Celebrating Moms

Mary RichmondIMG_2281IMG_2276IMG_2275I’ve recently had the opportunity to go on a quest for my parents, both of whom are the youngest in their families, to rediscover the past before their memories fade. Based on the information I was given, it’s been a priviledge to be introduced to all those amazing people who came before me. Since it is almost mother’s day and my upcoming empty nest, I thought I would focus on the women in my past first. My father’s paternal grandmother was left with 12 children to run a farm in Janesville Wisconsin after Typhoid took her husband as a result of a doomed trip back to Ireland to procure money from a wealthy brother (which failed, by the way).  My great, great grandmother on my mother’s side, gave birth to 12 children, but by the time she was 43, only six of them had survived. She and her husband had emigrated from Ireland during the potato famine in 1886 and I haven’t been able to find out what happened to them yet. I had another great grandmother who, after her husband died at 38, moved in along with her four children into her oldest brother’s home, who also housed another widowed sister with a new born, and their aging parents. Sadly, my grandmother in that same line lost her husband early as well when my mother was only 12 years old and had to move into her oldest brother’s home.

I am humbled by these women.  I used to think of all the struggles of having kids in the modern world, with juggling sports schedules, camps, homework, play dates and school activities with going to law-school and running a business and believe that my life was so much more demanding than my forebears because life was so much simpler back then. What a crock!  Looking back at their lives, I realize now how cushy mine is. I hope next time I sit down with a glass of wine around my pool and even think about whining about hard my life is, they find a way to pull a big tree branch back and slap me upside the head. My life is easier because of the hard life they lived. I promise not to forget that…even in the middle of crazy town.

These women fought to survive in often the most difficult conditions, most were uneducated and beginning with my great grandparents were all first generation United States citizens. They truly had taken the road less travelled, and for all their hardship and struggle, established a lineage to which I am eternally greatful.  These women have shed a new light on personality traits many of which I have perhaps have been irritated by and never truly appreciated.  I see now that these qualities were essential ingredients in a recipe for, not only survival, but to thrive and build on an American dream. I hope that those who have passed are content and happy with the fruits of their labors. I know I am more greatful today as I look at the blessings that I have, to their strength and courage.

A Conflagrancy of Dunces

paper-dunce-capWe 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.”

The Secrets of North Dakota

sunflowersFor 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.

highway artFeeling 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.

Taming

the little prince

“What is essential is invisible to the eye; it is only with the heart that one can see rightly”   Antoine de Saint Exupéry.

 

The above quote, from “The Little Prince,” is where I root the fundamentals of friendship and has helped me harness love, especially in regard to the fragile nature of the human heart these days.  The gist of the tale is this: the wood fox leads the little prince on a journey of establishing ties (friendships, the true essence of taming) which makes the prince’s ordinary rose “unique in all the world.”  In the end, after the wood fox tamed the little prince and it came time for the prince’s departure, the fox was sad.  The little prince could not understand the benefit of establishing ties if the result was to end in possible sadness.  To help him appreciate taming despite the sadness, the fox sends the little prince back to a rose garden to try to understand how all the roses there were different from his solitary rose on his own little planet.  It is in the presence of all these other roses that the little prince realizes that his rose matters more than any of the others because of the time he has spent caring for her, watering her and protecting her.  It is the ties that he established with his rose that has made her so important.

The fox makes it clear to the prince that in order for taming to be successful one must observe the proper rites.  In all it’s beautiful simplicity it means that taming takes time and patience.  At first the fox told the little prince to sit at a distance and do nothing except to allow the fox to see him out of the corner of his eye.  He explains that during this initial phase the prince should say nothing at all because words are the source of misunderstanding.  Everyday the little prince was to sit a bit closer.  He also told the little prince to come back at the same time everyday so that he would begin to know at which hour his heart should be ready to greet him; consistency is everything when it comes to taming.

The wood fox explains that the process of taming causes the world to appear completely different.  For example, the fox had no use for the wheat field but after the prince had tamed him, the golden color of the wheat will always bring him the thought of the prince and give him joy.  The fox will never see the wheat field in the same way again.  It will be larger and more powerful all because he allowed himself to be tamed.  The fox also can live happily because there is at least one person who truly understands him, for one can only understand someone after they’ve been tamed.  After all is said and done and the little prince understands the essence of taming, the wood fox goes on to share a secret.  The first part is the quote cited above, and then he continues with “it is the time you have wasted for your rose which makes her so important…you become responsible forever for what you tame.”

What is particularly poignant about this story, in this fast and furious age in which we live, is that it is the time and effort put forth that makes taming successful.  The nature of today’s world certainly doesn’t endorse wasting time for anything.  The wood fox in The Little Prince believed that humans didn’t understand anything anymore because they tried to buy everything ready-made at stores.  However, there was no store anywhere where one could buy a true friend: friendship demands that we waste the necessary time and observe the proper rites to establish ties.  As an observer, it is those that I have established ties with in this world that have helped transform how I see it.   The world becomes infused with special meaning.  All of us can rework the rules we choose to abide by and focus on our inner rhythm, but ultimately it is the process of being tamed and taming others that put those rules and cosmic music to practical use.

Loss, as foreshadowed in The Little Prince, is a common element in establishing tiesBecause all of us are on different roads, with varied dreams, relationships often change or end.  The up side to this kind of loss challenges us to spend more time reflecting on how the relationships in our lives have affected how we see a wheat field.  Whenever the inevitable happens and those people I’ve established ties with begin a different journey, I’ve learned to look at it as just an opportunity for them to transform a wheat field somewhere else.  Distance can’t ruin ties, only complacency does.  True taming doesn’t rely on proximity.

Taming need not be complicated, but it may seem risky at first.  When you put yourself out there to tame and be tamed you may be rejected.  But just like the little prince did, I’ve found that if you let your heart guide you and observe the proper rites, the chances are that rejection is just an unrealized fear.  Establishing ties with someone practically demands that you put the other person first.  Taming someone for the sole benefit of my own needs almost guarantees failure.   It should come from a place of empowering, rather than having power over.  Trustworthiness is essential.   Remember the last part of the wood fox’s secret: you are responsible, forever, for what you tame.  Although being responsible for what you tame may seem daunting, try to see it for a moment as a beautiful consequence of the process.

Unfortunately taming, like the middle of many processes, is an often passed over step, because it takes time, it takes commitment and it takes patience.  We live in an electronic age that makes everything quick, easy and often anonymous.  Anonymity voids the element of responsibility, and I think it is why the ties of today are so flimsy.  How we establish ties may differ with every thing, person, place in the world, but it still demands those essential rites.  Regardless of the uniqueness of the method, the challenge remains: to reflect on who we have tamed in our lives and more importantly how we handle the responsibility.  It is a powerful thing, this taming process, especially when it commands us to rely on our hearts more than our eyes, for eyes can play tricks whereas the heart does not (contrary to popular opinion that love is blind).

You see the thing about taming is that it is subtle, and it usually occurs over a long period of time.  Those who have truly tamed me acted so subtly and consistently that I wasn’t even really conscious of it at the time, leaving me no time to run in fear.   It need not be complicated and dramatic.  Even though I’m just as big a fan of the being swept away themes in movies, I do realize they are only two hours long.  The rest of us have lifetimes to contend with, we have to go beyond the “and they lived happily ever after” line.  The work is worth it though.  I feel so much better about myself and my world knowing that the relationships I’ve established (and it doesn’t have to be many) are transforming the way others see the world.  I tame because I love; the responsibility then becomes a bonus and not a burden.  It’s not even fathomable to me to imagine what life would be like without them.  Given that life is unpredictable, I do know that even in the face of loss, life will never appear the same again.   I wear them proudly like a seal on my heart.  Now, before I get too verklempt, let me stop now so you may talk among yourselves.

Febreeze Test

cleaning_ladyOk, 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.

Chillin

It’s been busy, and hardchillin by the pool…all the more reason to slow down and take a moment to breathe on this memorial weekend.  Although there is so much to be done, as you can see by the sagging door by our pool, a casualty of a felled tree struck by lightning, it is important to stop every once in a while and breathe in and out and relax.  The world will continue to spin on its’ axis even if we don’t finish every chore.  The world does go on, even after loved ones have passed.  This weekend I resolve to only let positive memories guide and sustain me.  Have a safe and relaxing weekend!

My Graduate

connorSo 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!

I love you,

Mom