A Mommy Blog About Raising Men, Not Boys.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Word Up

Words are powerful. Words are meaningful. Words cause me to make note of people, whether it's because they've said something interesting or because they've said something intensely stupid. Words are generational. The meaning of words can change, ebb and flow. Words can hurt. Words can empower.

Words are amazing.

Miles like to watch shows on YOUTUBE and he's forever calling up show's I've forgotten, such as this weekend it was FIREMAN SAM. It's sort of a silly show about a small island with one child who must be taught the boy who cries wolf story every single week. But Miles seems to like it. This weekend, Julia discovered it and sat to watch several episodes.

I've never really put a lot of consideration or worry into titles with gender qualification. FIREMAN is what we said when I was little. I don't believe it means you have to be a MAN. The name of the show is exactly FIREMAN SAM because it's an older show.

What amazed me, interested me was Julia who told me she was watching Firefighter Sam.

Now we've all said firefighter in the world for a long time. I KNOW women who are firefighters and I don't think twice about that word either. I am sure it's meaningful to the women who do that job, but for me I guess I've always been rather neutral.

We sat and talked about firefighters. Do firefighters do this, do firefighters do that? Can I be  a firefighter? Why are only boys firefighters on that show? I'm going to be a firefighter.

That's when it hit me. She has never lived in a world where fireMAN was a thing. The word fireMAN didn't register with her even. It's firefighter. It's gender neutral. She recognized it was off that there were only boys being firefighters. She doesn't live in a world where that makes sense.

It made me really happy.

I am just not sure she can wear that crown with her bunker gear...

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Political Diversions

"A lady doesn't hate things, a lady says 'I don't care for that.'" is a quote that rings in my mind almost daily. It applies to a lot of situations, and the verbiage doesn't have to be exact. There are so many times I want to say FUCK THAT FUCKING SHIT but somehow manage to mumble a more socially acceptable "No, thank you." or possibly even a "None for me, thank you." These phrases cost me nothing, and they allow me to communicate in a civil fashion with people.

My grandmother was the stickler for that phrase. She'd drop the N word at her leisure, she'd whisper the word cancer and refer to all Catholics as "Damned Catholics". That same woman was a walking how-to manual of social graces. If she was a bad person behind closed doors, she knew how to behave as a human being and at least PRETEND to be well mannered and polite in front of others.

I'm not saying that it's great that she pretended to be a nice person. I'm pretty confident that the people who weren't in keeping with her thoughts knew she was kind of an asshole. It really wasn't a big secret.

Both of my grandparents were very politically active during my childhood. If you want to know HOW politically active, I can tell you that I didn't understand for years that all kids didn't go hand out buttons at the polls. That was a thing back then. As people walked out you handed them a button, a nail file (no really), a hand fan, some sort of geegaw with your candidates name on it. I'm guessing, in reflection, that the adults knew who to give them to because it was a small town and you knew how people had voted because no one was shy about their political affiliation.

Being a Republican or Democrat weren't fighting words. Nor were they an indictment of your character. We didn't openly insult one another, scream obscenities or malign people based on whether or not they voted this way or that. We didn't feel a need to beat our chest about it either, other than a rather copious amount of yard signs and bumper stickers which my grandmother seemed to have quite the penchant for. Surely there were disagreements in policy, spending, taxes, etc. But the truth was that back then, how you voted was like where you went to church - everyone did it and nobody felt any need to fight about it.

The neighbors next door to my grandparents were democrats. Two doors down were Republicans. Across the street were CATHOLICS (can you believe it?). On the other side of them were PRESBYTERIANS. (I know - can you believe this diversity?) My point is, however, not once did I ever hear any of those people described that way. Never (Wait maybe the Damned Catholics though). We'd have huge block parties all together, and no one fought. No one argued or called names or lost their minds because someone was different than them. They talked sports, they talked local events, they talked families and music and movies.

They were friends.

A lot of my friends aren't voting the way I am going to vote this election. I don't really care. Some people are spending a lot of time and energy blasting their points of view on Facebook and other social media. My question would be this, why? You're voting for X? Cool. You enjoy that. I'm serious. ENJOY your vote. YOU get to vote. It's America. We get to VOTE here. 21 states in the Union don't use the popular vote to guide their electors so if you live in one of those states, your vote is just a PR move anyway - sorry. But it's a right and it's important.

But when you constantly blast negative words, hateful words, based on news reports that aren't real, based on sources that aren't verified or are being misquoted, I'm quietly just questioning why your'e behaving this way. You aren't swaying anyone. The people who agree with you, like those who thought my grandmother was completely ok with dropping the N word and hating Catholics, think you're great.

The rest of us kind of think you're an asshole.

I think the world could use more social graces. Your constant blathering and frothing at the mouth about this or that candidate doesn't further your cause or make you or your party look better - NONE of them. I can understand why statements by some candidates give you pause, or even cause you to feel some really negative things because some sort of insanely negative things have been said. Hateful things have been said. I understand being upset, on lots of different sides. What I can't understand is hateful bigotry, misogyny, and blindly accepting misinformation because it fits in with your preconceptions of X.

I'd love to know what music you're listening to, what books you have read, and what's bringing you joy. What are your kids doing and are you having a good hair day? I'll take a repost of silly memes any day over the faux-informed political ranting that seems to have taken over the world.

Frankly, I don't care for that.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Windmills and Cornfields

One year ago I had the adult responsibility of driving from Chicago to Indianapolis on the occasion of the death of my father. I hadn't made that drive in more than 20 years, but it was one I could do without GPS and without much thought.  The stretch of land between Chicago and Indiana was flattened by glaciers marching south one foot a day, about 16,000 years ago.
I can't remember how to get voice mail off my phone but I remember this nugget. My brain is so bizarre.
The view south has been unchanging for my entire life with huge swaths of farmland as you head south, more industrial Gotham landscapes as you head north. The farmland was what brought our family there after the revolutionary war. Every time I have ever made that drive I've been cocooned in that familiar comfortable feeling of home. I'm with my tribe, these flatlanders are mine.
As I drove last year, however, in northern Indiana I was amazed at what I saw - WIND TURBINES.

There were hundreds, maybe thousands dotting the landscape across the northern land of Hoosiers on either side of interstate 65. I stopped for gas and walked out to the edge of a fence to see what they were like.

What were they like? They were like magic. They sing. Perhaps hum is more appropriate. I stood there listening to them, watching them creak and turn in the wind and thinking how amazing it was that something like this had cropped up across these fields.

I wondered if my Dad had ever seen them. He would've thought that they were really amazing. His childlike wonder with things like this could be very endearing.

I have had intermittent moments of sadness and brief tears for my dad. It feels unfair, unkind, that I wouldn't keen and mourn for him as I did my mom. Sometimes I feel like it's because Mom's death was so unfair, so preventable, and there was a FIX and she was denied it because she was too weak for it. But Dad's world unraveled so fast and terribly after January of 2015 that truly, most of the year my heart knew it would've been better for him to have dropped dead from the heart attack.

It was what he would have preferred to be certain.

365 days ago exactly I stood beside a plowed under field, next to a gas station, and felt wonder at how amazing the world can be. When there were such beautiful things in the world as windmills that sing across the farmlands of northern Indiana there was no way for me to feel despair or lost in the world.

Nearly every day since has been like this. Not every one. But many of them. The future is an amazing place and I'm looking forward to everything. Especially the singing windmills.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Numerous and Belligerent

I have a cadre of friends in this life that are of various sorts. The thing that they all have in common is that the real ones are unmistakable, like a welcome albatross that I wouldn't part with no matter how smelly or terrible it became.
A real friend is still your friend even if he asks you to a dance and you opt to go with someone else because, as you tell him, Person X asked me first and I'm afraid he'll be really sad if I don't say yes and you're really good looking - you can FIND a date. That real friend not only forgives you when you toss a card from your locker at him and say "Hey, I got this for your birthday but forgot to give it to you." - that same friend will then give that card BACK to you on your own birthday. That same friend is STILL your friend if you had a habit in high school if ignoring him when you had boyfriends, even though he might yell at you about it later. A lot. You had it coming though, so it's OK. It sounded something like "YEAH I LETTERED IN SWIMMING BUT YOU DIDN'T KNOW THAT BECAUSE YOU WERE GOING STEADY WITH SIMON AND NO ONE ELSE EXISTED." That's actually verbatim, but to be fair I think wine coolers were involved.
My own children set up a watch post on our porch today to wait for the much loved, much exalted Uncle Fred. Falling into the category of Family I Choose, Uncle Fred is a magical being who sends Hot Chocolate treats for Christmas and who sweeps in every year at least for lunch and cuddles with my short humans.
If you went to high school with us, chances are high we gossip about you. Sorry, we did that then too. We're kind of bitchy. We probably say nice things. Unless you're a loser. Then you know, we shake our heads - and call you a loser. It sounds something like "...and then he decided to be a loser and I haven't heard from him."

Every person I'm "friends" with isn't this sort of friend, but my real friends - the ones whose funerals I will go to or who will go to mine, who I will or did cry when their parents die(d) because they are like my own family, they are a precious commodity. I don't have to question who I am in their lives, if they care, or if I matter to them. When I'm with them, I'm reminded of who I am. It's easy to forget who you are sometimes as a parent of four, two of whom are special needs. In fact when I'm with them I'm more myself than I was before they arrived.
Real friends aren't hard to spot in the world. I think that sometimes it's easy to confuse people you spend time with, with friends. People who seek you out, who care how you are, and who GET you are your friends. All those sappy memes floating around Facebook about "what real friends are" and "removing toxic people" are pretty spot on. They're sappy as shit. But they're also pretty spot on. Humans are flawed and can be horrible. But even the most flawed humans can be amazing friends, if they're real.

Not Fred of course, that son of a bitch is perfect. :)

I'm on this course of thought today mainly because I got to spend a few hours with this guy who once gave me the Millennium Falcon in 8th Grade and I love him as much as can be. But also because one of my favorite authors has been going through the ringer with a best friend, a not real friend that disguised himself as something true. Watching her write about the devolution of the closest relationship of her life has given me pause in all my relationships, and made me hold the real ones closer in my brain. It's a sick condition that so often other people's misfortune gives us reason to appreciate what we have, but it's true. I work on trying to appreciate things for their value - not just because they aren't the bad alternative.

But I too, am a flawed human.

I am truly the luckiest person in the world. My friends are amazing, numerous and belligerent. I love them all.