Reading Is Escape

Quote

“Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real.”

Nora Ephron

I receive the Quote Of The Day from Goodreads and that was one of them. This is one of the few emails to which I subscribe. They are short and often inspirational for me as a writer.

Melons and Instagram

I saw this on my oldest daughter’s Instagram last night: ↓

01 -original pic

I commented to her, as shown below – me being Squirrelmix: ↓

02 -  comments

Then, I went to my own Instagram and posted this picture: ↓

melon mama (2)

Today, I look at Instagram and I see this by my daughter: ↓

04- N pic

And her comments/hashtags that were under the pic: ↓

05 - comments

That’s all. Have a great day!

Siggy

We Are Unschoolers

We are unschoolers here.

With my older kids, we were relatively rigid, with textbooks, workbooks, lots of reading and writing, etc.

With my youngest three, it’s a whole different lifestyle. For one thing, I’m no longer with the abusive ex, who demanded that the kids get high “grades”, and if they didn’t, we all paid for it.

For another thing with my youngest three (currently aged 10, 7, and 6), I was working from home full time, getting very little sleep, and was constantly exhausted. There was no way I could squeeze in “book work”, so unschooling became very appealing as an option. (Public school isn’t something I’d ever consider. I have lots of reasons.) The more I looked into it, the more fascinating it became to me, and pretty soon I realized that was what we were doing. It was and remains a lifestyle of learning, even though I can no longer work due to fibromyalgia and other health concerns landing me on Canada Pension Disability.

As for what a typical day looks like around here…

My kids usually get up before me, around 7-8 a.m. I’ve got their computers set to come on at 9:00 a.m., so prior to then, they eat (they’re all capable of getting their own food now, yaaaay! In prior years, I fed them breakfast, of course, but I was up earlier for work, too.) They can watch TV (we don’t have cable) or movies, or just hang out together and hopefully not fight, because if they fight, Mom gets mad, and they don’t like that.

It’s hard for me to get up, as I wake up stiff and in pain most days. The kids know that, and if they need me, they’ll come up and talk to me, often just coming in for a hug, a kiss, a smile, and to share some sweet words. I’m usually out of bed between 9 and 10, and then it’s cleaning, cooking, bill-paying, phone calls, and the rest of the business of a household. If there’s a lot of mess, I get the kids involved in helping.

Once the computers come on, they’re all over Roblox, Club Penguin, Minecraft, and a few other games they enjoy. I’ve had some programs for them that are particularly education-oriented, and they’ve enjoyed them, but the games are good learning for them, too. They communicate with other players, and they extend their reading and spelling efforts in order to do so. Many times a day, I’m asked how to spell one thing or another. If it’s too many letters, I’ll write it for them in a notebook they each have.

In good weather, the kids play outside in the yard. We live sort of out in the country-ish with an acre of yard. They play on the trampoline any time of year, even sometimes when there’s snow everywhere.

My 10-year-old and 7-year-old sons are diagnosed as being in the autism spectrum. It’s not that big of a deal, as they’re high functioning, but with the diagnosis, we get some funding, so for a few hours a week, we have a behavior interventionist who comes to take them out to do things in a program designed by a behavior consultant. The boys usually go one at a time with her, but occasionally they go together.

The only “schoolish” thing we do is reading lessons, and even that is something I have not pushed too hard. With my 10-year-old, he wasn’t getting the hang of reading by the age of 8, and so I took him to get assessed because his daddy has dyslexia and we were concerned he might have it, too. The tester said that yes my son had dyslexia and that she could help him with a special reading program, and the costs would be covered by the place where we are enrolled for home-school (here in BC, Canada, that’s the rules – you just have to be enrolled somewhere, and depending on where you enroll, there is a bit of reporting to do, but not much.)

So, we did that reading program via Skype for an hour a day, and within three months, that son was fully reading. Maybe he didn’t have dyslexia after all? I don’t know, but he has no trouble sounding out even unfamiliar words now, and figuring them out by the context of what he is reading.

The reading program we did via Skype is something I can now use on my other kids, as we have the materials and the teacher’s outline. I have done a bit of it with them, plus some other reading lessons, and I’d like to do more, but my health is up and down. If I can’t get myself to work on it more, I’ll use some of the homeschool funding next year to do it the Skype way with the teacher.

I’ve read about some unschoolers not even wanting to teach their kids how to read, but as for me, I don’t feel comfortable leaving it up to them to figure it out.

Oh, and there’s math. We have a set of books called “Life Of Fred”, which are stories I read out loud, usually while snuggled up on my bed, with my kids. The stories have math lessons woven into them, but they are so entertaining, the kids don’t even consider them to be “school”. Because we usually do Life Of Fred as a bedtime story, it is another excuse for the kids to get to stay up a bit later, so I suspect they also enjoy it because of that.

Our days always end with “tucking in”. Usually, I go to each child’s bedside, but when I’m too worn out, they’ll come to my bed and tuck me in. We giggle over our inside jokes. We do some hugs, some kisses, sometimes some prayers, and we always finish with “I love you”.

You Might Have To Pry

Have you ever wanted to say something like this to someone near and dear to you?

If ever you become aware of me being different, please, ask me what’s wrong.

Usually I will outright tell you, long before it becomes noticeable that something is awry, but if I go quiet, it is because it is hard for me to talk about it. If you’ll ask me, and keep at me until you get to the heart of it, I think it would help.

Sometimes we don’t like to talk about our problems, especially if we think they’ll go away.

You might have to pry, but I think it will be worth it. If it is to the point that you notice it, and you ignore it, then we are both ignoring it, and it is not likely to get better.

And please be prepared for the possibility that the problem might be you.

Controlling One’s Passions?

I did not write this, but I read it this morning, and was moved to share it. With permission from the author, whose website is http://tombirkenmeyer.com/, I am reprinting it, along with the William Blake quotation poster he included.

passions and control

“Gotta dream you put away or gave up on? Why not visualize something so important and meaningful for you that it would break your heart not to do whatever it took to become the person who could achieve it no matter how devastating your life is right now?

Why not use whatever is going on as leverage to get the skills, the emotional maturity, the spiritual equipping, and whatever else you need to solve a problem and achieve a dream?

Why not have a vision of who you wanna become that creates so much PASSION that you can no longer keep using the same story you’ve been selling yourself on why you can’t be where ya wanna be??

You’re either gonna be pushed around by your circumstances or pulled by your vision…

If things are too hard for you to move on your dreams then you don’t have any other problem except that your vision that drives your passion is so WEAK that your circumstances are pushing you around…. So, build up your vision.. why not?

Have you been abused? Are you broken down? Are you financially ruined? Has all your time been manipulated and demanded by other people? Did you fail out of school? We’ve all got something. Whatever you’ve been through or stuck in the middle of, I promise you someone has been there and figured it out…. they grew from where they were planted and so can you, no matter what…”

Perfectionism Is The Enemy

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”
(She has a lot of good quotes. I’ve just ordered “Bird by Bird” so I can see the full deal.)
My blog isn’t one of those blogs where people make lots of comments and the discussion goes on and on. Sometimes, though, like right now, I wish for dialogue. If anyone has any thoughts to share on the Anne Lamott quote I have posted, please do.
(Edited to ask: WHY are the paragraphs not spacing properly in WordPress? Even though in the draft it shows that they are properly spaced, on the publicly readable section it runs them all together in here and it looks like crap.)

 

Nikola Tesla – He’s So Underrated

I happen to think Nikola Tesla is cool. Yeah. What I know of him is cool. I would have loved to have had him come hang out in my kitchen and eat warm pie with me. I wonder if he had a Serbian accent, like my dad. I bet he had a crazy sense of humour, too, but this is all conjecture so make what you will of it.

This link about Tesla caught my eye today and made me smile:

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/tesla

(Edited to say: Oh, the shame! I had spelled Nikola wrong. Corrected now. I do know better. It’s early.)

Unscrabble

While under the influence of a stiff cup of Traditional Medicinals “Nighty Night” tea (in an attempt to undo the three cups of coffee I’d had a few hours earlier), I engaged in a game of Scrabble with my 17-year-old daughter, SF, and my 13-year-old son, PJ.

We were off to a crappy start when SF couldn’t form one single word with her seven letters. I even tried helping her, and said, “OK, we’ll bend the rules this once so you can dump your letters and start again.”

SF managed to form a lame word that yielded something like four points. (Actually, it was five.)

PJ then took his turn and also formed a lame word, though he did get 16 points from it.

I took my turn, sure that my astonishing Scrabble skills would kick in, but my word failed to excite my taste-buds and was only worth 12 points.

We played one more round each with no joy in our hearts as our words sucked big-time. We complained vociferously and I began to dislike what had once been my favorite game.

I suggested, “How about we ditch all the letters and start fresh, but this time, we can only use words that aren’t real?”

My kids eyed me dubiously, but we decided it couldn’t be much worse than the existing stalemate we faced.

I wrote the rules at the top of our new game:

1. It can’t be a real word.

2. It has to be pronounceable.

3. A “Q” has to have a “U”.

4. You can use proper names.

The game suddenly became fun!

PJ was busy texting on his phone and soon lost interest, to which SF said, “Oh, come on, PJ. How hard can it be to not think of a word?”

SF took over for PJ and finished his letters for him, while I wrote down her quote as the slogan that should appear on the side of the Unscrabble box.

We ended our trial and error of Unscrabble with whopping scores of 293 for SF, 133 for PJ, and 215 for me. Every letter was used, and we enjoyed the game fully, not having to waste time following the strict rules of real Scrabble. Furthermore, compared to what can often become a tedious and drawn-out game, this game went quickly. I think a half hour of playing this way is not an unreasonable expectation.

Unscrabble board Unscrabble score2

“Did Your Dad Love You?”

(As with my previous blog entry, this one was also originally posted as a note on Facebook.)

My seven-year-old son and I were talking about my dad this morning. That son has never gotten to meet “Grampa John”, though I tried to make it happen.

My son asked me, “Did your dad love you?”

I could only answer with total honesty, “I do not know.”

The question led to my mind playing all kinds of memories involving my dad, for the next few hours. I am pretty sure the answer to my son’s question is “No.” Does that sadden you? For some reason, it doesn’t sadden me. Should it?

One of the usual headaches I get was in the process of intensifying when I got the news of my dad’s death on Friday. It is now Sunday and the pain is still here now, Sunday evening.

Kids talking, stomping around, bickering, and needing varying levels of my help; chores; phone calls; emails; the sounds of the house in general all keep me from giving much time to the thoughts of my dad. Those thoughts barely get to finish their story or cast their feelings upon me. Incomplete processing.

Throughout the day, I jotted down notes as they came to mind, vying for my attention to help me answer the question of my earthly father’s love. Here are some random memories:

When I was 3 or 4 years old, I started playing a simple chord organ by ear. I think it only had two octaves or so. My dad was so impressed, he wanted to get me a better organ with more notes.

One evening, he took me with him on the bus into downtown Vancouver. We lived in East Van, so it wasn’t far. In retrospect, I wonder why we didn’t just drive there. Maybe he’d had a few drinks, but he didn’t seem drunk. I was so young, I barely remember it, other than in little snippets. We did get a bigger organ, and my mom still has it at her place.

Then when I was 7 or 8, my parents enrolled me in group piano lessons that took place after school, in the kindergarten room at Queen Victoria Elementary. Miss Salmon, with long Barbie-doll blonde hair, was the teacher. Normally a quiet and reserved person in school, I was amongst a small group of friends and became the piano-class clown, always getting reprimanded, but I learned the piano lessons well enough that I quickly needed more of a keyboard than the one I had.

My dad took me out piano shopping and bought me a lovely second-hand midsize upright. I don’t recall the brand, but it was glossy medium brown and I got a lot of use out if it before trading it for a black baby grand when I was 22.

Another random memory: When I got married at age 24, my dad refused to go to my wedding. He said it was because my mom was there. He did give me lots of gifts, though: practical kitchen items I needed, like Pyrex baking pans and pots, Corelle dishes, etc, plus he gave me a cheque for $2000, telling me to put it in a private account for myself, “in case worst comes to worst”, as he put it. Little did I know that a dozen years later, it would be all I had on which to live when I first left the guy I’d married, who was abusive and controlling, until I got on my feet.

In my teen years, my dad was very protective of me from boys. He used to always warn me not to get involved with them, saying they were trouble, yet his methods were troubling: When I was 14, a boyfriend and his buddies were waiting in their vehicles outside my yard while I went into the house to get something. My dad saw the vehicles, instantly became irate, grabbed a loaded rifle, and chased me with it. He fired a few shots as I ran. The police were called. He told them he was shooting at cats in the yard. (My dad always loved animals so that was a crazy lie.) My dad was arrested, his guns were taken away, and I had to stay at other peoples’ homes for a few days. For decades after that, I had nightmares of my dad chasing me with intent to kill me. This past year, I got EMDR therapy to deal with that, among other issues.

The year prior, when I was 13, another frightful occurrence, for which I also recently got therapy, was a time when I had gone to the junior high school’s gym to watch my sister and her friends in their gymnastics club. I came home alone early for some reason. My mom wasn’t home, but my dad was there, drinking.  He launched into accusing me of having been out smoking pot with boys. I had never smoked pot in my life at that point and told him so. He didn’t believe me, and he tried to hit me. I dodged and tried to run, but he was quick and caught me. He easily wrestled me to the ground and started strangling me with his hands. Somehow I managed to break free and ran down the road in my socks. I ran through the path by the tennis courts to the next street and down one more street before daring to slow down and look back.

To my surprise, my dad was nowhere in sight.

I was in front of a house with a “Block Parent” sign in the window. I rang the bell and stood there, out of breath, hoping someone would answer and quickly. A man and woman came to the door, saw my tear-streaked face, messy hair, and dirty socks. They warmly invited me in, where I sat on their couch and told the story of why I was running. They called the police. I was sent away from home for a few days, to stay with my mom’s friend, Beryl Speller.  I can’t remember the order of events after that, but I have vague memories of social workers coming to our home, and of my whole family going to meet with a counselor at RADAT (Richmond Alcohol and Drug Abuse Team).

I didn’t realize alcohol was a problem. It was so much a part of my dad’s life, albeit a part that often made me sad.

One time, when I was about 6 or 7, one of my friends, a daughter of my dad’s drinking buddy, pulled me aside, saying she had to talk to me about something very serious.  Her serious talk was to the effect of, “We saw your dad pouring whiskey into your 7-Up.”

I was confused as to why we were having such a sombre discussion, as it was nothing out of the ordinary for my dad to put a little whiskey in my 7-Up or Canada Dry ginger ale. It wasn’t enough to alter my consciousness in any way. It just changed the taste of the 7-Up, kind of like a shot of vanilla extract in a cup of hot chocolate would do. Now that I am older, of course I know it is unwise for a parent to put whiskey in the beverage of a child, but when I was a child, I just went with what my dad exemplified to be normal.

After we moved to Tsawwassen, when I was nine, we were closer to my dad’s drinking buddy’s place, a couple blocks away. Many times, as we were leaving their place, my dad was so drunk, I would hover near him on the stairs to make sure he didn’t fall on the way to the car. He’d be getting into the passenger seat of my mom’s old Nova, trying to close the door, while I stuck my hand through the side of the seat to prevent it as he was about to slam it on his foot. One time he got so drunk, he didn’t make it out the door, but he fell and broke a hole in that family’s kitchen wall with his head. They called a doctor friend to come see my dad.

The doctor asked my dad, “What’s your name?”

My dad slurred in response, “What’s your name?”

The kids of the family, who were my friends, laughed. I, however, stood there feeling very concerned, knowing my dad was more drunk than usual, and injured to boot.

The doctor continued his questioning, even saying, “Hey, Johnny, what’s your name?”

My dad got all goofy and just repeated the question back to the doctor, “Hey, Johnny, what’s your name?”

It was upsetting me that my friends continued to laugh at “Uncle John”.

Another time, my dad fell at home and hit his head. I heard the crash and ran to him, and his face was already covered in blood. I was so scared, trying to help him stand back up. I called a doctor, and we soon found that it wasn’t a very deep cut. The doctor explained that head wounds can bleed a lot and make them appear worse than they really are.

Other times, my dad fell down the 12 stairs to the basement, scaring the crap out of me. I’d run down and help him back up, and we’d both nearly fall back down the stairs together.

Oh, the bad memories. I want to have some good memories of my dad. I know they exist, and I hope to share some of them at some point, but right now, the bad ones are hitting harder.

Did my dad love me? I really don’t know. Not that I can do anything about it either way, but the fact that my son asked such a question has me thinking, “I don’t want there to ever be a doubt for my own children that I love them.”

Maybe something I have written here has sparked some memories for you. Since I wrote my last note yesterday about my dad, I’ve received many private messages from friends, sharing their own thoughts and stories, some about my dad, some about their own lives, some cheerful, and some sad. I very much appreciate the communication and invite you to keep it coming.