Perspective from a life event

My wife and I traveled to Charleston for a christening of the one year old son of our nephew and his wife. As we were at breakfast before-hand, I got a call from my college student daughter. That was an immediate red flag.

She had been in an accident, but was OK. She was headed to work at her part-time job at a nearby ski resort. She said an approaching snow plow scared her and she over corrected and ran off the road, fortunately stopped by small trees.

So, everything in life becomes clear. She is unharmed and has seen the value of having good friends. We will have to deal with repairing a car and working through the insurance process. Yet, other than her pride in her red SUV which she calls “Percy,” for the lead character in “The Scarlett Pimpernel,” she is unscathed.

Life goes on. That is what is most important. Thank you, Lord.

Happy Thanksgiving All

Even for our friends who do not celebrate Thanksgiving, peace be with you. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, bar none. Nineteen of us will sit down to dinner and fellowship.

This will need to be short as more preparation is required. We have been at this for ten days, but thank goodness people will be bringing food, drinks or ice.

Please remember this season all of the things to be thankful for. Also, note good news is vastly underreported and bad news is vastly overreported, so things are never as bad as they seem. With that said, there are too many who do without or less than we do in this country and world. There are too many that live in a more dangerous area than we do and are ostracized and disenfranchised daily.

Let’s be thankful for what we have and remember those who are not as comfortable as we are or are in severe need. All the best.

Early morning musings

The weekend has officially started and I cannot sleep. No, it is not due to the news of the world, which causes sufficient turmoil in its own right. I am just needing closure on many personal events surrounding my mother’s passing, her home being struck by lightning and burning just before we put it on the market, the hopeful sale of my mother-in-law’s farm and helping my sister start anew in a new city, my city.

I am used to having many balls in the air with three kids and past work. That is OK. Now that I am retired, the work part has subsided, to be replaced in small part by volunteer work. Yet, I am not sleeping because of open issues that linger on. Nothing seems to be easy as it should be and I feel I have to be relentlessly diplomatic and patient. I have come across some wonderful people to help, but sometimes the process is more complex than needed.

Yet, checking some boxes on long lists of things to do is more than therapeutic. It provides closure that would allow us to move on from that event or major task. I am fully aware that each of us has issues we must deal with. But, here I sit at 02:54 am, praying that some of those events can be closed soon. I know there are other items waiting to be added to the list. Yet, taking a few large ones off, would be helpful.

With Alzheimer’s, I had to say good-bye to my mother long before she passed. The saving grace is she went before she deteriorated to not recognizing a face on her team. I know some of my blogging friends are dealing or have dealt with these kinds of issues. I wish peace for everyone in resolving the issues they must deal with and their lingering effect. My family and I could use some of that peace as well. Best wishes all. Have a great weekend.

 

 

 

Hillbilly Elegy – Stabilizing Influences Matter

I recently completed the best selling non-fiction book by J.D. Vance called “Hillbilly Elegy.” Briefly, Vance tells the story of his roots in the Kentucky hills and how his grandparents traversed with others into Ohio to work in various manufacturing jobs. While that migration helped a great deal, many were not successful or plateaued because of lack of opportunity, lack of money for a college education and lack of consistent support.

Vance eventually became an attorney graduating from Yale law school, but he was very much the exception. Why? He attests it is primarily due to three stabilizing influences in his life, the first and most important of which, was his grandmother. HIs mother was very unstable with continual drug problems and multiple husbands and boyfriends. When Vance and his sister tried to live with his mother, far more often than not, it was a chaotic and verbally abusive setting which caused his grades, attendance, and attitude to plummet.

He lived with his grandmother (and grandfather while he was alive) off and on and frequently visited when he did not. Vance says when he chose to live with his grandmother full-time when entering the 10th grade, he finally had the stabilizing influence and support he needed. He notes his grades and attitude improved, along with his desire and a safe place to study. Mind you, his grandmother was not perfect and cursed like a sailor, but she made sure he had good friends, encouraged him to get a part-time job and said he was capable of going to college.

The second influence he discovered when he decided he was not mentally ready to go to college after being accepted. He joined the Marines. Vance said clearly the Marines taught him how to be responsible and accountable. They also taught him how to be an adult by helping him set up a checking account, mentoring him to stay away from predatory loans and how to budget and save. His grandmother hated that he joined the Marines, but even she saw the difference it made in him. So, by the time he went to Ohio State University and later Yale Law school, he was more mature and ready to learn and do what it takes to study.

The third stabilizing influence was his wife, whom he met at law school. A key example is the influence she had on how he reacted to negative news or arguments. Throughout the book, he notes that hillbilly pride in family would cause him to defend his honor at the smallest sleight. His wife shared that he need not react to someone, even her, so severely to jerk her head off if there was a personal affront. She convinced him, even when she disagreed with him, she was still on his side. This supportive love and calming demeanor had an impact and made him a better person. He noted that family meals at his wife’s home were civil and interesting.

We all need stabilizing influences in our life, no matter where we are born. Yet, far too many Americans and citizens of other countries, do not have any or very few stabilizing influences. In America, where and to whom you are born matters more than it used to, in getting ahead. America has plummeted in global rankings in getting ahead. In my volunteer work with homeless working families, many of the children only have a mother to rely on. And, without a roof over their heads, the stability of a safe place to live, much less study, is compromised. By breaking the cycle of homelessness, a child has a better chance of avoiding homelessness as an adult.

Vance clearly states if he did not have the support and stability of his grandmother, he would not have ever gone to college and may have been a high school drop out. Two present and interested parents is far more the ideal, but with such a high divorce rate, with so many out-of-wedlock births, and with the temptations to drink or do drugs as an outlet when life gets tougher than you are prepared to deal with, that ideal may not be attainable for many. So, he argues that a childcare support system designed to serve kids in troubled situations needs to be flexible enough to confirm where those stabilizing influences are for that child. He had to fight to live with his grandmother rather than his mother and living with his father was not fruitful.

I encourage you to read this book which offers through example, what real and imperfect people are going through. It may challenge preconceived notions, which is always a good thing, in my view. It did mine.

Vistas are beautiful, but people make the journey

My wife and I returned yesterday from a wonderful trip to New England. Flying into Boston, we ventured north to Maine for a few days returning to Boston for a brief visit then traveling southwest to Connecticut to see more family. The vistas and scenery were terrific, but what made the trip so special was visiting with our nieces, nephews and friends.

Our first stop was in Bar Harbor, Maine, which is quite the place. It sits on an island reached by driving, that mostly consists of the Acadia National Park, a true treasure. On Saturday, we met up with our niece and nephew (and his son) who live in Maine. Our niece loves showing her favorite place off to visitors and she traveled up from Portland to be our tour guide.

We all met at her favorite breakfast restaurant.  We hiked two separate gardens – Thuya and Asticou gardens – and then ventured into the park to see lakes, mountains, beaches and beautiful scenery, returning to Bar Harbor for an early dinner.Spending all day with them was a treat and allowed us to get to know them. We had never met our great-nephew and not seen his father in over ten years.

On the way to Boston, we hugged the coast at the suggestion of my wife’s brother and saw more vistas and extremely quaint towns. Boston offers so much, but our time was limited as our relatives in Connecticut said they would love to have us stop by for dinner before we left. So, we did two walking tours downtown probably walking as much or more than we did in Maine.

Like true world-class cities, Boston has beautiful parks in the downtown area, the Public Garden and Boston Commons. Later we visited the Back Bay Fens Victory Garden, which is a few blocks from Fenway Park, the famous baseball stadium. Boston is a pedestrian friendly city with wonderful architecture, restaurants, river and bay shorelines and markets. We did do the Quincy Market, which is a treat and went down to the bay. I realize we had only a small taste of Boston, but it was nice.

Our final destination was to drive past Hartford to a small town in western Connecticut. There we saw another niece who had moved with her two kids to her mother’s, who we also know. Our niece had to separate from the children’s father and was living with her mother, her mother’s second husband and their two kids. We had not seen our niece in over ten years and had not seen her mother in 31 years, as she was in our wedding along with our niece.To say we had a delightful time is an understatement as my wife was good friends with the mother. Her husband and other two children were a delight as were our niece’s kids.

The reason we had not seen them is divorce affects more than just the couple. My wife’s brother, who is the father of the children, lives near us and we love his third wife dearly. The niece in CT was his first child and my wife became friends with her mother. After their divorce, my brother-in-law married his second wife and had two children who were our tour guides in Maine. So, we lost touch with his kids and his first wife, who he remains very amicable with. This trip was so meaningful and exceeded our expectations to reconnect. We sensed that they enjoyed reconnecting with family, as well.

I mention this has it is never too late to reach out. Don’t miss the opportunity to reconnect. Seeing his first wife after thirty-one years is now a treasured experience and we have invited them to come down. It was truly like old times and she looked forward to our visit as much as we did. While we had just seen one of our nieces after a long  ten year hiatus, seeing her with her brother in Maine was truly joyful. These two lovely days made the trip even more worthwhile, even more so than the beautiful vistas.

 

 

No good deed goes unpunished

One of the more satirical quotes came from well-known satirical author, Oscar Wilde – no good deed shall go unpunished. It has been shortened to the above title, which is how I first heard it. Obviously, one would hope a good deed would be well-received by the intended audience(s). Yet, that is not always the case.

What do I mean by that? Have you ever singled out someone in an email or public setting for a job well done. And, then you are approached by others who felt slighted that you failed to mention their efforts. Should you highlight a group, the ones who feel they did the most are frustrated they did not get more credit.

Have you ever promoted someone and things are going fine until the person realizes someone else was promoted at the same time? The person feels he or she is superior to the other person and should have gotten the promotion first. So, what started out well, ends poorly, in the eyes of the first recipient.

Have you ever spent extravagantly on a first child, not realizing you may have been setting up a precedent for other children? Then, you feel guilty for not spending as much on the second and third children. Or, as prices rise, maybe you spend more on the third child and the first child feels left slighted.

Have you ever donated too much of your budget to several charities and then a friend asks you to support one of his or hers? And, you can only donate a small stipend, so you end up offending someone?

Life is full of opportunities to feel guilty over things that you should not feel guilty about. All of the above can be explained away, yet we are made to feel guilty as we did not do good enough in the eyes of others. I can confess to having each of the above circumstances happen to me. I am sure they have happened to others. I spoke to each of the folks who felt offended to explain myself.

What situations have happened to you? Did you feel more guilty than you should have?

 

Saturday in the park

If you are my age or a Chicago (the band) fan, you are thinking of the next line, “I think it was the 4th of July.” It is a beautiful Saturday morning and my daughter and her friend are slowly arising. Hearing your child or children laughing is the greatest sound in the world.

We have always had a home where our children feel comfortable having their friends over. It is a treat to meet your kids’ pals and hear them having fun. It also helps as a parent to know the friends of your children in our imperfect world with greater temptations than we had growing up. This is our safe haven.

My daughter is home from her freshman year of college and we are so proud of the woman she has become. She is interested in stopping injustice to people and the environment. She is well read and active at school and has made the Dean’s List twice. She loves her professors and they offer encouragement. I was sharing with Hugh on his blog that one of her professors applauded her for writing a paper that disagreed with the author’s position, which he said he usually only sees from upperclassmen.

My oldest son moved out a month ago and is rooming with a good friend. They have a tribe of friends that hang out and look out for each other. He has taken on more responsibility and is asking more questions about living on a budget, saving, insurance, etc. He is a fine young man and a good friend, but like many his age is still finding his path forward. Working two jobs 50 – 60 hours a week is wearing him out. We do miss having him here, but are happy for his spreading his wings.

My youngest son will be home at the end of next week completing his junior year. He has changed majors and colleges and is enjoying his eclectic college in the mountains. He is relishing being a scientist and exploring wildlife biology and the environment. He will only be home briefly as he will be interning this summer at a place that takes care of different kinds of wildlife. The college is perfect for him as it is work-study program where all students have to work 15 hours a week. Plus, it attracts eclectic people who I find to be a joy. It is ironic in a state that has passed an anti-transgender and LGBT law, his dorm has unisex bathrooms and showers.

I hope everyone enjoys their Saturday and all mothers have a wonderful Mother’s Day.