Tuesday, April 26, 2016

To Conform or Not Conform

In the past week, a conversation stuck with me.  Everyday, I think back to the words spoken.  I have thought of many ways to write about the discussion, but I have struggled with the direction I wanted to take until this morning the first thing I thought about was how I wanted to proceed with the writing. 

My daughter is a self proclaimed geek with a sprinkling of nerd.  For myself, I interchange the two words continuously, but she has definitions for them.  Being a good mom, in her early years, I signed her up for Girl Scouts, theater, soccer, basketball, volleyball, and softball.  I asked to sign her up for dance, but that was taking my activity arrangement way too far for her.  She isn't a girly, girl.  She tried the other activities.  All sports fell out except softball.  She stayed with theater for a year and a half, but a girl bullied her, so I dropped that activity for her.  With Girl Scouts, I encouraged her to stay through grade school.  In her first school, she was criticized for these activities and fell into her depression partly because I "forced" her to be in activities that she didn't like. 

When her life blew up, she quite everything.  She was done trying to fit into all the groups without success.  She decided to hell with what other people want.  She tried that gig all of her short life and continued to be ridiculed.  She tried to be polite and nice only to be told she was wrong and stupid.  Last year she became callous and angry.  I couldn't blame her.  I was pretty angry myself.  Her and I both retreated to the safety of our home.

With her meds working, she is starting to thrive in all areas but friendship.  She has no friends and loneliness is making her miserable.  She loves to play video games, lift weights, play D&D, listen to rock music, watch YouTube, and watch Anime.  She is playing with being a You Tuber and loves all things technical.  She writes and draws.  The saxophone is also a major passion in her life.  With all of these interests, she hasn't found anyone to hangout with who has a couple of the same enjoyments.

During the day, she walks the hallways alone.  On weekends, she has to hang out with her parents.  She has invited people over with a small amount of success.  She has tried to get invited to do things with others, but there are tons of excuses thrown at her.  No one has been rude enough to say that they don't want her to come, but she gets the idea.  She has put herself out there and been disappointed.

Now, I was speaking to an adult about her situation.  Their advise was for Madelle to change her interests to match those around her.  Really?  Would you tell a person who is gay to get back into the closet because they aren't fitting in with an entire class of heterosexuals?  I wanted to scream that we tried that route.  Madelle lost herself for years being ridiculed for trying it the conventional way.  She is done trying to please the world.  She is done changing for rude people.

And I get it.  I am also different.  I am a military, redneck, Catholic, college degree, gardener, writer, crafter, gun appreciator, who gets a lot of weird looks.  In fact just the other day I was with my Bible study group.  For some reason, guns were mentioned.  I, of course, went off about loving to shoot.  One of the women has never shot before.  We looked at each other like we came from different planets.  Fortunately we laughed and went back to the study.  Simple.  Why aren't kids being taught how to do that?  Oh, that's right.  Adults can be just as bad.

About a year and a half ago, I tried to fit into a writing group.  I love to write; they love to write; it should work right?  Nope.  One person ruined the entire setting and the rest let him.  He had self published two or three novels at the 40,000 word count.  The rest of the group drooled over everything he said.  I listened.  We were doing everything the same.  I would try to add to the conversation, but he shut me down.  Finally, the group started reading their work to each other.  With a snide reflection to his voice, he commented on my piece, "this story is so dungeons and dragons."  The last thing he said to me after I mentioned my word count of 116,000 for my novel was, "a novel should only be 40 to 50K."  He went on to say the rest was drivel.  Now, I could have played nice and changed my thinking to match the group.  But why?  I am not in middle school.  He was a bully and I am damn well not putting up with that.  So, I am going it alone.  Is it lonely writing without a writer friend to walk with me.  Yep.  But I am not changing my writing style to match this jerk. 

I don't expect my daughter to kowtow to the group and become someone she isn't.  I have given her a wide variety of activities to form her opinions of how she wants to spend her life.  Instead, I need to teach her how to be strong on her own and conquer the loneliness.  Our personalities don't mess with the populace.    But how do I accomplish that with a middle schooler?  I remember how important friendships were back then.  I was fortunate to find a dear friend in those years though I struggle before my friendship with Patti and I struggled after her.  And really, I will never find a friend as unique as me and now I delight in that knowledge.  I just have to walk the path with Madelle until she can walk with her head held high.  We are not conformists.  We are the innovators who forge the trail.

Friday, April 22, 2016

2016's Fourth Adventure: Grandma Duty

In the past, before Madelle struggled with mental illness, I didn't write any blogs about my children.  At least I don't remember writing any completely about them.  With permission from Madelle, I told parts of her story and the way it affected me.  Well, I do have two other children and my fourth adventure surrounded the oldest.  Last week, Michel and his wife asked me to spend three days with their treasures during their spring break.

On our first day, I found a park in town.  Being older children of various ages, I picked a park to hike, hoping they would all enjoy themselves.  Trees were climbed along with a bank of rocks.  Stones were thrown in the river.  A couple of birds were discovered.  I snapped a bunch of pictures.  Afterward we enjoyed a really nice lunch at Subway.

Our second day, rain impeded a nice walk.  The girls preferred to stay home and play on the trampoline.  I taught the oldest of the kids how to make lefse.  I delight that she loves lefse and was happy to pass down the tradition.  She rolled over one full batch of the potato rounds.  My grandma smiled down at her because she rolls the dough better than I do.

Switching up the last day, I took the kids to the elk foundation.  I loved the stuffed animals.  They delighted in running around looking at all the exhibits.  Once done, we hit the trail.  This time we didn't see any birds, but they enjoyed the water of a nice stream. 

     While I was gone, I missed home.  Three trips in a week and a half were a bit much.  My family was ready for me to come home.  The dog followed me all over the house for a good hour, whining if I disappeared behind a closed door.  I was impressed by the two walking trails in the Missoula area and I look forward to discovering more of them in the future.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

An Awkward Old Swan

          Lying in bed this morning, I envisioned a beautiful swan gliding down to the surface of a lake expecting a smooth landing.  As the graceful bird neared the water, her wings began to waver.  In a matter of moments, the feathers and body parts flailed in all directions and the swan somersaulted across the surface, water splashing.  Once the momentum stopped, the swan regained her composure, looking around to see what went wrong.

Growing up, I was a lonely child who watched the world from inside a box.  I speculated on other people's lives and studied them.  As I grew into a teenager, I determined how I wanted my life as an adult and parent.  The world was my classroom, teaching me what type of worker and parent I wanted to be when I entered the world.  After I graduated from high school, I left home with confidence that I would tackle the world, much like a beautiful, graceful swan.  In many ways, I did just that for the first twenty years of my life.  Sure, I had some struggles.  I would then turn into the ornery, stubborn goose to get the job done.  This past year, I have been the squeaker dummy duck trainer for Labrador dogs.  I have been tossed into the water and retrieved back to the bank by the big slobbery dog of life.  Where did I go wrong?

I stopped studying.  As I conquered parenthood, the workplace, and life in general, I didn't pay attention to the relationships of adult children and their parents.  I didn't pay attention to good parents swimming through the deep waters of mental illness.  Thus, when my oldest son introduced me to his fiancé in the middle of my daughter wanting to die, I didn't land in the pond gracefully.  I had never imagined that I would be making trips to the emergency room keeping my baby safe while trying to figure out what it meant to be a mother-in-law.  And frankly, the hospital, therapist, and psychiatrist visits took precedence.

Now with my sick child healing, I have been working on my lack of grace as a new mother-in-law.  I am also facing the title of grandmother.  In the past, I never really thought of that job title either.  My son's beautiful wife gave him four older children to add to the family.  Since I have never paid attention to the dynamic of adult children, daughter-in-laws and step grandchildren, I am left uncertain about my place in this new life I find myself.  I am not prepared.  Fortunately, I love to study.

I have never read a parenting book before the year 2015.  Since then, I have read multiple books about adult children and children with mental illness.  I even found a book about daughters-in-law that I devoured.  I still haven't found one about step grandchildren.  I will keep looking. 

God has graced me with amazing "elders" in my life.  I have a couple of ladies who listen, suggest, guide, and love me through my trials.  My husband has faith filled men in his life who have "been there, done that" and help us know we are not alone.  I keep being reminded that we are all in this pot of messy soup called life.

What have I learned?  …I know nothing.  I am not very good at this stage of my life.  God still loves me as an awkward old swan who messes things up with her children.  Even in all the difficulty, I know I am doing the best I can and I am trying to let God mold me into a new person.  I will also confess, my cantankerous old goose side does get in the way, but you know, I love the old goose in me.  Though I will try to be the swan, with a wing in a cast from the terrible landings, I won't roast the goose.  God made me in all my forms for a reason.  Someday I will know the reason why.  Until then, I will continue to pray and learn.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

2016's Third Adventure: Sister Weekend

I am well on my way to making up for last year's travel season of staying home.  In January, I planned a trip to Columbus, Montana to see my sister in March.  We changed the date to the first of April to have a meeting with a travel agent and to attend an antique fair.  Well, the trip ended up being in the middle of spring break.  I finished up with three trips in one week.  Uff da.  I am ready to stay home for a while. 

Now, I am not a shopper by nature, but my sister has this great talent of bringing the spender out in me.  The best part is that she enjoys shopping for the home and unique things.  On our first full day, we hit a couple of home décor places in Billings.  We even shopped for modular homes.  In one of the homes, we envisioned a husband, like the guy from "Sleeping with the Enemy," locking his wife into this kitchen closet.  Inside was a sink and counter, yes, in the closet.  The design was ridiculous.  Of course, we had no intention of buying a home, but we compared designs.  When my son called, I am sure he thought we were up to no good.

After that little jaunt, we drove up to Red Lodge.  I have not stopped in this little town for about twenty-seven years.  This time to get out of the car, I had to tackle a two foot pile of snow.  The fact that this little town was still in the middle of winter did not stop us from visiting a number of stores.  My favorites were a metal works store, a rock store, and an antique store.  Yes, I left with some fun metal Christmas ornaments, a couple of rocks, and old things to make a hanging wind chime for my garden.  We stopped at a tea store as well.  Along the way, we chatted with a few of the colorful locals.  Finally, we ended the day with dinner at Bogart's.  Coconut margaritas were the perfect exclamation mark on the day.  The drive home was beautiful.  I was on a highway I have never traveled before which I am always delighted to experience. 

On our next day, my sister worked in the morning.  I took the opportunity to sleep in and do a little note taking.  Once she came home, we jumped in the car again and drove to Billings for the antique fair.  I had so much fun.  I love looking at rust.  I picked three beautiful pieces.  I want to put the wheel in the ground and plant some small flowers in amongst the spokes.  I have a tall rusted heater that will look adorable with some plants surrounding it.  Finally, the best piece is an old car horn.  That is now torn apart on the kitchen counter because my husband and daughter want to get it working.  So much for that going in the garden!
Isn't this adorable, even in pieces!

I can't wait put this in the new garden.

How many people can say they have a heater in their garden?

After the fair, we went shoe shopping.  I am set for the summer season of hiking.  We also went to Trailhead Spirits.  This is a distillery in the old railroad section of town that the city cleaned up a number of years back.  I remember when I moved to Billings as a bright eyed young woman going off to college.  This section of town was very poor.  Hookers walked the streets.  Of course, the college is a safe distance from the area, but my mother wanted to take me back home when we saw a bum peeing in the doorway of a building in this very area.  Now the section is charming with a number of fun restaurants and such.  In fact, a wedding was being held and we saw the party taking pictures.  At any rate, we had a couple of fun drinks waiting for our dinner across the street.
This reminded me of Christmas and Thanksgiving all rolled together.

Watermelon, vodka, and basil, very refreshing.

The weekend was a huge success even though the meeting with the travel agent was canceled.  We also didn't really talk much about our trip that we plan to take next March.  And now we are planning another get together with a cousin or two the beginning of May.  Hum, my little car and I are going to be taking a few more trips to Yellowstone County.  Or maybe I will take the truck this next time.  I could go shopping again at the metal works store and the antique store.
A little artwork on the streets of Billings.

Friday, April 8, 2016

2016's Second Adventure: West Yellowstone

Last year's spring break was bleak with Madelle going through all of her suicidal thoughts and depression, so this year I wanted to do something different for the two of us.  We took a girl's trip to West Yellowstone.  I would love to say it was the best trip ever, but alas, we are two females.  We had our ups and downs.

On our way there, we stopped in Ennis, Montana to give the dog a break and to eat lunch.  I have only been through Ennis once before and I didn't stop.  On this trip, we stopped at a little park by the river to walk Leo.  After this diversion, Madelle and I walked through a section of town.  We ate a burger and looked through a gift shop.  To our amazement, we caressed a mink vest.  What a luscious feel.  My hand popped back in surprise as I read the $3,000.00 price tag.  The town is decorated with artistic fish.  I wouldn't mind going back for another visit.
Madelle by one of the fish in Ennis, Montana

Back on the road again, I saw elk and bighorn sheep.  Madelle became frustrated with me when I didn't let her go really close to the sheep.  Oh, my.  The last miles to West Yellowstone we entered a winter wonderland.  Though I have lived in Montana all my life, I am still amazed at the snowpack in the higher elevations.  I did not expect feet of snow.  The capital didn't get that much snow the entire winter!  I also was surprised at a rock slide that happened just before we arrived in one section of road.  I had to maneuver around a nice sized rock that could have easily taken out my little Focus.  Yikes!
He is a beauty.

We only planned a night in the small little tourist town, luckily.  The off season reminded me of the "Shining."  The town felt deserted with most of the businesses closed for the next month or longer.  We settled into the motel room with snacks and watched television.  The daughter was not impressed.  Her adventurous spirit hasn't kicked in yet.

The next morning I took Leo for a walk in the frigid cold.  We kept it short.  As soon as the Grizzly exhibit opened, we went to see the bears and wolves.  I could watch the bears for hours.  I snapped a bunch of photos.  The wolves were a bit of a disappointment.  They slept.  After that, we jumped in the car and headed north, through a blizzard.  I have a great way of getting the best of weather.  In Bozeman, we ate lunch with the son.  We made it back home by about two in the afternoon.  The trip wasn't the most exciting, but I hope the memories will be fun down the road.  I hope to go back this summer when I can actually pull off the side of the road without worrying about getting my car stuck in a couple feet of snow!  I wonder if Madelle will come along or if once was enough for her.
Yes, a bit gruesome, but I like the reality of feeding time for the animals.

I would have liked to see him awake.

I love the grizzly bear.

Still snowy in West Yellowstone

Buffalo decorate the little town.