Frozen In Texas

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Well, its winter in Texas and that always means at least one or two days of freezing weather. Read freezing weather as chaos and mass pandemonium.  Yes my friends, we in Texas are not prepared for the frozen tundra. I know our Northern neighbors poke fun at us for shutting down over a half inch of snow or panicking at the first snowflake but let me explain.

First of all, it’s true that we are not prepared to survive any extended amount of time in the snow and ice and that’s because we seldom have to. It just wouldn’t make sense to invest in things like snow tires and street plows when they would be used a handful of times over a several year span.

Secondly, let’s get one thing clear. We almost NEVER get snow. No, what we get is nasty, wet, freezing rain and sleet that melts into slushy, muddy, yucky crud. This is no picture of a winter wonderland with soft, fluffy snow for building snowmen and starting snow ball fights. No, you can’t throw ice balls at your neighbors. Well, you could, but it would likely result in an assault charge.

Have you ever seen Texas snowmen? When we do get a modicum of snow mixed with the ice, it takes your entire yard worth of snow to build one pitifully little snowman and it’s mixed with dirt and twigs and leaves. Think Frosty’s less fortunate, vagrant brother.

The reason we are locked in our homes for the duration of the ice, not snow, days is simple. We can’t drive on sheets of solid ice. Hell, we can’t even walk on them! I once fell 34 times traversing about 60 feet over a frozen solid parking lot. Seriously, do you think anyone in Texas, outside of hockey players, own ice skates?

So I know we may look silly freaking out over some freezing rain with a temperature dip to 31 degrees overnight,  but we also have not lost the wonder of waking up to find ourselves frozen inside a snow globe.

I have a screened in back porch, looking out my sliding glass door at the ice sheets clinging to that screen and seeing the icicles gracing everything in sight is an awe inspiring moment. Watching my dogs skid across the frozen backyard is hilarious. Hearing my children shriek with delight as their father pulls them in a big plastic tub across the frozen driveway is heartwarming. Most of all, the silence is amazing and being frozen in with my family with all obligations suspended, nowhere to go and nothing much to accomplish is a wonderful, unexpected gift, every time.

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Racial Profiling in the Death of Trayvon Martin

Trayvon (1)

Yes, I realize I’m not black. I know I’m white. Over twenty years ago I struggled with how to explain racism to my then only child because I didn’t want to introduce such a horrible thing to him. Then my best friend, who just happens to be black, gently explained to me that being white is the only reason I had the privilege of shielding him from racism. She had to explain it to her children early,because they were already victims of it. No, I may not be black, but I love people who are. My best friend, her children who call me “Aunt”, my own nephews who are biracial. Yes, I love people who are black and so I probably have a much closer seat than most of you. Yes, I’m talking to you white people. I’m talking about the things I’ve seen up close and personal, standing there beside the people I love. It’s the little things, a million tiny cuts over the course of a lifetime. A million insults and hurts. You get offended when black people point out your racism, many of you truly don’t see it in yourself, but I do. It’s there. I invite you to just imagine, for a moment, what it’s like. I understand that it may be hard for you to understand what it’s like to live with discrimination every day of your life when you haven’t had to. To be ignored by a waiter or thrown out of club because someone was selling drugs and it must be the black girl. To be the only kid in class, or in school, who is black and to get your fake baby in home ec and told that yours was born addicted to crack. To have people call you names for no reason. To have some stranger glare at your sweet, precious young child and declare they are getting out of the pool because it’s too dark in here for them. To have a cashier not want to touch your hand. To have women in grocery stores run from you. If these were facts of your daily life, you would see why it’s easy to think that Trayvon was judged for being black, because that was just a fact of his life, a normal everyday occurrence. Imagine someone looking at your newborn baby then exclaiming that “At least I have pure Aryan kids” then not understanding why you can’t take a joke. Imagine having to teach your child at age four why some people hate him. Just try to imagine.

What Do You Expect?

I’d like to say a word about expectations and how they influence our lives, probably more than you even realize.

Expectations. We all have them. Of ourselves, of others. Of our children, our friends, our coworkers, our jobs, our lives. And how those expectations are, or are not, fulfilled, affect our attitudes and our actions.

 

I often spend the better part of my work day talking to parents about expectations of their children and keeping them realistic. Certainly if you know your child can say “doll” then it’s ok to expect her to say it in order to obtain the desired object. However, if you child wants to see the fish and you have never heard her utter the word fish before, expecting her to say it in order to be lifted up to see them is not only unrealistic, it’s cruel. I certainly wouldn’t want someone to tell me to quickly solve an advanced math problem or I can’t have my lunch. It’s unreasonable, I couldn’t do it.
Unrealistic expectations play a large role in the occurrence of child abuse. If you truly believe that all children are able and ready to potty train at age one and your one and half year old isn’t doing it, frustration is going to occur. Only instead of understanding that your child can’t, you see that child as defiant, stubborn, bad. Having a clear and realistic view of what your child is and isn’t capable of is crucial for maintaining realistic expectations.
It’s not just children we need to have realistic expectations for. I am always amazed at the relationships that end over expectations that just aren’t achievable. If you haven’t read the book, “Real Love” by Dr. Greg Baer, you should. It took me awhile to get through it because I kept exclaiming, “oh this is ridiculous!” and throwing it down only to spend the next day or two thinking it through and realizing it was right, just difficult to put into practice. This would send me back to pick it up and resume reading until the next time I exclaimed over it’s ridiculousness and threw it down. In this halting manner I finally not only understood but embraced what it was telling me. That to love someone unconditionally is to have NO expectations of them. My first response to that was, well, that’s ridiculous! But it’s actually not.
Unconditional means no matter what, therefore, to love unconditionally means just that. No matter what. Any time you are angry with another person, it is because they have failed to meet your expectations. Think about it. You expected your son to wipe his feet before walking across your clean floor, you expected your friend to pay for lunch this time, you expected your spouse to remember your anniversary. You are angry because they failed to meet that expectation.
If you love someone unconditionally then you love them even when they fail to meet your expectations. Not having any expectations in the first place keeps you from feeling angry when they aren’t met. The book does a great job of teaching you how to get and give unconditional love. I’m not going to try and recreate it here, this was a very bare, barely scratching the surface summary and I know I have not done it justice. I highly recommend you read it for yourself. Meanwhile, I feel like I’m making a short story long here! Back to my point!
I’m not sure it’s possible to truly be expectation free but we can have realistic expectations of our significant others. Don’t date a doctor then be surprised after the wedding when you get left alone in the middle of your anniversary party for a medical emergency. Don’t marry a woman who hates to cook the be surprised that she doesn’t cook for you. And don’t sweat the small stuff.
People often comment that my husband and I just got lucky or they want to know what our secret is. The only trick is that we just accept each other the way we are, we don’t try to change each other. We also don’t expect the other person to be a mind reader. If I want to do something specific for our anniversary, I say so and well in advance. Likewise, if he’s cooking and feels like he needs help, he asks for it rather than hinting and feeling resentful that he isn’t getting any. These are just simple examples, but hopefully they illustrate my point.
I think you will find that you are much happier in life when you don’t have an overabundance of expectations. If you bring me some dinner, I’m happy you thought about me at all and I won’t complain if something isn’t to my liking. This way, I simply enjoy the dinner and the fact that you thought of me. On the other hand, I could react by being disappointed because I expected you to remember all my likes and dislikes. In one scenario I just ignore the part of the meal I don’t like and enjoy the rest. In the other I may sulk and dwell on how thoughtless you are. Really the difference between me being happy or unhappy in this scenario is what I choose to focus on. See there? Happiness really is a choice!

The Internet Ate My LIfe

Today I’m wondering why I haven’t fully embraced this blog yet. Why I seldom write, though writing is one of my great passions. I think I have an answer. I’m still grieving the loss of my last blog. The website was pulled down and if they gave me any notice, I sure missed it somehow. Which means the documentation of my life is just……..gone.

My entire pregnancy with Troy, my fourth child, was documented there, the initial announcement, the sonogram when we found out it was another boy, the ultrasound showing an echogenic spot on his brain, the fetal MRI, the worry, the relief when they said he was probably ok, the little nagging bit of worry that hung around until well after he was born. The story of his birth, how they ignored me and told me I wasn’t in labor until he was born with no one ready to catch him, landing instead on the bed. Of how he was born blue and still had the membrane intact over his face. The fear when he wasn’t moving, when he came out blue, the resuscitation. My refusal to pay the hospital for “labor and delivery” when no one delivered him or paid one bit of attention to me during my labor, the charges for the IV and fluids that I repeatedly declined that were forced on me anyway, complete with pitocin even though I had just gone from zero to pushing a baby out in an hour and a half and the pitocin seemed redundant and possible damaging to me. A copy of the letter I sent to the hospital informing them that the 90% paid my insurance and the 5% I paid up front were, in my opinion, more than what they deserved. His first days home. All the cuteness and ups and downs of his first year, including his fluctuating muscle tone and really odd and atypical reflexes that may or may not have been caused by birth trauma, we shall never really know. The million funny stories as he began to talk.

Katies experience with preschool, the time she busted out the plate glass window at Jump N Land. Brandon’s junior, then senior prom. His high school graduation and all my mixed emotions about my oldest growing up. The wonderful long post about Todd’s potential ADHD and the list of his ridiculous messes. The announcement that I, at 44, was going to have baby number five after all.

My entire masters degree program was documented there from deciding to do it through the excitement, the hard work, the long hours, the induction into several honor societies and the pride as I graduated with a 4.0.

My grandmothers death, the grief over the loss of a friends child. Me, eleven years later, processing grief over my fathers death as my uncle was dying of cancer.

The frustrations of the state sponsored budget cuts to ECI services and the ensuing loss of services to families and benefits to employees. Being laid off after ten years with the same program.

Vacations and family trips, the kids first visit to the zoo, the museum, etc. In short, my life! All of it, just gone.

I have always been a journal writer, the transition to blogging wasn’t easy for me. For one, I enjoy the physical feel of putting pen to paper. For two, an inherent distrust in the internet not to eat my posts and three, the publicness of it all. Putting myself out there for the world to see. I thought for sure I would edit myself more knowing it was for public consumption. The more I wrote, the less I edited. I figured no one really read it but me anyway. But issue number two was valid and I should have backed my writing up. A few of my posts were copied and pasted over to Facebook or into a word document, but most of it was just lost, never to be recreated. Sure, I can tell you about Troy’s birth, but I will never be able to recreate the feeling and depth of the original post coming immediately after experiencing it.

However, I think I’ve learned from my mistake! What I ought to be doing, in addition to creating word documents (because hard drives crash) is printing. Although, nothing lasts forever. Looking back at my old hand written journals, many of the twenty or thirty year old pages are already filled with ink that has begun to fade. I don’t examine that too closely, because I’m sure it says something about the fragility of human existence and how time erodes everything and that’s another post entirely!

At any rate, I shall try to be a more faithful and entertaining blogger for you, my three readers!

I Unfriended Someone Today…….

I unfriended someone today. On Facebook that is.  In the words of Dr.Seuss, this may not seem important, but it is so I”m bothering telling you so.

This is only the third person I”ve ever unfriended and I have over 800 of them on Facebook (friends that is). But he will not be the last. It takes a lot for me unfriend someone because I do not believe in censorship. I believe in freedom of speech and I think we should be trying to understand each other.

However, it has finally dawned on me that protecting my own psychic “space” isn’t the same as censorship. That I can no longer be untrue to myself in the name of being PC and “nice”. Some people don’t deserve my time and attention. Sure, they have a right to speak, but I am not obligated to listen.

I have many friends from all walks of life. Look, I don’t care if you are a democrat, republican, independent, Libertarian, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, gay, straight, bi, poly, trans, male, female, old, young, middle aged, blond, brunette, redhead, American, Canadian, European, Asian, African, childless, mother of 12, black, white, red, purple or orange……………we are all different and I respect and celebrate those differences. You can have opinions that differ from mine all day long and until he cows come home. BUT, there is never any reason to be less than respectful and kind to others. We can disagree respectfully. Most of us do. Some of us can’t. And some are too full of hatred, anger and fear to articulate anything approaching reason.

I will not tolerate hate and ignorance. I’m done.

I have scrolled past many posts in recent months that I didn’t really want to pass up. Either I really agreed with them but didn’t want the drama that re posting would bring (I don’t really like to fight with my friends) or they were so ridiculous I wanted to say so, but again, I don’t really like to fight, especially on someones status who has 400 like minded bigoted friends who will jump all over me in a free for all.

So to keep the peace, I scroll on. But I’m done. I am as entitled to my feelings/beliefs/opinions as anyone. And mostly, I have a wonderful group of friends that I can disagree with and it’s ok. We disagree, we are respectful to each other and we don’t make sweeping negative generalizations based on insulting stereotypes.

The first person I unfriended was posting a steady stream of homophobic vitriol that I just couldn’t stomach. The second referred to women who did things that were prohibited by HIS religion (and as interpreted by HIM) as whores. The third continuously posts a continuous stream of extreme conservative right wing propaganda, which in and of itself isn’t the issue, it’s the insults that generously pepper said posts.

Look, if you’re against universal health care or gun control, be against it, that’s fine. But those who support it aren’t automatically idiots, fools, government slaves or any other such labels. The poor are not automatically losers, leeches, takers, beggars, trash etc. And the poor are not all black, by the way. I won’t even go into racial slurs here, but anyone who knows me at all should know better. That is certainly not something that I tolerate. Hateful remarks flung at large groups of people only serves to show the SPEAKERS character, not the people being spoken about.

Most of you have nothing to worry about and I’m really just venting. I’m not going to delete you because we disagree politically. However, I am done overlooking ignorance and hateful behavior in the name of considering all points of view. Some points of view don’t deserve considering.

That is all.

Juggle, Juggle

I get asked a lot how I juggle everything. Sometimes I give a flip answer, like, I’m just ADHD and what most people call relaxing, I call having nothing to do and being bored! But today while I was juggling exceptionally well, it occurred to me that I do have some actual valid tips to offer, so here’s one of them:

Clean/organize the room you are in at the moment.

What am I talking about, exactly? I mean, often it feels like I never accomplish anything because I am jumping back and forth between this child’s needs and that child’s needs constantly. Thats a true and valid point. What I have learned over the years is that, when there’s so much to do that you have no idea where to start, you simply start where your kids are and follow them around.

For example, my six year old needed a bath and hair wash. He can wash himself, but needs help with his hair. So I washed his hair, turned him loose to bathe himself and popped his little sister in with him. She needed no bath because she had her bath and hair the night before, but having her to play with ensured they’d both be busy and occupied long enough for me to clean up the bathroom, since that’s where we were at. I also had time to run the dirty laundry from the bathroom to the washer right after they got out of the tub.

After bath we went into the kitchen where the two little ones wanted to eat, so I made them both a quick lunch. While they were otherwise distracted, I was able to clean up the kitchen, wash the dishes and wipe down counters. When they ran off to the living room to play I was able to pop the laundry in the dryer, clean up the highchair and pop a frozen lasagne in to feed the older kids and myself.

Right now I’m able to write this blog post because my six year old had to poop and he is afraid to stay in the bathroom alone, so here I sit, using time that would otherwise be spent staring at the wall doing something productive (well, that may be a matter of opinion!).

After this if over, I’ll feed the older kids, get the baby down for a nap (I’ll catch up on my reading while nursing her) then get around to feeding myself. While eating I will manage to do something else at the same time, even if it’s just catching up on General Hospital episodes on my DVR.

I’m sure I am by far not the first woman in the world to discover this method, but some reason I felt compelled to share it today. I guess for it to work you have to be ok with jumping from activity to activity even if you haven’t finished (the dishes and counters are cleaned but the kitchen floor still needs sweeping, but that will have to be done later). I’m ok with that, but maybe we are back to me being ADHD.

Oh look, a squirrel!

Homeschooling: A Word About Religion

One oft lobbed criticism of homeschooling is that it’s done to isolate and promote a narrow world view based on the family’s religion.

While this may be true of some homeschoolers, isolation is not the primary reason that most families choose to homeschool their children. Certainly, teaching your children your religious viewpoints, doctrines, values and beliefs is the parent’s responsibility and something that is going to occur with or without homeschooling.

If religious isolationism is the intent, homeschool isn’t needed. Parents can opt for a religiously based private school or even monitor closely who their public school children associate with outside of school hours.

Sure, some people choose homeschooling in part because it allows them more latitude and control in regards to what their child is exposed to. This, however, is not the sole purview of the religious. Many homeschoolers who would identify as non denominational, secular, atheist, agnostic etc, choose to homeschool, in part, to allow themselves this same latitude and control over what values their children learn and what they are  and are not being exposed to (drug use, violence, sex, foul language to name a few and sadly, this isn’t just at the highschool level).

In short, the reasons any given family chooses to homeschool their children are many and varied. This topic, like most, cannot be boiled down to one particular issue or another. To accuse homeschoolers of religious isolationism is incorrect. At any rate, any given family’s choices are really no one else’s business.
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