The Wonderful World of Soup~

Soup is an endless sea of wonder, just like the many things I choose to write about. My thoughts explore Writing, World to National Events, Family Catastrophes (past and present) or whatever seems to get me thinking while sipping hot soup, tea, cider or a cold Pepsi...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The NewTown Kids

There is nothing I can say to change the horrors of this mid-December tragedy. While the rest of us are asking why, I can only share my limited insight into mental illness and what I know about suicide and depression.

I personally know a few crazy people (myself included to a degree:). They actually exist in my family, just like most families, really. We have a history of clinical depression, suicides and a very passionate line of mentally-ill people on my mother's and father's side. Thus, without an inkling of chance, my parents came together in holy matrimony. Dad was a Vietnam war veteran (with uundiagnosed PTSD from the war) who would eventually die a painful death via leukemia. Mom was running from her mildly mentally-ill parents at the tender age of 19 whilst in the process of annulling her first marriage to a deployed soldier whom she hardly knew. Of course, Mom and Dad had six kids in seven years and moved them constantly from one end of the west coast to the other. It wasn't a pretty 13 years of marriage. They separated at least three times, fought violently and were in the middle of a nasty custody battle when Dad passed suddenly from internal bleeding. I was a week shy of 12. Though I love and adore both of my parents, I think they each would admit to an imbalance in their minds.

But that's another story for another day. I'd like to focus on my mother. I feel grief for her trials, but struggle to completely forgive her due to the emotional and mental abuse I experienced as a child. Let's just say that she stroked my hair gently on some days, but then called me explicatives of a feminine nature on a regular basis. That's just the mild stuff. Again, I have gone off on a tangent. Let's get back to the present...
Just recently divorced from #6, she does not function in society. While she goes from one person in the family to another, or finds another low-life to take her in, she was recently denied disability due to her mild mental illness from the government. She's 62 and does not have the ability to work. She's lived with most of her five living children, but this is difficult as you can imagine. Besides the financial burden, life is impossible when she's in your home. For example, besides opening mail and such, she uses the word "retard", makes fun of fat people in front on my children and makes snide comments about everything they do. I know the commandment to honor thy Father and Mother, but this is no cake walk for me...
Where do people like her (or even worse cases) exist in this world? What scares me is that this was the very same case for 20-year old Adam Lanza.  I am certain he was a young, bona-fide psycho, and mad as hell about it. He likely showed signs of mental-illness and had a history of dark tendencies. While he should have been under the constant care of a doctor in some peaceful facility, he was left to fend for himself alone under the care of a mother who likely had her own problems to battle.

Now there is an entire classroom gone, and a lineup of heroes who will not be influencing and teaching the future leaders of America.

Another part of this troubles me: the broken home of the shooter. I know that broken homes are common today more than ever, but why have we not improved in our methods in this area as a society? Adam was a product of divorce and appears to have had little to no bond with his estranged father who lived in another town with a new wife. While his older brother appeared successful, I am sure there were many holes in their relationship as well. None of this is anyone's fault, but where do loners without a friend or a role in society go, especially young boys? I see the gaping holes in these young men's hearts without a model to follow. As a teacher, it is all too easy to see the ones without a father or at least a loving father, in their lives.

I am just as much baffled as I am angry. Just because you are a loner without anyone to learn from doesn't excuse the behavior. We all have the innate sense to learn from the mistakes of our parents and make ourselves better, not worse. Broken or not, this young man made a premeditated choice to kill and kill hundreds. I wonder what he did with his free time. The parent and teacher in me thinks he had a fascination with guns and violent video games and /or television programs.

While I feel a great amount of sorrow for the 27 lives taken (not counting the killer), I feel greater sorrow for his mother, father and family (whether they survived or not). Imagine waking up one morning and owning the fact that you are the parent or relative to a mass murderer/suicide.

The whole thing makes me sick. But its the kind of horrendous sickness that will not go away under the less than watchful eyes of our current administration. This cancer in our society will continue without proper treatment. As it stands, I do not want their free healthcare or their bailouts. I want a solution and I want to feel like I'm sending my children to schools where it's at least safe. While security is part of the discussion, who will cover the costs when their is little focus on education or security? What most people fail to comprehend is that schools are basically non-profit with barely enough funds to pay the teachers, produce adequate supplies and keep the utilities on. What's more, this school involved in the shooting actually had more security than most. As a fellow teacher, I am concerned about our schools, the destruction of the family unit and our society. The security of the soul in a loving home should be the greatest concern.

My heart has been wrenched, ripped out and thrown on the floor. I feel guilty that I get to hug my four  children this Christmas season while 20 other sets of parents do not.  God Bless them and the families who lost a teacher or staff member at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. America is mourning and praying for you and with you.

In the end, we must focus on the hope this tragedy provides. Several teachers and administrators took action and saved lives. One child even found some unknown survival skill and played dead. While she is alone and leaves a classroom behind, she is the one innocent life that brings just a touch of peace and warmth order back into our damaged, bitter hearts.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

One Kid at A Time...

Okay, I admit it, I am not a blogger. I was going to say a "good blogger", but being that I haven't posted anything since like...more than six months ago, then I must face the music. My blog doesn't even have a real pulse.

What do I have to say for myself?
Well, it's pretty simple. I've started teaching again (8th grade English); a close family member passed away last month (father-in-law); I have a house to clean and I recently took in a homeless relative. Did I mention that our house was struck by lightning, zapping the circuit board of the AC unit just three weeks after we had the unit repaired? That was the major loss of the event anyhow. Our transmission died in the mini van on the way to my baby sister's wedding....the list keeps going of course.
But the real reason I decided to check in and write something is because of a great idea I came across in another blog. It was things to do with your kids while they are young. Basically, the writer presented 7 Great Ideas to do with your kids while they are kids. I liked her thinking and admit that I've tried and do many of her ideas already (lunch dates & interviews). Still, it got me thinking. So, here are six of my ideas fresh from the "seat of my pants"...(one or two may already have existed in our-myself & husband Larry's- list of ideas):

1. Go For a Drive. (Make sure the car is in good repair:) Take just one kid on the drive and let them pick the direction. You could even come up with a final destination (like a favorite restaurant or ice cream parlor), but get creative in getting them there. Listen and communicate. Get good at open-ended questions. I have fond memories of driving at night in my Dad's old pickup with licorice bites and Roy Orbison blasting on the radio. Another twist would be to blindfold the chosen child with a favorite place in mind and have them guess where they are going along the way. I did this once for an anniversary dinner in my husband's hometown, but no matter how many turns, pointless side streets or detours I took, he knew exactly where we were! We've also let our kids drive down our road from about age 12 (but if you turn me in, I will claim that I was simply making a creative statement for ratings:). In a farming community (or anywhere), the more hours behind the wheel, the safer the driver. I plan on creating an obstacle course for each child to go over defensive driving in their 16th year too. I just need some open space, a few safety cones and maybe a cow or two:).

2. Wardrobe Master- Assign a child the daunting task of choosing everyone's attire for the day (you may want to go with a Saturday with little plans or just go for it and trust their instincts for the next family photo or event). The rest of the family has to go along with the choices or the parents get full rights at the next shopping date for the less than cooperative child's newest clothes. I'm just guessing here, but stubborn teenagers may need to be paid off for cooperation. Be sure and snap a photograph. You could even add another twist and let one child at a time decide on everyone's Halloween costumes each year. Encourage their creativity and frugality. Instead of going with a trendy Disney lineup, set a budget and use as much from around the house as possible. I'm envisioning great things here, like two rival football teams, classic book characters or refrigerator condiments that go with the big "Daddy" hot dog ( I don't know where that came from).

3. Interior Design- Many of us have let our kids choose their bedroom colors and decor, but what about allowing a child to decorate the front room, the kitchen or the back yard? I think that with a little guidance, our children would surprise us. This can be given a little guidance, such as a Better Homes and Gardens magazine concept or a favorite Website, such as Pinterest.

4. Vacation Planner- Here's a novel idea that I came up with eons ago, but still have yet to find the funding and spousal approval for. Let one child at a time plan the next vacation. I remember like it was yesterday the first time our daughter Niki went to Disneyland at about age 5. After an exhausting day in the magical land of make believe, we were on the long walk back to the hotel. She blurted out, "You guys call this a vacation?" Without missing a beat, her father looked at me and said, "I hear ya Niki; you're preaching to the choir!" So, why not let those little imagineers take the realm? I would love to see the outcome of each and every one. But please, please, please, I hope no one chooses Greenland or Outer Space. I don't want to freeze to death or break it to anyone that we don't have the budget to cover a trip to the moon.

5. Menu Master- Take just one child shopping with you, but do some homework ahead of time with a cookbook or favorite site online. Let the child choose the meals for the week. Of course, let them help you purchase the ingredients and help prepare each meal. They can even make a menu and play restaurant for several nights (as the cook or waiter). While I have never enjoyed taking the entire crew of four grocery shopping, I have found my young-ens extremely amiable when they don't have a sibling to compete with.

6. THE DEBUT- We've already started this one and call it "The Debut" (mainly because I love Jane Austen and this sounds like a name she would come up with). Each child chooses a location where they will go exclusively with their parents. The oldest chose Washington D.C. and surrounding American landmarks. Our second oldest has chosen New York. While we have yet to get the second one going from it's early planning stages (we are in Nursing School, so ease up), the age must range between 13-15. In short, the trip must be taken before the child turns 16. The idea and logic here is to go while they are still young and about to leave their early teenage years behind. Sigh... that will never happen, right?

To sum up, as doting and loving parents we once dreamed of showing the world to our children, but somehow we get caught up in the day to day worries, debts and catastrophes. There will never be an ideal time to do these things, and yet, they grow older and smarter as each hour and day goes by. Don't waste another minute. Save up starting tomorrow. What are you (and what am I) waiting for? Go and find the world with your greatest treasure, and take them one at a time...

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A walk down Lullaby Lane

To some, a lullaby is just a trick to get a fussy baby or stubborn child to sleep. To others, however, it's a true love affair with one purpose: to soothe the angelic gift from God into a blissful slumber.
About a week ago, I was at my mother-in-laws for our Sunday dinner. My 23-yr. old niece wanted to know what lullabies I sang to my four children. As you may have guessed, she's expecting her first, sweet bundle with her husband (in the fall). She is now on a quest to learn or use as many beautiful lullabies as she can. (And she plays the piano beautifully). So, I gladly shared. I sang dozens of lullabies to my four infants from classic Christian songs (like Jesus Loves me) to Primary songs from my faith (like I Am A Child of God). But each child had their own special song, which I sang to them often.
My oldest child (about to get her permit in 2 weeks) had a simple lullaby which I'd learned from Walt Disney's Lady & the Tramp. When Lady finally meets the thing that turned her world upside down, the mother was singing "La La Loo". I really like the part of sweeping the star bells and the wandering angel.
My second child loved music from the start. She wouldn't take a binky (pacifier) and had colic, so the lullabies were literally a God send. Around the time when she was born, the Christian movie "The Prince of Egypt" came out. So, I fell in love with "Hush Now, My Baby." I really get into that song since I love soul music. The emotional part of the song  (when he drifts off down the Nile) is very beautiful to sing and recreate. Of course, I sang my oldest daughter's song to her too, so a kind of chain began. I even remember hearing my oldest daughter sing her song to her little sister.
My third child (the first boy) was given the song "All the pretty little Ponies" (or Hush-a-bye, Don't you Cry). Besides a good lullaby, he really loved having his back rubbed and still does at 11 years old. I remember that I fell in love with this song from my Kenny Loggins CD. Remember those? They are these flat, silver discs that we once could put into a boom box. The CDs replaced cassette tapes, which I won't bother to explain...
My fourth and last child (now about to turn 9) had an unusual lullaby. His sister graduated from kindergarten the year he was born, so we remade the "We Love Peanut Butter" song she sang at her graduation performance (and always sang at home) into a lullaby.
You may or may not know the tune...Peanut butter, we love peanut butter, peanut butter that's what we love best. Do you love it on your head? Yes, we love it on our head-whoa oh, oh, oh. Well, you get the idea. So we changed it to Baby Dylon, we love baby Dylon. Baby Dylon, that's who we love best. Do we love his little eyes? Yes, we love his little eyes, etc. We'd sing it to him in the car when he was fussy and I'd sing it sweetly and slowly at night as a lullaby. He loved this song so much that when he could talk, he asked me to sing it every night for months on end.
A favorite memory of mine was a camp out once when he was about 10 months old. My children had heard an owl or some scary sound and could not fall asleep in the tent. So, I talked about how they each had a lullaby and suggested that we sing each one. It worked like magic and they soon met the sandman.
Following our stroll down Memory Lane, we of course had a good laugh that Sunday dinner. My adopted (relative), now a teenager, was very intrigued by the story of the lullabies and proceeded to ask his mother what his lullaby was when he was little (he knows he's adopted by the way). Though it would not be the first time, her answer and reaction broke my heart.
With a look of disgust, she reminded him that he was three years old and not a baby when he came to their family. So, she didn't sing lullabies to him. As the oldest of his siblings, he is one of those "problem" children who has been grounded for misbehaving for most of his childhood. I wanted to stand up and shout at her, but I kept my cool. It is not my place to judge, but what a buzz kill and a cruel response. Whether he was 3, 7 or 10, she should have sang to him. In fact, he needed the lullabies more than any other child I know. If anything, she could have changed her response to "I don't remember" or something less resentful.
I was blessed to have a mother who sang to me, even with her vast array of faults. I'm also blessed to have a handsome best friend who sang to our children on many nights and early mornings. On the nights when I could barely stand, he would take over the maternal duties and be a tender father. Although I'm grateful to have passed through the diaper and crying years, I still miss their angelic baby faces and watching my husband sing or play with them. Sometimes, when no one is looking, one of the two boys asks me to sing their lullaby once more.  Just like it was yesterday, I sing their song and scratch their weary backs. Sweet dreams, little soft, fluffy sleeper...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Something to Scream About

I want to swear, scream or even spit!
Don't jump to conclusions; I'm not mad or anything close. I just need a solid attention getter here. I'm clearly having trouble keeping up with my blog (especially due to a lack of Internet last month), so I guess I'll stop trying so hard to impress any rare readers with my wit, humor and skill in the field of writing.
To cut to the chase, I am going KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). Until I hear it from an agent, I may not have the above skills anyhow. But I know one thing...I can write entertaining stories/articles, usually.
Today, Saturday the 4th of February, I was awoken quite early. This is because my horrendous teenage daughters went to the Gila Valley Temple with a youth group at 5:30. (Not the p.m., people, the A.M.!) I may have to keep telling myself they are not so horrendous after all. But while the world sees their polite demeanor, radiant smiles, beauty and creativity, I have to stare at their hazardous bedroom for days on end. Seriously, I really mean hazardous and in a couple of ways.
There are apple cores, trash, dishes and yogurt cups on mild days and the floor is more like a gulf of dirty laundry and books. While one teen does not fight or argue, the other one does and with a vengeance like no other. The sweet teenager rarely turns in a bona fide math assignment and tells me I've ruined her life daily because she wants to dye her hair and have a FaceBook account (has to wait until she's 14).
But then again, their teachers rave about their manners, respect and genuine courtesy. They wake up almost every morning before the sun rises (& before me) and love worshipping in the church or temple. When the day or week is done, both of them have worked pretty hard. I was not so focused at 13 & 15, at least with the rising before dawn part. My daughters are really not so bad (and their room does look 80 % better today...)
As for me, I took to cleaning and tackling the mopping this morning until it was time to watch my fifth-grader's basketball game. His team, the Clippers, is undefeated and usually wins by 15 to 20 pts. Although he is not a typical athlete and hasn't made a shot yet, I love his perserverance and spirit. He's the shortest on the team, but hasn't let that become an obstacle thus far. Thankfully, the Clippers have a fairly short team of 5th and 6th graders with two of the four star players just a bit taller (& older) than he is. I want him to realize now that hard work and smart ball outweigh height and build. I keep saying (mainly to adults) that I cursed him with my short legs, but he doesn't act cursed at all. He sat out on injury (hairline fracture on the top of his foot) for more than three weeks and played a game on it without a tear (oops). All in all, he's picking things up pretty quick. While he's the star academically, I wouldn't be surprised if he runs circles around the less than witty athletes who rely on brute and size in a few years. Milk does a body good, right?
I ran about a half-mile today and walked the other half. It was the last day of "Booty Boot Camp", but due to the game, I couldn't go. So, I replaced the workout with a self-disciplined effort. That's gotta count for somethin'.
My husband & I then went to the temple in the evening to seal the day. It was amazing and a much needed event in a week, no month, no year of chaos. Even though we will celebrate and scream with friends for the big Super Bowl Sunday, it's nice to know that today was solid and productive. Happy days like today outweigh the sad or pathetic days and remind me how important it is to be a mother and an example to my four beautiful children.
Rather than swear or spit, I will choose my words and actions carefully.

The Top Ten Election Year

What are the top ten things I want to see in the next president? Well, this may take some forethought. I will say in advance that I'm far from a political analyst. But as a mother, educator, writer and American, my voice matters too.
(in no particular order)
1. Fearless- I want a president who is not afraid to follow his heart and do the unpopular thing. This is not the time to worry about being politically correct. We could also balance the budget better if this factor was removed.
2. Faithful- I want a president who stands by his beliefs, his family and his country. The best of the American presidents have been men of God. A president should always hold fast to the basic principles of patriotism and that pride should show daily.
3. Successfully balanced- I want a president with the know how to save a sick economy and the ability to teach more responsibility and set an example in the area of finances. Our country has a far bigger problem than a ridiculous deficit, an imbalanced budget and two parties that can't agree. We also have thousands upon thousands of Americans who don't save, spend too much on toys and vacations and use credit cards like a fat kid in a candy store, fresh off a sugar diet. This economy is sick & the next president must have some solid "know-how".
4.  Honest- I want an honest president who is willing to correct his mistakes and who can keep his word.
5. Visionary- I want a visionary president who can see America in a beautiful light, teach others of his vision and then bring the country closer to that vision.
6. Integrity- One of the highest of all character traits, the next president should be one with unmistakable integrity.
7. Humble- This is by far the hardest of all traits to come by, but most important in a man leading a free and mighty nation.
8. Happy- A happy, positive president would just help the country to spin a little brighter. Plus, as Americans, we should be the happiest people on Earth. Our president has to reflect that in his personality and countenance.
9. Brilliant- (no need for an explanation here) If he's not brilliant, then which buffoons voted for him?
10. Talented- I'm picturing a president with so many talents that he almost seems inhuman. On one hand, he needs to be an athlete, but on the other hand, he should be washing the dishes. A baker, a book-balancer, a whiz at scrabble, he can also write a beautiful thesis on how to save the ever-shrinking tropical rain forests. Our president should be savvy with technology and superior at designing cabinets (not the ones for the kitchen either).
All in all, we need a really amazing man as the next president (since there are not any strong woman candidates this election year). He won't be perfect and we must know this, but the country better stop voting for the latest fad. While the party system is broken and bored of finger-pointing (at least some of us), we must be vigilant. Vote for the family man with the truest smile, the sharpest record and faith in his heart. Any idea who that might be?