm though…right up there with children living in their parents’ basements until their mid-30s and being on their insurance until the “child” is TWENTY SIX!! Not in my house! 

  • Another milestone for my oldest: she’s got her first job! She’ll be working at a newly remodeled Chick-fil-A near our home. She’s cute in her work uniform and chunky black slip-resistant Skechers. “It’s my pleasure to serve you” is her new mantra. However, her feet are feeling the pain of being on them for six hours at a time. Smart as she is though, she’s decided $8 plus bucks an hour towards greater financial independence is worth a little pain. Kudos to my big kid!
  • I have been having a hard time getting back to normal walking post knee surgery. I was on crutches with zero weight bearing on my right leg for six weeks. Since weaning off of them, beginning on May 18, I’ve had an incessant problem with knots/ trigger points in all the muscles that originate on or around the hip joint. Add to that the difficulty of breaking through the scar tissue around my
    54062201

    It feels like it some days

    knee caused by both the surgery and the direct impact of an air bag, and regaining full flexion and extension hasn’t been a cake walk by any stretch.Physical therapy has helped with rebuilding some of my strength and balance, and being in the pool for most of my therapy has been a blessing, but nothing has done for as much for my pain and the issues which I feel are hindering my progress as the massage I had a few weeks ago. My therapist beat the snot out of the knots and scar tissue! Parts of it hurt like mad, at one moment I even came off the table! But in the end I got off the table feeling better than I’ve felt since the wreck on March 18th that started all of this mess! I am proclaiming a miraculous healing. Ok, maybe not, but I’m happy to be able to see some light at the end of this tunnel which has felt kind of dark and endless at times. God bless those that are in truly horrific accidents, military or otherwise, who must completely rebuild themselves. You are my heroes.

  • Being the mom of teen-aged girls, even homeschooled teen-aged girls is so hard. My mom raised three girls and two boys, and I have no doubt the girls were the hardest. Like my girls today, I was a “good kid.” I didn’t smoke, drink, party, carouse, do drugs, sleep around, or engage in various and sundry stupid teen behaviours (though I was a bit of a crazy driver (still am)), but I was difficult.I was mouthy, self-centered, mean, emotional, angry, and most of all: lonely. Due largely to a few divorces, sudden remarriages to unpleasant peeople (all of which I had zero say in), and other family issues, my teen years were not fun. Still, my mom tried. At forty-four with two girls of my own and a very stable marriage, I know that now. Hind-sight is an amazing thing.My mom passed away suddenly the day after some pretty routine surgery thirteen years ago, threw a blood clot. I never got to say good-bye. For the most part, we had a strained relationship. I loved her and she loved me, but we were both quite crummy at demonstrating that love in meaningful ways, meaningful to the other, that is. As a protective measure, I have closed the doors on relationships with several family members, and am fully at peace with those decisions (even if some family members take issue with my decisions). The only regret I have, however, is that mom and I couldn’t have had more time to work things out. I wish now, now that I’ve got two teen girls driving me to the highest highs and the lowest lows on alternating days of the week (minutes of the day), I would love to talk to her again, to commiserate, to tell her I’m sorry for…being a self-centered monster of a teen girl, and to thank her for not taking me out of this world just about every other day for driving her crazy and adding to her problems!
  • Speaking of girl issues, I was taken aback by the activity my twelve year old’s class did this past Wednesday at church. Unbeknownst to me, this activity, which was centered around a discussion on real beauty, internal beauty, the beauty that matters, was to culminate in a make-application lesson. No, not just skin care, or “wash-your-face-so-you-don’t-get-zits-or-look-like-you’ve-rubbed-bacon-grease-on-your-face.” No, it was an actual make-up how-to. Granted, it was of the “How not to look like a tramp” variety, but it still hit me like I’d just been told the leaders were teaching a sex-ed lesson with a banana!
    Walking past the room in which the event was occurring, I was struck dumb seeing my precious, beastly little twelve year old, with whom, thanks in part to a big sister who could care less about looking girly, I’ve yet to discuss when she gets to wear make-up, being made up. I was not a happy mama. I was shocked, and saddened, truthfully. Our girls are innocent for such a small moment of time, pure, precious, and unadulterated. The world is constantly pushing them to grow up younger and younger. Girls in my own conservative faith are not immune to that influence. Plenty of the female children in my congregation have

    pg-kids-beauty-treatments-08-full

    Yeah….NO.

    parents markedly less concerned than I am with letting their young ladies look “older.” Whoopee. Good for them. Matters not a whit to me. As one who wears cosmetics sparingly (Seriously, my daily routine entails curling my straight eyelashes and brushing on a bit of mineral powder to counter appearances of skin damage. On really big days (or for the week after I get my hair trimmed shortly), I’ll run a line of grey eyeliner over my top lids. If it’s a really big deal, I’ll wear some mascara, too.), my immediate reaction was to calmly tell my dear child afterwards, “You can wash that stuff off at home.”Unfortunately, the explanation I gave for my opinion of her newly made up face did little to assuage her hurt feelings. She’d had fun. She’d wanted me to tell her she was beautiful and I’d ruined it! Tears ensued. Epic fail, mom. To be sure, I could have handled things better. But still… my opinion stands. Make-up will be discussed closer to fourteen, and don’t even ask about wearing heels until you’re staring down the barrel of junior prom! You’ll be “older” soon enough, dear child. And don’t even try the “But So & So’s mom lets her” argument. Society and culture have always had various “Rites of Passage.” Certainly, playing in the make-up is one of those rites. I just strongly object to having the timing of those rites get pushed further and further back with each generation, or having that timing altered by someone else. In other words, “As for me and my house, we will not cross that line before it’s time!”

    P.S. For all the crying and squalling that occurred at home Wednesday evening, I’m grateful that not a word about make-up has been breathed since!

    Thoughts? Feel free to post!

Some Political Sort of Things That Caught My Eye Recently

Standard
  • Barak Obama, Re-Founding Father, by Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal.  I am disheartened by Congress’s willingness to roll over and play dead, and the judiciary essentially rubber stamping everything Obama. We need a robust division of powers as George Will identifies in his BYU Forum Address “The Political Argument,” from Nov. 5, 2013. I fear our Republic won’t last much longer if we can’t expect more push and pull from our three branches of government.

Cogent bits of Henninger’s column: The central feature of Mr. Obama’s rewrite of what one might call the Founding Fathers’ original vision has been to abolish Congress. Yes, the 535 men and women elected to Congress still show up at the old Capitol building, as they have since November 1800. But once past passage of ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank, the 44th president effectively retired Congress from its historic function. If you put the president behind the wheel of a car in front of the White House to visit Congress, he’d probably get lost.

“Obama’s power grabs” is Republican boilerplate. Voters don’t care about power grabs. But most voters, perhaps including many pre-2008 Democrats, still care about being represented in Washington as defined by the first Founding.

  • More wonderful words from George Will given April 21, 2015 at Yale’s William F. Buckley inaugural “Disinvitation Dinner.” Seriously, this is truly brilliant stuff infused with no small amount of humor. Here’s just a bit:

Yesterday, the Democratic Party, the oldest political party in the world, the party that guided this country through two world wars and is more responsible than any other for the shape of the modern American state—the Democratic Party’s leading and prohibitively favored front-runner candidate for the presidential nomination announced four goals for her public life going forward. One of which is to amend the Bill of Rights to make it less protective. It’s an astonishing event. She said that she wants to change the First Amendment in order to further empower the political class to regulate the quantity, content and timing of political speech about the political class—and so far as I can tell, there’s not a ripple of commentary about this in the stagnant waters of the American journalistic community.

 Well, the belief that the First Amendment is a mistake and that the real right that people have regarding speech is the right to avoid speech that annoys them. The column that got me here tonight, for which I am grateful to admit, contained the following sentence, and this is the one that got me into trouble. Roger mentioned it. I said: Colleges and universities are learning that when they say campus victimizations are ubiquitous and when they make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims will proliferate. And to ensure that they proliferate, we have amended the doctrine of micro-aggressions and to the idea that one has an entitlement in our entitlement society to a cocoon of serenity everywhere.

 Well, as proof of this, I give you the following: I mentioned the Princeton Graduate School. No one at the Princeton Graduate School pays a dime of their expenses. They are by any measure the top one one-thousandth of one percent of the most privileged people who ever lived on this planet. And a few of them, the Black Graduate Caucus, the Latino Graduate Student Association, and Graduate Women of Color recently sent the following protest note to the Princeton administration because Princeton has shuffled their diversity and multicultural and sensitivity bureaucracy by adding two new people. Their protest said this: Princeton University has deepened the anguish and intensified the alienation of its graduate students of color. Stop laughing this is serious business. Students of color are constantly besieged by the racism at Princeton. Surviving Princeton for students like us is more than a struggle. It is a battle for one’s life and sanity for the dignity of one’s nonwhite flesh.

trigger-warning

This premier event is meant to celebrate those who have been “dis-invited” from speaking on college campuses in recent years- all because the left wing-nuts of the faculty or student body didn’t want others  to be able to hear an alternative point of view. The recent practice of silencing opposition is otherwise known as CENSORSHIP, INTOLERANCE, and CLOSED MINDEDNESS. Way to go, lefties. FYI: The freedom of speech isn’t just for you! Oh, yeah…Trigger warning!!

One more thing from George Will: The Speech Every 2015 College Grad Needs to Hear from Prager U.

Experience teaches us: in order to know oneself well and develop harmoniously, a human being needs the reciprocity of man and woman,” said Pope Francis.  “When that is lacking, one can see the consequences.”Those consequences fuel confusion and error, said the Pope. “For example, I ask myself, if the so-called gender theory is not, at the same time, an expression of frustration and resignation, which seeks to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it,” he said.  “Yes, we risk taking a step backwards.”

 “The removal of difference in fact creates a problem, not a solution,” said Pope Francis.

Seeking to change or dissolve the complementarity between man and woman produces intellectual, social and spiritual darkness, the Pope continued.  “God entrusted the earth to the alliance between man and woman: its failure deprives the earth of warmth and darkens the sky of hope,” he said in his April 15 audience.

The order established by God between man and woman and creation is the key to harmony, said the Pope.

“The great refamily-procsponsibility of the Church, of all believers, and first of all of believing families, which derives from us, impels people to rediscover the beauty of the creative design that also inscribes the image of God in the alliance between man and woman,” said the Pope.

He continued, “The earth is filled with harmony and trust when the alliance between man and woman is lived properly. And if man and woman seek it together, between themselves, and with God, without a doubt they will find it. Jesus encourages us explicitly to bear witness to this beauty, which is the image of God.”

My own faith said something quite similar in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” in 1995.

 

  • EPA: Fracking Process NOT Harmful to Drinking Water. Great! Now, can we frack for gas, drill in ANWAR, build the XL Pipeline, and start exporting oil, too! All of which will create jobs and revenue and get us off of foreign oil. What is bad about any of that if undertaken in a “good stewardship” manner?
  • Proof that Some People Can Be Offended by ANYTHING! We have become ridiculously thin skinned. More than anything, people screaming about perceived offences need to be met with a brick wall of deafness to their complaints. Perhaps, if college administrators, bureaucrats, business owners, and book and magazine editors would give these individuals a sucker, a balloon, and a pat on the head (with a mallet) instead of a platform from which to cry, people would cease to be so offended.
  • I heard part of an interview on Dennis Prager’s radio program this week wherein he was interviewing Professor Alfred Mele on his new book “Free: Why Science Hasn’t Disproved Free Will.”  I found his words quite provocative, well, at least they would be for those who believe that we can’t possibly be held responsible for our actions for any number of exponentially expanding reasons from “My mama didn’t love me” to  “I was having a bad hair day “to “McDonald’s didn’t warn me their coffee would be hot.” Well, that’s just a bunch of crap, to be quite clear. Things have happened, will happen, and do happen to make it harder to make good decisions, but very few of us can ever claim what is essentially an insanity defense for any of our actions (keep in mind, I do believe that some are unable understand the weight of their decisions, but not near as many as the bleeding hearts would like). The same thing needs to happen to most who use this excuse for bad behaviour as I recommended in the above point: balloon, sucker, smack.

That’s all for now, I suppose. More later.

Reflections on Being Facebook-less: Revisiting My First Day Blogging

Standard

As I commented in my opening post, Facebook had become a real problem for me. I use the past tense ‘had’ because I put my account to sleep on Monday, May 18, at 12:09 a.m. My original intention was to spend the summer in hiatus, then reassess in the fall. Now, almost two weeks later, I’m not so sure that I’ll be going back on social media of any sort come September.

In recent months my political opinions, which I stand by firmly, in regards to gay marriage an2e6f1350447ee76343c375ce4c7aa894d whether or not business owners in the traditional wedding industries should be forced to provide services to gay couples tying the knot, had come under fire by a few friends who see these 8908ed4c064bef60733ef20387437751issues differently. I am perfectly happy to allow that on many topics people may amiably “agree to disagree.” Alas, I have found that is not enough for some on certain subjects. No, no, it is all or none. And in this case, the leftist consensus seems to be all who believe in traditional marriage and the Constitutional right to Freedom of Religion and Association, let alone Freedom of Conscience and the belief that the Market can decide such issues better than Big Government, must be forced into reeducation camps until we give up our convictions at the altar of Political Correctness and sell out our God. Or at least remake Him in the image of modern society.

He gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken him to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the dark moustache. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.   —George Orwell, 1984

Yeah, that would be acceptable. For now. The arguments back and forth become of the circle jerk variety, and hardly worth the time for either party to continue. Still, for my part, as far as Facebook is concerned, I reserve the right to post what I want on my page, and happily allow that others have the same freedom. Discussions are fine, but harassment? Ugliness? Well, feel free to find another target.

Besides, the politics, these terrific graphics, memes, whatever you want to call them, pop up all the time. And I love them. I love humor, in most every form, and I love to laugh. But like Uncle Albert in Disney’s Mary Poppins, we can spend our time being tickled to death but accomplishing nothing, gaining, growing not at all. We post funny pics (and they ARE funny!) of our kids, our cats, our dogs, our Pinterest fails. And others laugh. It’s kind of like we’ve all become class clowns, vying for attention. Our friends and our “friends” post back, “LOL,” “LMAO,” “ROFL” and “:)” because we want to let our buddies know their comedic efforts were received as such on our end. No one wants to post into an echoless wilderness. We want to laugh with others, and we gain pleasure in making others smile. And that’s okay.

The problem is going on to Facebook JUST to be amused. Trolling for a laugh, if you will. We get so addicted to the fun stuff that we end up being “in” there for hours…all while the dishes pile up, the kids whine for dinne6004272faa7609420f2e740af4630af9r, your spouse begs for attention, your budget goes unbalanced for yet another day, and if someone were to sneak a candid shot of you, your head would be turned downward, staring at some device. Interaction with others? Unnecessary. We all have our electronic pacifiers to keep us happy instead.

And don’t give me the “All things in moderation” line. How good are you at moderation, really? For so many of us, not all, but many, moderation just doesn’t happen. Time wasters easily get out of hand, particularly for the easily distracted and addictive types. We struggle with attention as it is to the point that self-regulating on social media is almost laughable. We’re like rats at a sugar water dispenser! Like the poor Christian in C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. Like the busy people being plagued by the Devil’s little minions! Only now, we’re simply “busy” being distracted!

Sadly, even many who didn’t used to be plagued by short attention spans are now. I was listening to one of my favorite talk radio shows the day that I went “off-air.” The host, law professor Hugh Hewitt, was interviewing (somewhat) Conservative New York Time’s columnist David Brooks about his new book The Road to Character. Hugh was asking him about a few of the issues David sees with social media (which Hugh loves!). The first problem Hugh suggested to Mr. Brooks is “amplification of the self,” which is a topic for another post; and the second is the destruction of our attention spans.

DB: …The [problem with social media] I actually worry about the most now in myself is my attention span is just shot. I just can’t go a few pages without wanting to check my phone or something. And so I do think it’s having a big effect on attention spans.

HH: When I prepare for interviews like this and I read a book, I often read a chapter and then check social media and read a chapter, and then check social media. Or if I grade exams, I grade five, and then I check social media. It is integrated, but not overwhelming. I wonder if younger people have those discipline sets left over, which I’m banking on, right? I banked the discipline set 30 years ago before social media came along. I don’t know if they ever get one.

Seriously, folks! I have enough problems concentrating, and these two highly educated, highly accomplished men have just admitted on a national radio program that they can’t go more than a few minutes without twitching like drug addicts for want of checking their social media accounts. I DON’T WANT TO BE LIKE THAT ANYMORE!

When I first got a Kindle, I used it only for reading; and I read A LOT! Then I got an android phone and used my Kindle app for reading, and my Facebook app for Facebooking, and my browser for looking up every incidental fact under the sun- just because I could! It got to where I hardly touched my Kindle app anymore, and instead of reading five-hundred page books, I was reading three page articles on the Wall Street Journal. einstein

When I realized my attention span, small as it was to begin with, was suffering (and my phone wouldn’t even work as a phone half the time), I went back to a flip phone and got a Kindle Fire, sans the 4G connectivity. That helped a good deal—except then I became pretty adept at finding Wi-Fi hotspots with which to connect—to Facebook. At home, I was rarely without my Kindle. My husband and kids commented on my continually glowing face. I laughed, they laughed, then they got out their little screens, too. Suddenly, one day I looked up to see we had all started watching T.V. as a family, with our laptops, Kindles, and DSi’s in hand!  Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic. Again, I don’t want to be like that anymore.

In the twelve days since I’ve been off of Facebook, I’ve researched and made homemade lotion bars, soaps, and moisturizer, started a cross stitch I bought at least 10 years ago, started reading (and am making good progress in) two books, created a family budget, updated our budgeting software, cleaned my kitchen, made multiple batches of water kefir, bought new carpet for our home (YEAH!!), prepared a two week dinner menu, and will be doing lunch menus for the summer today (I am so tired of hearing that we have nothing to eat in a kitchen stuffed with food!). Oh, and I’m working on walking again, too. Not for fitness, not yet, but simply for ambulatory purposes. Go, me!

Granted, not all of the above accomplishments are attributable to simply going off of Facebook. The physical “I’m at home” time to put in to these tasks has come about largely due to the fact that after a grueling nine months, my sixteen year old’s dual credit college classes are on hiatus. BUT, the fact that I’m using my at home time to be productive, time that I would otherwise, in all likelihood, be wasting sitting on Facebook for one “purpose” or another, is huge! I feel like I’ve broken lose of the addiction I had to “Facebook Think.” You know, where you go about your daily activities thinking of what to post, how to respond, how many ‘likes’ such and such post might garner, how cute that picture would be-on Facebook, etc.  It’s been very freeing. As much as I miss some of my contacts on there, It’s been very, very freeing.

I will say, too, as both a positive and a negative, I’ve become terribly disconnected to the world and national news and politics that I “love.” My Facebook news feed kept me up to date on such things-minute by minute. We only have satellite in the man cave up stairs, and I rarely bother to go up there simply to watch the news. Additionally, since I’m not in the car very much these days, I miss listening to my PragerMedvedHewitt talk radio programs. Seriously, I feel as clueless about the world as the typical college Democrat! On the positive side, however, I’m less stressed, happier (ignorance IS bliss!), and more focused on what’s mine, i.e. what I have control over. And that really is all for the best.

 

coverphoto

Am I Doing What’s Mine? or Running the Race (at my own pace)

Standard

I’m not a big drama mama, but I do like to cut up and over dramatize silly things in such a way that, to the outside viewer, things may appear as “drama.” But seriously, the older I get, the less inclined to B.S. I am. I don’t like visual clutter, audio clutter, or verbal clutter. And, for all the good it can do, social media is all that and more.

As noted in my “About” page, I like politics, or rather I hate politics, but I love reading and commenting on the things that drive our political process. I am an unapologetic Conservative with my understanding of my Christian faith fueling many of my opinions. What faith doesn’t ignite in me, my love for this beautiful, imperfect country and the passion of its Founders does. In sentiment, I would say I side with the more moderate elements of the Tea Party. But in practice, I’m a Republican, red to the core. I don’t believe in throwing my vote away, or throwing elections to Democrats (because that’s what voting for a third party always does). So, I put up with their party stupidity, and I vote Republican. Facebook is a hotbed for political banter, though, causing some friends to scurry or put up their dukes. And sometimes results in arguments that last, and last, and last. It can be utterly exhausting. But still I rant. And post. I just can’t help myself!

Nevertheless, the other day, this wonderful article hit my feed, posted by a friend, I believe (Thankfully, I have friends who don’t get so wrapped up in politics, posting other, more useful things than the latest gripe against “X”); and it hit me like a hammer. The title of the article is ” To the Mama Who Feels Like She Never Gets Anything Done.” If that isn’t me, I don’t know who it is! I USED to be SO productive! I USED to read voraciously. I USED to have time with my kids. I USED to DO things.

Now, I sit on Facebook, reading article after article about politics, which increases my blood pressure, but does nothing to increase my true knowledge, the stuff I think we get to take with us when we die. I sit on Facebook looking at the latest funny meme (I hate that word), because I do so love to laugh, but that does nothing to increase my spirituality, or better my relationship with my family, or get nagging tasks done around the house, or increase my health and fitness (Granted, I was in a car wreck 2 months ago; had knee surgery 6 weeks ago, and will finally get to start weaning off of crutches next week. So, I’ve got that excuse. For now.). It does, however, keep me chatting with friends and some family, the few I allow into my Facebook world, but so what? It does keep me “occupied,” but there is zip, zero, zilch that is productive in that comes of that time day after day.  It is such a distraction! Just like the lotus flowers in Percy Jackson, Facebook hits our brain and we suddenly lose all of time!

Friends are great. I value my friends. I have some truly FANTASTIC friends, but if I don’t want to spend the day on the phone with them, doing nothing else, why am I spending all day ‘liking’ this or that, or checking to see if they ‘liked’ my latest 87 posts from a dozen different political sites about why the First Amendment must be protected at all costs? Really. I HAVE THINGS TO DO. Even if it is just resting on the couch working on a cross-stitch that I started 16 years ago when my oldest was a baby, I need to make space for that.

Alright, back to that fateful article. The author, Jamie Martin, is a homeschooling mom of three, an adoptive mother, a blogger and writer extraordinaire! I have down time. I “should” be able to at least do some of what she does, right? I mean I USED to write a book review column for an on-line magazine, for crying out loud! I actually used to write two columns. So, what is the problem? What is keeping me from being productive again? Time wasters. Duh! And I don’t mean the hours upon hours of driving I have done these past 5 years, hauling one kid back and forth to college classes on the dark side of the moon (and hanging out during class time because it is too far to drive home in between) or teaching art and co-op classes to other people’s kids. I mean the stuff I do, or don’t do, to try to fill the space between my next car ride, or when I’m powering down at night, or when I’m in the bathroom, or…when I have time. Really, folks, we say we don’t ‘have time,’ but if we add up all the time we waste, we do. We absolutely do!

What is Jamie’s answer to this problem of time? Well, it’s absolutely genius; and terribly, terribly simple:  I only do what’s mine to do.

“What? Could you please repeat that?” you may ask. Certainly, “I only do what’s mine to do.”

She goes on to say:

It takes a while to figure out who you are as a mother, who you are as a person now that you are a mother! (some of us need years!)

Often you only get there by trial and error, and that’s okay. The errors don’t mean you’re doing something wrong; they mean you’re one step closer to knowing yourself.

Amanda Soule’s lovely blog was the first I ever read. Her readers would comment at times that they didn’t understand how she could blog, sew, knit, farm, homeschool, and cook from scratch. Her days overflow with work from the heart, work that matters to her and her family. This isn’t a productivity secret–Amanda’s just doing what’s hers to do. And so she thrives.

Our society has made an idol of getting things done, making that our top cultural  priority. But instead of asking “Am I doing enough?,” why not ask “Am I doing what’s mine?

Here’s what’s mine right now: Love my kids through the ups and downs of parenting, homeschool, read, write, edit, cook, clean, be a friend to Steve. It’s a short list, but a full life. And it’s enough…for me.

Knowing what’s mine in this season lets me fully concentrate without being pulled in all the directions all the time. Busy mama who works all day and feels like you have nothing to show for it, don’t compare your season of spring with another mom’s season of harvest.

Run your own race…this minute, this second. Be you unapologetically. Only do what’s yours to do right now, and watch how your family, yourself, and even the world is changed because of it.

I love the idea of simplifying so much that you really are only worrying about your own ‘stuff,’ focusing on your own race, and realizing that a full life doesn’t require being everything to everyone, but being everything to those who matter most: your immediate family.

It is so easy to get caught up in the world, and in other people’s circus side shows. Facebook makes that SO easy! It’s a simple thing, to over blow our own importance as a cog in the world’s clock works (If I don’t X, then Y will be disappointed, won’t work, won’t happen, etc.). But the truth of the matter is, things do go on, things over which we often have no control (politics, crazy friends, crazy family, the price of tea in China), but only THINK we do. Yet, what we do have control over is ourselves and how we choose to spend (or blow) our time, little though it may seem we have. All that we have to do is embrace that fact, PRIORITIZE, be willing to sacrifice the easy and the mindless, then run with it. We have that much power, don’t we?

 

A man without control