Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

The difference between sounds and words. Their name. Gestures. How cause and effect works. These are things a baby learns in their first year.

baby waiting

Kid can’t wait forever for you to figure out what to do!

That their baby is unlike any other baby ever born anywhere. How to function on limited sleep. That a diaper doesn’t hold as much poop as a baby can poop when they really have to poop. These are things a parent learns in their first year.

Not everyone gets the privilege of being a mom or dad but for those lucky people who do, you should want to be the best at it that you can be. A lot of parenting is on the job training but if you could go into those first few years knowing a little something about what you’re doing, wouldn’t you want to have that knowledge?

The focus of my monthly 5K for July is where you can go to get it: Growing Up Together.

Growing Up Together is a non-profit organization in central South Dakota that provides classes for parents, families, and caretakers who have small children or are getting ready to have a baby. They cover the physical part of parenthood with prenatal, childbirth, and breastfeeding classes. But once the child is born, you have to know how to raise it. They have classes for that, too.

Their Sibling Readiness Class helps prepare the small kids you already have to be big brothers and sisters (which as someone who was pushed off a changing table as an infant by my then 2-year-old sister can tell you is very important). Courses are offered for teen parents who face their own challenges going from being kids to having kids. And the Common Sense Parenting Class emphasizes the use of positive interaction with your kids to help them grow up happy and healthy, mentally and physically.

I like that Growing Up Together realizes that today’s family unit is much different than it was 30 or 40 years ago when a family was a dad, a mom, and a couple of kids. Now it may be a single parent raising a child, a multi-generational household with grandparents added in, or a couple living together with a mixed family. Whatever your situation, you’re welcomed there.

Their class fees recognize that a new baby can mean a tighter budget. Most of their classes are $20 or less, and scholarships are available.

Although I’ve babysat countless times in my life I’ve never had the honor of being a mother myself so I’m very careful not to tell people how to raise their kids. Growing Up Together doesn’t do that either; they give you the practical knowledge you need for the job. What parents and families learn in those first years can determine what happens in the next 10 or 20 years. Nobody wants to screw that up.

Find out more about their classes and services at growinguptogether.org.

Seven months done on my 5K quest. I know exactly where I’m walking and for what in August. Want to know? Join me next month.

In 2014, according to the L.A. Times, the average American house contained 300,000 items. That means two things: we keep more than we need, and the “organizing the perfect closet” tips on Pinterest must really work.

We’re in the process of decluttering our home, partly for financial reasons but also because of the desire to be surrounded by less stuff. Or more specifically, to keep and appreciate more meaningful stuff.

My sister started me on this track several years ago when she and my brother-in-law sold their belongings and made a motorhome their permanent residence (follow their adventures at Road Trip with John and Cathy). Helping her with the downsizing process redefined for me what makes where I am “home”.

Aside from family pictures, these are the 5 things that tell me where I live:

Dreamcatchers

dreamcatchers

My husband Jeremy is an enrolled member of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe. When we were married 25 years ago, Paul Bad Moccasin made and presented us with a pair of Lakota dreamcatchers to bring good dreams and a positive spirit to our family. They go where we go.

 

 

Books

booksIneed

When we moved into our current home, the heaviest boxes were labeled “Books”, “Yes, more books”, and “Seriously, more damn books?” I try to keep my collection manageable but if I were forced to keep only the bare minimum, they would be The Stand by Stephen King, The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, City of Thieves by David Benioff, Nam by Mark Baker, and National Geographic’s Complete Survival Manual. The first five I can read over and over and never get tired of. And if the Zombie Apocalypse ever does come, the last one will help me make it through alive.

Crucifix

crucifix

I received this crucifix when I made my First Communion in the 1970’s and it’s hung over my bed ever since with the exception of the two years I lived in the dorm in college. Which was probably the time I could have used the extra spiritual guidance.

Radios

transistorradio

My radio collection consists of three pieces. A 70-year-old cabinet radio that was left by the previous owner in the first house my parents owned. A 60-year-old tabletop radio shaped like a microphone that was used to promote the radio station where I’ve worked for many years when it first signed on. And a 40-year-old transistor radio that I picked up at a thrift store when I got my first radio job. Two of the three still work.

Cookbook and Cookie Cutter

cookbook chicken

When it comes to cooking, there are half a dozen things I make pretty well and another 10 that won’t make you sick if you eat them. The 1960 St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church cookbook has some of my late mother’s recipes in it from when she was still in high school. I use it every time I make her biscuits, even though I probably know how from memory. And my chicken cookies are famous. They don’t cut themselves.

 

These things I need to be “at home” would fit into a single box, one that will never be marked “For Sale”, “To Thrift Store” or “Trash”. I don’t need 300,000 things to be happy. Who has time to dust all that stuff anyway?

What 5 things define your home for you?

For seven years, we lived in a tiny house halfway down a side street that ended in a cul-de-sac by the river.

Our neighborhood had old houses and trailer houses and empty lots, young neighbors and old neighbors, and one crazy guy on the corner who cavorted in his garden naked at night and yelled a lot. Not kidding.

One hot stormy night there was a tornado that uprooted the big cottonwoods and took out the power lines and left our street piled with debris. We were standing in what was left of our yard when the news came down the line that an old woman in a trailer by the cul-de-sac had had a heart attack and the ambulance couldn’t get down the street to get her. Within minutes, in the pouring rain, neighbors were wielding chainsaws and dragging tree limbs and pushing cars out of the way so the ambulance could inch its way down the street and get her.

What neighbors do in times of trouble is what my June 5K is all about.

I don’t know Chris Boxley personally but I know his mother-in-law. I’ve known Sarah Deters since she was a teenager. One lives in my community, one used to but doesn’t any more. But I still feel like they’re part of my neighborhood, an area in which I live that while it may not be geographical is still some place where you help people when they’re in trouble.

If you live near my actual neighborhood, there are a couple of special fundraisers coming up for Chris and his family: Thursday, July 5 at the Bill of Rights Brewery in Pierre, SD and Wednesday, July 11 at the Pizza Ranch in Fort Pierre, SD. Donations can also be made through the family’s GoFundMe page and at Oahe Federal Credit Union in Pierre, SD.

Want to show your support for Sarah and her girls? Take part in the Love Her Back event.

I’m at the halfway point of my Year of 5K’s with six months to go. I’m also on the lookout for a cause, event, or place to walk about for the month of July so if you want to point me in a new direction, post your suggestions in the comments.

 

Our mail gets delivered mid-morning, brought in and sorted at noon. Bills to the computer room, junk mail to the garbage and personal correspondence to the kitchen table where it waits, unopened, until after work. When I can relax and enjoy it like the special treat it is.  

I email and text, like everyone else. And I handwrite letters. Because cursive is a beautiful way to say what you want to say.

Whether it’s telling a secret…

slim letter 012316

sharing big news…

jay letter 012316

or just saying “You should be here!”

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The time we take to smooth down the paper, get the right pen, choose our words and physically form them on the page adds weight to our message and a personal touch to its delivery. In an age when a thought can be typed, sent, read and deleted in seconds, handwriting gives us the gift of a conversation that can be relived over and over again.

January 23, 2016 is National Handwriting Day.

exercise your right 012316

 

 

Grandma Collins 0116

My gun-toting granny who was also a nurse, a fieldhand, a church organist and a cancer patient.

My grandma flushed out a thief who was hiding under her house, loaded him into her car, and drove him at gunpoint into town to the sheriff.

My dad, who was there, told me the story. Had I gotten it directly from my grandma before she died, I’d have asked, “Were you scared? How did you know he was under there? Would you have shot him?”

Family and friends are the people we think we know better than anybody else. But do we really? Maybe we would if we just took the time to ask.

For the past 12 years, StoryCorps has given ordinary people the chance to find out extraordinary things about the people they know by simply asking questions.

Through the program, people record interviews with someone who’s made an impact on their life, knowingly or unknowingly, relative, friend or acquaintance. The interviewer picks the questions and hopes the interviewee answers them. And most of the time, they do. The interviews (65,000 of them already) are stored at the Library of Congress and some of them air on National Public Radio.

Our lives are a series of great stories. Happy, sad, scary, exciting, funny, unusual. Facebook and Twitter and Instagram are packed with the edited versions of the best (or worst) stories people want to tell about themselves. What about the incredible stories we can tell about others?

In my reporter days, it took tape recorders and reel to reels and notebooks to get the story; today, all you need is a smartphone and an app. StoryCorps has one. It lets you record your own StoryCorps-style interview and upload it to be preserved by the Library of Congress. It even invites you to take a selfie with the person you interviewed.

So, is your grandma tougher than my grandma? We’ll never know unless you ask.

A tale of two houses at Christmas

The light and the dark side of the holidays

 

We’re not Grinches and they’re not the Griswolds. We’re just neighbors with vastly different electric bills for the month of December.

You’ve seen the viral video of the house festooned with thousands of Christmas lights, glowing reindeer grazing on the lawn, neon icicles dripping from the trees, all pulsing in time to Mannheim Steamroller’s “Carol of the Bells”. My neighbors live there. We live in the dark house next door.

When we moved into the neighborhood 20 years ago, we were all on the same level when it came to decking the halls. Icicle lights on the eaves, luminaries lining the walk, wreath on the front door. Every house was different but together we made a companionable display of holiday cheer.

Then about 2010 or so, giant snowflakes appeared on the front windows of the house to the north. In the years that followed, a herd of glistening deer gathered by the shrubs, a forest of spiral rope light trees sprang up in the front yard, and endless rows of twinkling lights crisscrossed the shingles and siding. Then a big electrical box with cords and cables snaking across the snow and finally, the electronic carolers.

As the neighbor’s house got brighter, the rest of the block went dim. It’s not like we couldn’t compete; the rest of us just didn’t try to. 

When their display went up Thanksgiving weekend, my husband asked what we were going to do this year.

“How ‘bout a sign that says Ditto with an arrow pointing to their house?” I asked.

He suggested that maybe they wouldn’t think that was as funny as I did. I figure if you’ve lived by me for 20 years and you’re still talking to me, you must have some sense of humor.

But since they’re not dicks about it – their timer shuts everything off about 11:00 p.m. which is good since our bedroom and guest room both face “Viva La Christmas” – I took the high road, too. Our front deck railing is now wrapped in white lights which cast a soft glow on the “Peace” sign perching on the little wooden bench.

Though the neighbors’ decorations shout and ours only whisper, our holiday spirit is no less heartfelt. After all, it’s Christmas…and it’s the thought that counts. And I’m thinking a little peace on earth is just what we all need this year.

 

Remembering Mickey, a true free spirit.

Remembering Mickey, a true free spirit.

My grandma said Mickey Gulla was mouthy. Mickey said my grandma should lighten up. My grandpa didn’t say anything because he was married to one and liked the other.

Mildred “Mickey” Gulla died last week at the age of 94. She was a fiery Scandinavian sprite who was married to my grandpa’s friend, Joe, a big strapping Italian cop. They all met in the late 1970’s when my grandparents sold their farm and moved to town. I met Mickey not long after that during a visit to my grandparents’ house and saw her frequently when I was in the neighborhood.

Small in stature, big in voice, Mickey was the first adult that I called by name instead of “Mrs. Someone”. That was unheard of for us kids but she told us to and it was easy to comply because she was such a kid herself.

When I left for college, my parents moved and Mickey went from being my grandparents’ friend to my parents’ neighbor. Often when I came home to visit, she’d be puttering around the yard of her big brick house and we’d share a wave and a called greeting. The last time I really talked to her was Christmas of 2010. On a whim, I bought her flowers and my dad and I tramped across the street in the snow for a holiday visit. She was the perfect hostess, serving refreshments, sharing stories and pictures. At the end of the evening, she walked us to the door, squeezed my arm and said, “You’re full of piss and vinegar, just like your grandpa was.”

The following February she sent me a Christmas letter, unapologetically late with a good excuse: she’d tripped and fractured a hip, putting her in the hospital for nearly three weeks. The letter raised a good question (“When you were putting away your Christmas decorations, did you notice when you strip away all the tinsel and glitter, God’s real truth shows through?”), shared her favorite Charles Dickens quote (“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”) and revealed the secret to her long and happy life (“I’m having the best days of my life and I appreciate having everything I need. They are: my faith, family, friends, fun and food – lots of comfort food on cold days! That’s food for thought and thankfulness.”)

The letter ended in much the same way a conversation with Mickey always did, with her hope that I would explore the year ahead with good health and gusto. Like she did, right up until the end. We should all be so mouthy.