Tuesday, August 23, 2016

LESSONS FROM THE HEART

As grandmas go I'm pretty quiet about my grandkids.   It's not that I don't adore them; I do.  It's not that I don't absolutely know with all my heart that they are the most intelligent, advanced, kind-hearted, cutest children on the face of the earth; of course they are.  It's definitely not that I don't have about a million photos of them on my i-Phone ever at the ready to show; I do.

It's just that I'm aware that all other grandparents feel exactly the same and it soon becomes an exercise in one-upping or grandkid tales ad-nauseum.  The reality is, almost ALL kids are cute and smart and (barring significant developmental delays)  get teeth, learn to walk, say some words, eat with a spoon, go to school, get an A, ride a bike, make a friend, go on a date, find a job, etc etc. until they are all grown up and start to corner people at parties with stories and photos of their own grandkids.  Me and mine are not that special, except in the way that everyone is special and everyone deserves to be loved and cherished as much as grandkids are.

I see a lot of my granddaughters.  We live close by and Hub and I care for our 18 mo old "Jewel" two days a week.  So we see our almost seven year old "Angel" on those days too during drop off and pick up time. We host a family dinner about once a week and we generally take the girls overnight once a month so their parents get a break to reconnect on "date night".

Two separate weeks this summer we had "Angel" several hours a day with us when she was pulled from her full-time daycare camp to attend other activities -- a theater camp and an art camp -- that we encouraged as "enrichment activities" supporting and transporting her there and back.  We had her before and after these morning "camps" and got to do lots of fun and hopefully memorable things together -- visits to the library, parks, shopping, restaurants, sprinkler play, crafts, gardening, concerts, a steady stream of meals and snacks and smoothies and treats, etc etc.

One afternoon last week Angel and I walked to the park while Hub stayed home with Jewel.  Hub and I felt the girls needed a bit of time apart and we needed a rest from the full onslaught of chaos that sometimes ensues when the two of them want our undivided attentions and have needs that sometimes mesh and sometimes diverge, given their age differences.

I was tired.  I wanted to sit on a bench.  Angel wanted me to play hide and seek or tag with her.  I declined, instead encouraging her to show me how good she was on the monkey bars or balancing on the tippy bridge; anything but me running around like a six year old in the wood chips.  She was disappointed.  I tried to point out that I do lots of fun things with her, but I'm just not a fan of tag and hide and seek.  Her silence hit a nerve and I got defensive, "I do LOTS of fun things....don't I?"  She was quiet, and finally said, "Well, you play Go Fish."  That was it.  That was all she could come up with in the moment.

I wanted to laugh, but instead I could feel tears welling in my eyes.  It was reminiscent of how hard I worked at parenting her daddy and uncle, most of it going unrecognized and unacknowledged.  Such is the plight of adults in children's lives.  Angel meant absolutely no offense; she just wanted to play tag and there were no other kids around so Grandma was the obvious playmate choice.  She was easily persuaded to let me "spot" her on the high monkey bars, cheering her on, and steadying her on the dismount.  We high-fived her Olympic caliber performance.  In the end we had fun.  But it gave me pause.

So often what we offer our kids and grandkids can only be done through a generosity of heart; a gift that may or may not be appreciated in the moment, or in a lifetime.  I wish my own mother was here now for me to thank for all the things I took for granted, didn't appreciate, or ignored; the things that I know now, in my own experience, were true heart gifts that netted her little reward.

The day after the playground interaction Angel retired to the "Girls Room" -- a spare bedroom we've turned into a play space for them -- to color.  I was puttering around in the kitchen when she came out with this envelope for me, containing this drawing.  Tears welled again.  With love, gratitude, appreciation, and recognition of the overwhelming sweetness of the moment.  This gift was as quickly offered and forgotten by Angel as the comment of the previous day when it was hard for her to come up with anything fun I do with her.

Children live in the moment, which may be the best lesson they can teach us.  Hold not tightly to a perceived slight; always appreciate thanks when it comes.  Instead of tales of accomplishment, success, or milestones achieved by most every kid, these are the things to cherish, the lessons to learn.  They are quieter and don't often lend themselves to a photo stream.   It's hard to capture the essence of human spirit -- its challenges and joys -- in a snapshot.  But if you hang around kids long enough, you'll learn the lesson anyway.  Pass it on.

At least, that's the view from here...©

Thursday, August 11, 2016

HIGH ALERT

Hub wears earplugs to bed every night.  I find this appalling.  First, I don't snore, he does.  So what's he blocking out?  It's not like we live in the heart of a major metropolitan area with screaming sirens, car alarms, and drunken hooligans roaming the streets all night.  Well, maybe we do hear those things off in the not too distant distance, along with freight trains and Port noise, screeching seagulls and  barking sea lions; OK, it can get a wee bit noisy.  But I used to think it was just his convenient way of blocking out crying babies.

I would never, ever wear earplugs to bed.  There is just so much I have to be aware of 24/7.  Those babies back in the day were Job-One of course, but also sick kids, sneaky teenagers, dog needing to go out, the occasional car driving by (suspicious!  we live on a quiet street!  there is NO reason for a car to have to drive by!),  distant thunder, wind through the branches, house creaks (why, oh why?), bad guys breaking in....  You know the usual dead-of-night stuff one must be aware of.

But even with his earplugs in, at least I can shake him awake if I have an auditory concern and say,
"Did you hear that?!?"  (No, of course he didn't!)  It's when he's not here that the problem arises.  My little bitty anxiety disorder kicks in and my hearing becomes like that of the Greater Wax Moth -- galleria mellonella.  (The animal world's best hearer; I looked it up.)  I hear everything, some of it real. 

I tell myself the neighborhood is no scarier in the dark than in the light of day and I know that to be true, intellectually!  But my reptilian brain wants me to be on high alert because sometime in the distant evolutionary past they didn't have home security systems that connect directly into the police department.   But that is of only limited reassurance, because my hyperactive Worry Wart Amygdala decides to perseverate on the fact that the alarm might go off and then what?!?  That would be super scary!  Let's get scared in anticipation of the scare just so we're super ready to be scared!  (See what I mean about the little bitty anxiety disorder?  This is the kind of game it likes to play.)

I try to calm myself with the knowledge that the woman down the street is, if not older, at least slower than I and she seems very confident living alone.  I'm not sure what her issue is, but for awhile she had a walker and now doesn't -- I'm thinking some sort of joint replacement surgery -- but I'm still more fleet of foot.  I know she too has an alarm system, but when she described it to me, I got alarm system envy because she has cameras apparently mounted everywhere, like Fort Knox or Alcatraz.  I know those are old and maybe closed down places (yes to Alcatraz; no to Ft. Knox -- I looked it up)  that probably don't have cameras so much as barbed wire, but there might be zoning violation about barbed wire in my neighborhood, I don't know.  Anyway, that many cameras could be cool to monitor.  I bet I might catch the critter who is eating all my bush beans!  My gardener friends are thinking either deer or rabbits are stalking my raised beds under cover of darkness and with the right infrared camera I'd nail them cold!  I digress.

Fortunately Hub doesn't go away that often and as already mentioned, he's pretty useless to me even when he's here with those earplugs in and his sleepy-making allergy medicine onboard.  He has an alarm clock that gets progressively louder the longer it beeps.  There are times it's at full volume before he rouses.  And there was the one time our burglar alarm really did go off (triggered by someone opening a door before disarming the system), the siren screaming at one million decibels and he didn't hear it!  

How can someone purposely make themselves deaf in the dark of night.  That's just wrong.  I say, "All senses! Take your battle stations!  It's 2 a.m. and we have a job to do!"

At least, that's the view from here...©





Saturday, August 6, 2016

SHARED GRIEF

I'm just now getting around to writing about this, a week after the shocking news of three young people killed 10 miles from where I live, and a fourth young man gravely wounded.  The shooter was a classmate of all of them when they were in high school, the former boyfriend of the young woman killed.  All were 18-19 years old and in their first years of college;  all of life ahead of them and by all accounts talented, gifted, vibrant individuals.  I'm just now writing about this because writing about it sooner would have made it too real.  I just couldn't believe it.

The story is that the shooter broke up a couple of months ago with the young woman he killed.  She began dating other guys.  He wanted to reconcile and was jealous.  There was a gathering of a bunch of friends at a private residence in the small, quiet waterfront town where they lived.  It was not unusual for this family to open their large home to these kids who were well-behaved and just having fun together.  (My younger son, when he was in high school had good friends in that community, his best friend in fact, and hung out at their homes at parties and gatherings just like that one.  I could picture him there, on a similar summer night, having fun with his buddies.)

At about midnight, the shooter showed up.  He saw his ex-girlfiend with another guy, returned to his car to read the instruction manual for the Ruger semi-automatic rifle and two 30 round magazines he had purchased days before and returned to the party to shoot his ex-girlfriend.  He did, as well as three others before finally fleeing the scene.  The girl and two boys died there.  A third boy was wounded and taken to a Seattle trauma center in serious condition.  A community woke up last Saturday morning to this shocking news.  It had happened again.  It had happened here.

I've been reading about the kids who were killed.  There has been less written about the shooter other than that his parents are devastated and remorseful.  I can't even imagine their shock and grief.  He was apprehended a couple of hours later driving south of Seattle, making frantic cell calls to out of state friends.  (Police were able to pinpoint his location based on cell tower "pings" off his phone - technology can be a good thing.)  He basically confessed to everything and gave the police a chronology of his actions.  I don't know what kind of defense they will mount for him, but I heard he's entering a "not guilty" plea.  The law baffles me at times.

What I haven't said yet is that I know the father of the boy who was wounded.  He is engaged to a friend I've known for 20 years.  We've socialized with them and I met his son last December at a gathering at their home.  It is unbelievable that my friends are party to this, are devastated by this,   are unhinged and disbelieving about this.  Fortunately the young man is recovering from his physical wounds.  The bullets shattered his shoulder blade, likely saving his life, since the doctors say had it hit anywhere else he would likely have been killed.  His physical wounds will heal.  But how does anyone ever heal emotionally and psychically from seeing and hearing your best friends being killed, the screams from others at the gathering, the horror of the carnage left behind?    I know my friends and they are wise, compassionate, resourceful people with a huge support system.  They will do all they can to help this young man regain his strength and heart.  But such a tragedy, such an experience can never be fully overcome, can it?

I will say it now.  Had this troubled young man, the shooter, not had a gun in his hand, four lives would have been saved.  Kids fall hard in love at that age.  They have limited experience with break-ups and moving on.  Their brains are not fully formed.  They say and do stupid things.  They need time to live and learn and find perspective.  I would guess that "back in the day" this kid might have shown up to find his ex-girlfriend with another guy and maybe caused a scene.  There might have been yelling, pushing, shoving, maybe a punch thrown.  But I can't believe three people would have been killed in a pique of jealous rage.  And the shooter himself maybe would have walked away defeated, embarrassed, bereft for awhile.  But he wouldn't be facing a possible death sentence at worst, a long prison sentence at best, at the age of 19.  The families of all of these kids, those killed and wounded and those of the boy who did the shooting, wouldn't be torn apart by an unending grief.

A 19 year old can't legally buy a beer, but he legally walked into a store somewhere and buy a semi-automatic rifle.  He bought the second magazine for it the very day he killed his friends.  There is something very wrong with this scenario.  It is impossible to overstate how much I hate the gun culture we live in, how ridiculous I feel it is that so many people walk around armed, how the gun lobby has hamstrung our Congress to the point that common sense gun laws are stalled at every turn.  The CDC is prevented from researching the effects of gun violence; pediatricians are forbidden to ask parents of children whether they have a gun in the home and how it is secured.  We have a public health epidemic of gun violence in our communities and we are doing almost NOTHING about it.  It's harder to get a driver's license and maintain a car than to buy and use a gun.

I've joined Mother's Demand Gun Sense in America, associated with Everytown for Gun Safety, USA.  Mom's Demand was organized by an Indianapolis mother the day after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.  It has grown to have chapters through the U.S.  I hope to join (or start) a chapter in my county.  This has to end.

At least, that's the view from here...©








Friday, August 5, 2016

ITERATING TO SUCCESS

I'm trying to figure out how to fit all the self-improvement activities into my life that I need to do to live out my remaining days upright and cognitively engaged in reality.  Both of those things are goals I've been grasping for my entire life, but at 65-1/2 I see the horizon fast approaching and while they say "It's never too late", that's a lie.  Sometimes it really is too late.  (I like adding the half-birthday thing in my age because it makes me feel like a 5 year old when stretching to the next age was exciting.  Now I don't think it's exciting so much as a testament to "made it through another six months...yay me!")

Whenever Hub goes away I'm like a teenager left home alone.  I am completely lazy, hang out with my friends 'til all hours (some nights close to 8:00 p.m.!), watch way too much TV (mostly MSNBC and Frankie and Grace on Netflix, but still...), scroll through Facebook and read every political post, wander aimlessly around my house and gardens, and do absolutely nothing I said I'd do -- until the last possible moment.

For example, today I plan to unpack about 6 boxes of books that got put away in May when we had our floors refinished.  Some will continue to live in my house and others will go to book Heaven -- where I will sell their angelic souls to Half Price Books and live off my earnings.  It's the least those books can do for me.  They nearly bankrupted me with their original purchase prices.  I also need to do some weeding, pruning, laundry, bird feeder cleaning, banking, bill paying, dusting and vacuuming.  Additionally I have a date to do a Staycation Craft Day with one of the Shiny Sisters before we take off for a retirement party for the other Shiny Sister late this afternoon.  (I've written about this trio before:  http://myviewfromhere-donna.blogspot.com/2016/06/words-that-actually-came-from-my-mouth.html.)  I'm sure it will be easy-breezy to accomplish this list today.

But when will I fit in my Yoga Practice?  Weight Training?  Walking/Aerobic Activity?  Brain Games? Meditation Practice?  Massage Therapy?  Drinking 8 glasses of water?  Cooking organic, non-GMO, fresh foods from scratch that I purchase at the Farmer's Market?  Flossing?!?

It's no wonder that good intentions are drowned by a wave of responsibilities.  But I go back to the "Not that much more time to get my shit together" admonition and realize that I maybe could use my aimless wandering time to better benefit.

Every time I, or someone I know, has a health scare (more and more frequently, it seems) I make a solemn vow to do better at taking care of myself and being a support and example to my friends.  Yet it is so hard to sustain that resolution.  Then, along comes this book (yes, first make time to read yet another self-help book) called "Well Designed Life -- 10 Lessons in Brain Science and Design Thinking for a Mindful, Healthy, and Purposeful Life" by Kyra Bobbinet, MD MPH  It's brilliant!  Full of science-y information on how our brains work to sabotage our efforts and how to override that default.  Full of practical baby steps ideas for being successful in achieving our goals.  And a paradigm shift in thinking that affirms that no new behavior can take hold overnight -- she says it may take up to ONE YEAR to make a new habit sort of automatic (throwing out that old "3 weeks to a new you" trope) but still there will be an inner struggle, maybe forever, and you just get better at winning.

I've just sat here and made yet another list of the "things I should do to be healthier in mind and body".  I'm going to have that list beside me when I re-read Well Designed Life.  I will prioritize the list and "iterate" my way forward with maybe the top three self-improvement strategies.  (Sorry, flossing, but I'm already paying a hygienist to take care of that.)  The whole idea of "iterating" is so great.  She says you can't do it all in one fell swoop; but you can make a plan and then tweak the plan as you go to make it more realistic and doable.  You "iterate"just like a designer for consumer products -- each design improvement theoretically moves closer to an ideal until you finally have something that actually works for most of the people most of the time.  Iterating!  (I think I also like staying that word.)

I'm going to stand up now and close my laptop, walk to the kitchen and pour a big glass of water, head out to the garden and pull some weeds and ignore everything else cuz I've got crafting to do!  But hey!  I just iterated myself into walking away from the computer, drinking at least one glass of water, and getting one "to do" thing off the list!  I friggin' rock at this!

At least, that's the view from here...©