Month: January 2009

The things that make me whole

The other day I was putting something away in our coat closet, when I realized that the though of just stepping inside the closet and closing the door was very appealing to me. Similarly, several times this week I’ve come home from some errand and spent a few minutes just sitting in the car. Sitting in the car is quiet and no one needs me to do anything. The feelings did not make much sense, because while my life this week is busy, my life is always busy. If my life is ever not busy, I’m sure I find a way to make it busy because I like having many things to do. The busy-ness of this week is no more stressful than the busy-ness of any other week. Nothing is high stakes. Nothing is particularly urgent. It is all the one-thing-after-anotherness of daily living.

Last night it really clicked for me why I have this desire to hide in the closet. I have been stretching myself and meeting needs without taking time to do the things that make me feel whole. Or rather, I’d somehow disconnected the emotional rewards from the things that make me whole. I was at a discussion group last night with five other mothers. I’d been asked to talk about my writing projects and how doing them is a help to me and to our family. As I began, I was not quite sure what to say because lately it has all felt like necessary business rather than soul-healing enjoyment. It was so good for me to be in that discussion, to see the things that I do through these other pairs of eyes. They asked how I find time for the blogging I do, and I did not have a ready answer. All of the writing and blogging have become so much a part of my life that I do not even see them as unusual. But to these other women, it was unusual. And realizing that, I was better able to see once again how much I love what I do. My blogging and my fiction are turned to many purposes in my life and in the lives of others, but first and foremost they make me whole. Somehow I had disconnected that. Now I just need to hold onto it. I need to remember that my writing has intrinsic value to me no matter what anyone else thinks of it. Sometimes my desire for affirmation leads me to seek from others the approval I should be giving to myself. And this does not only apply to writing, but to any activity which makes me whole.

Charting the goals

I am a goal oriented person. I like to have goals and track progress on them so that I can see how far I’ve come and how far I’ve got to go before completion. One of the best ways I have found to track a goal is with a chart. One or two goals with one or two charts are not a problem. I can wrap my head around that. The problem arrives when you add in the fact that I am the mother of four children. Children are highly motivated by being able to see progress on charts. Teachers are also motivated by being able to see progress on charts. The result is that many goals are set for many children and many charts are given out. The task of chart management falls to me.

Right now I am tracking progress on the following charts for the following people.
A fitness graph to motivate me to be more healthy
A scripture study card to mark off chapters as I read them.

Personal Progress toward a church youth group award. Kiki does the actual writing, but I participate in the prodding to remind her to write.

A chore chart for the Family Life merit badge
A fitness chart for the Fitness merit badge
A homework log which records his daily efforts and is turned in monthly
A home reading card on which we mark off books as he finishes them.

A weekly homework log with numbers of minutes read
A home reading card on which we mark off books as she finishes them.
A Faith in God booklet for a church award
A piano chart to motivate her to practice piano

A reading card on which we mark off books as he finishes them.
A reading chart that we mark every time someone reads with him for 15 minutes

The family calendar to track all the scheduled events
The chore chart which theoretically puts kids in charge of their own chores, but which has been languishing lately
The Family Home Evening chart which lists assignments for the week

Fortunately Howard does all of his own goal setting and chart keeping. The kids are moving toward this as well. I don’t do much in the way of chart keeping for Kiki anymore. But in the mean time I am feeling a little buried in charts and I feel guilty when I miss updating one often enough. There would be even more charts, but I have declined to participate in some optional programs that the school offers. Link will not be getting the 5th grade American History award because I simply don’t have the time or energy to make him memorize the Declaration of Independence, Preamble to the Constitution, or all of the names of the presidents in order. Gleek will not be getting the second grade school wings because I don’t want to struggle to get the necessary perfect attendance months, non-tardy months, or additional assignments necessary. If these awards truly mattered to my kids we’d struggle for them, but I’m glad to just let them slide. Most years are not this chart heavy, but for some reason this one is.

In many church meetings the speakers and teachers invite the congregation to extend themselves further, to set goals and stretch for them. There have been times in my life when I needed those admonishments. Right now I need lessons in how to not over extend, how to cut back, how to trim out the excess. Because I think I’ve got that “extend yourself” thing nailed for this year.

It’s my job

I’d just spent two hours talking Kiki into believing that she can handle her homework load. Talking her through the process of organizing and drafting a novel (her English project) and the process of organizing and finding pictures for an illustrated Revolutionary War ABC book (her History project.) This intensive effort was interrupted by visitors I’d forgotten were coming, who sat in the messy front room to talk with Gleek about her upcoming baptism. I had to help Gleek reign herself in because it was all Very! Exciting! Then there were the video game squabbles which resulted in making everyone mad because I turned the game off. Then I had kids pinging around the kitchen because they were hungry and bored. I realized I had no clue what to make for dinner and Kiki, while much calmer, was still requiring a considerable amount of hand holding on her two huge projects.

In the midst of all of that, Link came to the top of the stairs and said “Mom. I need your help with the universe.”

This sums up my life. To my kids, I’m supposed to help with everything. I am the solver of all problems. If they just hand it to mom, it will all be okay again. And I scramble not to fail them, even if I am tired and frazzled from a hundred things all at once. I try my best to turn the world back right side up. In this case it was easy. Link’s “universe” was a set of nine plastic planets that needed to be hung from his ceiling. He’d been unable to think of the words Solar System.

Successful Birthday Party

When Howard asked me what I wanted for my birthday this year. I answered that what I really want is to not feel stressed about bills. I would much rather have the money than presents this year. It is a true statement and yet I was still worried that I might feel sad or depressed when the day of my birthday arrived and there was little to mark the occasion. Howard fixed that quite effectively. He created a facebook event and invited lots of people to my virtual birthday party. The party isn’t fancy. Mostly it consists of people emailing me to wish me a happy birthday. It is really hard to feel depressed when my email box is buried in messages celebrating the fact that I was born 36 years ago today.

All of this started me thinking about gifts. Sometimes there are things that I want, a book, a movie, clothing. Sometimes I want these things very much. Usually when this is the case I arrange to acquire the things. But what I want from a gift is not really the thing in the package. For me the real gift is the acknowledgment that I matter, that I am valued. The thing in the package is a symbol of that, but isn’t strictly necessary. This year Howard gave me a marvelous gift. He wrangled a bunch of friends to reach out to me. He planned it all himself without me having to put forth any effort at all. Because of that it matters even more.

Birthday Story

Each year on my birthday I post a story here on my blog. This year January was a little bit crazy and I was not able to polish up the story they way I would like, but I still want to post something. So I’ve decided to post a completed draft of a story that I’m still working on. Because it is a draft, there are likely all sorts of continuity errors and typos. Those are the kind of things that will be fixed in future drafts. The story can be found behind the cut below. The prior years’ stories can be found through these links: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008

Life as a dolly zoom

This month has been like one long dolly zoom. A dolly zoom is one of those film shots where the camera zooms in closer while simultaneously being moved further away. The result is that the center of focus appears to remain motionless while everything else drops away. The fact that it is still January is that motionless center. It seems like I keep checking every day, multiple times, and yup Still January. Not Spring Yet. Still Cold. Everything else is moving fast. Events and weeks rush by so that I don’t have time to see them clearly. I hardly have time to look forward to something before it becomes a week ago.

But eventually that dolly is going to run out of track. Then we’ll be in February.

More facebook thoughts

The facebook adventure continues. I’m still gradually adding people I know to my friends list. Thanks to everyone who has reached out to add me. That is really helpful.

Facebook certainly makes it easy for me to find vast swathes of people that I’ve not spoken to for decades. As I’m looking through the profiles of people I knew in high school I am seeing a much wider range of life experience than I’ve been accustomed to. Most of the people I interact with regularly are family, writers, members of my church, or Sci Fi fans. I hadn’t quite realized that I’ve been paddling around in an eddy of the river of human experience. It is a little scary to contemplate reaching out more, but I also think it is a good thing to do.

Kiki scored some really cool friends

Giggles are required at a slumber party with four teenage girls. We had them in abundance last night. There was a remarkable lack of fingernail polish, hair dos, or phone calls to boys. Instead they watched Doctor Who “Blink” and Speed Racer, listened to video game music, and read each other sections of the manga novels that they are writing. At one point Howard mused aloud wondering if we were hosting a slumber party or a writing group. Whichever it was, I love seeing Kiki have geek girl friends who share her interests. We were also greatly amused to hear them divy up dibs on the male leads in the Speed Racer movie. They also declared David Tennant to be cute until they learned that he is *gasp* 37 years old! This morning the four girls amused themselves by creating a game out of the premise for “Blink.” Two of the girls took the parts of the angels while the other two tried not to get caught. They really needed a larger space. We’ll have to let them play again some night in the back yard when the weather is warmer.

Today in list form

The tap of keys
One story finished
Two in process
David Tennant’s Doctor Who Video diary
cold pizza for lunch
Kids play video games

My daughter’s classroom is not your ideological platform

On Wednesday Kiki’s German teacher was sick and there was a substitute. Instead of following the lesson plan, the substitute teacher showed a documentary of his own choosing. The documentary’s purpose was to show that all psychiatrists are evil people who make up illnesses in order to get money. In support of this claim the documentary showed footage and photos of dozens of unethical, torturous experiments done on humans and animals. It also showed interviews with people who claimed that permanent damage had been done to them by psychiatric medication. Kiki came home from school and cried for two hours. We talked through everything she had seen and how she felt about it. We also carefully sifted out the truths from the falsehoods. We had a long digression into conspiracy theories and why people would ever think it was right to do these experiments.

A huge part of Kiki’s upset was because she knows that her brother takes medication for ADD. She was terrified that his medicine might be doing him harm. I talked her through our decision process for putting Link on the medicine. I also helped her remember her own observations of her brother’s behavior both on and off the medication. Her observations were a direct contradiction of what the film showed. She was also appalled that people could be so cruel to each other and to animals. It took a lot of talking and soothing to help her work through her emotions about that. She was hugely conflicted because she was not sure whether the video had been given by her regular teacher (whom she adores) or the substitute. She felt sick the whole time the video was shown and even gathered her stuff to leave, but was scolded back into her seat by the sub.

Because of the A B schedule, today was the first chance we had to talk to Kiki’s regular teacher. We found him in the office with both of the school Principals. It was such a relief to Kiki to discover that this video was not approved in any way. Her regular teacher was nearly in tears. He’d spent most of the day talking with his students and getting written statements from them about the video. The Principals were both very focused and apologetic. They intend to pursue disciplinary and legal action to make sure that this man is never able to substitute in a classroom again. They’re also going to make sure that the school district reviews the screening procedure for substitute teachers. They requested a written statement from me, which I gave to them. I’ve also volunteered to testify in person should that become necessary.

Kiki is going to be fine. She has me and Howard to talk her through all of her concerns and to look at this experience from every angle. She now has a deeper understanding of how cruel humans can be to one another. She also has learned that just because a person holds a position of authority does not mean she should automatically trust them. She has also learned that there are times when we must stand up and testify about the wrongness of something. These are not bad lessons, but this is not how I’d have her learn them. I am much more concerned about the other students, the ones who don’t have parents who can talk them through it. I’m worried about the kid who is on medication and decides to stop taking it because of that video. I’m worried about the kids who tell their medicated friends to stop taking medicine because of the video. I’m worried about the kids who may decide not to see a therapist when they need one because of the video. For these reasons I intend to keep on top of the situation. I intend to track the disciplinary action to make sure it goes through. I intend to make sure that the affected children get information that counteracts the video they were shown.

I’m pleased to say that most of my action will be just watching. I am very impressed with the teachers and administrators at Kiki’s school. They have the situation well in hand and I believe they are making the right steps to address the issues.