An Update…on my last post

Katherine had some wonderful insights in her comments on my last post about the changing nature of friendships/relationships. I especially liked her analogy of a golden friendship becoming rust instead of a precious metal. The same day I posted that, a friend, who I’ll call L. and I were discussing marriage and past boyfriends/girlfriends. A mutual friend of ours was in the unique position that her ex-boyfriend is going to be the best man in her upcoming wedding. They did not part badly and, in fact, after realizing they were really better suited to be friends than boyfriend/girlfriend, the ex-boyfriend immediately introduced her to someone he knew she was meant for…his best friend and cousin who she is now engaged to. I was saying that I thought it was actually quite nice that things had progressed in this fashion. My friend I was speaking with felt slightly differently. She was more of the mind that past “boyfriends” or “loves” should stay in the past. Our talk progressed somehow into a discussion of high school sweetheards. My friend was sharing that she never quite understood how the “high school sweetheart thing” worked. As she pointed out, of course no one is the same person he or she was in high school. I had had another friend to say this to me in the past, so I was interested to hear this again from a very different person. I said that I could agree we are not the same people we are or were in high school, I do think it is possible for high school sweethearts to grow together over time and remain very much in love and happy together. I say this despite not having a high school sweetheart. She said she could definitely see that, but what about high school sweethearts separated for many years who find each other again. I mean, come on, with facebook and the dawn of social networking, we hear about these things happening quite often. I don’t know of any studies done on re-united high school sweethearts and their likelihood to rekindle old flames, the reasons they might or might not and the success of a subsequent marriage. So, it’s difficult for me to say in this case how likely those relationships are to work out. I can certainly see her point about them.

The following day a different friend, who we’ll call A, called me to relate a recent reunion she attended of some of her high school classmates. It was nothing official, but a small get together and she left it shaken up a bit. Shaken up at how much some people seemed to have changed. But even more shaken by how much others had not. “It was as if I was transported back to being 17, all over again,” she recounted talking about reuniting with some people she had not seen in several years. As I listened to her, I began to think back to my post again and my previous conversation with my other friend about high school sweethearts.

When we haven’t spent time, in person, with an individual from our past and are suddenly thrust into that situation, it creates the sensation of being overloaded. Overloaded by changes and/or lack thereof. Typically we see physical changes. I will use the obvious personal example that my husband had hair in high school and does not anymore. It hits you, that person has experienced some level of change. My parents, upon beginning to use facebook, often comment on how old their high school and college friends look. At Christmas they were joking how they didn’t realize in their early 20’s when they were married what “catches” they were! More than a few people don’t recognize my husband until he speaks. He deliberately hung out at the bar at his 30th reunion to see who would approach him that he hadn’t seen in several years. Then as we begin to open up with these people, we begin to find out if outward changes are the only ones this person has experienced. The absolute best case scenario is the realization that while you have grown separately, you have not grown apart. I witnessed this several times at my husband’s reunion. And sometimes you find that although you and an old friend have led very different lives and are hardly shadows of who you once were, you can still be friends at this point in time, your friendship can  be different but just as rich. For some people finding out that they have changed while a friend has not or vice versa can be devastating. I remember a while ago a very close friend of mine had reunited with her best friend from high school and was crushed when she realized not only had this person not seemed to have grown since high school but that, in fact, she didn’t really know this person back then either.

I have commented here before on how it appeared from many in my husband’s graduating class there were two distinct groups: one who wanted to relive the glory days and the other that didn’t mind reminiscing but are more interested in living life right now. In the case of A, I found that the fact that some people she once was very close with who seemed to still  believe they were 17 clashed so violently with her wanting to live her life now, that she decided she didn’t want to see them again…for at least quite some time. In the case of L, I realized that for some people anything that once was a romantic relationship must be burned in a large pyre of the past and the ashes left to settle. Certainly these are not necessarily the cases for everyone, but definitely interesting views on those “golden relationships” Katherine mentioned tarnishing or turning to rust vs becoming more precious with age.

Baby, it’s cold outside…and in here too

A good friend and I were recently lamenting the loss of people we once considered close in our lives. These people are still alive and kicking, just not to the same tune as we are anymore. And for reasons we can’t completely understand. These movements apart are not a result of distance or even diverging interests or places in life so much as they are attitude adjustments.

For me, a lot of times, it’s a matter that for my personal mental health, I no longer deal with drama kings and queens. I also have no time for the “it’s my way or no way” people. For me, friendship is about two people doing their part, if I’m doing it all, it’s gonna die. I’m gonna let it.

I’ve been re-examining a lot of my relationships lately, even ones that are, by all accounts great, and wondering if the majority are really necessary for my personal betterment. I actually have days where I wonder if I might be ok with just being a stay-at-home mom and wife and not rely on outside friendships at all. But that is borne of guilt. Guilt about my best friend and what he gave up for me.

I honestly cannot say that any of my friendships ended or were otherwise changed by my getting married. I can’t say the same for my husband. A lot of friends he used to visit regularly and used to communicate with often, he has stopped doing those things with because of me. He married later than they did and to someone much younger.  I would say 95% of the time, diverging interests is why these relationships waned. There are some exceptions and I’ll avoid talking about them here. It makes me sad that there is nothing we can do to increase involvement but more and more I’m hearing, that no one wants kids around, or no one can work around a nap schedule. I’m sad for my husband. I wonder if one day he’ll wake up with no friends outside of our marriage at all.

I’m not going to end friendships to “make us even” and I’m probably going to let friendships that should end linger longer than normal, but I’m wary of many new friends. The old Girl Scout song says ,”Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.” But in many cases, I wonder how relevant that still is today…

Yarn Along…I forget!

Thanks to snow last week and my child missing 3 days of school, I missed Yarn Along, but I’m back this week! I’ve decided to read some fiction now. I’m rereading two books I enjoyed in early college by E. Annie Proulx. Yes, that E. Annie Proulx, the one who wrote the short story about the cowboys that was made into a motion picture with the late Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall. The first is The Shipping News which won Ms. Proulx not just a National Book Award but a Pulitzer Prize too. It is the story of a failed newspaperman Quoyle and his daughters who move to New England in search of…I can’t quite remember, but re-reading it, I’m remembering why I loved it. I am a big fan of Ms. Proulx’s writing style. Postcards was a later book following a different New England family, these ones farmers. Before Ms. Proulx wrote of  cowboys in Wyoming, she was a huge fan of families in New England. I can’t wait to re-read both of these!

Please join Ginny at small things and the other ladies today for Yarn Along!

Labels….

 A lot people ask me this question when I tell them Shelby is autistic. “Aren’ t you afraid of labeling her that way?”

I like a lot of parents, did worry about a label being attached to my child. One friend who has been taking to her blog recently sharing struggles with her son is having him tested soon and expressed that same fear. And not too long ago we were introduced to a political “No Labels” movement which made me smile with it’s slogan “Not left, not right, forward.” And got me thinking about labels.

Autism is a diagnosis first and foremost. It is not a disease therefore I reject saying, “My daughter has autism” as “has,” semantically, can lead to the misconception that she has an illness. She’s not sick, she doesn’t need to be cured. I choose to say,” my daughter is autistic” because it better defines autism in her life.

Is “autistic” a label? Yes it is. So why am I choosing to “label” my child. Well, here’s the thing, we all label our children. Whether we think about it or not. When we fill out any kind of form for a doctor’s office, school, etc we are typically asked what race our child is and we put that label: “white/caucasian,” “black,” “Hispanic (non-white),” etc  or we put “other” and we fill in a blank. If it asks “religion” we fill in “Roman Catholic,” “Baptist,” “Buddhist,” “Atheist,” and on down the line.

And then we use these terms to label our children, “artistic,” “talkative,” “athletic,” and “eloquent” and the list goes on. But here is where the parent becomes defensive and says, “no, I’m not labeling my daughter because I call her ‘artistic,’ I’m just describing her. She draws well, she paints; Her teacher says she has real potential!” I’m not labeling Shelby either, I’m describing her. Her autistic quirks colors how she uses her senses in this world. How she solves problems. How she handles situations socially. How she learns.

I am no more defining my child than you are yours. But coming to this point of recognition wasn’t overnight and was not always easy. And I encounter any number of parents who are angered by my stance. That’s their right. I choose to accept that this is not just a diagnosis when it is applied to my child. It describes to people that her world is challenging in ways we cannot even imagine. It tells people that I know my daughter is not broken or diseased. She’s just different. Heck, she’s special. And I have come to understand and accept that even if others do not.

Seven Quick Takes Friday

1. So, in case you missed it, we had three days of snow here this week. It basically shut down the entire community as the snow was accompanied by ice and freezing rain (that became ice) and sleet (that became ice). Total chaos and now the county where Shelby goes to school is holding us hostage by not telling anyone when these days will be made until a February BOE meeting. Really. One of the districts that missed this week is making up a day on Saturday this week, why must the county we are dealing with move at the speed of government. Really.

2. File this under other things my kids love that I can’t stand. That stupid “Dadgum” song on Mater’s Tall Tales. That is the most annoying and stuck in your head song EVER.

3. One of the movies the kids got for Christmas (each kid got one, Joey’s was the aforementioned Mater’s Tall Tales) was Despicable Me. I was highly anticipating it but I was cautious too. I was nervous I wouldn’t like it. It turned out to be cute and funny and very good Steve Carell because when he’s good he’s really good but when he’s off, look out.

4. So, you’ve heard, by now probably, that John Paul II is up for beatification on Divine Mercy Sunday. Having just written my novena recently, I am nothing short of thrilled at this news and can’t wait to start the Divine Mercy Novena…which means I have to wait as Easter is LATE this year!

5. As I was cooking bacon this morning this commercial popped in my mind: And upon googling “pigs eating pork” I also found out pigs are omnivores who will eat any kind of meat. Including pork. Apparently that pig was right and we’re the only ones who find it weird. And for the record, I like that commercial.

6. Speaking of breakfast food, I am actually excited about McDonald’s offering oatmeal with fruit and maple. Nothing says breakfast on a cold winter morning to me like oatmeal. And it’s reassuring to know that if I can’t make it for whatever reason, I can go through McDonald’s drive through and get a bowl for $1.99.

7. Today is my good friend Kathy’s oldest son’s 18th birthday. So I’m wishing Dylan the happiest of birthdays and Kathy the happy 18th anniversary of becoming a mother! I hope they  both have wonderful days and an excellent year ahead!

Come on over to Conversion Diary every Friday to share some Quick Takes!

Another Vote for Homeschooling

You get a choice to take a snow day or not. At least if the public school kids are out, you have the option to do some school work. You are required to keep records in most states and report and have a minimum number of days attended. But you get a lot of choice in curriculum and school days in most places.

The public school kids here (of which Shelby is one to receive state services for autism) lost 3 school days this week for snow which is some kind of record. We regularly lose school days but more often than not, it’s for a hurricane not a winter storm. Some parents are now complaining, virilently, about making those days up because they don’t want a) to lose a Saturday b) to lose Spring break and c) to add onto their child’s school year. Well, they have to be made up because laws state that the child has to be in school 180 days. And in our state, there is a law that restricts school start and end dates begun by a mother who whined on television and the radio that her children were “being deprived of a summer.” The business community supported it because, well they don’t want to lose revenue brought in by tourists. So it was even less effort than a hop, skip and a jump to get that passed. So, now we find ourselves stifled by law and with parents who don’t want to teach their children that life has consequences. You got 3 great days to play in the snow (which is rare here to even have snow) but now those days have to be made up. 

Parents are complaining that making up the school days takes away from family time. Which brings me to homeschooling. When one chooses to homeschool one makes a concerted effort at family time. Not all family time is necessarily going to be “fun stuff” like going on vacation or to zoos or amusement parks. Some of it is going to be math drills, doing chores, and learning how to share a bathroom. That is not to say those same lessons cannot be learned in families who choose public school for whatever reason, but homeschooling gives you more opportunities for both.

I say this with a somewhat conflicted heart  because Shelby needs the public school system and I wish, desparately things could be different and she could be home with us “learning” (pre-school curriculum is more learning through play) and I know a day will come when I may not be able to effectively teach some subjects to my kids (math immediately comes to mind). And we haven’t made up our minds 100% about the boys yet. We still have a little bit of time on that, but I find that beyond the freedom to teach religion, the freedom to choose my own curriculum and speed it up or slow it down for the kids individual needs, the ability to manipulate a schedule to suit our family is by far one of the most appealing aspects.

And I won’t have to be one of the mothers posting angrily about missing days on facebook.

St Joseph…help us!

A good friend of mine has decided that 2011 is going to be the year that he gets a new and better job than his job of the five previous years. Every day he sends out a minimum of 10 resumes. He has joined all the job-listing websites, he is taking extra courses in things on the side to broaden his appeal to potential employers. He has good reason to want to leave his job: no raises in the last 3 years despite good profits for the company, being passed over for promotions multiple times, and well, the words “hostile work environment” apply for reasons he asked me not to disclose here even though I am not using his name. He is single, no children, willing to relocate and remains cheerful and optimistic.

For nearly two years my husband was unemployed. He has a degree, a teacher’s certificate and licenses in 2 states and tons of experience. He applied for every single job he could think of that used his skill set, that he was over-qualified for, and even those for which he had no qualifications. He rarely got interviews, he got lots of rejections. In the end, his current teaching job came at the very last-minute and he took it. If he ever was disappointed or felt rejection, he never showed it. At least not to me. If he ever felt desperate or any similar emotion, I never saw it. He remained optimistic that something would come through and it did.

I had moments of despair though. I felt rejection. I was disappointed. I took things personally which I know I shouldn’t have because it wasn’t me that was being rejected (I found a job through an old friend, the only friend who was able to do me a favor in these tough times). I have an overactive sense of empathy and I had watched at my previous employer jobs I wanted go to less qualified candidates who often ended up not liking the position (because they were ill-suited for it) and leaving it soon after, and I knew Jeff was qualified and would have been a good fit for so many of the positions he applied for and/or interviewed for but didn’t get. I knew we weren’t in a different boat from so many in our country, but these feelings still crept in. I was worried we would lose our home as my income + unemployment didn’t leave us enough money to live off of even with great cutbacks. I was worried my husband would get sick and due to his lack of insurance and we would find ourselves unable to afford medical care (as adults, we failed to qualify for any type of subsidized health care even if our only income had been his unemployment). Somehow we made it through. I say somehow, but I know how, I prayed pretty much unceasingly to St Joseph.

I’ve been applying around for jobs right now myself as I know I will need to work over this summer when we won’t have any paychecks coming in for two months (the joys of teacher pay). So far I’ve been ignored or rejected. It’s okay for now because I can’t accept anything at this point. But I can feel the noose tightening…the monkey is starting to breathe down my neck. I know I need a lot of trust in St Joseph as friends of mine are struggling to find even part-time jobs. I’m facing the reality that there may not be a job for me this summer and as scary as that is, even scarier is that I don’t know how we will make it if/when that happens. I am trying not to fall into despair and fear as I know that real faith is about letting go of those fears. But I also realize that those fears are human and as a human I am fallible and cannot beat myself up if I do feel that way. So, deep breaths, and like Dory says on Finding Nemo (the advice I gave my job-seeking friend today) “Just keep swimming,  just keep swimming….”