5

The Case for a Little Benign Neglect

I came across this 2009 post of mine deep within the bowels of my blog’s archive. 

(Sorry for the colonic imagery.) 

I think it’s still relevant today, so…here you go.

AUGUST 24, 2009

By today’s standards for parenting, my entire generation shouldn’t have made it to adulthood.

lg_27helicoptersThe other day my daughter attended a “meet and greet” with the teachers at the private school my grand-kids attend.  She figured it would be the usual get-together where the teacher expounds upon the lesson plan for the year, the parent listens while politely munching on a cookie provided by the room mother, and then the teacher fields a few questions on mundane topics such as “can little Herkimer wear his orthodontic headgear in class.”

Instead, my daughter was taken aback by the grilling some of the mothers gave my grandson’s second grade teacher, Miss F., a young single gal with a bookish demeanor but, apparently, nerves of steel.

The intensity and depth of the questioning were quite surprising.

Sarah Palin was given more leeway by Katie Couric than the young Miss F. received from her inquisitors.

The climax of the interrogation arrived when one of the mothers said she wanted to personally deliver a Subway sandwich to her daughter every day for snack time.  (I will interject here that the kids in kindergarten through second grade get out of school at 12:15, so there is no actual lunch period.)

Our Miss F. maintained her cool while informing the mother that this was not an option.  She explained if the children want a snack, they must bring it with them from home.  Anything out of the norm would be disruptive to the class and interfere with the egalitarian atmosphere that the school was trying to project.

The mother wasn’t listening.  She pressed on by asking if she could just “hang it on the classroom doorknob” so as not to disturb anyone.  Miss F. wasn’t buying this either, but apparently it took some discussion before the case was closed.

When my daughter related this conversation to me, I raised my hands to shoulder level and made little fluttering motions with my fingers.

“What is that?” she asked.

“Helicopter parents” I said, to clarify that I wasn’t having a stroke or something.

She hadn’t heard that before, so I went on to explain the concept of parents who continuously hover over their kids, anticipating their every need.  These are parents who have completely invested themselves in their children, possibly setting up their kids for a rude awakening at some point when they discover the universe is not centered around them.

In the days since hearing of Miss F.’s inquisition, I’ve been reflecting upon my own upbringing.  Certainly my mother worried about things like me putting my eye out if I ran with scissors, but there wasn’t a lot of concern about many of the things that are taken for granted with child raising today.

We rode bikes everyday and didn’t wear protective helmets.  We wandered around the neighborhood and beyond all day and into the dusk, only returning home after hearing my father’s loud whistle from the front yard.

My mother used to put big gobs of Vicks Vapor Rub up our noses when we had colds.  If you actually read the directions, it emphatically says not to use it anywhere internally, only on the chest.  I should be dead right now.  But, if my mother had her way, she would have found a way to cure cancer with Vicks, she loved it so much.

My parents had a baby-blue Oldsmobile.  There were no seatbelts and the dashboard was solid metal.  We kids used to rattle around in the backseat and very often I would ride in what we called “the way back”, that spot that was sort of a ledge behind the backseat and below the rear window.  If there had been a quick deceleration, I would have been a projectile object.  No one gave it any thought.

I practiced a form of benign neglect with my own kids.  Yes, they wore seat belts, always.  (By that time we did have them, thankfully.)  But when it came to overseeing every little detail of their day, that I didn’t do.

Maybe this attitude of “live and let live” was a result of my mother always wanting to know what I was thinking.  It wasn’t out of concern for my well-being.  She just wanted to know what was going on in my little head at all times.  So perhaps allowing my kids to have some independence from the Thought Police resulted in my being more of a laissez-faire parent overall.

Yes, things have changed in this country since the 50’s and 60’s and not in good ways.  There are a lot more threats out there to children than there used to be.  But kids need room to grow into individuals and they can’t do it with Mom and Dad always fluttering overhead.

Be like my mother.  Send the kid to school with a warm tuna sandwich.

Now, that’s living dangerously.

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2

Steven Wright—My Idol

A number of years ago, I created about 100 ATCs, also known as artist trading cards. Each one is the size of a playing card and mine were little collages that illustrated funny quotes.

One of my favorite sources for these usually absurd observations was the comedian Steven Wright. Woody Allen was another. Woody’s style was the nebbishy guy who angsted about sex and death a lot. Steven was just plain off the wall. That’s why I love him.

Today I came across an interview with him about his joke writing style on New York Magazine’s website.  The interviewer asked him if he had a favorite joke.

This is what he said:

I do have a favorite, but it’s not the general public’s favorite. It’s kind of long. It had to do with: I’m going to my grandfather’s wake. I kneeled down at the casket, and I’m looking at him in the casket, and I started thinking about the batteries in my flashlight. Then I said to my aunt, “Maybe he’s not dead, maybe he’s just in the wrong way.”

That’s my actual favorite one, but usually, when people ask me if I have a favorite one, I just say no. I don’t know why, it’s almost like a private thing.

I wish I had heard that one when I was creating my ATCs. That would have been a fun one to do.  *Dang*

Here’s a ten minute video of Steven’s comedy routine. I was pleased to recognize several of the jokes that I incorporated in my ATCs.

And below that are some of my Steven Wright inspired ATCs.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

9

Birthday Remembrance for Dad

Today would have been my dad’s 100th birthday, so I thought I’d repost this piece from Veteran’s Day a year ago.

Happy Birthday, Daddy.  I miss you.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Here are some photos of my dad from an earlier post I did on my family history.

I find this photo particularly poignant.  I managed to date it to Dec. 25, 1942 from the headline on the newspaper my Dad is reading.  He would be going into the Coast Guard soon to serve during WWII.  He had the opportunity to get a job at a factory that supplied the war effort and essentially sit out the war safely at home, but he wouldn't do it.  He didn't feel he could face his children if he didn't "do his part."  My Mother (on the right) is about 2 or 3 months pregnant with my older brother.  My Grandmother is on the left, lost in thought.  To me, this scene reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting.

I find this photo particularly poignant. I managed to date it to Dec. 25, 1942 from the headline on the newspaper my Dad is reading. He would be going into the Coast Guard soon to serve during WWII. He had the opportunity to get a job at a factory that supplied the war effort and essentially sit out the war safely at home, but he wouldn’t do it. He didn’t feel he could face his children if he didn’t “do his part.” My Mother (on the right) is about 2 or 3 months pregnant with my older brother. My Grandmother is on the left, lost in thought. To me, this scene reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting.

 

My mother found her own hunky dude in the form of my father, Jack, seen here on his Coast Guard ship during WWII.  His ancestors came to this country from the Alsace region of France, probably in the early 1700's.  (That region typically veered back and forth between the control of France and Germany until finally coming under French rule in recent times.)  My Dad's relative during the Revolutionary War provided meat to the troops, so we qualify for membership in the DAR for that "patriotic assistance."  They say an army travels on its stomach....

My mother found her own hunky dude in the form of my father, Jack, seen here on his Coast Guard ship during WWII. His ancestors came to this country from the Alsace region of France, probably in the early 1700’s. (That region typically veered back and forth between the control of France and Germany until finally coming under French rule in recent times.) My Dad’s relative during the Revolutionary War provided meat to the troops, so we qualify for membership in the DAR for that “patriotic assistance.” They say an army travels on its stomach….

 

Jack Coast Guard

When I was a kid, my Dad would let us play with the semaphore flags he had brought back from the war. Sometimes he would demonstrate how to send certain messages and occasionally, with a mischievous gleam in his eye, he would spell out words that we knew had to be “naughty,” but we didn’t know what they were. My mother would just say, “Oh, Jack!” and laugh along with us.

 

My parents' union was "blessed" first with the arrival of my brother, Tim, in 1943 and then with me in 1947.  Get a load of the noggin on that baby!

My parents’ union was “blessed” first with the arrival of my brother, Tim, in 1943 and then with me in 1947. Get a load of the noggin on that baby!

Dad passed away in 1998 at the age of 82.  His generation had to deal with the Great Depression and WWII.  They had a job to do and they stepped up and did it.  Many never returned to their families.  We were among the lucky ones.  Thanks, Dad.

8

“It’s Not Your Mother’s Oldsmobile” Revisited

Back in 2013 I wrote a post about receiving a sign from my deceased parents letting me know they were okay, entitled “It’s Not Your Mother’s Oldsmobile.”

Today I found myself back in that same gift shop. I had decided to walk around in town and soak up the Christmas spirit before things got too crazy with tourists crowding the sidewalks. We’d had rain and colder temperatures earlier in the week but today was sunny and around 60 degrees. A perfect day for poking around in the stores.

I must confess that I was more than a little hopeful that I would have some kind of reprise of my last experience in that shop. I was already in a very nostalgic mood after gawking at a large collection of Shiny Brite ornaments in another store.  They reminded me of the ones I’d lost to the storage locker thief.

And here, again, were my old friends, the Christmas stockings with the 50’s Santa on them, propelling me back in time to when I was a kid, lying under our Christmas tree at night, gazing up at the lights and breathing in the wonderful scent.

I went over to the card rack just to see if they still had that same card with the Oldsmobile on it, but they didn’t. Of course not. It’s been a couple of years and they had put new cards in its place. Kind of silly, really, to expect the same experience, wasn’t it?

As I made my way around to the front of the store, I stopped at a table with some interesting small books on display. One set was called “The Little Book of Saints.” I’m not Catholic, nor were my parents, but the cover intrigued me. It looked like (and was) a copy of a vintage holy card. I love artwork like that, so I picked up one of the books out of several in the stack. It had a padded cover that felt smooth and soothing in my hand.

I noticed it had a pale blue satin bookmark attached at the top. It was marking one of the pages that was not quite in the middle of the book. I opened the book to see what saint it was and found that it was St. Jeanne of Valois.

The patron saint of those who lose their parents.

Oh…my.

I picked up a couple of the other books and found only one other one had a specific page marked with the satin ribbon. Most had the bookmark pulled down just inside the front cover.

Why did I pick that particular book and not the others?

Because I needed it, I guess.

 

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15

In Memory of “The Comeback Cat”

We had to have TLC, the subject of this post from 2011, put to sleep today because of cancer.  I thought it would be fitting to repost this as a tribute to her.

When we bought our place here twelve miles outside of town a couple of years ago, three cats came along as part of the deal.  For whatever reason, the previous owners didn’t want to take the cats with them when they moved, so we said we’d take over their care because we like cats and it’s always a good idea to have some outside cats on patrol when you live in snake country.

We suspect they all came from the same litter because two of them are solid gray in coloration and one is a combo of white, gray and orange.  Two are neutered males and one is a spayed female.

The female has kind of been through the wringer physiologically, because besides being spayed she’d also been declawed and her tail had been cut off right down to its base, with barely a little stump remaining.

For want of much imagination at the time when we moved in, we named her “T.L.C.”, for tail-less cat.  The other gray cat is “T.C.”, for tailed cat.  The white/gray/orange cat we call “Nemesis” because he tended to pick fights even though he no longer has any “habichuelas” to contribute testosterone to the mix.

It seems he was neutered after he was an adult, so I guess old habits die hard.

T.L.C. apparently had been an indoor/outdoor cat.  We learned this early on because she knew how to open the front door by jumping up and hitting the door latch hard, which resulted in the door becoming ajar enough for her to gain entry.

Although T.L.C. had been declawed, we already had an indoor cat and we were afraid the two wouldn’t get along, so T.L.C. has remained an outdoor kitty and despite some attacks from Nemesis, she’d done pretty well.

She even has a “husband” now in the person of Roadie, one of the two cats we rescued after they were dumped on our road as kittens and were living in a drainage culvert.  She and Roadie (who was neutered at six months of age) get along famously and he’s been kind of her protector from any of Nemesis’ advances.

But…shit happens, as they say.

A couple weeks ago I noticed that T.L.C.’s left eye was watery and she seemed to be squinting a little more than what she does when she’s in her Love Mode—getting right up in my face while “making biscuits” with her soft paws.

I looked at her eye as best I could and didn’t see anything obvious or any bleeding.  She didn’t seem to be in distress, so we just figured she might have scratched her eye on one of the spiny plants that naturally occur here in the hill country.

Her eye appeared to improve for a while, but then it got worse, so I started using some antibiotic eye drops that I had for my Himalayan inside cat.

(Eyes seem to play a big role in my life–from my Mother’s macular degeneration, to Neferkitty’s chronic dry eyes and conjunctivitis, and now T.L.C.’s dilemma.)

This last Friday (ironically the 13th) she had a lot of discharge coming from her eye and the pupil didn’t look right so I took her to our vet, a really nice guy who’s been in practice for many years and who has a wonderful bedside manner.

He took a good look at T.L.C.’s eye and said “You’re not going to like this, but the eye has to come out.”  He then showed me how her eyeball had become somewhat shrunken in the socket and that’s why the pupil looked distorted.  He thought she’d either been deeply scratched by another cat or her eye had been punctured by something sharp.

Either way, it had become infected inside and was losing fluid.  Since the pupil didn’t seem reactive, he felt that she wasn’t seeing much of anything, if at all, out of that eye.  He didn’t think it could be saved.

He tried to reassure me by saying that cats do very well with just one eye, but I was too busy mentally kicking myself for being a Bad Mother.  (And not “bad” in a good way like 70’s icon John Shaft.)

The vet gave me an antibiotic liquid to give T.L.C. twice a day and said to continue with the eye drops three times a day over the weekend.  We scheduled her surgery for today, Monday, at 8:30 in the morning.  *Sigh*

We isolated T.L.C. in the room off the carport so I could give her the meds. easily and just to keep her as comfortable as possible.  Through this whole thing she never stopped purring and wanting to be petted.

If it were me, I’d be pissed.  But that’s the beauty of pets—unconditional love, whether we deserve it or not.

This morning, after a little over two days of antibiotics, we were surprised to see that the discharge had lessened to just some wateriness and that the pupil seemed to be more normal and appeared to be reactive to light.

But still—over the weekend I’d done a lot of Googling about her condition and thought that maybe this was just wishful thinking on my part.  I really, really didn’t want her to have to lose her eye.  She’d been through a lot of physical trauma in her life and still was the sweetest cat.

I reluctantly left her off at the vet’s office at 8:30 and did some errands in town for a couple of hours.  Just after I got home the phone rang and it was the vet.  My first thought was, “Oh, no…something bad has happened during surgery…it was cancerous…or worse…she didn’t make it through the operation.”

My mind tends to work that way.  Just ask my husband.

But, thankfully, no!  The vet said that he had wanted to take another look at her eye before his assistants prepped T.L.C. for surgery.  He said he was amazed (his word) at how good it looked.  He had even thought that maybe it wasn’t the same cat!  So he called off the surgery and wants to continue with the eye drops to see how she does.  He said the puncture wound may have sealed itself (it happens).  That, along with the antibiotics, may have been enough to allow the fluid in the eye to restore the shape to the eyeball and reactivity to the pupil.

She isn’t entirely out of the woods yet, but he feels that she certainly is doing so much better that she deserves a shot at preserving her eye.

Hallelujah!

T.L.C. is home and back in her recovery room, having a welcome meal of kitty crunchies and is being spoiled rotten.

We’ve decided that her name “T.L.C.” now stands for “The Lucky Cat.”

10

Time To Cleanse The Palate

I’m suffering from “BNF” (bad news fatigue) today, so I thought I’d post one or two entries from my little 5″ x 8″ sketchbook that I’ve been keeping lately.

Every day I walk my little Chihuahua, Kelso, at our local park or sometimes the library, like I’ll have to do this weekend when Oktoberfest mania has taken over our usual haunt. If I find something of interest, I’ll snap a photo of it and do an ink, watercolor, and marker sketch from it later when Kelso isn’t tugging at the leash to get going.

This one is of an antique shop called The Farmhouse across the street from the park.  It’s in an old limestone building with a standing seam metal roof.  I like to do these sketches quickly (maybe 15 mins.) so I won’t agonize too much over the details, which I’m prone to do. Besides BNF there’s always OCD.

Enjoy.

Farmhouse sketch2