Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Thursday, September 30, 2010

C: Examination of Life

bloglove One the blogs I have followed and enjoyed these two years since V got me hooked on this blogging thing is “Rue’s Peanut Butter and Jelly Life.”  I was sad to see Rue close down her site this month, and I will miss voyeurism into her life—hearing about her projects and about Rich and the kids.  See, I get attached to you guys.

Rue has left the public realm, going to an invitation-only site.  She didn’t just leave us—she posted a “good-by,” giving us an explanation, which I appreciated.  Otherwise it would have been leaving friends abruptly, without a proper leave-taking….unthinkable. 

Rue said some things in her “good by” to us that made me think….and you know how I love to overthink.

She has been disillusioned somehow by some of her fellow bloggers, something I’ve not experienced, thankfully.  But one of the things that struck me most was her comments to the effect that she was tired of going around life thinking of how every little thing might make a post.  (I paraphrase, here).blog this

If Rue is tired of that, then I agree that it is time for her to end her public blogging.

I’m wondering if I will ever reach that point.  Right now I, too, think of posts several times throughout the day.  Just yesterday I whipped out my camera on the courthouse sidewalk to snap a shot for a future post.  (Trust me, it is only since I was blogging that a camera resides in my purse).   I need to be wearing this T-shirt—all the time.

Oh, I have my dry spells, like anyone, but generally I don’t have any trouble having something to say; just call me a blabbermouth.  My brother has cautioned me that, really, I risk boring folks, that somehow I have an over-inflated ego to think others really care about what I have to say.  My response: the beauty of blogging is that they don’t have to stick a post out.  If it’s boring, just click off.  No obligation.  There are no captive audiences.

Blogging? I’m loving it, as I know you can all tell; and overthinker that I am, here are some of the reasons why:

For one thing I can “hold the floor” in my blog.  I get to have my say completely and fully without interruption!  What fun!  What ego!  You guys are so patient with me.

I’ve already mentioned the therapeutic aspect of blogging.  Fellow bloggers have saved me thousands of Dollars in that regard.

I love the connection.  I see my blogger friends as a community for me.  Like I did with Rue’s life, I have learned a lot about yours, too, and I love keeping up with it.

But one of the things I love most about blogging is the examination of my life that it causes.  I love it that the small, insignificant detail can blossom into something more significant as I write.  I can begin to write about something little and mundane and suddenly find within it something that I, myself, need to  read.  It is like there is a third person there saying, “C, pay attention to this aspect of your life.”

I never know where a post is really going to take me.  In the process of writing about my chosen subject, it is like I’m mining through the rocks of everyday life rubble and coming up with gems that have been lying underneath.

And those little hidden revelations are all part of what therapy is about, aren’t they?  (Amazing what lurks underneath our surfaces.)

My last post on porches is an example.  I really, really started out to just tell you folks how much I enjoyed sitting outside on my porch the other evening.  I did that, I think, but the post turned into something else for me.  It turned into an examination of community in today’s society and a celebration of my wonderful neighbors.  I value the emphasis that post gave me on those subjects.

thinktherefore

And, really, I cannot imagine ever growing tired of this.  I mean, what I feel like, to the contrary, is that there is no going back.  Time will tell, won’t it?

But for now, know that I value you--all of you.  I live for your comments (yes, egotistic, I know) and I love to hear about your travails and your daily life.

So keep in touch… C

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

C: In Praise of Porches

community%20copy Some time back in one of my family-science journals I saw an article on “community.”  The gist of the article was that we have, basically, lost community through “busyness of life” and through mobility. 

One thing the article said that gave me thought was that air conditioning was one problem, compounded by television, and lack of porches and sidewalks another.  Oh, they did not pin the biggest blame on these elements, but I certainly sat up and paid attention that they were mentioned.

porchsitting According to the authors, there was a day in America when the routine was to come in, have supper, clean up, and go sit on the porch for a while if the weather was good.  If you were in the city, you went out to sit on the stoop.  Some folks might stroll the sidewalks, visiting with those sitting on their porches as they went. Some might  even join their neighbors for a “sit a spell” chat, and everyone could see up and down the street as to what the kids were doing.

In short, folks were more interactive.  Nowadays they sit in their air-conditioned houses in front of the TV.  The interaction has been cuHow-to-Sit-on-Your-Stooprtailed.  We have been kept indoors and isolated by the comfort of controlled temperature and the entertainment of the TV.  Maybe to the detriment of our community.

Back in the dark ages when V and I were kids, the other thing that enmeshed us in each other’s lives was the fact that our mothers were stay-at-home moms.  We’re talking the 50’s, here, and the working mother was an unusual situation in our sphere.  It was a habit of our mothers to share iced tea in a back yard, sitting in folding lawn chairs in the afternoon.  Really, it was a comforting thing to me as a child to see my mother and V’s, together with Kitty from across the street sitting and chatting.  The right word for the feeling, as I look back, really, is “community.” 

Just this week I mentioned to the not-yet-thirty lawyer in our office that I had stopped in on my neighbor the other day.  The story I was telling her had an entirely different point, but it caused her to remark, “How is it that you drop in on your neighbor?  We don’t even talk to ours…”  Believe me, this girl is not unfriendly.   She would, I imagine, be a great neighbor.  But her schedule is such that she rarely has time to interact with neighbors, and certainly she has no porch-sitting to enmesh her life with theirs.  And her neighbors are in the same boat.

Out here in the country, almost all of us have porches but, of course, they don’t have the same effect as that described above in bygone airconditionless towns.  Still, I think we may have more “community” out old-man-sitting_~u18033886 here than in many modern housing developments.  We seem to be more attuned to the needs of others, for example.  And our porches are invitations.  Out here  it is common to still people sitting on their porches, waving at each car that comes by, whether those folks are actually known by the waver or not.

My lawn-mowing neighbor has taken a job, so she is no longer my lawn girl (lifesaver that she was this summer!).  Sad to say, MIL’s front yard area (maybe an acre) was getting longish.  Our country mailboxes on the road had some weeds growing up around them.  I resolved to get to them on the weekend, but before it came I arrived home one evening to find everything neat and mown. 

Our young neighbor had stopped in on MIL, without saying a word he had unloaded his fancy-dancy mower, and was half-way through the job before MIL even knew he was there.  He finished up by weed-eating.  He will not take money for this.  It is the second time he has spontaneously done it, and he seems to be quite happy to do it.  We don’t feel criticized by his work—like we’re shiftless, neglects of our yard or anything.  He just knows that MIL is there with a recovering hip and cannot do it herself.  We sent him goodies in the mail—we are so grateful.

But he is just an example of the way folks help one another out here.  It really is a community in a different sort of way, just not as enmeshed, I think, as the porch-and-sidewalk kind.

My home’s hallmark is its porches.  They wrap about seventy-five percent of the entire house, and the back porch is twelve-feet deep.  It is, really,DSCN0592 another entertainment room.  This is it, to the left.  I’d include better pictures, but it’s not real presentable right now.  (Remember my whining post a few days ago about not being able to get to the porch clean up?).  Certainly, it is not “decorated.” 

But I sat out there last night, and I’d venture to say that my back porch setting has few rivals.  It has a sweet kitty and looks out over woods—not a sign of civilization can be seen from my back porch once your sight moves past my fence.  In the cool of the evening last night I could hear the forest sounds.  It was relaxing and divine—transporting me to a place of relaxation far from the madness of my work.

V and I have in mind a fall “event” involving my porches…we’ll keep you posted on this…if my pink eye clears up.  No one wants a hostess with pink eye.

In the meantime, “happy porch sittin’ to you all.”  C.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

C: Infirmities!

grocery bags Well, V and I haven’t been able to write like we usually do.  V had hand surgery last week. 

Here’s a word of warning to you all: V tried to shortcut her trips with groceries from car to house by carrying a bazillion  or so of those plastic bags at one time.  She broke her hand doing it!!

I do the same thing—try to cut my trips back and forth down. grocery cart I usually end up dropping stuff (having to beat the dogs back from it—they think anything I drop is fair game).  I need to buy one of those little folding cart thingys MIL and my mother have.  In fact, now that I write this, I think I’ll go by the container store, where we got Mom’s, and pick up one for me and one for V.  No more spilled groceries!  No more back-and-forth trips!  No more broken hands!!

Anyway, the cast is driving her nuts.  And typing one-handed is frustrating for her.  She came over Sunday and we spent the day dreaming about improving our blog (we have soooo much to learn and we have old brains…bad combo) and eating snacks and watching a movie.  MIL came down to have a glass of wine and dinner with us.  Great fun!

And me?  I’m infirm, too.  I have had pink eye for going on two weeks now.  It is MISERABLE.  The thing I love most about this condition is that it is so  very attractive.  You should see me—not!

This picture to the left is exactly what I look like, including the swollen eyelids.  Well, not exactly—my eyes are hazel, not blue…

I am prone to this infirmity, and everyone in the office says, “You get this all-the-time!”

Yes, I get it more than my share, but “all the time?”  I tried to think back to the last time.  Then I remembered!!  I wrote about it here.  It was in October 2008.  (See how utterly useful blogging is?)  And that pink-eye episode was really  miserable on a whole lot of levels.  Remembering that time makes me a bit grateful for my current fix.

As I look back at that post, I realize that the pink eye was in conjunction with a cold.  I have been kind of feeling a little cold symptom or two this time, too. 

What I have learned about pinkeye from my vast experience and medical consultations is that the yucky, gummy eyelash kind is bacterial.  They can give you medicine to clear that up.  Mine, however, is not like that.  It just is watery with tears and red, red.  It hurts and is itchy.  This is viral.  You know what that means: no medicine, just ride it out.

Hmmmmm.  I’m wondering if my pinkeye virus just lurks in my body and pops out when I’d getting a little down from a cold or something…just a theory based on absolutely nothing.

Anyway, I am going about my business, explaining to clients that I am not a drunk and declining to shake their hand or hug.  Purell is my companion. But I don’t feel good.

Oh, enough moaning. 

MIL is in physical  therapy and, therefore, sore as can be, which we both try to explain by saying this must mean the therapy is working! She’s joined a Bible study and is gamely getting out for either that or three-times-a-week therapy.  So she’s on the road four times a week, which is a switch.  She may read this and shake her head at me, but I think this is a good thing; getting her out of the house.

Thanks for listening.  I’m tellin’ you, blogging is such a useful tool: it is great therapy to get to whine to those of you on the web, and it is a great journal of life, including illnesses, as my account above attests! blogg Thanks for being there! C

Saturday, September 25, 2010

C: What I Need

Ah, another week has drawn to a close.  Has it?  Well, I’ll be working today, although it is Saturday, so it seems that my week is not actually over.  That’s hballse in the airow hectic the week has been.  But it’s fine—there are many folks who have no work.  And, too, I relish the time on Saturdays without the interruptions of the ringing phones, the drop-in clients, the staff questions. 

This week was so busy that I found myself saying to my assistant, “Could someone give me just one more ball to keep in the air?  Bet I could do it!”  She felt the same.

No, Saturdays offer pure, uninterrupted thought and work time.  I actually enjoy that.  It is when I can act upon my work rather than simply react to demands of others, if that makes sense.  And I won’t be there all day.  On Saturdays I can get done in three hours what I might accomplish in a full usual day—or more.

The downside to working on Saturdays is the lack of work that gets done around here.  I had determined to clean up my porches this weekend, and maybe I’ll get to that tomorrow.  But that’s the kind of thing that will go to the wayside and it does wear at me that those things go neglected.  Can’t be helped; I must, after all, earn a living.

This week my two women associates and I went to a luncheon for mansion about 200 women at the Governor’s Mansion.  (Ahem, that would be luncheon, you guys, not lunch).  It was a “la-de-da-with-little-finger-extended” kind of deal.  Everything was perfect, perfect, from the immaculately-kept grounds, to the smiling staff who ushered to our tables and took care of our every whim, to the delicate, almost see-through china, and a wonderful salad that I am going to try to replicate and share with you (iceberg topped with a marinated bean type of thing—I find myself thinking about it).

Anyway, I was sitting there, trying to enjoy the program while fidgeting about needing to be back at the office, when it occurred to me!  What I need is staff!

Oh, I have great staff at work, and they make my professional life possible.  The office, while not quite under control, fairly hums with at least efficient progress toward control.  My home, however, well, that’s a different story.

Yes, home staff would solve all my needs.  First of all, I need (sooooo badly) a gardener.  I never really enjoyed gardening to begin with, but keeping up eleven acres is just more than I can do.  My next-door neighbor has kept the wild beaten back by mowing for me this summer.  But the finer points of my flower beds have gone undone.  Yes, the first thing I’d like is a gardener to tame the edges of my house into submission…maid

And a maid.  Yep.  Definitely, I need a maid.  First, I’d have to the clean the house up; but a maid to do the vacuuming, dusting, bathrooms…well, that would be divine.  I’d even dispense with the necessity that she wear a uniform!

A cook would be good—just for dinner, since I’m gone from before daylight.  I love to cook, but more and more I find myself coming home, drained, and opening a can.  I was talking to V the other night on the phone as I dined.  “What are you having?”  V asked.

Canned hot tamales,” I answered.

And V, bless her, said “Ummmm! Hormel?”  Yes, she knows “good.”

But wouldn’t it be great to come home to a “balanced” meal.  [It must be said here that often I find one waiting on me at MIL’s on the way home, so I can’t complain too much].

butler And, while I’m dreaming, a butler could serve well, too.  When I’m sitting at the end of the day with my feet up, wiped out, and the phone rings or someone comes to the door, he’d say, “I’ll see if Madame is at home….”  [I actually have this service at work, but they refuse to do the “Madame” part…]

And, I suppose, the butler would be the one who would refresh my emptying wine glass…

But, then, where would he be when I didn’t need him?  Sitting on the sofa watching the news with me?  Nah, scratch the butler.

Yes, the Governor’s Mansion was insight for me into what gracious home living could be.

But, in the meantime, I’ll hit-and-miss around here, sans staff, knowing I’m blessed beyond all I have the right to expect.  C

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

C: Rant Warning - You’re No Different

statistics Just what do people think statistics are, anyway?  They are a collection of data which gives us a picture of “what is.”  They often give us a tool to predict.  And this applies to people, too, who are, after all, only sheep—the Lord was right when He called us that. Yes, we follow paths just as a predictably as sheep.  Sorry to be the bearer, if this is news to you.

Oh, you may think you’re different.  In fact, you do think that you’re different.  That is common to us all.  We want things to be the way we want them to be, not as they are.  We want to be different—special.  We have our little individual differences, true, but in the big, broad-brush things, humans are pretty predictable.

This is why marketing works and doctors can make educated guesses and why those high-falutin’ FBI experts can do criminal profiles without ever seeing the bad guy.  See?  Here we are:

sheep

I try to tell folks this:  The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.  Yes, some of us manage to break bad habits, and some of us turn over new leaves (but how many times have you made that promise?).  Those successes do not come without a lot of effort—they are not the norm.  Rarely do we really change—our predictor is our past.

Recently a client sat in my office sobbing over the fact that her husband insists on staying out all night “with the boys,” (What boys?  She thought she knew all the boys he knows—they’re married!).  He was ready for that one: “Guys from work—you don’t know them.”  That was his story, and he stuck to it.

I told her what she already knew: There was another woman.  We just do not know who she is—yet.

Husband indicated no remorse, shame or willingness to change.  She and her two little ones were basically without husband/father.  It was a shocker to her that her previously-devoted husband had turned into this nightmare.  This had gone on about four months, so she was ready to take action.

During our conversation, here is something she said: 

He was married before.  He cheated on her—not with me—I found out about that just before we were married and first wife told me.  When I confronted him, he admitted it, saying it was not something he was proud of.  I thought he was changed, he seemed ashamed.  Our relationship was wonderful—I thought it was special, different.

Right.  We’re all “different,” aren’t we?  Reckon his first wife thought she had a “special” relationship with him, too?  Yep, I reckon so.

Client probably had a deep-down hesitation about his character (remember my post on Elvie?), but their relationship was “different,” you know, “special.”  So she disregard any such sensible misgivings.

Look at these statistics, below.  If client had know them before choosing to nest her babies with this creep, would she have listened?

  • Men who have once cheated are statistically-proven to be much more likely to cheat again.  (Best predictor of future behavior is past behavior).   Apparently, once one starts cheating, it’s easier to do it again. 
  • Furthermore, second marriages are statistically less stable anyway than first marriages.  Again, studies show that second and subsequent marriages are easier break-ups emotionally than are first breakups, so you are at greater risk second go-around than first—and the first marriage failure stat is at 50 percent!  Call it a toughening of the skin in case of subsequent marriages…
  • In this client’s case, not only was this marriage a repeat for husband, she had several other statistically-risky factors in their relationship.  For example, she was more than ten years younger than him and she—but not he—had a college degree.  Both of these situations put up statistical marriage caution signs.

divorce statistics

So Client had to beat the odds in at least three ways:

  1. She had to hope he had changed (big hope because the thrill of cheating becomes engrained once it is done;)
  2. she had to defy the odds against their age difference;
  3. she had to hope their educational difference did not spell the doom that the statistics predict.

That’s a lot of odds to beat.

If she had thought about these factors and known about the statistical dangers, would she have chosen to marry him? 

If she still decided to marry, ignoring the warning about his character, would she still have given up her career, choosing to stay home with her babies and putting herself at great disadvantage? 

She has the education, but she quit work—he has been the major bread winner since the first baby.  As it is now, she had to take a job at less than a third of what she would have been making if she had stayed in the field these years.  She is going to suffer financially for that decision.  Her husband won’t.

Would any of this have made a difference to her?  Would she have taken the care to maneuver in the most fiscally-responsible manner as a hedge against the odds she was trying to beat?

When I bought my car two years ago, I researched.  I checked Consumer consumer-reports-2009-cars Reports, I googled different cars. I did everything I could to overcome my desire to simply buy “cute” or “plush,” and I concentrated on longevity (ah the luxury of driving a paid-for car!) and low maintenance.  I was looking at statistics to predict the future with whatever car I chose to spend the next few years with.  I paid attention to reports of past performance as an indicator of what might be a reliable car.

Why don’t people do the same for marriage?  Don’t answer—I know: Love.  Love is an emotion, it is romantic, it is billowing—it makes us all “different.”  We want to be the special ones.  The odds don’t seem to apply to us.

Well, if not to “us,” then to whom do they apply?

So, back to my question:  If some one (me?) had trumpeted to this woman all the risk factors she as she entered this marriage, would she have done anything differently?

My guess: No, because they were “different.”

‘Fraid not, honey…I feel like I’m bangin’ my head against a wall…  C

Monday, September 20, 2010

C: Peach Cakin’ Candy Corn

On the heels of my canned corned beef post and in the spirit of continuing  to share food-related memories, I offer the following:

peachcake When my son was about fourteen, I made an unusually-rich dessert; a peachy/whipped cream sort of thing.  Best I recall, we split  round cake layers (yellow), poured a little peach nectar over them, layered fresh peaches and whipped cream, then repeated.  It was a huge hit.

It looked something like this picture on the left.

After dinner and our dessert, my husband and I ran out for an hour or so on an errand.  When we returned, Son was laid out on the sofa holding his tummy, moaning. 

Mom,”  he said.  “Do not ever make that dessert again.  I ate so much of it, I never want to see it again.”

Sure enough, when I went into the kitchen I found that a huge wedge of the leftover cake was missing, and Son was very sick later that night.

Since that time our family has  used the term “Peach Caked” as a verb to mean that candycorn one has ruined a certain dish by overindulgence.

I thought about this today while in the store. seeing all the Halloween Candy on display.  My son has asked that I not bring any candy corn or those little pumpkins made of the same sugary stuff into the house.

A couple of years ago I peach-caked candy corn,” he explained.  “Now the sight of them or halloween-easter7those awful little pumpkins makes me retch…same with circus peanuts”

Well, I wouldn’t want that to happen, so we’ll skip the Halloween candy.  We don’t have trick-or-treaters way out here in the country, anyway, so we don’t have an excuse to buy.

I have my own example of “peach-caking” food.  As a child I used to love pretzels.  I remember sneaking a bag of them while Mom was out in the back yard and sitting down to watch pretzel-sticks cartoons, unfettered in my enjoyment of them.  They were the stick style, as I recall, not the curvy ones.

Later, when they came back up, I was ruined forever on pretzels—straight or curly. Now, fifty years later, I cannot stand the thought of eating one.  I guess for me they’ve been peach-caked.

Have you peach-caked anything? 

Lesson learned: Moderation is the best policy!  C

Sunday, September 19, 2010

C: What was Mama Thinking, Anyway?

kroger This week I made a foray into the beautiful, new, expansive, gourmet Kroger that has just grand-opened in our area.  This gorgeous store with its wide selection of everything from the exotic to the mundane, is entertainment, not grocery shopping.  I mean, how much more thrilling can you get than choosing your own loaf of  “artisan” bread from the bin and dropping it into the slicer? Why, it just makes you want to buy, buy, buy (imagine that).  But I digress…

This post is not about gourmet food.  It is about childhood memories and the things I recall eating waaaaaaaaay back then.  And asking: why?

We ingested many unhealthy things back then (notably gallons of Kool-Aid), although I believe our diet was likely much healthier than it is today.  We certainly did not eat fast food as a way of life, and Mom cooked from scratch mostly.

Still, there are those big questions—mostly centering around “meat products.”

What has brought this on is that as I was tooling down the Kroger aisle, looking for water-packed tuna, I spied the canned corned beef. 

As you know, food is not just about taste and nutrition.  There is a huge corned beef emotional component to it.  As I regarded the canned corned beef, I recalled my lunch sandwiches, made by my mother, with yellow French’s mustard and my favorite dill pickle slices on canned corned beef .  Before I knew it, one of those cans was in my basket.   When I got home I crafted myself one of those sandwiches, and it was as good as I remember.

When I got up to wrap the leftovers, I hesitated (my emotional/nutritional craving momentarily sated).  That canned corned beef looked for all the world like…well, like….well—oh, I can’t say it.  Let’s just say that Chili and Scout got the leftovers, and that seemed appropriate.  Given what it looked like, I mean…

So, back to the question:  Why did we (do we) eat such things?  Why would I eat canned corned beef when I make a killer one from the brisket?  I meant the gourment deli was just steps away—they’d have corned beef? 

I threw the can away before I yielded to the temptation to look at ingredients and nutritional information printed on the label.  I.Don’t.Want.To.Know…

I began to recall some of the many questionable things I ate as I grew up.  Please tell me if you, too, experienced any of these.

viennasausage Vienna sausages.  I wondered about the name.  Here’s what Wikipedia had to say about these convenient little “meat sticks,” (ugh! What a term!):

A Vienna sausage (Viennese/Austrian German: Frankfurter Würstel or Würstl… The word wiener means Viennese in German…In North America the term vienna sausage has most often come to mean smaller and much shorter smoked and canned wieners, rather than hot dogs…made from meat such as chicken, beef, turkey and pork (or blends thereof) finely ground to a paste consistency and mixed with salt and spices, notably mustard, then stuffed into a long casing, sometimes smoked and always thoroughly cooked, after which the casings are removed as with hot dogs. The sausages are then cut into short segments for canning and further cooked.

As with any sausage, the ingredients, preparation, size and taste can vary widely by both manufacturer and region of sale.

Meat paste, huh?  Well, we ate ‘em a bunch when I was growing up.  We still occasionally eat them, but I insist on not thinking about it when I do.potted meat

We also occasionally would eat “potted meat” on crackers.  This, I guess, is  just the pure “meat paste” not stuffed into the casing.  I’ve given this up.

Spam.  ( There was also a product called “Treat”).  Myths abound about what these delicacies are made of.  We at this mostly lightly fried in a skillet…I’ve given this up, too.

And, then, there is the grand-daddy of all gross meat products, in my book.  My pigsfeetmother would not touch them, but she allowed us kids to join our dad in gnawing them: pickled pigs feet.

If you have made it this far without gagging, I’m probably about to fix that because I need to tell you that my brother and I learned to just ignore the stiff hairs that would sometimes remain on them and chew on the salty, vinegary fat that was clinging to the bones of these trotters. 

Really, Mom, what on earth were you thinking???

There are many gross things I never touched: members of my family, for example, love cracklin’ cornbread (look it up).  I don’t touch tripe (chitterlings), brains (ask V), squirrel and most other game (I prefer domesticated), oysters or snails (I don’t care how fancy-dancy you think this stuff is).

And it is beyond me why anyone would eat a frog.

So, all-in-all, I’m pretty picky.  So, why canned corned beef?  Why????  C.

Friday, September 17, 2010

C: Rant Warning - Defiance…for the Kids

Yesterday I told V a work story that made her remember one of our favorite movies: The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio.  But first, here’s my story:

My client was sad, alrighSad businesswomant, but the most accurate description I can think of is “exhausted.”  She was exhausted as in the really tired sense, but she was  also exhausted in that she had pulled out the stops to save her marriage—exhausted all avenues, as it were.  It was not to be, despite her best efforts.

Her problem with her professional, graduate-school-educated husband was prescription drugs.  He was hooked, had been to rehab twice and had, unbeknownst to client, drained their entire financial reserves, which were at one time substantial—all gone now.  Husband was now unemployed and just coming out of rehab for the second time (not cheap) thanks to his parents.

Both sides of the family gave her emotional support as she made the hard  decision to divorce.  They were about to lose the house and just were barely—again, thanks to family—going to retain the roof over their heads and the substantial equity they had built there.  She did not want to cash it out, both because she wanted to keep the equity secure and because she wanted at least some stability for their three kids: ages 2, 4 apillsnd 7.

Husband was, quite rightly, conscience-stricken and ready to sign anything.  He was signing the house over to his wife.  There was not much else he could contribute; he had no money, even for child support.  She and I were working to put together an agreement to dissolve their marriage.  We got to the college-education-part.  I explained that at age 18 or graduation from high school, a parent’s legal obligation is over.  The courts will not order any parent to pay anything, including for a college education, after 18 unless the child is disabled.  If we were going to get this provision, it would have to be because he agreed to it, and we could bind him to it.  I had proposed language.

She hesitated, “You only mentioned him,” she said.  “Shouldn’t I, too, be bound to pay one-half my kids’ education after high school?” 

My answer: “Absolutely not.  I never let my clients agree to this.  You can pay for college whether it is in the order or not, and probably will, but I am not going to let you bind yourself to something that the court won’t make you do without something in return…no, way.”  She seemed unconvinced (so “fair” is she).

I went on to explain.  Let me first say, however, that I KNOW that there are exceptions to the rule about which I am going to speak—I am sure that each and every one of you male readers is an exception.  I am sure, too, that each of your female readers is married to one.  Still, this is my experience after over thirty years of family law practice, so this is what I told her:

I seldom have to worry about mothers doing right by their kids.  However, your husband is thirty-five and right now he is in a repentant mood.  In six months (maybe less) he will begin to see your part in this fiasco and, by the the time it is over, he will come to understand that it is actually all your fault.  And he will remarry and have other kids, given his age.  They are who will matter most to him.  The Rule we all learn in this business is:  ‘Whomever Daddy is sleeping with is who matters—and her kids trump the first set.’  Sorry, that’s the way it is.  When your kids hit college age, his new wife will not want to pay.  Neither will he.”

Sorry, this is a law of nature.

In her heart, she knew I was right.  “But how will I explain it when he asks why this isn’t mutual?” She asked, still worried about appearing to be “unfair.” 

Unblinkingly, I gave her the answer to use, “Say to him: ‘I am not the one who has preferred my drug habit over the welfare of my kids; I am not the one who has put this entire family into financial ruin; I am not the one who has proven to be untrustworthy when it comes to the welfare of these children.”

Satisfied, she agreed.

So, V and I discussed this.  V mentioned the movie, The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio, the recounting of a true story.  This was a wonder woman, if ever one lived.  She was, indeed, defiant in the protection of the best interests of her kids and their home—even in spite of a very broken, very selfish husband.  If you want a full review, follow this link to our seldom-visited review page, but here’s a clip:

I’m telling you, there are mothers who fail in this regard—some of you followers have told me stories of such women in your comments to me, and I know they exist. But, by and large, it is mothers who are the glue and the mothers who are there through thick and thin for their kids.  It is the mothers who scrape and save and take extra jobs so their kids have high school annuals and class rings and get to take dance lessons. If Moms remarry and have other children, they are all folded in together, rarely are any left behind.  On the other hand, ex-husbands grouse about paying child support and “move on” to have “other families.”

I see it every day.  C.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

C: Night Sounds

Arkansas has only one “extreme” season: summer.  Our winters are fairly mild, and very cold days are always interspersed with some warmer days.  Snow is a fleeting treat.  So we have only summer to contend with, really, so far as hard weather  Days on end of triple-digit temperatures can drag you down, and the older I get, the harder it is for me to take the heat!

Now we have reached one of my favorite points in the year: open window season.   Both summer and winter preclude this, but spring and fall each offer weeks of mild weather where the windows can be thrown open to freshen the house.  My favorite part of this is sleeping with my bedroom window open, which I did last night.

I live in the country and, though I hear the occasional car way up on the main road, during the deep night what predominates are natural sounds, the sounds of the woods which surround my house.  There is something comforting to me about these, and while I am awake listening to them, they are so very interesting.

Every time I think about throwing up my hands and moving into the city where so much less maintenance is required, I think of something like sleeping with the window open.  Sure, you can do it in town, but the sounds are so much different.  And, I believe, there are far less restful night sounds in town.  No, this would be hard to give up.

Last night as I dozed toward deep sleep, I was smiling to hear the crickets.  (I guess they’re crickets.  They sound like crickets…)  There is the occasional night bird’s chirp, and hoot owls are common. 

Even the back porch, onto which my bedroom window opens, provided sounds.  My cat, Sasha, meowed at the window.  She is not used to the window being open, so I am sure that the sounds and smells from inside window the house were powerful to her—just as the night sounds are to me.  I could hear her move about, and the sounds of what I imagine was the raccoon who peacefully joins Sasha for cat food each night.  We can watch him through our breakfast room window, so we are somewhat accustomed to each other. 

Every so often the night sounds are punctuated by the bark of a far-off dog.  My own two were stretched out on my bedroom floor, so they did not join in as they might have if they were outside.

And the real treat came just as I was falling asleep: the coyotes came through, howling.  We know they are in our wood abunch, but I never hear them when the windows are shut for the air conditioner or heater.  I know coyotes are much-maligned and, I’m sure, with reason; but I love to hear coyotes them. 

Really, what the coyotes were doing last night wasn’t actually howling, which I have heard them do.  Last night it was yipping.  They sounded for all the world like a bunch of adolescents, tumbling and playing with one another.  The sounds were of riotous fun.  And I know I am anthropomorphizing here, but it is what it sounded like.  I had an image of six or eight of them running abreast, nipping playfully at each other.  They were gone within a minute’s time, so clearly they were traveling.

I associate the coyotes’ howling with winter, I’m not sure why.  It seems to me that I notice the lonesome sound of the howling during the coldestcoyotehowl part of the season, as if they are either signaling each other for the hunt or commiserating about the harshness of the night.  I will have to pay attention this fall to see if this proves accurate.

As the coyotes carried on outside, Chili got up and, pricking his ears, stood at the open window.  Little Scout, on the other hand, never moved a muscle.  No business of hers while she’s tucked safely in my bedroom.

So this morning I awakened refreshed.  With an itchy runny nose from the allergens let in through the window, but still refreshed.  And sneezes or not, I’ll do it again tonight and so long as the weather allows so much do I love the night air and night sounds.  C

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

C: Laziness

I am a wee bit worried about myself.  I’m thinking I might have a lazy Lazy Generation Lazy_tshirt streak, and it might be sizeable.  That is not a good thing, I realize. 

Now, don’t get me wrong: I work very, very hard.  I am busy as a bee from sunup to sundown.  I have so many balls in the air each work day that keeping them each from crashing to the ground is a constant struggle.  No, I’m not lazy about my profession, and when I come home, I am usually very tired, which gives me great justification for what I am about to say….

What I am lazy about is most things physical.  I don’t want to exercise (and there’s little time, for it given my work schedule—see? Justified!) And I don’t want to clean my house!  I am thinking of hiring a housekeeper to come in every other week or so, but I am going to have to clean the house and put away the clutter before anyone will take this job.

I was out to dinner with my good friends from next door, midlife country girl.  They are just the best neighbors, doing everything for my poor-single-self from helping with those mechanical mysteries of life, such as the tractor (thank you, Tom) to being my summertime yard keep-upper (thank you, Mary).  Their home is for sale and I don’t know what I’ll do if it actually sells….well, that will be another post.

But Mary!  Well, she’s a wonder woman.  She works at one of our local schools.  She, too, has a busy work week.  Her place, however, is neat as a pin always.  Her house is immaculate.  AND she gardens.  AND she cans vegetables and gives them to me.  AND she finds time to blog!  

At dinner the other night she was gently deprecating of herself, pointing hatehousework out to Tom and me all her own idiosyncracies.  She recognized them as being just  a cut above most of the average person’s care level for home maintenance.  We called her “OCD,” lovingly, of course. 

For example, it really, really matters to Mary how the shower curtain is pulled back after one finishes a shower.  She, by golly, wants it pulled neatly to the right.  Tom, thoughtless person that he is, consistently pulls it to the left.  We laughed about it but, you know, there is something admirable in her attention to detail about her home, I must admit.

I am sitting here typing this silly post with the bed unmade, some dishes in the sink, and I don’t know when I have run the vacuum. 

So, back to laziness.  After giving it some thought, I have decided that being lazy may not equate with inactivity.  I think that one can be active all day long in some sense but lazy in others.  I work hard at the office both because it is my responsibility to do so and because it is the type of thing (using my brain) that I enjoy anyway. 

I’m typing this post for much the same reason.  This activity is something I gravitate to because I love doing it.

So, my fire-drill pace at work and my “discipline” to get a post done (I am snickering as I write that) do not take me out of the realm of lazy.  I love doing these things, so they just don’t count in giving me non-lazy score points.

Now, does this mean that because Mary so desires for her house to be neat and tidy—because it is something she loves to do—that I can say she is actually lazy, too????  I’m trying, believe me, because I just might find some justification for my lack of attention to home and hearth.

housework2 Naw.  I just don’t think I can get by with that one.  (I mean you should see how she takes care of her acreage—and mine—including a swimming pool!).  Nope.  Lazy is not a word for Mary.  In any sense.

I don’t think I will EVER reach the “be careful which side of the tub you pull the shower curtain to” level of care in my home.  However, I do need just a tad bit of Mary’s OCD about home care.  I resolve that just as soon as I save this post, I am going to get up and do something I really don’t want to do—vacuum!  C

Sunday, September 12, 2010

C: Of Crows and Foxes - Comfort from the Unexpected

blahs Ever have a “blah” day and you just don’t know why?  Mine started out that way yesterday (Saturday). 

Oh, I have plenty I could get all depressed about, but most of those things that come to mind are those I’ve already worked through.  They just aren’t the good depression material that they used to be.  As I went through my usual depression-causes list, I realized there was not a single one of them that fit yesterday. 

Hmmmm, must search for some other justification for being depressed.

Well, I’ll tell you, I never did find it.  And I could see a silver lining there—being somewhat depressed for no real reason probably beats being depressed because there’s something serious going on.

I was thinking about this as I was driving in to do a little work (no, it’s not weekend work that has me depressed—I’m thankful for my work).  As you travel between my home and town, you pass through what we call “the hollow.”  It is a beautiful, inclined section of our country road completely encased for about a mile in deep woods.  The trees meet over the road, and it is lovely in every season.  All of us out here dread the day when development will take the hollow away from us and, believe me, that day is approaching.  We know that the forest there is teeming with wildlife because, sadly, so many little animals don’t make it across the road.

This morning as I was driving through, a quick movement to the right of the road caught my attention.  I slowed, and right in front of me scurried a beautiful red fox.  He virtually leaped into the forest on the other side, disappearing as if by magic; an apt word, for the moment was, truly, magical.

I am so enthralled with this creature that a search for pictures resembling him demanded more than one…

foxes

Have you ever seen a red fox for real?  They are just gorgeous.  I thought about him/her as I drove on, realizing that his movements reminded me more of a cat than a dog.  I marveled at his full tail with a white tip and his deep color. 

It dawned on me that I was no longer depressed.  At all.  Why?  That fox had nothing to do with anything concrete in my life.  It had no power to increase my wealth or tame my problems.  If I ever see it again, it will be a miracle.  So, why the curative effect?

All this thinking made me recall what may be my favorite poem.  When folks talk about reciting poetry I always think of this simple little verse and, when I am not thinking of its sentiment, I am marveling with its agility of words--envious.  It seemed perfect for the subject of this post.  It is called “Dust of Snow” by Robert Frost.

crowposter 

And that is just what the fox did for me.  It saved me from my ruing.  It made my day better.

Inexplicable.  Just as inexplicable as the mysterious cause of my depression is the curative power of simple awe of God’s world.  C

PS – I actually wrote this post yesterday, knowing I would publish it this morning.  Last night my good friends from next door (midlife country girl) took me out to dinner.  We ate waaaaaay too much had the best time!  On the way home through the dark what did we see scurry across the road through the headlights?  A beautiful red fox!  That would be two in one day!!!  What can this mean?  Is it a sign? Surely something good!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

C: This made me smile…

Well, it made me chuckle out loud, actually.  I am so in awe of creativity.  I tend to live in the “concrete,” and when I see something like this, it makes me scratch my head at how someone can be so creative!  So, please meet: Marcel the Shell (with shoes on!):

Have a Great Weekend! C

Thursday, September 9, 2010

C: RANT WARNING-Goin’ Fishin’? What’s the Bait?

I have decided to put a “rant warning” in the title of my more, er, “serious” posts in case you find them tiresome; although I must say this one is not entirely my fault, as those of you who make it to the end will see.  C

Months ago a middle-aged mother sat in my office sobbing, with reason.  I sympathized until she boo-hooed this statement: “I have FOUR kids!  What man is going to want me?!” 

I lectured her on the advantages she has over many other women in her marital boat (she is a professional) and that she did not need to think she needs a man in her life to be complete.

Recently she came back, all smiles, to tell me that she’s found one!  She’s having a “relationship,” and she wanted me to know.  Glowing.  I was happy for her—I like her a lot.  But my concern for her came right out of my mouth (I have that habit).  She has not long been divorced.  I remembered the day she was in despair because there was no man in sight.  I was afraid that she was too soon and too needy to be able to determine if a relationship is healthy. I warned her about having her kids around him—as I do a lot of my newly-separated mothers.  I ended my little cautionary talk and wished her well.

She’s baaaaack! She came to tell me the “relationship” is over, sniff, sniff.  (What am I, anyway?  A Therapist?)  Seems the new Mr. Right has a bad drinking problem—one that has just cost him his job.  She recognized this as the death knell for them, and she has given him up.

She was able—and wanted—to talk about it.  I quizzed her because I am so very interested in the dynamic she represents.  We got around to the kids.

That’s the saddest part,” she said.  “He was so good with the kids; and they looooved him!” 

Really? The Saddest Part?  Well, that meant the kids, too, had developed a relationship with this guy.  I felt my ire rising…I threw out “the question.”

So,” I ventured. “Did he ever take you guys to Chuck E. Cheese?”chuckecheese

She brightened.  “Why, yes!  Several times!  We had the best time there!”

I did not have the heart to talk specifics with her; it would have been a little harsh under the circumstances, so I just congratulated her on making a great, responsible decision to end the relationship and let her go.

But, YOU!  Now, You don’t get off so easily if you continue to read…

Ah, Chuck E Cheese.  In divorce cases, we sometimes find evidence of what we call “Geezer dates.” This is a reference to a setting where an older man (Geezer) takes his honey and her children on a “date” specifically (although maybe subconsciously) to show off his money and his ability to relate to her kids. He intuitively knows that getting along with her kids is a plus in her eyes. If he takes her and the kids to Chuck E Cheese, he can drop $100 or so and get so very much more bang for his buck (ahem, so to speak) than spending that amount (or more) taking mama to a fancy restaurant.

Sometimes it’s not an old geezer.  Sometimes it’s someone her age, like in this client’s case.  It all spins out about the same, but we see so many geezers doing this, maybe because they feel they need that show of money to hang on to someone younger.

Envision this scene: The happy group arrives at Chuck E Cheese. Big Daddy says, “Order whatever you want, kids!” They order their little pizzas and drinks. Big Daddy and Mama ensconce in a booth, and the kids get more tokens for games than they ever knew existed! When they run out, Big Daddy shovels more their way. This is kiddie heaven!! Big Daddy and Mama can make goo-goo eyes at one another for three hours while the kids run wild in a hedonistic frenzy.

When they leave, the kids are loaded with prizes they “won” at the games, sated with all the pizza they can hold and ice cream to boot, and they have played their little hearts. They are either wired or they are tuckered out, happily ready to snooze on the way home in the car. And Mama and Geezer can smile at each other with satisfaction as they strap these little ones in: Mama has seen her babies be deliriously happy; Geezer has arranged for an exciting evening later on.

Now, let’s look more closely at the payoffs for everyone, because I don’t want anyone to miss them:

1. Big Daddy gets “hero marks” with both Mama and kids. He gets his insatiable ego stroked because there is this tangible showering of largesse to these kids—at pretty bargain-basement prices!  He gets to show Mama how wonderful he is with her kids, cementing his access to her. And he now has some powerful allies in this regard—her kids!! They LOVE him!! They will lobby for him, “Mama, when is Big Daddy coming?!!” or “Yippee!! Here’s Big Daddy!!” And Big Daddy, in effect, is saying, “Mama, see how much your kids love me: a kind, wonderful man! And rich, too!

Is this using the kids? Oh, I don’t know; you tell me…

2. Mama gets all kinds of “warm fuzzies” from this situation. Her kids are deliriously happy. Their unabashed acceptance of Big Daddy’s offerings reinforces her feelings that “he could be the one.” She can justify being with Big Daddy because her myth to herself is that her kids are the most important thing in the world to her (and this is a myth at this particular moment in time…). 

Sick as this is, Mama will see this as evidence of her being a responsible mother—after all, she is appraising and assessing whether this man is “good for the kids;” like he would honestly show his true colors at this stage  if he did not like them at all.

Mama begins to think (again, maybe subconsciously) that her kids are actually tools with which to hook this man. She begins to tell herself that her cute, wonderful kids are just one more reason Big Daddy will actually stay with her—surely he would not disappoint these kids with whom he is becoming so close and to whom he is being so happily generous. I have had women actually say to me, “I can understand him leaving me, but to do that to my kids…I thought he was crazy about them!”  See the hook she is making out of her kids?

3. The Kids are happy as only kids can be when they have their every whim catered to—money is no object!! They feel lavished and so central to everyone—stops are being pulled out just for them!! They have someone showering them with the material things they equate in their little minds as love, and he is seemingly so glad to see them, too. They love this man!! And—to all appearances to them—he LOVES them!!!   They are Special!!! What fun it would be to have him around all the time, all the time, all the time!! “Mama, when is Big Daddy coming??!!” Mama interprets this as how much “the kids just love him!”

And, in case you can’t spot it on your own, here’s the big problem: A little kid has trouble distinguishing playtime from permanency.  He may come to think of himself as “special” to someone who is only actually using him as a tool to get to mama.  When Big Daddy disappears, kid is confused.  He can’t understand that he was only the bait—he wasn’t really special to that guy at all.  He is left to wonder.

And, don’t forget, mama has used her children as bait, too, to lure someone onto the stage to be assessed and perhaps to bond so that she can have a relationship.

It’s upsetting to me.  Can you tell?   Very poor parenting by people who are normally very good parents but find themselves desperate.

So, my client’s little kids must be wondering about this guy who used to be at the house almost every night for dinner and showered them at Chuck E. Cheese—where did he go?  If they were as special to him as all that he did with/for them, why is he suddenly gone?

It can be a sad, confusing world.

This post is my friend V’s fault.  When I spewed this out the other night at our BFF meeting, she said, “You have to post about this perspective.”  So, willing lecturer on/to society that I am, here it is.  My son now says he’ll never look at Chuck E Cheese the same again.  Blame V.  C

PS – There is an even darker side to the boyfriend/kid thing that is too lengthy to discuss here but I can’t help mentioning it.  Statistically, boyfriends are not the safest things to have your kids around, especially in a cohabitation situation.  But, as I said, that’s a whole ‘nother post.  Maybe someday…

PSS – I hate to pick on Chuck E Cheese.  My son had many a good time there, although “Beach Bear” scared the daylights out of him.  The fishing waters could actually be anything: the zoo, miniature golf…whatever showcases Big Daddy’s fathering skills, patience and largesse …it’s just that Chuck E. Cheese shows up so often…

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

V: Musings and Meanderings: I Wonder



I was thinking recently about the importance of friendship as I left a baby shower. We had such fun at the party; there were family and friends all together in one room, and the gregarious part of me enjoyed it all. Later that afternoon one of my co-workers and I visited another friend who was recuperating at home from a biopsy she had recently. I had a great time sharing a drink and meeting her family. I couldn't help but think how much fun heaven will be with fellowship that never ends and where there are no biopsies, or divorces or loss of any kind. I don't think heaven will be a boring place where people float around on clouds, playing harps--but I wonder - what will it be like? Will we have work to do, friends to visit?--My finite mind grapples with its limitations of understanding.




When life grabs me by the ankles and threatens to pull me under with defeat and despair, it is without fail my friends who I turn to. Believe me, the Lord hears my lamentations first, but I do believe that He provides us with treasured friends to help us cope with what life throws at us. When we are drowning in that sea of despair, it is our friends who throw us a lifeboat. It is they who I commiserated with over wayward children, they who offered wise counsel and advice and gifted me with their prayers.

See the photo below of my paternal great-grandmother Ada Cull Turner with her group of women friends. (She is in the front on the right side in the tiered dress). This photograph was probably taken sometime in the 1940's. I remember my mother telling me that my dad's grandmother had a circle of ladies she met with every week. Sometimes they played bridge or canasta. Often they would sew embroidery projects or do a spiritual study. But I suspect that they also commiserated over wayward children, offered wise counsel and advice and gifted each other with prayers.























Fast forward almost sixty years and see this photo of my group of friends at my friend Robbin's sons wedding last year.




Do you think that women today feel more freedom to share personal information with trusted friends? I wonder if there was more social stigma regarding personal problems that precluded openness and honesty with friends sixty years ago? A kind of sweeping the dirt under the rug and pretending everything was wonderful scenario? Maybe, but I don't think so. Today we struggle with substance abuse, divorce, and families alienated by technology, but our grandmothers faced childbirth fraught with many dangers, such as infants who often did not survive, epidemics that wiped out many family members.



My mother-in-law once told me that her parents had lost their first two children, a son age three and a two year old daughter in the same week. They died from dehydration during a flu epidemic. She said that her mother, could never speak of them without tears. A speaker at a women's retreat I attended told a similar story. Her mother had lost two children in one week from a flu epidemic, and was so ill herself that she could not attend their funerals. Her mother said that in the weeks that followed she numbly tried to tend her now quiet and empty home. One day as she stood at the kitchen sink looking out the window, she distinctly heard a voice say: "Kill yourself. You have nothing to live for". She discerned that it was the enemy of her soul, and she said that the evil presence was so real, that she turned and threw her dishtowel at it. Then she untied her apron and walked the block to her parent's house so she would not be alone. Without the support of friends and family, how did women hold onto their sanity and overcome despair?




I hate to end on a maudlin note, so I hope to encourage you with this: We are blessed who have trusted friends to share our lives with. Friendships enrich our lives and bring so much joy. Sharing the burdens of life with friends helps to make the unbearable, bearable. And finally, let me shout! If you are too busy to spend time with your friends and nurture these vital relationships, you are too busy!


So tell us, how have friends enriched your life?
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