We all have moments when we question our relevancy. For me it happens on a daily basis, usually in the midst of a conversation that is just on the edge of nuclear. More times than not, I side with Occam’s razor when it comes to problem solving. Summed up simply: when you have two competing theories, the simplest is usually the best solution. Embracing simple is never the case at my house, and sadly, just as often outside my house.
Who wants the simplest solution? It’s usually boring, demands personal responsibility and often times self-incrimination. Why embrace simple, when it’s so much more fun to move to the dark side of insanity, invoking unsubstantiated and immaterial information and challenging the relevance and intelligence of any who would offer a safe and sounder solution? Talk to any parent (specifically mothers) with teenagers, they will vouch for me. I am relevant because in the end, when it all plays out, the simplest solution is almost always the answer. And when the dust settles, I am the one standing to lend a hand and say, “let’s try this again.”
Yes, I do know that it has almost been a month since my last post. Plagued by a very late starting spring, resulting in compressing all the things that should have been done by now into the very shortest measure of time before the 5 minutes of summer comes, I was in danger of shedding my sparkly Pollyanna skin to something more dark, sinister and leathery…hence the silence. I discovered, that I can handle the major stuff in life with relative ease, that is where my problem-solving, common sense super power kicks in. Those irritations like: lost keys, wallets, glasses, bikes, forms…none of which are mine but somehow fall into my purview of responsibilities; broken things that interrupt the flow of the day, like the computer my son just built that shuts down 10 times a day…of course he’s only finished his freshman year in computer engineering, or the eroding land that may cause our pool to fall into a ravine; and those never-ending tasks of life that you swear you just took care of and like going through a time warp, there they are again demanding attention like running out of toilet paper, kitty food, dish soap, laundry soap, razor blades, etc…; and lastly, all the man things that I live with every day too numerous to list here. All these irritations have worn my sparkly skin down to paper thinness, so I can see the serpent skin underneath. What’s worse are the responses I get from the men in my house: “I didn’t touch it”, “Just dump some dirt on it”, “Just turn it back on”, I’ll do it later (loose translation, NEVER) or my least favorite, “Just buy a new one”. It is just not acceptable…I almost died…of irritation.
So, that explains the silence. I saw my weakness and got help, not the psychological kind, but someone who will clean my house and organize the chaos, so those other irritations don’t kill me. Now, I don’t have to worry that the fire coming out of my mouth will burn everything in it’s wake. My sparkly skin is coming back…even through the gob of flem I just cleaned out of the many used glasses that the men in my house love to spit in…I will survive.
I’m a deep thinker…I think you’ve figured that out by now. Today I picked up 25 pieces of used dental floss. Used, man dental floss. Grossly discolored dental floss. I think this is why the universe placed me in crazy town. It’s in the details people. I refuse to put a picture of it on this post, so instead, here is a picture of the new kitten that someone left at Wal-Mart and decided crazy town would be better.
I usually never weigh in on stuff like this, but since it appears to me that most everyone has missed one of the most obvious issues, (yeah more than the name “Incognito”) let me begin with this: the word incognito means to be in disguise or anonymous to avoid detection. What is the NFLer in question’s disguise? To use the vernacular of the sport that seems to be flying around…he has the smallest stones of all, he is a coward of the greatest degree, he is not a “real man”. Ultimately, there will continue to be a lot of discussion about what made Jonathan Martin leave the Miami Dolphins that day and while everyone gets to have an opinion, most, including me, won’t be privy to the real story. What I want to address here, then, is an issue that is far more subtle and I think plagues us far deeper as a society than in just the National Football League: what would a “real” man do? What sickens me most is all the comments I’ve read that disparage Jonathan Martin for not behaving like a real man, or the filth about the size of his testicles, or the fact that Incognito was bullied as a child, or just as offensive (to me anyway) for him to quit acting like a girl. So, is a real man one who takes the hazing, lets the mindless drive of testosterone rule? Is being a real man being the nastiest lineman on the field? Well, this five foot two red-head who has put the fear in many men by being a girl, calls BULLSHIT!
I say for the umpteenth time that I live in a household of men. My husband played D1 football. My youngest son wants to play college football too. And while I begrudgingly (at times) play the sports mom, I have never tolerated the bullying that goes on in the locker room or the field. My husband and I tell our son to show up, keep your head down and play hard. Do what the coaches tell you to do whether you like it or not. Reject the tendency to be that guy, that sycophant that kisses everyone’s butt to move ahead, or the one that tortures everyone else to hold power over them. I know it can be hard for him when he sees “that guy” get ahead, but in the long haul one’s integrity is what you carry with you, your whole life. The illusion of all that awesomeness fades over time, my husband has plenty of stories about what happened to the “assholes” on his University of Minnesota team. I certainly want my son to carry into his future the knowledge that he worked hard and didn’t get ahead by manipulation or force. I believe you can be a leader in sports without all that other bullshit. Yet, I know it is hard to be strong and successful and not be attacked for being weak if you won’t lower your standards and be just one of the guys.
There is a growing trend today to define men through the eyes of testosterone…a huge package, a visceral tongue, and a big ass gun. Yes, I know stereotypes aside that there are men out there with all those attributes who keep them in check, but I have so many anecdotes to the contrary that I wonder if what kind of men we’re creating would be better suited for the wild west. I think you can have a sport like football, where hazing the younger players doesn’t disfigure their manhood, and leadership knows when enough is enough. That the younger players pay a hefty amount for an expensive meal for their seniors is of no concern to me, because I think they make too much money anyway. But the disparagement over race and violence and just being dirty should never be tolerated…even if Jonathon Martin laughed about it at first because he felt the culture demanded that response. I can tell from experience that, that kind of continued bullying just beats you down over time, until it’s just not possible to take it any more. The fact that there are many great guys in the NFL doesn’t matter to me in the least in this situation, because the environment gets perpetuated some how…silence is complicity in my book.
There are far too many stories of increasing violence of players off the field. Shouldn’t we address them rather than just brush them off as incidents too few to pay attention to? Personally, when I was teaching at the Academy of Holy Angels, a football player threatened me by standing one inch from my face and asking me what I was going to do to him if he didn’t sit down and do his homework like I asked. I said: “I know you may be a physical threat to me”, and then I walked over to the phone and called an administrator who was also his football coach to come down to my room right away. Then, taking all the strength I could muster, I walked back and stood in the exact same spot and said back to him: “but if you touch me, you will have to answer to him”. And as if by divine intervention, Mr Randall Peterson came walking into my room. I will never forget that day. That moment is still a source of hope for me because I knew that Mr Peterson had my back, that he would never tolerate that kind of behavior from one of his players. And while I completely understand that my situation and Jonathon Martin’s are not the same, I do have to ask these questions: “Who was there to watch his back?”; What kind of leadership exists that could defend Incognito’s behavior over Martin’s?” Incognito may not be the anti-christ. He may actually have some good qualities. But it will never excuse that kind of bullying, or make him a real man.
For the last few days, I’ve felt like North Dakota…a never ending, unimaginably boring, flat, hot landscape. Driving home from Bozeman, I couldn’t wait to get through it. The reason I feel like North Dakota, is that this space I’m in, i.e. leaving my kid over 1000 miles away, is something I want to get through as quickly as possible…at break-neck speed. I was surprised by my reaction, watching my 18 year-old impatiently hug me and jump on his bike to ride back to campus to start living his life. The operative word being “his” life. He’s really not mine anymore. And beyond the feeling that I was having a heart attack, right there in that moment, I was afraid that I hadn’t completed my job, that maybe I hadn’t done all that I could do. Mind you, I know he’s a great kid, but there is that irrational bit that irritated me all through North Dakota. I just wanted to be done, to feel the ties severed. Of course, the rational side of me chastised the irrational side for even entertaining that notion, he will forever be my son.
Feeling crappy, I came home to an air-conditioner that didn’t work in a raging heat wave, a washing machine that didn’t work and a mess at my clinic because certain directions weren’t followed and that is all I will say about that, except that I was reminded of a particular point on my drive when I was ready to jump out of my seat from boredom. Just when I couldn’t stand it anymore, these beautiful sunflower fields popped up. It was a burst of color that the car-photo doesn’t do justice to. Then, there was this beautiful sculpture alongside the road that made me smile…who’d have thunk it in North Dakota? The secret? Even the flattest, hardest times do contain little moments that get you through the struggle. It turns out that North Dakota isn’t all bad, so I’m challenged to find the beauty in my own private North Dakota these next few weeks.
Ok, you know those commercials when blind folded people are led into a room and smell nothing but freshly washed clothes, or a summer breeze? Then, they take off the blindfold and they are standing in the middle of complete filth? Yeah, that was me utilizing my time while my husband and eldest son were in Montana for college orientation and registration, only without the blindfold and the febreeze. I know I’ve blogged about it before…but I make it a point to never go into the man cave…but since it is also the room that leads out to our patio, where we are having a graduation gathering in a couple of weeks it was necessary. There were things down there that would frighten a Yeti…but not me. I spent days down there with my yellow rubber gloves and cleaning products and now, there is a lilac theme and smell to the bathroom. Ceiling tiles were replaced with ones that weren’t stained from the toilet that broke three floors up. All the dead rodents stuck to said stained ceiling tiles were given a proper burial, i.e. they were thrown into the woods to support the cycle of nature. The thousand air-soft bee-bees were suctioned up of the floor along with tokens of football parties past, along with walls that have been wiped clean of the DNA packed particulars that come with the spewing of beer and brat filled man talk. When I was done, I actually closed my eyes and sat on the floor and breathed in deeply. I smelled lilacs…I really did.
So here we are, Connor John. You are about to begin the greatest adventure of your life, spring boarding into action all the dreams you’ve been building on thus far in life. Like most young men, right now you feel so ready to leave the nest and begin life on your own. You’ve outgrown your life here and are ready to move on. And as much as I am so proud and excited for you to begin this next step, I am also nostalgic and wary of letting the world have you at the same time. I have always told you that you were meant to be a great man some day, and that was predicated on your ability to rise to the occasions that were placed before you. Yes, my head may have exploded a few times when you missed opportunities because you were distracted by something else, but I think that’s true for most 18 year-old’s. What I want to tell you on this important occasion is exactly why I think you are destined to be a great man someday…and then the rest is up to you.
From the moment you could move around on your own, you were driven by curiosity…mostly expressed by breaking or taking apart everything in sight just to see how it was put together, sadly you could have cared less how to put things back together. You were as curious about people and seemed to inherit your mother’s no filter quality. Early on, you understood the art of conversation was something that involved an exchange between two people, and you liked to practice on the way to Montessori school. This was a line you repeated almost everyday: “Mom, let’s talk about the power lines…you start”, and then we’d have an exchange of ideas about the power lines, unfortunately you never let me talk about anything else, and I’d try to get you to sing songs instead. I’ll never forget your first conference at kindergarten when the teacher asked the school psychologist to be present; my heart sunk to my knees in fear that something awful had happened. When she told me that you liked to hug everyone, and some kids don’t like that…I literally laughed out loud, some in relief and some in utter shock that we fallen so low that hugging somehow was considered a problem, and then I got incredibly sad. So, trying to be a good parent and help teach you about boundaries, we had a talk about social bubbles. Like all the Edling men before you, you just loved everybody and were never self conscious about sharing it. Unfortunately, the world wasn’t quite ready for that lack of inhibition. It still makes me sad sometimes.
You loved music from the womb, it soothed you and moved you always, as it still does. When you were little, we went to the wedding of the great niece, I believe, of Lawrence Welk in his home town of Strasberg North Dakota and you were so mesmerized by the accordions played at the reception you begged me for weeks to sign you up for lessons. After I did my research, and got over the OMG factor of this has got to be the worst instrument ever, (an apology to all you fine accordion players out there) I did a final check on whether or not you were really serious about the accordion, and here was your reply: “No, mom, I changed my mind, I think I’ll learn the glockenspiel instead.” Well…you ended up with the trumpet, and it’s bass counterpart, the euphonium, and I’m proud of your accomplishments. Beyond just listening to music, you were the first one to dance to any band that was playing, or yell out to all our friends around the pool, “Hey everyone, how about a dance party!”. You were the sensation at the dance recitals the girls in the neighborhood would put on. Remember the group called “Connor and the Connorettes?”, hey it is a great memory, one that always makes me smile.
You were always deeply spiritual, perhaps not in the traditional sense, but then really, neither am I. I remember once, when you were about 6 years old, in the midst of summer fun at jelly stone park, while we were getting ready for a day full of sun and junk food, (Steve was at Wall-Mart, or golfing…the neighbors reading this will understand) you turned to me and said, “Mom, there is no place in hell that could keep out the love of God, right?” My neighbor Lisa D’s mouth dropped open at the depth of that statement, but I was used to it at that point. I also remember you breaking down at a Osceola football game because you had discovered that there were diseases out there, specifically cancer, that didn’t have a cure. How could God let that happen? It shocked your small world that some things can’t be fixed, and that there truly is darkness out there. You were almost inconsolable until the friends sitting around us told you that a cure was just around the corner. We’ve had some great conversations about faith, and I hope that it will continue to develop as you venture on your own.
Walking to the beat of your own drum hasn’t been always easy though. When bullied in middle school, I had to explain the concept of male posturing and drawing a line in the sand, you told me that you just weren’t interested in playing that game, that beating down the weak to feel strong was just ridiculous. And while I agreed with you, it was because you wore your heart on your sleeve and they knew they could get to you that you were an easy target. There is nothing more horrible for a parent than to find out their child is the victim of bullying, frankly it kept me up nights. But I also believe that God would never give you anything that you couldn’t handle, and it took all my energy to not to open up a can of whoop-ass. I took solace in the fact that adults have always seemed to love you, and talk about what a remarkable kid you are. Truthfully, I never fully understood why so many of your peers could never see you the way the rest of us did. You found out the hard way, that choosing to be different isn’t always acceptable. While you never let bullies define you, you never held it against them either. You forgave them and from what your class mates have told me, you now hold great respect in your class. That makes me so proud. You, with all your hats and freestyle attire, are a true character.
Being proud doesn’t imply that you aren’t flawed, though. So here is some advice for next year:
1) Wanting life to be easy, won’t make it so. The best truths in life are the ones that must be fought for; the greatest successes are usually preceded by failure, with the difference being the ability to get back up, learn from your mistakes and work even harder.
2) You are starting fresh. No one knows you, therefore you have no baggage or reputation to worry about, so remember the golden rule: treat others like you want to be treated.
3) School comes first. College is a blast, I won’t lie…but you are there first and foremost to obtain an education (and a 3.0 if you’re going to keep your scholarships)
4) Remain true to your values. It’s true, dad and I won’t be there to nag you, but there will be all sorts of temptations that we can’t protect you from either.
5) Never spend what you don’t have…and that means NO to credit cards. You’ll thank me some day.
6) Remember the talk about boundaries and social bubbles we had in kindergarten? Remember all those basics and you’ll be fine.
7) Never pick up a t-shirt or underwear from the floor and smell it, to see if it’s ok to wear. That is just gross.
8) BRUSH YOUR TEETH. Your smile is one of your greatest attributes.
9) Utilize your time well. Don’t wait until the last-minute to do an assignment or study for a test. OH, AND GAMING AND BEING IN THE MIDDLE OF AN IMPORTANT CAMPAIGN IS NEVER A REASON TO BE LATE FOR OR MISS CLASS.
10) Finally, always remember that you are meant to be a great man some day and that day is today!
Please note: if I had multiple personality disorder, this post would belong to an emotional primordial element of myself that I blacked out into after walking downstairs into the man-cave and stepping on cat vomit on the carpet that has been there for months because it has literally petrified. I try to never go into the basement…for that very reason. Once in a while, though, I succumb to my optimist self, and believe the men in my house when they tell me the basement is clean and venture down into the pit. Well, like Charlie Brown keeps falling for Lucy’s football schtick I was blinded by my own optimism. The bastards lied. I didn’t lose emotional consciousness right away…I have dealt with all sorts of clashes with bodily fluids and wastes that are not my own, it was the array of filth, the biodegradable kind mingled with the non-recyclable kind and the ensuing stench rising up from the metamorphosis that pushed me over into blind rage….you know the kind that produces spittle from screeching unintelligible sounds like a she devil that has been caged way too long. I saw all too literally the remnants of all things tasteful and beautiful about our basement decor crumbling away and remember screaming something about acting like they were from the backwoods of Appalachia only to realize that I was insulting those poor backwoods people in Appalachia for using them in comparison to these animals. I know, by the look on their faces that I needed to put myself in a time out, so I opened a good bottle of white wine brought up some olives, salmon and almonds on a beautiful dish and locked myself in my room. After watching a mini Gilmore Girls marathon I felt my sentient self returning a bit…although I felt dizzy every time I heard them call me from the recesses of our house. I used to laugh at the antics of living in a household of boys. Now that they’re huge burgeoning men…I just think they’re stupid. The fact that their frontal lobes are non-functioning and they’re bombarded with hormones is of no comfort when their father mirrors the very things that are leaching away at my psyche. Pray for me.