A Very Ordinary Life

My place to brag about kids, homeschooling, and our journey.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I'm Sorry and Why Kittens Are Basically Furry Balls of Hope

     Life has been tumbling about me lately, throwing daggers of awful news and horrible images my way. So I am apologizing here for all the Facebook posts I simply cannot "like" or share, the Tweets I can't even finish reading, and the YouTube videos that I will not even click on, much less share. No matter how compelling, how absolutely right and just the thing is....I just can't.
     Because while I care - deeply, wholly, and passionately - about a lot of the world problems that are escalating everywhere it seems, I can only hold so much sadness. With plenty of my own, more immediate sorrows to handle, the onslaught of images and horrors and outrage in the news and social media is threatening to overwhelm me. I see the darkness circling, threatening to pull me into its current and drown me if I give it too much of myself.  One person's descent into the abyss was enough to make me more aware of managing the things I expose myself to that bring that same abyss closer to me. I *want* to see the hope, the helpers, and the healing - but it is tough finding it amongst the anger and sadness and bloodshed. 
     I feel guilty for not being able to handle it all, and hope that somehow I'll find a way to be engaged as a concerned citizen yet also protect my psyche from the blows of a violent and unfair world. 
     Although at least now I understand the world's obsession with online animal videos.  Adorable kittens are a soothing balm for the soul.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Thank you, Al.

I have learned tonight to be immensely grateful to man named Al. Al Vitteri. When my mother was 3 - back in 1941 - her father, an absentee dad at best, was killed on a merchant marine ship during WWII. To make ends meet with him gone and 3 girls at home, my grandmother took in boarders, as was common in those days. After her husband died, my grandmother met Al Vitteri, and he moved in as what would eventually be a common-law husband. He became the father my mother never had. He taught her how to fix things, took her to baseball games, and took care of her. My mother's older sisters didn't care to do things with him, but my mom loved him.

So why am I thanking him now? He died 5 years before I was even born. I am thanking him now because until tonight, I never knew he even existed. I have spent most of the last near-40 years thinking my mom was was without a dad from her youngest days. It broke my heart to think of her like that. I suppose I could be annoyed or upset or dumbfounded as to why my mother never even mentioned his name. That would seem to be a logical response. But my first emotion, the one that brings tears to my eyes as I write, is gratitude. Gratitude that he was there to take care of my mom, to be her guide and her father at a time she truly needed one. Relief that the awful childhood I had pictured had not been her reality.

What prompted her to open up about this after decades of never speaking about him was a recollection of a restaurant that he used to take her to. My nephew just got a job there, and although it has changed names many times, it is still in the same spot in my mother's hometown. The memory of him taking her there for Cokes and walking home with him came out so naturally I almost missed it. Almost. I stopped her briefly and said "Who's Al?" She said of course she never mentioned him, it hurt too much. And then, with little prompting, came the whole story. Ending with how badly it hurt to lose him suddenly right after her first son - my oldest brother - was born. And how she kept it inside because it hurt so much.

All this talk of emotion from my mother was nothing less than amazing. She has spent her life repressing emotion, and emotions like hurt, sadness, and pain come up very rarely in our conversations. I felt like I was looking back in time with her though a window that I might never have had a chance to see, and it was a privelege to be there with her.

So - thank you, Al. For being the grandfather I never knew I had. For being there for the little girl that became the wonderful mom I have. Thank you.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Necessary Enemy: Food Allergies

Most people see food as a necessity, a pleasure, or a chore, or some combination of all three.  A necessity to live, a pleasure when it's good, or a chore to shop for and prep. Then there are some, like me, who see it as an opponent.  A sneaky, insidious enemy who has honed the art of ambush and attacks when least expected.  One that can kill if not carefully sought out and countered.

Why the drama over something as seemingly simple as food?  When you've seen your firstborn start slipping into a severe allergic reaction, your vision of food as an innocent necessity changes very quickly.  In the blink of an eye, as a matter of fact.  The blink of a confused, swollen eye looking at you from the hive-covered face of a little boy who has no idea what's going on.  Or what could happen to him if you don't think and act correctly at that very moment. 

Then comes the realization that not all of food's parries are as dramatic as that experience.  That a food sensitivity, while not a life-threatening allergy, can wreck almost as much havoc with your life and your children's lives.  And so you embark on an entirely new journey, not trusting any food yet required to prepare it daily.  You have no choice but to hope that each morsel you feed your children is really free of gluten, or dairy, or nuts, or soy, or, or, or......  And mistakes happen sometimes.  You overlook an ingredient, misread a label, or just plain forget to check.  So you weather them and their consequences as best you can and trudge on, vowing to not ever do it again.  The worst ones are the ones that happen despite doing everything.  The ones that comes from ambiguous labeling like "natural flavors", or even simply from cross-contamination you are completely unaware of.  The ones that come from a restaurant where the kitchen is too busy for the chef to really make sure your meal is actually safe to eat.

So you do your best, on some level hesitant and wary of every meal.  And hope that the next mistake isn't one with permanent consequences.