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Today’s love note goes out to my daughter.

Dear One,
There are too many things to thank you for…it would take a lifetime…but I’ll just stick with today. Thank you for coming to my rescue in the dreaded mouse affair, and for switching roles with me, comforting me after my bad dream. I did feel a little bit bad for the mouse, but thinking about Mr. Man using it as a plaything in the bed in the wee small hours drastically reduced my sympathy. I love the empathy that shines through your soul, and I will try to tough out any future rodent encounters, thinking of your strength. I expect there will be more, as Mr. Man seems excessively proud of his mouser skills, and the winter is bound to get colder. All my love.

Today’s quote: “Any cat may stare into a fire and see red mice play.” — George R.R. Martin

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#yearoflove

When Kelsea was little-little, she was afraid of thunderstorms.  Many grateful kudos to her Aunt, who finally said something that clicked in her little brain and enabled her to overcome her fear.  It hasn’t been a problem since she was small.

But the other night, a huge clap of thunder woke me out of a sound sleep.  It had been clear that evening and the rain was unexpected.  I lay there, wondering if I should check on Kelsea, just to be sure it hadn’t woken her, but I heard nothing from her room, and so I was drifting off, closer to asleep than awake, when I sensed it.  Yes, it was her little spectral presence by my bed. (This is how she wakes me; she just comes and stands silently by my sleeping form until I sense her.  It never fails.) 

The thunder had indeed woken her, and she asked if she could crawl in with me.  Of course, I made room for her.  We were snuggled up when a bolt of lightning hit in the field beside the cottage – so close that the flash and the crack of thunder came at exactly the same second, sharp and loud.  We both jerked like we’d been shocked.  And cuddled closer.  I came as close as I ever have to being struck when we were at Topsail this past summer, and so I was having a little PTSD myself.  It was nice to have her there.

We lay there, wide awake, waiting for the next shoe to drop, so to speak.  A few more flashes, a random rumble, and the storm moved on.  I fell asleep again, rolling over to find that Kelsea had gone back to her own bed.

But it was so sweet and comforting – and a bit of a flashback to her toddler-hood – to cuddle the storm away with my teenage daughter.

I had a visit with my landlady this morning.  We discussed plans for the garden that the Cottage and the Big House share.  Our conversation strayed into positive thinking, diets and the future.  We talked about Kelsea and how awesome she is now, at 13.  My landlady told me that she felt that way about her own daughter at that age.  Then things changed.  You never expect it to happen, but one day that girl who you so like, admire, and enjoy hanging out with becomes a completely different, unrecognizable and noxious person.  I so want to believe that won’t happen to Kelsea.  She and I have talked about it often.  I guess the bottom line is to hope for the best and expect the worst.  And remember, if it happens, that this too shall pass.

What brought tonight’s post to the forefront, aside from this morning’s conversation, was a small thing that happened this afternoon.  Kelsea had a friend over to visit.  The three of us ran around doing errands for a couple of hours and then the two of them had an hour to pass until it was time for her friend to go home.  They played with the Poppy, the Big House pug, for a long while, and hung out on the grass talking.  Then they asked if they could go over to the church side of the fence and visit the playground. 

After about fifteen minutes, I looked out to check on them.  They were soaring high in the sky in their respective swings and the sun was heading down below the trees, casting a soft, hazy light on the scene.  I felt like I was looking at two little girls – two little girls who were fading into the sunset.  The innocence and small joys of being young were being swallowed by the emotions, hormones and pressures of adolescence, just as the sun was being swallowed by the horizon.  But for just that moment, all that mattered was laughing, and swinging as high as they could go.

I wished for a minute (or more) that they didn’t have to lose that, to let it go, to focus on the challenges of growing up.  But you always want your child to grow up – the alternative is unthinkable.  And in my mind, there is a comfort: that when Kelsea becomes a mom, she will regain and relive all that joy and childlike wonder through the eyes and smiles of her own child.

When driving Kelsea to school today, we were talking about this and that, and the subject of her dad came up.  She started listing all of his wonderful qualities, and I am very glad she loves him so.  But…     she said how proud she is of his being an inventor and how hard he’s worked to get his product going.  And that was too much for me. 

I told her in no uncertain terms that Dad hadn’t been working for almost ten years.  That I’ve worked two and three jobs and supported our family on my own for a decade.  That we might even still be married if he’d listened to me and taken action when I tearfully told him (on several occasions) that I was literally working myself to death and needed him to take some of the burden off my shoulders. 

Then I felt bad.  I told her that I shouldn’t have said that, and that I don’t want to bad-mouth her Dad.  I’ve never bad-mouthed him to her.  I told her that she was entitled to her own feelings, opinions and relationship with him, and that a marriage relationship is nothing like a father/daughter relationship.  She told me that I was entitled to my opinion, and that she wants to hear my opinions, but they won’t change how she feels about her Dad.  She said she was proud of him for pursuing his dreams.  I refrained from saying that I had never had a chance to pursue mine because of my marriage, but I hope she knows that I have dreams too.

I still don’t think it’s right for me to voice my opinions and feelings around the injustice in my marriage to our daughter.  She and I are good friends in addition to being mother/daughter, and sometimes I let my boundaries slip.  I was thinking last night, as we were putting up our little Christmas tree, that she and I are doing things that usually two parents do for kids.  And since I’ve always had Pat to direct the tree erection, this was a learning experience for both me and Kelsea.  More like two roommates trying to figure it out.

I suppose one of the reasons the conversation turned as it did on the ride to school this morning was because I was thinking about how Pat is moving on.  He’s not moving on by dating someone, but by a more active pursuit of his business dreams.  It doesn’t bother me (other than the nagging notion that he just wanted me for convenience and now he’s using the money I worked for to live off).  I really do want him to be happy.  I really do wish him well.  I am moving on myself, with Mr. GF, with plans for my own future. 

So why do I still feel so resentful, so cheated? 

Guess it’s going to take some more time.

Eldorado

I’ve watched Kelsea’s education with an interested, inquisitive and critical eye for almost ten years now.  It continues to be a journey, one that has brought up many memories of my own education.  As  a parent, you find yourself having to help with homework, and trying to remember things that you learned 35 years ago, and have now forgotten.  Thank the Gods for Google – it’s a great mind-refresher.

The questions that Kelsea keeps justifiably raising are, “Why do I need to learn this?  When am I ever going to use this?”  Well, I provide the standard maternal responses – “We all have to pay our dues.” “You never know what you’re going to wind up doing with your life.”  But inside, I’m saying, “She’s right!  When is she EVER going to have to know about Elodea leaves and what happens to their cells when you put them in salt water??  And when is she ever going to have to use negative numbers?  This person wants to be a paramedic.  She wants to work in a bookstore in Hay-on-Wye in Wales.”

Our academic system – the whole “no child left behind” and C-SAP testing – may (and I say MAY) support children who are at a disadvantage in one way or another, but for the majority of children, it doesn’t seem to teach them anything useful, anything that will actually help them develop their identity and the skills they will need for whatever profession they choose, unless that profession is academics.  A friend told me that all of the things they are teaching her really boil down to teaching her different ways to think.  I support THAT, if that is so.

But even if that is indeed the case, why is it not possible to make the entire academic experience more engaging?  It feels as if we are training our children that they must get up at a certain time and go do something that bores them until they are “freed”.  Sounds like a lot of our jobs, doesn’t it?  Are we just conditioning them into the same monotonous, choice-free way of life that the majority of us now experience?  Why is it not possible to foster a culture of free-thinking entrepreneurs among our youth?

I understand and appreciate that there are academic standards that need to be met — that all students need to be measured by some bar that indicates their level of competency.  What I don’ t understand is why it has to be so dry.  There are teachers out there who have very creative and engaging ways of educating, but who are stifled by the regimentation of the system.  Typically, those teachers are beloved and remembered by students, not because their classes were slack, but because their classes were inspiring and fun, and subsequently, their subject matter is remembered.  But these are the same teachers who are challenged and reprimanded by principals and school boards (and by parents who fear non-conformity.)

When children are in the lower grades, creativity and fun are emphasized in the learning process.  Make the child love school.  Why do we abandon that at the higher grade levels, when children are once again changing, and need to be helped to love school again?  Kelsea used to cry when she was unable to go to school because she was sick.  Now, it’s like pulling teeth to get her enthused – and she’s smart, social and has good grades.  Imagine if she were none of those things.  The challenge for both her and us would be magnified to the nth degree.  (To her credit, when Pat and I both wanted her to take a mental health day not so long ago, she employed her own ethics and decided it wasn’t the right thing for her to do – even though she had begged us to not make her go to school on previous days.  I was proud of her.)

Yes, it might take a little more work to come up with interactive and interesting ways of getting core information across.  But wouldn’t it be more interesting, rewarding and challenging for the teachers and the students?

While I have been evolving this opinion over a number of years now, what really heightened my awareness was my introduction to the grammar texts of Karen Elizabeth Gordon:  The Deluxe Transitive Vampire and The New Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager and the Doomed.  Both books teach all the core concepts of grammar and punctuation, as well as some valuable nuances, using examples that are entertaining and memorable.    Since the English language can be a toy, of course it’s easier to make English textbooks fun than to make an Algebra textbook fun, but by gum, I’m certain it can be done, and there are no doubt geeks or academics who would be more than willing to take on the challenge.

And about school start times….physiologically, kids in the teen years don’t have their melatonin levels raise until late in the evening.  They’re not ready to go to bed early and they’re not ready to get up early.  Everyone’s lives would be more pleasant and productive if school didn’t start until 9:30 or 10:00, and get out at 4:00 or 5:00.  What’s the rationale?  An 8:40 start time does not allow parents to get to work at 8:00, and a 3:30 release time does not allow them to work until 5:00.  (Not that I am in agreement with an 8:00 to 5:00 workday either.)

Who among us adults, even now in our 40’s, does not have those dreams of going to a class and realizing you’ve missed the entire semester and are now here for the final?   Or of not being able to find the classroom for the entire year?  Why do we still have nightmares about school when we are well-established professionals?  I think it speaks to the angst and trauma that the current academic system instills in us on a level of which we are unaware — unaware because we are following a formula that is incompatible with our core.

Make classes have a more global focus.  Make them more interactive.  Make them fun.  Make school a comfortable and welcoming place to go.  Respect our children’s native intelligence.  And our children will learn and be hungry to learn more.  It’s that simple.  Then perhaps our children will not be subject to our nightmares later on.

education1

My daughter, whom many of you are somewhat familiar with through these writings, is 12.  She’s wonderful.  I wouldn’t change a thing.  Everyone says “Oh, just wait!  She’s almost at those teenage years where she’ll do an about face and you won’t recognize her.”  I’ve always figured that would happen.  I remember how obnoxious I was at 13, 14, 15, and I can’t expect any less from her.  It’s like waiting for the other shoe to drop, and I’m sure my Mother will be smiling down on me when it happens.  Kelsea and I talk about it; I figure it’s better that we keep it out in the open as long as we can.

I”m too old to have any more kids, even if I wanted them, which I don’t, which is a relief all around.  But last night, I was out to dinner and watching parents with kids, multiple kids of various ages, and I started wondering about why people have kids.  I thought I knew why I had one. I wanted one.  There wasn’t much rational thought behind it at the time (or so it seemed).  Just a biological instinct that had lain dormant for years – I had NEVER wanted children – and then kicked in one night in New York City.  I was on a business trip and had just gotten in from a late night at the bar next door to my hotel.  I looked in the bathroom mirror and realized I needed to make some big changes in my life.  My options, in my head at the time, were to quit my job or have a baby.  I picked door number two, went home, and told Pat.  He had never wanted kids either, but he was agreeable enough to the idea.  I think he didn’t really believe that we’d be able to conceive.  But, first crack out of the box, we conceived Kelsea.  That period in our marriage was, we agreed during marriage counseling, one of the best – when I was pregnant.  We got along well, he was considerate and solicitous, and we were working on something together as partners.  With many years distance on that decision, I must accept that some of my motivation was to improve my marriage, which I knew even then was very rocky, although I didn’t admit it outright.  And it did improve my marriage for a while.  Even though we disagreed on some parenting styles and issues, we did agree that we would do our best for her, as a couple and individually.  Even though we are now divorcing, we are still both determined to continue to do our best for her.

But why do other people have kids?  And why more than one?  I am sure there are many kids who were conceived to improve a marriage.  Why else?  To distract the couple from their own incompatibility?  Because they were bored with each other?  Because they wanted little “mini-me”s running around?  As an expression of their need to perpetuate their genes, their lineage? Because, as a couple, they did not feel like a true family – or as an individual, a truly complete person?  Because they were careless (or the birth control failed) and they didn’t believe in abortion? I wonder how many reasons there are – and I wonder how honest people can be about the reason they chose to have children? 

And why have more than one?  I have been criticized for having an only child, but she hasn’t seemed to suffer from it.  Yes, for some years, she wanted a brother or sister, but that wasn’t her decision.  It seems as if people have more than one so the first won’t be alone.  For me, it was a “been there, done that” thing – no need to do it again.  And after our experience of getting a second dog that wasn’t as magnificently perfect as the first, we figured there was no reason to push our luck, since we had drawn a good kid in the first go-round.

The reasons really doesn’t matter.  It’s just something I was thinking about.  Most people who have kids are happy to have them and wouldn’t give them back (most of the time) if they could. But when you watch couples with kids, they so seldom seem to interact with each other.  It’s all about the child.  Even when they are not with the child, the conversation is about the child.  Is there nothing left of the two individuals, or the couple, that these people were?  What about when the children have grown up?  What happens then?  Statistics show that even when the overall divorce rate was dropping, the divorce rate among couples who had been married 30 years or more (the typical empty-nesters) increased by 16%.  It seems many couples are unprepared for the reality of being a couple again, and having only one another to focus on once the kids are gone.  They may realize that they have nothing in common.  They may no longer even like each other that much.  

It’s sad.  It points to the wisdom that we each need to maintain our own identity and individuality at every phase of our lives, whether we have no children or nine children.  No person can “belong” to another.  If you depend on your children for your identity, you are destined to find yourself without an identity when those children succeed at doing what you have raised them to do – find their own identities.

About two weeks ago, one of Kelsea’s friends had a brain aneurysm.  A beautiful, healthy 12-year old girl.  Kelsea had just been at a sleepover birthday party with her two nights before. 

Kelsea and her other friends were broken-hearted, worried, sleepless, tearful.  The counselors at her school have been exceptional, pulling in Kelsea and her other friend who were closest pals with S to talk with them individually, instead of with the rest of the 6th grade.  And they’ve asked her to come back several times to check on her.  Kelsea’s been taking it well, talking with me, with her friends.  One of the hardest parts has been not knowing.  S’s family has been very quiet, not divulging much of S’s status until there was something more definite to divulge.

On Friday, there was word that S was awake, out of her post-surgery drug-induced coma, and wanting to see her friends. That was wonderful news.  So today, Kelsea and I and one of her friends and her friend’s mom drove down to see S.  It was hard, wonderful, poigniant.  She is still on some pretty serious medication – I don’t know what.  The scar on her skull, partly hidden by her hair, is harsh.  One eye is drooping.  She is  barely able to walk and is exhausted.  But she loved seeing Kelsea.  It was a little awkward, Kelsea not quite knowing what to say, so I gently encouraged her to hold S’s hand, give her a hug, tell her about the choir concert.  Once S realized Kelsea was there, she kept saying her name, asking to be next to her, reaching for her hand, almost to the exclusion of their other friend.  And when S reached over and said to Kelsea, “You are like my sister,” I think we all got teary.  S was asking about all her friends, about school, telling the girls that she was having to learn to walk like a little baby. Her cognitive functions seem to be very, very good for all she’s been through.

S’s dad, two grandmothers, and small sister were there, with her dad being positive, helpful, brave and treating S just as he always has, which is just as it should be, and just as I guided Kelsea to do.  I couldn’t ask him anything, as I didn’t want to put him on the spot, perhaps being unable to say something in front of S.

Kelsea wants to go back every day, and I’ve promised we’ll go next week.  I can’t help but feel for her family.  I won’t even imagine going through that experience with Kelsea, and I’ll say a small prayer to the gods to protect her, and ask that this challenge never be to proposed to her – or to me.

But it is strengthening to watch injuries, whether they be of the brain, the body or the heart, heal.  Faith plays a big role.  The future can be bright regardless of the circumstances of the moment, if you just keep your hopes high and your faith in the universe strong.

Why is that?  Usually when in turmoil, I am verbose, at least in the blogosphere.

And so, I will do a brief ketchup:

Work: Completely heads down to try to pull myself out of probation status, so I can leave on my own terms or not at the end of 90 days. However, I will never write like my boss, and that is a huge sticking point for her.  I am toeing the line and working to satisfy her every whim, but I don’t know if we’ll be able to get past the writing thing.  I’m not as broken up as I was about losing the job – still somewhat pissed, though.  I’m more at the place where I want to see what other opportunities I can create.  And that’s exciting.

Divorce:  I am still waiting to file until I find out if I have a job or not.  Mostly because it would impact my child support payments.  Pat won’t budge on the flat amount he wants, and while it’s taken me some time, I’ve come to terms with it.  We are getting along fine, staying away from anything volatile, and that’s good.  But I’m increasingly sensitive to his condescension, so the less direct time spent together at this point, the better.

Kelsea:  Agonizing over having to wear headgear with her braces (at night only) – and man, do I feel for her.  She has always been a real trooper, but this one thing she is completely unable to make peace with.  It reminds me of when she was a week old, and they had to put her in a teeny tiny brace because her hip socket was underdeveloped.  I was helpless, heartbroken, just had to watch her be fit for this little harness and cry.  When someone asked me when the first time I really felt like a mother was, well, that was it.  It sucks, plain and simple.  And she’s been down for the count with Influenza B since last Friday.  A fever of 104.2 on Sunday night had me calling the doctor and considering sleeping on the floor by her bed to be sure her little brain didn’t start to boil in her little skull.  However, she is better today, and I have to say, I am so proud of her attitude.  She has to have felt like hammered shit, and yet, she’s been quiet, sweet, calm, as cheerful as possible, not whining in the least.  Amazing.  Wish I could be like that when I’m sick – perhaps I should take a page from her book.

Love:  Ah, where to begin?  Where to end?  It’s a rollercoaster – wonderful highs, gut-dropping lows, sensuous curves in between. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Health:  I’m taking advantage of still having health insurance to get every part of me drained, x-rayed, scanned, poked, and prodded – or so it seems.  The good doctor ordered lots of blood work, which only showed a mild Vitamin D deficiency.  My horrible headaches and memory loss cannot be attributed to anything brain-related.  This morning’s MRI showed that yes, there is a brain in there, and no, there is nothing wrong with it.  Good. Although had there been some physiological reason for my lack of focus, my job would have been secure. Therapy this week was good. The eye doctor said I needed reading glasses, but otherwise everything is unchanged – no optic nerve pressure, cataracts, or macular degeneration.  Tomorrow, I undergo my soul retrieval session.  And tomorrow night, I get to drink a gallon of gut cleaning goo in preparation for my colonoscopy bright and early on Friday morning.  At least the Versed will make me relaxed and sleepy, and I am taking Friday off.

Is that it?  I need a vacation.  I am considering what happens next if/when my job ends.  The little place in Roatan for $600/month looks pretty good. 

Creativity feels stifled with everything else.  But I just keep rolling along…

January 2019
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