Holidays, Kick-Ass Women, Life

Mother’s Day Reprise

I wrote this for my now shuttered Blue Lyon blog for Mother’s Day 2009.

It’s the Mother’s Day holiday and while I despise the commercialization of the day, it’s good to have a marker that allows us to stop and, for just one day at least, reflect on what our mothers mean to us. For some of us this is not a kind day, but not so for me.

I am a mother. My daughter is never out of mind or heart. I’m a daughter too, and my mother is never out of mind or heart. All of my grandmothers have passed away, and I still miss basking in their grandma love – the kind that let them be as free with me and my brothers as they wished they could have been with our parents. Being a grandma meant never having to say no.

There are three women I call Mom: The woman who bore and raised Sweetie (MIL), the woman who has been married to my father for the past fifty years (SM), and  and the woman who gave birth to me and raised me (MOM).

MOM (Sandra) – I have a wonderful, loving, and complicated mother. So if you’ve been wondering who I get it from, you need only go up one branch on the family tree.  She still carries the pain of the break-up with my father.  I wish it were not so, but it is what it is. I have no memory of my parents together, and I still wonder (really) how two completely different people found each other, married, and bore three children. Together. Tis a mystery. My mother was devoted to us, but in an old-world kind of way. She despised Dr. Spock, and believed a firm hand or stick to the hind end was the proper method of discipline.  The rules were her rules, because she ‘said so.’  “Do as I say, not as I do” was heard on occasion, as well.  Because she was a single mother for nearly all of my childhood, it really was just mom, my brother and me. Having been a single mom myself with only one child to look after, I still am amazed that she was able to do for us as she did.  I have so many wonderful memories of my childhood: so many flashes from my youth which all seem to jumble together.

The vaguaries of memory leave me grasping at moments: a trip to Disneyland when admission still meant some rides were off-limits if you couldn’t afford the ticket, going to the beach and losing my brother, going with mom to a baby shower and sitting in the kitchen on a tall stool drinking grape juice and then going to a park with her afterward, chicken pox, tonsils, making mudpies in the backyard, waking up one morning to find her sitting in the kitchen with a cast on her leg, flying to Hawaii, weekends at Hanauma Bay, the stairs (oh the stairs) from our garage to the front door to the first floor to our second floor bedroom in our house that overlooked Pauoa Valley, the house on Kamehameha Hwy, family visits from the mainland, music, music, music from the dinosaur stereo system, trips to the outer islands, summers at the Y, sharing household and yard chores with my brother, ballet lessons with Mr. Claus, my first pair of heels bought at the same shoe store on the Fort Street Mall I got my ballet togs ,  hurricanes blowing out power for days at a time, kitten surprises, birthdays, Christmases (and the four-color light that cast its glow on our “flocked” tree), wandering around the University of Hawaii with my brother while mom took night classes,  the Columbia Inn, intermediate school, high school, mono, my first heartbreak, college, moving away, moving back, moving away again for the last time, marriage, grandchild, and on and on and on. 

Through all of it, mom was there, loving us, shaping us, watching over us, expressing correction, opinion, or praise. Her names, depending on my age: Mama, Ma, Mom. She is my heart. And I love her.

SM (Dolly) – As a child I read fairy tales that warned me of “wicked step-mothers” who despised the children of their husbands’ former wives, but my step-mother never treated me as an other.  When I’ve been in her home, I’m just another one of the pack.  She has the patience of a saint and the organizational skills of a drill sargent. She taught me to play tennis, and trusted me (crazy woman) to learn to drive in her  beloved Mustang. Honestly, what was she thinking as I ground gears and gave her whiplash in the South High parking lot? She never let on. I’ve watched her make a loving home for my father, who is more than a handful, even now at the ripe age of 8o. 

Though she’s married to my dad, I’ve never connected her with my parents divorce. I’ve only known her as my father’s mate. And yet, for years I resisted calling her “mom” because somehow I felt letting her hear those words from me  would be a betrayal of my birth mother. But when my mother chose to sit out Sweetie and my wedding in 2002, it was my step-mom who was introduced to all my friends as my mom.  It seemed much easier than trying to explain the family ‘dynamics’ to everyone, and from then on she was “Mom” too.  And I love her.

MIL (Gayle) – I have the world’s best mother-in-law. No, really. From the first day that Sweetie brought me to her home, her arms have been open to embrace me and my (at the time) fourteen-year-old daughter and to fold us completely, and without reservation, into her life, her family and her heart. She asked only one thing of me:  to make her son happy. He’d seen his share of heartache, and she didn’t want him hurt again. I hope I’m living up to her request.  I’ve probably confused the hell out of her sometimes. I know I’ve hurt her feelings too. But her generous heart has forgiven me time and again, and for that I am grateful. She raised a wonderful son, and I’ve been lucky enough to reap the rewards.

Family holidays were always spent at her home, and she delighted in the decorating and the planning and showering us all with her special brand of love (read: gifts and food – lots and lots of delicious food “Are you sure you’ve had enough?”).  When she married in 2004 and moved to Hawaii, we all felt the loss, and none of the rest of us left behind seem to be able to pull it of with the same style.  When she comes back for a visit, it feels like our world just lights up. I’ve called her Mom since nearly the beginning and only refer to her by her first name when talking to my sister-in-law.

My three moms. I love them all.

Life, Pets

A chance encounter

What are the odds? I was driving the pups to Baring Vet today to get their nails trimmed, and just as I was approaching Howard on Fargo, I saw a young woman walking a dog that looked just like Bonnie, but with short hair. I rolled down my window:

Me: Oh my god, your dog looks just like mine! How old?
Her: A year!
Me: Did you adopt from PetCo?
Her: Yes!
Me: Oh my goodness, they are litter mates!!!

I pulled over and she came to my window. Her little girl was yapping. Bonnie was yapping.

Her: She’s a screamer!
Me: So’s Bonnie!

No… I didn’t get a photo, but going back to March I am certain the pup on the left is the one we saw as she is the only shorthaired puppy in the litter. (Bonnie is the one standing on the right)

Blogging, Life, Musings, Politics, Self

January 1 – Time to take stock

Like many, I eschew New Year’s resolutions. But I do use the first of the year to take stock and plan out my major goals for the next year. What did I accomplish in the last year, and what are my goals for this coming one? In 2019 I paid off my car, remodeled our master bathroom, painted the main living areas of our home, remodeled the living room, remodeled my home office (including laying the floor myself). In 2019 we said goodbye to two beloved pets, Buddy and Maya, and adopted a new pup, Bonnie.

Nevada Day Parade, 2019 – Bonnie, Me, Nina, Brad


What are my goals for 2020?

Personal

  • Read more fiction – I am currently making my way through Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone series and am on O is for Outlaw. (Yes, I know I’m late to the party!)
  • Spend less time on social media, but blog more (photography and here)
  • Connect more with friends and family
  • Walk the dogs daily and work in more exercise for myself
  • Rekindle my photography

Household / Financial

  • Pay off credit cards by year’s end. I’ve already worked out a do-able payment schedule, so this is on-track. Husband has already retired and I am only a few years away, so we must go into retirement as solvent as possible.
  • Simplify – declutter. Seriously. I’m tired of keeping stuff we’ll never use.
  • Garage / workshop remodel project
  • Continue backyard landscaping I began last year.

Global

  • Dump Trump – Dude gotta go.

Critical Thinking

How Do You Know? Or, Critical Thinking is Hard

Originally posted on August 23, 2011 on my now-shuttered blog, Blue Lyon.

The problem isn’t that we aren’t in the street, or that the Tea Party is. The problem isn’t merely with the people we’ve put into office. The problem is that too few of us engage in critical thinking about the world around us, much less about the society we live in and would like to have. We don’t examine the candidates who stand before us who make declarations about taxes, and education, and science, and sexuality, and reproductive rights, and the environment, and what they’re going to do to “fix” it all.

Many of us don’t think critically. That is, we don’t have a system for gathering and examining evidence to determine the validity of the claim.

But how can we? We aren’t taught to do so.  We think we are reasoning our way through a problem, but most of the time we are taking shortcuts. A respected friend or leader tells us a fact and we believe it.  We see A at the same time as B and assume one is the cause of the other. We engage in behaviors that our parents and grandparents and great grandparents before them engaged in, and we teach them to our children because we’ve always done it that way. We rely on the wisdom of the ages and dismiss the advances of science and technology.

The Foundation for Critical Thinking provides several good definitions of what is entailed in critical thinking, but for purposes of this post I really like this one paragraph summary:

Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way.  People who think critically consistently attempt to live rationally, reasonably, empathically.   They are keenly aware of the inherently flawed nature of human thinking when left unchecked.  They strive to diminish the power of their egocentric and sociocentric tendencies.  They use the intellectual tools that critical thinking offers – concepts and principles that enable them to analyze, assess, and improve thinking.  They work diligently to develop the intellectual virtues of intellectual integrity, intellectual humility, intellectual civility, intellectual empathy, intellectual sense of justice and confidence in reason.  They realize that no matter how skilled they are as thinkers, they can always improve their reasoning abilities and they will at times fall prey to mistakes in reasoning, human irrationality, prejudices, biases, distortions, uncritically accepted social rules and taboos, self-interest, and vested interest.  They strive to improve the world in whatever ways they can and contribute to a more rational, civilized society.   At the same time, they recognize the complexities often inherent in doing so.  They avoid thinking simplistically about complicated issues and strive to appropriately consider the rights and needs of relevant others.  They recognize the complexities in developing as thinkers, and commit themselves to life-long practice toward self-improvement.  They embody the Socratic principle:  The unexamined life is not worth living, because they realize that many unexamined lives together result in an uncritical, unjust, dangerous world.  ~ Linda Elder, September, 2007

We must learn to always ask ourselves: How do I know?

The funny thing? Most of us think it’s the other person who isn’t thinking critically. It couldn’t possibly be us! And yet we all have our blind spots, our own areas where reason doesn’t stand a chance.  We are not Spock. We are human beings.

. . . they will at times fall prey to mistakes in reasoning, human irrationality, prejudices, biases, distortions, uncritically accepted social rules and taboos, self-interest, and vested interest.

Back when I was a believer I would pray for parking spots close to the store. Yes, I am ashamed to admit that. But you know what? I thought it worked! I would remember all the times God answered my prayer in the affirmative and when he didn’t, I rationalized it away by telling myself, There must be a reason why I didn’t get the spot this time. Maybe someone more needy than I got the spot.  In my world, god controlled everything. My holy book told me that he knew the numbers of hairs on my head and that even the tiny sparrow was under his care, so of course he heard and answered my humble prayer. It’s how I believed the world worked.

If someone feels the flu coming on, drinks a hot toddy, heads off to bed and wakes up in the  morning feeling better, how does he know whether it was the drink he took before he went to sleep that made him feel better or just a good night’s sleep gave his body time to rest? Was he really coming down with the flu or just some little achy-ness or stomach upset that would have passed regardless of what he did? Without examining the evidence utilizing a method to determine causality, he doesn’t.  And the easiest thing is to believe that it was the drink  that healed him, so that the next time he’s feeling poorly, he’ll down that toddy again, just in case.

Beyond learning how to think critically, we have to know how we are wired and that we evolved to see patterns that may not be there, to make connections that may be tenuous or non-existent.

More to come.

Life, Love and Kindness

Small Comfort

I posted this on my old blog on July 9, 2011 after we said good-bye to our sweet Daisy. I’m re-posting this for Stephanie Miller, who is going through the same grief today for her beloved Max.

We know you’ve been hurting for a long time. And you were getting so tired.

You spent the day in the sunshine, wandering the yard and nosing in the sage for lizards. Then you came inside to take a nap at my feet. I brushed you one last time, and then you and I and Dad went for a ride. One of your favorite things to do. Sissy met us there. And then we said good-bye as you fell asleep in our arms. It was as peaceful as we could have hoped for.

Thank you for being our big brown doggie.

Daisy, July 8, 2011

I don’t believe in heaven
And I know that there’s no hell,
I don’t think you’ve gone anywhere,
And I guess that’s just as well

‘Cause I want to remember
the last look in your eyes
It was the best and worst thing
to get to say goodbye
to you~

They say we’re not s’posed to comprehend,
But I wanna know more
Being there with you at the end
was a pain I had hoped for

Did you know where you were going?
Did you like the time you’d spent?
I wish that you’d stayed longer,
But that’s not how it went

Now I know there’s no forever,
but of all the hearts I’ve met,
I think the place we ended up
was as close as one could get,
did you~?

They say we’re not s’posed to understand
That doesn’t help me
Watching you leave by my own hand
Were the cards that were dealt me

Some would blame the dealer,
some would blame the deal,
some would make up stories
that never could be real

I hope when you left,
You were glad to be back home,
I think that you knew
You would never be alone

I’ve no need for heaven,
Or some eternal bluff,
I prefer what’s real
And what we had here was enough

I’m glad I get to miss you
but that you can never miss me
Thinking you’ll wake up and see us
is your eternity…
small comfort
I miss you
I miss you
I lo~
——————
Small Comfort” ~ George Hrab, Trebuchet