The Paris Trip….

It has been five years since we were in Paris. Last year, my sister was talking about taking a trip and wanted me to give her some advice. Somehow in the discussions, I misunderstood and thought she meant she and my brother-in-law were going. I thought that was odd because even though they are still traveling, I was under the impression he could no longer make the transoceanic trips. As it turned out, I was correct. My sister was planning for the two of us to go. Ah, okay. While I would not in general leave Hubby out of a trip to Paris, this will be a special event. The one time Sis was there was a brief visit and there were a number of things she didn’t do and she really wants to go to Giverny. I actually haven’t been there so that part will be new for me as well.

Hubby and I always go in the winter, too, close to Valentine’s Day, so it has been years since I’ve seen the parks in bloom and they are lovely with all the beautiful flowers. I have warned her Paris is not a carb friendly city, although green salad and omelette is a common lunch. Neither of us do oysters which lets out that option. We can both do a lot of “crudities” – the nice selection of raw vegetables as a first course I suppose. I’ve also recommended us taking breakfast bars because all standard French breakfasts involve pastries. Okay, I will indulge in one. I’ve received our Paris Passes which gives us access to many of the museums, the Metro, the light rail and discounts on some other things. I haven’t gone through the guide at length and I’m sure there have been changes over the past five years. Seeing Notre Dame will of course be sad and I’ll try not to tear up. I don’t know how close they will allow tourists. I will do a blog post each day and perhaps some Facebook.

For The Other Moms…..

Yes, there is no question the journey through pregnancy and delivery of a child is an experience like no other. (At some point I’ll post about my somewhat humorous day). And for the sake of this entry, I will simply say my heart always goes out to children who grow up in conditions of abuse and neglect which segues a bit into the purpose of the post.

Women who are mothers through marriage, adoption, or fostering (official or otherwise) come to their roles mostly through choice and in many cases, there can be transition aspects. The “evil stepmother” label can be unfairly applied as children can feel pulled by split loyalties. (And shame on any party that promotes this for their own selfish reason.) Having the patience and wisdom to work through those feelings is not an easy task.  On the subject of adoption, there may have been a time in the past when the process was easy, but if you know anyone who has adopted in the last decade or so, you know of the complexity and often emotional roller coaster they will go on before the child/children become part of their family. Foster parents are in a very special category as there will always be personal trauma involved that must be managed.

I recently wrote about the young lady who “grew up” in the foster system and the non-profit she established to continue to work with foster children. (https://www.sadiesdaughter.org) The foster mother takes in a child/children understanding their time together could be quite temporary depending on the circumstances. She may have only a short while to have a positive enough impact to literally alter that child’s life. The cases where a woman steps forward to unofficially “foster” because of a desperate need can be even more heart-warming. There are sad situations where a neighbor/relative is able to provide a haven for after school or something similar to allow for a respite from neglect or abuse. Being a “mother” for these children is as real as it gets and anyone who has done so should feel a special pride.

So here is a salute to all those women who may not be a mother through giving birth, but who have given life.

A Touching Post….

Pensive thoughts alert. A friend who is a marketing expert set me up with a Twitter account several years ago. While I use my personal Facebook for actual relatives, friends, and acquaintances, Twitter is pretty well devoted to my author side. About a month ago, one of the writers set a campaign into motion to engage the writing community in order for independent writers to feel more connected. It took off like wildfire and even though I don’t respond to everything by any means, I have definitely stepped up my engagement. Other writers, especially new ones, ask questions about things I have already been through and perhaps my own experience can be helpful to them. In this case  though, a young woman posted her grandmother just passed away. She was with her and they spoke of fond memories until the end. She was glad to have been there. I commented back my condolences.

As I’ve previously posted, I have a great deal of respect for hospice and the philosophy it has brought more to the forefront for many of us. Indeed, another friend was by his sister’s side last week as she passed on after not quite two weeks in hospice. In our mobile and geographically dispersed society we can’t always be at a loved one’s side in the case of something unexpected. The other side of that coin is there may be times the worst is expected and there is a respite/rally instead. Go anyway because one really never does know when the last day will come. I will once again urge anyone who has aging friends/relatives to check into the Five Wishes Living Will (https://fivewishes.org/). The difference in it and other such documents is the level of detail included; you think through aspects that may not have occurred to you before. I had a wonderful email exchange with the organization’s founders when I referenced them in Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid (http://amzn.to/1aYPey5)

I realize this is not a cheery way to start a Monday, and my next post will be lighter for sure.

 

Artistic Living….

It’s been quite a while since I posted about the issues and concerns we had when we decided to support our son in his desire to be a professional dancer. The popularity of all the TV competitions such as “American Idol”. etc., usually show the huge number of “hopefuls” as they are narrowed to the few. Even those who do not win the big prize are often helped by the exposure on their way through the process so it would seem to be of value.

Anyway, there was a Twitter post this morning about encouraging/supporting love of the arts in your children even if it means teaching them to balance early on. It is difficult to be forced to choose between art and “practicality”  and I mean art in every creative form. Even though a tiny percentage of aspirants in whatever the discipline is, “make it big”, many that do come from long-shot circumstances. Encouraging talent and a dream doesn’t mean ignoring the “real world”. You can help prepare someone to live a dual life without taking away from their passion. If a lack of talent does happen to be the case, finding a gentle way to deal with that is different. Coping with the lack of fairness in how certain careers are valued can be a challenge and helping with time management can be tiring. The love of art, music, dance, performing, etc., and the joy it brings to those around the creator can be a powerful antidote to frustration. As I have also mentioned in our decision to make certain sacrifices to allow son to be a dancer, that was very much because contemporary and ballet dance is age-restrictive. It is simply not something that can be a mid-life career. In our local artist community, it is interesting to talk to those who having spent a career in engineering, the allied health field, and so forth, are now able to spend time with their various mediums. There is a range of talent as there will always be, but the enjoyment is what they have in common.

Other Army Memories…..

I have explained in previous posts about my role as an “inadvertent pioneer” in the Army during the transition time of the Women’s Army Corps into the regular force. Notwithstanding those who were convinced it would be the downfall of the military, most were accepting and in some cases it was amusing. At that time I weighed far less than I do now and in graduating from college a year early, I was barely 22 when I arrived in Germany for my first real assignment. The previous almost year was spent in a series of training courses. So here I was, this 4’11” 2d Lieutenant placed into a Captain’s position and the first female officer in the unit. One of the sergeants who willing stood by me (literally and figuratively) was about 6’3” and built like a linebacker. (He may very well have been one in high school; I never thought to ask). We lost track for many years and it was maybe five years ago he reached out to find me. Like many who were part of those tumultuous years of the Army going from draft to all-volunteer, he wanted to write his memoirs of all the changes he experienced during his career. We spoke two or three times as he worked on the project.

He was ready to send me the completed book when he had to make multiple trips to Germany as one of the senior NCOs he was close friends with became quite ill. As was the custom, each American unit had a “partner German unit” and that was where their friendship was formed. My friend was a great comfort to the man and his family prior to his passing. My friend returned and in the process of catching up on things, he finally decided to go to the doctor. Sadly, he was diagnosed with more than one condition, none of them good news. We talked about a number of things and he’ll see how treatments go. He is close to his son who is with them and my hopes are of course for the best. I know I will cherish his book whenever I receive it.

In A Child’s Eyes….

Setting aside the angry/tearful outbursts that come from a variety of reasons, spending time around a child at certain ages does bring different perspective. Granddaughter was three in March and thus, her vocabulary was considerably increased from the previous visit, as was her reasoning ability.

One of the first questions as we exited baggage claim was if those were palm trees? Yes. Do they have coconuts? Not those, although we will see some that do. This is courtesy of having watched the animated movie of “Moana” set in Hawaii. Are we in Florida? Yes. Can we go in the pool when we get to your house? Tomorrow will be pool time. Oooh, the neighbor has big and little minions in their yard. (I think that’s the movie “Despicable Me” and sequels). In discussion of what adventures to go on – No, I don’t want to see alligators; they might bite my toes. Okay, I can see that.

A word about swimming – for the first time, the weather was cooperative enough to allow pool time each afternoon. It wasn’t entirely comfortable, but tolerable for an hour and hot coffee after helped. Grandma was in each day, Daddy two days, Grandpa and Mommy each also had a day. The wonderful swim vest worked well again although she was also tall enough to stand in the hot tub (not heated of course) and in the shallow end of the pool. If all goes well, there will be swimming lessons this coming summer.

I didn’t have personal experience, but had heard good reports of Pinto Farm, close to Monkey Jungle and open only Saturday and Sunday. It was a big hit and involved her first actual Shetland pony ride. The next day was let Mommy and Daddy have a “date afternoon” with movie and a stop by Exit One Taproom. The fairly long walk to the small Tot Lot yielded seeing butterflies, coconut palms, quite a few decorations, and the ability to fly in the swing since it was a “sit-in” type where hands were not always required. With Grandma pushing, it was flying like a plane, or bird, or acrobat – we cycled through all the comparisons.

Oh, and going back to an observation of an earlier post – seeing the inflatable decorations flat on the ground was remarked upon, but we used the opportunity to discuss the process of inflation. Ah, and in case you weren’t aware, a puzzle can become a cake which must be slid into an available cabinet which serves as an oven. Hey, these are the sorts of things we forget in our journey into adulthood.

Headed Up for Thanksgiving…..

One of the reasons we made such a fast trip to Georgia for my mother-in-law’s service was because we were already scheduled to go there for our annual Thanksgiving trip. We’ve only missed it a few times; last year being one of them. Apparently, this is not going to be one of the mild weather stretches so I have sweaters in the suitcase and will put the coat in the car as opposed to the wrap I last carried. It would be nice if we didn’t hit rain  as we have the past two trips. On the other hand, we really don’t have any control over that. One of the nice things though is they did finally open a Chili’s within walking distance of the hotel we stay at. With a 10 (or more) hour drive, it’s so much easier to simply walk over for dinner than head downtown. I suspect, however, Thanksgiving night will be a repeat of previous years when none of the alcohol-serving restaurants will be open. I have mixed feelings of course. After all, people who work there ought to get time with their families. For travelers though, it does leave limited options. In this case, it means fast food or I-Hop, and yes, we do tip extra. I realize as we are moaning about feeling utterly full at the bountiful Thanksgiving meal, we do tend to all say we won’t need to eat later, and yet, that hardly ever seems to be the case.

Anyway, we will have a good time and hopefully this year, no emergency room visits will be required. It wasn’t either of us – my husband’s second cousins got a bit rambunctious in a golf cart whizzing about the property. Just about the moment their mother looked out and commented the speed did not bode well – the event occurred. By the way, we are not talking children or even teens engaged in this and fortunately it was a sprain other than something more serious.

When The Time Comes…..

Serious content alert. We made the drive to Georgia yesterday. My mother-in-law passed away peacefully Saturday after a brief final illness. As I mentioned in my previous post, she had been in assisted living for a while and at age 92, this was not unexpected. The fact is at this age, many of the people who really knew her have already passed. We will be having a small, quiet graveside service later today to put her to rest next to my father-in-law.

In our busy lives, especially when geographically dispersed, it’s often  a question as to how often to visit an older loved one/friend. You know there will be a limit as to number of times available, yet there is also the idea of, “Well, people live longer these days.” Then there is the painful reality when mental abilities begin to deteriorate and the individual is simply no longer able to communicate/interact in the same way. That stage requires an understanding of why reaching out may come with a level of frustration you aren’t always prepared for. Repeated discussions about the weather may be the best you can manage.

These are not easy aspects of life to deal with and with each person who passes from you, it is of course, the good memories you hold to.

Travel Home…..

It’s always nice when travel goes smoothly and especially in this case when we hit the traffic well from MIA to the house. Our schedule didn’t even require us to get up too terribly early for the morning flight.

We certainly checked off a number of blocks for the trip despite the unseasonable chilly temperatures. If all goes well, between the intensity of tasks I accomplished prior to departure, what I managed to get done yesterday, and the line-up for the next two days should get me mostly caught up. We did order pizza last night since going to the grocery store was more effort than we wanted to expend after we made it home. Besides, we did need to have breakfast pizza available for Hubby. He’s all fixed up now and in light of all the wining and dining we did, he will picking up plenty of salad when he goes shopping.

Anyway, other than our usual quick Thanksgiving trip to Georgia to see his family, we will be staying around for a while. We do still want to slip away a couple of days for the hammerhead shark diving in Bimini, although we’ve said that the past two years and haven’t made it happen yet. The main issue is the prime season for that bumps up against all kinds of other “main annual events” of some of the community activities we are involved in.

So, Happy Halloween to everyone and we’ll see if we can get the skeleton into the rocking chair for our minimal decorating. And of course, despite the number of bags of candy I bought, I’ll think, “Oh, maybe we do need a couple more.”

The Paths Children Take….

I’ve posted in the past about how startled we were and what adjustment we went through when we came to accept the degree of our son’s passion for dance. I had an entertaining conversation with a woman I met last night during an event with the opposite side of the coin situation with their daughter. She has very definitely gone into a career that’s not for the fainthearted and not what most women choose. It is financially lucrative though which is also the opposite said of the coin with the world of dance.

Anyway, as I have also mentioned, my whole “female pioneering” aspect of being in the Army was not something my parents expected and until last night I hadn’t remembered this part. Back in the day, males could join the military at age 17 with parental consent and 18 without. Females, however, could not join without parental consent until age 21. Because of me finishing my undergraduate degree a year early, and having an August birthday, that meant I was not actually 21 until a couple of weeks after I was scheduled to receive my commission as a second lieutenant. It required my parents to sign their permission and while Daddy was puzzled, but practical about my choice, Mother expressed some reluctance. In talking through it, she finally agreed providing I didn’t tell “Mamaw” (her mother) she’d agreed. Not a problem, although as it turned out, my grandmother thought it was terrific and would brag about me to her friends. The fact of the matter was she was a feisty woman and had opened her own assay and tax preparation office at a time when that was not commonplace for married women. I don’t know the whole background of it – I’ll have to ask my aunt next time I visit – but as I recall, she always had that office. Daddy learned about tax prep by working part time for her during peak tax season because we didn’t live too far from them and forest fire threats were usually mild until the heart of summer.