Running Wild

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I was talking to a friend today, and he was telling me that he met a man that hiked the Appalachian Trail. Pretty cool, huh? What if I told you that he did this when he was twelve years old? With no adult supervision… just a bunch of Boy Scouts on their own, hiking the Appalachian Trail.

It got me talking about my childhood. We all tend to romanticize about the “good old days”. And, maybe that’s just what I’m doing. We lived in a house in upstate New York. I lived there from age six to age eleven. We had a big tree with a tire swing and a big side yard that my parents made into an ice rink in the Winter. On the other side of the house was a hill that was perfect for sledding.

In the more temperate seasons, my friends and I would leave our houses in the morning, and go off on adventures. Sometimes we would come home for lunch, and sometimes not until dinner. If our parents ever worried about us, they never let on.

We would play in the apple orchard, climbing trees and throwing apples at each other. We might decide to go to the pond, and see what creatures we could find. When we got tired of that, we would go to the farmers field, up to the place where there was a bunch of old tires. Sometimes we saw snakes there. It was scary, alright. But worth the risk to climb on those tires.

Some days, we would stick closer to home and stomp down the field of high grass into a “fort”. This was a maze of rooms and we would sometimes accessorize them with treasures from home. We were always building forts and off on general explorations all summer long.

My husband grew up in Scotland. He was taking the tube (subway) around London when he was twelve. When he was seven, he would take the bus into Glasgow and go to the cinema… by himself. Can you imagine allowing something like that with your kids or grandchildren?

The point is, these days we have to watch kids like a hawk, it seems. I was strict about where my kids played when they were little, and wanted them to stick close to home. Now, people might say that they did not have proper supervision. I wouldn’t let them go off to a pond, or across a field out of view. It’s a different time.

 
Or is it? Do we have more danger and treachery in the world these days? Is it possible that the people that prey on children have expanded in number exponentially? Or do we just hear about it more? Does the internet that makes it easier for evil people to commit crimes against children? Or, does the internet just keep reporting these crimes so much that we become desensitized at some point?

When we recall these childhood days, are we longing for a place… or a time when catching a frog was the highlight of the day? If I had to pick the happiest time in my childhood, it was when we were running wild.

– Cat

Great Expectations

 

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So often in life, reality falls short of our expectations.  I think that some people marry because they are in love with the idea of marriage.  The idea of marriage, as it turns out, is a lot different from actually  being in a marriage.

I think that the biggest gap between reality and expectation comes when you have your first child.  When you are expecting… you are “expecting” something in particular.  There is the ideal of a two-way bond between mother and child.  You will know just what to do, and when to do it.  You and your child, in perfect partnership, will form a circle of unconditional love.

Then, you give birth.  It’s a little more uncomfortable than you were expecting.  Most babies cry a lot.  It’s a puzzle that you often can’t put together.  You think you will know just what the baby needs, and how to stop the tears.  Hmmm… not so much.  But, Oh!  Look at that little angel sleeping!  Nap time is indeed magical.

Will you ever sleep again?  Let’s say that your sleep habits are going to evolve for this point on.   Just as you muddle through the days feeling a bit overwhelmed, your baby smiles at you!  And so it goes, as you move through the phases of parenthood.  You are joyful, and tearful, at times.

When I started this blog, I wrote about my friend, Maryann.  She had children older than mine, and used to joke, saying, “It doesn’t get better, it just gets different”.  So true!  Every age brings it own unique challenges and moments of beauty.  It’s an amazing thing to watch your children grow.

Going into it, you think it’s an eighteen to twenty year commitment.  When do you stop worrying?  Well, my first baby is 38 now, and I haven’t stopped yet.  Even when your children are grown up, and have children of their own, you can’t help but think about them and their families.

Another thing that comes completely unexpected when you have your first child.  You finally “get” your own mother.  You understand a lot of her advice, and a lot of her worrying.  It’s definitely an “aha” moment.

I have four children.  With each one, I became a little more familiar with the process, and confident with my parenting skills.  Of course the more children you have, the more “crazy time” you have at your house.  If you have children, I don’t need to explain what that phrase means.

I’ve mentioned before that my daughter is “expecting”.  Since it’s her second child, she knows a little bit more about what to actually expect. She’s a wonderful mother to my grandson, Carl, and I know that her new son will be a blessing to our family!  I also know she will be tired and feel overwhelmed at times.

Some things remain the same, whether you have children or not.  You might be experiencing the ups and downs of marriage.  It doesn’t matter if you are single, divorced, widowed, in love, or lonely… you will have good days and bad days.  The trick is to remember the good days when you’re in the middle of a bad day.

Parenting is an adventure that I can recommend without reservation.  But watch out for those “great expectations”.

– Cat

 

 

Some College

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I started college early.  I was just sixteen at the time.  I graduated high school early, skipping my senior year.  In my junior year of high school, I was enrolled in high school and college concurrently.

Then, I had a fight with my father.  I dropped out of college, and moved out of the house at seventeen.  I was determined to make a go of it, and worked full time.  I was fiercely independent, but I knew I had made the wrong decision about college.  So, I took college courses in the evening.  That was difficult to do, and after a while it took a toll on me.

Once I married at eighteen and had a child, I tried to go back and get my degree.  I went to school three full days a week, with a great granny watching my son, Thom.  I had an 8:00 am political science class, which I approached with great enthusiasm.  Then… two things started happening during the 8:00 am class:  I would fall asleep or throw up.  You guessed it, blessed with a second baby.

I took that as a sign from God that I should finish up my degree “later”.  Two more kids later, college was no longer featuring in my dreams, let alone my life.  I wasn’t sad about it.  I was busy, with my hands full, and my heart full as well.  I would take a class now and then.

A few years ago, I was in a meeting at work.  I had a chance for an advancement program, and was nominated in front of a bunch of coworkers.  It was a great opportunity.   But I had to say, in front of everybody, that I didn’t have the required college degree.  I made the decision then to give college another try.  Enrolling in an online university, I was an exuberant scholar.  I got perfect marks in everything I did.

Then the day came.  I got some points taken off on a paper that I had written.  I was extremely mad about it.  My husband explained that it was actually okay that it happened, and it was good for me.  I let that sink in, and realized that he was right.  I took a break from school at the end of the semester, though.  We were moving to a new area after twenty years in our house.  This demanded more time and energy than I could devote while studying.

So, it’s still left undone. I’m a grandmother now, and I work full time, and I can’t say with certainty that I’ll ever finish.  Maybe when I retire.  When my daughter, Catie, was in college, she told me she was going to take a semester off.  I told her that she wasn’t.  We both felt like I was being too pushy at the time, but we’re both glad now that she has her master’s degree.  My father is in his eighties and still takes college courses, if they interest him.

Some college.  Well, that could mean anything.  It could mean two classes.  It could mean almost there.  Almost every job you apply for now states that a college degree is required, or at least preferred.  Since employers have you apply online, gone is the chance to dazzle with a first impression. You can’t show them your sense of style.  You don’t get to brag about all the things you can do.  You can’t wow them with your work ethic.  You never get to give them a firm handshake  and a confident smile.

Most days I don’t think about it.  Other days, I have to help the person that has a degree, and got the opportunity, to prepare their final presentation in the program.  I don’t believe that you must have a college degree to be successful or happy in life.  But I do believe that you limit your choices without one.  So, if you’re in school, stay in school until you’re done.  If you’ve got your degree, you have that accomplishment to be proud of, and I admire you for it!

I lead a happy life.  I have a big family, with four children, two stepchildren, six grandkids, with one more on the way!  They bring me so much joy!  I have found meaningful work to do, and love making a difference everyday.  My husband and I get along great and enjoy each other’s company.  We have a lovely home, and great neighbors.  I’ve still got both my parents.  Most days “some college” is just not that bad.

 – Cat

I’m My Mom. By the Way, My Daughter is Me.

So, the audiologist looks at me and says “You have mild to moderate hearing loss”.  It sunk in.  I remember when my Mom started losing her hearing.  I would get so annoyed when she would ask me multiple times to repeat myself.  Sometimes she would answer the question she thought you asked.  Never mind the actual question.  My Granny, Mom’s  Mom, was deaf at the end of her long life too.

I’m older now.  I am becoming my Mother.

In so many ways, I’m lucky to be like her.  She always says hello and starts a conversation with strangers.  She likes to help.  She’s quick-witted.  She has a weird sense of humor.  She has the Scrabble gene that runs strong in our family. She loves music.  She doesn’t watch sports.  She loves to hear and tell stories.  I’m so lucky to have her.

I have a daughter now.  She is the very best parts of me and her father all mushed together.  Although we’ve always been friends, I always admired her because she was different than me.  She never went through that bitchy teenage phase. I did.  She always seemed very quiet and private to me.  She is an artist.  She used to be embarrassed when I talked to strangers.  She always seemed wise beyond her years, and sometimes I wasn’t sure who was raising who.  She’s all grown up now, married, and has a son.  I love him to pieces.

We share a lot of things.  She calls me nearly every morning and we talk about EVERYTHING.  We both love music, even though we’re not musicians. We share and build playlists together. All her brothers are musicians. She and I are fans.   She encourages me, and I return that encouragement.  She talks to strangers more than she used to.  We play a game of Scrabble now and then.  She’s good at it.  She has a weird sense of humor. She loves to help, and teaching is her passion. I’m so lucky to have her.

My daughter is becoming me.  Still different in so many ways, but I’m starting to notice the similarities more. She’s older now.

She’s having a baby in June.  I hope it’s a girl.

 

  •  Cat