What should be taught?

The day I received the diagnosis of arthritis, I mailed a package. In and of itself, this fact is not very blog worthy. I mailed the package at a store which has a counter for the post office.

There was a young man, an employee of the store, that took my package. He inspected it and told me he could not read my handwriting. Specifically he could not read cursive. He needed me to translate what I wrote. I knew my cursive was not bad because back when I was in grade school my mom made me copy out of the encyclopedia (which for many years I worried I was guilty of plagiarism) so I wouldn’t have the cursive chicken scrawl of my dad. Since then no one ever said my cursive was illegible. In fact, most people said my handwriting is pretty good for someone who is left handed.

Young people are not being taught cursive in school anymore and now some of those children who weren’t taught are in the work force can’t read mail. How scary is that? I lamented to my best friend. I felt like I aged 10 years in just one day. She said someday no one will be able to read the documents our country are founded on such as the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. As if anyone is going to read them anyway. Someone must carry on the ancient art of hieroglyphics. That in and of itself is rather scary to me. If only a few are left who can read and translate they can have the power to make it say whatever they want it to say with no one the wiser. History is already being ‘changed’ because we don’t like it. How are we supposed to learn from the mistakes our country made when it was young?

My best friend also said alphabetizing is no longer taught in school, something we learned in grade school. She said she volunteered to hand out the baseball uniforms for her son’s baseball club. She had some high schoolers help her and they had no idea how to put the uniforms in alphabetical order by last name. First you start with A… Gone are the days of massive card catalogs at the library. I can’t even remember the last time I went to the library to find something out. That used to be the only place we could go to find answers. When is the last time you looked up a word in an actual dictionary or looked up something in an encyclopedia? Is alphabetization still something that needs to be taught?

Are there skills you think should be taught in school or removed from the curriculum? I always thought everyone should have some basic skills such as simple car care, budgeting, how to fill out forms such as taxes, how to balance a checking account, basic cooking, repairs etc…

One thing I found frustrating when my kids were in school is that they taught math differently. It was the same problem with the same answer with a different way to do the work making it almost impossible for parents to help their kids if needed. If something works, why fix it? Do we need countless useless updates? Is that really progress? I guess I am a stick with what works kind of person. Don’t change things for the sake of changing things.

Back when I was in high school, I took a class called shorthand along with a classroom full of girls. I should’ve taken typing instead. But shorthand was the rage. We could take notes super fast in little scribbles like on the doctor’s prescription pad. Oh wait, do doctors even do that anymore?? What a waste of time that class was. I even thought so at the time. Do you even know anyone who writes in shorthand anymore? If so, I bet no one can read it if some people nowadays can’t even read cursive. It took as much effort as learning a foreign language without the benefit of learning one. I think that’s one class we can ax. (It was probably already axed 20 years ago).

These are just some of my basic observations and thoughts without being an educator. What are your thoughts? Are there things no longer taught that should be taught? Are certain classes outdated? Should we change things that are tried and true for the sake of progress?

Fortune cookie wisdom #39

Dwelling on the negative simply contributes to its power.

I think the key word here is dwelling. I recently heard on the radio that negative experiences are more memorable than positive ones. I think that is true.

Yesterday I spent 3 1/2 hours writing. A small portion was writing on my blog and the rest I spent writing my book. I added a journal entry written by my mom to the book describing Matt hitting my brother Mark and also hitting and kicking me. I wrote about my brother attacking me from my mom’s point of view. I can’t even describe what that feels like. In some ways I felt totally detached since the journal entry was almost 30 years old. Mainly I felt sad for the little girl that was me.

Then I wrote another entry remembering a time my mom asked my dad to help her by watching my brothers and I swim in the lake up north while she made supper. Any time my mom asked my dad for help he did things aggressively or half assed. Let’s just say I didn’t have the dad who would sweep me onto his lap and read books to me on the couch.

This is what happened that day when my mom asked for help. My dad came in the water with us. When Mark and Luke were swimming my dad would grab them by their feet and yank them backwards. My brothers would choke and sputter swallowing water and getting it up their noses. Then they would cry and dad would laugh saying they were just playing a game.

I was terrified of the weeds so my dad grabbed me and forced me to stand in the weeds and muck. He laughed at me while I cried and called me names. When he let me go, he threw weeds and a dead fish at me. It didn’t take long for my brothers and I to be done swimming. My dad got out of doing something he didn’t want to do. He got his jollies by making us cry, calling us names, mocking and humiliating us.

That pretty much sums up my childhood. My brother Matt frequently attacked us with no consequence because there was something wrong with him. I wouldn’t consider my dad to be physically abusive per se. There were times he hit and manhandled us, but he seemed to enjoy terrorizing us more. He liked taking what we were afraid of the most and taunting us with it like my fear of weeds. When we would cry he would laugh in our face and call us babies. He often called us stupid.

If my dad was taunting a sibling it was best to ignore him or better yet to join him because that would ensure your safety. Comforting a sibling often meant your next. Pretend not to care. Pretend nothing scares you. Show no vulnerability or weakness where he could worm in.

I spent several hours writing about the physical abuse from my brother and the psychological abuse from my dad. By the end of the afternoon I was spent. I was feeling depressed and wanted to just emotional detach from everyone. Thinking about the negative things that happened to me really wasn’t doing me any good.

My husband said maybe I shouldn’t continue writing the book or just do it in small segments of time. I told him writing this book gives my life purpose and meaning. The question is how can I write about painful experiences without dwelling on the negative? I end up spending a lot of time in a place I no longer want to be.

I do think writing my story is very therapeutic and healing, but I can’t deny there is a dark side to it as well.

Little illiterate me

Last night I was catching up on reading some blogs before supper. My friend Ashley at Mental Health @ Home (you should really check out her blog if you haven’t already) posted something about checking your blog to see how easy it is to find and follow. I figured it’s been a couple years, why not? I was appalled with what I found. My theme was gone and there was nothing there but a plain white background. My follow button along with all my archived blog posts were gone as well. I just about died.

Of course it had to happen when I didn’t have hours to fix it. My husband was making homemade pizza and the kids were visiting after supper. Not only that, my search engine had some sort of child safety lock on it which I couldn’t seem to turn off. I was in a horrible mood which spiraled into my total hatred of technology making me sound like a bitter old lady to the twenty agers. Nothing makes me feel older or stupider than not being able to make something work and having to have my kids help me.

It’s my own fault. I should check my blog more often. To me going on my site is as repulsive as watching a video of myself singing, and I am a pretty good singer. It’s a cringeworthy form of torture. So needless to say I didn’t sleep very well last night.

I think for my age my computer literacy is average. I always learned what I needed to know to be able to get by. But quite frankly I’m old school traditional. I have a calendar I keep on the wall to keep track of appointments. I like to read books that are made out of trees. My blog is very basic. I update my profile picture every two years. I have had the same cover photo since I started once I stopped using the theme picture.

I don’t like change. I don’t like useless updates. If something is not broken, why fix it?? Why not stick with the tried and true? Do you really think I care if the search bar is at the top or the bottom of my phone screen? If updated was better that would be one thing. But usually it’s frustrating because I have to learn a new way of doing things after finally figuring out the old way which was a million times better. It’s almost as if they are doing updates just to look good for doing updates.

Thankfully I was able to take the kid friendly setting off my searches. That whole thing was a crock anyway when my kids were young. I had to have my kids set up the parental controls which was useless. I pretended they worked and they pretended they couldn’t get around them.

This morning I updated my blog. I found out my theme was rewritten and that is why I had a blank screen. My archives and follow button were old and inactivated widgets. Everything was just garbage and I was tempted to just delete the whole damn thing. But I figured it out without having to have my children hold my hand. It just drives me crazy though! I have no idea how long it was like that.

Thanks Ashley for prompting me to check out my own blog. Besides being frustrated with my own blog, nothing frustrates me more than wanting to follow a new blog and being unable to because it just isn’t user friendly.

I’ve noticed other glitches too over the last couple weeks. I have somehow unfollowed blogs accidently and sometimes when I like someone’s post it shows up later that I didn’t like it. I also stopped receiving notifications, although it is turned on both on my phone and WP.

I am not as computer literate as I would like to be, but I will keep on trying.

forgotten

Some days I just don’t feel like writing. Other days the words awake me from my dreams. I just don’t understand.

I feel mildly unsettled. Nervous with slight melancholy. Maybe it’s the weather. It’s hasn’t been this windy in years. Last night there was a thunderstorm. The rains washed most of the snow away. I watched the weather last night and they spoke of possible tornadoes. Strange weather for December. Maybe the world is ending.

It feels as if I am waiting for something to happen but what I don’t know. I just don’t care anymore. I feel blah. Is that a feeling?

Life marches on. Where is my path? I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do anymore. Does it even matter or make a difference? Won’t we all be forgotten someday anyway?

Is life just focusing on the next problem? Who am I in the lull time? I don’t feel calm, relaxed, peaceful. I feel empty and bored.

In watchfulness, I wonder where I will take the next blow. My mind an angry endless loop of past hurts. How do I escape the circle? How do I break the cycle?

How do I move past this with nothing left to draw upon? My reserves exhausted. Not much there to begin with. Who was I before this all began? I don’t know. I can’t remember.

Please wake me from this dream. Set me on fire to write again when I awake.

Gratitude week 101

  1. I’m grateful to have a furnace that works. It was miserable to go three whole days without heat. I can’t imagine how people lived through Wisconsin winters without a furnace.
  2. I’m also grateful our boiler got fixed this week too after a month without heat in our hot tub and pool. Sadly, a critter got in and made a nest in it.
  3. I’m thankful that the pastor of the new church we are visiting came out to our house. He wants to meet with us every week for awhile. The only way I am able to find faith right now is through the faith of my grandma and I can see her attending this church.
  4. Yesterday we had a surprise visit for our old friend Vince (he is 87 years old). It was nice to see him and to know he is still his crazy wild lovable self.
  5. Last night we had our employee over for beer sampling, pizza, and the Bucks game. He is the last remaining employee to stay on with the new company that bought us out. We also hired him to work part-time for our seasonal company as well. It’s always great to spend time with him.
  6. With fresh snow on the ground and our house fully decorated, it is really starting to feel like Christmas. I love Christmas music. I created an eclectic playlist including pretty much every genre I could think of. I love this time of year. Next weekend we are having our family Christmas here with my mom and brothers. I am totally done Christmas shopping!
  7. Yesterday I helped my husband by hauling wood after he cut and chopped it. It felt good to do something productive.
  8. I really made a lot of progress on my book this week. Right now I am really focusing on the early childhood years, earliest memories up to the end of grade school.
  9. This afternoon we are heading out to support our local community theater by watching their newest production.
  10. I am grateful all my children are adults. None of them are attending school right now. Thankfully Arabella graduated in May! I couldn’t imagine all the hard decisions parents have to make right now. I got a little taste of it but I don’t have to handle that stress any longer.
  11. I just got the ankle weights I ordered in the mail. Since my joint pain is preventing me from running, I am hoping to walk with hand and leg weights to keep some of my strength. We’ll see how that works. I can also swim again since the pool is working. Maybe we can check out some yoga classes after the holidays. I have always had issues with relaxing, balance, and flexibility.
  12. After milk stout, cheese bread, and pizza last night, I didn’t get a stomachache. I’m grateful I am tolerating dairy better since my last blood work showed that I have low calcium now.

The full story…coming soon

I got invited into the popular group once in middle school. They gave me a handful of candy. I threw it away.

I could never bring them to my house anyway. The outside of the house was brick, big and beautiful. But inside was another story altogether. I couldn’t do slumber parties and sleepovers.

My dad roamed the house in his underwear. He answered the door that way. On occasion, he mowed the lawn that way. Sometimes he would even get the mail that way. The truth is that he was more interested in porn than his own wife and kids. He never hugged me, held me, or told me that everything would be okay. Maybe it was a good thing he had an aversion to touching me.

Our house was a hoarder’s paradise. Piles of magazines and papers littered all seating surfaces, our table, and floors. My mom hoarded food so there was always rotting food in the fridge. There were cupboards full of food, a fruit cellar, freezer upon freezer, refrigerator upon refrigerator. But we knew the newest food was always in bags on the dining room floor. There was always a stack of unwashed dishes on the counter full of you guessed it rotten food. The whiff of rot hit you as soon as you entered the door.

If that wasn’t bad enough, there was always pee on the bathroom floor and a dirty sink. My dad was a greasy guy in more ways than one. He rarely showered and criticized us for showering daily as if we were the strange ones. My dad didn’t brush his teeth but wiped them on the hand towel so I always had to strategically plan where to dry my hands in a spot I thought would be the cleanest. I don’t know how I ever survived the 8th grade hand washing compulsion.

Then there was my brother Matt. He was the school ‘retard’. That’s what my classmates called him anyway as they mocked his bizarre behaviors. He heard voices that told him to attack other children and he listened. He ruled our house and my mother bowed down to him. Anything for Matt. Never mind her three other kids.

We had crazy rules to live by for the sake of Matt. For example, no one could come into our house that was wearing perfume. That is why you could find me before middle school started ratting my hair in the middle school bathroom along with the girls that changed their clothes into outfits not allowed out of the house. My unscented hairspray had too much scent. For awhile we had to brush our teeth with peroxide and baking soda. We had to shut the windows if there was an east wind blowing auto exhaust fumes into our house. We didn’t have A/C back then. My mom even took down her brand new curtains because of the formaldehyde and hung old blankets on the windows. We had to take shelter if a neighbor was spraying his fields. The air purifier ran constantly. But none of those things stopped the voices or the attacks.

So you can see I had to reject the popular kids before they had the chance to reject me. I hand selected a few close friends but in the end I lost them anyway because of Matt.

I hated my life. I didn’t belong. To make matters worse, kids looked at the outside of my big brick house and thought I was richer than they were. In high school I drove a bright red Firebird. I was an exceptionally beautiful child voted most likely to be a supermodel by the graduating class which did nothing to help me fit in when boyfriends of potential friends flirted with me. People envied and hated me for the things they saw outside. Things that I didn’t have any control over. In a heartbeat I would’ve given it up to just have a normal healthy family.

The kids at school could never see the pain and sadness inside of me. After awhile I stopped caring about what people thought. I hated small talk and following all the stupid rules anyway. I said screw them and became a rebel, strong and unreachable. When I got hurt, I retreated to the corner and licked my wounds alone. I had to take care of myself because no one else really cared.

I am still the same person. I try to play the best game with the hand I’ve been dealt. On the good days, I thank God for all my blessings. On the bad days, I reject God because I feel he has rejected me. I can’t sing that God has been good to me all my life when I don’t believe it. Why do I feel like God hates me when I try hard to be a good person? I spent a lot of my life trying to be perfect but it didn’t matter.

What is the purpose of pointless suffering? How has it made me a better person? How does it help anybody else? There will always be a part of me that feels alone no matter how many people are around. Maybe God will always be off in the distance and uncaring just like everybody else. I can’t seem to reach him either. I could never find a way to connect to normal people. My life has been way too crazy. I’ve had very different life experiences.

I will never be the motivational speaker that others seem to be. I am not the one who will tell you my anxiety went away by praying more or that my depression was cured by positive thinking. I don’t have the answers, just more questions. I am a broken person that will never be put back together right. Before my brain finished developing I experienced trauma more than compassion and love. I didn’t have that one teacher who made a difference in my life.

What can I say? I have a lot of trust issues. Who else has my back better than me? How am I supposed to trust?

Maybe someday I’ll get it right. Maybe someday I won’t feel angry anymore. Maybe even someday I will trust. But one thing I do know for sure. Soon I will be telling the full story. And it’s far from boring…

School’s out for the pandemic

My daughter Arabella was on the honor roll. After the fight with Estelle, Arabella didn’t want to go to school at all. We had a hard, if not almost impossible, time getting her out of bed in the morning for school. She would cause everyone else to be late and they resented her for that. She stopped talking to kids who were previously friends or acquaintances. In fact, she skipped the lunch period altogether and started hanging out in the classroom by herself.

So it didn’t seem like it would be a really bad thing for Arabella when schooling went online. She didn’t really want to be there anyway.

Everyone at our house, however, seemed to have a hard time with online schooling. Clara stopped doing homework altogether since her parents wanted her to go back home to Germany. Estelle was even having a hard time finding motivation to study. Her year in America wasn’t going to count anyway and she was going to have to repeat the year when she went back home to France. She really wanted to be here for the social aspect. But track was cancelled, along with prom, our spring break trip, and everything else she was looking forward to. I couldn’t be too hard on the kids for being depressed that COVID shut their lives down.

I pretty much let Estelle and Arabella manage their own online homework assignments. I mean, they were honor roll high school students. They were competent and capable of managing their own schedules, or so I thought. Plus, math..

We got a call from the school a few weeks before school was scheduled to end. They told us that Arabella did not do any assignments for a 3 week period and she might fail several classes. As you can imagine this was very upsetting to us. This put her on a tight timeline to finish her classes. Paul helped Arabella put a schedule together and they sat in his office together while Arabella tried to catch up. It was a very stressful time and it created a lot of conflict.

We still had a hard time waking Arabella up for class. She was so far behind and said she couldn’t focus to get stuff done. She was in so deep we didn’t think she could dig herself out. One day Paul lost it. After another day of arguing about having to do homework, Paul lost his temper and kicked Arabella out of the house. Arabella asked if she could stay by her friend Jordan’s for a few days. She promised she would work on her assignments there. I told her she could stay there for a few days until she and her dad cooled off with their arguing. What we were doing here wasn’t working anyway.

I was desperate. No one could tell me how to motivate a previous honor roll student who was struggling with depression through a pandemic get her homework done when all she wanted to do was sleep. Maybe a few days away would be a good idea. Jordan’s mom said it was okay. So I packed up my car with a couple days worth of clothes and all of her homework to drop her off a few days. I told her if she didn’t do her homework, I would pick her back up again. We would be monitoring her progress online.

Somehow she was able to pass all but one class her junior year. Creative writing, that is the class she didn’t pass. It kills me. Oh, the many of things she could’ve wrote about.

The daughter

Romantic films have happy endings. In real life only the beginnings are happy and nothing ends well. But then, nothing really ends.

The Daughter by Jane Shemilt

I picked up the book The Daughter at the airport in Chicago as I was waiting for my flight. I brought a book with me but almost finished it on the long layover. I bought the book because it looked intriguing. I know, I know, one should never choose a book by its cover. I didn’t know the author. How risky!

The main character of this fictional book was a physician whose daughter went missing. I don’t want to give anything away so I won’t. I’ll just tell you that I really liked it and think you would like it too. It struck some heavy chords such as if I wasn’t so busy at work I would’ve known something was wrong with my daughter.

Blame. It’s so easy to get into that trap as a parent. I’ve asked myself many of times what I did wrong. Maybe if I was paying more attention I would’ve known my daughter was depressed. Maybe she wouldn’t have tried to kill herself. Maybe she wouldn’t have mutilated her body so badly from cutting that she needs plastic surgery to look like she did before. But maybe, just maybe, I am part of the reason she is alive right now.

It’s hard not to blame yourself as a parent in the transition from everything’s normal to there is something really wrong. It’s easier to brush it off as a one off even though the patterns indicate it’s clearly not. We tend to trick ourselves into believing everything is fine and blame ourselves later when it’s obviously not.

At the end of the book I read the write up on the author. She is currently a full-time physician and mother of five. In her free time she went back to school to get a Master’s degree in writing and wrote a couple of books, one is a bestseller that I didn’t read yet. How impressive is that?? The author has a brilliant mind and it comes through in her writing. I loved the above quote from her book. Her quote pretty much sums up why I don’t like romance novels. Sometimes life is messy and things don’t work out in the end. I read a book a couple of months back that was a real mess but everything magically worked out in the end. I hated it because it offered false hope and not real life.

My favorite genre of books are psychological thrillers, mysteries, and dramas. I love reading self-help books too because who doesn’t want to fix themselves and everyone around them?!? I also love the classics, historical books, and survival stories fictional and non.

I don’t always want a happy ending. I want real characters and personable honest people. What are you really thinking and experiencing? I want problem upon problem. I want to know how people handle adversity. I don’t want things to magically work out in the end. I don’t know about you, but that is not how my life has been. I want to analyze how people deal with difficult circumstances. I want to know about the things you don’t want to tell anybody.

I finished my book that I was writing. It’s been over a year now. I even sent it off to test readers. But things changed. Since then I found out about the crime my dad committed. My daughter started struggling with serious mental health issues. I was no longer constrained to writing about my experiences as a sibling of someone with serious mental health issues. I could now write as a mother.

I am hoping to process everything I’ve experienced within the past year and write about it on my blog. From there I would like to incorporate it into the first edition of my book. To me it’s not all about happy endings, it’s about learning to live with what we have been given. There is beauty to be found in tragedy. That is where real stories of hope, courage, and inspiration lie.

Gratitude week 50

  1. My husband got his braces off this week. Now too bad he has to wear a mask…
  2. I’m grateful for a warm fire on a cold day.
  3. I’m grateful for pajama days.
  4. I’m grateful for my new followers (and the ones who have stuck with me for awhile).
  5. I’m grateful that I was able to do a lot of writing this week. It’s been a rough week emotionally though. I’m not sure if it is because I’ve been thinking and writing about things a lot…or that this time of year is triggering…or a massive amount of stress…or that we are not getting together with family for the holidays this year. But here I am with the hope that things will get better…
  6. I’m grateful for my husband’s work Christmas party tomorrow so I have a reason to get dressed up and polish my nails. It’s hard to want to look nice when so many plans have been cancelled. It’s like, why bother? Pajama day every day…well not quite but you know what I mean.
  7. I’m grateful for Christmas lights.
  8. I’m grateful for my grandparents. Today it’s been 20 years since my grandpa passed away. 20 YEARS! I lit some candles for him and told my kids a few stories about him.
  9. I’m thankful that my son installed some sort of music app on my computer. I’ve always wanted to learn how to make my own music. I’m thankful that my kids can help show me how to use it because it seems very challenging.
  10. I grateful for a really good appointment this past week with my counselor.

Gratitude week 46

  1. I’m grateful that I am halfway through my detox diet. It is getting harder now. I’m not feeling as good as I did before. I lost 7 lbs. in the last 2 weeks. Perhaps after this I will never eat vegetables again.
  2. I’m grateful I was able to find a new car. As the kids are getting older, my cars are getting smaller. I bought a compact car, a Kia Forte. It is a couple years old with very low mileage in my price range. It has some nice features like heated and cooled seats. I really like it.
  3. Clean sheets.
  4. Quality time with the family swimming and playing games.
  5. Having pajama day on a lazy Saturday since my plans were cancelled due to COVID.
  6. I’m grateful this week for our veterans and the sacrifices they made to serve our country.
  7. I’m grateful to the service people who came out this week. It helped us put the finishing steps on getting ready for winter. Today it is very breezy and cool with no sunlight in sight. We finished winterizing just in time.
  8. I’m grateful to be able to learn new things by reading books and watching intelligent shows.
  9. I’m grateful for the stories I wrote and the ones I will write. It’s also wonderful to read about other people’s lives just by reaching for my phone in my own house.
  10. I’m grateful for friends who stepped up and supported us through these trying times.