Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Missing pieces

I've been gathering items for a garage sale. Well, technically, I guess it would be a yard sale since our garage is way back behind our house. I had decided that this Friday would be the perfect day. The weather should be beautiful, there is nothing else that I have to do, and I am SO ready to have this stuff out of here.

Then, out of the blue yesterday, I realized that I can't have it this Friday, or any other Friday in the foreseeable future because I would have to do it completely alone. No brief breaks to run in for a drink, the restroom, or lunch. No helpers available to fetch things or answer people. No company.

I keep forgetting that my kids aren't here anymore. I keep forgetting that although the guys--no longer boys--still live here, they are busy people. Patrick and Jonathan are gone all day every day during the week and Patrick is also gone most of the weekend. And Andrew, my nearly constant companion of the past 18 years, is now working about 40 hours a week between two jobs.

The change has happened gradually, and will continue. Two years ago Bethany got married and moved away. In the spring, Patrick will graduate and move out. In the fall Andrew will add college to his schedule and become even more of a phantom. I know that the changes are good and salutary, but that doesn't make them easy.

And, it doesn't make it any less difficult for me to figure out how I'm going to have a garage sale.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A little piece of my heart

I never gave much thought to what being a Grandmother would be like.
I just figured one day I would be, and that, of course, I would love whatever little people came along.
But, OH MY!

This little girl has a piece of my heart.
It goes with her when she goes back home with her mommy next week.
And I will be missing her like crazy, almost as much as I miss her mommy.

I hate it that she lives so far away, but even in that I am fortunate. 
I got to see her in August. I'm seeing her now. I will see her in October and November and December.
And I don't know exactly when or how, but I'm going to make sure that I see her in the winter, too.
And then I know that I will see her next spring when she welcomes her new brother or sister.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Well-rounded and hating it

When it was time for our oldest child to start high school, I played devil's advocate. I told her every wonderful thing about high school that I could think of. We discussed it a lot. She thought about it. And in the end she decided, to my great joy and immediate terror, that she wanted to continue homeschooling.

Her reason for that decision dovetails nicely with topic of my post. She knew that if she went to high school she would have lots of homework for classes that she wasn't even interested in and that this would cut into her time for the two things she really was interested in: playing the piano and reading.

She didn't want to be well-rounded. None of my children are particularly well-rounded. And I'm okay with that.

A friend recently linked to a blog post titled The argument against raising well-rounded kids. That piece is responsible for this post. Although that blogger is more career-focused and sees encouraging kids to focus on their strengths largely as a tool to build a more successful career, while I see it more as a means to live a satisfying and fulfilled life, I still found much in her piece that struck a chord.

I grew up well-rounded. I went to school and did well in all subjects. I played sports, and was mediocre or worse in all of them that I tried. I took piano for years, having neither the talent or passion to be good. I also took lessons in other instruments, voice, dance and gymnastics--for which my body could not have been less suited--even roller skating. Bless my mother's sweet heart, she was trying to find something that I was good at, something that would make my slightly chubby, bookish self happy. And I was, too.

Even though I already knew what made me happy. Reading. Writing . Playing with my friends. Reading some more. And more. And more. Writing letters to my friends and pen pals. And reading some more.

But what made me happy wasn't really an acceptable pursuit. Being smart, loving words, and loving to play with words wasn't enough. It wasn't a talent. So we searched. And when I hit high school I did what I was told to be the well rounded college prep student. I took math, even doubling up my sophomore year on Algebra 2 and Geometry to leave room for Calculus my senior year. I took Biology, Chemistry, Advanced Chemistry, and Physics. Because I was jumping through the college prep hoops, I couldn't fit in world history, which I would have loved, although I did get to take a one-semester philosophy class that is still one of my most memorable classes ever. Fortunately for me, English was required, and we had an excellent English department. I got to read real literature and quite a bit of it. I got up very early my freshman year to go to swim practice, because well-rounded people did sports. After three years of high school, I still had people pressuring me to go into engineering because that's what smart people should do. Why would I want to be a writer?

My senior year I finally rebelled. I had had good grades and was near the top of my class. I had the highest PSAT scores in the history of my school; getting into college and even getting money wasn't going to be a problem. I took English and government. I was editor of the yearbook. I dropped physics after one semester and I decided not to take calculus. I was a class officer. I read books, wrote, and spent a lot of time hanging out with my friends and my then-boyfriend, now-husband.

In college, I crashed and burned rather spectacularly. Nothing I wanted to do was practical. What was the point? I was lonely. I was removed from any support for my faith. I changed majors so many times that even I have lost count. I changed schools several times.

But what if from the age of 14 on I had been able to focus on what I was good at and what I was interested in? Would I be this person who still, at almost 50, doesn't know what she wants to be when she grows up? Would I be this person who can do lots of things, but as I seem to have been reminded frequently in recent weeks, none very well? And once a person, especially someone as ADD as I am gets in the habit of dabbling, can they get out?

My kids aren't well-rounded. I am glad. Bethany immersed herself in her books and music. She went to college to major in history and minor in music. She dropped the music minor after a while because it was too time-intensive, and she really doesn't enjoy performing, but she still gets a great deal of joy from her piano. She got perfect grades, aside from one B+, and could have gone on to grad school almost anywhere, but knew herself well enough to know that that wasn't really what she wanted. Now she's busy being a fabulous, happy, wife and mother.

Patrick is a reader and wordsmith. He is majoring in history and German with stellar grades. (One B+ there, too.) His depth and breadth of historical knowledge astounds me. His writing reflects the fact that growing up he immersed himself in good books. Whatever he decides to do he will do well, because he knows his own mind and is comfortable with who he is.

Jonathan is a singer. His teen years had the minimum of academic work necessary for college admission, but he sang with multiple choirs, took voice, and was in several productions with various groups, including two at the same time. He never could have done this if he were in school. He is not well-rounded. He is focused.

Andrew is the most like me in personality. Gregarious and out-going, he needs his social time, but he has also found his strength. He is skilled at, and enjoys, languages. He has learned Koine Greek well enough to help teach it. He has learned some Latin and German and intends to learn more. He is also very industrious and has had his first job for over a year and has now added a second. Both of his jobs are in the service industry, allowing him to use and hone his people skills and to socialize while at work.

Of course all kids need to be taught to read and write at a functional level. All kids need survival math. (If we taught math as a life skill it would go better, but that's another post.) But we do young people--and our society--a disservice by emphasizing well-roundedness, standards, college preparation, etc. We would all be much better off if from, about the time they hit double digits, we let our kids follow their passions and quit trying to shove them all into a few neatly labelled boxes.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Getting healthy

I'm sure I'm not the only one who cares about exercise, good nutrition, etc., in spurts. I'll do really well for a while. Then I'll fall back into bad habits. Or create new ones.

I was doing really well for a couple of years. I was eating a low-carb, low sugar diet that really made me feel great. As a bonus, I lost 27 pounds. Then my daughter got engaged. There were cakes to taste and food to plan. There were showers.

At the same time, we bought and started refurbishing a money pit.

And my husband started spending five days a week in another state.

And, then, there was leftover wedding cake.

I just never went back. Oh, for the most part I still ate better than I did before my low-carb, almost-no-sweets days, but I was giving in too often to weaknesses like crusty baguettes with homemade pesto, the Ragin Cajun's white chocolate bread pudding, and my various pasta creations. At the same time, I was drinking wine and beer more often.

So over the last two years the pounds have crept back on. I'm perilously close to where I started. And I have been feeling worse and worse. Stomach problems. Achy joints. General blergh.

Unfortunately, it has also become clear to me that my beloved coffee is a problem. My stomach just can't handle it. So I'm in the cutting-back-to-quit process. I'm also limiting alcohol to dinners out or get-togethers with friends. I've just finished my third day successfully low-carb. I have a kombucha starter from a friend. Each of these things is likely to help.

Why does it take so long to do the right things when we know that they will make us feel better?

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

I've got the bug

I've got it bad.

 First, there was the thick fall fashions edition of InStyle magazine.

Then there were three days walking around the mall while I watched my friend's one-year-old son. I'm having shoulder troubles, so pushing a happy baby in a stroller and sipping a cappuccino seemed like a good solution.

There are the crisp nights and sunny-but-not-hot days.

Then there are the several hours that I have spent sorting through clothes. I'm swapping out the white crops and sundresses for jeans and. . . ummmm. . . Where are my fall clothes?!

The realization that has hit me is that my fall wardrobe is pathetic. I have been paying tuition for kids in college for five years. Two years ago I had just spent my summer spending money in a manner that  felt, to me, reminiscent of the proverbial drunken sailor. Between our money pit of a house and having a wedding with 300 guests, there was nothing left. And then last fall I felt rotten and didn't feel like shopping, or going much of anywhere.

Add to that a 27-pound weight loss and a 15-pound regain in that time, and you see my problem.

I need to go shopping. I need to buy sweaters and white blouses and cute shoes. I need some jeans. I'd love a leather jacket; they are EVERYWHERE this year. Riding boots. Scarves. Something suede. Burgundy.

Oh, yeah. The bug has bitten hard.

Sunday, September 01, 2013


You probably have met Patrick, or at least know of him.
Patrick, trying to bring back dressing well, at a TinCaps game.

If you know me well, you've heard stories of Patrick's exploits in his younger years. But what you may not have heard about was what an adorably funny little kid he was.

My mother-in-law would sometimes write down things he said, because he cracked her up. Tonight, she emailed them to me. What a treasure! So for your enjoyment, I give you Patchyisms.
(This is copied exactly as I received it. For reference, Patrick was born late in the summer of 1990.)
Preschool: Patrick told the teacher, “Leave me alone. I’m doing my business.”
Age 3: None of that mushy stuff.”
December, 1994:
Carrying a pair of knitting needles, Patrick said, “Grandma, these are very dangerous chopsticks.”
Mar. 1995: Patrick told Ruth Ann, “Your daughter is a very bad mother. She told me I have to clean my room before I do anything else.”
Patrick was discussing his Dad’s golf game:  I said that his dad probably couldn’t beat Scott [the golf pro] but that his dad could do lots of things that Scott couldn’t do. Patrick thought a minute and said, “Yes, he’s a very good mower.”
Riding with us to Lafayette: “I have the hiccups. Grandpa’s driving too fast.”
To Pete [his grandma's dog who wouldn't do what he wanted]: Patchy’s counting to 3—1 ,2,3
November, ’93: Shannan [Patrick's aunt] told Patrick that he could stay with her when he was bigger, so the rest of the day, he kept asking Jane if he looked bigger.
“Bethany [his sister] is a bad boy.”