Learning my place in society (and loving where I have found myself)

Isle ChileJust now·9 min read

I am fifty four. I am active, I take care of myself and I do what is interesting to me. I am using the time that has been returned to me, to learn new things and to get back to hobbies I’d put aside. It is really nice to get to this point after years of evolving into a person who cares not what others think, while respecting the fact that everyone is entitled to their opinion and their space on the planet.

I do not have conversations with or read posts made by people who can’t get over that things have changed since they were young. I do not waste breath or time with people who don’t realize that the problems the world faces today has SO much to do with the way things were done in the time of their heyday.

Human Lifetime Evolution Stock Image

I remember my husband’s grandmother asking us how much we earned, when we started off with our first “real” jobs. When we answered her, she looked at us incredulous and asked, “Where are all the starting professional jobs? You know, the hundred thousand dollar starting salary jobs?” and all we could tell her was, “Your son’s generation took em all! They enjoyed the spoils then implemented cutbacks and downsizing, Grandma,”.

You see, what the older generation forgets, is while things may seem different, not much has changed. We still live in a world where things are convenient and abundant for a certain few. Colour, creed and race still determine who rises to the top and who settles like sediment beneath. We still live in a time of status symbols and where race and gender can determine whether you fail or succeed and the world still operates on having that “in” because of who you know. Society still has dangerous addictions and status associated with certain brands is still a thing, but at least we no longer see ads like these where being successful was only associated with being male.

Source: Kenwood

People had two to three point five children, drove huge polluting automobiles fuelled by oil that often spilled in transit into the oceans and lakes. They put food in a can and filled it with preservatives to get mother out of the kitchen and off her feet so that she could be considered a modern woman. As a woman, I am really glad I was around to see that type of advertising change.

Source:BiC

I know progress has to start somewhere. I know that advancement comes with it’s problems but every generation has to take responsibility for the fallout it caused and we must show support and encouragement and assist the generation trying to repair the damages. I am tired of hearing derrogatory comments from older people regarding young people and they way they live their lives, their taste in art and music, their likes and dislikes and the way they access information. I am tired of hearing them complain that X-treme sports are included in the Olympics. I am tired of them disregarding and disrespecting the things in the world today that they cannot use because they don’t understand how to navigate a virtual, digital world. I am tired of hearing about the “good old days” and how much “better” it was “back in my day” and I am tired of the criticism that young people don’t know the value of a hard days work. If they don’t know, it’s because my generation, the children of the grumpy old critics, didn’t teach them because we were so busy trying to not be like our parents, some of us forgot to pass on the valuable stuff that we were taught. If our young people cannot cope, if they feel overwhelmed, if they lack confidence it is most likely because we did not teach them how to develop these abilities. Do not dare call them entitled, if you had a hand in entitling them. Do not call them unmanerly, if you spoiled them and forgot to teach them kindness, humility and gratitude.

The world has never been perfect. The world has always been evolving to make life better. Before you generalize and judge our youth for always being on their phones, remember that the radio and television was your “cellphone or tablet”. Before you criticize their demeanour, remember the generations before took away the well paying jobs giving way to a time when it took two working parents to sustain the basic needs of a family, removing a parent from the home whose best gift to a child is presence and loving guidance. No generation is perfect and every generation has it’s share of complete mis-informed idiots. But take a look around. This is the generation that is calling out abuse of law enforcement and authority. This is the generation who accepts differences in gender, ability, race and culture. This is the generation who is making us mindful of our adjectives …mindful of the way we phrase things. This is the generation that says, “Hey wait a second, I need a break. Things are a bit much right now,”. This is the generation forcing politicians to at least sound mindful when they address of the eclectic society of the world in which we live.

Living beings, especially human beings are adaptable. If we choose to not be left behind, we won’t. I’m not saying to make your way onto every social medium and interract with it exactly as young people do; what I am saying is be openminded and accepting.

Shakespearean English isn’t spoken on the daily anymore. We don’t whip out our stone tablets to chisel a letter to someone; we dont have to pound away on clunky typewriter keys and thankfully, in a pinch, when we need information, confirmation or money instantly, it is possible to receive it instantly. Isn’t that kind of nice? So what if news papers are becoming a thing of the past and fewer and fewer people have a landline and maybe we only know one person with a rotary phone. So what if I don’t need to have a paper dictionary anymore? Yes, jobs have been lost to downsizing and AI, but new jobs are and will be created and we will evolve. I mean, isn’t it fantastic that we don’t have to print, or save information on a floppy disk, writable disc or thumb-drive we can misplace because we can upload our stuff to the cloud? Isn’t it nice that there is so much less stuff to physically collect and figure out where to store? Dealing with waste is an on-going problem on our planet, which by the way is a problem that was created generations ago.

Please understand I do not believe everything in the past is archaic and worthless. We must have a past to have a present and attain a future. We have to learn what to keep and what to archive and if we choose to be left behind, we must not complain about the way things are or criticize the people who function just fine in the state of the world. I am fifty four and my children are grown. I have time now to think about what I want and what kind of senior I would like to become if given the opportunity. I want to continue to support young people in their determination to speak out against inequality, racism, sexism and bullying. I want to continue to applaud their innovations when it comes to sustainablilty and environmentally conscious ways living. I want to help them repair the planet and maybe, when they get tired, feel anxious or overwhelmed , when they feel depressed, maybe I can be there to talk to them, lift them up, and teach them ways to cope without a prescription, because they are human and they inherrited a lot of troublesome baggage from the generation before me. And my generation? Well, I think we spent a lot of time getting angry at it all, but didn’t do enough to clean up the mess. I know I could have done more.

Now, I have an opportunity now to do better by the younger generation. I don’t want be someone who constantly criticizes everything they do. I also know I don’t fit into or understand every aspect of their world, and that’s perfectly fine. We can’t be a part of everything that changes in society, all the the time but we don’t have to cut it down because we are not capable of adapting.

Stock Image

As I always have, I look forward to technology yet to come. I may not be able to immerse myself in all of it, but I am looking forward to being a part of whatever I can. I want to be able to live comfortably in my senior years and have technology be the reason I live without the physical and mental hassle of the silly stuff of daily living. I want to be the senior my children don’t have to be concerned about. I am fortunate enough to have been able to put things in place for when I am unable to care for myself so that I will never be their burden. It is not my children’s duty to take care of their mother while simultaneoulsy caring for their children, their jobs and the problems they will face in their lives. I want my children to want to visit me and not make time to see me out of guilt or loyalty. I am watching my parents’ generation and I am learning what NOT to do. I want my senior future to be all it can be. I want to live life with the same openmindedness I posess now. I want to see what these young people are going to do next because I am in awe of them, I believe in them and I love them. I am fifty four and I hope to be blessed with as many healthy, happy years on the planet as I have had in adulthood. I am not perfect. Things were not better back in my day and most of all, by learning and accepting my place in society, I am still able to be excited about the future. I know my place and accept that I do what I want to do, whenever I want to do it. I accept that my way of doing things may work for me but not for my twenty-something-year-old sons. I accept that my role is one of quiet observation, thought and decision making. I accept that it is possible to have a quiet role and still be impactful by throwing my support behind those charged with finding the solutions and make the changes that will save our species and planet. I accept that I do not have all the answers and I accept that things “back in my day” have become and will continue to be, my memories to share, but not begrudgingly compare to the things that “kids these days” do.

I am fifty four and I am choosing to NOT be a fussy, frustrated, frumpy, furrowed, conspiracy theorist, fosil. If longevity means becoming some paranoid, old-way-is-the-only-way, crazy,conspiracy theorist, then I’d rather die sooner, thanks very much. I remember my friends mother telling her grandmother once “Oh, gosh, granny, stop griping about everything people younger than you do! Be nice, let people like you!” Those last six words? ….Ones to live by!

Unleashed

A couple weeks ago, plans with my sister changed due to weather and we decided on a rain check. Looking at the overcast sky and the drizzle sprinkling the back deck, I was about to settle for a day indoors when I realized, it was perfectly still. No wind rustled the leaves of the trees. The air was thick and humid, the smell of the rain soaking into the earth, ripe. Feeling the discontemtment with the possibility of an indoor day, I gave into my urge to be outside and on the water. After all, I was on day two and a half of the eighty two hours I had to myself and I wanted to use this time to unleash myself from my usual routine. There was to be no cooking or cleaning up during this time and knowing that this unusually hot weather (no matter how strange) in Canada should not be taken for granted, I didn’t want to spend all my time at home. The confirmation that I had to get out and do something came from my reflection in the mirror while brushing my teeth. I was checking out the mop of curls atop my head (no hair appointments during covid), and looking at the transformation my hair has been undergoing. In my case, dark strands are turning red and over time, red to yellow before settling into a permanent state of white. Unlike my face, my hair isn’t deceiving when it comes to my age and nothing says get out and utilize your time like graying hair. I got in line with a parade of SUV’s at Starbucks and treated myself to a fancy coffee; went back home, changed and threw my paddle board gear and my stuff (wallet, phone, water bottle, comb, towel and a cotton slip-on dress) in the car and headed for the beach. Listening to lyrics being belted out by Amy Lee and other thought inspiring music streaming via Bluetooth, I was really inside my head, watching the road, of course, but thoughts a million miles away. When I have downtime from work and my family I spend a lot of time thinking deeply about my life, the world and my place in it. Like everything else over the years, in moments like these I recognize how much the deep thinking has changed. I remember times of solitude whether I was driving or just sitting on the deck, my thoughts would would classify more as worry or concern …concern over my autistic child’s future, concern for my other child, my husband, my parents, my marriage, my ever changing ways of making a living…it was all based on concern and problem solving. Now, at 54, I’m in the roller coaster carriage going up the last couple not-so-steep inclines of the ride of life and my deep thoughts bring a smile to my face and peace to my soul. This is the we’ve-made-it-through-the-toughest-times incline and it is the one where we get to experience and truly appreciate the things that make us feel love, happiness and gratitude and although everything that goes up must come down and I know there will be loss and sadness to bear, the ride will plateau and eventually come to an end. If it ends with me feeling the way I feel now, then I would have succeeded in truly living.

As I drove through the county’s winding road to my destination, I appreciated the gift this region was to me and my family. I have never warmed to the town we settled in after having lived in some of Canada’s most fabulous cities. I have never understood or accepted the cliquish and rather frivolous nature of the people who were born and bred here but I’ve learned to live my life in this small place while keeping the small minded at arm’s length. The county is home to some of the best vineyards in the country and best stretches of beach front, cosy coves, inlets of Lake Ontario. Being from the Caribbean, the Provincial Parks in my area draw me to their shallow clear waters and white sands. It feeds my passion to play in the water and hear the shushing of waves as I’d done in mychildhood, albeit without that briny taste of the ocean so dear to me. This piece of perfect real estate is one of the reasons I am able to continue living here. 

In spite of the grey skies and spotty showers, the colours of the vegetation along the way were vibrant and lush and I could see that there was no turbulance on the water in spite of the rain. The water was flat and almost motionless like a sheet of glass and the beaches were not crowded but they weren’t deserted either. It seemed, like me, people were intent on having their day at the beach in spite of the weather. Some people took shelter from the rain grilling their food under pop up tents or canopies while others were enjoying being in the warm water, being baptised by the rain.

I inflated my board and paddled out into serenity, my oar slicing through the water, the sound of tiny ripples overiding the ambiance of music, people chatting and kids playing. It didn’t matter that the drizzle had turned into a shower. It was peaceful and where I needed to be. Not having much experience as a paddle boarder, the initial tense legs and overly engaged core were now relaxed and I was looking ahead at the scenery and not at the water. I thought about the last seventeen months of this global pandemic and what it had done to the world. I thought of all the suffering and death it caused and while I recognize and acknowledge our privilege and good luck, I thought of what it did to my sons. I thought of how their goals screeched to a halt, shattering everything they were planning to do post high school. My sons are on the brink of independent adulthood and 2020 was supposed to be the year that bore the fruits of their labour. But, instead, like everyone,they had to wait and wait and wait some more. They had to find ways to stay motivated and positive and the toll it took on both their mental well-being was overwhelming, especially for my autistic son. And then came change. Some much needed relief in the form of vaccines. Now fully vaccinated, we can do a bit more. We can gather with a select few and we can be outdoors and we can get a taste of the daily life we took for greanted. Two strokes to the left, two to the right I’d covered a decent distance from my spot on the beach. “We did it,” I thought and a smile came to my face. We made it through the toughest sixteen months of our lifetime; especially my sons, especially Adam. We followed the protocol, we kept our distance from everyone outside our family and we found a way to make the lockdowns worthwhile. Those were the good days. I taught the boys how to cook, their father showed them their way around power tools and home renos, they studied, they trained and we all stayed healthy. And then there were the difficult days, especially for Adam. After all those the days when his inability to communicate what was bothering him resulted in destruction and pain, just like the rest of us, he made it through. One stroke on the right, one on the left, I kept paddling and I felt my shoulders drop and the tightness disappear and in that instant I realized that we’re all okay and everything with everyone I love was as it should be.

The pandemic is not over and it will be a while before we have a handle on Covid 19. There is a lot going on in the world along with Covid 19 and it’s repercussions. The climate has changed and the west of our country is burning, while tornados touch down in South West Ontario and Northern Ontario is on fire too. Greece is burning. Germany is flooding. California is burning again and it is easy to think that our planet is just going to turn to ash one day, but in that moment, as I paddled, I was able to unleash it all and let it go. And I felt it leave me too. You see, I might not be able to change the world, but I can do my part; I can do my best to not add to the problems that plague our world. There is still a lot of good and a lot of beauty to behold and therefore, there is hope in spite of all our problems. 

One stroke to the right, one to the left, over and over and over until I felt like I was floating on a cloud rather than on water. I thought of the love of my life and our love that has deepened over the years and how much more I love him each and every day in ways I never knew existed. Paddle left. Paddle right. Love, like life,has evolved. Love is easy, always available and is uncomplicated at my age. Marriage, like me on my board, floats, bobbing over ripples easily. Marriage, is friendship, comfort and well…its home, welcoming me with open arms everytime and it’s where I want to be. Children are grown and starting their adult lives and we are starting a new chapter together that still includes and cares about our boys, but is mainly focused on us and the time we will spend together until one of us leaves this life.

Like a loud noise, or a flash of lightening, a jet ski’s motor and heavy wake disrupted my peaceful thoughts. My board bobbed and wobbled on the waves and I lost my balance and plunged into the water as did two screaming little girls from a paddle board about 80 metres away. Beginners all, the sudden waves made it difficult to pull ourselves back onto our boards. The more I tried, the more my legs bobbed and kicked the more tangled my leash became in the tall weeds. A strong swimmer, even with a life jacket, I grew tired. I stopped. I took a breath. What was the plan? Looking into the water, I could barely see my foot. Reaching down I tried to remove the velcro ankle cuff. What a bitch that was! Who knew weeds were that thick and strong? Third time was the charm. With my foot free, I tried to mount the board again, but when I pushed my weight onto it, the tail of the board would sink because the leash tethered it so strongly onto the weeds. I was tired. I was done with this shit. I reached up and unhooked the leash from the board and glided towards the shore. I glanced over at the kids whose father had come into the water to detangle their leash from the weeds and bring them to shore. They left their leash behind too but they were safe. I hoisted myself onto the board and lay face up. A big breath released the tiredness and frustration of dealing with the weeds. I was unleashed. I was free. So, I lost a thirty dollar leash. Whatever. It was holding me back. Binding me to disgusting, prickly, slimy, octopus- arm-like weeds. Weighing me down. I remember my cousin Nicole would say, “just free it, Danie. Free it” and I did and everything was so much better. 

Cooking in the time of Covid-19: Dear Logan,

Dear Logan,

We have been home doing our part to stop the spread of this deadly virus and keep each other healthy. Today, we have been home for 53 days. We are doing our part to keep our family safe as well as preventing the spread of this virus that abruptly ended life as we know it. This virus couldn’t come at a worse time for young people like you who are on the brink of so much growth and change. You have always had to fight to get where you want with your passion and now it seems you have to wait and be patient just a bit longer. I struggle to understand why things happen when they do and I try to ground my belief that things do happen for a reason, but this virus occurring now, has me frustrated and my heart aches when I think of how it has interrupted your and your brother’s life. I think if it were just Dad and me, I wouldn’t feel so frustrated, angry and disappointed at the timing of this virus. If it were just Dad and me I wouldn’t care that I was home for 53 days. But, I look at you, son, and you are patient, resilient and you are finding ways to utilize your time and be happy. You also keep us happy around here and once again, you have earned the right to be called pure joy. Some days are better than others and cabin fever does show up from time to time but for the most part, we have all been okay while stuck at home.

I wanted to let you know that including all these recipes on my blog is primarily for you. If people try our recipes and learn to cook as well, that is just a wonderful sharing bonus, but this is all for you. You have embraced using this time together to learn to cook and take yet another step to independence. I have gotten to know you better during our time in the kitchen. I have always known you but finding out more about who you are becoming has made my heart full. You are ready to head out and forge your way in the world and I cannot wait to see the coming chapters of your life unfold. I hope you have a long and happy life, filled with as many experiences as you can gather. I hope you see thousands of places, eat thousands of dishes, swim in many oceans and lakes and embrace many cultures. I wish you joy and peace and the strength to stick to what you believe in and get back on your feet when life knocks you down. I want you to tap into the reservoir of our support, belief and love for you when we are apart from each other and know that when we do see each other we will re-fill that reservoir with every hug, kiss, smile, kind words and laughter. It is a pleasure to cook with you, to teach you and to learn from you. It is reassuring to know you are independent and capable of taking care of yourself. You can call me, text me or video chat with me anytime you want, but I think more often than not, you will refer to the blog for anything you need to know about the dishes we have taught you. This blog, in all it’s virtual locations will be here for you now, for when we are not available or able to help you and it will be here long after we are gone. I think I can safely say this blog will be here not just as a reference for cooking but for comfort and will serve as a a bank full of beautiful memories we have created together.

We love you Logan and we are so grateful and honored to be your parents. You are an incredible gift of love, light and life.

**********

Last Monday’s dinner was part of what I call phase 2 of learning to cook. In phase 2 we cook the dishes we have learned for the second or third time. So far he has done lasagna twice, shepherd’s pie twice and has done chicken and broccoli pasta twice. For Monday’s dinner, he prepared chicken and broccoli pasta for his dad and did a shrimp variation for us. This is how he he did it:-

First, Logan cut up the chicken, seasoned it  with oregano, salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder and put it in a pot of olive, a little Worcestershire sauce and a little water. He covered the pot and let the chicken cook on medium low heat for 10 minutes, reducing it to low heat for 15 – 20 minutes until the chicken is thoroughly cooked but tender. Once the chicken was cooked, he turned off the burner and set the chicken aside.

Next he boiled the water for the pasta (with a little olive oil and salt in the water). While he waited he rinsed the shrimp and seasoned them. Logan chose, salt, pepper, cayenne, Worcestershire sauce, fresh garlic and diced onion.

Once the water came to a rolling boil, he put in the pasta of choice which was rigatoni and boiled until al dente. He drained the pasta, rinsed it and set it aside. Next he cooked the broccoli in a teaspoon of butter until it softened a bit and turned a brighter green.

He added the pasta to the pot and folded in the Alfredo sauce  and some freshly grated Parmesan and left on low heat.

 

Lastly, he cooked his shrimp in a separate pot (only because we were doing two versions of the dish – otherwise he could have cooked the broccoli with the shrimp. Once the shrimp turned light pink, Logan added the juice of 1/4 of a lime, stirred and set aside.

He added some of the broccoli pasta Alfredo into the pot with the chicken to make Tom’s dish and then added the shrimp into the remainder of the pasta and broccoli Alfredo.

Once the meals were plated, he topped them with some Parmesan and black pepper and served.

When a dish is made right and is tasty, it satiates you and leaves you wanting for nothing more. Since the pandemic it has been difficult not to snack but generally I eat and stop when I am full so often I will have one big meal a day with  two very light ones. If I am hungry, I eat.The second time he made this dish (and with a variation) it tasted even better. He is learning so quickly and so well that I forget I am teaching him. I give him the freedom to season how he wants to and the freedom to choose how great or how fine he wants to cut his ingredients. He makes me so proud when he tastes the food as he cooks it, cleans as he cooks and puts ingredients away while he waits on the food as it cooks ….and….he smells his seasonings and in a short space of time has learned to flavor meat by eyeballing how much he thinks he needs to make his food tasty.

If this is round 2, I can’t wait to taste round 3 of these fabulous dishes.

Stay well, wash your hands keep 2 meters between yourself and strangers and hang in there, This too shall pass.  ~Daniella and family.

 

Cooking in the time of Covid-19: Logan declares Meat Monday – Tonight he tries Steak Frites

Wanting to learn his way around the grill, it was Tom’s turn to teach Logan today. Like baking, I am not in love with cooking outdoors. I like eating it, but it’s just not my department. Tom does it splendidly and I am happy to let him do it as he is so much better at it than I could ever be. He also wants to make sure Logan remembers grilling with him. We don’t have daughters so this is a real father/son thing. We always want to do right by our kids. We always want to give our kids what our parents couldn’t or just didn’t give to us and tonight my husband gave his son a memory. As they grilled steaks for the first time, I heard them laughing and talking and I could see how special this time was for them.  I introduce to you, THE PLAYERS at the grill:-

LOGAN – TEENAGER LEARNING TO COOK BEFORE HE LEAVES THE NEST WHENEVER THAT IS, CONSIDERING THIS PANDEMIC

and this guy …DAD WHO ALSO GOES BY TOM….Can you imagine grilling with people with these expressions? Expressions that are quite normal for them on a daily basis….

Here is what the grilling action was like – the goal – medium …maybe medium/well…

HERE ARE THE MARINATED STEAKS I GOT AT MY BUTCHER’S  

                                   EVEN SOME FLAME ACTION HERE 

MEANWHILE IN THE KITCHEN I WAS TRYING SOMETHING NEW:-

We usually use our air fryer for making fries. No oil is used and it is a healthier way to make light crispy fries. However, as usual, the things that are not as good for you always tastes better. Yearning for a little “bad for you”  I decided to find a way to make fries in oil with a light crispiness.

Cut up a couple large potatoes – for our family of 4, I washed 3 but they were so large, by the time I cut 1, I realized I overshot so I cur up 1 1/2 for the family’s dinner and the rest I cut up and put in the freezer for another time.

 

Next, boil a pot of water. Season the water, or not but when it comes to a boil, add your cut potato and boil for 5 minutes. Any longer and you will have mashed potatoes. drain and rinse in cold water and set aside for all the water to drain. In a large bowl, mix together equal parts of flour and potato flour. Season with seasoned salt, garlic powder, chili powder and black pepper or whatever seasonings will make your fries taste best to you. Toss the drained fries in the seasoned flour mixture making sure each fry is coated properly. Then, heat some oil in a pot. Tom has ruined this iron pot of mine by poorly frying  food in it over the years. It is now known as the fry pot. Once the oil is hot, put in the fries, portions at a time and with a strainer spoon or a mesh ladle, gently stir occasionally to prevent fries from clumping.

Cook until the fries are golden brown. Drain on paper towels and salt them before transferring them to the plates. These fries can be kept warm and crispy in the oven at about 300 F but tonight, the steak landed on the plate and seconds later so did the frites.

Here is Logan’s steak, accompanied with my fries for Meat Monday’s Steak Frites. The meat was tender, juicy and the fries were light and crispy and the food was enjoyed by all. Adam’s portion was picked up after his run and we three settled down to a great meal and some fun conversation. Nothing like family dinner and soon, there will just be dinner for two, Use this time at home to teach your teenager to cook. Enjoy the slower meals together. Enjoy not having to head out to somewhere after dinner. Lockdown is hard but being ill,or dead is worse. Stay home. Stay safe. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. This too shall pass ~Daniella and family.

 

 

“Come Again?” – Trying to Live in the New World Society.

2018 drifted into 2019 and so far so good. I believe in the grand scheme of things if you find yourself in an upright and breathing state, you’ve won.  My 52 nd is just 4 days away and I’ve made plans, albeit not extravagant ones, and I am looking forward to celebrating. Two years ago, I counted down my year to 50 and documented and shared the things that left an impression on me. I wrote about the things I learned and the ways in which I found myself evolving from one phase of my life into another. I felt that I had grown in so many positive ways and was happy to work on the things I could do better. That year, I shed a lot of people and things from my life, happy to move on without them, basking in a new found freedom. I didn’t think in 2 short years I’d find myself feeling as unsettled as I do now and looking to perhaps shed even more and point myself in a new direction.

This year and the next 2, actually, I find myself in the process of launching my sons into their adult lives. Adam is 19 and yes, still autistic, still has some struggles and is still unique, quirky and wonderful. He is learning the ropes when it comes to asserting himself as an adult, learning to live his life without us in the home and learning to cope with the responsibility required by this transition. I never thought when he was 3, or 6 or 9 that he would be able to be independent, but the time is here and he is almost ready to take the giant step away from Mom and Dad. His father and I always planned 4 years ahead when it came to raising him and helping him achieve his life skills goals. We always challenged him by raising the bar every time he made progress and we are so glad he chose to join us on this journey to his maturity and independence.

Logan is almost 17 and his age is like a shackle holding him back from flinging into his adult life on the horizon. As much as he is comfortable at home, he is like me and wants so much more than what this time and space he finds himself in, has to offer. He is so comfortable in a crowded city and drinks in every experience and each moment a new place has to offer that I am comfortable saying he is ready to fly and he will fly far because he absolutely should. How I envy his youth for the energy, curiosity, enthusiasm and time it offers him. He has no limitations placed upon him. We have never told him what to do, what to like, what to try and which path he should follow when it comes to his life. We have placed no time limits or boundaries on him when it comes to discovering what he likes and what he wants. We expose him to various situations and opportunities and once he makes a choice, he works hard to achieve the goals such opportunities are able to yield. He has chosen to be a spiritual person and he wants to be the best he can in whatever he is involved in and has committed to. He ain’t perfect, but watching him grow up is like reading a very engaging book and I can’t wait to witness the chapters to come.

But while launch mode has me somewhat occupied, I am finding more than ever that I have phased out of or rejected many things the world presents to me and I am surprised that it’s happening so quickly. I find myself reading things online and seeing things on the news that make me say, “Come again?” I love technology and advancement and all good that they offer but I feel the people of the world don’t know how to cope with the simplest of things. I don’t understand this age of imbecility that has come about. I don’t understand why a spoiled rich 19-year-old would toss not one, but two patio chairs off a high rise apartment into traffic some 38 stories below. I cannot see the fun in such an act. I don’t understand why those involved have no regard for other people’s well-being, their property, their life. I don’t understand the thought process of the friend who was recording the moronic act and I absolutely am floored by the fact that she had not just the best criminal lawyer money can buy, but a smile on her face as she walked handcuffed before the news cameras while her lawyer told reporters she was embarrassed and remorseful. This is is just one example of the new world behavior I cannot comprehend or accept.

Everything in this era is a problem. Everything is an outrage and everything is offensive to the point of ridiculous. We say there is freedom of speech and freedom to choose. How is it then that many of us can’t decide to not support something or someone who offends us without picking a fight on social media? Ever notice that no one just says “fuck it” and moves on anymore? Everyone has to jump in and get in on the backlash bandwagon without becoming properly informed. Too few people dig deeper anymore. Too many are prompted by vague headlines that make them take up arms without knowing the facts. Too few think things through these days because the go-to response today is not to think but react. We broadcast everything about ourselves online. Nothing is private anymore. Not our meals, not our conversations, our personal decisions, our bodies, nor our possessions. While social media has re-connected old friends and forged new friendships and improved communication among people, it has also tainted us. So many people cannot go unnoticed because they desperately need approval. More people, more than ever need copious amounts of attention and yet the social media society has no problem cutting down someone or something else because the keyboard has made some people too bold.  That certain amount of anonymity cyberspace affords; not having to face a person as we type our comments, have given us big iron balls and when we feel that strong, it is easy to judge and we are empowered to hurt. Yet, we all condemn Jussie Smollet, right away. If indeed he orchestrated an attack on himself, he has done what almost everyone else does on social media every day. He found a way to get people to notice him. He found a way to get not just 15 minutes of fame but a way to be a victim. He wants this kind of attention for some reason – the attention that acting on Empire just isn’t giving him. I remember the Smollet kids acting on TV when they could barely walk. They were adorable and talented and had many fans. They are no strangers to the spotlight, yet, Jussie has a void to be filled. What happened to him between his role in The Mighty Ducks and now? What has happened to so many of us? Why are so many of our young people anxious and depressed? They should be embracing youth and checking out new things and pushing boundaries towards greater things and we should be supporting and guiding them not spoiling them, ignoring them or cutting them down. They should not be staging attacks or throwing chairs from high-rises. Have we forgotten how to be okay with who we are? To be satisfied with our opinion of ourselves? I think so. Sadly.  It is ironic, the term, Social Media. Being social is supposed to be a good thing. A social person is thought to be friendly, outgoing and a person who enjoys the company of others and enjoys lifting themselves and others to a higher level of happiness. Social media to me seems more like social slaughter at times and some of the things that are said require not just a thick skin but a suit of armor.

Taking in the way life is being lived around me now, makes me unsure of where I fit in. I used to care about so many things. I used to love to write. I loved speaking up and sharing my thoughts and loved when I got a chance to see an awesome movie with a great script and talented performers or be moved by the lyrics of a well written and well-sung song. Lately, I’ve not found things that spark my interest. I look and I listen and I am finding that I roll my eyes a lot and then I get to the stage where I don’t care. I just don’t care. To me, that is a frightening statement about myself. I don’t care enough to voice my opinion, to tolerate the lack of effort put into where I sought entertainment (if you can burn it, blow it up or bury it you don’t need meaningful dialogue). I don’t care enough to even attempt to comment on a post I may have read. I got to a stage where I’d start typing and then I’d delete and move on…now I just move on. The thing is, I want to care. I want to be a part of things but I can’t seem to find anything substantial to take part in.

I know the onus is on me to re-invent myself. No one can get me out of this rut but me. I won’t try to care about things I really don’t want to include in my life. I’m not a part of the instant gratification movement of the youth and I don’t want to throw my arms in the air and make everything an issue like many late 20 something to 30 something-year-olds. I don’t want everything to be a situation or a problem and I’m not floundering to stay afloat after a full day of work and family like some forty-somethings. I’m not ready to join any one group in solidarity and go against “the man” and I am not interested in topics about raising children because I raised mine very differently from the way people raise children today. My children are grown and capable and I all I have to say to the hovering parents of young kids today is “good luck”. I know I’m not ready to sit still and wait for my life to end but I am truly searching for something, somewhere and some way to become passionate again and find a new happy niche in the current world. I’m not sure where to start but I know I’ll get there. I know I will find a way to fulfill my soul again even if it means meandering about the absurd obstacles this world presents on the daily.  Maybe when I find it, I’ll tell you what it is …then again…. maybe I won’t.

unremarkable … REMARKABLE!

There was a time in my life when my mind was open to anything being possible. I believed in praying and being fulfilled. I believed that doing the right thing as much as possible made me a good person in the eyes of God and if I did as I was told, adhered to what I was taught in the catechism classes, went to confession and tried never to repeat my sins I would have a good life. I was a child. I became a teenager. I was young and I had a good life. I wanted it all. I got older and my eyes were seeing real life and I went from wanting it all to wanting just enough. I wanted to be like they say in medical reports “unremarkable”. I did not want any drama. I wanted the most regular of lives. I wanted things to stay as calm and uneventful as they were. I just wanted to fly under the radar.

undertheradar

 

I got what I wanted for a while. I flew under the radar but I always had a strange feeling that the other shoe was going to drop and when it did, it shattered my “unremarkable” world. I no longer believed in miracles – only hard work and luck. I didn’t believe that it was worthwhile to ask so that I should receive. I barley knew where to seek in order to find my answers and I had given up knocking because so many doors were closed to me. For 16 years since the shoe plummeted to earth, I have been waiting to hear God. Over 16 years, in spite of my tumultuous relationship with Him, He has answered me occasionally, in spite of whom I’d become but I never heard Him. I never got the answers to the questions I had asked time and again. Why was I going through what I had been going through? What was I supposed to do? What did this journey mean? What was I waiting on? What was going to happen? I heard my voice directing my instincts and I thought that may have been Him speaking to me, but I never believed that it was. I had lost anything in me that pointed me toward blind faith. I tended towards logic and the scientific. I based my conclusions on facts. The hardest thing for a person raised with religion who faces daily adversity is to balance faith with fact. Faith, for a person like me at times became fantasy but when I watched the faithful find success, I knew they were doing something I used to know how to do, once upon a time…only in my grief, in my anger, in my frustration, I forgot how use faith and my faith melted into fear and it crippled me.

One night, after 16 years, I had one of those moments that is freakishly unique to me. I believe we all have bizarre moments that only we alone feel and can describe. One moment I get from time to time is a feeling that lasts about 3 seconds where I get a calm sensation that all is well. All is as it should be and it makes me smile. It is a brief, wonderful, peaceful feeling. My unique moment that night was new. I ditched my rosary and my usual prayers to try and talk to God. I wanted to try and hear him – again.

still

 

I sat alone in my room and quietly uttered words like I was explaining what I was searching for to a friend. Then I sat with my legs crossed, turned my palms upward and closed my eyes and waited. I didn’t wait very long before I shut off my own voice and heard a voice that was very familiar to me, then another and another before the original familiar voice spoke again.

Without getting into details I will say that by allowing myself to be truly still for what I believe is the first time in 16 years, I got my answers and I accepted them because I understood them and it felt amazing. It was freeing. The tears were brief but they were happy ones. They were tears of relief and of gratitude. I suppose it  – this feeling – these answers were worth the wait. I have been left with a sense of true acceptance of the tasks of my journey. I have been left with a stronger appreciation of my blessings.  I find myself lighter, secure in the knowledge that my life, albeit challenging in so many ways, is supposed to be this way and for the first time in 16 years, I’m truly okay with it. Everything I have, everything I have achieved has been earned. Everything I don’t understand, I am certain I soon will. And the things I am waiting on, will come to me when the time is right. That night, I accepted patience. That night, I learned that I have to be kinder to myself and cut myself some slack often. I must continue to work hard and try hard but to also be okay with just taking a break when I want to and not dwell on outcomes or incessantly search for answers. What I felt that night made me realize that I am being taken care of. I realize that I am not unnoticed. I understand that the path I walk is my path and no one will ever walk it better than I do. That night, I finally found the joy of living the life I live, with all it’s twists and turns because I am the only one who can live it this well. I certainly was never meant to fly under the radar. I was not meant to be unremarkable.

I have always believed there is something greater than me. I don’t know the bible very well. I have struggled with my relationship with God. But in all my ups and downs with my faith, I never let it go. I am a spiritual person. I use my faith like a life line tethering me to a boat as I jump in and swim in choppy waters, riding the waves as best as I can. I have sunk many times but it has always been there within reach and I have  grasped it tightly many times and pulled myself back to where I needed to be. Gone are the days when I scheduled going to mass every single weekend into my life. On some days in this life of mine, I have been called to be the person who removes all extra activity from our day and be the one who keeps the weekend uneventful, with just the four of us being at home together, doing whatever it is we feel like doing. Some weekends I am called to be my husband’s wife and my children’s mother, doing things together as a family before a busy week begins. Some weekends we go to mass and every time we do, it is special. I think when we do go, we see things through different eyes and listen to and interpret words in a new way and we appreciate being there sharing that hour together.

I had a beautiful connection that night and I feel changed. I don’t feel worn down thinking about the things I have to do or the way I have to do them. I am satisfied that in the instances where I know I have given my best with no positive results, I have done nothing wrong and I have to accept that while I cannot control the actions of others, I have to believe that my efforts will bear fruit in time. I feel okay about things being a little more difficult for me and my family. I feel okay with having to take 10 steps to an end result when other people may only have to take 2. I feel okay with the struggles I have waded through and I don’t expect that much will change or become stupidly easy from this point on, but who else better to deal with shit and turn it into magic and joy than me. I have solid partners in my three men. They give me immeasurable strength so I can get us all where we need to be. My life is certainly not charmed but it is substantial because I am “remarkable” just the way I was meant to be. It may have taken 16 years but I can finally say I can hear Him and I know now everything is just as it should be, things are going to be just fine and for this realization that took so long to materialize, I am remarkably grateful.

Remarkable-Sermon-Series-Idea

 

To Today’s Youth: Stay Loud, Stay Strong!

Yesterday, I went on a 12 hour day trip with my 15 year old. Every so often I plunge myself into this world of his that is so fascinating to me and I come away with a greater sense of what it is like to be young today. I have to say, it’s a little complicated, it’s got it’s difficulties but is it also it’s pretty cool. It is quite different from my time as a teenager but some of the struggles are still the same.  The worst part of being a teenager is being misunderstood by adults who are just teenagers who finally got old enough to have their way and boy do they ever hang on to it for dear life!  My teenagers are going to be adults one day too who will have their way and my only hope is that they remember to listen and approach the younger generation with eyes and mind wide open and be okay with letting go of some of the ways they do things in order to evolve. I hope they approach the young better than we have in generations past because just maybe they would learn something from them, the way I do now.

During the drive with my son, I listened to some very poetic and emotional rap with enlightened ears and learned why my son identified with it. I was taught the difference between talking to a specific girl and dating a girl. I found out that in his high school, it is understood that different groups exist and are accepted. It doesn’t mean you have to hang out with everyone but it certainly means that if you are discovered to be a hater you are considered a loser and pretty much a cave person. I learned that he is ever so gradually making decisions about things in his life that are making little statements about who he is and who is is striving to be and I couldn’t be more proud.  One thing was clear to me in light of my conversations with my son yesterday, good kids are raised by good people but there are still too many negative people and situations that we have to get around, so much archaic nonsense we need to get rid of, that stand in the way of our youth making significant change.

Last weekend I watched American youth march for what they believed in. They marched for change. They were not asking their government for anything unreasonable. They want their government to implement stricter gun control, implement stricter laws surrounding weapons. They were asking their government to help them live. They were asking their government to help them survive at school, a place where they should be safe so that they can learn. The world watched a turn out on March 24th that was massive. The youth had a voice and stayed strong amidst many horrible comments from politicians funded by the NRA as well as the ignorant masses who were solely concerned about their right to own a gun. The positive support these young people received outweighed the crass negativity. The youth stayed loud and strong and they prevailed.

Over the course of history, it was the young who initiated significant change. The young possess and fire and a drive to live life the way they want to – the way life needs to be lived. They want safety, they want justice, they want humanity, they want peace and so did we when we were young. Young David Hogg, Parkland, Florida”s Stoneman Douglas High School  shooting survivor, said in an interview with Anderson Cooper before the event on March 24th, “It’s like when you try to tell an older person how to do something with their phone and you keep trying to explain to them what to do and eventually you just turn to them and say ‘just give it to me’ and you fix it. That’s what we are doing now. We are saying to the government just give it to us. You’re not doing anything to fix this so we are going to fix it”. For many of us, that burning flame inside us that drove us to make a difference was extinguished. Maybe we hit hard times, maybe we were tired of trying and being beaten down but when we looked behind us there was always someone young  who picked up that torch and began walking towards that goal of achieving all the things we all ever wanted as a people on earth. That is what is happening in America now. The young are tired of waiting on adults to fix the problems in their society so they are stepping up to the plate and do what needs to be done to stop 96 Americans from losing their lives to guns daily, because it is possible. Japan, Australia, Canada, Finland and many countries have proven that strict gun control law is the best way to prevent death by firearms. We have all seen the videos on social media and the stats. It is possible, yet America chooses not to amend gun laws because politicians need the funding, the funding comes from the NRA and politicians want to be in power to rule over the people who may not survive a gunshot wound on any given day in America.  Add to that, the ignorant masses who just want to have a gun for the power it gives them as they clutch it tightly in their hands.  No one looking from the outside really understands this twisted concept neither do the young people who are rallying against lax gun ownership laws. No one with half a brain understands why grown men and women are trying to character smear teenagers who just want to see their government make it harder for their peers to walk into a gun shop and buy an automatic rifle so they can return to school and slaughter students and teachers.

I love young people. Young people who possess the qualities of leadership make me proud to know them. They don’t just pop out of thin air either. They come from adults who teach and guide them as they navigate their way around right and wrong and around equality and injustice and good and evil. Good youth come from good people who raise them – parents, teachers, clergy and yes, occasionally good politicians.

I am so tired of the criticism of today’s youth because they happen to have grown up in the biggest and most impacting technological era of our time. I am tired of hearing older people criticize them for not socializing and for having their head down, eyes glued to the screens of their devices. My God, remember when youth were criticized for watching too much TV? Remember when Rock and Roll and Heavy Metal was looked upon as Devil Worship Music? To be young is to be criticized. That will never change because when people grow older and are unable to keep up with the way things evolve around them, they get jealous and grumpy and they say exactly what older people said about them when they were young. If you can’t find a place to be on the planet as it changes around you, don’t be cynical, just be quiet and kind because if you are, maybe that young person will help you turn on your phone.