Author Archives: marsha8of9

writing and wringing are not synonymous…

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My children attend a catholic parochial high school and as one of the requirements for graduation, the boy will attend a three day God-centered retreat, a few hours north from home, next month. When the paperwork at the end of last year, describing the retreat, my newly self designated, agnostic son said, “Yeah, you can get me out of that okay?” Looking back at him I smiled and replied, “Uh, no. The only way you won’t attend is if your appendix bursts the night before,” I replied. “But mom, it would be disingenuous for me to attend something I no longer believe in,” He countered. “Why don’t you believe?” I asked expecting an answer similar to my own at his age….”Because church is boring and I’d rather not,” Instead he replied, “Because there are too many other things out there that can explain everything,”. “Bay, that’s where faith comes in…” I replied. “Faith…is like pretending there’s more to just having a boulder blocking your path,” He returned. Not wanting to get into a philosophical discussion with him at that time, I simply gave him a generic answer, “Bay, this is a requirement for graduation and as such, three days discovering whether you truly believe in God or not, won’t kill you. In fact, you might even have a great time…” I tried. “Not likely,” He argued in reply. “Then woe is you,” came my snarky reply as he lumbered unhappily from my sight.”

Last month, I attended a meeting which explained the content the kids would be given during their three day trip and the parents were asked to write him a letter, expressing to him how much he’s loved–how God loves him, etc. His father and I have decided to each write him a letter, because the nature of our relationship with him is different (I tend to be more loud…go figure; I try to push him out of his own way, whereas his father tends to talk and reason with him). In any case, the one proviso to the letter is that one of the letters must contain a paragraph to be read aloud so his classmates can hear (Good God!) At the meeting, two teachers demonstrated what a paragraph might say, to give us fumbling parents an idea of what to write to express love and respect for our boy.

The letter is due next week and his father and I have found writing those letters quite difficult. One would think, writing a daily blog about my goofball son would make this easy… but with so much to say, how do I begin? Lately, I’ve found myself wringing my hands daily in stress. “One minute I want to wring your neck…” I started one letter, before deleting the line. “No, that wouldn’t be a good thing to have read aloud,” I thought. “But only one paragraph from the whole letter is going to be read aloud…” I countered… “Okay, Bay, do you remember when you were small and I used to say I should have named you Payne….cuz you’re a pain in my ass…? No? Oh, never mind….” Start over…

I’m sure I’m putting way too much importance on this letter. You never know, his father’s may contain the magic paragraph (“though I don’t see how”-my brain snarks back). This morning while in the shower, I wrote a brilliant letter in my head, but then couldn’t remember the starting point afterward. Honestly, telling your oldest child how proud you are of who he’s become should be something worth reading and should contain more than just “I love you and am proud of you…” but frankly that’s where I find myself today. I don’t know…between wanting to wring his neck about missed scholarship opportunities and writing about his tenacity for making me want to wring his neck, I’m caught between a rock and hard place. However, with God’s will, I’ll find the right words and sentence structure, both of which I’m sure he’ll tell me are wrong.

I’ll let you know…

 

mundane distractions…

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“Would you please leave…” The boy asked, frustrated his father and I did not understand. “No, I’m eating dinner, just do the job…” I said, pointing to the clean dishes located inside the dishwasher. “I fully intend to do the job, but not while you’re in the room,” He explained. “What? Why? Just do the job Bay, unload the dishes…” I replied and went back to eating. “You don’t understand, unloading the dishes is a mundane job so I need something to distract myself, while I do the job…” He explained. “What the hell are you going to do when you have a real job?” I asked him. “This won’t be a problem then…” He tried. “Bay, most jobs involve a large propensity of mundane work.  “What do yo need to distract yourself,” His father asked. “Normally, I’d listen to music, but since my headphones are currently broken…” “Don’t believe you’ll be able to wear headphones at work, because that’s a hazard. You have to be aware at all times, when doing any type of work,” I explained. “I won’t wear them at work, but I’d like to wear a pair now.” He tried again, but his father and I wouldn’t let it go…

“Bay, there’s a “TAP” behind you, just ask it to play a band…” I said. “No!” He replied. Grabbing the speaker, I said, “C’mon, name a band…” “NO!” He reiterated, “Play Beach Boys,” I said into the speaker and moments later, “Barbara Ann” began to play. “Mom!” He returned, embarrassed I remembered he liked the group. “Bay, unload the dishwasher…” I said then went back to eating.

“Mom, it’s not the music, it’s that you’re in the same room with me while I’m doing the mundane work…” He explained. “Bay, there will be times when you’re working, doing mundane work with someone else is in the room with you–a coworker, boss…you need to get past the embarrassment,” I explained. “Unlike you, I plan on being a teacher…” He said in return. “Until then, however, you will hold other jobs, doing mundane things, where others share the same room, probably doing mundane work as well. Who knows, perhaps together you’ll find a way to distract yourselves from the work. So get used to not having your way, to distract you,” I tried. “I’d rather not think about it,” He replied then went back to finishing his task and desperately trying to ignore me.

***

I don’t know, sometimes I think he goes a long way to make things more difficult for himself…

She knows…

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“My sister did something really cool and I’m proud of her…” The boy said as he entered the car. “But it wasn’t my idea,” the doll objected. “Nevertheless, you did participate in putting them up…” he said. “Put what up?” I interjected. “Oh, a few of us put notes of encouragement on random lockers throughout the school because not everyone will get a valentine tomorrow,” my doll explained as her brother and I beamed with pride. “Well that’s very sweet…” I said in return and she shrugged her shoulders adding, “No big deal”.

****

Usually on birthdays, the kids pick out their mealtime menus for dinner. But this year, the doll was nonplused about the idea, so I made fajitas, one of her favorite dishes. Then, for the first time in what felt like a really long time, the kitchen table was de-cluttered of paint brushes, paints and junk mail and as a family we sat down together and shared a meal.

Afterwards, as we cleared away the dishes, I brought out her “cookie” cake and frozen yogurt,  scooped some into bowls and the doll cut us each a piece to enjoy. “Doll, I’m sorry I couldn’t give you a puppy this year..” I said, harking back to a promise I made to her when she was little. “Mom, please I know…” she replied holding up her hand in a halting fashion. “Yes, as you know bringing a puppy into our world just wouldn’t be fair to the old dog here…” I said, pausing for a moment as the doll gave me back a bored lectured look from her face.  “But in all honesty,” I began again,  “I broke the original promise to you two years ago…”

She stopped for a moment, giving me a quizzical look and asked “What?”

Her father, who sat kitty corner to her let out an audible, “Oh no…” as she began to take in what I said. “What did you say?” She asked for clarification. “Well, to be fair, when you were younger, you had a speech impediment and one day while we were out walking you mistakenly asked, Mommy when I turn firfteen, I can have a puppy of my own?’ and I saw this as an advantage and said, “Yes, when you turn fifteen…”

“MOM!” She said loud and sternly at me while I sat still with a snarky smile on my face. “Doll…” I replied. “How could you do that to me… How am I supposed to trust you ever again?” She added. “To be fair, we wouldn’t have been able to bring a puppy into our home then either and you know this. But I promise you, sometime in the future, like when you’re living on your own after college, you’ll have a puppy of your own…” I said. “Oh jeez, thanks,” She sarcastically returned. “Baby, we’ll work something out…” I tried.

*****

Before bed, she exited her room and asked me for a hug. “I don’t know why, I just need one,” She said and circled her arms around my waist. As I did the same, I heard her begin to cry. “Doll, what’s wrong? Is this about the puppy?” I asked. “I don’t know, she said with a sad smile. I miss my friends from last year. I never get to see them anymore and I want a puppy,” she added and then began to laugh through her tears. “Are you also a bit hormonal at the moment?” I wondered and she nodded in agreement. “You know, at least you get to talk to your friends via text everyday. When I was a kid, we didn’t have that,” I said and she nodded. Then I said, “But I’ll tell you what, once we get the downstairs finished and back in order, we’ll have a sleepover for your friends-heck you can even invite a few new ones if you’d like. In the meantime, it’s okay to be a little sad and miss their physical presence” I replied, patting her softly on her back while slowly rocking in our hug. “I know, I just miss them…” She said before breaking apart and then adding, “and my puppy!” I nodded and smiled, “I know baby, I know…”

*****

Turning fifteen is tough business with one foot trying to hang onto her youth while the other begins to leap into responsibilities and bright futures–one that may even include a puppy.

the telephone game…

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One of my pleasures each day, regardless how much I may complain to the contrary, is my daily drive home from picking the kids up from school. Usually, Mrs. K or Mr. L occupies the front seat, forcing the kids to ride in the back. As such, when they begin telling me about their day, they often times compete with the radio, my front seat passenger and the fact my ears are facing away from them. On Friday, the car ride conversation went something like this…

“According to my friends who take Algebra from Mr. D, but are in different class periods, his class schedule goes something like this, in the first two periods, he’s either really tired or really hyper. During third period, every day he slowly eats a banana. I don’t know what he does during 4th or 5th period, but by sixth and seventh, he’s back to either being really sleepy or really hyper. Today he was in a hyper mood…” My doll explained.

Mrs. K, who sat in the passenger seat asked, “What is she talking about?” Smiling I replied, “The many phases of her math teacher throughout the day…” I replied and then began to recount the doll’s tale, finishing with my naming of her tale, “The many phases of Mr. D..” I replied.

The boy, then questioned me, “Faces?” “Faces? Maybe, but I liked Phases better,” I said with a laugh. “Mom, you said faces,” The doll replied. “No, I said, phases…” But they wouldn’t hear my truth. Instead the boy began to snark, “Mom, this is like the telephone game, you’re really bad at it. You’ve just flunked the telephone game. “No I didn’t. I have good active listening skills,” I objected. “No you don’t, you never listen to what we say…” My doll added. Looking at Mrs. K I replied, “Can you believe my doll is saying all this to me, especially with her birthday on Monday?” Which made everyone in the car laugh. “But Mom, it’s true…” The boy began again. “Bay, you’re birthday is in three weeks. If I were you, I’d quit while you were ahead…” I explained and he laughed, “Alright, Momma.”

 

Gunsmoke…

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Mr. L can be a bit of a bump on a shelf, preferring to sit in his home watching old TV shows. Thus, most Monday and Wednesday afternoons are filled with continuous episodes of the old television mainstay, Gunsmoke.  Considering the show used (The Simpson’s now do) to hold the record for number of years (20) on the air, you would think I’d have a while to go before we hit repeats, but that’s just not the case. Mr. L prefers this show to just about anything else on television and until I can convince him to go or a car ride, here I sit, getting wrapped up in an old program that doesn’t appeal to me in the least. 

Yet, I am constantly amazed how these morality plays written 40-60 years ago, still reflect the norms and social mores of today. Take for instance, the episode we viewed earlier today concerning religious tolerance.

A Jewish family was harassed and bothered by hooligans, while praying. Finding their practices odd, the hooligans threw a rope around a young man’s waist, while in the midst of prayer, pulled the rope taut, then rode off dragging the boy along; which eventually led to his death. Not long ago, in Quebec, Canada, a man offended by Muslim prayer, entered their place of worship shooting and killed six people, wounding eight more. 

Different religion, same intolerance, same misunderstanding, same sad unnecessary loss of life.

In the episode, the matter was settled when the hooligan, under pressure of being found out, finally admitted he had been drinking and didn’t mean any harm when he roped the man. Then the most remarkable thing happened, the Jewish family forgave him. 

I read a portion of what the Iman from the mosque said at the funeral, which  roughly said, do not hate the man responsible, but pray for him and pray for those who are being taught hateful, divisive language that they may see through the lies.

Tolerance, understanding, acceptance and respect. 

Imagine that! A TV show about the old Wild West, offering a valuable lesson on keeping your mind open and not judging others by your preconceived notions. Who knows, maybe if we’re willing to practice tolerance, acceptance, understanding and respect for one another, we might actually find we have more in common than first thought. Why we might even enjoy watching a little Gunsmoke TV together… 

The conundrum…

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What is it about teenagers… or maybe just boys…. or more specifically boys in their senior year of high school… or more to the point, my boy… Why is he actively trying desperately not to participate in his own future…?

If you were to approach my son today and ask him, “What is the one thing your mom has been preaching (harping) to you over and over for the last year”? His response would be, “You need to be proactive and participate in planning your future. It’s not my responsibility to fill out your college applications or possible scholarship offerings, etc, that is your job!” If the next question was, “What was your response?” His reply would be, “I went back to playing my video game.”

Sigh.

I made the mistake a couple of months back, listening to girlfriends (who happen to have girls the same age as the boy), tell me how they’ve refused to help their daughters with their applications and follow-ups. “Oh no Marsha, I told her if she failed it would be her fault alone,” My friend explained. So, I pushed but did not help. I bothered him but did not fill out scholarship forms, I harped, but did not make sure he did everything before the deadlines.

So guess what? The most affordable college that he likes, he  he failed to fill out any of their necessary scholarship forms. This is the school who called him once, sometimes twice a week to remind him to fill out scholarship forms or maybe put a deposit down on a room, etc., but he never did. Whereas the most expensive university-the one who sent email/text reminders to me as well as to him, he did follow up on.  

I wonder why that is…

“If it was SO important, why didn’t they just call you?” The boy shouted when we informed him of his blunder. “Perhaps because you’re soon to be an adult on their campus and they felt the need to treat you as such; shame on them right?  You’re under a month away from being a legal adult. Don’t you think it’s time you start behaving as such? When you’re at school I won’t be there to hold your hand and fill out forms. It’s time bay to start taking responsibility for your own future” I lectured.

The moral of the story?  For as intelligent he is, my boy’s an idiot. Moral number 2: So are his parents for not making sure he was being proactive!! 

Sigh, student loans here we come…
 

it’s my prerogative…

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The doll and I were walking home from Mass yesterday, when a conversation about the boy began. “Mom, what were you and Mr. N talking about?” She wondered. “When I wished him good morning, he told me how much he misses having the boy in his class this semester, so I thanked him and then bragged a little bit about the applause he received at Friday’s assembly,” I explained. “Why are you so geeked up about that?” She replied. “Because it’s a mother’s prerogative to be,” I replied. “But mom, you know he’s well liked, right?” She asked. “Well I do now, but you have to understand, since he doesn’t go to any extracurricular events for the school, it’s been hard for me to gauge whether he has friends, besides the office staff,” I replied.

“You can put your fears aside mom, he does have friends,” She returned. “Doll, you have to understand, middle school was so difficult and your dad and I didn’t realize he was autistic then. We just thought his quirks were due to the ADD meds and stuff, so we did everything wrong until seventh grade. But then on his fist day of eighth grade, he attends a pool party at his one good buddy’s house, believing he’s safe and going to have a great time and what happens? He comes home with a black eye,” I explained. “Oh yeah, I had forgotten about that…” “And I received a call to “rescue” him, from another parent who happened to arrive about the time everything got out of hand. So when I arrived, I found him in the pool, refusing to get out-so he wouldn’t give the other boys the satisfaction of chasing him out. What’s more, I got to overhear all the taunts they shot at him,” I said. “You have no idea how difficult it is for a parent to not to turn and rip all the heads off those mouthy boys…” I added. “So you see, the fact that he’s well liked, maybe even loved by his high school class, is very satisfying for me,” I explained.

“Wow, yeah, I see your point,” My doll began, “Sometimes I feel like the worst sister…” “No you’re not, the squabbles you both have is normal, everyday stuff. Like I’ve told you hundreds of times before, next to me and your uncle Dan, you’re angels…” I replied. “I know, but…” She said. “Doll, remember when we pulled the Winnie the Pooh border out of his bedroom and he was really upset? You comforted and helped him. You’re the best little big sister…” I said and she smiled. “Oh, maybe this is why my friends see me as the ‘Mother-friend of the group,'” she replied. Chuckling I said, “Doll, one more thing, your acts of kindness toward him hasn’t gone unnoticed. Your brother cares about you in so many ways,” I replied siting a well known example, “When your dad was sick and the emergency squad was in the driveway, upon arriving home, the first thought that popped into his head was not, ‘I hope nothing is wrong with mom or dad,’ but rather, ‘I hope the doll is okay…'” She nodded, took in what I said and acted and seeming a little embarrassed said, “How did we get onto this dumb conversation anyway…”

Smiling I replied, “Because it’s a mother’s prerogative to be proud of her kids–both her kids…”