Category Archives: People

Channeling Frank

Good morning! I wrote this a few months ago and never shared it. Let me know what you think.

It’s a gorgeous late summer afternoon. We’re just back from a few hours’ walk in the duneland woods, and I find I need to rush a bit to have dinner for 4 ready at 6. Why is it as I pull out onions and butter to start a tomato-onion tart that I need to turn on the TV – intent on finding golf?

“Golf?” my husband asks. “You watch golf?”

Normally, no.

I’m no longer a golfer and I don’t watch golf, much. But some Sunday afternoons I look for the match of the week. “Maybe it’s the peaceful voice of the announcer that soothes me,” I think; I wonder. “Maybe it’s …”

Today I think it’s because I’m channeling my dad.

golfer

That morning in church I tried channeling my parents – first mom and then dad – as I said the Our Father along with a hundred other voices. I imagined them forming the words using my lips. It was a wonderful exercise. I’m sure I’ll try it again.

We are our parents – half mom’s DNA, half dad’s. We might not like some of the things we inherited from them but then if we don’t like “that” – then we tend not to like ourselves and blame them. Or blame others.

Time and wisdom teach us to accept ourselves as we are. If there are attributes we don’t like, we get to change them. And at the same time can be grateful for the gifts our parents gave us, even enjoying televised golf on a summer Sunday.

 

No children? Don’t you regret it.

Without children, I've had more time to focus on bringing out the best in this baby.

Without children, I’ve had more time to focus on bringing out the best in this baby.

Some girlfriends and most women in my family thought me odd for not having children. And as I read the August 12 Time Magazine cover story about “The Childfree Life,” (read it) I was reminded of some the trials and triumphs stemming from not having kids.

I didn’t choose not to have children. It just “happened” that way. Not choosing can be seen a choice, I know, but when something is not a priority, is not doing it a real choice? Maybe yes; maybe no.

It was not a priority for me. My goals included college, an English degree and becoming a flight attendant (“stewardesses” back then!). Also, to buy a Chevy Nova, of all things, and have a closet full of clothes. When I married it was not to have children but to share lives and interests, to be a lover and companion.

The trials of not having children have been in the courtrooms of others.

I can recall a handful of poignant conversations around children – when other women tried talking me into it; when my biological clock was close to striking 12 and I suddenly, frantically began talking about it with my husband, he said, “Okay you can have a baby but I’m not going to help you raise it. Is that what you want?” After the divorce, two mothers wanted me to fly to Korea to adopt.

Only when “time was running out” did I think twice about pregnancy. But that’s what the clock does. Sounds an alarm – are you sure? are you sure? are you sure?

I was never absolutely sure I didn’t want children. Nor was I absolutely sure I did.

Why live with regret? Why not find the triumphs in the lives we live rather than longing for the life we could have lived? There are so many ways to live your life. If you do have regrets, I can assure you there are ways to forgive yourself and do the next best thing.

I figure if I wanted to have children I would have had them! It’s as simple as that. There are so many ways to “get a child.” If I wanted and couldn’t I would have found another way. Or I’d be working with kids, or have opened a day care, or, or, or…

The joys of not having children include getting to know nieces and nephews and their children, being a better friend and even a mother to others. Spending more time alone allowed me to understand my disabilities and recognize my gifts – bringing out the best in this baby!

My new career is working on my childless legacy, which I expect to help more children than I could have raised. My regret would be not working on this project, and so, here I go!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wear a helmet – save yer noggin

Sisters Jenny and Connie at Chicago's Bike the Drive, May 26, 2013

Sisters Jenny and Connie at Chicago’s Bike the Drive, May 26, 2013

Every once in a while we’re faced with a lesson we need but often forget:

Our lives can change in an instant.

That truth hit close to home last week when my 40-something niece totaled her helmet in a bike accident. In an instant, long-time rider Jennifer King rode into some uneven pavement and fell hard. Her broken bones required emergency surgery, a stainless steel plate and six screws.

Fortunately, the broken bones are in her arm and not her noggin.

“I was riding back to school. I came home for lunch and was heading back to clean off my desk and get ready for next year,” she said.

Jennifer is a 6th grade teacher at Happy Hollow Elementary School in West Lafayette, IN.

“I was going down a hill, which I’ve done a million times. There was a lot of traffic in the bikeway so I rode toward a driveway,” she said. That’s when her front wheel found a groove just wide enough for a bicycle tire.

The groove grabbed the tire and Jen went down on her left side. Her leg hit the cement and her helmet-clad head dug into a flowerbed.  helmet 1

Two people from school recognized her and stayed until Jen’s husband came to take her to the ER.

It was a rough few days for this otherwise healthy mother of Nick, Lexi and Mike. Surgery, medication and the shear trauma of the accident threw her off for a good week.

Mind you, this is a veteran cyclist. Bicycling was her major mode of transportation while in the Navy and stationed in Nea Makri, Greece.

“I lived in the mountains and the (Naval) base was at the base of the mountains,” she said.

That was 24 years ago and she’s been riding ever since. I remember when she rode the 75-mile Bike to the Bay to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis when she and her family lived in Delaware. Continue reading

Happy Mother’s Day to you!

Those of us who have lost our mothers could slip into a sentimental funk this weekend, feel sorry for ourselves. But we’ve got the kids, right?, to help us celebrate? No? Ohhh, maybe you’re one of those “OMG I FORGOT TO HAVE CHILDREN” people. Well, rather than get all decked out for that pity party, I’ve got an idea. Let’s celebrate the mothers we’ve had and the mothers we are.

First, a toast to the mothers we’ve had.

My mom was better to me than I will ever know.

My mom was probably better to me than I know.

Mom was a peach. My dad worked various shifts at the steel mill leaving her home to do the heavy lifting. She raised five of us and sat with bundles of grand babies, cooked countless meals, did umteen loads of laundry. She signed my report cards, went to choral concerts, tried her best to help with the dreaded New Math.

 

While I later realized she was “emotionally unavailable” during my early years, she more than met my needs. I thank her for homemade bread with butter and sugar, games after large family gatherings, and introducing me to so many things from choral singing to the joys of Halupki. She sewed my First Communion dress, bandaged my bloody ankle, had the nerve to teach me how to drive. Holy cow. She must have been nuts!

Nope, not nuts. But helpful, happy – except when she wasn’t, and fun. She laughed, sang, played “In My Solitude” on the piano that came with the house. In fact, our last conversation was over that piece. “Mom, what’s that song you always play?” “Oh, this one?” she said, launching into an arpeggio I’ll never forget. She had a stroke a week later.

Maybe it was because of all us kids, or my dad’s shift work, or being too busy in the family store but I somehow missed out on the talks about boys and marriage and having kids and … but her being away caused me to adopt other mothers. I’m fortunate for all the mothers I have in my life. From my sister and brother to a Scout leader, choir director, dorm mother. Some of you reading this have been mother to me more than once, whether you know it or not!

Whether you are male or female  you’ve been Mother more than once in your life. You possess mothering traits such as kindness, empathy, unconditional love, the ability to mend a sock or clean a cut or fix a bowl of soup.

Consider the times you’ve supported someone in need, listened to a sad or happy story, counseled, nurtured. Ever go searching for an extra pair of gloves or a scarf to make sure a friend was warm enough? Ever make up your couch into comfortable bed?

Have you ever picked up a cake on the way to a party? Made your super sloppy joes for friend’s tailgate party? Sent a card for no reason? I could cry thinking of how much my mother-friends have helped me. I am so grateful to you.

I’m grateful for all the mothers I’ve had in my lifetime – men and women, relatives and not – who listened while I choked back tears, encouraged me to keep going, who told me I should do whatever I want as long as it makes me happy.

I feel certain my mother did more for me than I will ever know and I am grateful for knowing her. And thank you to all my moms. I celebrate each and every one of you. Thanks to your mother our world has you. Thanks to you, we all have many mothers.

 

Whether you use brains or brawn, it’s still work

This week I’ve been week helping a friend who’s renovating a 50-year-old beach cabin. I enjoyed the physical work – a break from desk, being in the moment rather than planning, organizing, writing.

A sore back from peeling tile all day is nothing compared to what some folks do day after day.

A sore back from peeling tile all day is nothing compared to what some folks do day after day.

It was fun, at first, and I started thinking about being a laborer and not a writerer (!) But after awhile, when my back started to ache and my hands were shaking from holding constant tension on a putty knife, I began to appreciate those who work with their bodies all day.

While I was using a chisel, hammer and knife to peel, scrape and chip away at a floorful of asphalt tiles, my friend was in the kitchen – moving a gas line, rewiring  electrical boxes, cutting and laying insulation.

During a break I whined my lower back hurt; he commented but didn’t complain about his upper back. I said I thought peeling tile was easier than writing because I didn’t have to think. He said that’s why some people get into the trades – they can do a hard day’s work, go home tired and not think about that task again until the next day.

We talked about people we both know who have been or are still laborers.  We know guys who have given it up because it’s hard on their bodies. What 50-year-old wants to work on a roof, or install a new boiler in some old basement, or spent hours leaning over a putty knife peeling ancient tiles off a cement floor?

We know guys who are still at it because they have nothing else. Were lucky these folks are still around when we need a good handyman. They are “Jacks of All Trades,” these guys. And we pay them so little an hour given what they put themselves through to accomplish our tasks.

So today, I’m especially grateful to those who have given themselves to learning a trade; to all those I’ve ever asked to repair a broken water main (only inches from the foundation) or replace a roof or paint a kitchen or haul mulch to my garden. Continue reading