Monday, August 15, 2016

Adoption and the Olympics

I have been watching the Olympics and enjoying all my favorite events. (which is basically anything except water polo!)  I especially adore gymnastics and have loved watching the women's team this year. They are a dominating force and the routines leave me breathless with awe.  I am also pretty excited about the racial diversity on our team.  In a sport that was pretty much dominated caucasians, we have 2 blacks and a hispanic on our winning team. There are a two caucasians but the demographic of the team is startlingly different from previous years.

However what is not different is the media frenzy surrounding Simone Biles and her adoption story.  I have watched this unfold and it is painful at so very many levels.  First off, I am feeling very very badly for Simone herself.  Her personal life is out there for public dissection in every conceiveable way.  Adoptive parents are rallying around the "we are the real parents" banner.  First mothers are rallying around the "first families are forgotten" camp.  Foster parents and foster alums are weighing in.  All come with their own stories which color their perspectives.  And all i see is a young woman whose amazing gymnastic abilities and achievements are somehow incredibly being second fiddle to her very personal adoption/family story.

I want to be very clear that I wholeheartedly respect first families.  They are my kids family.  They have become my family, because we all love the same people.  And we all want what is best for the kids and we have learned from each other and we value each other.  I personally feel the portrayal of Simone's first mother in the press is cold and painful.  No one needs the labels that this woman has endured.  And if she is as she stated, sober for many years, it's even worse.  People make mistakes, sometimes horrible ones.  If we are lucky, and have a dose of common sense, we have an opportunity to learn from those mistakes.  I feel that the media is not giving Shannon Biles that chance. And the media circus could derail any opportunity in the future for Simone and Shannon to have a relationship should they wish to develop it.

Does this mean I don't support her adoptive parents?  No, of course not.  Her grandparents stepped up and they have clearly done a great job raising an amazing young woman.  The fact that Simone calls them mom and dad bothers me not a whit.  Kids choose what they want to call the people who love them. Also most kids have a nearly desperate need to fit in. I can see these factors playing into Simone's decision to call them that.  I have kids that call their first moms Mom.  I have kids that call their first mom's Mom followed by their first name)  I have kids that call their first mom by their first name.

It has never been my decision what to call their mom. It has been theirs.  I am happy being one of the moms. I am happy being lucky enough to be the mom that gets to kiss them goodnight, hear about their day and make memories on a daily basis with them.

Let's let amazing athletic achievements be the thing we watch and talk about.  Let's let these fine young people have a personal life this isn't dissected and the source of media sound bites.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

High Summer

It has been a hot summer, hotter than our area of the country has had in a number of years. And the driest summer since 2001 or something wild like that.  There are water restrictions and  even I, lover of perpetual sun, get the need for rain.

But when today dawned another hot bright sunny day, we decamped to a beach about 30 minutes from our home.  My wife was actually supposed to lead an event there for the church that she works for. No one showed, but we all had a fabulous time there.  The lake deepens very gradually and it is a quiet beach.  Even with the heat we have had it was far from crowded.  I could have stayed there all day--literally.  I think though that I am programmed this way.  When I was a child we spent almost every day at a lake beach and were there literally almost all day.  We would go after breakfast, go home for lunch and then go back in the afternoon.  If it was really super hot, we could almost always talk my mom into an evening swim as well.

My wife doesn't really love beaches though, and in particular despises sand, so I felt blessed to have the couple of hours there with her. Usually it is me there alone with the kids and while I don't mind that, it is definately special to me when she is there.

Summer is fleeing by far too quickly for me.  In a couple of weeks I will take the littles and their friend B camping for 4 days. We will be with other friends as well so it will be a passle of kids who will have a blast together.  But then, except for our church camping weekend in mid September, that will be it.  The season so eagerly awaited, so lovingly planned during cold dark winter nights, it will be over.  (cue sad music here)

I've seen a few red swamp maple leaves and while I tell myself it is water stress, it is likely that it is August.  The robins have decamped and the crickets now sing with the frenzy that I associate with late high summer nights.  They too, know time is finite for this season.

Though summer is busy, it is in many ways less structured than the rest of the year.  I have time to work out with my friends instead of having to rise early to do the train run with Rob.  Meals are relaxed.  We've had picnics and ice cream for supper nights.  Bed times are later.  Rob has had a lot of time to hang out with his friends after work, getting home after 2 on many nights.  That will sadly have to change during the school year and I expect that the realization of a 6 a.m. train has not come to the forefront of his mind yet!

So for now, I will enjoy the last vestiges of this most beautiful of seasons.   I will drink in every opportunity, admiring our gardens, parched though they may be, creating memories to warm me when the chilly winds and dark evenings come.

Monday, July 11, 2016


Last night on the internet I stumbled upon something new to me.  A live streaming of a BLM vigil in the Big City nearest to our home.  I watched for a bit to try and hear the speaker.  The sound quality was beyond bad and I could not hear almost anything she was saying. I was just about to click off in frustration when I noticed that comments also get posted in real time with the live streaming.

I watched in legit horror at the hatred that spewed from those comments, up the screen of my monitor.  Comments that the speaker had time to do this because she was on welfare. Comments that all lives matter.Derogatory comments about the charge to blacks to try to economically impact whites by going to black owned businesses. Comments that people should just do what police say and nothing will go wrong.  (news flash, you need to add if you are white to that last one folks--just ask the family of Phil Castile.) And there was more.  Much more. So much hatred I can not dignify it with reiterating it here. They flew so fast I could not even respond to a specific post, because it was gone in a flash, replaced by another equally as appalling.

How is it possible to hate so much?  How is it possible not to see people as people.   How can there be any hope for justice when so many people buy in to stereotypes and racist rhetoric.  These injustices and killings can not be stopped if whites are going to look the other way.  We have a disproportionate amount of power.  We need to, and we must, be agents for change and justice.  We need to listen to our black friends, neighbors, sisters and brothers, and support their efforts at change. Our children, our country, and our future need this.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

And Again. . .

48 hours and 2 more black men murdered.  I am probably the most positive person on the planet.  "Sail your ship with positivity" has been laughingly declared by my family to be my personal motto.  But I have no positivity tonight.  I have anger. I have fear.  I have an overwhelming sense of helplessness.

The repeated unwarranted killing of people of color keeps replaying like some bizarre twisted version of that old movie Ground Hog Day.  And I don't know what to do.  I don't know what to do to keep my children safe.  I literally don't go to sleep till I know Rob is home from work.  I have turned this into my reading time and I do enjoy that. But keeping things honest?  I am worried that something would happen and i would not know till there was a knock on the door.  I don't want to miss a call, a text, a chance to try and help if the need arose.

I worry that my kids, despite my oft repeated dictates of what to do if an officer stops, will push the envelope.  They are good kids. But they are kids.  At Rob's age, despite all my comments to the contrary, he is sure he is immortal.  I was his age.  I was once immortal too.  But I am white.  And while I have faced discrimination in regards to my gender or sexual identity, I have not been targeted the way people of color are.  I don't have to worry about DWB.

In a rather shocking wake up call I recently watched a video to share to my son's wall on how to make it home alive if a POC is pulled over by the police.  One of the tips?  Keep your license and registration on the dash or the visor or the cup holder.  Reaching for a wallet can be interpreted as reaching for a weapon.  In my white privilege world,I can keep those two items where ever I choose as long as I can reach them from the drivers seat of my vehicle.  My questions to police officers when I am pulled over are answered with courtesy as long as I ask with courtesy.  (disclaimer:  I received my first moving violation in 25 years because I got wildly confused at a round about over Memorial Day weekend.)  I honestly had to ask the officer what I did wrong as I knew speed was not a factor.

Will the video save his life?  I have no idea.  All I can do is try and that feels so much like tilting at windmills these days.

I am frightened by the fact that I can't come up with an action plan.   This is so systemic and so big, I can't figure out what to do to help change to come about. I am not a stick my head in the sand kind of gal.  But Facebook meme's are woefully inadequate.  Roll calls of the killed scroll through my feeds. I worry that someday one of my kids, or one of my extended family will be on the internet with a "Say their name, don't forget" tag.    But the pictures, the stories, most woefully the same,  somehow this is not scrolling through the minds and hearts of people who do have the power.

I was brought up to respect officers of the law.  And I know many officers in the city I live and work in.  I like them. I respect them.  But I look at them and wonder what they will see if my son walking home from work at midnight.  I am tired of dash cams going silent, body cams mysteriously loosening and not filming.  I am tired of  reading the dirt that gets thrown into the fray after every shooting.  Rap sheets from years past, as if prior mistakes justify death today.

I actually don't even know how to finish this post, that's how saddened and fearful my spirit is at this moment.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Long Weekend in Review

My cup overflows with happiness.  This was a GLORIOUS long weekend for us. It started with being able to leave work 2 hours early on Friday.  Typically when we get "early release" something happens and I can't leave.  By some weird miracle, this time, I was out the door at 2:05!  This gave me time to chat with my wife before she left for work.  Time together for us is treasured.  We work opposite hours from each other a lot of the time.  In large part, this serves our family well as one of us is always around to meet the needs of our brood.  But it also means carving out relationship time has to be thoughtful and to some extent, truly planned.  Those 2 magic hours when I was home early were a rare and unplanned bonus to us.  After she left for work, I was able to do a few errands that typically happen on Saturday.

Saturday morning we shopped for our BBQ 2 buggies worth of shopping. We also got the decorations for the canopies.  I am truly incapable of gathering people together without doing some kind of decorating.  I love to do it. It is welcoming. It is something the kids like to help with.  And I usually use supplies purchased at the dollar store.  So it is inexpensive and I don't feel compelled to make things I need to try and store and re-use.

At about 10 we left to head out to the western part of our state. The trip, which should have taken a bit over 2 hours took us over 3.  Holiday traffic and a large accident slowed us greatly.  Luckily we had sort of planned for that possibility and the extension of the trip did not make us late to our venue.  We headed to Jacobs Pillow to see a dance presentation.  We saw Che Malombo, an Argentine dance troupe.  The performace was amazing and we all loved it. Best of all, my wife was unexpectedly able to join us. She had not thought this would be the case and at the 11th hour I scrambled to get her a ticket to the nearly sold out show.  She could not sit with us--we had seats right near the front in the center.  But we were able to share the experience.  The kids adored the performance, especially my dance guy, KC.  Watching an all male dance company was very empowering to him. As you might imagine, guys are the minority in most local dance schools.  Our school has more than most, but the guys are still vastly outnumbered.

Sunday we spent getting ready for todays BBQ.  I had a flag cake to make and a "mexican pasta salad"  Both recipes were from The Pioneer Woman  Both were amazing and enjoyed by all.  We had a ton of food.  BBQ chicken, veggie burgers, hot dogs, potato salad,green salad, chips and dip, fresh strawberries for shortcake, the aforementioned cake and delicious thumb print cookies made by my friend Laura.  We had about 15 people all told and it always amazes me how people can gather from different walks of life and just enjoy each other and have fun.  If it can happen in my back yard, can't it happen elsewhere too?  If we bring our laughter and our recipes instead of our preconceptions, the world would be a happier, gentler place.

We had about 5 or 6 kids here and they all played together and had a blast.  One of them successfully negotiated themselves an invite to come camping with me when I take the kids in August for our next to the last campout.  I am fine with that, and his mom is as well.  One more kid is not ever an issue for me.

Now I am trying to prepare myself for "re entry"  The regular  world will come knocking on my door at 5:20 tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Summer Exercise Fun

You all know this is my most favorite time of the year.  I wish summer could last for oh-about 11 of the 12 months of the year!  I have so much energy at this time of year.  I have been walking 2 or 3 miles in the mornings. It is fun looking for rabbits, checking out people's gardens as I cruise by, and seeing the occasional hawk or turkey.  And because the kids don't have some of their regular commitments I have been able to fit in some Zumba classes a couple nights a week. I adore working out to good music and while I could use a video at home, a group is way more fun.

Doing such things for myself is a summer treat.  I don't walk when it is cold and dark out. My body says that smart people are in bed then.  Also with transport duties for Rob for college I would have to get up significantly earlier than 5:20 if I wanted to hit a gym.  No thanks, 5:20 is early enough. Likewise, I am on the road with the kids during the school year when the Zumba class takes place. So I am treasuring these opportunities for indulging myself.  Admittedly my wife thinks I am a tad touched in the head, that I consider this all fun, but I do!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Room changes and parental needs

It seems like every few years, we have to re-think things.  Sometimes it is the way we do things. Sometimes it is the way we use our spaces.  This year seems to be one for dealing with changes in how we use our space.  Rob and KC have shared a bedroom for a long time now.  And Rob has been incomparably gracious about this.  But it seems unfair to me for a 20 year old to share a room with a 12 year old space hog.  KC just has no compunctions about usurping space!  Right up to leaving things on his big brothers bed!

And then there is Rob's increased work schedule with many late nights and the occasional early morning.  It has been hard to make sure that the younger guy's sleep was not disturbed.  So the past few weeks have seen us decluttering so that Lissa could move into a small room previously used as storage.  KC moved into Lissa's old room and Rob has his own space. It has been a lot of work, but the end result has been worth it.  I think the shared space was good for a long time.  I don't really buy into the American concept that everyone needs to have their own private room. But given the age difference the schedule differences between the two, it seemed only right.

Now that the hard parts were done, we have done the "fun" stuff, which involved decorating.  I refused to pay for painting Lissa's room over for KC  It had been painted a pale blue several years ago and is in great shape.  Green is his favorite color though, but since the room DID need new curtains I ordered some nice ones that combine both blue and the green he loves.  We let him choose Star Wars wall clings to put on the room and are moving his knick knack shelf over which is also green.  He is very happy.

Lissa also was told no repainting to the space. Again, wall clings to the rescue. Here, she just blew me away with her sense of style. The walls had been sponge painted a variety of colors that give the small space a funky boho feel. She chose silvery filigree clings with faux gems to accent the swirls, black leafy branches with bright silvery flowers and black and white butterflies.  The effect is stunningly beautiful,and it will be a space that I think she will enjoy for years. It does not look like a little girls room, but definately reads a young lady lives here!

In the midst of all of this, my mom who lives two states away is beginning to feel less capable of living that far away.  In her mind, she thinks she might want to live with us.  I listen to her talk of her days--taking naps when she wants and needs to, orderly meals and I confess to feeling terror.  Sheer unabashed terror.  I love my mom.  And if she needs to live here, she can and she will. But I deeply worry that her need for order and quiet will be unable to be met here.  Long before kids, my mom lived with us and I know she is remembering back to long candlelit dinners where we sat and talked for hours.  A house that was sparkling clean, all.the.time.  Order reassures her.  My house is more along the line of a happy hurricane with occasional calm when one is in the proverbial eye of the hurricane.  It is normal for us and I am --we are--used to this. To try and adapt to this in mid 80's?  That could be really hard.  I also want her relationship with my kids to continue to be the positive experience that it has been.  My mom can be harsh. She sees my kids at their best, but if she lives here, it will be seeing them warts and all.  The things that I expect to deal with will shock her and anger her.

Sooooo..... I am also working on helping mom to apply for senior housing. This would be the best of all possible worlds. Though the apartments are very small she could still bring more belongings than she could if she moves in with us permanently.  Also the locations for the housing in our city are very close to our home and she could spend as much time with us as she wants, yet still leave when her need for quiet and order arise.  I know many people are dealing with aging parents.  Yet I haven't got friends doing that who are also balancing the needs of a younger family, so I am feeling my way along this new road without a lot of guidance and support.  Life's journey is always going to show something new to explore, I guess!