Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tax the Rich

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says he's not engaging in "class warfare" -- he's just doing the math. But House Speaker John Boehner (BAY'-nur) says class warfare is exactly what Obama is engaging in -- and he says that's not the same as leadership. (End Quote)

President Obama promised to veto any budget plan that cuts Medicare without closing loopholes which create tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.  Speaker Boehner said, "Tax the rich, tax the rich.  That's really not the American way."  Then he went on to say that balancing the budget requires more people on the tax roles, more jobs.

So let's think about this.  What we need is more people working at Wal-Mart, earning less than a living wage and paying higher taxes.  We need more elderly going without medical care because they can't afford it.  We need to keep giving the wealthiest people "incentives" to get richer because "they deserve a break today."  We need to crush unions and collective bargaining because it's all those teachers and fire fighters and police officers being greedy that actually is behind the deficit.  That's the way the Sherriff of Nottingham reasoned and why Robin Hood is still a popular folk hero!

Yet it's President Obama that is accused of "class warfare" and not people like Boehner and the Tea Party?  

I think the "Trickle Down Theory" hasn't actually worked.  Nothing ever "trickles down".   It hasn't worked in the recent past.  It didn't work in the days of Rockefeller.  But speaking of Rockefeller and the Robber Barons, maybe Boehner has a point.  Maybe class oppression IS the American way, it's just not what I learned America was about when I was in grade school.    

Friday, August 12, 2011

Living in the Now

I am struggling to understand this concept.  I do not think I have grasped the essential wisdom of it.  It seems to me that I live too much "in the Now" - tending to whichever crisis is shouting it's need at me most loudly.  Living in the current crisis leaves me with a distinct feeling of claustrophobia.  I do not have room to expand or plan.  I am reactive instead of proactive.

I have read many books which talk about the wisdom of living in Now, but I still do not really understand it.  Part of the trouble, I suspect, is the inherent responsibility of possessions.  I own a house with a roof, for example, roofs need to be replaced on a regular basis and paying for the roof is not something one does without planning ahead.  Where does future planning exist in "living in the Now"?

My chosen lifestyle requires a lot of "giving thought to the future".  I see how Jesus or Buddha or Richard Rohr or Thich Nhat Hahn or Ekhart Tolle etc. have arranged their lives so that they can accept what comes to them with grace and wisdom.  I admire that, but I do not see how I can emulate that.  I cannot take the advice of Jesus to the rich man and sell all my possessions and live the life of a mendicant.  I need electricity to run Sam's machines.  I like air conditioning and heat.  People in Chicago regularly die if they do not have one or the other.  I really don't want to lose Sam or to die myself simply because I didn't plan ahead and budget well enough to pay the bills.

When I look for peace, I rarely find it Now.  I find myself fighting to rise above the Now to get a clearer perspective.  Now is usually terrifying.  There are too many things that need doing Now and most of them seem to be begging me to instantly save them from destruction.  Everyone and every thing in my life seems to need me to do something Now.  If I do not step aside from the current moment and reflect on things other than Now, I descend into chaos.  I cope.  I react.  I loose track of what is important to me.  I lose track of me.

Stepping outside the stream of life, reflecting, planning, pausing, praying, ignoring Now, I find a modicum of peace and the space to untangle the threads that pull me out of shape.  I reform myself and can begin to make decisions about which threads I want to pick up and which ones I want to let drift away in the wind.  But stepping outside is hard.  I need to fight for my solitude - fight myself and my impulse to surrender to the demands of Now.   It is far too easy to allow myself to drift in the chaos of Now and be swept away by the expectations of the people and possessions in my life.

I am learning that "Yes" and "No" are the two most powerful words in my vocabulary and both need to be used with caution.   I need to pause, at least momentarily, and reflect before saying either "Yes" or "No".  When I am swept away by the chaos of Now, I give myself away without thinking and usually it is by saying "Yes" or "No" thoughtlessly.  I am too prodigal with myself when I live in the Now.

And yet, when I listen to these wise men talk about their concept of Now, I realize that they are talking about something substantially different from what I experience.  I think my failure must have something to do with a difference of definition.  I have trouble grasping what they mean.

I think they have a lot less need to feel control and a lot more trust in the universe or God or whatever they call it, than I have.  I do not trust God or the universe to have the same priorities that I have and so I feel a deep need to control or at least try to control at least some of my circumstances.  I realize that God/the universe is more powerful, capable and even ultimately more kind and loving than I am on a global scale, but it seems clear that we are not more important than the lilies of the field and our individual survival is not of paramount importance to that force/entity.  So my individual responsibility is to take care of myself, Sam and my little corner of the earth.  For that, I need perspective and time outside Now to think.

Clearly there's something I don't get yet.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Doing The Math

60 next week.  Ak.  Actually, my knees are 60, the rest of me is still 45.  (Thank you Edgar of BoRics on Ashland near Diversey.)

Charley's cancer really solidified our resolve to figure out what we REALLY want to do in this life.  The goal is for him to retire next summer and for us both to begin doing something that brings us satisfaction and a moderate income.  It's a lot riskier doing something like this at our age with The Sam Factor than it was when we were young and unencumbered.  On the other hand, it may be our last chance to risk everything for a dream. I remember sociologist Tony Campolo once cited a survey of 80 year olds who said their greatest regret was about some opportunity or risk not taken.  So we are getting serious about this.  We're probably going to be 80 in 20 years.  Or 35 years.

The thought that has been repeatedly coming to me is that I am not a beginner.  I have done and learned a lot of things over the decades.  No really.  A LOT.  I'm not starting from scratch.  So all my experience must add up to something, I just have to do the math.

Sadly, math is not my strongest subject!

To get a handle on what/who I am, I've been going over my journals.  This in itself is weird.  I write journals feverishly at times and then not at all for years.  I keep them mostly because we have a house and there's room.  I never actually planned to look at them again.  All I really planned to do with them was destroy them before I die.  But turns out they are very interesting.  (What a narcissist!)  There are several themes that run as far back as the journals.

I love:
Creativity - making lace, jewelry, knitting, general craft stuff.  Music - singing, string instruments, penny whistle, odd percussion instruments from all over the world (http://www.propane.pro/tanks/the-propane-tank-recycled-for-the-drum-circle-0211/).  The wisdom of people with cognitive disabilities.  Children. Learning something (anything) new.

I have a very love/hate relationship with my interpersonal skills; but I am a good leader and a good listener and perhaps a good teacher.  Listening makes me insightful because I can synthesize what I hear from different people, or the same person at different times, into a single thought.  I'd probably be good at negotiation, except I wouldn't like to spend a lot of time in the same room with angry people.

Listening also helps me notice when two people are arguing about two totally different subjects.  Sometimes I can notice this even when one of the people arguing is me! It's a very odd experience and one I really don't know what to do about in the moment it occurs.  It is usually best to first agree with the other person - since their point really has nothing to do with mine - and then cautiously restate my point.  It's funny how often arguments are not about what the participants think they are about.

My journals also point out that I have a lot of fear which is mostly nutty and keeps me from making my dream into a goal.

And I like to write about the philosophy of me.

I don't know what this adds up to, but at least I've defined the value of X.

Experiments For Further Reflection on the eve of my 60th birthday:

1: Charley is going to buy me a ukelele  (I think I'll get a tenor, it has more tuning options)
2: I'm going to go to the beach with my grandchildren and try to blow giant bubbles like this:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3i-zYdOPG2k
3: With my friend Lawrence from Esperanza (http://www.esperanzacommunity.org) I'm going to paint a picture of "Helen's Bird" as part of the project "Dynamic Duos: Works in Collaboration" which will be displayed in October as part of Chicago Artists Month.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Religious Tolerance?

I was just remembering a wonderful conversation I once had with two people from Lebanon.  They were both Christians.  In fact, they called themselves Phoenicians and not Lebanese to distinguish themselves from Muslims who were also born in Lebanon.  They told me that they are direct descendants of the very first Christians and assured me that their style of worship and their theology was more "authentic" than Protestant, Catholic or even Orthodox Christianity.  I eagerly asked for more information.  

They were proud of the fact that their country is religiously tolerant.  They went to school with people of many different religious backgrounds.  They told me that they believed their country had a good chance of remaining peaceful because they grew up being friends with people from different religions.   (This belief was very strong in spite of the fact that one of them was living in the United States by choice as political refugee and the other was the son and grandson of refugees.)

I come from a very conservative evangelical Christian background which has long felt too narrow for the world in which I find myself.  I was fascinated by their very different understanding of Christianity, the bible and what it means to practice their faith.  I asked them about conversion.  Does anyone ever change from one religion to another or does anyone ever fall in love with someone from a different religion?  Apparently this does happen occasionally, but it is a very big problem.  Although they go to school with each other, each religion lives in a separate part of town and they all have last names that identify their religion.  Each of them had relatives who had married into another faith tradition and I got the idea that those relatives were not really welcomed into their families anymore.  

This struck me as both more and less tolerant than my own evangelical tradition.  I grew up believing that I had a moral mandate to convert everyone I met - for their own good!  It was unthinkable for me to pass up an opportunity to save someone from the fires of hell.  So religious tolerance in my youth was practically non-existent.  On the other hand, I can't imagine abandoning a relative because they married a non-Christian or choosing what house I buy based on the religion of my neighbors!

It seemed to me that they were saying that peace and religious tolerance were preserved by a careful balance of "separate but equal."  This flew in the face of everything I had learned as a child about the importance of saving everyone we met.  I asked them what they thought happened to their Muslim friends when they died.  They both looked at me blankly as if the question had never occurred to them.  Then one of them said thoughtfully, "Well, I suppose they go to their own heaven."  

This conversation was a real turning point for me.  I certainly didn't become an expert on Phoenician Christianity in one conversation!  But I learned it is possible to agree and disagree without desiring to change another.  It is possible to learn something new without accepting everything you hear the other person say.  It is possible to appreciate and respect a point of view you do not entirely share.  It is actually delightful to have a conversation with people who are different from me, to understand them a little better and to see myself a bit more clearly and walk away without changing them at all.

That conversation was many years ago.  I have had so many great experiences in my life and have allowed them to mold me.  I have learned to be myself among so many different kinds of people and revel in the differences.  I think true tolerance must be based on that "I Thou" principle.  I know who I am and I love who you are and I celebrate the fact that we are not the same.

This is true especially in my marriage.  Charley is eternally someone different not only from me, but also from who he was yesterday!  And yet he is firmly committed to the idea that we are exactly the same.  And that's really okay with me.  

Mr. Spock

Well, I just thought he turned out pretty well.  Sending him to Ben today for his birthday.  Next up: Cher's socks.  I promise!  After I finish the couch pillows for ME!!!!

Friday, July 15, 2011

No Escape

For the past few weeks I've had the honor of helping to write my father's biography.  I think that's something I'll blog about soon.  But the point at the moment is that I have been reading a huge stack of his letters to me and thinking about him a lot.  He's kind of been around the house.

And right on schedule, as we polish off the story of his life, the killers show up.  How apt and ironic.  I got an email from brother Bil updating me that the "best crack cook in Denver" has launched an appeal to get his trial overturned.  The prosecutor doesn't think there's even a remote chance that he will succeed, however the judge did give his position a hearing.  The only other appeal by one of the infamous five killers didn't even get that far.  The Victim's Advocate told me that inmates spend a lot of time submitting appeals that a panel of judges reviews.  Usually they reject the appeal without even giving it a hearing.  Kind of like the dark side of a PhD dissertation review.

Well this one made it past the first hurdle and I freaked.  I do this from time to time.  It isn't logical, it isn't controllable, it just has to be endured as lightly as possible.  The first time was pretty soon after the murder.  We lived in an apartment on the top floor and the landlady hired some guys to fix the roof.  The guys who killed my dad were roofers.  I spent day one of the repairs huddled in a corner of the living room listening to the roofers and crying and jumping at every boom.  It felt like living in a horror movie and the blood smeared nightmare was slowly beating down my door.  All day.  The next day and every day after until they finished I left the house and sat at Starbucks.  I also was particularly careful to check all the doors and windows at night for the next few months.  Charley's response was, "They aren't the SAME roofers."  Well, I know.  Those roofers are in jail.  The sentence for 3 of the 5 was life without parole.  (Expected date of release: December 31, 9999)

This doesn't have anything to do with logic.

I am supposed to be informed by the Victim's Advocate office when something occurs with the killers, like an appeal or a parole hearing.  I can't bear to NOT know, but whenever I get a letter from JeffCo Department of Corrections it's an automatic signal to order dinner delivered.  I can't cook or do much of anything for the rest of the day but knit and watch romantic comedies.  ("America's Sweethearts" and "No Reservations")

The second "episode" was almost a year ago.  You'd think I'd be saner.  He was murdered January 5, 2006.  Get OVER it already.  Our furnace died and we had a bunch of fully licensed, bonded, vouched for, insured and checked out guys come out to give us estimates.   Charley went to work and Sam and I entertained them.  This was hard.

They were all very nice, but then so were the killers.  My dad knew them and gave one of them a giant clam shell big enough for a small Venus to stand in.  One of the worst ways my Dad's murder has impacted me is that I am afraid to trust in my own instincts about who is nice and who is not.  I'm always trusting new people and then fearing they are planning to sneak in and murder me.

I got through the estimate phase of getting a new furnace pretty well, not too crazy.  But the day they were going to install it, I begged Charley to stay home and he pointed out, correctly, that I was being nuts.  I felt the panic rise and called a friend who agreed to drop everything and come over.  Then the installers showed up before she could get there and one of them kind of looked like the lead killer and crack cook!  I showed him the basement and was once again back in horror movie mode.  I called Bil and sobbed frantically, I called my friend whose sister was brutally murdered.  They told me they understood, (which made a huge difference) my friend arrived, the furnace got installed and works great.  And it's been almost a year and the Sears installers haven't returned to kill me yet!

Which brings me to yesterday.  After all these weeks of calling up my father's ghost, suddenly I'm reminded of the actual people who killed him.  And Charley is out of town.  He doesn't get back until Monday.  I seriously and calmly considered the fact that there is no real reason Sam and I have to leave the house until it is time to go get him.  In fact, he could take a taxi home.  I turned on the alarm and the tv, started a new knitting project and heated up left overs.  We stayed up watching "Music and Lyrics" and "27 Dresses" until way past midnight.  As we watched, I struggled with myself.  We are out of milk and batteries.  I really ought to go outside and buy more.  We have a chiropractor's appointment today.  There's mass on the weekend.  The killers don't even know my last name or what state I live in and, honestly, if they did get out, the LAST thing they are going to want to do is find me.  They are going to want to forget all about that January night.  They are going to want to move on with their lives.

No good.  There's just a part of me that KNOWS they are coming to get me. I wonder if prison is scarring them as much as they scarred me?  It wasn't full blown horror movie, but I could hear the creepy background music getting louder.

Finally about 2 AM I went to the internet.  Did you know that you can look up inmates and get their status?  And a recent photo.  The Darth Vader version of school pictures.  All five of them are still firmly in jail for the moment.  I thought one of them had been released, but she's still in there.  The two who will be out some day have failed at least one parole hearing each.  One of the killers who cried at his trial seems to have gained weight in prison.  He looks a lot less like a weasel now and a lot more like a killer.  The guy who got the clam still looks adorable.  This seems so unfair.  He's going to get out someday and charm someone else's dad.

But for now they are all in prison.  I have a plan.  I'm going to go out in the backyard and water my vegetables.  If that goes okay, I'll probably wake Sam up and go to the chiropractor.  I will not take along photos of the killers.  I have this urge to show them off like a crazed version of grandma showing off photos, "See how much they've grown in six years?  And look, this one's cut his hair!"

I will go to the store and buy milk and batteries.  They are in prison.  I am not.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Good Parents

We just had our two eldest grandkids with us.  I realize I don't have a lot of parenting experience.  I was Ben's mom and I'm Sam's mom.  That makes two kids.  My two grandkids aren't a bit like Ben OR Sam.  (who is?)  I also spent decades teaching Sunday School for 2 and 3 year olds.  TnT aren't 2 or 3 any more!  They are 10 and 12 and they need a LOT of attention.

They live in Portland, OR and we live in Chicago, IL so although we love each other very much, we don't really know each other very well.  We felt each other out, gingerly.  I asked myself, "What do they need?" and they asked themselves, "What are Baba's rules and how seriously do we have to take them?"  

The answer to my question is limitless and the answer to theirs, apparently, is "not many and not very."  I told them I had only one rule: Respect.  We must respect ourselves, each other, the planet, other people, other people's things etc. etc. etc.  They thought that was pretty cool.  Only one rule!  And immediately began testing to see what that meant.  

What that one rule means, as it turns out, is: constant, non-stop examination and discussion and reflection.   Is it respectful to oneself to allow one's sibling to annoy, tease or insult one?  NO.  Is it a respectful response to that annoyance to slug them until they cry?  Well, probably not.  Let's talk about this.  What would be a more respectful way to ask that person to stop?  Hmm.  Tough question.  Slugging just feels soooo good.  Well, how about if we change roles?  If you are teasing your sibling, how would you like to be asked to stop?  

This requires further conversation into the subject of "respect means actually honoring your sibling's request prior to getting slugged."

Then there's the question of bad language.  What words are appropriate for a pre-teen to use?  And why do we giggle so much when we think someone might possibly be about to use one of the forbidden words?  They arrived on my doorstep with a firmly ingrained list of forbidden words.  I assume these were decided upon at home.  Which adds another question to my list: What are the rules their parents feel strongly about that I should be endorsing, but with which I (as an aging hippie) have no real, personal connection?  So I have the silent, invisible presence of my son and his wife.  I'm trying to translate their rules into something understandable from the comments of my two astonishingly young grandchildren.  There's not a lot of mature understanding of WHY the rules are what they are and I suspect some of the rules are made up on the spot for the convenience of one or the other sibling.  I'm pretty sure, "We get to spend any money we find on the floor at the corner store" is not a rule in a household where they are very particular about what goes into their children's mouths.

Still, by the end of their stay, we were making some real headway into understanding each other's boundaries.  Our conversations were getting shorter, I had only to shout, "Respect" several thousand times a day and seemed to be getting shocked and thoughtful faces and better behavior.  We had discovered our own acceptable swear words and there was a lot less giggling. These included, for example, "What the Cermak do you think you are doing?" and (for some reason) "Oh Howie Mandel, I stubbed my toe."  And we had established that money on the floor almost certainly fell out of GC's pocket and should be returned to him.  (Grandpa Charley)  However, money can be earned by performing various chores and ONE trip to the corner store a day is acceptable since a modicum of junk food is almost required when visiting grandparents and there's nothing in the house but salad and stuff. (Oh groan, Baba's food is BORING!)

What I never did seem to make headway on was a clear definition of truth. Truth for them is a very soft subject.  Their truth may be defined as "The story that is going to get me in the least amount of trouble."  They did learn to ask first.  My mantra was "If you ask, I'll probably say yes.  If you don't, I most certainly will say no."  They had trouble believing that no means no, but I think they were sort of getting that as well by the end.
I adjusted, they adjusted.  I think we are approaching mutual respect and understanding - which is a very nice addition to love!

Good parenting requires that you pay enough attention to your kids to know what kind of parent they need you to be today.  This is the reason why there are at least 365 different theories on parenting - they are each right about once a year.  It also explains why there are no perfect parents - no one can surf that shifting wave perfectly every time.

Monday, June 20, 2011


So now I'm on Twitter.  What a fascinating way to waste time!  I haven't really learned much about Ben, but I do know that Wil Wheaton passed his driver's test 100% and that a lot of people don't want Neil Gaiman to shave his beard.  His photo is clean shaven, so how do they even know he HAS a beard?  He points out that his beard is like Schrodeger's Cat - which I think is a good point.  

Chicago Tonight wanted us to text in our opinion on whether Rod Blago is guilty or not - and people did.  I don't suppose the judge or jury were listening.  Technology gives us such brilliant opportunities to display our ignorance.  The irony of saying this in a blog is not lost on me.

Then they interviewed a woman journalist who has written a  book about her experience caring for her elderly mother.  But, since she is a journalist, she seems to think she can extrapolate from her experience to that of every person caring for an elderly parent.  She made some pretty broad statements about how unfair it is that "society" still splits duties along gender lines - lawyer stuff to her brother, buying diapers to her - and that this is the case in most situations.  How does she know that?  You'd think a reporter would get some, you know, hard data before making generalizations like that.  But no.  She's just going on her own experience.  Which makes her book a memoir, which is fine, but it isn't news.

I'm crabby.  

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Walt Whitman

Darest thou now O soul,
Walk out with me toward the unknown region,
Where neither ground is for the feet nor any path to follow?
No map there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.
I know it not O soul,
Nor dost thou, all is a blank before us,
All waits undream'd of in that region, that inaccessible land.
Till when the ties loosen,
All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds bounding us.
Then we burst forth, we float,
In Time and Space O soul, prepared for them,
Equal, equipt at last, (O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil O soul.

Found this poem by Walt Whitman on the back of vinyl record - Ralph Vaughn Williams put it to music.  When Charley read it to me, I thought he was sayingn "Old Soul" which makes a very poignant kind of sense.  I am reminded again that the path to enlightenment and the path to acceptance of death are very, very similar.  Both can be very good.  Or not.

This Modern World (by an old woman)

What does it mean when your son says, "I love you mom, you are important to me.  You should follow me on Twitter."?  On the one hand, by reading his blog, subscribing to his videos and pictures on YouTube and Flickr and following his Tweets, I am privy to his passions and thoughts.  I, along with the rest of the world, can know him more intimately than I know practically anyone.  But he still won't return my calls or answer my e-mails.  It's a one sided intimacy unless I also tweet and blog - and he takes the time to read them.  Even THEN it's not what I would call a relationship.  It's more of a narcissist's version of relationship.  "I imagine that the whole world is more interested in me than I am in them".  I can think of lots of psychobabble reasons why this is good.  Self disclosure, "I" statements.  But there isn't a real two-way conversation, just two separate streams of consciousness.

While I appreciate that my talented, overstressed son has little time in his day to day life to chat with me, I still miss our long, rambling conversations about nothing at all.  Who am I kidding?  I don't have time for those either.  

It was a rare and precious luxury to have him here the past few days.  We talked about the relative merits of the Tennant vs Brannaugh Hamlets, of Pyrimus and Dido and Cicero.  We talked about the movie "The Tree of Life" (which he saw and I didn't because Sam was too loud in his appreciation of the dinosaurs.)  We translated French songs, discussed European linguistics and demise of critical thinking.  We played music, badly and he and his Dad (and Sam) tried to teach me syncopation.  I showed him my garden and he showed me his new android tablet.   These are discussions that take hours without children.  Neither of us often have that.  It was wonderful.  We didn't spend much time talking about our problems.  We didn't really need to.  I feel closer to him than I have in years and it's like a piece of my heart has come home.  He's gone back to Portland now, and I've got to get back to my real life.  So I signed up for Twitter and I am following Ben, and, at his suggestion, George Takai, Wil Wheaton, Stephen Fry, and the Daily Show.  

Blogs and Tweets are better than nothing.  But rambling, pointless conversations are better than anything.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Am I Too Old to Say OMG?!!!

I'm reading a novel which features a pair of "Elderly Oxford Dons".  I was startled to realize that they are the same age as Charley!  Which means, parenthetically, (or should I say Grandparenthetically) they are a year YOUNGER than myself!  The novel I read before this one was "Gaudy Night" by Dorothy Sayers and I'm realizing for the first time that the Dean of Shrewsbury College could be about 30 years younger than I am!  Well, she has been in her thirties since before I was born, so the first time I read "Gaudy Night" she was much older than me.  Does that make me feel better or worse?

I'm ELDERLY for crying out loud!

I told a friend of mine that I will turn 60 in August and she was shocked.  She said, "I had no idea you were so old.  I thought you were in your 40's!"  

"So did I!"  I responded.  I am totally surprised to suddenly find myself in this situation.  If "50 is the new 30", then I am about to turn 40 a second time and perhaps that's not so bad...

I'm fortunate to have a group of close friends who make "Elderly" look fabulous.  One of them hikes around Australia and muses about moving closer to her children at some distant future point when she gets old.  All of them live full and interesting lives.  Then there's my mother, who moved into a retirement community 6 years ago but hasn't allowed that to slow her down.  Well, maybe just a little.  I remember when my great Aunt Ruth was her age.  My mom would call me and say, "I'm so worried about Aunt Ruth.  She's slowing down."  And then tell a story about Aunt Ruth getting a speeding ticket.  When Aunt Ruth moved into a retirement community she was 90 and she wrote me a letter about the attractive men there!  So I imagine I have quite a few active elderly years ahead of me.

On the other hand, here's a limit to how far you can travel with the old saw about "You are only as old as you feel."  I mean there are things which, no matter how young I FEEL, it would be ludicrous for me to do.  Surfing comes to mind.  And coloring my hair platinum blond.  At my age, platinum blond would look more like Grandma Moses than Marilyn Monroe.  I notice my skin is getting drier and my hands are more wrinkly, but beyond that and some "creakiness" about my joints, I'm not deteriorating physically too much.  I still need to lose weight and exercise more, but that's the story of my life and has nothing to do with being elderly.  

So what's the big deal about "elderly"?  I think it is the fact that I'm much closer to the end of my story than the beginning.  It's been a really good story, all in all, and it's probably got some great chapters ahead of it, but I can see that the bookmark is moving much closer to the back cover and I don't want it to end just yet.  

I like to read my favorite books over and over again.  But I only get to go through MY story once.  This is probably the reason people write memoirs - or blogs.  

Enough, if something from our hands have power
To live and act and serve the future hour;
And if, as towards the silent tomb we go,
Through love, through hope, and faith's transcendent dower
We feel that we are greater than we know.
- William Wordsworth The River Duddon, 1820

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Charley's car needs some rather costly repairs and it's about 15 years old.  So before we fix it, we're trying to see how it would be to have only one car.  Cheaper for us, better for the environment and, when Sam doesn't have pneumonia, we'll benefit from doing our errands by foot in the neighborhood.  On nice days, Charley can take public transportation or ride his bike and I can have the car if I need it.  Now, if I can remember to make all doctor appointments on nice days...

This means yet another very large change (I refuse to say sacrifice) on my part.  I am a bird who has volunteered to have her wings clipped!  So for Lent, I guess I'm giving up one more freedom.  This time it is partly to benefit the planet (and the pocket book).  For the last year or so, I've been slowly surrendering all my freedom to Sam's health needs.  We now let him sleep whenever he wants which means he no longer goes to school and he is more than ever my constant companion.  His health is always precarious, so I am his devoted slave and nurse.  The lung doctor says that if it weren't for my care, Sam's story would have ended long ago.  When he smiles, I can't regret a single moment and I choose this life all over again.  

But I miss the world outside my living room window.  Especially now that it's spring.

Second Tuesday of Lent.  Readings for today are Isaiah 1:10, 16-20  Part of which goes:
Wash yourselves clean!  Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes; cease doing evil; learn to do good.  Make justice your aim: redress the wronged, hear the orphan's plea, defend the widow.

And Ezekiel 18:31

Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, says the Lord, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.

And Matthew 23: 1-12 which includes:

The greatest among you must be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

These verses encapsulate a large part of my personal understanding of what it means to live as a person of faith.  Seek justice, care for the disadvantaged, try to do what is right, maintain a realistic picture of yourself and your place in the world (humility) and no matter how badly you messed up yesterday, remember you can always start over again every morning.

How do I do that as a stay at home - stuck at home - mother of a young man with profound disabilities?  

Well, step one: stop feeling sorry for myself.  

Step two: remember how much the world is inside my living room.  Internet, tv, phones; I am in touch with the world in countless miraculous ways.

Step three: gratitude for my many blessings.  I actually do get to choose how I will live my life. Every morning.  I don't get much choice about what happens to me, but I do get a lot of choice about how I will respond.  And a lot of beautiful things happen to me every day, every moment, every breath I take - and every breath Sam breathes.

Step four: don't be stupid or naive.  I'm stuck at home, I don't have my head stuck in the sand.  I'm not blind.  I can take action and reach out.  Actually, I do a lot of reaching out.  These verses and this personal credo are not new to me.  I've been passionate about justice for most of my life.  I may be finally forced to accept that "charity begins at home" and forced to put most of my energy into self care and Sam care, but I can still impact the larger world in small ways.  "Think globally, act locally" takes on a deeper meaning when you don't leave the house more than two or three times a month!

In fact, if I had been able to construct the events of my life and not just my reaction to them, I probably would have become a bright star that burnt out long ago.  I would have thrown myself into some form of activism aimed at saving the world without counting the personal cost.  Being a wife and mother, being Sam's mother, has forced me to slow down, recognize my impotence and that I too have needs.  I am responsible for such a very little and incredibly precious and fragile fragment of the universe: Me and my family and a couple of birds.  At the same time I am part of the human race, and a resident of this planet.  Caring for myself and my family must take that into account.  My focus remains on the small world inside my living room and my awareness includes the larger world beyond it.  I buy plant based laundry detergent and sponsor children in Africa and welcome whomever comes to my door and sign petitions to end DOMA and donate to relief for tsunami victims.  But mostly I check Sam's oxygen levels and pay bills and fix meals.

Maybe all the events of my life are carefully aimed at bringing this co-dependent, Eneagram 2, earth mother with PTSD toward balance and perhaps someday enlightenment. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Oh Darn

Sam has aspiration pneumonia again and worse than it's been for several years.  I've got him on oxygen most of the time and he's taking antibiotics.  The doctor said to wait 48 hours and if he didn't turn around, I'd have to admit him for IV antibiotics.  The 48 hours is almost up and I think he's improved - slightly.  I really want to make the right decision here.  Going to the hospital might be an important step to saving his life.  We don't want to increase the already extensive scarring of his lungs.  There are so many parts of his lungs that no longer work.

On the other hand, we both hate going to the hospital.  He can't move because of the iv in his arm and I have to sleep on a very cold, hard window seat!  A smaller consideration is the fact that the State of Illinois will not pay me for the days he is in hospital because they think of it as time I don't work.  Hah!  This is a small consideration because they only pay me for 4 hours a day anyway!

It's Lent.  You would think this would give me time to reflect and be mindful of my life.  But frankly, I'm too sleepy.  MY body has never really accepted Sam's habit of sleeping from 4 am to 11 am.  I still like to sleep from about 10 pm to 6 am.  So when he's sick I only get a couple of hours sleep.  Then we both nap in the afternoon on the couch.  But the rest of the day I'm giving him medicine and wandering around the house like a zombie and groggily trying to think of all the things that need doing.

Oh and watching tsunami videos.

I heard from my friends in Japan and they are okay but in shock.  They are still experiencing several after shocks daily.  Tsunami and nuclear explosions are the terror at the core of every Japanese soul and they are suddenly facing both at once.  My heart weeps for them. 

Want to do something?  You can donate to people who seem to be doing a good job with the relief efforts:
American Red Cross
Salvation Army
Crash Japan

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Sam's Condition (just the bad stuff)

I had to write this for a social worker.  It was hard.  So I thought I'd post it, because it felt like a challenge like this should be memorialized - or something.  Either I'm just feeling sorry for myself or else I'm really proud of my ability to spell arcane medical words.

Sam Forsberg is a 29 year old boy with the mental capacity of about an 18 month old.  He is about 4 1/2 feet tall and, on a good day, weighs 80 pounds.  If he goes too much below 75 pounds he gets sick from being too thin.  He has aphasia (which means he can't figure out how to talk) and dysphasia (difficulty swallowing).  He also has a very high arched palate which may be part of his swallowing difficulties.  He has bi-lateral choroidal coloboma (which means a hole in the back of both of his eyes) and strabismus and nystagmus (which means his eyes wobble up, down and sideways).  The last time we took him to the eye doctor, she said he also has some astigmatism.  He has a certain degree of ataxia (which means he shakes or trembles a lot especially when tired.)

All of this is because something went wrong about a month before he was born.  Maybe he had a stroke.  He was born with brain damage in the back part of his brain.  He can't walk because he has damage to his vestibular nerve and so he has very little sense of balance.  He isn't very strong, tires easily and has very low muscle tone. He also doesn't have a very good temperature regulator, so I can't take him outside if the weather is too cold or too hot.  He has asthma, so I am not supposed to take him outside on "ozone action days".

He can't chew, which means everything he eats must be pureed or mashed.  According to the dentist, this means his teeth are MORE likely to decay than if he actually chewed, so I have to be very careful to brush his teeth often.  If he swallows something too thin, he chokes and some of it goes into his lungs.  If he swallows liquids that are too thick, he chokes and stuff goes up his nose.  Sometimes things that he has swallowed half way come back up into his nose and then, we think, go back down into his lungs.  He has very extensive nasal polyps because of this nasal regurgitation.

All of his life he has had a lot of congestion.  No one is quite sure why.  He doesn't seem to have any allergies, although he does have asthma because his lungs are so chronically full.  His nose is always running and he often has huge amounts of mucus clogging his nose and throat.  He had almost constant ear infections as a child.  The muscle that is supposed to help his ears drain is either missing or non-functional because of his high palate.  We lost track of how many different ear doctors tried to put tubes in his ears.  (I can think of 5 off the top of my head)  The tubes never lasted long.  But his ear drums have been perforated so many times that he seems to have developed permanent holes in them now, so we don't have as many ear infections.  This is good because he is resistant to some of the antibiotics and allergic to others because he's been on them so often.  Now we try to avoid using antibiotics as much as possible.  He usually gets pneumonia about once a year and we give him antibiotics for that. 

About 6 years ago he had a very bad bout of pneumonia and had to be hospitalized.  At that time we met Dr. Mutlu.  He has been caring for Sam's lungs ever since.  He discovered that Sam also has Central Sleep Apnea  which causes his Co2 levels to rise.  Sam is in compensated respiratory acidosis.  This means his body is working overtime to compensate for the extra Co2 in his blood.  If the Co2 rises too much, he dies.  So bringing down the Co2 has become a central focus of our lives the last 6 years. 

We tried for about a year and a half to get him to wear the bi-pap machine, but finally gave up because I wasn't getting any sleep and started to see snakes in the corner of the room!  Instead, I keep a close watch on his blood oxygen level with a pulse oximeter.  I try to keep it between 87 and 95.  If it gets too low, I have an oxygen condenser at home and I can give him oxygen.  It never gets too high naturally, but sometimes it can get too high with the oxygen condenser.  If it gets too high, the sleep apnea gets worse and his Co2 levels rise.

He has always seemed to sleep best between the hours of about 4 am and 11 am.  I used to dress him in his sleep and take him to the car to get him to school or program.  He was always late.  I would feed him in the car when he woke up.   Dr. Mutlu said this should stop.  It is vital that Sam sleep whenever he can.  When he sleeps deeply, he breathes deeply and this is the best way to bring Co2 levels down.  So we let him sleep.  He often takes a nap in the afternoon as well.  This means that he has been unable to attend Esperanza very often.  When we have a very good day, I bring him to visit for a few hours from about noon to when they close at 2:15. 

In addition to letting him sleep and preparing all his meals carefully so he won't choke or regurgitate, there are also his breathing treatments.  I give him chest PT with a chest vibrator 2 or 3 times a day.  This takes 30-45 minutes each time.  I also give him a nasal irrigation twice a day and nebulizer 4 times a day with medications prescribed by Dr. Mutlu.

I have three recent examples of how necessary all this is.  First: in December my husband had surgery for prostate cancer.   He came home with a catheter and was very weak.  I spent a great deal of time taking care of him.  I skimped on Sam's treatments.  Sam got pneumonia.  Second: whenever I fail to keep all the food and sleep and treatments in balance, Sam is up all night whimpering.  Third: When we went to see Dr. Mutlu on February 22 of this year, Sam's blood gasses were stable!  After 6 years of rising blood levels, and all my efforts to slow the rate of rising, we have finally stabilized him!  His blood levels are still much higher than normal, but this is a great victory.

So, in summary, a brief list of his many diagnoses would include: profound mental retardation, ataxic cerebral palsy, chronic hypercapnic respiratory failure, bronchiectasis, central sleep apnea, asthma, dysphasia and aphasia.  There's probably a several more, but that's all I can think of at the moment.  Dr. Mutlu speculates that he has Joubert's Syndrome.  His small stature is due to failure to thrive in his first year.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Can someone PLEASE explain?

Here's what I keep hearing on the radio (and reading in Time magazine!)

1% of the people hold 90% of the wealth.  Why should I support tax cuts for them?

 Our primary and secondary schools keep lagging further and further behind the rest of the world.  Why are we cutting back on education?

5% of the world population lives in this country and we consume 75% of the medicine and we pay much, much more for health care.  Okay, so why are we only 37th as far as quality of healthcare?  And why is the GOP intent of repealing health care reform?

The Social Security program has been paying its way and has enough surplus to continue doing so for at least 27 more years.  Why does it get mentioned every time someone is talking about the deficit?

It seems to me that the gap between the wealthy and the poor is getting larger and the real struggle is not between the political parties - liberal vs conservative - it is (or should  be) a struggle between whether we want to live in a democracy or return to the dark ages!  Not only the money, but the power is all getting pooled into the hands of the very wealthy and the rest of us are carefully controlled so that we keep on arguing amongst ourselves while everything is taken away from us.  We should not be arguing about the rights of minorities or immigrants or GLTBs.  We should embrace equality and work together to make sure we don't become scapegoats and serfs!

True Wisdom

I had a great conversation with my brother Bil the other day.  As usual, we each gave the other a lot of stuff to think about.  Here's one gem:

He believes that the mark of true wisdom is that it engenders tolerance.  So God, who is all wisdom, is full of vast tolerance toward us.  In other words, as we try and try again to discern the will of God, God is continually saying to us, "Well that's not quite what I meant but, okay, we can work with that."

That rings true with my experience of God.   I think it likely that St. Peter would also agree.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Murder Most Foul

Ok it's been 6 years and 6 weeks since the murder.  I'm mostly back to normal.  But with glitches.  Charley fell down the other day - slipped on some slopped dish water on the kitchen tile.  He's sustained some bruises and for some reason felt that an elastic bandage might help the pain.  So he walked over to CVS and bought one.  So far so good.  

Well, he didn't actually use it, he just left it on the counter.  Enter me, early morning groggy, to find an elastic bandage box on the kitchen counter with a picture of an entire leg wrapped up ... like ... a ... mummy.

Suddenly I am transported back 6 years and I'm sitting on a hard pew in a courtroom.  This isn't memory, it's a sci-fi flashback.  I could feel the hard wood beneath me.  To my right and up a few rows is a very sullen Richard James Kasparson.  A few minutes from now, there will be a break while the jury deliberates and he will turn an glare at me without blinking for several minutes.  Glaring with hate and menace in his eyes as if I am to blame for the fact that he is sitting there, awaiting the verdict of his peers for the charge of murdering my father.  I don't blink either.  When the jury comes back, several security guards with lots of weapons will enter the room.  Two of them will stand near me.  The night before Kasparson had bragged that if the jury said he was guilty he was going to "make a break for it."  I will feel safe with these burly commandos standing near me.

But right now the prosecutor is doing his summation.  "15 minutes.  That's how long it took for Charles Repenning to die.  7 minutes of seizures before he became unconscious.  I am going to talk to you about that death for 7 minutes so you can understand what the defendant put Mr. Repenning through."  And for 7 minutes he gave detail after detail of the my father's horrible death while huge slides flash on a wall of the courtroom.  Slides of the murder scene.  Slides of the lesions where he was bound with the telephone cord.  Slides of the bruises on his neck where someone tried to strangle him.  Slides of his body, naked except for boxer shorts and the elastic bandage wrapped over and over and over around his neck and face and mouth and ears and eyes and head.  

 It was the longest 7 minutes of his life and probably mine.

Six years ago I came home and threw away every elastic bandage I had saved over years of repeated sprained ankles.  I knew I was being crazy, but they looked to me like murder weapons.  Dangerous things to have in the house.  I gave myself permission to throw them away because, I reasoned, I was in shock.  I have walked carefully and refrained from high heels ever since so that I do not require another elastic bandage.  I haven't really thought about it since.  If I had, I probably would have thought that I was "over" that particular phobia.  I mean, really.  It's been six years.  Life goes on until you are murdered.  You have to move past the rough spots.  Right?  Apparently not.  Some things have changed about me permanently.

My reaction to that box yesterday was the same as it would have been if I found a rattlesnake in the kitchen.  Namely: don't panic, think calmly and protect your family by carefully getting rid of the dangerous thing.
I apologized to Charley and threw it away.

I feel much better, and foolish. 

Pureed Food Recipies

Sam's a "big boy" and doesn't like to eat baby food.  He wants to eat whatever I'm eating.  This is a bit of a problem because I like to chew and he can't.  He has dyphasia (swallowing problems) on top of that.  When he gets too much food in his mouth, or hoards food he can't chew in his palate, it produces an amazing amount of saliva which goes up his nose.  When he swallows liquid that's too thick, it clogs his nose and he just about suffocates.  We ordered him a milk shake once and I thought we'd lost him.  Not going to repeat that experiment.  He does like Wendy's Frosty with a spoon.  If it's too thin, it comes out his nose when he swallows.  Sometimes the food that is just right only goes half way down his throat and a couple of minutes later it comes out his nose.  Sigh.

Numerous swallow studies have not really given us a solid picture of what is going on or how much this is related to his ever diminishing lung capacity, but it's a pretty safe bet that something that isn't supposed to be there is getting into his lungs and clogging them up.

So I have to feed him very carefully, but it has to be attractive, nutritious and taste good.  Culinary challenge they don't often cover on the food network!  One bonus: calories and fat are not an issue with this boy.  I'm always trying to keep his weight UP.

Of course calories and fat are a huge issue for his mom who knows how to chew!  So my grocery cart is a very peculiar mix of high and low fat stuff.

But over the years I've discovered a lot of things that work for Sam.  Some things I can serve to everyone as is (which thrills him) and some things require some last minute adjustment for Sam, but still are essentially the same thing we are eating.  Sadly, most of the time he just has to put up with purreed whatever we are eating because I just don't have the time or energy to make it special.  But I try to make him food he enjoys.

If I'm having a sandwich for lunch, I put the same stuff in the food processor, meat (or baked tofu or whatever), tomato, pickle (lettuce doesn't work very well).  Then I add a goo factor.  He likes Kraft Olive Oil reduced fat mayo or that Italian sandwich mix (gardineria?) or ketsup.  (I like fancy mustard.)  I put in one slice of bread and mix it for 30 seconds.  It turns into a kind of sticky glop that holds it's shape.  Then I make breadcrumbs (often toasted) of the other slice of bread.  I roll tbsp bits of the filling glop in the bread crumbs and shape them into little rectangles.  Voila! Finger sandwiches he can eat with me.

Really fluffy pancakes can be eaten just cut up (not pureed) if they have enough syrup on them.  Cheese cake is the ideal desert.  Cake is not very smart as it crumbles and chokes him, BUT if you add some cream or other liquid it becomes Dulce de Leche and very soggy.  Perfect for Sam to consume with a spoon.  Looks like cake but doesn't crumble!  If you take Starbucks Classic Coffee Cake and pour mocha frappicino over it, you get something similar to Tiramisu!  (Be sure to ask the Starbucks Barrista to give you the cake on a plate!)

I recently tried a Butternut Squash Soup with variations that was a huge success.  I got the recipe from someone named Gabster Roolz on Cooks.com.  Here's my variation:

1 chopped sweet onion
4 cloves garlic
tsp dried basil (or thyme)
Some fresh ginger (about 1/2 a thumb's worth)
1 cubed butternut squash
1 C chicken stock
3 C water
1 bay leaf
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 pt heavy whipping cream  (NOT Whipped Cream)

You don't have to chop the garlic and ginger very much since it will all get pureed.  Just peel them and chop coarsely.  Saute onion, garlic, ginger and basil in the evoo (extra virgin olive oil).  Add squash, stock, water, bay leaf, pepper and sweet potato.  Boil 20 minutes.  REMOVE BAY LEAF.  Puree the rest.  At the last minute add the cream.  The whipping cream adds a lovely bulk to this soup and makes it exactly the right texture for proper swallowing.  BIG hit.

The chef Simply Ming says that heavy whipping cream is different from heavy cream because they add something to it to make it whip up better.  I don't know but I did love the way the heavy whipping cream bulked up the puree and made it gorgeous.  Of course, I suppose I should have the soup without the cream and just add it to Sam's portion... 

Here's another thing, I've been reading labels and Carnation Breakfast Essentials has pretty much the same nutrition as Ensure or Boost.  It also tastes a LOT better and is MUCH cheaper.  You have to add a bit of Thicken or Thick-it to make it the right consistency, but it's still cheaper.  Sam consumes 3 or 4 nutrition drinks a day so this is really good news.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Prostate Cancer update:  Charley's back at school and doing okay.  It turns out that the biopsy of his prostate showed a tiny bit of much more aggressive cancer than the original biopsy showed.  It was very localized and the blood test at one month showed he had no cancer in his body.  So that means he was probably right to have his entire prostate removed.

On the other hand, recovery is a lot worse than we had been told by the doctor and his nurse.  It's a lot worse than most of our well-wishers predicted.  "Oh my uncle, brother, neighbor had that done and it was no problem at all."  I think that uncles, brothers and neighbors don't like to complain to people outside their immediate family.  That is understandable.  But what I don't understand is why the hospital educational system was so misleading.  For example, they told us many times that it would be 3 to 6 weeks before he was back at work.  He was in no condition to go back to work at 3 weeks.  He's a teacher, not a brick layer or something.  He does have to stand all day, but he doesn't have to pick up heavy things.  Even so there was no way he could go back at 3 weeks.  

Even at 4 weeks, it was difficult, but he went back.  This was partly because he was worried about work and partly because he was spurred on by the "3-6 weeks" prediction.  He figured that he was still at the young end of people who have prostate cancer, so he "should" be on the short end of the recovery spectrum.  When he went back to the hospital on Wednesday of week 4, the nurse asked him when he thought he'd be ready to return to work.  She was surprised to learn that he was already back.  None of the other guys who had the surgery the week he did had returned to work yet.  So he IS at the short end of the recovery spectrum, but why in the world did they say 3 - 6 weeks if it's really 4-8 or even 6-10?  That's just one example of their overly optimistic predictions.  The entire process of recovery has been much more difficult and painful than predicted.  Post-surgical catheter care is a whole other story and not a pretty one!

It was actually quite nice to have him home.  I wonder how much of this was due to having 3 weeks away from school and how much of it was the shock of facing his own mortality.  Whatever the reason, we had a chance to notice that we still really like each other!  We spend so much time getting through life that it's hard to take time to notice why we are doing it and with whom we are traveling.

I've known Charley since I was 15 and we've been a couple pretty much since we met.  I'm going to be 60 in August, so that's 45 years!  He really is my "Life Partner."  It was lovely to have the time to talk about that and talk about plans for the future without him jumping up to go to work or to work downstairs on lesson plans and IEPs.  

Life is really hard and unpredictable.  It's that way for everyone of us.  It's easier if you go through it with a friend.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I don't know how you do it

I went to the 40th birthday party of a good friend last Saturday.  I had so much fun!  She is the single mom of a very delightful fourth grader.  I always enjoy these two because they obviously have so much fun together.  

There were two conversations I particularly enjoyed.  One was with  a single mom of two active boys and the other was with a step-mom who is writing a book about her experiences navigating the very tricky waters of negotiating child care issues with the ex and her new spouse.  I was delighted by the skill and wisdom of both these courageous women.

I had a great conversation yesterday with my wonderful DIL (Ben's wife) about the shock of having a 3 year old.  ("Even if you say Puleeeze, no still means no.")  She mentioned how much she loves Ben because he gives his time so generously and patiently to their three challenging kids.  I remember the struggle of raising Ben.  He was never aware that he had changed in any way.  In his opinion, he was always exactly the same person he had always been, but annoyed by my failure to "get" him.  Meanwhile, I had to scramble to adjust at least annually to this completely new person living in my house with new requirements and challenges for his faint but following mom.  

My brother Bil and his wife also have three kids.  The last time I visited, I was amazed at the skill with which she juggles, every day, the very different interests and needs of these three individuals.  When I talk to Bil, he talks about the stage of development and the needs of each kid in a careful, thoughtful way that shows he is aware of how fast they change and how carefully a good Dad has to pay attention.

I stay home all the time with my adorable Peter Pan who never changes, never grows up and has such a fragile hold on life.  We know way too much about medicines and hospitals.  We also know all the toys at Target and Toys R Us from infant to about 3 years old because in the last 29 years, we have purchased ALL of them.  Some of them twice.  Whenever I manage to get out I get such lovely compliments, "You are amazing.  I don't know how you do it."  Well, right back at you, folks.

I know that every one of these superheros has bad days and days when they doubt their ability to cope with the challenges life has presented them.  But they are doing absolutely amazing jobs juggling careers, relationships and the ever changing challenges of child-rearing.  I don't know how they do it.  I really don't.  They are each so incredible.

So hats off to Sue and Emily; to Sara and her family; to the brilliant woman whose name I forgot with the two boys; to Ben, Cher, Tasha, Tahreq and Zora; to Bil, Lisa, Jack, Faith and Will and to everyone else out there who cares about raising children to be responsible adults.

Actually, I do know how we do it.  We get out of bed every morning and try again because we love them.  Great job!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year

Happy 2011.  This is the year that I turn 60 and I have three grandchildren.  I think that endows me with certain inalienable rights among which are the right to rebel against certain absurdities.  Why we do things is sometimes more important than what we do.

For example, there was this young priest who took over his first parish in northern Minnesota - or maybe it was Saskatchewan.  After he celebrated his first Christmas Eve Midnight Vigil, he noticed a certain growing resentment on the part of his rural parishioners.  So he went to his deacon and asked him what the trouble was.  

"Well frankly, Father, many of us are having trouble getting used to your new ways.  We aren't used to these shorter rites."  The priest asked him to explain further and the deacon explained, "Well, many of us missed the way the old priest used to bless the church at midnight during the Christmas Eve Vigil." 

Bless the church?  The young priest had never heard of this, so he went to to see the old priest in the retirement community which was now his home.  After an hour or so of discussing various parishioners, their children and cattle, the old priest asked, "And how are you settling in, young man?"  This was the opening he had been waiting for and the young priest asked for an explanation of the rite of blessing the church during the Christmas Eve Vigil.

After staring at him blankly a few moments, a smile dawned on the wrinkled old face.  "That old church is so cold and drafty!" He explained.  "Even in mid-summer I got cold.  But Christmas Vigil was the worst!  So before I began to celebrate Eucharist, I used to go over to the radiator and warm my hands!"

Or there were three generations of women who passed on family traditions faithfully.  As each one got older, her daughter would take over the task of preparing the Christmas Dinner for the extended family.  Each mother carefully taught her daughter all the family secret recipes.  As the youngest daughter was being inducted into the mysteries, she was told, among other things, that it was important to cut off the end of the Christmas Ham before putting it in the oven.  "Why?" she asked, bringing the proceedings to a screeching halt.

"Because you'll ruin it if you don't." Said her mother.  "Isn't that right, mom?"  

"I don't know," replied the grandmother, "That's just the way it's done."

"But why?" asked the rebellious daughter.  "Let's go ask Great-grandmother."  So they went out into the living room where Great-grandmother sat in state, knitting, of course, and asked her why it was so important to cut off the end of the Christmas ham.

"Because" she told them, "my old wood burning stove was so small the whole ham didn't fit in."

So back to being almost 60.  I'm old enough to start asking why and stop worrying about the "Right way."  Well, maybe I've always been a little that way, but I'm going to be a lot MORE that way from now on.  

Beginning with knitting.  Why do we pull from the center?  It's a neat little magic trick that goes wrong about as often as it goes right.  But why do we do it? I just spent 40 minutes trying to find an end that didn't come out of the center smoothly.  I'm done.  The only reasonable reason I can think of for pulling from the center is if I'm knitting with a double strand and only have one ball.  Otherwise, I'm knitting from the outside from now on.  

If I want magic, I'll buy a Fushigi.