BooWho

Things I want to keep in mind.

Category: Miscellaneous

For both of us

Recently, I have been missing my mom – which is unusual because we had never been very close.  I’ve been thinking about the way she used to be — about 10 years ago when she was still delivering the mail and stopping by on a whim.   She would call fairly frequently just to fill me in on gossip or ask something about the kids.   In those days, she was a gadabout.  If she got bored, she would jump in her car and drive to some unknown point in the valley or to a neighboring town.

Every Sunday, she played the organ at the country church.  For a time, she would regularly come to our house for dinner after the service.    We had a small family discord and she stopped coming over and rarely called.  As time and her dementia progressed, we lost contact until the memory loss became a safety issue.  By then, when it was time to step in and arrange for her care, she no longer remembered the discord but the disengagement of recent years only made matters worse.  I feel deprived of the last few reasonably normal years of her life before the dementia changed her into a stranger.

As I said, we were never very close but the dementia has forced into grim reality the realization that we have lost any possible opportunity to be close. Looking back into my childhood, I wished for a mother who would talk to me, tell me things, hug me and tell me she wasn’t angry with me.  That just wasn’t meant to be and, now, it truly never will be.  Having to let go of that hope and wish is hard.   It makes me sad for both of us.

Mom remains in a memory care facility.  She has lost a lot of weight and she no longer recognizes anyone.  Her biggest pleasure is when my sister brings her cinnabons or something from McDonalds.  She still walks loops around the hall with her walker and she hasn’t fallen for a couple of months (knock on wood).  It isn’t easy going to visit her – in fact, it is very difficult.  Her face is sallow and her eyes are vacant.  She rarely makes eye contact and only grunts as a response to most questions or she repeats the question.  Somewhere in that shell is a woman who had 4 children, cooked on a wood stove, chopped wood, taught children how to read, delivered mail, played the organ and acted as eucharistic minister in her church.  She was also a woman who wanted to go to college but couldn’t because of financial constraints, a woman who loved her family but always wanted something more – a woman whose true dreams and desires will never be known.

I miss having her around and I wish that things could have been different – for both of us.

Across the window

The view out of my office window changes from day to day  depending on the season, traffic on the road, activities in my neighborhood.

The young family across the road are ranchers and they are a busy bunch.  I’ve watched their children grow from toddlers to little ranchers – driving four wheelers, chasing cows and changing sprinkler pipes.  All of the ranch chores are a family activity.  I’m so proud of them even though I only know them to wave hello across the way.

A little farther across the field is my cousin’s place.  He works a huge ranch, mostly by himself, from dawn until dusk and then some. I watch him every day and though we may not see each other face to face – I often feel as though I am a part of his life just because I get to watch it unfold daily.  His fields are the greenest on this end of the valley.  I know that is a source of pride for him and for those of us who border his property (though we have nothing to do with how pristine his fields are…).

This morning the view is gorgeous, as usual.  I am so lucky.  The fields are green, the willows are full-on yellow with new growth and trees are budding leaves.  Birds are darting to and fro and the cows are calmly eating the new, soft and fresh grass.  It is a very quiet, cloudy morning.  Not even a single dog is barking but it is early morning.  Our neighborhood commentator will start his daily barking ritual when the neighborhood starts moving.

Soon the school bus will round the corner and I will watch it travel across my window until it passes in front of the house to load up kids from up the road.  Shortly after, the rest of the neighborhood will begin to cross my view on their way to work.  The dog will bark at each of the cars as they go by.

As the day progresses, I may see my husband out in our yard.  He keeps it pretty green as well.  I will see him mowing, trimming trees and setting traps for the meadow moles that create havoc with their digging and mounds of dirt.  (Caddyshack at its finest…)

And of course, the ever present and magnificent Gray Wolf peak – somehow more beautiful and awesome with every season.

While the moving parts of my view change, the actual view itself doesn’t.   The mountains change color with the seasons but they remain standing – holding their place in the world.  Each day, when I sit down in my chair — turn on my computer and look up over the top of my screen — I breathe a sigh of relief.  It is still there.  The trees, the brush, the cows, the hills, the grass, the road, Gray Wolf.  I feel the same sense of awe that my father must have felt, and his father before him.  Home.  Peace.  Stability. Strength. Comfort.

Defining freedom

Freedom is important.  We all want it and most of us are willing to fight for it, even if it is something as simple as making a strong argument with someone else about why we “deserve” a vacation from work or school.  As children, there was nothing more freeing than that last day of school and first day of summer!  As adults, it is always a major disappointment when we have to continue working through those glorious summer months.  (Unless you are a teacher and then you DO deserve the summer vacation!!!)

Vacation isn’t necessarily associated with “freedom” but it is a similar feeling.  Vacation means fewer responsibilities (although if you are a parent, you are never truly “free” of responsibilities even for vacation).

Freedom as a “first-world” matter is very different than in many other parts of the world.  We complain of our obligations to job, family, or community as if we are imprisoned by those commitments.  We are so enmeshed in our grievances about our busy lives and schedules, we overlook two important elements.  One: most of our commitments/obligations are self-imposed.  Doesn’t that mean that we retain prerogative over those obligations?  Two: the bigger picture.  There are many more constraints and impediments to “freedom” suffered by others even in our own country, in your own state and city.

Can’t find a thing to cook in the pantry?  You have a pantry full of food – many don’t.

Can’t find a thing to wear?  Nothing fits?  You have a closet is FULL of clothes – many don’t.

No time to exercise? What if you had to walk around all day because you had no place to go?

Work is getting you down?  School is boring?  Too many meetings?  Too many functions to attend?  Calgon take me away?

Imagine wearing the same thing every day.  Or having only two or three outfits – total.  You’d have to wash clothes nightly and you’d have to wash them in the sink with an old bar of soap.  Imagine having only ONE or two pair of shoes.  Imagine being sick but not being able to go to the doctor.  Imagine eating only one true meal every day.  Imagine having an old car that barely runs – and not being able to go on vacation – EVER.  Imagine.

Freedom is important.  It doesn’t have the same meaning for everyone.

(Side bar: remember to donate clothes, shoes and food.  Next time you are complaining about how busy you are or how you don’t have something you really want — stop yourself.  You are free to choose and to see.  What more do you need?)

Freedom

Divorce is an ugly word, a bad word.  Even though it is quite prevalent in our current world – it continues to be distasteful.  In most divorces, the theme is winner and loser.  In reality, both parties lose no matter the outcome.  And if there are children – they are the spoils of war and the biggest losers.

Even in the worst of times, we like to believe that when push comes to shove, the children will be the priority.  Unfortunately for a large percentage of divorced couples, that isn’t the case.  The children become pawns and whether you want to do battle or not, the struggle begins early in negotiations and can last until the children are grown – depending on the parties involved.

Counseling can help but, again, depends on the parties involved. You have to be open and willing to make necessary changes.

In many divorces, the grim reality is that the marital situation was difficult enough for one party to call it quits.  Getting a divorce will not change the circumstances of the difficulty, it will exacerbate it.  Not only was it challenging to live WITH that person, now living without them is going to be extremely contentious.  Every condition or event becomes a means of retaliation or a display of power.  Frankly, it is exhausting.  For the person who is trying to make their “escape”, it can be daunting and you constantly wonder if you should have stayed in a miserable marriage just to have avoided the turmoil.  Many people do stay, for that reason.

In my own situation, by the time I actually separated from my first husband, I was already “divorced” in my own mind.   Ours was a short marriage but, early in the relationship, I knew we were not a good match.  I thought I could just “suck it up” and play along but, in the end, I just couldn’t.  I made the decision to find a way out months before it actually happened.  Because I was mentally prepared for the break, I had already grieved for the relationship.  I could easily have left on friendly terms and fully expected he would also reach that level of acceptance.  We didn’t have any real property and I was very lucky to be the wage earner of our little family unit.  I thought we would separate, split the proceeds and find an equitable visitation plan for the kids and a reasonable child support amount – and both be on our merry way.  I was quite naive.

During our marriage, my ex-husband and I had talked about his parents’ divorce.  It had been a bitter situation and left him feeling very neglected and angry.  He talked about how important it was to make sure the kids were the first priority in any situation.  I believed him.  I thought that was going to be the case.  It was one point of view we actually agreed on and I had every intention of working with him to make sure the kids were left out of any dispute.  I really did think we could do this, we could work together for the good of our children.  But that was before the divorce actually became a possibility in our own lives.

Every issue became a conflict often having a core issue involving money.  In some ways, I was lucky because he moved away that first year.  We didn’t have to deal with each other very often except through letters and we had some scathing mail battles over the years.  In other ways, him moving away was hell because that meant that when the kids went for a visit, they were very far away.  I still get an awful feeling in my stomach when I think about it.  I would cry for days – and worry about their care.  It was horrible.

We had multiple disputes – about the kids visits, about splitting the cost of braces, about splitting the cost of band instruments, about things that should or shouldn’t be said to the kids.  Again, I was lucky that the visits were only a few times a year but the damage was done just the same.  In hindsight, I constantly wonder what I should have done differently to make it easier for the kids but I’ve long since realized that you do what you can do.  You can’t control that other person, you just do your best to counter the things that are said and done in your absence.  And you hope the kids will be okay.

Fast forward thirty some years and I still feel animosity towards my ex-husband.  I am still angry over the things he has done and I find it difficult to be in the same room with him.  Listening to him talk is like a flashback into the past and I feel the echo of the helplessness I felt back then.  For our children’s sake, we have to be together on occasions; birthdays, weddings, any life celebration.  We are congenial.  And when the celebration is over and we go our separate ways, I feel the same old relief.  I am not sorry we divorced.  It was the right thing to do for all of us.  Divorce may seem like a bad word but it really isn’t.  It is about freedom, growth, strength and wisdom – or it can be if you let it.

Monkey training

Just so you are aware; awareness doesn’t come easy.  It takes time and lots of effort to stay in the moment, to pay attention to cues and triggers, it requires consistent toil and discernment.  Typically, women are aware of everything outward; how others are feeling, what others need or want, what others may think of our efforts.  Constantly at the ready and anticipating every need – of others.  To transition that awareness to our own needs and triggers – takes both persuasion and surrender.  We have to convince ourselves that it is okay to turn the spotlight inward and then we have give ourselves permission to actually do it.  Craziness.

Think of all the women you know.  It doesn’t matter if they have children, are married or have significant others, or their age.  Of those women, what is the percentage who do far more for others, than for themselves?  What is the percentage that base their decisions or choices either on someone else’s opinion or on how that decision would either affect someone else or be judged by someone else?

As women, we are so lucky to live in this day and age – but we still have a long way to go.  Wouldn’t we all just love to be totally independent?  Never have to worry again about money, our spouses, our children, our siblings, our parents, our homes, our dogs, our weight.  Wouldn’t it be great to sleep peacefully at night without a care?  Or to get up in the morning and think only of ourselves?  What should I do today?  I think I will take a long walk with my three dogs.  Then, I will eat a leisurely breakfast on the porch and read a book.  Then, I will throw a load of laundry in and hang it out in the sun to dry.  I will eat cereal for lunch and dinner.  I will wear a cute flouncy skirt with no shoes and a pretty flower top.  You’re dreamin’ kid.

If we are honest with ourselves, knowing what we would leave behind in order to have that total independence, we know that is just a fantasy.  We would lose too much without those people in our lives for which we devote most of our focus.  However, we can gain some peace by being aware of who we are and what we deserve.

Yes, as mothers, we will always worry about our children.  We will ALWAYS want what is best for them and believe we know what that looks like and how they can achieve it.  But we should also strive to be AWARE that they are separate beings and we can’t, by force of will, make their lives for them.

As human beings, we will always want what is best for our spouses, friends, family, students, neighbors but we should be AWARE of our role in their success and happiness.  We are not responsible for it, we just wish for it – hope for it – for their sake.  Our capacity for happiness should not be contingent to theirs.

Too often we strive for perfection and/or approval.  We wear ourselves out trying to do the best, be the best and brightest.  We allow feelings of failure and fear to enter in when we think something or someone we care about is faltering.  Where is that awareness then?  Gone, gone gone.  Our mind races and we begin seeking solutions and ways to help change things for the better.  We go into overdrive – what can we say?  What can we do?  What will make the difference?  How can we make all of this better or make it go away?  Lack of control amps up our fear – which is quickly followed by defeat and depression.

Awareness means when you feel that shift into overdrive – you have to step back and breath.  Try this:  Put it in park.  Sit down.  Very calmly tell yourself: “Yes, this IS my circus and those ARE my monkeys…but this is NOT how I trained them!”  Slip on your flouncy skirt and flowered blouse and go for a walk.

More on gratitude

I should never have opened pinterest.  I am most certainly grateful for technology – that is today’s gratitute topic – but, man, does technology ever distract me!  Youtube, facebook, twitter, email, IMDB…  I have an iPad, an iPhone and a desktop computer!  I have Netflix and Amazon Prime Movies!

We purchased our first computer in 1994.  At first, I was intimidated by it.  Nothing made sense, all the buttons and discs and the lingo was a foreign language.  However, I knew I needed to learn how to use it.  We were also getting computers at work — it was going to be an absolute necessity to figure it out.  As with anything, the more you use it, the more proficient you become.  Slowly but surely, things started to make sense and I was able to work my way through most programs I had to use.

When email first came out, I resisted.  I was adamant that I would rather write a letter to send.  It was more personal and I felt like I could write more of my soul in a handwritten letter.  Eventually, I gave in and now I rarely write correspondence other than email.  To be honest, it saddens me.  To be even more honest, there is no reason that I can’t write letters…it is just so much more convenient to write an email!

I am grateful for technology.  I can text my kids and friends and get a response right away.  I can send/receive photos at a moments notice.  I can look up fun facts, addresses, maps, information, all with voice instructions, if I choose.  I can learn how to apply makeup, style my hair, apply wallpaper, build a table – with step by step video instructions!  I can get ideas for baby showers, birthday parties, bathroom remodels, outfit styles.  I can try to diagnose any weird symptom from swelling to redness to prolonged diarrhea, all with suggestions for treatments and home remedies!  I can watch any movie (almost), any time day or night. And let’s not forget the moment to moment “news” updates.

We have access to so MUCH, so fast.  We should be grateful but we should be humble and prudent.  Yes, we want to compete and maintain our knowledge of technology.  The world will leave us behind if we don’t.  But, we also need to remain vigilant in utilizing our own faculties — keeping the human factor intact.  In my own case, I will kill an entire morning looking at pinterest, facebook or youtube.  If I get bored during the day, I will check all of them “just for a minute” that ends up being an hour.  If I didn’t have technology, what could I be grateful for?  Exercise? Reading?  Writing? Talking?

Bacon and diapers

***I am trying to motivate myself to start writing more — so I have been searching for ideas and prompts.  I just discovered  prompts for a 30 day gratitude journal on Pinterest so I figure that is as good a start as any…

Day 1 – What smell are you grateful for?  Let’s see…fried bacon is a great smell.  Makes you feel hungry even if you just ate your fill.  Fresh cut grass on a hot summer day;  I can close my eyes and feel the sun on my skin.  A breeze filled with the scent of lilac, roses, jasmine, honeysuckle (insert your favorite flower here).  Thanksgiving dinner is a plethora of smells to die for.   Oh…I almost forgot!  Fresh baked bread!  When I was selling my house, I would always bake bread when I knew someone was coming to look – believe it or not, it made a difference!  The house seemed more “home-y”.

Have you ever noticed that if you are thinking of smells – your first inclination is to close your eyes and raise your face/nose?  Of course, to get a better scent.  It is an animal instinct, although they don’t close their eyes.  If you watch your dog, when they sit on the porch and seem to just be quietly overlooking their territory, their nostrils are constantly twitching.  Their noses are like Facebook, they are catching up with all the posts of the day.

Little babies have wonderful smells and some not so wonderful, as they get older.  As a parent, you will eventually be able to distinguish the difference in the smell of your own children.  As a point of reference, when I was a young mother, I babysat for a friend.  Her son was a few months older than my daughter.  Up until then, I changed every kind of diaper and had been vomited on numerous times.  The smells were often less than pleasant but it was part of being a mom and it wasn’t intolerable.  The first time I had to change this little boy’s messy diaper, I gagged and had to take the diaper immediately out of the house.  It was horrible!  I thought there was something wrong with him.  In reality, it was just his own “smell” and it was different than what I was accustomed to.  You think a dirty diaper is a dirty diaper – but not so!  While I am not exactly grateful for that smell, it is one of the stronger smells to come to mind.

Mostly, babies do smell sweet.  Part of it is because of the wonderful smelling infant products (who doesn’t love the smell of baby lotion and baby soap?) but the other part is that their diet is pure and sweet, especially in the beginning.   When a baby falls asleep, snuggled into your neck and you lean over to kiss them you can smell their hair and skin.  Their warm breath is sweet with mother’s milk and it is a smell you never forget.  I am grateful for that smell.

Your spouse or partner has a distinctive smell.  This can be good and bad — but usually you can identify them in a dark room if all you could do was smell them out.  And here is a fun fact, as they age the smell becomes even more identifiable.  Just so you know and something to look forward to…  Still, in all, I am grate for that smell as well.

I am grateful for the smell of fresh brewed coffee, fresh squeezed lemons, watermelon, cucumber, the original jergen’s lotion (I think it is almond scent?), creme de mint (reminds me of my dad, he always put that in his chew when he was younger), and of course, wintergreen – my signature smell and flavor.

We are so lucky to have the sense of smell – to be able to identify all of the different scents we experience daily.   Imagine a life without it!  Can you?

 

I wish you were a pinata

Hold on to your joy…I wish you were a pinata.  Yes, I was looking through Pinterest quotes for inspiration on what to write about today.  I always tell myself, I will only look for a minute – I’ll take the first quote I like.  THEN, I spend 20 minutes going from board to board — my eyes start to dart around the pages and I don’t write a thing.  It is like my ADD is on crack.  I thought it was amusing that my eyes went from the “joy” quote to the “pinata” quote – because sometimes that’s how my day goes.

Let me explain.  I often find myself looking beyond what I have — feeling as though I’m missing something; feeling as though I am not accomplishing anything; constantly searching for that ONE passion that will take me to the end of my days on the stream of peace and contentment.  I’m searching so hard and trying to hold on to my joy so tightly, that I’m choking the poor thing out!  I wish you were a pinata so I could pound you into submission and achieve my joy.

“The Five Love Languages”  list the languages as: 1. Words of Affirmation; 2. Acts of Service; 3. Quality Time; 4. Physical Touch; 5. Receiving Gifts.  I think there should be a sixth; Sarcasm.  That one is mine — if I like you, I will tease you and joke with you with quick whips of humor and sarcastic remarks.  I will find something amusing in everything I see and hear.  I am at my best when I can make you laugh with my quick wit – I feel refreshed and at peace once I know I can instigate a good belly laugh.  That is a wonderful thing.  However, there isn’t much call for humor/sarcasm/wit in common life.

I’m a little old to become a stand up comedian and I find that when I am TRYING to be funny it doesn’t work as well as when it flows organically/naturally.  Same goes with humorous writing – I have to have a topic that I feel sarcastically passionate about or it just doesn’t roll.  But humor and laughter are something I will always feel good about and I can access it anytime I want – I just need to watch daily life events.  There is always something humorous going on if you watch for it and I am always watching.

As a child, my favorite actor was Jerry Lewis.  I loved his silly physical humor and I would imitate him all the time.  As I aged, my hero was Robin Williams.  Who could keep up with that wit?  I find re-runs of “Friends”, “The Office” really entertaining.  If I’m feeling down, I will watch “Whose Line Is It Anyway” and just roll out of my funk.

Yes, humor and sarcasm are definitely my love language.  If I ever make fun of you (and only in a nice way), it means that I like you.  Kind of like in junior high.

Pause

Things feel out of sync.  There are crazy weather events.  The country is in the middle of a major (and frightening) leadership shift.  Fear and anxiety are around every corner.  What is going to happen to our money, our jobs, our schools, our children, our retirement?  Social media is becoming political media.  On one day it feels like we are living out  the George Orwell novel “1984” and another it feels like we’re starring in the movie “Idiocracy”. Run Forrest run!

Eventually, we must press pause.  If we don’t, we’ll drive ourselves crazy.  Think about it.  Isn’t that what is being thrust at us?  Frenzy causing fear?  If you scare us enough, sooner or later we’ll stampede and then you have total control???

Press pause.  We still have children to raise, jobs to perform, lives to live.  Yes, pay attention to what is happening around you and prepare for the day when you must stand – but let your heartbeat at a normal pace.  Be watchful.  Be quiet.  Live.

As I write this, that little voice is whispering, “But, what if?….”  I can’t (and shouldn’t) stifle the voice completely.  What if I press pause?  Hold that thought.  Think of something else more pressing, more real, more in the moment.  Go for a walk, check in with a friend, read a bit of fiction, sort through my old useless clothes, sort through photographs, listen to my favorite music, talk to my children/grandchildren.  As with most televisions or blue ray players – most “machines” will eventually begin playing again.  They won’t stay paused forever – and neither can we.  BUT we control the pause button, don’t we?

The burden of citizenship

I had every intention of writing a post about Donald Trump’s first week as president.  I decided to do a little research so that I wasn’t just reacting to the emotional posts I’ve seen on facebook.  Educate myself.  I googled it.  I read several articles – pro and con – including the wikipedia narrative on Donald J. Trump, incumbent president.  Afterwards?  I sat in my chair feeling helpless, staring at my screen.  (This is exactly why I don’t normally get involved with political issues – this overwhelming feeling of fear.  What if?…..)

So here’s what I have to say about that:  I am about as far removed from the presidency and most of his current issues as you can get.  I live in a very small town in a very large but sparsely populated state. (Montana is the 4th largest state and the 44th by population).  Our nearest larger city is Missoula, home of the University of Montana.  Because of this, I may see people of other races when I am in Missoula shopping.  I do happen to live on an indian reservation and I am a tribal member – so I do have that going for me.  Changes in healthcare and medicare will directly affect my life – I will feel the sting personally.  Many of the other issues will not affect me – at least not right away and not directly.  I’m sure that is what most people are thinking.  I also think, “He won’t get away with this”, “He can’t do this”, “Someone will step in and take care of this”.  And then I sink into that helpless feeling.  WHO will take care of this?

Logically – we have to remember that OF COURSE he is going to sign all of these executive orders and bulldoze through all of his campaign promises immediately on his first week in office.  He knew when he made them that most of them were unconstitutional and unrealistic BUT that is how he got the votes.  He HAS to charge in, kick ass and take names.  Isn’t that how he won you over?  By promising to make America great again?  If all of his promises fail, if his executive orders are proven unconstitutional, if he is stopped by anyone – he will say that he is TRYING but his opposition is blocking his efforts – he needs to clean house of all the naysayers.  Have you looked at his list of nominees for his cabinet?  I hadn’t until this morning.

I have never contacted my representatives – until this presidency.  Frankly, the more I read, the more I know – the more helpless I feel.  I would love to ignore all of this – continue not reading the paper (too infuriating and depressing), not watching the news, dropping facebook and sitting in my little corner of Montana and pretend none of this is happening.  It doesn’t affect me anyway.  BUT it could…eventually, it COULD.  If I am to be honest, the reason I’ve always hated politics is because it is a BURDEN to have to hear these things and feel this way.  But if I don’t carry my share, who else will?

My grandfather came from Mexico – crossed the border as a 10 year old boy.  I know people who have had abortions.  I know people who are in the U.S. on work visas.  I know people who NEED healthcare.

We have to pay attention.  We have to speak up when we can – when we see an injustice.  We have to listen, read, watch.  But most of all, we must be mindful, make good decisions based on research.  Speak from a place of knowledge not panic or paranoia.  Don’t let fear send you into a frenzy of apocalyptic proportion.  When you hear something unnerving (as you will in the days ahead) – read about it.  Think about it.  Compose yourself.  Then speak, write or protest.  Let your voice be heard not as a radical but as a citizen.