parenting, a forever “job”

When my daughter called asking if I’d visit with her, I didn’t hesitate. My husband quickly arranged for Southwest nonstop tickets to the east coast. I’ve been here a couple of weeks, enjoying a very relaxing time doing what I do best, mothering. Gone all day to rehearsals, my daughter arrives home to a hot meal, lovingly prepared. Cooking for her, someone who not only appreciates a delicious meal, but also the labor involved, motivates me to be the gourmet chef I know I can be. It’s not always in evidence, for I am prone to bouts of laziness, preferring to order take-out. But seeing my daughter walk through the front door, sniffing the air, “oohing and aahing” over the smells emanating from the kitchen, I relish being “Mother of the Year” to my 24-year-old, independent, career ballerina.

Scarfing down a delicious meal, clearing away the dishes and food, we settle down to playing  bananagrams. A nightly ritual, we go several rounds. Where I may have won most games when I first arrived; we are now evenly matched. My daughter wins some; and I win some. We both like the odds so much better than when my husband joins us.

Having been a voracious reader for decades, my husband almost always wins at word games, including crosswords and Scrabble. I’d given up playing these and other games, like cards, with him because he was merciless in his desire to win. He still is. My only recourse then (and now) was to threaten to throw over the game, board, pieces, cards, whatever. Threats and pleas fell on deaf ears. The man was (and remains) a gladiator in his own home, battling until he’s defeated his opponent, left whimpering and pouting, swearing never to enter into another match again…ever! Game playing is the rare occasion when being the youngest sibling in my family and his being the eldest in his, has the hairs on my neck standing straight up in defiance. Unlike the old days of my childhood, I refuse to give in and give up. In other words, I’m no longer inclined to “lay down and die.” Perhaps not engaging in game playing for decades has contributed to our happy marriage of 40 years. Hey, whatever it takes!

Time to get dinner started. Showtime is in an hour or so. Don’t want to disappoint my audience of one. She always appreciates my mothering, whether long distance or in person. It’s wonderful that my 24-year-old still needs me at 61. Parenting has always been my favorite job!

and am glad it’s, forever…hugmamma.

the internet, friend or foe?

Among other books of lighter fare, I’m beginning to read “What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains – The Shallows” by Nicholas Carr. On the inside jacket Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe, challenges, “Nicholas Carr has written an important and timely book. See if you can stay off the Web long enough to read it!” I have to admit now that blogging has become a “part-time job,” I may find it difficult to finish the 276 pages of technical information. I’m hoping it reads like a bio, the central character being the internet user, me and you. As with other revolutionary inventions of the industrial age, like TV, I will probably rationalize using the “beast” that threatens to take control of my life.

 But if it’s already been unleashed, like Pandora’s Box, can the internet be returned from whence it came? Probably not. But can this Frankenstein be controlled? Or is the monster free to do evil, along with the good it was intended for? Do inventors ever look past the perceived  immediate need, to what injurious consequences might be wrought upon humankind?

Again on the inside jacket of Carr’s book the question is posed “Is Google making us stupid?”  It’s followed by this paragraph “When Nicholas Carr posed that question, in a celebrated Atlantic cover story, he tapped into a well of anxiety about how the Internet is changing us. He also crystallized one of the most important debates of our time: As we enjoy the Net’s bounties, are we sacrificing our ability to read and think deeply?”

I have taken to blogging because of my passion for writing. I’ve tried, albeit half-heartedly, to get published in non-mainstream print media, as well as online, to no avail. Rightly or wrongly, my desire to have my voice “heard” motivated me to blog. Judging from my oft lengthy “dissertations,” you can see that my attention to detail involves more than superficial thinking. And so it begins, … my attempt to rationalize using the internet.

You, dear reader, have been with me since the start of my internet journey so, in a way, you are complicit in my “crime,” i.e. my use of the “beast.” What say you in our defense? It’s use for all the small things that give quality to our lives must count for something?! I’m certain you’ll agree that searching for medical answers, support comfort when a child dies, discounted products in the current economy, are viable reasons to keep the internet going. Or am I again trying to rationalize too much? But what else can we do?

Your opinions on the subject are appreciated. The internet has impacted our lives beyond imagination. But did we sacrifice too much in our rush to deify it? Your thoughts?

are we beyond deep thinking?…hugmamma.

facing death, and living

A thin paperback, only 237 pages, Elizabeth Edwards’ “Resilience” was not a book I could breeze through easily. It was written as though she were talking to me, but not seeing me. I might have been a tape recorder capturing her innermost thoughts and feelings, as if their release might ease her chronic pain, more emotional and mental than physical.

Chapters 1 through 6 explored the anguish she endured from the loss of her 16-year-old son Wade to a car accident, whose cause might have been considered “an act of God.” “Wade was driving to the beach when he died. The invisible wind crossed the eastern North Carolina fields and pushed his car off the road, and he could not right it and it flipped and, crushed, it fell in upon Wade, and he died. The invisible wind. The hand of God? The hand of Satan that God has loosened on Job? Is his death a response to his or our failings, or is it a test of God? How can I lean on a God who had taken this righteous boy, or even on one who had allowed him to be taken?” After much soul-searching, Edwards decides that the God about whom she was taught is not the God of whom she has now gained a better understanding.

“God…does not promise us protection and intervention. He promises only salvation and enlightenment. This is our world, a gift from God, and we make it what it is. If it is unjust, we have made it so. If there is boundless misery, we have permitted it. If there is suffering, it came from man’s own action or inaction. Cain killed Abel; God did not. Wade’s death didn’t belong to God. It belonged to this earth. I could still pray for Wade’s eternal soul because I no longer had to blame that same God to whom I prayed unsuccessfully for his return to life.”  

While she continues to reference her son’s death through the remainder of the book, Edwards also speaks at length of her bout with incurable breast cancer. In the midst of John Edwards 2004 vice presidential campaign, Elizabeth learned she had breast cancer. It seemed that in 2005 she’d been cured. But 2007 saw its return. Among other things, she discusses her struggle in coming to terms with death. On one hand it is not totally unacceptable, for “Death looks different to someone who has placed a child in the ground. It is not as frightening. In fact, it is in some way buried deep within you almost a relief. The splendid author Mark Helprin wrote, in the introduction to “Almost Spring” by Gordon Livingston, ‘If you were on a ship battered by immense waves (and, believe me you are) that swept your child from your arms would you not (given that you had no others for whom to remain) throw yourself into the deep, hoping for the chance that in the vast black ocean you might grab onto him? Comforted just to know that you would suffer the same fate? And if you had to remain, to protect others, would you not dream all your life of the day when, your responsibilities over, you would finally get to the sea?’ It is not a death wish. It is an appreciation that there might be in death some relief that life itself could never offer.” But Edwards concludes that her son’s death is a reminder not to take the gift of life for granted.

“I knew that I have to get ready to die. There is still no prognosis on which I can rely. All I know is that it will be at my door more quickly than I want. I don’t think, as it comes, I will have my father’s grace. Now, despite my words that I have a reason why death would not be so terrible, I want to live. I admit that I spend a great deal of time pretending that I would be fantastically lucky to live a decade, that I would be happy to have another decade when I know I want much more. But just as there is more than a decade, there is also less. There are moments when I believe death is only a whisper away. I try to get the teeter-totter to balance somewhere in the middle; it is rarely possible. When my mind teeters to death, I push off as hard as I can, trying to land on life. Mostly I can do that.”

Elizabeth Edwards comes to terms with her life, as it is. She has adopted lines from “Anthem,” a song by Leonard Cohen, as her anthem. She has had them inscribed high up on her kitchen wall as “…a reminder that the pain, the loneliness, the fear are all part of the living. There is no such thing as perfection, and we have a choice about how we integrate the imperfect into our lives.” Her anthem reads “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

A stranger who happened to be in the audience during Edward’s speech at the Cleveland City Club in March, 2007, inspired her to work harder in her efforts to bring affordable health care to the unlucky among us who go without. After the luncheon speech, the stranger whispered in Elizabeth’s ear “…I am afraid for my children. I have a lump in my breast, but I cannot get it checked. I have no insurance.” When she went in search of someone who could help, the stranger disappeared into the crowd. And so it was that Elizabeth felt the woman believed “…that we live in a country where things can change if we just whisper in the right person’s ear.”

I share “Resilience” with you because there might be a lesson in it for all of us, for we begin to die the minute we are born. Facing imminent death, Elizabeth Edward focuses on living…

a new day always dawns…hugmamma.