To the men …

As we approach the centennial of U.S. women getting the right to vote, the two leaders are white haired old men, and the media is filled with discussion of how the country is still not ready for a female president.  This nonsense only compounds my frustration with the lingering white male hierarchy.  I have long been tolerant of the minor sexist transgressions of men.  For many it has been a transition from how they were raised.  However, as the decades pass, with little change – and I get older – I find my patience wearing thin for the same old nonsense.

Don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against men.  I spent most of my youth mostly around men both gay (theater) and very macho (cowboys). Most of my best friends, throughout my life, have been men. But it is past time for some of those views of male superiority to end.  This is for those men.

To the man who tried to talk me into a custom tub to shower conversion, because “no shower pans exist with the drain on the left” – I suggest you try that line on someone who doesn’t spend nearly as much time at hardware stores as she does at the grocery store.  Since bathroom remodeling is your career, I know you are aware that these things exist.  Don’t ask me to pay more than I need to, just because you think I’m naïve.

To the man who called my tractor “cute” and decided he needed a bigger one – I have been waiting to see you do something with your tractor that I cannot do with mine.  I have yet to see it.  In fact, my tractor gets far more work than yours.  I sure hope that $7000 ‘testosterone tax’ you paid for your tractor was worth it!

From floor to ceiling, the tackroom that I built!

To the man who complemented the tackroom I built – your comments might have been more appreciated if they were not punctuated with so many notes of surprise.  It’s nice that you finally said you could not have done better – but why was there any doubt that I could do as well, or even better, than you?  You are not a builder by trade, so your only perceived advantage is your genitalia, and the inborn construction knowledge that is imagined to come with it.

To the man who asked if I had a man at home to use the tools I was buying – not only was I buying the tools for myself, but I actually know how to use them!  I have more tools than the majority of men I know, some of whom aren’t even familiar with what many of the tools do.  In fact, I have female friends who can say the same!

To the man who said that I can be “rather stubborn” about how I want my arena graded or my fences built – when you have spent forty years helping to build and maintain equestrian facilities, then you can come back and tell me how an arena should be prepared.  Just because  you have more muscle doesn’t mean that you automatically know more than me.

To the man who told me that I needed to act a bit more dumb and needy to get a man – why would I want a man who needed that?  I know that you meant well, as a friend; but did you really think about what you were telling me to do?  Why can men be who they are, and expect women to be attracted to them?  Yet we are expected to use makeup, change our behavior, even get surgery, if necessary – all to disguise who we really are, just to please you?

To the man who thinks that leadership equates to bullying – why are you still here?  The era of the tyrant leader ended a long time ago.  You dinosaurs, who use anger and fear as your leadership method, should have died out a long time ago.  The generations entering the workforce will make sure you do, as they will not tolerate it like their parents did.  Not only are women getting sick of it, but people of other ethnic backgrounds are also sick of your old white boy’s club mentality.  I may have walked away, but someone will rake you over the coals one day.

To the next man who says something that even remotely calls into question my knowledge, skill, or ability, with even a hint of it being about my gender – watch out!  My filters for that sort of thing are worn thin.  You might just be the recipient of decades worth of frustration in one go!

There are certainly many nice guys out there.  Some of those mentioned above are generally nice.  But the time of forgiving these antiquated notions of men being better at things simply by virtue of their gender – and acting surprised if a woman can manage on her own – needs to end now.  You’ve had decades to make the transition – your grace period is up!

Finding Daylight Again

The following is a guest post by my daughter, Lia, whose own blog has a horsey focus.

I was whacking the weeds that grow so high on our property every year.  It was a perfect spring day – warm, but with a cooling breeze.  The birds were active, tending to their new families.  All about me was green and teeming with life.  My hearing protection doubled as entertainment, as it streamed my favorite songs.  I was singing along, thinking of nothing in particular, when “Boston” by Augustana began to play.

“When flowers gaze at you
They’re not the only ones
Who cry when they see you
You said
You don’t know me, and you don’t even care
Oh yeah, you said
You don’t know me, and you don’t wear my chains
Oh yeah”

As I sang the words, I suddenly had a vision of another me, in another time, singing those same words.  That person was sitting in her car, in the office parking lot, crying and wishing she could just “get out of California … to leave this all behind.”  It was in that flash of memory that I suddenly realized just how long it has been since I had been ‘me’.

I am, naturally, a reserved person.  I am not prone to showing happiness as most would expect it to look – bubbly, with smiles and giggling.  I have been that way since our landlady told my mother she felt sorry for me, as a three year old, because I seemed too adult for my age.  I am a ‘perfect score’ introvert on the Myers-Briggs scale (or any other personality test, for that matter).  Yet, I am a joyful person.  I find joy in the nature all around me, in my activities with the horses, and in spending time with good friends.  I once had a job that brought me joy on a daily basis.

But on that day in 2006, when “Boston” brought me to tears, office politics was tearing apart that joyful job.  I wasn’t long off of my first, only, and failed, love.  That year also saw an injury that took six months recovery, the theft of heirlooms that cannot be replaced, and the death of a horse who had been an integral part of my life for over twenty eight years.  The attacks at work were just shit icing on a garbage cake.

What I realized, as the weeds were falling in front of me on this spring afternoon, was that I have been under a dark cloud since that day in the parking lot.  The intervening years held more significant losses, more significant injuries (including a fractured vertebrae that still reminds me of its presence), and more crap job situations.  I’d lost my best job, stagnated in the next job, worked myself sick over a major project, then was subjected to bullying and humiliation for nearly two years.

For those of you who have been through depression, you will recognize the description of a weighty dark cloud that shrouds everything you do.  Sure, there are moments of happiness.  In the midst of the more recent struggles with the job, I brought into my life a joyful fuzzy fellow who I credit with keeping me ‘off the ledge’ in recent years.  He never fails to bring a smile to my face.  But until the last few months, that smile was always under a shroud and short lived.

If you have never been truly depressed, it may seem hard to relate to what I’m saying.  My mother’s favorite admonition has always been “Just stop feeling that way!”  Wouldn’t it be lovely if it were that easy?  Certainly there are few of us who would choose that feeling as a way to be.  But when every day feels as though it will bring a new blow, and every brief moment of joy comes with the feeling that it only means something bad will follow, it is virtually impossible to will yourself out of it.

It would be putting it mildly to say that depression is a complicated state.  A recent article in The Atlantic addressed just how little science is actually sound about the causes and treatments for depression.  Many who try medication may have some short term success; but it often wanes over time.  I found that counseling gave me some solace, in validating what I was experiencing.  But it only allowed me to peek out of the cloud – it never made the cloud disappear.

I cannot pretend to have an answer to a problem that science has yet to crack; but I will offer one insight from my own experience.  Change something about your life!  It is easier said than done – but I believe it is the critical step in the process.  Look at the elements in your life – place, job, relationships, activities – try to find at least one that is causing you anguish, and get out!

For me that change has been a new job.  Nine months ago, the bullying at work was reaching a fever pitch.  I was very lucky to have a friend who just happened to be in a position to offer me a temporary out.  The day that came to pass, it literally felt like someone had lifted a fifty pound sack off of my back.  However, the path back from over a decade of depression is not that short, nor that straight forward.  The bullies were not out of my life entirely, and for each moment of sunshine that peeked through, they were there to bring the cloud back.  It would not be an ideal change – better to be completely away.  But we can’t always just “leave this all behind” so easily.

As time went on, the bullies became a smaller element in my life.  With them in the background, I slowly found my footing as the problem solver I once was.  I found I was back where I’d been in that dream job I’d once had – working with a team of like minded folks, helping others solve problems, and having people truly appreciate my contributions.  I became, again, that person who let problems roll away, like water off of a duck’s back – rather than struggling to keep from snapping as the problems seemed to mount at every turn.

If you have ever come out of a long period of depression, perhaps you will recognize what I am about to describe.  The cloud began to break apart before I was ever aware of it.  Good moments were countered with bad ones, but at a pace that decreased without my really registering any difference.  After all, the last decade plus had it’s brief bright moments, too.  But one morning I woke up, and everything was different.  I cannot tell you why or how – but everything that morning just felt brighter and lighter.

A few dark clouds occasionally floated by, after that – the bullies are still around – but they had no more power over me.  They just made small shadows as they passed through the sunlight.

That morning was remarkable, and still crystal clear in my memory.  To this day it puzzles me, as I cannot point to a specific event that preceded it.  But it was not until that afternoon of weed whacking that I realized how long that dark cloud had covered me.  It was not until that moment that I could look at the person of the past five months and realize that I had not known her for more than a decade.

My hope in writing this is that it may resonate with others who are stuck under their own cloud.  Or perhaps with someone who loves a person they know is under a cloud of depression.  First, I hope you take from this the fact that the cloud can be lifted – even if it takes more than a decade.  I am hear to attest that once it lifts, your whole outlook can change dramatically.

How that cloud lifts will vary with each person, and their situation.  But I strongly feel that it will not lift if your life does not change.  I have seen many ‘self-help’ gurus suggest that you have to change your outlook, and that will change your life.  I am here to attest that this advice can actually make things much worse.  It places the burden upon a person who is struggling with their outlook – it makes it their fault, without taking into account anything that might have led to their outlook.  Instead, I say, “Change your life, and it will change your outlook.”  Find something to do that feels productive and making a difference, no matter how small it may seem to you.  It is likely the impact is more than you realize.

Most importantly, find people who feel that you are valuable, and make you feel valued.  It is far too easy to stay where you are, in the usual group of people.  I had many good and supportive friends in my previous situation, so that hardly seemed the problem.  But if you are all swimming in the same toxic soup, those friends only compound the very burdens you are struggling with.  I have not shed those friends – I balanced them out by adding people to my life who are, themselves, living in the sunshine.  They are not bubbly people – that can sometimes add to the burden of the cloud, rather than removing it.  However, they are collaborative, supportive, and share common goals.  They gave me the light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel.  I had to find my own way out, but after too long navigating the curves in that dark space, I finally saw the direction out.

It is a strange feeling standing outside of that long tunnel, and looking back at my time within it.  The person I was, for over a decade, seems like someone quite aside from the person I was before, and am once again.  In over a half-century of life, I have certainly been through bad times, and had periods of depression.  But no other period lasted so long, nor made such a fundamental change in the person I am every day.  I can only hope that I have learned the lessons I am trying to share – that there will always be a light at the end of that tunnel, but when you are seeking it, you must first make a fundamental change in your life.  Oh, and that change I made – it recently became permanent.  Here’s hoping the effect of it is, too!

On Politics Today

I am very close to giving up on my beloved country and finding a cave somewhere into which I can disappear. It has always been a given that there was an underground Mafia, some individuals were corrupt, occasionally employees would take a pen or note pad home from work.  No country is free of criminals, even murderers, all of which we try to control and adjudicate fairly in this country. But the United States has entered the brotherhood of autocracies. Our president is utilizing the office for his monetary gain, has a history of commerce with mafia types, and is, in essence, quietly condoning the gruesome murder of a US permanent resident, a journalist, by his friends the Saudis. After all, the journalist was not a citizen! Even worse, they are now attempting to turn that respected journalist into a terrorist in order to justify his murder.

We now have two members of the Supreme court who have, at the least, harassed young women in earlier years, and in the latest case proven his unfitness andKavanaugh disdain for others during his hearings. We had an individual run for office who controlled the voting apparatus in his state wiping thousands of voter registrations from the roles. We have conservative candidates running adds lying about their opponents in egregious manners, attempting to make them seem like part of a conspiracy to ruin the United States. Of course we are seeing names that are not quite “American” so they must be terrorists, right?

The atmosphere in our country is so broken and dark that some white citizens seem to feel it is appropriate to call the police whenever they see a person of color in “their” space…couldn’t possibly live in my nice apartment building, shouldn’t be talking in another language, doesn’t belong in this private club’s pool, wearing a hijab (oh my!) and on and on.

Today winning is the only goal, however it can be done. Cheat, lie, mock, encourage violence…and don’t try to push that on the dems, they are trying to do peaceful protests or just tell their (highly emotional) stories to those in the seats of power. It is the president who applauded a journalist being slammed to the ground, and now appears to be condoning murder of the most gruesome. But he and his cohorts are winning, andflag hug lording it over the majority of the citizenry who are dismayed, startled and appalled by the direction we are taking as a country. That, apparently, is all that matters, not the lives that are lost, the families that have been broken, and the individuals who have been hurt by the actions taken by our law makers and the policies of this administration.

It has been recently in the news that the separation of children from their families is still happening.  By leaving these children rudderless this administration is helping to create a generation of terrorists. How would you feel about a country that tore you away from your family as an infant, a toddler, or a pre-teen?

It is the administrations job to govern, alongside it’s equal partners the legislative and judicial branches. It is up to this governing body to make decisions on rules, regulations, policies, and how different departments operate. Any and all of those decisions will help some individuals, and hurt some individuals, that is the inevitability of choosing the road for a large population rather than one, or possibly a few, individuals. The trick is to help the majority of the citizenry while causing as little pain as possible to as few as possible.  Good governing also includes enabling those on the bottom to find a road up towards hope for a better life.  There are always compromises in life, why should there not be room for compromises in governing? There should be no room  in government however for corruption, hate, bigotry, or waging war against the fourth estate. We, the people, come in different colors, religions, ideology, genders, and life experiences. We all want a certain amount of safety, housing, nourishment, and, yes, entertainment. What the majority do not desire is our government becoming the entertainment and turning our leadership into a circus, or a reality show.

There are a few signs of hope and a dim light showing at the end of the tunnel.  The citizenry shouted their opinion at the mid-terms, more investigations are underway,constitution fragment and the GOP show signs of possible splits and disagreements on presidential over-reach. I am hopeful, but wary.  If there is no sea change in the near future the impact on myself will be minimal if at all.  My concern is for all of the children, the babies yet to make their entrance into the world. My concern is for the slow death of a country that grew through the vision of our forefathers, and the blood, sweat and tears of myriads of diverse inhabitants who fought together, fought each other, and ultimately helped save Europe and created a safety net for our citizenry. My concern is for the big globe we live on that still has a small contingent insisting it is a flat disc and too many believing the great expansion of the human footprint could not possibly be damaging to the earth. My future is in the past, when the time comes I will go “gentle into that good night” and grateful for the peace, but at the same time with a burning “rage, rage against the dying of the light” that once was the country I loved and will be leaving behind.

On Cheating to Win

During my growing years through the forties and fifties I was raised with the mantra do as I say, not as I do. This came from my father who was an inveterate cheater in so many ways. Family card and board games could be fun, but they included a scattering of Cheatsseemingly innocent incidents of cheating, almost as a male prerogative. They also were often stressful since it seemed that being the winner was the most important goal, and those who did not win were losers. He loved golf, and while I do not know if he cheated while playing the game, I do know when he played with my father-in-law,  who could play with the pros, he quit golf entirely. Being able to win was that important to him. Then there was the truly egregious cheating on my mother with other women. Once, during a family dinner, my father complained about the then governor of the state being involved in an affair.  This became too much for me, and I made some comment about people who did such things should not complain about others, which opened up a diatribe about the politicians needing to set the example and being better than the common man. This conversation was over 50 years ago, and here we are today with a far more egregious cheater than my father in charge of the destiny of our once great country.

Full disclosure, I did cheat once during my high school years. Ironically it was in a class I aced anyway. Looking for something in the class locker I happened on our test coming the following day. On a lark I read and memorized the questions, and ended up with a score of 100. This did not alarm the teacher, since I always was in the high 90s in history. CheaterI ended up regretting having read the test simply because it was wrong. There have been other temptations, when people do you wrong it seems okay to take something, say something, act in a way injurious to that person…except it truly is not okay because in many nuanced ways it will hurt you more than the person you attempt to hurt.  We should also always remember that cheating or bullying in order to win demeans not only the cheater/bully but anyone enabling that person.

We now have a body politic that believes constant lying, constant cheating,  power grabs will make them winners. If they cannot actually win then hamstringing those who are replacing them or their replacement choice is the next best thing, as witness the desire of one state’s legislative body to make the incoming Democratic Governor powerless. If the majority of citizens want health care (or Hillary Clinton), for instance, gerrymander the states, suppress the votes, to the point that the opposing party cannot win and let the minority rule. Cheat to win. Since when has our lovely USA turned into a win at any cost, let the populace stew and cry, let the scientific community dwindle and die, let the experts go unheard, kind of country?

Please give me a doctor, a dentist, a vet, a teacher who is a learned expert in their profession or field. Why should we want less in those entities who will be dealing with the world leaders? Handling our countries money? Making health or environmental policies that will affect all of our citizens? Sending our young people across the globe to fight our wars? Being educated and versed in the kind of tasks and communication required in any of those jobs should be a given.

It truly does not matter what high morals you believe in, or what deity you worship. What matters are the deeds you do, your attitude towards all other inhabitants of our ailing planet, and the actions you take to make our world a better place. I watched my father cheat to get what he wanted from life, I saw my mothers distress, I know the damage he did to my life. Now I am forced to watch our president take over one of our two main political parties, encourage cheating at all levels, making policies injurious to the very people who love him, and bullying his way through life over the bodies of anyone in his way. Sadly, it is not all on him.  The Republican Congress abdicated their job of acting as a check and balance to the president and making him accountable. Their mantra is the public and the opposition should follow moral and judicial laws but the Republicans have the right to cheat if necessary in order to win,  and they should have the ability to make the majority live as they decree.cheating in a duel

I have always heard “cheaters never prosper”, yet in my lifetime I have seen an abundance of cheaters who skate through life on the backs and lives of those they cheat. Is this how our once proud country sinks into the sea, or do we, the people, have the will and the stamina to fight for a kinder, gentler, more inclusive nation that illuminates those “thousand points of light?” Only time will tell.

 

 

 

On Our Loss of Decency

This is simply a rant with no graphics as they are difficult for my eighty year old mind! It is about our loss of decency, empathy and, yes, “kind hearts and gentle people”. One does not have to be Christian to adhere to those ideals, but Christians should be ahead of the line in those attributes if, indeed, they believe in Christ’s teachings. The internet has promoted our loss of civility, and the great uptick in crass and truly egregious, vindictive, vitriolic exchanges. I was taught in theatre classes that if you are having a problem getting angry enough for the character, pound on the desk, jump up and down, actions will help illuminate the feeling of anger. That is what is happening to our country.

That brings me to my sick stomach feeling at the moment. I cannot imagine that a huge auditorium of my fellow citizens would stand up and applaud the death of a war hero who had been imprisoned and tortured, lifetime public servant, who leaves a surviving family still grieving his passing. Trump had no problem eliciting that response at CPAC while feeling “the love” for him (and his bone spurs).

It was quite awful enough to see him with a really comical expression on his face denigrating our flag by hugging it and waiting for the applause. This is what all you people with flags flying from your vehicles like to see? Our forefathers would be disgusted, and rightly so! That flag has been tattered and torn with the winds of war, carried to other countries in the name of freedom, occasionally making mistakes in judgement, but always trying to be on the side of justice and equal opportunity. To treat it like a puppy you love so much you have to squeeze and squeeze…until it ceases to breathe… is an abomination (check out Lennie in Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck). It seems there is a large segment of our population (although not the majority) that is quite comfortable with our wonderful experiment in governance going the way of the Roman Empire. According to one historian on NPR it is a long, slow process, hardly noticeable as the norms and laws decay incrementally. One more reason I am happy to be leaving this earth within the next decade or two, I have no interest in seeing the kind of chaos the Roman Empire faced as the decay increased and politicians split the populace and created anger, hatred, suspicion…sound familiar?

I am not a historian, I do not claim expertise in politics or anything else. I do believe in civility, empathy, that dirty word compromise, ethics, and truthfulness. Our erstwhile leader fails on all of the above and has carried the once respected Republican party into his corrupt idea of “service to the country”. I will no longer lower myself to argue the fact that he lies, it is proven by listening to his own words…on tape! I will no longer argue his morals or ethics…he has had three wives and two mistresses (at least), and multiple contractors he has refused to pay. There is more, so much more, proven and known by the world, but hardly worth reiterating since many either believe he is a messenger from God or an arm of Satan. In actuality he is simply a highly flawed, self-indulgent human being who managed to sell his snake oil to a large segment of our voters and now seems to believe, and has convinced them, that he is the greatest president of all time.

I have news for him and all of his followers, not one president from our historic past…not one…would have encouraged their audience to applaud the death of a national hero with the kind of life Senator McCain lived and the service he rendered. He, too, was human and therefore flawed, as we all are, but he was brave, heroic and lived his life in service to this country. Be assured, Senator, that whether or not we agreed with all of your votes or actions, the vast majority of your beloved country honors your life and grieved your death. Rest in peace, and if it is possible pray for this beleaguered country you loved.

On One Nation Divisible

An article on the bombing attempts was recently shared to my page by a friend who is a Trump supporter. The comments were somewhat appalling, considering the subject. They ranged from cheering the bomber on, to snarky remarks regarding the wall around one of the victims domiciles. The latter comment was rather amusing, since I can look down any street where I live (semi rural and mixed lower to upper middle class} and see privacy walls in abundance. I have no quarrel with those who have different political leanings than myself, but I find my psyche in a fight between anger and sorrow that many in our society now believe it is “fun” to throw out crass comments and hate messages over a national emergency that could easily have turned into tragedy.tattered-flag

Do I scream or weep when people do not seem to care that a postal worker, a housekeeper, a nurse, or an apolitical bystander could have been killed? Does it matter that you did not agree with an ex-president, is that disagreement worthy of killing said president? He no longer holds power. Most ex-presidents from either party are working on projects to help the nation or the world. When the Republicans suffered an attack while playing baseball everyone was appalled and democrats reached out to their republican compatriots with sadness and compassion. When Gabby Gifford was shot the entire legislative body was hoping and praying for her survival. Today we cannot see past our red haze of hate. For what? Why do you hate so ferociously? What is happening.. TO YOU…that justifies such hatred for people you only know through the news and talk show bubbles? I cannot find such hate in myself. Disgust for some of the dialogue, yes. Dislike of the lying, of course. Uneasiness at the direction the politicians are taking us, absolutely. But hate? So much hate that I would feel gleeful at certain individuals death by violence? Sorry, that is not in my DNA.

Immediately following the realization that bombs were in the mail to Democrats the alt right theorized that the Democratic party was sending them to their own in order to anger their base. It turned out that the perpetrator was a middle aged white Republican male with a van covered in love Trump hate Dems posters. He was, according to some conspiracy wonks, a plant. The posters adorning the van were “obviously” new, and he was really a registered Democrat. Never mind that there are pictures of his van, covered in said posters, from last year. Never mind that there are videos of the alleged bomber at Trump rallies. Never mind all the hate posts they have found in his social media participation. Never mind that he is actually a registered Republican.

The truth is his party of choice, and/or his belief system, really is not the issue. There are some great Republicans who do not view the “loyal opposition” as enemies and want to work together. This is one man, who found someone he could agree with, who enjoyed common “enemies”, and his badly wired brain short circuited.

My daughter used to train aspiring equestriennes, she is still busy training our horses. Her mantra for both activities is balance. She has also been a trainer at her place of work, same message. Listen to motivational speakers, it is often about life balance. Our country is now in deep distress because we have lost the kind of balance necessary for politics, and society, to flourish in a positive way. I am unsure that we will ever find that balance again short of a war or depression so devastating that it wakes us up and brings people together. We are seeing an uptick in violence against the “other” unprecedented in recent history.

We are a diverse citizenry and that horse has left the barn, we will continue to be diverse which is not a tragedy, or even a negative for the country. If you can’t find it in yourself to embrace diversity and opposing ideas, please at least accept them. Non-acceptance leads to hate, hate leads to social media vitriol, vitriol…on line or from the White House…leads to angry, somewhat unhinged individuals taking  action in ways that lead to death and tragedy. In one week one such individual tried to assassinate the most visible Democrats, another tried to get into a black church to murder the congregation, and a third murdered members of the Jewish community. Please ask yourself, is this the kind of country you want to live in? Does this make America great? No, among other things, it makes America sad.

“Anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering”   Matthew Dowd (ABC Political Analyst)

On Single Parenting and Shaming

Recently there was a shared item showing two guys beating an old man. The question was who would do such a thing? One individual answered by stating they were probably thugs raised without a father. This hit me in the gut, since I was forced into being a single parent from the time my daughter was six. Unable to hold my fingers back I replied “please stop shaming single parents” and added something about the parent not always having a choice. She wrote a disclaimer denying trying to shame, so I offered the string to my daughter and asked her opinion. Absolutely, she told me, even more, she is shaming mothers.

There are so many elements that go into bringing up a child, and I am not an expert in child raising per se, but I am experienced in having to tighten my belt, look reality in the face and plan a future for my very young daughter, with little help and few resources. In desperation I took the very frightening step of returning to college in order to complete my degree. After all, the reason we were left on our own was because, in helping my husband toward his doctorate by working at the University, we had “grown in different directions”…translate that to he had fallen for one of his students who was 13 years younger than myself. I will never know for sure if my decision was selfish, or a desperate reach for purpose, or rebellion against working for his education at the expense of my own. What it did culminate in, however, was a continuation of my daughters education and awareness of the world around her unrelated to public schooling. Granted that was not always a positive. Forced to leave the Montessori school where she was thriving and catapulted into public schools was not just hard on her emotionally, it greatly affected her formal

Lia at the Guest Ranch
We saved our pennies and managed one weekend at a guest ranch…Lia on Pepper

education. The upside was her experience in the academic communities we moved in through the years. She would wander the University of Washington campus and haunt the Natural History Museum to play the bird sounds with coins offered by the docent. She became a fixture, with the teachers permission, in my child development classes.  The students all aimed their presentations to the one real child in the class!

There is no need to emphasize the material deprivations, and our utilization of the country’s safety net is chronicled in an earlier post. Dropping a mother and her child/children into the poverty line is, for many divorced women, a given. Working  out of it is long and tediously hard work. Adrift in an unexpected world without someone to plan with, work with and lean together, and feeling rudderless, I opted to enter Graduate School in California. Again, the down side was the public school system. Filled with the children of business owners and professors, my daughter was treated as an unwelcome outsider. Teachers found it hard to deal with an

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Lia on a trip to Arizona with a girl friend from my University classes who was wonderful in helping us through.

introverted, extremely intelligent,  logical and mature beyond her years, young girl. She could read from age 3, but was uncomfortable reading aloud. She could do math from age 3, but found it illogical to have to do homework containing the very math problems she aced on the test. Did I mention she is stubborn? She had an English teacher who actually told her that her report card grade did not reflect her true knowledge.  I did not have the time to spend haunting the schools and vetting the teachers.  My time was spent in class, studying, and working part-time in the department as a clerk, house manager and box office personnel.  Again, there was an up side consisting of the somewhat extended family we were blessed with as the professors folded my daughter into the periphery of their lives, giving her an education unparalleled for most grade school children.

What a single parent has to do is improvise and absorb. Improvise in order to spend time with your child: when possible she would attend class with me, when house managing she would come watch the play, sitting beside the department Chairman

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Lia in “Woyzeck” by Georg Buchner

(yes, even Ibsen, Shakespeare and the like, and yes, she understood and discussed with said Chair), and help me with clean up afterwards. Absorb the difficult moments: adverse actions of the child, affecting the child, aimed at yourself. Scold when necessary, hold tight when needed, and try, sometimes unsuccessfully, not to show how hard it is to be without a shoulder to cry on yourself, or arms to comfort your own distress.

There are the tragic moments when you get a phone call at work that the fish tank  has exploded and she is trying to save as many fish as she can, the frantic bike ride home , Mom to the rescue! There are the comic moments when you get a call that your darling has snuck into the Equestrian Center pasture and mounted a horse sans saddle, sans bridle and had a nice ride. Home she comes, Mom says “I hear you were riding without permission” and she denies, denies , denies. As she walks in the door Mom sees the back of her jeans with a clear dirt mark exactly the shape of a horses back. Of course there was “a talk”, but how do you not laugh inside at the absurdity of this young child not realizing the clear evidence on the seat of her pants! There are uplifting moments like the time she felt empathy for a young equestrian who’s borrowed mount had been yanked from her just prior to her class at a show, and young daughter freely offers her horse to the distraught young girl and withdraws from the class.

In other words it is family interaction and family life, like any other, only with two family members instead of three or more. As a single parent I watched an empathetic, intelligent, logical, compassionate young girl carry all those qualities into her adult years.  Single parents may have more challenges than intact families, they may go without some of the material accouterments their neighbors display,

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Our first car, our first trip

but if there is love, caring and understanding they sometimes raise children who have a deeper knowledge of the value of money. They are aware that there are choices on how to spend what money is available that affect their lives.  Or a greater feeling of empathy for the downtrodden. Or the ability to cope on their own when necessary. They learn to roll with whatever life offers and strive to make that better.

I can’t leave this without mentioning the intact families I have known with children who have been rude, disrespectful to others, lied to the police, and even broken the law. Those “thugs” who beat that poor man could have come from any kind of family. Character is formed by three components, genetically programmed disposition, how the parent or parents interact with the child, and how outside environmental forces affect them. It is  downright nasty to infer that children of a given family make up (eg. 2 moms, 2 dads, two families, single parent, grandparents) are more prone to thuggishness or criminality than children from a traditional family structure.

I did not choose to be a single parent, but my daughter learned at an early age how to make decisions for herself, how to cope with adversity and how important fairness and equity are to the human soul.

I did not choose to be a single parent, but I have the peace of knowing the adult my daughter became has wanted to do only good to other humans, and all animals. I have the comfort of knowing she is well employed and is known through the system as an extremely knowledgeable and helpful manager.

I did not choose to be a single parent, it was chosen for me, and I learned to accept the reality and embrace the challenges.  And yes, I resent those who immediately jump to the conclusion that if a person commits a crime, is violent, or acts in anti-social ways, that individual must have been raised by a single parent. We need to cease looking for an “other” (in this case single moms) to blame, and place responsibility where it belongs, on the individual causing violence. We need to care for each other and stop looking for someone to blame. Please.