Friday, February 17, 2012

Celebrating a life -- loving a child

Thirty-six years ago today I lived in Columbia, Missouri, with my then-husband Jim. I was doing some freelance work for the association he worked for, and we'd been hoping to start a family one way or another, with no luck.

Just a week later we would celebrate his 34th birthday.

And about a week after that, I got a phone call  as I was getting dressed to go into the association office to do some work.

It was the Boone County Social Services Office. They had a baby girl for us. Born Feb. 17, 8 lbs 13 oz.

We held her for the first time a day later, this then-blue-eyed, dark-haired butterball of a cherub, and the following day,  two caseworkers brought her home to us.

It had been a long labor and delivery -- about four years total, as I recall. Biological parents have it easier: one lucky night, and you're pregnant. No home study, no questions about your marriage or your finances or your religion or what role you expect a child to hold in the family or your medical history.

A little more than a year later, she was ours legally,  birth certificate duly changed and court-approved.

She was the center of our family from the first day, and we all loved her, grandparents and uncle too. She was a cherished child, a very much wanted addition to the family, and her life was documented in photos by her daddy from day one. We went through first day at school, soccer games, birthday parties, Girl Scouts, church choir and youth activities, first date, prom, and various academic achievements. We fought, we made up, we talked, we cried, we laughed.

My baby girl is 36 today. Except for those first two weeks or so of her life, I've been her mother. I remember things she doesn't. I know things about her that few others do. I love her like no other ever will. And I wish her happy birthday, happy, happy birthday, and hope for many more good ones. We will celebrate her tonight with gifts and dinner, and I'm grateful to have her close enough to do that.


It has not all been fun nor good nor easy. Especially in the past several years, she has struggled with some monstrous demons, some of her own making, some not. I've wished many times that her problems were the ones I could kiss and make better, but they aren't, and I've had my own struggle to accept that I can't fix her or even help her sometimes. She has to do that herself, has to want to do that enough to do the work. Some days she does; some days she doesn't.

Most of us would not continue a relationship where we are treated poorly, lied to repeatedly, and disrespected -- and yet many of us were similarly scornful of our own parents, if not to their faces (in a different time and place and custom), certainly behind their backs! And yet they loved us still -- and we loved them because we were family. Even when we don't like them, we love our family.

Some parents and children seem to have it easier: maybe their karma allows that on this round, and they are so very blessed to have it. I hope they know how lucky they are.

 My children  have had issues and problems that have not been within my control: the only thing I can determine is how I allow their issues to impact my life. That's not news in these pages: I've written a lot about setting boundaries and working to rebuild fragile relationships. And I've also written about loving them.

I think it's remembering how much that child was wanted that keeps parents still loving the errant and difficult adult that sometimes emerges from that darling baby. It's hope that keeps us praying and sometimes lecturing and supporting them as they try -- or don't try --  to work their way through their issues. It's hope that keeps us wanting the best possible future for them, and hope that allows us to continue to walk beside them, holding their hands as they follow and falter on their life's path. No matter how dark it gets, may they always know that they are dearly and deeply loved!


Monday, February 13, 2012

Do you really cook like this?

I just finished catching up on a couple of episodes of "The Pioneer Woman" on HGTV, which is followed by Paula Deen's show (so I caught a few minutes of that, even though I don't record her).

Perhaps it's my admittedly somewhat growly mood today, but I don't cook like either of these women and mostly never have. Oh, sure, I've made some marvelous ham/broccoli/cheese chowders and casseroles in my day, but it's always served with veggie sticks or a green or fruit salad, and I usually try to cut calories and fat by using reduced fat versions of the sour cream/half and half/milk. And no, this way of cooking didn't just start recently; I've cooked this way for decades.

And  I hear Pioneer Woman say, "Oh you can just use all milk (whole, of course) instead of half and half -- but why would you want to? (cute smirky smile)"

Memo toPaula and Ree (and yeah, most of the rest of the TV cooks): Do you think I don't know how delicious these soups/casseroles/desserts are with the full-fat versions and damn the calories and fat? Do you think you're forever going to escape the high cholesterol/triglycerides/blood sugar readings (well, we already know that Paula hasn't)?

Hmm. I wonder how long I'd live if I'd just toss out all the low-and-no fat versions of milk, cheese,. butter, sour cream, cottage cheese, and load up on the delicious bread bowls and pasta and biscuits (white flour, all), and fix luscious chocolate desserts and pies and clafoutis for dessert every night. There's rarely a salad to be found in their menus, and any veggies served are loaded with sauce, cheese, or butter, or all three.

With obesity rates climbing and diabetes rapidly affecting all ages, I just marvel that the cooking channels continue to feature meals based on starch, sweets, and fats. Oh yeah, they are good. I'd love to bite into one of those magnificent creations Right. About. Now. And then have what's left before bedtime. But I'd update my will first and make sure my next of kin know my final preferences.

Will anyone step up and actually put some cooking shows on there for the real people? The ones who eat a lot of salad and green veggies and fresh fruits and veggies, and try to limit portion sizes and stuff that clogs arteries and causes this epidemic of obesity?

Or maybe they just can't sell the ads. Perhaps people don't want to see healthy food cooked in pleasing, tasty ways? I'm not talking about tons of tofu and raw kale here. I'd just like to see a show that features food I'd not only LIKE to eat, but that I CAN eat without feeling guilty or without hurting my health.

I can't afford to eat the way Pioneer Woman or Paula cooks, not if I value my health. I'm betting you can't either. Maybe it's time to speak up? Think I'll write a letter....

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Doing all we can

For years we have used a phrase as our touchstone: "Do all you can, where you are, with what you've got."

It's similar to John Wesley's admonition to:

“Do all the good you can, By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can, In all the places you can,
At all the times you can, To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.”


And only slightly skewed from Theodore Roosevelt's "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."


That applies in every situation, from housework to job (although I'm quite aware that many employers expect their employees to do way more than they ever should be expected to do for way less money than they should be paid).


For us at this moment, we're applying it to our own health and well being, as well as to our usual daily attitude and tasks. Both of us have some new medical wrinkles that we're trying to wrap our respective arms around, and neither of us is especially thrilled about having them.

However, as Antsy McClain would sing, "It's all good if nobody gets hurt, Another day alive, Amen, I'm on the right side of the dirt."  


So many of us who are fortunate enough to make it through much of our lives without big medical problems take good, or at least decent, health for granted. The things I did to my body when I was in my 20s and 30s -- whew! Booze, cigarettes, chips, dips, too much  and too rich food. A little exercise, never enough. Doing what I needed to do to manage job, household, child care, husband, volunteering, and all that goes with it, even if I didn't get a lot of sleep. I was young, I was healthy, I could do it ALL.

Wellllll.....not really. Not without eventual consequences.

I don't know if the issues I have now are the result of some of the stuff I did as a younger woman or the happenstance of heredity; probably some of both. Fortunately I dropped some really bad behaviors in my 30s and early 40s, and that has helped to get me this far. I do medical checkups and testing regularly; always have. We've changed how and what we eat so that the heart-attack-on-a-plate-type foods are either gone or eaten sparingly only occasionally. 


Most importantly, we pay attention to what our bodies are saying: where and how something hurts, what feels right and good and what doesn't, and noticing when something is 'off.' And we check it out, scary as it may be to do so.


We have health insurance. THAT can make the difference between catching a problem and being able to treat it, and finding the problem only when it is too far gone to ignore and you end up in an emergency room, often in dire straits.


***Begin Related but not exactly on topic Rant****

That anyone in our country should have to settle for the latter because they cannot afford the blood tests, the EKGs, or the often inexpensive medication to treat such conditions as high blood pressure or diabetes is criminal neglect, abuse even. 


(I won't even comment about the folks who have insurance or can afford healthcare but choose not to seek regular medical treatment because they are afraid of the results. That's just stupidity, from where I sit.)

Those who do not support universal healthcare are mostly those who already HAVE health insurance and who can afford it: our Congressional representatives, for instance, have really good insurance. They and the highly paid lobbyists representing big pharma and big HMOs are the ones who are controlling the state of healthcare in our country. They apparently aren't troubled at all that so many people can't afford the checkups and diagnostic tests, even if they would be able to find $4 for a prescription to help their bp or diabetes or heart health. And they plant the 'big government controlling YOUR LIFE' scare seeds in the minds of those who don't usually think for themselves to 'prove' that universal healthcare is a terrible thing. 

***End of Related but not quite on topic Rant*** (for now)

So with Tony on the cusp of retirement, we've discovered a couple of new issues that will definitely take priority for us in the next months. Like so many, we've envisioned retirement as a time of relaxation, fun, travel, enjoying friends and family,  tending to our home and garden. And we still plan to do that, but health has suddenly taken top billing on our To Do list. 


Vulnerability takes some adjustment, mentally as well as physically. We've been active participants in life for a long time, doing pretty much what we felt like doing. To admit that some of the parts aren't working like they used to, and that indeed need regular monitoring and medication to continue functioning,  requires more than a little reflection. As Tony said, there is a sort of grieving process: giving up the ghost of what you thought would be to accept the reality of what is. It's another part of this aging process, I guess. Things and plans that used to seem important take a back seat when you start to understand what is REALLY important: your health and that of your loved ones.

We know we are fortunate: we read the obituaries and it seems that nearly every day there are deaths of people who are our age -- 'natural causes,' some of the obits say. (My gut reaction is that anyone MY age is too young to die of 'natural causes' but in reality, they do.) And we're not infirm by a long shot. Our legs and arms and minds work just fine. And we are grateful.


If we do all we can, where we are, with what we've got, paying deliberate attention to and taking good care of our problems, we should be fine enough to do pretty much anything we want to do.