3.30.2008

Single Mothering, or, The Art of Parenting Boys

Now that my sons have grown into men, I am satisfied that all my fears and worries that I wasn't prepared for single motherhood are laid to rest. Like something I baked in the oven, they turned out “just right.”

Since they were two and three years old, my sons and I have been like a little package tied with ribbon. It has been a wild ride with ups and downs and twists and turns – but we eventually arrived at their adulthood in one piece.

I don't think it is any different to raise children alone or with another parent. It is still a bittersweet, sad, beautiful, terrifying, rewarding experience. However, through the years, I have experienced prejudice and discrimination as a single parent. I'm not alone – all the single parents I met have felt the same thing. Parent teacher conferences would always spiral downward to the teacher expressing her concerns about my sons coming from a "broken" home. If they acted out or were disruptive in school, it was blamed on one or the other being from that ubiquitous “broken” home. For a while, I listened to this and reluctantly bought into the idea that indeed any bad or inappropriate behavior was entirely my fault because I was a single parent. After a good deal of time, and after observing several children with two parents, I breathed a sigh of relief to find out we were all normal. It didn't matter if a child had one parent, two parents, a whole gaggle of parents – the mischief and mayhem wrought by any child was simply an equal opportunity gift, having nothing at all to do with the parent(s).

Heck, I've known households with two parents and one of them was always fishing, out hunting, drinking with buds, or just plain not there, or worse, there and having a negative impact on children with rants and raves and tantrums – from the parent. Who made up the rule that being a single parent means the children are going to grow up to be unsuccessful?


****************

We've had our moments. Being a "girl" has its disadvantages when raising boys alone. There is the whole issue of bathroom stuff. When they were finally taking care of business by themselves, I pondered how I would teach them how to stand at the toilet. I mean, I'd spend hours trying to figure this out without getting totally outrageous and embarrassing all three of us to death. They'd look at me like I was from Mars.

Then a little friend came over to play one day and the natural order of life played out and suddenly both boys were thrilled beyond words that they could do this marvelous standing up trick. And before I knew it, a contest began: He who could stand the furthest away from the target (the toilet) and still hit the center, won. I tolerated this to an extent and added a rule of my own: He who lost acquired his own mop and cleanser. Then there was the tandem game – crossing streams from ten feet away – same rules applied. The last time I discussed bathroom etiquette and personal hygiene with them was when I asked one if he wiped. He was aghast! "You don't wipe!" he said incredulously, "You shake."

****************

Cub Scouts was a test of my durability and persistence to stay the course, since most of the parents were men. Actually most of the men were reliving their childhood and building the best stock car for the derby ever made by man, er, boy on record. The rules specifically said that the boy was to carve, whittle, and smooth his block of wood into a mean lean racing machine. I followed the rules. I took the coveted block of wood home with my son, with instructions that he was to do all of the work himself. I borrowed a hack saw from the neighbor, who also offered to help, but I thanked him, saying, no, the child is supposed to do all the work.

My son bent over his nothing-shaped block of wood and proceeded to sweat over it, saw at it, chip at it, shave it, sand it; all the time I'm standing there trying not to interfere, sitting on my hands, or biting my fingernails, in a very strained effort to let him do it himself.

So – it gets done and vaguely resembles a stock car, slathered in yellow enamel paint. All to the specs and requirements of the Cub Master. When we arrived at the Derby – nearly, and I mean 99.5%, of the cars there were CHERRY. (Tell me to my face that a 10-year old boy made that!) Perfect little miniature stock cars, sleek, smooth, and fast. I fully expected to find a tiny little motor inside. When it came time for my son's turn “at the wheel,” he placed his precious home-made car on top of the race ramp

..... and .....

It wouldn't move.

One of the fathers kindly and imperceptibly tapped the Yellow Bomb repeatedly to the finish line. Sad!

Then there was the cake bake sale where again the boys were supposed to “do it on their own.” I had learned my lesson THIS time. I mixed it; I baked it; and then my son helped me decorate it. A plain white cake with white frosting and a crudely shaped yellow “happy face” with chocolate piping for the eyes and mouth. It looked kind of cute.

We arrived and there were cakes that were perfect! Flowers, piping, stars, and one that was shaped and looked like a beehive, complete with bees made out of licorice frosting and yellow frosting for the bumble bee effect. Perfect bees.

We left and never looked back.

***************

One of our pastimes was to go for drives. It was cheap (gas was much cheaper in the 70s.) I love to drive in the country and they loved to be passengers. Somehow, my seat created a division, like a wall, that turned into a “confessional” of sorts. They would share everything to the back of my head. Everything. They had no secrets from me and so they shared their joys, wishes, mistakes, outright sins, goals, dreams, fears, anger, hope. . . . . And I listened. Quietly, with no conditions. We would spend hours upon hours driving country roads while they spilled their deepest heart thoughts to me, Mother Confessor.

Their father left our family for another man. This I note not for any sympathy, but just to understand the boys' viewpoints. Their father is a good and decent man, highly intelligent, and very compassionate. His decision involved a long drawn out soul-searching and self discovery.

The boys discovered this fact about their father ten years after he left. I simply told them that he was a “good and decent man, highly intelligent, and very compassionate.” But on our drives, I realized that this new piece of information was a constant niggling in their minds. They wanted to know if it was contagious. Is it hereditary. Is it biological, ecological, atmospheric, scientific, analytical, or what? Would it happen to them, they pondered. The “birds and bees” conversations that parents handle with their children is very over rated. We spent miles and hours discussing the boys' father and their own identities. I kept wondering if they were getting the right message or even if this was just too serious for a developing pre-teen, when suddenly my youngest, who loved to use big words even if he didn't know their definition, announced, “I know! When I grow up I'm going to be a nymphomaniac!”

Oh, yeah, every mother's dream child. :)

The “boys” are in their mid-30's now and I love them more today, even though I absolutely doted on them when they were little.

When I see them walking towards me I think, not bad, single mother.

3.28.2008

Transplants - Redux

Well, will wonders never cease! I'd like to be selfish enough to think my last blog post had some effect. The insurance company relented on their waiting period stipulation - Mr. Watley is now back on the transplant list. Good luck to you and God bless!

See Spokesman Review article at http://www.spokesmanreview.com/breaking/story.asp?ID=14307

3.26.2008

Transplants, Waiting Periods, Insurance Gods, O My

Dying for a transplant
John Stucke
Staff writer
March 26, 2008


Fred Watley is missing his chance for a liver transplant.

A new organ may have helped the 59-year-old substance abuse counselor steer more teens away from drugs and booze; may have helped him raise his 10-year-old son into a young man; may have helped him grow old with LiAnne, his wife of 11 years. . . .


I was dismayed when I read this article in the Spokesman Wednesday morning. The intertwining of transplants and health insurance coverage is a sticky subject. It is beyond comprehension that the government would support waiting periods for insurance companies on transplants. I can hear their little wheels turning: "gee, if we have a waiting period of six months, the chances are good the patient will die before we have to fork money out for a transplant."

Not only do potential transplant recipients have to go through their insurance company's waiting period, then if they are fortunate enough to get a match with a new organ, they have to go through the surgery, and once home, they have to jump through the Medicare hoops for post-transplant care which includes the very expensive anti-rejection drugs a transplant recipient must take for the rest of his or her life. The catch here is that Medicare will cover an organ transplant for only three years – not for the lifetime of the organ recipient. Again, the governmental mumblings can be heard, saying, "well, we only expect the transplant recipient to live an additional three years, once they have received the new organ. Then they die." So the recipient finds themselves in a position three years after having a successful transplant of paying $3,000 to $5,000 a month for the drugs they must take to keep their organ viable.

It's a matter of life and death. With a transplant, Mr. Watley would have a chance of living 20 years or more. (The down side of transplants is that the new organ will start to fade out after 20 years.) Now he isn't even going to make the six month waiting period.

I have a familial kidney disease, Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD), which is the most common genetic disease even above diabetes, however the public is much more aware of diabetes than PKD. April is Organ Donor Month. We are hearing ads all the time to encourage people to list themselves as organ donors on their driver's license. Just recently we read about a customer at a Starbuck's in Seattle getting a new kidney from her barrister. Her disease: Polycystic Kidney Disease.

My sister had a transplant eight years ago from a live donor; my brother had a transplant two years ago from a person who had an organ donor card. Both are alive and active and productive. Both were "lucky" in that they lived through the waiting period. My sister was let go from her job (ironically in a transplant center in Seattle) because she was out sick a lot. The problem is that transplant recipients not only have to take 10-20 pills every day to keep from rejecting their new organ, but their built-in immunity is wiped out and they are susceptible to anyone's common cold or flu or other contagious disease and it negatively impacts the organ recipient. She went on Medicare but only received three years of coverage. Being well under 65, she couldn't qualify for Medicaid coverage until her and her husband's income was down to a minimum ($40,000 for a married couple, $2,000 for a single person). My brother is self employed while his wife has excellent insurance coverage for the two of them – so he has a double-sided "good luck" coin: he has insurance through his wife, and, he works alone so he isn't bombarded by sniffles, coughs, wheezes and the cubicle neighbor who has to confide to anyone in breathing-in distance their blow-by-blow latest crud.

As for me, I am living on the hope that I am "status quo" and that I can live to old, old age with no problems with this disease. My alternative is dialysis – even Mr. Watley hasn't had that option. Or a transplant.

Have a spare kidney??????

3.24.2008

4,000 Souls

So, Easter Sunday marked another anniversary, but not of the resurrection kind. The news headlines announced boldly to the world that we have met the 4,000 mark of soldiers who have died in IRAQ. Four thousand! Four thousand sons and daughters; four thousand moms and dads; four thousand best friends; four thousand children. I read the headline and my first thought was, "what? Am I supposed to applaud?" Is this a milestone number that I am supposed to celebrate?

This country went to war because of events from September 11, 2001. It is significant I think that we have lost 1,000 more in Iraq than we did in New York, Virginia, and Philadelphia in a terrorist attack meted upon us from Afghanistan. Have we proved anything other than exacting our revenge? Sure - we were able to execute Hussein - something we should have done in 1991. Had we done that, we might have had more operative intelligence to focus on the new threat of Bin Laden.

My sons are the ages of the soldiers in Iraq. My oldest was in the Army during the beginning of Desert Storm, getting out four years before September 11. I scoured the papers and tv every single day for news of Desert Storm and the various skirmishes all over the world that weren't making front page news. I was a wreck! My heart would bleed for the Moms and Dads in the loss of their child. When he arrived safely home, I wanted to kiss his feet!

Now this. We've reached four thousand losses of our children that has affected parents, teachers, children, friends in the multiples of thousands.

I'm not going to memorialize this so called achievement. I will memorialize instead each soul, each child, each friend that has been taken from this earth far too soon.

3.17.2008

Memories of Dad

This past weekend I chanced upon an article about a Dad/Daughter Dance. And the memories of my Dad whooshed in on me.

I have learned over time that a lot of daughters do not have the wonderful heroic image of their father as I do. It is very sad to me to realize not all daughters are the apple of their father’s eyes.
My Dad was my hero and my Prince Charming. He was the root of my self-esteem – he always said I could do anything, be anything I wanted. When I was a young adult he said, on my dating, you can BE an attorney, a doctor, a teacher, a leader – you don't have to marry one. (Of course, he would have been quite content if my sister and I remained pure, sweet, and innocent for our remaining days – a convent would not be disappointing to him.)

I was the light of my Dad’s life; my sister and I held a special place in his heart, making our brothers take a back seat. Sorry guys.

When I was in 8th grade (at one of the last eight-grade schools here in Spokane), we had a Father Daughter Tea. I was beyond thrilled to have my Dad, suited up, attend this tea. (So, that’s probably why I like men in uniform; a suit is such a class act!)

My Dad was ten feet tall to me. I would place my feet on his and he would dance me around the living room. He was everything to me and I to him. Once I sliced open my hand on a broken glass milk bottle (remember those?) He was just sick with grief for that little injury. The emergency room staff made him leave because they didn’t want to deal with a fainting father. His hand hurt…. Later when he broke his leg, my leg itched. We joked that it was too bad that when I scratched my leg, it wouldn’t relieve the terrible itching he had under his cast that ran from his foot to his hip. (I was 16 – in fact, he broke his leg the day before my birthday and that was a time that hospitals limited visitors to 16 and older.)

Funny, years after I became a mother and had two sons, I was walking out of the building I worked in, a bank, and this cute little man held the door open for me. I blinked, thinking he looked familiar when I realized that it was my ten-foot tall hero-Dad displayed as the real human being he was - only a couple inches taller than me. :)

In March of 1994, I wrote a short article that was picked for “Your Turn” in the Spokesman Review, titled “Happy Father’s Day.” It wasn’t Father’s Day; it was a memorial for my Dad who died December 19, 1993.

It was a thank you to my Dad; I had turned it into a speech for my Toastmaster’s group and it went something like this:

Thank you, Dad, for all the memories.

  • The time you made sling shots for all of us kids out of wooden clothes clips and rubber from inner tubes. Good for zapping little brothers.
  • The time it snowed so deep that you made an igloo for us that lasted for two whole months!
  • The same year, you made the fantastic toboggan run behind our house that was so sleek and fast that it would propel our six-man toboggan down and around the barn, and whoosh back up to the top – we only had to walk it over to the starting point and do it all again.
  • Making up the rule not to sing at the kitchen table or the window would fall on our heads. (Says something about how happy we were that you would have to make up a rule to keep us from singing at the kitchen table!)
  • Making up the Quiet Game (again at the kitchen table) where the game was lost at the first peep from a child, so we would spend delicious minutes making faces and sticking out our tongues at hapless siblings until one would burst out laughing. It only would last maybe five minutes before one of us would cave.
  • Coming up with titles for the book you never wrote. Naming the cats after events like Sir Odd Leigh Waffled (the result of making waffles that were, well, odd) and Precious Horace D, or PhD, the only doctor in the family.
  • The time we were camping at Priest Lake and our beach ball got away from us in the cool morning hours and you rushed in after it in your underwear – boxer shorts! How totally embarrassing to a 13-year old daughter when you came back with the beach ball, shorts plastered to your skin, and an audience of all the campers in the area. Clapping.

  • Sunday drives, especially ones where you would shout "I know a SHORT CUT!" that always turned out very obviously to us in the back seat - NOT! Like the time we got stuck on a flooded muddy road that went on for at least a mile and we (meaning your four children) pushed the car the entire way.


  • There are more wonderful memories. But the Dad-Daughter Dessert has to be right up there on top.

    At the end of my Toastmaster’s speech, every guy in the room who had a daughter came up to me to thank me for reminding me of their most important duty as a father.

    A father’s love for his child is the foundation for that child’s future. And a father’s relationship to his daughter is unique and the force behind her self esteem, growth, life, decisions.

    Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I miss you greatly!

    3.09.2008

    Is Being a First Lady Really "Work Experience?"

    Daschle: First lady experience doesn’t count for Clinton
    By Aaron Blake
    Posted: 03/09/08 01:41 PM [ET]

    Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) on Sunday questioned Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (N.Y.) pitching of herself as the most experienced candidate in the Democratic presidential race, suggesting her years as first lady do not add much to her foreign policy credentials.


    I have been wondering when someone would comment on this. For weeks now, Clinton has said she has more experience than Obama. How is that, when he was elected to the Senate several years before Clinton?

    So, if I am the wife of a neurosurgeon, then I can put that down on my resume and lift up a scalpel and slice open your brain? I'm qualified, right? After all, my husband's experience should automatically become mine through marital osmosis.

    And that brings up something else.... If Clinton is claiming her years as the president's wife as "experience" then she is also stating that we should view the spouse of the president as an elected position of leadership. So - do you really want to elect Bill Clinton again?

    Think about it.

    Here's the rest of the article:

    Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, Daschle, a supporter of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), pointed out that Obama has served in elective office longer than Clinton and suggested her time as first lady does not have much relevance to the office she seeks.

    “I worked with her; I know what a good first lady she was,” Daschle said. “But it would be hard for me to draw some degree of connection between being a first lady and having the experience to be the
    commander in chief.

    “I don’t think anyone can look at her experience as first lady and say, for some reason, that qualifies her to run for president of the United States.”

    3.07.2008

    Nursing Home Care

    Just noticed this in the Spokesman Review headlines (http://www.spokesmanreview.com/):

    Alliance aims for more money for nursing home workers

    This is an issue that is very, very important to me. When I'm not at my day job, I take care of my mother-in-law who had a terrible stroke almost three years ago. Her care requires intense 24/7 dedicated time from her son, who moved in with her. We had her at a nursing home for three months. What an eye opener for me.


    Statewide, 13,000 nursing home workers earn less than $10 an hour, Jimenez said. Some 1,100 of them are in Spokane County. The alliance’s proposal calls for up to a $2-an-hour wage increase or healthcare benefits, she said.

    Residents are only allowed by the state to get three hours committed one-on-one time from an aid or nurse. It is pathetic! The aids are paid miserably (or miserly) for back-breaking work. They lift, carry, turn, clean, change, dress, empty urine bags, change colostomy bags, change bedding, give baths, feed our beloved parents and grandparents for a paltry sum which does not include hugging, listening, encouraging, petting and all the salient, vital emotional needs. For $10 an hour!

    I know how burdensome this is because it is what I live when I’m not at my day job. Nursing home employees are NOT paid nearly their worth. And we, as children who place our parents in nursing homes, cannot expect quality “caring” of Mom and Dad. That $10 doesn’t give them the tender loving care they would thrive on and survive on.

    My humble thoughts.

    3.06.2008

    Women, Rights, Presidency

    I have recently been observing, and sometimes participating in, a blog at the Spokesman-Review website, http://www.spokesmanreview.com/blogs/hbo/. The discussions get very intense and political and sometimes out of my league, hence the observing. But every now and then, I am stirred by the topic.


    Of course, lately it has been Hillary Clinton. First - I have no particular party affiliation. I go with my heart and my head; I study each candidate and form my opinion based on fairly intricate research. But Hillary Clinton? uh, no.


    The statement was heard at a caucus meeting recently by a proponent of Hillary: "I think she should be nominated because she's a woman." And more than likely, someone at another caucus table said similar words about Borak Obama, that he should be nominated because he is black.


    This shows a serious lack of intelligence on the speaker's part. It shouldn't matter one whit whether the candidate is a woman or black or Chinese or fill-in-the-blank. What should matter is that person's credentials. How will that person perform as President of the United States? The highest job in the country. The most sensitive, critical position in America. What is that person's history and how does that person's resume read? Education? Voting record? Does that person mirror your views? For instance, both candidates are favorable towards stem cell therapy and research; as a person facing the possibility of a kidney transplant, that issue is close to my heart. It doesn't take a "woman" or someone who is "black" to go to bat for me.


    Not only does this person make decisions that can send us to war, but this person is on a pedestal for the entire world to observe. What is going to be the first impression of the rest of the world? How will other government leaders accept what our candidate has to offer?

    How will a new president heal our nation that has suffered horrific terrorist attacks and the outrageous death toll of our young people serving in Iraq, Afghanistan?


    The president needs to be a person of high ideals and integrity, with an inner strength and poise. I do not see H Clinton and integrity in the same sentence. When a candidate starts doing the "bash the opponent" thing, my ears close up. I don't hear that person anymore and they have just fallen off my radar - I focus on the other person. A person who lowers themself to the level of sniping at the opponent, dredging up gossip and portraying it as fact, attacking them for a middle name (come on!), or drums up a tawdry tidbit from the other's past, is no longer portraying the image of what I want in my President.

    I am seeking a President that embodies professionalism, integrity, compassion, intelligence. And you will note that I didn't just describe Hillary Clinton.

    As a woman in my late 50s, I have been right smack in the middle of the growing independence of women. We have made great strides over the years. We no longer have a glass ceiling. Most of my friends are the sole wage earners in their families, while the husband stays at home. I am pleased and kind of embarrassed when a man opens a door for me - but I don't get on a platform and brow beat him with my burned bra until he opens the door.

    Women's liberation does not mean we must have a woman in the presidency but it is definitely in our future. Voting for a woman for the sake of "making history" is just plain stupid.

    Tornado (or Tomato) Warning

    When my children were in day care, about age 4 and 5, we had a very rare occurrence of small tornadoes touching down. This just doesn't happen in Washington. I had picked up my children and knew they were really hyped about something! They were chattering at once, eyes wide with wonder, as they explained to me that we had a "tomato" warning today. I just thought it was hilarious to have these two little boys visualizing tomatoes falling from the sky.


    It was one of those blustery
    windy
    gusty days.

    The sky was black at noon,
    the wind pushed you across the street.

    The day care huddled all kids inside
    safe
    warm.

    Parents picked them up
    one
    by
    one.

    I picked up my two.

    Wide-eyed, saucer-eyed.
    Such an exciting day today, they said.

    Both talking at once,
    quite in awe.

    They asked if I had heard,
    too,
    of. . . .

    The Tomato Warnings

    3.05.2008

    Dare to be Exceptional

    Definition of Exceptional: Far beyond what is usual, normal, or customary: exceptional, extraordinary, magnificent, outstanding, preeminent, rare, remarkable, singular, towering, uncommon, unusual, standout, awesome, out of sight.

    I am a legal assistant – by definition. I multi-task a myriad of projects, I am a travel agent, booking countless flights and then changing those same flights and rebooking new flights and generally circumventing all the rules made for booking flights. I do everything but fly the plane.

    I am capable of reading minds and foretelling the future. Case in point is filing. Filing is about 98.99% of my job. (just kidding – but because I love filing so much I like to save it and spend one whole day doing nothing but filing. This is no reflection on my organizational abilities.)

    I am adept at finding files, categorizing files, sorting files, opening new files, filing files, re-filing files, and {sigh} closing files to archived files being sure to have a reference card on file so I can retrieve the archived file to file with the ongoing files because the attorney changed his mind about closing the file {double sigh}. I also keep track of the files in my attorney’s office that he keeps in his own peculiar order according to date worked on, cases referred to, and other methods I have not quite zeroed in on, although they are absolutely never ever filed alphabetically or numerically. These files are in various places: on the table, under the table, on the couch, under the couch, in boxes, on the credenza. Very rarely are two files for the same client filed in the same chair/table/floor/cubby hole — together. If I suggest putting in a filing cabinet in his office, his face falls and he says “but I would never FIND anything!” So, every morning I do a walk through his office and memorize where all the files are that we are working on right now. I have two attorneys that file the same way. I do not have a photographic memory.

    I prioritize all my jobs so that each attorney thinks he is number one or the only one. At the end of the day, I sleep well with my conscience clear, and the next day I put on a freshly ironed Wonder Woman Cape and do it all over again.

    Communication

    Communication

    I talked with my son this morning,
    eye
    to
    eye.
    I know that he was shorter yesterday.
    Age 6

    Polycystic Kidney Disease

    Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) is actually very common but hardly anyone knows about it. It is more common than diabetes. It affects 500,000 people in the United States and is a genetic disease that will affect whole families for generations. My Dad and his brother and sister all died from it. Their mother died from it. I have a brother and sister, as well as me, diagnosed with PKD. Both my siblings have had transplants, my sister from a live donor, my brother from a cadaver. Both have been very successful, particularly for my brother.

    I urge you to consider being an organ donor. Having a transplant is a life saver!

    Things on my Mind

    So, the state of Washington passed a law allowing homosexuals to register as couples. Heterosexual couples can also - if they are 65 or older. What does that mean for cohabiting heterosexual couples who are under 65? :(

    Why is it that two same-sex individuals can register as a couple and get medical and insurance benefits and yet a heterosexual couple who has been together for almost a quarter century cannot. I have been with my Significant Other for over 22 years.

    Does it mean I'm not old enough? Do I need to get my now-dead parents' approval and permission? What are the merits of a meretricious relationship over a homosexual relationship? Should my significant other and I go out and get same-sex partners and then register as separate couples?

    I've got it! I will get another heterosexual couple who is under 65 and we will all go in together and register as same sex partners - I'll register with her - the boys will register with each other. And then we will go home with our heterosexual partner, fully registered, and live happily ever after!