About Me

My photo
I used to be right of center politically, and while I haven't changed, my family members (the ones who I have birthed and to whom I am married) call me a liberal. I don't really think that I am-- my views are all over the place, as I think are the views of most people. One of my adult children called me the family's "token liberal" (not the toking liberal, I am not like that!) so I decided to make it my blog title. I write about what I do in my community that matters to me and I share with everyone who cares to read what I think.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Letters Home & Fried Chicken and Homemade Macaroni and Cheese

When Astrid told me that she was going to go into the service, I wanted her to go only because I was sick of her at home. To say that she had a bad attitude is an understatement. She was getting physically aggressive with me and was belittling to me and her siblings. Me signing her in was for my sake, not hers and I decided not to sign her in. My husband wanted her to go in. He does not read my blog, and I feel comfortable being honest here. I had her research the way the military treated their soldiers (specifically their veterans) and she came up with answers and still wanted to go in. I refused to sign and my husband proceeded to harass me and belittle me about signing her in. She was under age and my signature was personal to me, but I was under duress (without going into detail, he began constantly berating me for it whenever he saw me) and I had nowhere else to go. It was six weeks before she turned 18 and could sign herself in, but he said that it was something to do with her going in with her core group. He maintains that he was acting in the best interests of our daughter, but I don’t think that it was, and it was something that he should have never done.

I signed her in and came home thinking that she’d be happy with me, but she muttered something about me getting rid of her sooner, and her father said that I should have signed her in earlier.

Oh well. I have my ways of coping!

Astrid is now at basic training. I’m not glad that I was unable to leave my home when I was being told (ordered?) to sign her in, and I really wish that she’d just waited until she turned 18 to get the ball rolling on her paperwork. She is there now and I love my daughter regardless of what she did before she left. I have to say that there are few things that best getting letters from her telling me how glad she is that when she used to talk back at me, I made her drop and give me 100 push-ups, or today she asked me to make my fried chicken and homemade macaroni and cheese. She has teased me and called me an “amateur” over the 100 push-ups because I let her do them "in bad form" and she had to relearn them, but she arrived there, somewhat used to doing them! She always enjoyed the combination of food, but she would sometimes scoff at the time I put into them, or roll her eyes when I told her of the importance of adding freshly grated Gruyere and sea salt. She would see me write letters and do artwork for friends and she was curious about how I could put effort into someone, but now she wants my artwork and she wants to show her mates. I am glad that I have seen her appreciate me! The past two years with her were their own kind of hell over which I will not elucidate—there were thankfully no run-ins with the law, but just believe me when I say that she was her own cloud of chaos.

I have no doubt that she will graduate. Soon I will have a daughter in the service. I hate war, but I am proud of my daughter for her hard work and the work that I know she will do. All the snarky things that she did as a teenager seem like they happened in another life. I cannot wait to fly down and see her graduate and make her friend chicken and homemade macaroni and cheese. Next time she comes home, she will relish making dinner with me, and even offer to help!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Facebook is my Social Addiction

Steve over at What Do I Know? asked an interesting question over which I have been ruminating since I read it. His piece, "How Addicted Are You? Facebook And The Heroin Model Of Marketing" invites us to think about how much we are addicted to a product that was given out as free and was rumored to be about to charge people. I had heard the rumors and wondered what I'd do because of my large family and having teenagers whose coaches announce practices and events on FB. When I had heard the rumor from other sources, I knew that I'd probably come up with the money, at least for a kids account and one each for my husband and myself. Fortunately it was only a rumor, but I started reflecting on it.

I had been blogging when FB came out. I had several followers with whom I had become tight and I would go to their blogs almost every day. We connected because "birds of a feather flock together" and we liked each other because of shared beliefs and interests. When we got on to FB, I think that most of our blogs kind of petered out and we became intimate with each others and saw pics of relatives and family members. It was and has been a good thing. I don't talk to my own sisters because we are so strangely different, but I have friends on FB whose families I know well, and many of my friends know the names of all of my children. One night I posted a photo of my children and one of my friends who I have never met in real life asked if I had gotten a name wrong on my sons-- she was correct. Eight years later, that is how well we know each other! I made another friend's sick mom a lace prayer shawl that she had keeping her warm when she died and that friend and I will probably be friends for forever, but I was doing things like that before FB, and when I had a disaster and I was blogging, it was my blogging friends who came to help me from all over the planet.

I have close to 400 friends who I know through various places in real life and on line, but I miss the old days of FaceBook when I think for the first two years, I didn't have more than 50 friends in my social network, but now I am connected easily to all kinds of people and I like that I can look them up and ask them a fast question if I need to, and they can shoot me a fast answer. That being said, those are often people with whom I don't want to share certain things just out of a lack of mutual interest. 

I'd love to be a social scientist studying how people interact on Facebook. In the last several months I have  become aware of having switched from posting only for lists of my friends to posting in a couple of exclusive groups to which I was invited. One is a sarcastic group of like minded drinkers of both genders. I seldom drink due to a sensitivity to alcohol (it makes me break out) and I am lucky for that sensitivity and personal vanity because I'd probably drink a lot to quell my nerves at times! I know the probably 50 people really well and we all have kids around the same ages. I could come up with several flattering key links between us, but I will stop here on it. We are mostly professed atheists but when in one week several members posted that they failed various scans and have biopsies and MRIs coming up this week, many were joking about "putting in a word with imaginary angry sky god!" and letting them know that they have our support. Posts change direction all the time from the original post to something(s) entirely different, and I even had an off the cuff poem that I wrote about a member in a wet suit being put to music by a music writer who used vocals from several other members. We have inspired each other and brainstormed ideas. Forget the rest of FB, this is my home online!

I have another group that is all women, started by a friend who is using IVF to have a baby with her husband, and she asked us to post things that we don't post to our wall. Imagine a group of very polite ladies sharing intimate stories and being worried for each other and that is us. I often share similar stories from my life between the sarcastic group and the ladies group, and the responses are refreshingly different and I love them all. I see others doing the same. I posted to the sarcastic group about my daughter going into the Marines and how I was going to Hell for my relief and they teased me, "Come on! We know you! You aren't going to Hell for that, you are going to Hell for other things! Toughen up, Mom-- she is probably just like you were! hahaha!" and the threat evolved into creative ways to sin to mixing drinks. At the ladies club, they were assuring and nurturing, "Well, she was giving you a bad time before she left! The eagles get that way before they leave the nest!" One lady lives near my daughter's training camp and offered to see her graduate of I can't afford to fly down.

Nowadays I still post to my wall, but I really log on check my groups which are to me like a dropping in to a pub and then a tea room. I don't know any of these people, but if I fly out of state to almost anywhere, I will have people to see. I often Skype when we need to because some of us knit and we help each other out with patterns.

While I spend a lot of my free time at these places, because of them I have started writing more. At Christmas time, many of us send out real cards with cheesy family newsletters-- after email came out we had all but stopped mailing Christmas cards, but when people get sick or need help, we'd mail gifts or money or whatever, and then a thank you note would come and we'd answer in letter form. I only have a few friends who are also like this, but I cannot be the only person who is getting back into letter writing from having stopped for several years. My children see me writing and the younger ones now have pen pals who are the children of some of my friends. I know that we will meet eventually.

Technology took away the letter writing and certain intimacies, and I find that we are-- or at least a few of us are-- re-creating what we had allowed it to destroy. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Life is Good

Steve at What-Do-I-Know has introduced me back to everyone and I have been reflecting as to how much I have changed. Back when I started blogging, it was my lifeline to the world. I had nine kids and sometimes the only way that I knew I was getting anything done over time was from reading my own blog. Other than my kids and my husband, my family was all out of state and I was in Wasilla with no connections. I didn’t gel with friends at my husband’s church, and my friends from high school had all left state for college. We stayed in contact, but as far as real conversations about things that mattered to me, I was on my own. I had a good friend from high school who was temporarily exiled from his people and didn’t have access to the internet and I drew and wrote for him and he did the same for me. He and my blogging friends kept my head above water.

When my kids were really little, I was reeling from having started having them at 19. I tried to make up for it by being ultra proper and stuffy as all get-out. I’m 45 now and the older kids laugh and say that the younger ones have different parents. I’m pretty chilled out. If they act up, it isn’t a reflection of me, it’s performance art and indicative of where they are.

In 2009, I had a disaster hit. Talking about it makes my blood pressure shoot up, so let’s leave it as the 2009 Disaster. My family was ok. I was mentally frazzled. I had plans where I was and the disaster ruined them. It was like my life and everything I had known got the Etch-a-Sketch treatment.

When I started blogging, my kids were roughly 16-newborn and now they are 25-9 years. The older ones are still active in the lives of the younger ones and I have to say that I am the parent of children who are growing up to make the world a better place. In college I majored in English and social work, and my kids have that intent in different fields and are shining their own lights.

My third child just joined the service, but is not yet graduated. When I am, I will probably wear gaudy Swarovski crystaled pins that say, “Soldier's Mom.” (Leave me alone. So I bought three of them already. I have also gained 20 pounds from worry as the likelihood of her going to the Middle East increases.) I didn’t want her to join, but she did, and I decided to be proud of her. Her latest letters have been upbeat and she describes boot camp as “an action packed summer camp from Hell” which is not bad considering that she has only been in for a little while. She is finding it challenging in a good way and is pulling out strengths that she didn’t know that she had, but looks forward to family day and graduating.

When I was in college, I used to brush my teeth with my eldest daughter. I would tell her how important it was to help other people when we could. She called me up a couple of years ago and reminded me of the conversations and said, “I am helping people, Mom! I just planted a crop for a food bank, and that food will get shipped to feed people here and thousands of miles away! It gives me chills thinking about it!” She is active in her church and she remembers me with my large family just not able to form friendships with other moms. I didn’t realize how much she saw, but other women would make plans for make-up parties or other home parties, or even baby showers and I’d ask if I could go and they’d blow me off and say, “You need to take care of your kids! You don’t want to make your husband take care of them!” Number One offers to baby sit or arranges child care for some of those moms who feel isolated in her church now and makes sure they get out. She is the fun (but strict!) big sister to many of the kids and uses her influence. She sent me flowers on her 25th birthday this year and thanked me for showing her all of the world that matters. She is a science teacher and a farmer. She is creating a love of learning for at least the generation of kids she teaches now, and perhaps for their children, and she loves this.

My middle daughter of those three works locally and is with a company that is paying for her college. She is an athlete who loves climbing things and she comes over at least once a week to take her siblings places, or she just hangs out. I like that the kids are tight with her. While her older sister loves church, my middle daughter dislikes it because of what she saw when she was younger with me. I like that she often paddles a canoe around or goes climbing on Sunday mornings as her form of worship. When my husband and I go to see Miss Marine Recruit graduate and become a full-fledged Marine, my middle daughter has already planned her week to ten days to spend with the kids and where she wants to take them. My 12 year old asked me that when she grows up, "Who will I come home to?" By then she will be an auntie and I told her that home will be various sibling's houses!

My teen sons are doing well in sports. I always felt bad that I could not afford to pay for them to be in sports on a regular basis, but a coach put his arm around me last week and said that determination and desire overcomes the lack of early training. My guys are at an age when lots of kids quit sports, and they have been raring to go for years. Now as teenagers, when I cannot afford to pay for something, they can tell a neighbor their problem and offer to weed a garden or help them paint their house. While I fear being charged with child labor, they are learning money management and responsibility. For my own sake I sometimes wish I could raise entitled brats, or maybe just really nice kids whose parents are able to provide for them better than I do now!

I hope this doesn’t read like a Christmas letter.

I never wanted to be a mother who identified herself through her kids, but while I am not a parent who hovers, they are what I did for 25 years. I don’t have toddlers who need constant attention anymore and I am branching into my own life.

This morning I was annoyed because I went to a political event and shared with a manager of a candidate who I like that I’d love to help, and that I really wanted to do something that I could possibly do to get a job later. She was baffled—obviously I am not young and what did I mean by needing experience! so I explained that I’d had nine children and hadn’t been out a lot and I wanted to get experience raising money. Hearing about the nine kids did it for her. She wanted to know how many I had left and she had jobs for us! And everything she said after that involved me and my kids, never mind their sports or when I was actually free! Well, we can always say no, and as far as finding something to do with myself, I got a an urgent plea to help out in a ministry that I did five or six years ago and that would not allow me to take the kids with me.

I was happy with my kids when they were little, but I was also tired and usually exhausted. My dad told me before he died that I had no idea how proud of my kids I’d become as they became adults, and how proud of me he was. He died 8 years ago this November. I didn’t understand how he could be proud of me—I started having kids at nineteen-- and I didn't stop. I joked that I was the poster girl for Planned Parenthood, the reason that they left Alaska for the American Southwest. Then I found out that (among many things) he bragged to his friends about me and about how I did Hospice when I had six kids, three of them still in diapers.  I am starting to understand now. Out of all my children, I am most likely not raising a state lawmaker or even a President, but I am raising some compassionate and really nice people. I get tears in my eyes talking about my Marine Recruit and of what my other kids do just because they are awesome people. For so long I thought I was accomplishing nothing and treading water, but it is the opposite.

Honest Reviews

I have agonized for the past 48 hours how to write a review of something that I disliked. Would I be honest and tell the owner to suck it up and let's stay friends? Would I lie? Would I just leave out the parts that I hated and write only good? I am still annoyed. I will write but leave out the event title. It is unlikely to happen again, and if the company does the same thing, I will probably hear about it and tip off the company owner about what I really thought!
I got suckered into buying a $35 ticket last week when the presenter confided in me that she was worried about not selling enough tickets to make the cost of a comedian who she was flying up. While my expendable dollars are stretched to the limit, I bought one.

My guilt for not including my husband was dashed five minutes into the show. I laughed politely and smiled to show that I was paying attention, but I didn't really find anything that she said to be humorous. She was doing that self depreciating female humor for women over the age of 40 where the jokes were about post menopausal weight gain, urinating,  husbands and wives where the husbands were stupid butts of jokes, confessionals where the comedian claimed that she was an idiot in conversations and didn't "get" her smarter husband, post menopausal weight gain, aging, post menopausal weight gain, and urinating (she used the term “to pee” or “to go pee” and the term annoys me.) The repetitions in my descriptions were not accidents and I want two hours of my life back. And my $35—the desert menu was good but not that good. The three other young women at my table excused themselves ten minutes into it.

The one time that I did laugh was when I checked my phone, hoping for an urgent message beckoning me home or to the hospital to donate a kidney or something. I couldn’t resist checking Face Book and in a private all female group we were discussing male "size" vs. motion on the ocean. One of my friends made a reference to "the curse of the dinky pinky winky." The humor was actually not disparaging to anyone in particular, just concepts. How she phrased it and the ensuing conversation was very funny and I let out a laugh that was part air, part snort, and part tea. Tea squirted out of my nose and I was in a sparsely attended show at the front table. She made a joke about me in that it was the first real laugh out of me all night.

Of course my going was not out of a desire to watch the show, it was a desire to support someone, so in this regard, it was money well spent.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Holding My Tongue

Last week I had to get out of the house to do some reading for school. I went to the nearest Starbucks and sat down during a quiet time, only to have my solitude shaken by a very pregnant woman and her four kids. I saw myself from 12 years ago in her, and as her kids and she settled in for a late morning treat, heard them praying (the prayer was loquacious and detailed, but the kids, each with a tasty cookie in front of them, kept their heads bowed) and then the usual rustling as they got situated.

When my kids were little and I was pregnant, I did not understand why people gave me weird looks and sometimes said unflattering things. My kids were wonderful and well behaved, and yet several times, comments were made about me knowing what caused children as if they were bad, and I even had women mouth, "birth control" at me and laugh at themselves.

Last week I met a woman who was a lot like me from my early daze. I would never have asked that young mother if she knew what caused babies, nor would I make a crude suggestion of birth control. Her kids were good kids and well behaved, and she was clearly having a happy pregnancy experience. Even when kids are being good, a small crowd of children like that is noisy even if they don't speak, there will always be a patter of footsteps, and the scraping of chairs. Moms and dads become impervious to the noise that is natural, and it's OK. But other people often have no clue as to why anyone would "do that to themselves" and take on such a task. I realized how hard it was to have such a large family, but I didn't comprehend it all at the time that I was having them. I was thankful for my good health at the time that helped me get through it, and I wasn't always high energy.

I went to the counter and bought a $10 gift card for the mom, I wanted to tell her what sweet kids she had and tell her that I had nine kids and that she could use it however she liked, but that I hoped that if she got out of the house alone that she could use it to relax.

I walked over to her and complimented her family and I told her that I had nine, myself. She was wearing a filigree cross on her neck and told me what a blessing her children were. I'm familiar with the talk and smiled and nodded. Then her head snapped, if I had nine kids, she wanted to know where they were. I told her that two were in college, and the rest were in school. She asked if I had them in a religious school and I said no, just regular public school. Her shoulders straightened and she said that she homeschools her children and that as a Christian mother, she would never, ever trust her babies to the public school system, she was a mom to her kids! Her lips curled up in a sneer and her eyes narrowed at me. Her implication that I was not doing well by my children hung in the air.

"Well, nice family," I said, and put the gift card into my purse. I have friends with birthdays and kids in college who would appreciate a Starbucks card from me.

St. Mary's Candidate Forum

I went to St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Anchorage for a State Senate Candidate Forum on September 22, 2014. It was put on by AFACT, “Anchorage Faith and Action * Congregations Together” the now 14 member congregations group came together in 2003 to address quality of life issues affecting the community.

The candidates who were there were Berta Gardner, Clare Ross, Kevin Meyer, Felix Rivera, and Harry Crawford, Jr. Mia Costello had planned to be there but a family emergency called her away at the last moment.  Coming from a church background that does not like to be out front and center and that does not do a lot of community involvement, walking into a traditional church such as St. Mary’s with all the Christian symbols that I am used to and hearing (eavesdropping?) attendees discuss several facets of an issue and not always in support of the religious right wing answer was refreshing. While being active in local works was not a prerequisite to being a member of the church and churches that were involved with AFACT, I was at an event that brought people who are active to it. I spoke to church members who are very active in the Anchorage community on all levels of politics. I spoke to people who are occasional volunteers at food banks and other groups, one mom took care of the children of a friend while the friend got out to volunteer while her husband was away on some long-term duty, and I met community organizers and seated politicians.

Fr. Fred of one of the member Catholic churches led us in prayer, prefaced by a Bible verse from Jeremiah (29:4-7) Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses to dwell in; plant gardens, and eat their fruits. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters. There you must increase in number, not decrease. Promote the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you; pray for it to the LORD, for upon its welfare depends your own.

Rev. Michael Burke of St. Mary’s moderated and I will tell you that he was one of the most interesting and animated pastors I have heard address and audience. The rules of the forum were simple: people with questions were not to speak until recognized by the moderator, and they were to limit their questions to one minute. Fifteen or so people got up to ask questions. The questions were varied. Among the questions (but not limited to what I will list) people wanted to know where candidates stood legalizing marijuana, what open government meant to them, if they had any ideas on expansion of early childhood programs, homelessness was addressed, a nurse asked about expansion of Medicaid, a woman who identified herself as a single parent told the forum participants that she made above minimum wage but indicated that it was still hard, and wanted to know if anyone had any solutions for people who were struggling besides increasing minimum wage, and someone asked how candidate felt about ALEC.

Keep in mind that candidates only had three minutes to respond and it reminded me of a speed dating meet-up. Everyone laughed when Rev. Michael mentioned that on his far right, they would start with Berta and she said, “Just for the record, nobody ever said that I was on the far right of anything!” When Berta Gardner began to speak, I envisioned the first of a pack of race horses. As far as I could tell, she addressed every question (or almost every question) that was asked. Topics that stood out to me were that she believes in pre-school programs and wants to increase the BSA, told us that marijuana makes criminals out of people, and that she doesn’t sign confidentiality agreements so she can share why she votes the way she does. While she didn’t think that ALEC was her thing, she didn’t have a problem with think tanks, only certain ideas that she didn’t think were best for the state.

Clare Ross radiated warmth and was concerned about mental health issues and abuse in the state and felt that education funding was the most important. She doubted that she’d ever be invited to join ALEC and wants to prioritize capital projects. She did address the homeless issue probably the most of any candidate and spoke of a concern of there being many families with children without homes and that that was an issue to act on.

Kevin Meyer, a Republican from District O, came. He was the only Republican there. While I noticed that Kevin did not answer a few particulars of questions (such as about student vouchers) he did exactly what he was supposed to do and played into his strengths. He was the Education Chair for four years on a bipartisan panel in Juneau and emphasized that education was at the top of his concerns for the coming session.  He does not support legalizing marijuana, and wanted to discuss the Knik Arm Bridge further. I did not call around to find out how easy he is to work with and am only basing my onion of what I saw, but he seemed like someone who could work with many personality types and persuasions.

The youngest candidate there, Felix Rivera, had the most enthusiasm and excitement in his answers. He was sitting next to his opponent, Kevin Meyers. He was very much against school vouchers, would like to increase minimum wage, and believes that society is shaped by and is based on education. He emphasized that Alaska used to stand for something and that there was a time when lawmakers got things done, but that government has not gotten much done, with many corporations being represented instead of the people.

Just as Berta started the forum answers with a laughable one liner, HarryCrawford, Jr. began the ending with another laughable quote-worthy one liner. When the Reverend told him that he had three minutes, he said, “I’m from the South. I’m not sure I’ve ever done anything in 3 minutes or less!” He expressed that he would like to fund education a year in advance and have an absolute minimum BSA of $425. He felt that Citizens United was the worst decision made in our country and he wants to reduce the corporate influence—and obviously, he won’t be a member of ALEC!

There was a one minute to address what they hadn’t had time for after the speakers had each had their say and after that it was time to break for cookies. I should have taken a picture as among the fascinating people who were there, there was a woman dressed as a suffragette in the back waiting to sign up anyone to vote who had not yet signed up. In spite of the fact that I think there were very few (if any!) in this crowd who had not signed up, she was hardly lonely!