Sunday, January 6, 2008

But seriously, Folks

Okay, because the moths seem to have been eradicated and the flies are in remission, I've decided to buckle down and talk about serious issues. Resolutions and priorities. Yes, I like to make New Year's resolutions, although this year my enthusiasm has waned somewhat. Must be the mud. I like resolutions. I like blank pages. I like mulligans. Gives me hope. I keep wondering if my positive outlook will wilt as I get older. I used to wonder if I was positive-minded or if it was just an act, an efficient form of denial. (See old blog on fake it 'til you make it.)

After spending time around my inlaws, it's always necessary to a) get out and watch George Carlin videos and b)practice a hobby of any sort. Now, I have loved my inlaws for almost 20 years. They are kind and generous. My MIL, in particular, is a negative person. It's so disappointing because she can be cheerful, but the underlying current is always defeat. Always has been, my husband and BIL tell me. It's grating. She has no reason to be, at all. She had an idyllic rural childhood, was popular in school, etc. She reveres her parents and is healthy as a horse. She has never wanted, really. She got to build her first home, had nice things, but did work when the boys went to high school and beyond. But she has no appreciation for her situation, at all.

I think part of it is my FIL. He had a sad childhood. Not abused, but certainly emotionally abandoned, several times and ways. Very closed-off most of the time. Now he is old and crabby and it makes me sad for the girls to know him as this. I'm sure his closed-off-ness has made my MIL starved for affection, attention, companionship. And now that she has catered to him for a long time, there's no changing it. He has no responsibilities, no hobbies, no interests and she won't make/take time to do anything but fret and worry and have self-pity.

It's kind of a whirlpool of depression that we have to wade in and out of, warily.

On the other hand, my grandma is the same age as my FIL. She has had breast cancer and two knee replacements. Now this woman became a widow at age 40 with a 5 yr. old and a 17 yr. old (my mom.) She didn't have a college education and she couldn't drive. It was 1956. She came from a relatively poor family, but close-knit. She put herself through LPN school and learned to drive. She worked in nursing homes until I had children and retired as a licensed social worker when she was 70. She lives on the most minimum of incomes, with help from my parents and my uncle and aunt, drives, sews and quilts and takes classes and volunteers at a community co-op where she sells her wares. She plays bunco, gardens and could not live without a canine companion. Until this summer, she was driving 3 hrs. one-way to see her doctor, where she used to live!!

What's the difference here? I have become firmly convinced over the years that the difference is hobbies, or interests. My grandma has lots of reasons to get out of bed each day. Her pet needs her and her hobbies are little mountains of accomplishment that have admirers when she finishes. She doesn't make enough money of them to warrant the time spent, so the reward is not financial. But she creates and completes. Admiration and flattery are the icing on the cake. Her mother was a tailor on the side, so sewing is a family tradition that she has done since childhood, but quilting is new, and detailed. My grandma has two sisters (she is the oldest.) The second sister is also a quilter, collects antique glass and has taken up painting in the last 10 years. The youngest sister, who has no hobbies (and a traumatic life) is the most aged of them all. Like my FIL, she has no hobbies. No reasons to do anything but sleepwalk through the day meeting the most basic needs.

Now, I would also argue that the faithlife is almost non-existent in these, as well. My in-laws do go to church often. But there is no daily walk of faith, no reliance on prayer or God or interest in such as important, although they would tell you that they definitely believe in God and Jesus. I've struggled with whether I should be witnessing to my in-laws more about a stronger reliance on God. But it just seems hopeless (this from a "positive" person.) I guess that doesn't say a lot for my faith.

My point here was to encourage everyone to have some hobby. A hobby that doesn't require leaving your house. Find things that can travel with you, like handcrafts--knitting, crocheting, woodcarving, whatever. Encourage and cultivate these in your children. I think that this is crucial for a variety of reasons. Our lives have become soooooo easy and comfortable. We don't have to grow or harvest or butcher anything for our daily existence. Our children struggle not to meet basic needs. They need to see repeated, continuous effort that ends in a completion, with something to show for it--in something besides paper pushing, and games on tv are not it.

Michael Pearl has a great article this month about getting off video games, with some excellent recommendations in it. Go to and it's right at the top of the page. I know most people are not lucky enough to live the rural/muddy life that I get to live...poor things. So extra effort has to be made by you suburbanites to get your kids out into life. People are hardwired to accomplish, especially boys. We don't have to harvest wheat and put up hay anymore and that's why we see young people doing insane things like base jumping and land luge-ing. Yikes, check those out on You Tube. (We're sticking with needlework, here.)

Anyway, my priorities/resolutions: Don't become old and crabby. I don't think it's a requirement. I want to be happy and appreciative, even if I hurt. I want to be an example of kind Christianity, because I wish there were more elderly examples around me. (And I gave birth to a baby at age 40, so I will be an old grandma.) I want to continue to be interested in the world around me, including voting against nationalized health care whenever possible--and I am self-employed, so I do know what this involves! I want to value and encourage interests for each of my children that they can do their entire lives. This does not involve computer/electronic equipment. This does not involve thousands of dollars of investment. These should be things that they can do anywhere, anytime, at any income level.

I want to appreciate everything I have. My health, food in two refrigerators, bills paid, hardworking husband, heated mattress pad, a large variety of animal manures and high-speed internet. You get the idea. I will not harp on my kitchen situation. I will be glad that the rooster has a place to stay when it is freezing, that is convenient to me and easily cleaned. I will be glad that Handyman bought those little boot trays to hold all 24 pairs of boots on a given day.

Today's list of things I like about my kids: They are enthusiastic and creative. They are energizer kids. They are watching me every moment to soak up whatever I am putting out there. Heaven help us! The spotlight's on me, again.

No comments: