Archive for the ‘The Family’ Category
After way too many hours of labor, I am officially an aunt!
Adelaide Grace was born at 4:44pm weighing 7lb 8oz and measuring 21 inches long.
I haven’t gotten to see her in person yet, but I have enough photographic evidence to tell you with great confidence that she is a completely perfect, beautiful, baby girl. I’m so proud of my sister for sticking through a very difficult labor and delivery. I have no doubt that many women, myself included, would’ve quit if they were faced with the circumstances of her delivery. She is a superhero. And now, also, a mom.
Happy birth day, ladies. I love you both tremendously.
If you know me now, or even knew me as a teenager, you might be surprised about the kind of child I was. I did well in school and participated in many different activities, but I had a temper. A very serious temper. It took very little to set me off and quite a lot to calm me down. It started when I was a toddler and grew in intensity through early elementary school. My parents like to say that I was passionate, but I remember feeling completely out of control when I got upset.
I remember would get into trouble for something totally typical, like talking back or fighting with my sister and my parents would tell me to go to my room. This was their attempt to stop the meltdown before it began. I obviously don’t know how often, but plenty of the time, they were too late. I wouldn’t go to my room because “it wasn’t fair” or “I didn’t do anything wrong.” I’d scream, yell, hit. I once scratched my mother’s arm until it bled. Eventually I would go to my room, and often times I’d scream that I hated my parents (purely in an attempt to make them feel bad) and then I’d slam my door.
The punishment system in our family was pretty straight forward. Minor offenses were time in your room, major offenses were a spanking with an open hand, always over clothes, always on the butt, never in anger. It was never unclear what merited which punishment, I knew the rules.
And I got spanked a lot.
Each spanking was done in an order. The punishing parent came in after a few minutes of quiet time in your room, discussed what had happened, doled out the spanking and gave me a few minutes to get myself together and then life went on. I was never in pain, I never felt abused. I trusted my parents and knew how very much they loved me. And I loved them too.
After a few years, I eventually learned to control my temper and I believe, undoubtedly, that it was because of the punishment system in our house. Because there were consequences, including spanking, I was able to slowly learn to use my words, calmly, instead of my actions and fists. I can tell you with all honesty that time outs alone would not have worked for me, they didn’t work for me and it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
At 18 I graduated high school with a 4.3 GPA. I received the most scholarship money out of anyone from my 500 person graduating class. I went to a top 40 college and graduated in 4 years. I went on to get a teaching credential, then a doctoral degree from the #1 ranked program in the country for my field of study. I don’t say this to brag, I say this to show you that unlike the studies that are so often cited these days, spanking didn’t stunt my IQ. It didn’t effect my academic performance (except maybe that I’ll never know when to use affect or effect), it didn’t cause my self-esteem to suffer. I have achieved great things, even with my horrific upbringing.
I am currently very happily married. I have a baby that I love with ever fiber of my being. I have my life together, I am calm and content. Again, I’m not bragging, I’m saying it to show you that unlike the most recent study’s results, I’m not a drug dealer, I am not clinically depressed nor psychotic. I am a well adjusted 29 year old. And I believe that I am who I am because of my parents and because of how they parented me.
These studies are tremendously frustrating to me because there are so many confounding factors that are ignored- parental education, socio-economic status, history of abuse unrelated to spankings, all of which influence the development of a child. You cannot lump all forms of corporal punishment together because spanking, in a controlled, non-angry manner is not the same as beating your children. You know how I know this? Because I received the former and I am GRATEFUL for it.
Furthermore, those studies did not find a causation, they found a correlation, but you won’t find a single article that says that. The way they are splashed about on news sites and blogs, as though these studies discovered that spankings are the only cause of all problems, is horribly misleading. It’s like saying that high school makes girls’ breasts grow when in reality, the timing of breast growth tends to fall near the start of high school but nothing about high school is actually causing said growth.
I do not expect the anti-spankers to suddenly run out and embrace corporal punishment, but I’m writing this in the hope that they’ll stop acting as though my parents abused me. I hate reading about how spanking is the worst thing you could do to a child because I had outstanding parents and it is an insult to them to imply that they were anything else.
When discussing parenting, it’s not about black and white. It’s about doing what is best for your children and for me and my family, that meant a punishment system that included spanking. It worked for us and instead of stunting me, I credit it as a large part of how I became a successful adult. It’s easy to have an opinion about something you’ve never experienced, it’s hard to set aside preconceived notions and open your mind to the possibility that there are other options, other ways of doing things.
Parenting is all about finding what works for you, what keeps your children safe physically, mentally and emotionally. And I am grateful every day that my parents were so successful at doing just that.
It is amazing to me that tomorrow makes a decade. 10 years. I can’t believe it’s been that long and I also can’t believe it’s only been that long. 10 years ago, I lost my Grandma.
I say lost, because that’s how it feels now. I grew up in a family that was incredibly tight knit. A family who celebrated even little holidays like Labor Day with backyard barbecues filled with cousins, aunts and uncles. A family that was centered around one woman. And for 10 years, we have lived without her, grown without her and changed without her. I often wonder if she would even recognize us now because somedays I’m not sure I do.
More than a third of my life has passed without her wisdom, without her love, without her special brand of crazy. Without her I’ve gone through my college graduation, a cross country move, a religious journey (she would totally not approve of), my wedding, and soon my graduate school graduation and the birth of my son. Much has changed in these 10 years.
Most days now I can barely remember what her voice sounded like. What her hair looked like. The words to the swinging song. The way she read Caps for Sale to us whenever we stayed the night at her house.
She’s lost in my mind, in my consciousness. But my heart still feels raw with missing her. My memories may be increasingly bare, but my love for her remains and the love she gave is still tucked in my heart as well.
As I approach parenthood, I begin to understand so much of her that was a mystery in my childhood. My grandma worried more than any person in the history of the world. There was no worst case scenario she didn’t consider, no event she didn’t fear at least a little. She still enjoyed her life tremendously, but now when I look back, I am starting to see bits of myself in her.
It wasn’t that she was crazy, though we always thought she was. She was afraid of losing what mattered the most to her: her family. Which is funny now since it was us who lost her. But I am now really understanding this fear for the first time. Yes, she was frequently irrational with her fears, she was occasionally absurd with her rules.
But what she was really being was a mother.
I don’t know that I’ll go to the extremes of worrying that my grandma did, honestly, I hope I don’t. But I do hope that when my family looks back several decades from now, they know that in all things, I loved them and protected them. That sometimes my decisions seemed irrational or unfair, but they were all motivated by love. They were all centered in concern for the thing that matters most: family.
For there were many lessons my grandma taught me, but loving and cherishing family was the most important. And it’s one lesson that I’ll never forget, no matter how many more decades I endure without her.
On Friday afternoon I got in my car and drove 120 miles north to one of my favorite places in the world, Ventura, California.
Ventura is the city where we vacationed every summer of my childhood. We stayed in my great-aunt’s beach house every year until I was in college. We packed aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and sometimes friends into that house, sometimes sleeping 4 or 5 to a room if necessary.
In the early mornings we walked on the beach and then to the local donut store through the secret hole in the wall near the liquor store. We stayed up late playing blitz, sometimes for quarters and sometimes for the candies my grandma bought at the grocery store next to the donut shop. Each day we walked down the street to the sandy stairs and up to the beach to build sand castles, to boogey board.
Because we were staying in my great aunt’s house for a really discounted price (they rented it out to people in the summer), we were told we had to conserve resources. So this meant when we crawled back from the beach after a long day of boogey boarding, we had to shower both with another cousin (of the same gender and general age) AND in the outdoor (though fenced off) shower. That shower presented both the greatest challenge and the greatest humor each summer.
When my older sister and cousin were showering, another cousin and I would turn on all the hot water in the house, so they only had cold (yea, not so good with the conservation). In turn, during our shower they would throw buckets of ice water over the fence on us. There was one time that someone, I’m honestly not sure who, threw a bucket of cold water on my sister and cousin and as retaliation my cousin came running out, completely naked, with the hose. And in the process soaked my grandma completely and put out her cigarette. I will never, ever forget the look on my grandma’s face as she sat there, dripping wet, while the rest of us watched behind the sliding glass door.
In the years since those days, my great-aunt and great-uncle have remodeled the house and now live in it full time, so we no longer stay there as a family, but we do visit whenever we’re in town. On Saturday we stopped by for a spaghetti dinner and for reminiscing.
It was the first time I’d really been in the house in years and I couldn’t believe how much it reminded me of my childhood. I remembered the showers, the bunk beds, all those years of sharing rooms, of bringing tape decks and blasting “Manic Monday” and dancing along. There are so many memories wrapped up in that house, in that city. It makes me feel both at home and melancholy for the experiences of my childhood. For my grandma, who isn’t here anymore.
This year it was just a small group of us and I realized, sadly, that the cousins who came along (ages 9, 7 and 2) never met or knew their grandma and sadly, their other grandma has a fairly rapid course of Alzheimer’s. They are living a completely different childhood than I did, with my mom filling much of the grandma void, and with a different grandpa than I knew. A slower one, but a more present one. One who comes to their home once a week and makes pancakes. One who babysits during nap time and whose name (Papa) the kids mastered before almost any other.
Just being there, seeing that beach through the eyes of these kids takes me back to when I was their age. When we had a week of care free time to be kids. To be a family. And though it’s not the same, I’m glad that they can have a taste of the summers in Ventura that I got to experience.
On Saturday my 7 year old cousin Mary looked at me and said, “Katie, how did they put all my favorite places in the world in Ventura?” And I just looked at her and smiled. Because I don’t know.
But somehow they put all my favorite places there too.
I was reminiscing with my family today about the months that I lived in Greece in college. I was lucky enough that I had family come and visit while I was there. Not only did it alleviate the homesickness that I occasionally battled, but it also gave me a chance to show my family around my new, though temporary, home.
My dad and step-grandpa came to visit in the middle of my time there and we planned an adventure. I knew seeing Greece with my dad was going to be different than seeing it with the other family who I had enjoyed visits with. You see, my dad shares the same totally nerdy love of history that I do. He is fascinated by the same kinds of things I am, we share a common political mind and I knew he would enjoy the ruins at least as much as I had. I knew he would just get it.
I didn’t have classes on Fridays while I was in Greece, so early Friday morning he and my step-grandpa rented a car and picked me up. On the way to my apartment he turned the wrong way down a one way street, which if you’ve ever driven in Athens morning traffic you know was not an idea situation. But he made it, in relatively close to one piece, and we were soon on our way.
We stopped at Thessaloniki and talked about the biblical history and looked at the platform where Paul spoke to the Thessalonians. We drove south through the Peloponnese peninsula and stopped in Sparta and other historical sites. We spent the first night in a hotel where I had a cot that periodically just broke apart for no good reason, landing me ass first on the floor.
The next morning we set out again, trying to find Mycenae and later Olympia. Only, Greece is not really all that well mapped or signed. And we got totally lost. This was 7 years ago, long before GPS units and smart phones were around, so we had our maps and a lot of empty space out in front of us trying to figure out where to turn. We decided to continue driving, that was, until we reach a ledge where the road kind of cut out.
I don’t remember exactly what happened that convinced us to, but before I knew it, we plowed over the ledge through what I think was a dried out river ravine and continued in the general direction we thought we wanted to go. And hours later, we found our destination. Together we walked through the Lion’s Gate, through burial caves and temple ruins.
In a way, seeing things through his eyes was almost better than seeing them through my own the first time. Telling him all the things I had learned about the historical sites, showing him ruins of temples, the first Olympic stadium and so many other things made the experience greater for me. We stayed in small hotel rooms and spent hours in the car, which most 20 year old girls probably don’t love. But these are memories I will absolutely never forget. Traveling those roads with my dad, ravines and all, were moments that I would never give back, never do over again, even if it meant not nearly risking our lives in a crazy ravine jump.
In so many ways I am a hybrid of my parents. From my father, I get my curly dark brown hair, my nose, my belly button, my torso, my long toes and my temperment. I can be quiet and calm, I can be laid back and easy going, I don’t mind doing things for others. But I am passionate about some things and I do not back down from those causes. I am as fiercely non-violent though it seems like an oxymoron, I hate war with all the deepest parts of my soul, I seek peace and love before all else.
My dad is a strong compass for me, pointing toward something calm, something strong. He is a place I can go when I need to vent, when I need help. He’s never one to judge and there is never any question about whether he has my best interests in mind. When planning our wedding he was always one of the first people I called after making decisions because I knew that he wouldn’t grill us about cost or location or religion, he wouldn’t bring up all the things that could go wrong, he would just tell us how excited he was for us and he would really mean it, without reservation.
I think that relationships with parents are as unique as each child themselves. I don’t value my relationship with my dad over that with my mom, nor vice versa. But I find that each is such a profound part of who I am, of what makes me me, keeps me grounded and helps explain how I became the person that I am, that I know that I could not have come to the point I have without them.
Today I celebrate my dad, for his support and unwavering excitement in all the realms of my life. I celebrate him for how he has shaped me into a passionate but calm person, how he has shown me that I can fight with conscientious thoughts not fists. I celebrate how he has instilled in me a passion for history, for politics, for knowledge. I hope that when I am a parent I can provide the same guidance he has given me, the same unwavering love and support through good and bad times, the same nerdy love for government and history. I hope that he knows that I have lived so much of my life wanting to make him proud of me, that there are few trophies, few achievements that could top his approval.
Happy Father’s Day Dad. I hope this is more creative than the Kindle card I settled on. You are impossible to shop for. But I love you tremendously anyway.
Memorial Day is a day we set aside to show gratitude for and remember those who lost their lives while protecting our country. I come from a family where many of my grandparents and great-uncles were in the military, though we were lucky in that most returned home safely.
Each year on Memorial Day, my grandmother used to take me and my sister to the large cemetery in town. We would stop on the way and buy flowers and then we would walk solemnly to her brother’s grave sites and place flowers and say a few words for them. She would tell us stories about them, about the things they did and how they lived and died. She cried some years, other years she was stoic, but her sadness often shone through.
These outings almost never went as planned. My grandma could never find the florist on the first or second try and then usually once we found the florist, finding her brother’s graves was always another journey. But my Grandma was focused, she would honor her brothers for their sacrifices, she would not let us forget about those who came before us.
It’s been 9 years since my Grandma died and probably 15 years since I last went to that cemetery with her to visit her brothers. She now rests in a nearby plot of earth and I’m somewhat comforted that she is near her brothers who she loved so dearly. But I find that on Memorial Day, my mind goes to her. To all the years that she taught us how important this day is, how to honor her brothers and the others who gave their lives for our freedom.
Today we remember those who fought for us, those who lost their lives so that we could have ours. We remember them, we remember their families and we honor their legacies.
And today like many others days, I remember her. I remember my Grandma for teaching me about Memorial Day, for reminding me to thank our servicemen and women. I remember her for all the ways she honored her brothers and the way she reminded us to be thankful for sacrifices that were made long before we were even born. I remember her for her bravery, for growing up without her brothers and for her sense of duty to them.
And I miss her, deeply, as I know others are missing their family members today. And just as she would want, I am grateful for the sacrifices made by families all over this country to give me the freedoms that I so often take for granted.
May they rest in peace, may they have sisters who tell their stories to new generations so that their memories, their bravery and their lives will never be forgotten.
I’m not spending today with my mom, primarily because I still have an exam to prepare for tomorrow, but also because of distances and because I’m going to drive to see her next weekend. She called me a week ago and requested that we not buy her a Mother’s Day gift this year because we just had her birthday and Easter, and I’m willing to respect that wish (see also: not wealthy). I don’t have the time to write everything I want to, but I thought I could take a moment away from studying to share one thing.
I was trying to think about the coolest thing my mom ever did and I was struggling. Not because there was a lack of cool things, or trips or experiences, but because the coolest thing my mom ever did didn’t fall into any of those categories.
The coolest thing my mom ever did, was give me a sister (well, technically, she gave my sister a sister, but whatever). Having a sister has given me someone I could look up to, someone I could fight with and play with, a partner in crime.
For years my mom not so secretly hoped that one day we would be friends, that we would learn to communicate and stop fighting. And I think that one of the best gifts I can give back to my mom on this Mother’s Day is the knowledge that my sister is truly one of my closest companions. I talk to her several days a week, if not every day. We laugh, we support one another, occasionally we argue, but we are friends, sisters, and we love each other. My sister knows my secrets, my fears, my joys and my struggles.
So I just wanted to say thank you to my mom, not just for my life and all the joys and memories, but for giving me someone else to share those joys with, to make believe with and to grow up with.
I think I speak for both of us when I say Happy Mother’s Day, mom. We love you more.
A few weeks ago, when I was putting on makeup, I stepped back from the mirror and realized for the first time, that I am starting to look a lot like my mom. I’ve always been a nice mash up of my mom and dad, and people have always kind of split between saying I looked just like one or the other, but I think as I’m aging, I’m becoming more and more like my mom.
I know for some people that’s a scary thought, but not for me. My mom is the kind of person I strive to be. It’s hard for me to explain it because my mom is complex, our history is complicated.
I was a difficult kid. I got in trouble a lot at home and I had a lot of trouble with boundaries. I was stubborn (clearly I grew out of that) and once I was upset, I was hard to calm. I think I probably spent years of my life in trouble and the worst part was that I always deserved it. Once when I was 5, my mom took us to the store to buy my sister a swimsuit. My birthday had just passed and gotten several bathing suits already, so the shopping wasn’t for me. And as the story goes, I got so upset that she wouldn’t buy me a suit that I threw a fit in the store and in my 5 year old rage, scratched her arm pretty significantly. When I finally calmed down, my mom showed me what I had done and I broke down in tears with remorse.
I have hurt my mother many other times over our 27 years together. Most of them were not physically, but there are days when I think about the things I’d do over, the things I’d do better. I know that I was a difficult child, that I stood at the entry to my bedroom and shouted that I hated her more times than I could probably count. I know I told her she was the worst mom, that she was the meanest. I searched and found the most hurtful words I could find and hurled them at her. I wore her patience, I exhausted her calm. I blamed her for things she didn’t do.
The last time I really remember hurting my mom was when I was 21. I was studying abroad in Greece and I had been sending back funny emails to friends and family. In my last email there, I gave my top 10 things I loved about Greece, and one of them was that I got time to explore my life away from my family. It was callous and meant to be funny, but I found out through other family members that it had really hurt my mom’s feelings and I was heartbroken.
I try not to live in regrets, but one of the things I think about and wish I could undo the most are all the times, the years, that I took my mom for granted. My mom has rushed to my aid hundreds of times, often without being asked. She’s driven thousands of miles just to be there with me, to hold my hand, to give me a hug. She’s bent over backwards, she’s shelled out thousands of dollars, all for me. And I sometimes wonder how I will ever repay her for all she’s done.
I don’t know how to repay someone for being your best friend. For being the voice of reason in a crisis. For being willing to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week about anything. For sending me anxiety pills in the mail because I ran out and my insurance wouldn’t cover a refill yet. For sending me cards to let me know she’s thinking about me. For sending me text messages that say that she loves me.
How do you repay someone for being exactly what you’ve needed at every phase of your life?
Tomorrow is my mom’s birthday. Her 55th, which she probably didn’t want me to tell you, but I’ve never been a very good listener. I have always struggled to get her gifts at her birthday. I never feel like I can give her enough. I never feel like what I get her is special enough or meaningful enough. I have never been able to find a gift to show her how very much she means to me, how incredibly glad I am that she was born, that she is my mother.
I’ve never been able to find a way to show her how grateful I am, every single day, to have her in my life. Hallmark just doesn’t make a card for that.
I don’t know that I will ever repay my mother, or make up for the things I would undo from our history, but I hope that she knows how much I love her, how grateful I am for all she has done for me, for all she has given up for me. I can’t wait to be a mother so that I can watch her with her grandchildren, so I can teach my daughters the things she taught me.
When I look in the mirror and see her, I’m comforted. Growing into my mother doesn’t scare me, it’s not something I’ll ever complain about.
Because there is no one on this earth I’d rather be like than my mom.
Happy birthday Mom. Even though it will never be enough, know that I love you with all my heart and that even if I didn’t say it enough as a kid, or even now as an adult, I am so thankful to have you in my life. I could not ask for a better role model, a better friend, a better mom than you.
I opened a program on my computer this morning and discovered that my mother unfollowed me on twitter today. First, I cried quietly to myself and then I did the only logical thing you can do in such a situation, I texted her.
My mother is kind of hilarious, by the way.
But she got me thinking, twitter is kind of confusing and perhaps she’s not the only mom who wants to follow her kids (without stifling them, clearly) and maybe a mom’s introduction to twitter is needed. And since we’ve already covered all the annoying crap that you need to stop doing on twitter, I figured a quick introduction to how twitter works might be in order. If the print on the pictures is too small, you can click on them and make them bigger so you can read the print. All orange arrows and blue/purple print are my additions.
Now, let’s say you know that there’s someone you’re not following them and you might want to consider following them. This is what their page will look like (for the record, I wasn’t planning on following her, she was just the only person I could think of that I KNEW I wasn’t following):
Now, let’s say you want to send a tweet. Go back to the main page (can do that by clicking on the big word twitter on the top left of your screen) and click on the box at the top that says “What’s Happening?”
There’s definitely more, but these are the basics and these are enough for today. Especially since all you really needed to know is that you should never unfollow YOUR OWN DAUGHTER.
At 11 this morning, I got a text from my dad. It said that my grandma had been taken to the hospital in an ambulance because she was dizzy and her blood pressure was “crazy.” I still haven’t quite established what constitutes crazy in terms of blood pressure, but I understood that it wasn’t good.
I was finally able to speak to him when I left my clinical at 4:30 this afternoon. They had run a battery of tests because the most pressing concern was that she was having a stroke. To say that we were worried was an understatement.
My grandma is in pretty good health and it was the first time I’ve really been faced with a reality that I have long been ignoring. I still have two living grandparents and they are aging. And while it’s easier for me to walk around with my head in the sand pretending this isn’t happening, the reality is that it is.
When my father spoke with my sister a few hours ago, he broke down and cried. My father is having to face an even scarier reality. He has already lost his father and even though I would be nothing short of heartbroken to lose my grandma, my pain would pale in comparison to his, and I’m not sure I can stand to watch him go through that again. Our family was present when my grandpa died and I have never felt as broken as I did watching my father grieve his father right before me.
I’ve been in such a rush to become and adult, that I’ve forgotten that growing up isn’t always filled with joy and laughter, sometimes it’s filled with the difficult stuff too. And I’m suddenly realizing that maybe it’s time for me to slow down and enjoy what I have now. It’s time for me to realize just how lucky I am to have large, loving family in good health. Most people do not have that luxury and I know that I need to stop taking it for granted.
My grandma is home now, though they’re unsure of exactly what transpired today. A scan of her brain (not sure if MRI or CT) showed no stroke, but it did show significant calcification of her carotid arteries and that sends up about a million red flags and is definitely not something we’re going to take lightly. She is having an ultrasound done soon to see the extent of it. The whole situation is made a little scarier because my other grandma had a similar scare less than a year before she died. It’s getting harder and harder to pretend like everything is okay.
But it is.
And though this afternoon was absolutely terrifying, it was also a good reminder that I need to do a better job of telling my family how much I love them. I know they know it, but I want to make sure that there’s never a doubt, just in case someday I have to pull my head out of the sand and face a reality I never want to see.