Strictly My Opinion

Three Cheers and Dammit, C’est La Vie – Reparations vs Resolutions, Round 2

One year ago today I wrote a blog post for the end of the year about how I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. They seem, to me, to be just a recipe for failure and disappointment if you set unattainable goals for yourself.

In my ‘work life’ I learned to set ‘SMART’ goals for myself each year – SMART goals are:

-Specific
-Measurable
-Attainable
-Realistic
-Timely

I also hear on a regular basis that life is to be experienced one day at a time.

I gave up long ago spending the last day of the year thinking about things I’d like to accomplish in the coming year. I have two heightened needs children who can prompt my goals to change on a dime, and I have to be ready to go with the flow there. I have been ‘criticized’ in recent weeks of being too strict at times. My only rebuttal to that is to say that I have always been taught and felt that children thrive predominantly on routine and structure and stability. Consistency is a major, major factor in successful parenting. Some days I don’t feel terribly successful. Some days I just feel like I ‘get by’. But I always try to be consistent, as consistent as I can be, in the face of an ever changing world.

This year I have a few reparations I feel the need to make based upon the events of the past year. I will make them now, although the intended audience will not be reading them. Nevertheless, to get them out of my head and into black and white helps me in a way…making them ‘real’.

1. To my boys – You are the lights of my life. You are my strength….your happiness and well-being are the only ‘higher power’ I truly believe in and work to fulfill my promises to. I know there are days when you feel like the rules are unfair and unreasonable, but they are there for a reason. I promise you that one day you will understand them, even if now you cannot. One day, hopefully, you will hold responsibility for a life, 100% responsibility, in your hands and you will then know what a parent goes through in order to keep their child safe and protect their well-being. I hope you will reflect back to your own childhood and remember these things being taught to you when you were young, and finally see why they are so important.

2. To my mom – this year has brought so much change for you – change that is so very difficult for you. You say to me, often, that I ‘don’t understand’…which makes me sad in ways, because I do understand and I wish you could see that. I understand who you are and what your makeup is, and though I wouldn’t be so egotistical as to say I know with absolute certainty what is right for you always – I want you to know that I have listened…for years…and heard the things you’ve said that have disappointed you, or been difficult for you, and I am doing everything in my power to make that less difficult for you now that you live here. You told me a long time ago that I had to have faith that all things happen for a reason, though not in the way we’d like them to always, and we have to believe that it’s for the best. Now is the time for you to have faith in me, Mom…faith that I have your best interests at heart…faith that I know how difficult it is for you to ‘give up control’ to another person – and faith that although I won’t always do things ‘the way you would’ – I won’t let you down.

3. To my husband – I told you within two months of our meeting that I don’t know that anyone will ever understand how and the depth to which I love when I love someone. We’ve been together for nearly 15 years now. We’ve both gone from young men to men approaching middle age (me closer than you). I didn’t choose you to spend my life with because I thought you’d always be the person you were then – I figured you were someone that I could sail the ocean of change with together, and at the core of it we’d still love one another for who each other was, or became. Goodness knows we’ve had our share of rough waters with all that’s been thrown at us. And goodness knows I have a very fortified wall of self-protection that I’ve built over time as a means of survival in the years before I met you. Sometimes I just don’t even know where the door and the key to let others in are any longer. I don’t know that, fifteen years later, you have come any closer to understanding how I love. I can’t say I’ve gotten any better at explaining it. Sometimes words fail even the writers and poets and we have to rely on the intuition of another to interpret what we mean. Let’s hope the next fifteen years bring us both closer to that understanding.

4. To my friends – Once again I find myself saying I wish there were more hours in the day to keep up with you all. It’s not for lack of caring.

5. And finally, to myself – One day you will find the switch to turn off the voices in your head telling you how things are not good enough and you simply have to find a way to do better and do more. One day you’ll find the lullaby to sooth the savage beasts that rattle around in cages inside your mind. You’ve come far enough to not let the words of others impact your self-worth; but behind that mask of strength the truth lingers there close to the surface that nothing anyone else can say to you is any worse or any more harsh than the things you already tell yourself in the silent war your head wages with your heart every day. I hope you learn to tame that inner voice a little more in the coming year.

2014 has brought both gain and loss to my life – great highs and great lows – and as I sit here at my keyboard, as if I have anything of any value at all to say to anyone else…I am reminded of the lyrics of one of my favorite songs. It’s my parting gift to everyone as a reminder that the only strength you ever need to find – already exists within you.

Good times and bum times, I’ve seen them all
And, my dear, I’m still here
Plush velvet sometimes
Sometimes just pretzels and beer, but I’m here

I’ve stuffed the dailies in my shoes
Strummed ukuleles, sung the blues
Seen all my dreams disappear but I’m here.
I’ve slept in shanties, guest of the W.P.A., but I’m here
Danced in my scanties
Three bucks a night was the pay, but I’m here

I’ve stood on bread lines with the best
Watched while the headlines did the rest
In the depression was I depressed?
Nowhere near, I met a big financier and I’m here

I’ve been through Gandhi, Windsor and Wally’s affair, and I’m here
Amos ‘n’ Andy, Mah-jongg and platinum hair, and I’m here
I got through Abie’s, Irish Rose, Five Dionne babies, Major Bowes
Had heebie-jeebies for Beebe’s, Bathysphere
I got through Brenda Frazier, and I’m here

I’ve gotten through Herbert and J. Edgar Hoover
Gee, that was fun and a half
When you’ve been through Herbert and J. Edgar Hoover
Anything else is a laugh

I’ve been through Reno, I’ve been through Beverly Hills, and I’m here.
Reefers and vino, rest cures, religion and pills, and I’m here
Been called a ‘Pinko’, commie tool, got through it stinko by my pool
I should’ve gone to an acting school, that seems clear
Still someone said, “She’s sincere”, so I’m here

Black sable one day, next day it goes into hock, but I’m here
Top billing Monday, Tuesday, you’re touring in stock, but I’m here
First you’re another sloe-eyed vamp
Then someone’s mother, then you’re camp
Then you career from career to career
I’m almost through my memoirs, and I’m here

I’ve gotten through, “Hey, lady, aren’t you whoozis?
Wow, what a looker you were”
Or better yet, “Sorry, I thought you were whoozis
Whatever happened to her?”

Good times and bum times, I’ve seen ’em all
And, my dear, I’m still here
Plush velvet sometimes
Sometimes just pretzels and beer, but I’m here

I’ve run the gamut, A to Z
Three cheers and dammit, C’est la vie
I got through all of last year, and I’m here
Lord knows, at least I was there, and I’m here
Look who’s here, I’m still here

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Confessions

The Eternal Parent – Confessions Of A Rotten Little Bastard, Part 5

On Christmas day my boys made a confession to me – they didn’t want their grandmother (my mom) at the house when they opened their presents. They both have been growing frustrated with her for a variety of reasons.

-She doesn’t say ‘please’ when she tells them to do something
-She’s demanding of them
-She speaks to them sharply
-She tells them what to do

I listened to their list of the transgressions of Grammy….and then reached a compromise with them. I would bring Grammy to the house after they opened most of their gifts, but the ones from her to them she would be here to watch them open.  Truth be told I didn’t really imagine she’d remember what the gifts were per se, but would enjoy watching them open something. The compromise was agreed to by all, and the boys tore into their gifts with childlike enthusiasm.

Part of me knew this situation would arise between Mom and the boys. She has a very high anxiety level at all times. She doesn’t like having someone not do what she tells them to do, and goes from zero to anger in two seconds flat. She’s been like this my entire life, and I have seen evidence that it has gone on far longer than I’ve been around.

Mom has related stories to me about her own childhood and being ‘parentified’ to some degree by her own mother. She doesn’t refer to it with that terminology, but that is what was done from my perspective as merely an observer since both her parents passed away before I was born. This appears to have thrust her, early on, into a ‘caretaker’ role in life and she has never broken free of it. Everything and everyone became her responsibility to oversee and keep from harm and regulate and direct. I have had to have many, many conversations with her over time that while I appreciate her care and concern, I am a grown man, near middle-aged now, and will make my own decisions and run my own life. I realize that most of the time I’m simply filling the air with sound that will not penetrate for her, but I at least need to say it.

Now, it seems, she has moved on to the boys with her efforts.

I realize that much of this is ‘generational’. She was born in the era the Waltons was set in, The Great Depression, and the family construct that was depicted, three generations under one roof where the grandparents expressed their opinions on the actions and decisions of the grandchildren, was the norm. Even in my childhood, although I do not ever recall my grandparents raising their voices to me in discipline, it was just accepted.

Times have changed, though, and the boys don’t wish to be ‘parented’ by Grammy. It is lessening their enthusiasm about having her here all the time and having a more frequent relationship with her. They have begun to ‘complain’ about her coming to the house for dinner, or attending their activities, and it was ‘bad’ enough that it was time to intervene. I told the boys to allow me to speak with Grammy, and going forward if they were upset about something that she was doing, simply speak to me or my husband about it, and let us take care of it. They consented to this readily.

That was the easy part.

As I left Mom’s building with her buckled into the passenger seat, I let her know that we needed to talk about something very important and I needed her to just listen. I, very diplomatically, explained the concerns of the boys and added my own observations as well. She was reluctant to accept that she’d done anything ‘wrong’, as she typically is, and had an instant justification for her actions, as she typically does, and it then became time to interject a little ‘tough love’, as I’ve had to do more and more since Mom relocated. I gently told her that the risk she was running was damaging her relationship with the boys if it continued, and that if they continued to object to having her around more often it was going to make it more and more difficult to spend time together, because I don’t wish to ‘fight’ with the children constantly. There are enough struggles to parenting two heightened-needs children, and I have to pick my battles sometimes. She, of course, countered with an argument of how she was simply ‘trying to help them’ and that is when it became necessary to bring out the big gun.

‘Mom, they are not your children. We will raise them as we see fit. Disciplining them is not your job.’

She stared out the window of the car, and thought this over for a moment. Lately, little by little, I’ve seen something new in Mom’s eyes. The same eyes I’ve looked into for 46 years and seen drive and determination and fierceness and resolve. It’s these things that have allowed her to ‘survive’ for so many years, raising three children without much help and then getting to retirement age and beyond and maintaining her own home until a month ago. I’ve seen something creeping in over the past month that was never really there before.

Surrender.

Mom nodded her head and said to me, ‘You’re right. They aren’t my children. I shouldn’t tell them what to do unless they are about to hurt themselves.’ (With this she’s right – I fully support if they are about to injure themselves and she says something to them.)

Having reached that place of ‘surrender’ – I ratcheted it back a few notches from tough love to just love.

‘Mom, you did your ‘parenting’ job with your own children….as difficult as it was at times. You put a roof over our heads, and clothes on our backs, and food in our stomachs. But just like it was time to retire from work, and now retire from driving, it’s also time to retire from parenting, at least as far as your grandchildren are concerned. Don’t try to be a parent to them. Don’t try to discipline them. Just love them, encourage them, and enjoy them. Don’t try to be their authority figure. Just be “Grammy” to them.’

She reached over and put her hand on mine and patted it a few times. I could tell she ‘heard’ it. I don’t expect miracles, whereas she has a lifetime of ‘care taking’ to break free of, and that’s no small endeavor for anyone. It’s easier to revert to old habits than it is to develop new ones. Time will help that.

I’ve also told her what I told the children – if they are doing something that bothers her, tell me, or my husband, and let us handle it. Let us decide what is acceptable behavior for them, and what is not. She agreed this was a better approach than further damaging her relationship with the boys.

I’ve come to realize that this change has not only affected her, it’s affected all of us in many ways. We all have new ‘jobs’ to learn in having Mom/Grammy live two miles away rather than two hours away. And Grammy has as much to learn as the rest of us about being just Grammy now to the boys, as well as how to live having retired from working, retired from driving, and retired from home ownership.

Hopefully the eternal parent in her can retire with grace and dignity as well.

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Miscellaneous

100 Years

One hundred years ago Edgar Rice Burroughs published ‘Tarzan Of The Apes’, a character that has endured through literature and film ever since. Charlie Chaplan made his second screen appearance, this time as The Little Tramp – his most enduring and iconic film role.

The world’s first red and green traffic lights were installed in Cleveland, Ohio. Congress set up the Federal Trade Commission. Federal spending was at $0.73 billion dollars. Unemployment was at 7.9% – and the cost of a first class stamp was $0.02 cents.

In Boston, MA, on December 27th, 1914 a daughter was born to Lewis and Lucy Harmon. They named her Evelyn.10396970_827697840575433_2002502808352918938_o

Above is a photo of Evelyn taken in the 1990’s at one of her favorite places, Moosehead Lake, Maine.  She travelled there each summer with her husband, Raymond Pinkham, until age became a deterrent to doing so.  The smile on her face, that of a woman content with her surroundings and place in life, remains etched in my mind to this day.

Evelyn, or ‘Nana’ as most who knew her referred to her, was my grandmother.  When I was a child, she was my first girlfriend.  As an adult, she was my friend, my companion, my confidant, and one of the most significant presences in my life.

I have years of memories of her, as well as favorites amongst those memories. I’ve shared several of them on both this blog and on Facebook. Last year I wrote a post about her and what my ‘truth’ was about Nana, despite the relationship she had with others and what their truths might have been.

During my childhood, Nana lived in Watertown, MA with her second husband, who I referred to as Grampa as he was her husband from before I was born until his death in the late 1970’s. They visited us in Maine, albeit not as often as I’d have liked. Nana was warm and caring to me – loving and giving. I looked forward to her visits with an anticipation that has rarely ever been matched for me by any other impending occasion.

As I reflect back to my childhood, I recall a visit from Nana when things were beginning to deteriorate in the marriage of my parents. I don’t ever recall hearing them ‘fight’ with one another, but there was a sense, even then, that something wasn’t right.  My dad, who I enjoy a very nice relationship with now, was not an involved parent. My mother was constantly busy keeping house, working part time, and tending to three children. It left little time for simple enjoyment and fun. There was always a sense of urgency to life – urgency to clean up, to get ready, to get somewhere and get back again. My visits with Nana were calm and enjoyable. She sat and talked and listened and cared. She ‘loved’.

On the visit I am recalling in particular, when Nana and Grampa prepared to leave, they kissed us all goodbye, as they always did, and walked out of the house to their gigantic steam-ship sized 1970’s car, Grampa behind the wheel. I watched them out the picture window of the house I grew up in, the tears already forming in my eyes at their departure. It became more than I could bear, and I jumped off the couch and ran out the door through the garage and out to the driveway. They saw me, and Grampa stopped backing the car down the driveway. I went to Nana’s window, which she rolled down and asked me what the matter was.

I was seven years of age. I had not the intellect nor the articulation to tell her what was ‘wrong’. It wasn’t something that had words, it was a feeling. A feeling that all was not right in my home. A feeling that whatever it was that wasn’t right wasn’t going to get any better.

But I couldn’t tell her that, and so I instead begged her, through my tears, to take me with her. It wasn’t just that I was going to miss her (which I always did), it was that I didn’t want to be at home with my parents any longer. It was that she was, to me, a warmth, love, caring, and safety that I did not feel in my home. It was that I wanted her to just open the door of the car, and open her arms, and let me climb inside and stay there with her forever.

Upon my request, she looked at Grampa, and he back at her, and then she looked back at me. She reached out the window, placed her hand lovingly on my head, and told me that as much as she’d love to have me come with them, I had to stay home, with my family, as that was where I belonged and needed to be.  She said she loved me, and would call soon, and to be a good boy and try not to be too sad. She leaned out of the window, gave me an extra kiss, and Grampa even handed me an apple out of a bag they had in the back seat, and then they continued to back down the driveway and were on their way back to Massachusetts.

I stood in the driveway, heartbroken, and watched them go.

Today, had she lived to see it, would have been Nana’s 100th birthday. Each year I think about the last birthday she saw, 89, and how I visited her at her home, a mere seven months before she died, and when I arrived and she hugged me, she asked for a second hug saying, ‘Every time I see you I don’t know if it will be the last time.’  It wasn’t the last time, but it was enough to make me see exactly how old Nana had become. I had at that time moved to Massachusetts myself, and Nana had moved back to Maine and was married to her third husband, Raymond. I visited each time I went to Maine, and called her at least once a week as well.  It wasn’t the last time I saw her, but it was the first time I ever really considered that the end of her life might be drawing near.

Not a day passes that I don’t think of her in some way. She left the earth ten years ago this past July, but never my mind nor my heart….

Happy Birthday, Nana. I miss you, I talk about you to the boys and share stories about you, even though you never got the chance to meet them, nor they you. I explain how much I loved you, how much you meant to me, and how I still think of you each and every day, look at your photo, and wish I could sit at your kitchen table and hold your hand and talk to you for hours the way we used to.

I do all this to keep you active in my life even if you can’t be, and to make sure the boys know of you. I recall the lessons you taught me, and the love you shared with me, and try to be a ‘good man’, as you told me to, since it’s the only thing that really matters.  I do all this with love and admiration of you. I do what I can to honor you. But there’s one thing I just can’t seem to do.

I never quite get around to accepting that you are really gone.

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Miscellaneous

What Do You Give To The Person Who Has Nothing? – Christmas 2014

Right now my boys are digging into their pile of gifts from yesterday. They’ve played with some things already, mostly the new video games they got for their Wii, and the hockey net and sticks they received since the weather was unseasonably warm today.

All the wrapping paper is picked up and discarded, all the ‘anticipation’ of what the next package might hold is past. The stockings, just yesterday bulging with pencils and cupcake shaped flexible bandages and holiday shaped Peeps, lay flat and almost two-dimensional against the mantle of the fireplace.

While taking my mom to the grocery store today, and stopping at my local library to pick her up some new reads in the used book store downstairs, I overheard several people saying they were glad that Christmas was over for another year.  Not that they disliked it, but that it’s overwhelming for some.  Prior to yesterday, I heard many others talking about how ‘Christmased out’ they were with all the music and shopping and schmaltzy movies and rushing around.

Even I rushed around – the 72 hours leading up to the day were jam packed with activities – finishing my shopping (I admit I held off on a few things this year, which isn’t normal for me), doing all the wrapping, taking Mom to get a perm, food shopping for Christmas dinner, doctor appointments for one of the kids and myself, and a drive up to Maine to visit my Dad with the boys on Wednesday before coming back home and getting the boys into bed and playing ‘Santa’ for them on what I suspect will be the last year they believe in such a magical person being the benefactor of their Christmas day spoils.

Irrespective of all that, I’ve been looking forward to this Christmas more than any other I can recall.  No amount of rushing or crowded stores or impatient shoppers and store clerks dented my anticipation of the day in any way.  This year, I knew that Christmas was going to be something more than just the music, the packages, and the trimmings. This year, we were going to teach the boys what Christmas REALLY is about, or should be.

A month or more ago I felt discouraged by all the crass commercialism of the holiday and what it seems to have become. I’m not a religious person – I don’t go to church, I don’t have a faith I ‘practice’, and I don’t at all try to instruct others on putting the ‘Christ’ back in Christmas.  I don’t disparage anyone who does all those things; it just isn’t for me.

My husband posted some very intriguing and inspiring words on Facebook yesterday.  They are taken from various world religions. They all seem to carry the same message:

If any one of you has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in you?
~ 1 John 3:17

Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.
~ Buddha

Those who believe and do good deeds — the Gracious God will create love in their hearts.
~ Quran 19:97

Find and follow the good path and be ruled by compassion. For if the various ways are examined, compassion will prove the means to liberation ~ Tirukkural 25: 241-242

No matter what you follow or believe or just carry in your heart, there have long been universal messages of showing compassion to those less fortunate and sharing in your own good fortune with those who don’t enjoy what you enjoy.  For some this is a check they write each year, or money dropped in a red kettle outside their favorite retailers – and I would never try to discourage anyone from doing those things. I only caution to investigate what percentage of your donation actually goes directly to the charity demographic and what portion goes to ‘administrative fees’ and ‘salaries’ and such.  Sometimes it can be very eye opening how little of your generous offering actually reaches a person in need.

As I said, I’m not a religious person. Neither is my husband. We don’t go to church, we don’t read scripture, we don’t teach religion to the boys – we have determined to ‘tell them about it’ and let them make their own decision what they do and what they believe when they are old enough.  I don’t wish to teach the boys ‘fear’ of a benevolent being as a means of following a kind and loving path in life. I want them to learn to do it because it’s ‘the right thing to do’ and something that fills them with happiness and satisfaction – not with anxiety that they are doing what they need to do to avoid ‘burning for all eternity’ for their sins.  I know not all faiths promote that message – but I still don’t want to ‘promote’ any one faith over another.  Faith, in my mind, is something very personal – and something you should decide for yourself.

The messages imparted by various faiths, as my husband posted, are, however, relatively universal in their intent – share your good fortune with others – have compassion for those less fortunate.  These messages, which need not be based in religion, but rather can be based in mining the depths of your heart for empathy for fellow human beings, are what I wish to teach to the boys, and my husband agreed. Therefore, I shared with him, back in November, a desire I had to do something very different this Christmas – something that would still give the boys their usual ‘enjoyment’, but also might just help them develop a greater appreciation of that they have and what they receive – by seeing others who have nothing – and sharing in our good fortune with those people – and I wanted to put it (and have the boys do so as well) directly into the hands of people who needed it.

Yesterday morning the boys awoke at 7am and we all opened our stockings and enjoyed the treats inside.  Then, before breakfast and before unwrapping any further presents, we dressed, climbed into the car, and drove into Boston, to an area I used to walk through many mornings from the subway stop to my office, passing many homeless people along the way still sleeping in doorways and over steaming grates to try to stay warm as they struggled to survive on the streets.

The night of the 24th, before the boys went to bed, we all stuffed gift bags with things we have purchased in the last month – fleece blankets…thick socks….knit hats…..and lined them up along the wall in the living room in anticipation of the morning.  We took our bags with us as we left the house Christmas morning.

We parked on a side street in the financial district – which ironically seems to attract the wealthiest and poorest citizens of Boston alike. This morning, however, only one ‘class’ of people was visible. The poorest.

My husband and I, flanked by the boys, trudged through the rain puddles and drizzle and fog and one by one stopped at each place we found a homeless person and handed them a gift bag. We’d also put in $15.00 gift cards to Dunkin Donuts in many, in hopes that people could get something hot to eat or drink at least that day.  It only took about 30 minutes before our supplies were depleted, but our minds and our hearts were still full of the ‘God bless you’ and ‘Merry Christmas to you all’ and ‘Thank you”s that we all received.

Both of the boys had ‘difficult beginnings’ in life – the people we encountered yesterday could easily have been either one of them. It could be any of us really – homelessness is a non-discriminating problem. You can be old, young, tall, short, white, black, gay, straight, or anyone really and find yourself trying to stay alive on the streets day in and day out.  The notion that there are shelters for that to take in everyone and house everyone is a false one – the notion that homeless people choose to be homeless is a false one – the notion that they are all mentally ill or drug addicted is a false one.  They are everyone….they are you and me and everyone else in the world…or at least very much like us.

After handing out our bags, the boys agreed that this should be an annual Christmas tradition for our family, which we were very glad to hear.  One of the boys has encountered homeless people in his travels, and displayed far more of an understanding of what we did yesterday – the other one will most likely catch up to that, but he has never really found himself face to face with this segment of the population, until yesterday.

We came home and the boys tore into their presents with all the enthusiasm and vigor eight and nine year old boys can muster – and were of course thrilled with their gifts.  Our excursion in the early part of the day, while it may not have dampened their excitement for their own Christmas treats, also did nothing to detract from their enjoyment of the day. For one of them, it made a very deep impression.  For several homeless people, it means warmer feet and heads and bodies and a warm meal and drink in their bellies yesterday.

For me, it filled me with a kind of peace on Christmas that I’d not yet known in my life. I love Christmas, but this year I have to admit that I love it just a little bit more.  This year I not only got to play Santa Claus (albeit perhaps for the last time), but we also showed the boys that they can be Santa Claus as well, long after they stop believing in him.

Merry Christmas to all – many of you may have taken your trees and decorations down – many of you may be breathing a deep sigh of relief that it’s ‘over’ – but for me – for the lesson we have begun to teach the boys – compassion for others and sharing your good fortune with them – this is a gift that will keep giving time and time again….and hopefully spill over into the boys’ lives on a daily basis….and as long as it goes on….the spirit of Christmas, for me, will never end.

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Reading

What I’m Reading Now – The Map Of The Sky by Felix J. Palma

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A couple of years ago I read and fell in love with Felix Palma’s ‘The Map Of Time’ – it’s a riff on H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine that features Wells himself as a character.

An amazing variation on a classic story, author Felix Palma had me captivated from start to finish. A hokum ‘time travel’ attraction purporting to transport gullible travelers to the year 2000 to witness the destruction of our planet – a man desperate to save the life of a prostitute with a heart of gold – and the discovery that Wells’ time machine may actually be a reality….it’s a thrilling tale from the opening to the final chapter.

In a second go-round featuring Wells, the author has decided to incorporate another H.G. Wells classic novel, The War Of The Worlds, into his tale.

I’m only two chapters into this book, given the time constraints of the impending holiday this week, but completely enamored once again of Palma’s ability to draw a reader into his tale, especially since he has incorporated Antarctic exploration (a personal favorite in reading matter) as part of the story.  Wells, in the opening chapter, meets an aspiring author who has penned a sequel to ‘War Of The Worlds’ and hopes to elicit Wells’ endorsement for publication. Wells agrees to meet with the would-be sequel author to disparage his work and put him in his place as a talentless hack trying to ride the coat-tails of a decidedly superior novel, and yet finds himself intrigued when the aspiring author incites Wells to accompany him to the British Museum to see a ‘real alien’ in a secret area of the building.

Recalling Palma’s acumen with crafting a highly original tale from a time-honored and well-known existing story, I anticipate loving this sophomore effort every bit as much as I did the first.

If you have not yet discovered Palma’s first H.G. Wells inspired tale, give it a try – then move immediately on to this one. I highly doubt you will be disappointed.

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Confessions

Caring For The Caregiver – Confessions Of A Rotten Little Bastard, Part 4

For the past few weeks I’ve been feeling a little overwhelmed.

I’ve endeavored to spend 3 – 5 hours per day with my mother since she moved here from her home in Maine. She didn’t have friends here, just myself, my husband, and our two boys.  I’ve been to the local senior center with her, we’ve gone to the movies, twice, we’ve gone to lunch, run errands, she’s come over for dinner a few times, she spent Thanksgiving with us as well as Thanksgiving Eve – I’ve seen more of my mom in 3 weeks than I’ve seen in 3 years, I think.

Mom has, thankfully, made a friend here. It’s someone I was acquainted with already, but that doesn’t concern me at all. I am happy they have hit it off, and are keeping in touch. Mom has mentioned, often, how she ‘doesn’t know a soul here’ (besides me) and I’ve been doing what I can to influence that. My hope is that this one sociable person will introduce Mom to others and thereby a bouquet of new friendships will blossom for her.

I am not being simply magnanimous in this. I need a break. I have a two-story house to take care of, two heightened needs children to take care of, therapy appointments, play dates, errands, Christmas shopping, and essentially I have ‘me’ to care for as well.

Someone I respect very much told me a few years ago that if you’re in an airplane with a child and the air masks drop, you put yours on first, then the child – because if you aren’t okay you can’t take care of them.  Very sage advice. And though my mom isn’t a child – and I am trying to not treat her as one, she does require a TON of care taking right now.

That said, I took today as a day for myself. I had an appointment with my therapist for this morning that was cancelled yesterday. I had dinner plans for tonight with a friend who had to re-schedule. The stars aligned for me to have an entire day to myself, and I grabbed at it quickly. I wrote on Mom’s dry-erase board that I wouldn’t be over, and let her know I had something important to do during the day.

It’s not exactly the ‘truth’, but it wasn’t a lie either….I did have something very important to do today. I needed a day when the kids are in school and I have nowhere I ‘have’ to go and nothing desperately needing to get done where I could soak in a hot tub or just sit on my butt and read a book or take a nap (incidentally, I’ve done all three today).

What I haven’t done today is rush to get anywhere, nor looked at the clock and thought of everything I needed to accomplish before a certain time. I’ve not had to have any repetitive and or difficult conversations, save for telling the kids to get their shoes on more than once before school this morning. I’ve not ‘hurried’, I’ve not ‘worried’….I’ve relaxed. I ran a tub full of water and laid there for an hour. I dressed and sat down in my recliner and tilted back and fell asleep for ninety minutes (no small feat since I can RARELY sleep during the day). I am within 30 pages of the end of the book I am reading, and look forward to starting another one tonight.

There are dishes in my sink waiting to go into the dishwasher. There are (clean) dishes in my dishwasher waiting to go into the cabinets. There’s laundry in the dryer waiting to be folded. There’s gifts to wrap, cleaning to be done, little boy detritus to clean up and put away, recycling to be dumped, trash to be taken out…..and knowing all that….I say ‘Jimmy Crack Corn And I Don’t Care!’

I have successfully navigated my day without doing a ‘chore’ of any kind whatsoever.  Everything I’ve done today, including this blog post, has been done willingly and gratefully. I love to write…it cleanses my senses to get my thoughts out into black and white and send them out into the world.  The hot bath relaxed my tired body in a way that few things can. The book I’ve been reading, while ‘action thriller fluff’ was entertaining and I learned a smidgen of history in the process. Doing this for me has, by extension, helped Mom as I will be all the better for her tomorrow having done for myself today.  I’ve fed my body, mind, and soul today, and enjoyed it tremendously.

Best of all, I’ve done it without even an ounce of guilt.

Mom called me a few minutes before I started to write this. She’s fine. She’s been reading, watching t.v., talked to some people on the phone. She sounds no worse for wear today, having not seen me at all, nor gone anywhere. I know she’s struggling with this transition, and misses her ‘home’ and her friends up there, and is lamenting the loss of her drivers license and her ‘freedom’, and I don’t want to be insensitive to that. But I also know how important it is to take care of me in conjuncture with taking care of her. I can’t be of use to her if I’m of no use to myself because I’m burnt out.

And so, the caregiver feels a major sense of accomplishment today having done very little by way of ‘practical’ things….and yet having accomplished something substantial nonetheless.

The caregiver has cared for himself.

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Parenting

Giving A Man A Fish

“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” – Maimonedes

I mentioned this to my son the other day (and know I have before) when he had asked me ‘Why can’t you just do it for me?’ for the umpteenth time. My son isn’t lazy….nor is he incapable…I just think he likes being ‘babied’ now and again still.

I know many parents of grown ‘children’ who say they’d give anything to have their little boy/girl back for just one day….just to hold them on their lap….hear their childish laughter…and some days when I sit and look at the boys, I already wonder what it’s going to feel like for me when they are no longer little boys…when they go off into the world….when they’ve grown too big to have their dad hold their hand and rub their back and that took away all the evils of the world, at least for a little while. I’ll always be their daddy…I’ll always want to comfort them and hug them and plant a kiss on their foreheads like Glinda did for Dorothy to place her under a protective spell for her journey….I’d do just about anything to be able to cast a similar spell for them…..or at least to ensure them without a doubt that I will always be here for them, no matter what.

My younger son’s bed needed stripping and changing today. He’s 8 years of age. He’s definitely able to do this for himself. It’s not that I mind it (though truth be told it’s not my favorite chore), or mind doing it for him, but one day I won’t be there, and he’ll need to know how to make a bed. He’ll need to be able to do his laundry. He’ll need to know how to fix himself or someone else a meal.

I was raised in a belief system that taking care of the house was ‘mom’s job’ and Dad ‘worked’. (I don’t subscribe to this as an adult – I’ve taken care of a house. It IS work. There’s nothing NON-work about it). My two boys are not far enough removed from that being the ‘norm’ in our society to completely escape it. They will encounter people who will tell them that that’s ‘just the way of the world’…’just the way things are’…men go out and ‘bring home the bacon’, and it’s up to the woman to ‘fry it up in a pan’.

I think, personally, that’s a complete crock of shit. I think it’s actually up to both people to make and maintain a home. I don’t think gender does or SHOULD have anything to do with it when it comes to household jobs from folding laundry to installing an alarm system – I love to see either gender take on tasks that have historically been assigned to the other gender as being ‘just the way things are’.

Therefore, I teach the boys to be self-sufficient…not only for their well-being, but for the well-being of whomever they enter into a relationship with.

Incidentally, when I said ‘give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’ to my son; rather than nod in silent assent and contemplation and reflection – he asked a very valid question for an 8 year old.

‘What does fish have to do with it?’

Miles to go before I sleep……

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