Dear Dad…

featherii

Dear Dad:

It’s hard to believe three years have gone by.  It’s been a lifetime and an instant.  It’s been an adjustment that will never feel right.  But, we’ve done as you wanted and we’ve tried to move forward.  Some days have gone better than others.  Some weeks better than others.  And, in some cases, we had to take it minute by minute.

I’m getting to the point where I can focus myself on the good times before the bad.  I can think of our daily calls and texts without crying.  I can think about our summers just sitting around talking without feeling the crush of loss.  I can think about all the times you told me you loved me without feeling utterly lost.

I’m also doing my best to work on those areas of my life you always hounded me about.  I think you’d be proud.  I’m taking more downtime.  This was the first summer in my career that I am working less.  However, I haven’t mastered the art of just relaxing as you were always stressing to me.  I’m a work in progress.

I so wish you were here to experience first-hand all the wonder that is your granddaughter.  She is witty, smart, sweet and sassy, and just overall a beautiful little soul.  You knew that though.  I just wish you were here to see her.  I miss the times you used to call just to hear her babble.  Oh how she can talk your ear off now.

We’ve had some major hurdles since you’ve been gone.  But, we’ve done as you always asked and stuck together.  I made you promises and will always keep them.  Family first no matter what.

I promise we will keep moving forward.  We will honor you by living the fullest life we can just as you always wanted for us.  Please keep sending those little signs that I know are from you.  The feathers in unexpected places, the red cardinals that love my neighborhood and the strong presence I sometimes feel.  They keep me going, remembering and give me a little smile and reassurance.

I love you, Dad.  I miss you.  I always will.

Your Daughter

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Claiming Spaces

With my background in community development and sociology I am very sensitive to ensuring that I surround myself with diversity of thought.  I need to hear about the different realities that many of us face and I need to keep abreast of new theories, thought and research on the social problems we face.  I have a diverse group of friends and colleagues that help push me in various areas where I can have real and meaningful conversations.

A major part of my reality is teaching.  Teaching students how to critically analyze media, research methods, statistical analyses, theories and ideas.  In case you didn’t know–this is hard work. REALLY hard…REALLY, REALLY hard made even harder by the 24/7 stream of good, bad, ugly,really ugly, pitiful, horrendous, you’ve got to be kidding me information stream.  In the end of whatever I teach, I hope students at least come out with the notion that they need to read material with the idea they should have more questions than answers at the end of a piece.  What research methods were used to collect this information?  How were the data analyzed?  What is the motivation of the author?  Who is funding the author?  Whose perspective is being represented?  What might I learn from another perspective on the very same issue?  And I could go on and on.

I think I must be good at my job of interviewing because people really open up to me.  I hear the pain in their voices and in their stories of a reality that I honestly wonder how they are still standing. I hear the voices of people who recognize the kind of privilege they experience and work tirelessly to ensure more people have that kind of privilege.  I also hear the voices of people who do not believe we should talk about those things because, they feel, it just keeps the problem going.  I also hear the voices of people who tell me we should not mix races, castration should be allowed, how horrible families in poverty are, how people in poverty “just don’t” care, should “just” do x, y and z…You might be thinking, “SURELY, SURELY people do not say that to you!”  I told you, I am good at my job and these are all very real conversations I’ve had in the last 15 years of doing this kind of work.  And, sadly, in the last 15 years and with no exaggeration, a few hundred interviews later these conversations still fall into these various categories.

I live a life that is rooted in the very social problems that our communities face.  Doing research on racial and ethnic disparities is mentally and emotionally draining.  I see on a daily basis, why it matters to continue having the tough conversations.  I see why we have to find compromises on how to move forward on social issues.  Through this research I see in a very tangible and real way why it matters to keep having conversation about race, class, gender, basic human rights, healthcare, education, our criminal justice system, the environment, poverty, how we go about economic development, who gets to sit at the decision making table, who gets to make the decision making rules, etc. because these factors shape our life chances no matter who you are.

In engaging in debate, teaching and conducting my research I can become very jaded at times.  I’m grateful for my inner most circle of friends that keep me positive and keep reminding me why we keep going.  My family is also a big part of this  support; but since I live so far away much from many of them this interaction happens online.  Keeping up with their work, kiddos, spouses, hobbies, and daily life.  And, like many, I’ve somewhat reconnected with people I knew many years ago.  For the most part I’ve enjoyed seeing how people are doing at this stage in their life.  My heart hurts for the pain and tragedies they’ve experienced. I love seeing their passions for food, sports, politics, travel.

But, I’ve also seen and probably remained social media “friends” way too long, with people that I have zero common ground with.  That, by their posts and comments, despise people like me.  They have no nice words for people like me nor does it seem they have any interest in opening a dialogue.  I’ve struggled on what to do with this group of social media “friends.”  Why you might ask?  Well, go back to my first paragraph. I am deeply committed to ensuring that I do not insulate myself to only one line of thought.  I ask myself, “What does it say about me if I start deleting people because we have a different perspective?  What am I missing if I do not at least try to see their side of life?”

So, tonight as I was scrolling through and seeing the cute pictures, the funny tidbits on how the day went I started to see the inevitable posts that make me cringe.  And, suddenly, my finger started going, delete, Delete, DELETE and before I knew it I was on a deleting spree! And wow!  What a great feeling!  I have come to realize that through my friends, colleagues the amount I read, my teaching and conversations with students, and my research that I do plenty to make sure I listen to and really hear people.  And, you know what?  I do not have to hear people online that I either haven’t seen in 20+ years or that in my personal life–with who I am now–would probably have no relationship with.  I just don’t.  That is my choice.  I can make my online world how I want it and that is ok. That, for my own sanity, I can make one space that friendly, loving, funny place I need it to be.  It doesn’t mean I am not valuing other voices.  It does not mean I am insulating myself.  I simply means I am claiming this one space for the lighter side of life.  It means I am claiming this space for others, who even though I do not agree with them 100%, we do so in a respectful and meaningful way.  I do not have to see posts that are blatantly racist, sexist, homophobic, belitting of others and me, and do not even try to understand that your reality is not my reality just as my reality is not the person’s next to me.

Whew, it feels good to finally resolve this for myself.

 

 

 

 

The Road to Independence

Abigail

First Day of Kindergarten!

 

When Munchkin went off to kindergarten 2 weeks ago, she did so excited, confident and, frankly, like a boss.  In fact, she told me after we brought her in, “You can go now, Mama.  I’ve got this.”  And, she certainly did.  On day 2 she didn’t want us to bring her in.  She wanted to be dropped off and walk in on her own.  By Tuesday of the next week, she decided our flimsy excuses of why she couldn’t ride the school bus didn’t match up and so she started riding the bus home.  Part of me, like any mother doing this for the first time, was a little sad that she did all of this without needing her old Mama very much.  The other part of me was reminded that this is what I am training her for.

At 5 it seems a little extreme to say I’m training her for independence.  She still needs Mommy and Daddy in so many way and will always need us as her parents.  But, even as she hits kindergarten there are things we are doing that increases her level of independence and self-sufficiency a little more each day.  She thinks it’s complete crap that I won’t jump up and get her whatever she needs.  She is perfectly capable of getting herself a drink, getting her snacks and, as her Daddy wants to push, even start making her own sandwiches for lunch.  We war over cleaning her room, picking up her toys and doing chores around the house.  She looked at me a little shocked this summer when I told her it was part of the gig of being the younger cousin that you sometimes were teased (in a loving, but definitely older cousin kind of way).  I am reminded of my own days of being “Donde-Magombe” though now when they try to call me that I tell them it is “Dr. Magombe” to them.  Good laughs.  Good memories.  Horrible nickname.

But, she is perfectly capable and needs to learn from these early tasks that she can take care of things herself.  It starts now so that it is not a complete surprise the first time she is told to figure it out for herself.  She needs to learn the skills early on so that when bigger challenges come up she can feel confident in creating solutions on her own.  This includes learning to deal with conflict in school, being able to handle it when she fails at something, working hard toward a goal and feeling the great sense of accomplishment when she does it and learning, as much as I do not want to think this way, that Mommy and Daddy may not always be around to fix life’s challenges.

Anyone who knows me, knows I have always felt this way.  I was raised with an emphasis on independence and self-sufficiency mainly due to circumstances.  But, this was brought to the forefront again this week with seeing the devastating loss 11 children are going through in Oxford, MS.  It was brought to the forefront with the responses of those children in the light of tragedy in considering how they will take care of their brothers and sisters.  Those kinds of attitudes just do not appear in children.  They are carefully cultivated by parents.  I was reminded once again in a very stark and sobering way, that as much as I want to be there for Munchkin and be the one to make sure she’s never hurt or in trouble or has to need for anything, life may deal a very, very different hand.  I was reminded once again that my task is not just to love my child unconditionally, but also do the very hard work of building all of those really hard, difficult skills they need.  I have thought of those children constantly and also of those parents who probably never dreamed of this outcome.

I was much older when I lost my precious father and there were many things I still depended on him for—a listening ear and his humor just to name a few.  That void alone has been difficult to manage.  But, again, those skills of coping do not just happen.  You do not suddenly reach a specific age and BOOM!  Coping skills!  Those are also learned through a life time of challenges and problem solving.  So, next time when she yells that I am, “Completely unfair and I am ruining her life!” over making her do something she does not want to do, I’ll just keep remembering that one day she may still yell that something is ruining her life, but she will know how to pick up and get to figuring it out.  And, it is with all of my hope that I am the one there to provide a little humor and a listening ear as she rants and raves about whatever it may be she is facing but also with pride as she figures it out.

Fear

dogwoods

Today fear hit me in such a way that I am still processing everything that happened and my own feelings about it. Writing seemed the only way to be able to start reflecting on the events and a part of my new reality I haven’t confronted before.  One that is always in the back of my mind, but I never dwell on it instead choosing to believe it will be sometime in the far, far distance.

It was a regular day.  I was grading papers at my desk thinking toward my afternoon class.  My phone rang. It was Mom. Except when I answered it wasn’t Mom. It was her co-worker telling me she was having chest pains and needed to go to the hospital. I RAN from the office and probably broke a few laws getting to my Mom.

Mom on the gurney. Mom hooked to machines.  Mom looking SO pale and frail.  The calm nature of the doctors and nurses. Me screaming in my head as I observed all of this, “Why are you so calm?  Don’t you know this is my Mom?  Don’t you know this is the only parent I have left?”  Me speaking to the nurses in my own calm voice answering questions about her medical history, family medical history, current medication–so many questions.

Waiting–oh the waiting!  I thought answers about heart attacks would be quicker. Nope–a 3 hour wait to evaluate cardiac enzymes or whatever they are called. Pacing, sitting, standing, looking at my phone, pacing some more, sitting some more.

And then finally the non-answer. She didn’t have a heart attack, but the heart is a funny, funny muscle. She could have been feeling something but only tests from a cardiologist will be able to tell us more.  The ER visit today was to solely tell us she didn’t have a heart attack.  Then, he kind of made me laugh when he essentially told us he was also going to treat her for gas, because you know, it could also be that.  I brought Mom home and then proceeded to nearly give her a heart attack with the number of times I crept into her room to check on her.  And, I will likely do this for some time to come or until we have more answers.  I definitely will be these doctors worst nightmare in the weeks to come as we have these tests.  I want to understand every detail.

But, I’m also sitting here thinking about my support system.  Wow, these people cover me in love and concern when I need it.  Hubby was home ensuring Munchkin was happy and content and, above all, oblivious to what was happening. Texting and checking in.  Making me laugh even when I didn’t want to.  My sister–stomach all torn up with worry right with me–feeling the same fears.  Mind going a million different directions–none of them good.

Two other women, the most unlikeliest of friendships, like always were ready to do whatever I needed.  These two women have been the most amazing friends since we moved to town.  I’m the youngest, J is 10 years older than me and R is 10 years older than J.  I do not think I would have been able to stand, stay focused and be as healthy as I am without their constant friendship.  I do not thank these two women enough for being such good friends and strong examples to me about motherhood, friendship and overcoming challenges. They jumped in and took care of what needed to be done at work and then just kept in touch with me and would have been in that ER in 10 minutes flat if needed.

Later, I reached out to some family to let them know what was happening.  I was scared.  Just needed some reassurance.  They always provide the level headedness.  And, as always, I wish my Dad’s family was just a little closer distance wise during times likes these and that my sister in law was just down the road.

I got home and I reached out to my silent, constant–K.  She knows the deep rooted fear since she lost her father many years ago now. She was right there and you know what, I know with out a doubt in my heart that if I had said, “K–I need you here.” 8 hours later she would have been in my driveway.  She shared how she’s dealt with the fears.  The healthy ways she’s tried to channel it.

And there are many more.  I know that.  And I know I am so blessed in having this support.

But, I’m not going to lie.  It freaking sucks to have this fear of losing my one parent.  I have many friends who have already lost a parent or both and I think, “How do we do this?”  How do we keep all the fears in check or how do you keep the grief in check?  How do I make sure this episode doesn’t put me back into that dark place I was a year ago; two years ago? I just don’t know.

I know I will have this fear, this far reaching, deep fear of losing my only parent.  I know that I have to recognize the fear, deal with it in a healthy way and then handle the future with the same calm on the outside with hopefully more calm on the inside.  I also know that I still have an amazing circle of people around me who will help me with whatever comes my way.

 

Could you Get on the Bus?

do it now

 

Each time I teach Collective Behavior and Social Movements I show the documentary, “Freedom Riders:  Could you Get on the Bus?”  This documentary brilliantly tells the story of the Freedom Ride movement and gives extraordinary insight into what compels people to join social movements.  But, not only what compels people to join movements but what drives them to put themselves at risk, even in the face of death, for a cause.  I’ve watched this documentary no less than 20 times now over the course of my career and every time it forces me to consider my own commitment and passion when it comes to social justice issues.  But, today it caused me to think, “What is my bus?”  How am I participating in creating a more just society.  Have I lost my motivation?  What am I really doing?

Most often when we think of social movements we think of participation being in the form of protests, petitions, organizations that promote change, etc.  I haven’t participated in a social protest or march for some time.  I don’t often write op ed pieces speaking out on those social issues I am passionate about.  I see fellow colleagues that do those activities quite well.  Their words inspire.  Their participation in protest inspires me.

I look at our global society today and so many situations break my heart.  I still see us wrestle with racial inequality.  I see our girls inundated with messages that are detrimental to their definition of self.  I hurt for the poverty I see not only in my own backyard, but also the world.  I become infuriated when in 2016 a city such as Flint, Michigan is without clean drinking water–a basic human right.  I cannot even comprehend or wrap my mind around the suffering of those children, women and men making the journey from Syria.

Then, I listen to all the noise I hear and see on a daily basis.  I hear the ideologues.  I hear the media screaming.  I see the memes.  So much of this closes off people to really talking through and listening to the reality of people who are unlike us or have experienced life in a much different way.  It causes us to define hard social issues as simple, “either you are with us or against us” causes.  It causes us to think that a simple picture or meme can really explain complexity of social life.  Just because people have a different experience than us does not mean our experience is wrong or their experience is wrong.  But, it does mean that we must talk about why they differ.  It means we have to do more to understand each other.

In all of this I’ve decided that my bus is the classroom.  My bus is allowing students a quiet space to have these debates.  To learn from each other.  To have the opportunity to grow.  By creating that space it may mean I take the hot seat for allowing controversial conversations to happen.  I may make some people mad. I may be told we shouldn’t be talking about those kinds of things.  But, I will stand my ground.  I will take the criticism.  I will allow people to think what ever they want of me.

If I come to the end of my career and I’ve continued to allow a space for students to talk then I think I’ve contributed in some small way to fight inequalities.

I cannot recommend this documentary enough.  It is the story of struggle, determination and love for fellow man.  It is hard to watch.  It is hard to digest.  It is hard to wrap our minds around.  But, it is indeed OUR history.  It is OUR story.  To ignore that does a great disservice to the young people who put themselves in harms way to make a change.  Embrace it.  Own it. Learn from it.

 

 

A New Start

rainbow

Letchworth State Park, New York State

 

I woke up on January 1, 2016 and I felt different.  I just felt lighter, more motivated and that inkling of “me”–the person I was before overwhelming grief.  the person I was before where I didn’t question every decision I’d ever made.  The person I was before where I didn’t feel an overwhelming guilt.  Even now, 25 days later I cannot quite put my finger on it.  I’m still grieving.  Today proves that–I’m having an angry day. I still have those moments where I question the decisions I made.  I still have a lot of regrets.  But, my outlook on the future, what I want to do with my family and what I want to accomplish professionally is suddenly clearer again.

I’ve found myself in the last 25 days reaching out to my friends again.  Over the last year and  half I just simply didn’t have the energy.  Not that my friendships take a lot of energy.  They don’t.  I have a great circle of women who just let me be.  They understood.  They knew I needed time.  They didn’t take it personally.  They loved me from afar.  But, even just picking up the phone and trying to explain how I was doing was a task.  I had no words to explain.  I couldn’t talk about how I was really doing when I couldn’t explain it to myself.  I turned inward toward my family–those who knew and loved my father best–and just sought their comfort.  I needed that and now I feel stronger and more able to articulate my feelings.

Hubby and I are making plans again.  We are thinking toward the future and the kind of lives we want to lead, the experiences we want Munchkin to have and we are actively pursing those.  We are taking steps to make our shared dreams come true.  We are actively seeking new adventures.  We are excited about potential opportunities.

I’m excited to start the semester.  The last two semesters I had no excitement of being back in the classroom.  This was nothing against my students.  I just didn’t have the energy like I normally did to give them all they needed.  I beat myself up for it.  I hated feeling like I was giving less than 100% in the classroom a place that holds my passion.  I hated feeling like I was putting on a show and going through the motions.  But today, 3 hours from my first class of 2016 I am energized and ready to go.

I also feel Dad saying, “Good for you!”  As much as I miss him.  As much as I want him here.  As angry as I sometimes feel that he’s not with us–I know he’s encouraging me to have a new start and take what I’ve learned about myself in the last 18 months and do good with it.  As he always said at the start of football season about his beloved Buffalo Bills, “This is our year” and in many ways I feel this is mine.  To continue learning to live without him, to enjoying my baby girl to the fullest, to continue going after dreams with my hubby and to be a good daughter, sister, niece, cousin and friend.

Here’s to 2016 and all it may bring–whether good or bad–I’m ready to tackle the future with a fresh, clear outlook.

The Sum of Our Mistakes

sum of mistake

The sun rises on a new day allowing for a new chance every time it comes up and sets.

I have a lot that I want to say under that title, but am having a hard time really organizing my thoughts.  In the last month I’ve had several experiences that lead me back to the phrase, “the sum of our mistakes.”  It’s been reading the work of my students and them sharing pieces of their past.  Pieces of their past with stories of pain, poor decisions and triumph.  It’s been observing people I love overcome their past.  Seeing them take positive steps forward everyday.  Knowing that everyday it both a struggle and success.  It’s been me reflecting on my own shortcomings and thinking how I can be a better person.  How can I look toward the best in people and situations and not be tempted to only remember the bad.

Why are the mistakes the easiest to remember?  I know for me I can beat myself up over mistakes for years.  I can replay the “what I wish I would have done” over and over.  Why is it that you can see someone you haven’t had any contact with for YEARS and yet the only thing that comes to mind is what you may have known about them 20 years ago?  Why is it we can so easily believe someone is only the sum of their mistakes and not see the totality of what they have overcome?

Some might argue that is having rose colored glasses or rewriting history.  I disagree.  To acknowledge the past is one thing.  To understand the mistakes made.  To acknowledge the hurt and pain they may have caused.  This is necessary in the path to healing.   To make people continually relive their past by our actions and our judgement is unacceptable.

I fall short everyday.  I allow past prejudices and hurt enter my mind as I deal with people.  I fail to acknowledge my own mistakes.  I recognize this.  I also recognize that The Creator never intended for us to be the sum of our mistakes.  It is this that allows me to cherish the beautiful times I’ve had with people that haven’t always been perfect.  It is this that allows me to put into perspective the hurt they may have caused.  It is this that allows me to forgive myself for my own shortcomings.

For me, the Thanksgiving and Christmas season are always time of deep thought.  And, whether we are the sum of our mistakes has been heavy on my heart. I don’t believe we are no matter how people may treat us.

As I finish this blog, while sitting in my office on a Saturday grading papers, I almost feel like I want to go back and add it onto the papers of some of my dearest students.  I want them to know that they are not the sum of their mistakes.  I want them to know that just being in the classroom and succeeding is proof they are not the sum of their past–no matter how hard it may have been.  I want them to know they are valued and that their progress is recognized.  Who can you help to recognize this today?  Who can you encourage that has walked a hard path?  How can you better forgive yourself for the mistakes?  It’s a season of thanks, love and giving.  How can we be more giving to those around us and ourselves when it comes to forgiveness?

 

I Refuse…

As a Sociology professor I have to tackle hard topics in my class.  There is no way around it.  I have to find ways to allow students to explore race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, politics, inequality and yes, even terrorism, in a way that both allows them to process these difficult topics but also dispels harmful stereotypes and generalizations.  Some days I am more successful than others in creating this environment.  With the events of Paris, Beirut and other countless acts of terror around the world in a given week I was especially sensitive to how we shape conversation about the forbidden trifecta–politics, religion and violence.  I am not going to talk about my classroom experience because that is a safe place for my students to express themselves and not for me to write about in a public blog.

But, it is time that I express my own feelings on the events around the world. I am one that has to think for a long time before I speak publicly about social issues and events.  I want to make sure that I have reconciled events in my own mind, digest them and explore my fears, ideas, attitudes and biases.  I truly explore myself before I make any statements.  I’ve been doing a lot of that in the last few days and here is what I’ve decided.

I refuse.  I refuse.  I refuse.  I refuse to buy into broad strokes that paint entire groups of people as inherently “bad” or inherently “good.”  I refuse to buy into the “good” versus “evil” rhetoric. The world is so much more complicated than simplistic generalizations.  I refuse to condemn entire groups of people for the actions of a few.  I refuse to do it to our law enforcement; I refuse to do it to every white person I know, every black person I know, every Native person I know, every poor person that I know, every rich person that I know; every religious person; every Republican, every Democrat, every Socialist, every Christian, every Muslim, every Buddhist, every Hindu.  I simply refuse.

Further, I refuse to pass on these fears, stereotypes, generalizations, and frankly poor conceptualizations of the world to my daughter.  I do not want my daughter growing up to fear everyone who is not like her because she will then be a lonely and fearful person if she only clings to those exactly like her.  I want her to travel without fear.  I will continue to travel without fear.  I want her to embrace people.  I will continue to embrace people.  I want her to love people.  I will continue to love people.  I want her to give people the benefit of the doubt.  I will continue to give people the benefit of the doubt.  I want her to be generous with her fellow man.  I will continue to be generous with my fellow man.

I will teach her strength, courage, fearlessness, love, generosity, hope, kindness, and most of all the ability to reflect without all of the noise of the world to draw conclusions.

There are those that will disagree with me and believe that I am portraying an unrealistic view of the world.  However, I challenge them to think about the billions of people who live peacefully, work with their neighbors of various backgrounds, practice their faiths and beliefs in ways that may be much like your own.  Why focus your entire world on the margins and forget about the billions of people around the world that have strength, courage, fearlessness, love, generosity, hope and kindness?  To do this does not negate that we should fight those at the margins and extremes.  But, it recognizes that we are doing just that–fighting the margins–not entire groups of people.

So, I will continue to LIVE and teach my daughter to live.  I will love and act with kindness.  I will open my heart and doors to people.  I will not let those at the margins take away the very nature of who I am.  I refuse to stop LIVING.

LIVE

Ecuador 2014

 

Finding Time to Nag at Each Other…

My favorite fussing partner

My favorite fussing partner

There are some predictable changes that we encounter when creating a multi-generational household.  We are all figuring out how to interact with each other since we are now living together and cannot retreat back to our respective houses when things get wild or loud.  We are figuring out a new routine that works for everyone. We are in that mode of trying to be careful around each other.  You might say we are still in the honeymoon phase.

Part of that is when the heck do you find time to nag or argue with your spouse? I think it is unnatural if a husband and wife do not fuss at each other on occasion.  It doesn’t have to be anything major, but we all get irritated with piles of dirty clothes, laundry, a thimble full of milk left in a gallon–you know–everyday stuff. Since Mom has moved in with us I find myself being more careful about fussing at J about that kind of stuff and he is the same.  Now, you might say, “Oh! That’s great! So much healthier.” I could go with that line of thought, but have instead adopted another way of dealing with the problem.

I have a flexible work schedule and can leave my office when I want.  J is a stay at home parent so I know he will be there.  I find myself making sure I am home at least 30 minutes before Mom is scheduled to be off work so J and I can fuss at each other in private.  Yes, I know.  It sounds crazy.  But, as J says his day doesn’t feel complete either unless we have some time to complain at each other.

So, for 30 minutes we gripe about the kitchen not being clean, laundry that is not finished, the fact I left my tea cup in the bathroom AGAIN.  Munchkin even gets in on the action as we complain about her messy room.  Then, just before Mom walks in the door, we stop fussing and all is good again.

Now, I know this is not sustainable.  To those of you reading this it may also seem pretty crazy.  But, you do not realize how many aspects of your life are affected when you add a new family member–especially one that is an adult and your PARENT.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again.  I do not particularly look forward to the day where I go into nuclear meltdown in front of my mother. So, this method is really only prolonging the inevitable.  I’ll keep using it until that fateful day where I spectacularly lose it in front of Mom.

I love having Mom living with us.  I really do.  But, Jason and I also really like nagging at each other in private.  So, for now I will rush home before Mom gets off work–fuss and gripe–and we will feel complete.

No, I can’t believe we have adopted this new way of coping.  But, as my sister says, “We are just trying to make it.”

Crochet Addict

A lot of tears, laughter and stories woven into this project.

A lot of tears, laughter and stories woven into this project.

Hi.  I go by the handle, “The Crafty Professor” and I am a crochet addict.  I have yarn stashes in places you wouldn’t believe.  I am constantly feeding the yarn stash with beautiful yarn for special projects.  I take out my pretty yarn just to look at it.  If I can’t take my yarn I don’t travel. I crochet every evening and would crochet all day long if my job would let me.  I even considered one time that I could crochet while lecturing to my students and I could be that eccentric professor we all once had in school.  Somehow I do not think my department head would be too thrilled with that particular eccentricity.  I just love to crochet.

I started crocheting in February of 2014 so this is a relatively new addiction.  It was really something how quickly the addiction started.  I learned the basics on a Thursday afternoon from a fellow crochet addict and spent all weekend on YouTube learning how to do more and more stitches. I called my Dad that weekend and told him I was learning to crochet.  He cracked up and asked whether he needed to send me a rocking chair since it seemed I was preparing for an early retirement.  J kind of laughed and said it will never last when I took up this hobby.  Munchkin just wanted new scarves and leg warmers. Needless to say a year and a half later I am still going strong.  I am even selling my items now.  I reserved an Etsy store front and now I just need to fill it with all my lovely items in my “spare” time.

But, crocheting has been my lifesaver.  It has been the stress reliever I desperately needed.  I can sit down in the evening for a few hours or just a few minutes and get totally lost in a pattern.  I do not think about the stress at work, the dishes that need to be done, the fact that I pried boogers off the wall after discovering the Munchkin’s booger collection or any of the other things that might be weighing on me.  I just completely focus on this one activity and my brain shuts off.  It. Is. LOVELY.

My projects also take on special meaning as I complete them during trying times (which is probably why I do not sell half of what I make).  For example, last year I started a baby blanket the day I got home to care for Dad. I sat in a chair by his bed day in and day out working on that baby blanket.  A lot of stories and tears went into that baby blanket.  I finished it the day he died.  I gave it to my oldest friend who was having a baby and told her the story behind it and that the blanket wasn’t about death but about the stories Dad shared with me about life as we talked and as I crocheted. Those stories are woven into the finished product.  Mom moving in with us hasn’t been stressful per say but it has been a change.  Crocheting allows me to stop thinking about that change even just for a little while.

Everyone needs an activity that completely releases them and allows a mental break.  I cannot stress that enough for those of us who are in the sandwich generation. The pressure of caring for both your children and parents can be immense.  We have to remember to take care of ourselves or we will have nothing left to be effective. We are pulled so many different directions that we have to demand that even if it is just a half an hour that we get that time to ourselves.  I know.  Easier said than done.  BELIEVE ME.  I know. It is not beneath me to smuggle my yarn and hook into the bathroom and lock the door.  I can usually get 15 minutes before someone starts wondering about me and then the phrase, “tummy problems” works wonders.

On a serious note, having that time is just best for our loved ones too. I’m less short tempered with Munchkin.  I stop visualizing my crochet hook as a weapon when looking at the hubby.  It protects everyone’s health.  I wonder if I can use my insurance Visa card to buy yarn?  Hmmm…

So, just take some time. Protect your health–both physical and mental because we are good to no one when we do not.

STRESS RELIEF

STRESS RELIEF