Monday, September 21, 2009

First Day Of School

My little girl had her first day of school today, she was excited and prepared with all the necessities.  Instead of walking her to the bus stop I took her picture and said goodbye at the door as she got in her car and drove off.  The time passes so quickly.

Having been unschooled all of her life she was never confronted with the idea of leaving home each day to be told how and what to learn.  She was free to choose what bliss was calling her name at the time, even if it was a video game.  Now, just 12 days from her 19th birtday, she has chosen to attend college.  She has already logged 2 years of employment with the same company, watched how others are living (or wasting) their lives and chose to take a path which includes a college degree.  She doesn't struggle with the negative experiences I had in school or have to ask, "Why am I here?".  It wasn't assumed that she would go to college and when she first began working she thought she never would.  Life and the example of others gave her a better view into her own future.

I, being a terminal student, love college.  I would revel in the chance to live on campus and spend every waking hour studying, listening to lectures and discussing philosophy, history, psychology, art history and more.  Lanora is more pragmatic, get in, get the degree and get on with her life but I hope she'll enjoy some of the magic that being surrounded by other learners can bring.  I waited several years after high-school to start college and expected it to be a repeat of my previous experience.  I enjoyed high school but it was due to extracurricular activities like music and drama; the rest required little to no effort from me.  I came away with the message that graduation was more of shove out the door with little concern about my success.  What I discovered was that college could be anything I made of it and no one was going to hand me a grade without the work.  I bloomed and found I loved learning; any subject (except geography).

Also learned was that I could have made the same experience out of elementary, middle and high school but the force factors creates two disabling traps.  1 - If, like me, you have a hard time rising in the morning and would much rather be home with mommy (most 5 year olds would) you begin to see school as a painful detention to be endured with as little involvement as possible.  2 - Kids realize, early on, that they have to be there and the othere side of that coin is that the schools have to educate them.  The resentment at being forced usually leads to a sense of entitlement and if you want to see that in action just watch an episode of "My Super Sweet 16" or watch how kids vandalize and trash their own schools.  Okay, yes, the path leading to this behavior is complex but I will assert that force and coercion are the cornerstone.

Watching my beautiful, confident, crazy intelligent and balanced girl leave for a school course she chose was a great sight.  She still bemoans the necessity of proving she's smart enough for the job just because she got a degree but she knows it's a hoop, nothing more.  She also knows that no one can dictate this for her, they may hold out the hoop but she doesn't have to jump through.  This alone makes the jumping a moment of control for her, she can see the hoop for what it is and even the person holding it probably can't.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Boob Tube & I

I experienced an "aha" moment today; my daughter likes to call them "ephi-nots" (revelations which aren't weighty enough to qualify as an epiphany). As long as I can remember I have been a TV addict; even if I'm not watching I have the set on for noise. But, to be honest, it's more than the noise, the sound of some shows and dialogue are comforting to me.

As a child of the 50's, 60's and 70's I was part of the TV loving crowd. But as we grown up hippies began to look around it was decided, by most, that TV was unhealthy. We all know the statements, "rots your brain", "robs time from real life", "read a book". I stood up to the criticism and advice to get rid of my "boob tube" but eventually caved and threw it out. I bought a new one about 4 weeks later but it was a valiant effort.

As the pressure grew so did my defensiveness and I was like an alcoholic looking for a place to sneak a drink. Thank God for children, now I had an excuse for more TV time with Disney movies and Barney. I was prone to pine for "I Love Lucy" or "X-Files" but at least it was the wonderful noise that calmed my nerves.

With time I reached the age where I didn't care what people thought. I learned to question every bit of "wisdom" and advice thrown my way. Imagine, all those years, all that rubbish and I had no clue. Television, like all things, has a value which is determined by the individual. The aesthetic and psychological value are hard to pin down but, like anything, it is a source of knowledge.

Having finally become comfortable with my use of the TV I realized that I had begun to turn the thing off more. Perhaps part of my dependency had to do with feeling defensive but my need to have it on certainly has waned. For the first time I have come to like it off when I sleep, truly enjoying the lack of sound. This is a good thing, my dreams are already odd enough without the sounds from a reality show twisting them further.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Signs Of Winter

September 7, 2009

A friend lamented the departure of the cedar waxwing birds, heading south to escape the coming chill. I could have given her a heads up, I had to shut the window next to my recliner last night. The window which opens for fresh air as soon as the weather permits and stays open until the air is too cold. We all seem to have a cue which tells us that winter is coming.

It seems so far away when the fans are running day and night. We wait so long for spring, then summer and try to remember how much we wanted it when temperatures soar. And if we didn’t have mathematics to prove it’s actual duration we would swear that winter is three times the length of any other season.

Winter’s slap is eased by the anticipation of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years but they all come too close together. Once we have welcomed the next year we start a long and bone chilling crawl towards spring. And as I get older and beset by the aches of age I long for warmer days more and more. I finally “get” why so many people retire to areas like Florida and California. But then I would have to forego the greater contrast of seasons that living in the Pacific Northwest offers. I think the allure of such a magical appearance of spring will keep me here for years to come.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Watching Them Fly

My kids were raised with a lot of loving touches; hugs, kisses, caresses and cuddling. Like any child they thrived on the intimacy but it surprised me in how much it nurtured me as well. Something about the unconditional exchange between a parent and child feeds the soul of both. We may have many loving relationships in our lives but there is something about the touch of your child’s hand on your face that won’t be found anywhere else.

My children are 18 and 11 now, the elder (my daughter) still hugs but with a busy life and a husband she is now my fellow adult. Her husband is loving and I know she is well taken care of, getting ample hugs and kisses. My son has begun his life as a young man and is not currently comfortable with hugs and kisses. While the hugs are rare we are close in communication.

I may, someday, have another child in my life; grandchildren, honorary grandchildren, etc. but, for now, the lack of touch can make me feel sad. Not a sadness of desperation, but more of a bitter sweet wistfulness. It’s a subtle ache which occupies a rightful place next to the satisfaction of having loved and raised a child.

It is a curious thing that children enter our lives and demand that we put our little “Me, Me, Me Party” away and take care of them. They trust us, depend on us thus lighting the dormant nurturer who hollows out a space in our hearts that only will only be filled by that child. What we don’t realize is that the fondness we develop for the touch and nearness of our children won’t expire with their independence. That space we opened up for them in our souls won’t ever close, it remains and it is part of what we unwittingly took on with our decision to raise a child. Having watched parents who bemoaned their child’s independence I swore that that would never be me. And, while I try to never pull back on my kids as they set out further from me, there is a voice inside saying, “Where is my little one?“

The most surprising aspect of all this is that it is a little painful (sometimes a lot) it feels right. My experience isn’t new; for as long as we have history, parents have been through the same thing. It’s my role to miss the little girl and boy and it’s theirs to not understand, unless or when they have children of their own. Perhaps this is how we, as adults begin to see our own parents for who they were. Perhaps we appreciate them with more depth because we get a glimpse of the intimacy they miss with us. And perhaps we understand our own value; the people our parents loved and cared for.

Monday, May 4, 2009

I was trying to think of something to write about today and then I got the following in my email. I know it's quite "chic" to hate americans right now but I don't tend to pay any attention to fashion.

You could have heard a pin drop

When in England , at a fairly large conference, ColinPowell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of empire building by George Bush.

He answered by saying, 'Over the years, the United
States has sent many of its fine young men and women
into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return.'

You could have heard a pin drop.


There was a conference in France where a number of
international engineers were taking part, including French and American. During a break, one of the French engineers came back into the room saying 'Have you heard the latest dumb stunt Bush has done? He has sent an aircraft carrier to Indonesia to help the tsunami victims. What
does he intended to do, bomb them?'

A Boeing engineer stood up and replied quietly: 'Our
carriers have three hospitals on board that can treat several
hundred people; they are nuclear powered and can supply
emergency electrical power to shore facilities; they
have three cafeterias with the capacity to feed 3,000
people three meals a day, they can produce several
thousand gallons of fresh water from sea water each
day, and they carry half a dozen helicopters for use in
transporting victims and injured to and from their flight deck. We have eleven such ships; how many does France have?'

You could have heard a pin drop.


A U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference
that included Admirals from the U.S. , English, Canadian, Australian and French Navies. At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large group of Officers that included personnel from most of those countries.

Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped
their drinks but a French admiral suddenly complained that, whereas Europeans learn many languages, Americans learn only English. He then asked, 'Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?'

Without hesitating, the American Admiral replied 'Maybe
it's because the Brits, Canadians, Aussies and Americans arranged it so you wouldn' t have to speak German.'

You could have heard a pin drop.



Robert Whiting, an elderly gentleman of 83, arrived in
Paris by plane. At French Customs, he took a few minutes to locate his passport in hi s carry on.
'You have been to France before, monsieur?' the customs officer asked sarcastically.
Mr. Whiting admitted that he had been to France previously.
'Then you should know enough to have your passport ready.'
The American said, 'The last time I was here, I didn't have to show it.
'Impossible. Americans always have to show your passports on arrival in France !'
The American senior gave the Frenchman a long hard look. Then he quietly explained, 'Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day in 1944 to help liberate this country, I couldn't find a single Frenchmen to show a passport to.'
You could have heard a pin drop.

If you are proud to be an American, pass this on!

If not delete it

Friday, April 10, 2009

I Think

There are some statements, epiphanies put into words, which are so profound as to be staggering. Rene Descartes, after a search for an irrefutable statement and proof of existence, said, "I think, therefore I am". I had heard the words many times in my life but never examined them, the first time I did so, I was astounded. The very act of thought is proof of existence; brilliant.

Okay, so why do we need to prove our existence; isn't it obvious? Yes and no. If one says that the act of breathing proves you exist, that can be argued. Perhaps we learn to perceive breathing where it never actually existed, perhaps we are imagining our own breath. The parade of maybes is long.

So Descartes proved existence, who cares? I do! It isn't actually knowing that we exist which is the goal, it is the examination itself. Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living" and yet, many people seem content to seldom hold their lives or reality up for scrutiny.

Socrates chose death over life in prison because it would mean being cut off from the one thing which makes anything else in life satisfying; thinking and discussing life. Even as a believer in God I examine His creation, His purpose for me, His intentions in all things. If cut off from this most engaging of pursuits life would become dull.

It is curiosity and awareness of how mysterious life can be which gives all aspects of life their color. Knowing how fragile life is gives the love for and from my children it's sweetness. Knowing how fickle fortune can be gives the blessings I have the luster of richness.

How does anyone live without questioning, searching and pondering?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Fast Forward In Just Seconds

Children mature by the second but our perception of that growth comes in spurts and moments. I have heard some people say that it happens without noticing but it isn't true.

Tonight I sat and listened to my 11 year old son discuss strategy, weakness, strengths and other fine points of video games with a teen member of the family. As I listened to his animated discourse and deft use of vocabulary I was hit with one of those moments. The moment when you realize your child is not as young as you thought he was and you wonder when it happened.

I experience these "fast forward" moments periodically and they always take my by surprise. The little boy who struggled to find anything to say to a teenager can suddenly chat with ease and confidence.

I guess the thing that makes these moments so jolting is that you realize something has passed and you can never go back. A part of his childhood is behind him and whatever made him who he was is past. A parent is forced to rejoice over yet another step towards independence but grieve quietly for the little boy who is gone.