Jonathon's Closet

Monday, July 31, 2006

I heard it's good for the soul ...

Confession, that is. Good for the soul, right? So today I confess all my addictions.

My Television Addictions

FoodTV: I used to love to cook, which was good because my husband had a habit of calling me as he left the office for the day to tell me he was bringing dinner guests. I love Rachael Ray, Paula Deen, and Alton Brown.

The Learning Channel: Stacy and Clinton are just too funny on What Not to Wear, I like the ideas I see on Trading Spaces, and several other shows have merit too.

HGTV: I like Decorating Cents, Mission Organization, and occasionally Curb Appeal. Some of the other ones too, especially late at night when I can’t sleep!

Gilmore Girls and 7th Heaven. What can I say; I’m a sucker for a feel-good show every now and then.

Dog the Bounty Hunter. I don't know why.

My Food Addictions

Dark Chocolate. Without it, life is simply not worth living.

Ice. Ok, it’s not really a food, but the way my son describes it “Mom, you eat ice the way other people eat popcorn”. He’s right.

Coke. Most people have a coffee in the morning, I have a Coke. Hey, you get your caffeine your way and I’ll get my caffeine my way.

Potato Chips and Frosted Flakes. No, not at the same time! And I’m trying not to eat these things. Well, I’m trying not to eat them often.

Let’s see … do I have any other addictions?

My son says I’m addicted to my computer.

I am definitely addicted to my scrapbooking.

I have always been addicted to all that outdoorsy-type stuff.

Taking photos – I never go anywhere without a camera.

Ok, I think that’s it. Those are my addictions. And right now I’m sitting here at my computer typing while listening to Stacey and Clinton on What Not to Wear, sipping on Coke, crunching a potato chip and wishing I had some dark chocolate. Now I ask you – can I multi-task or what?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Do You Know How Much Easier?

“Do you know how much easier” he said, “it would have been to get that photo on the blog if Dad were still here?”

“Yes, Jona” I replied, “It would have been much easier” (My husband was a computer-geek-by-trade, and I had difficulty converting the tif. file to a jpeg)

“Do you know how much easier” he continued “everything would be if Dad were still here?”

“Yes, Jona” I replied again, “It would be much easier”

He then launched into a discussion of what would be easier, including why and how. We discussed this together for a while, and then I thought we had moved on. Jonathon, however, thought different. He thought it was time for a recap of all of the things that would be better if Dad were still here. These are just a few of his major points:

“Dad made more money than you do, Mom – a LOT more.”
(answering only in my head now. Yes, Jona)
“Life would be easier – getting nice clothes, groceries, school supplies”
(Yes, Jona)
"We didn't used to go to thrift stores, did we Mom?"
(No, Jona)
“We used to go on vacations and everything”
(Yes, Jona – gee, I hope he’s planning on stopping sometime soon)
“And we had a bigger house. Way bigger”
(Yes, Jona)
“And there would be money for soccer camp and EVERYTHING”
(Yes, Jona)
“And you could have nice things too”
(Yes, Jona – nope, he’s not planning on stopping anytime soon)
“Dad was better at fixing things too, Mom”
(Yes, Jona – I might just scream any minute now)
“A lot of things around here would be fixed if you had died and he were here”
(Yes, Jona)

This continued on for a while, and then the inevitable happened. I lost it! Exasperated, I finally looked at him and said:

“Do you know what else would have happened if I had died and he were the one left here with you?”

“No, Mom, what” Jona asked wide-eyed.

“Oh, Mom” Jona sighed.

Conversation ended.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Ahhh...a success (at last)

Ok, so it's not a success in what we were trying to do - we spent several hours in the last few days trying to upload a photo to our blog. Frustrating! It's just not working the way it's supposed to!
So we decided we needed a break and went off in search of school supplies, and we did great!

Folders with pockets and prongs for 5 cents/ea
mini notebooks for 5 cents/ea
8 pack of regular wooden pencils for 8 cents/ea
24-pack RoseArt crayons for 8 cents/ea
wooden rulers for 8 cents/ea
Elmers glue for 8 cents/ea
ruled index cards for 10 cents/100-pack
big pink erasers for 10 cents/2-pack
15 ct. cap-erasers for 10 cents/pack
large sheets of poster board for 10 cents/ea
10 packs of Bic Flex-grip pens for 10 cents/pack
5 packs of mechanical pencils for 10 cents/pack
spiral bound notebooks for 10 cents/ea
glue stics for 15 cents/2-pack
12 packs of colored pencils for 20 cents/pack
college ruled notebook paper for 22 cents/pack
10 ct. Crayola markers for 49 cents/pack
1" vinyl binders for 49 cents/ea
the Meijer store & Tony's frozen pizza deal:
large frozen Tony's pizza for $2.50 ea, buy 4 pizzas and get $5 worth of free school supplies!
Here's what we got for free:
2 12-packs of locker magnets
1 protractor
a student planner
1 3-pack of refill leads for the mechanical pencils
(and 4 large frozen pizzas mean I don't have to cook dinner for 4 nights! YIPPEE!!!)

Yeah, I'm a bargain-hunter! And we got plenty of the above mentioned items to get Jona thru the school year, and also a bag to share - we're taking it to the local food bank's school supplies drive! Hey, at those prices we can afford to share!

So, we'll still have to revisit the issue of trying to get a photo to upload - but in the meantime, at least I feel like I've accomplished something!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Search for Manhood

Uh-oh. So THAT’s what’s on his mind. Hmmm. Yikes! Well, it’s not like I haven’t given this a LOT of thought. Believe me; this same thought has occurred to me. I’ve had a lot of time to try to figure out how I can help Jonathon figure out what it means to be a man. I don’t think I’ve figured it out completely, but here’s what I’ve come up over the past few years:

1. Develop a good relationship.
Try not to make him feel judged for his beliefs and interests. Create an open atmosphere that stimulates conversations. Help him to begin to trust in you and in himself. (For the record, this was a lot easier before he turned into a teen – now he’d rather talk to his friends than his Mom, so this one is taking a little extra effort again)

2. Challenge the myth of the tough guy.
I want my son to know that manhood is not defined by street culture, but rather by a set of values. A man needs to understand himself and others, to care for his family, his community, and his world. Jonathon is exposed to other kinds of male role models and values: athletic coaches, teachers, Scout leaders.

3. Show boys it's OK to feel your feelings.
Jonathon seems to be working hard to turn off his emotions lately. It seems like this is part of the process of transforming into the kind of hypothetical male he thinks he needs to be. I want Jonathon to learn that by developing his emotional life he will be able to be a better man, to be well-rounded, more mature, and better able to have good relationships, raise a family and keep a job.

4. Provide examples of what it means to be a real man.
I admit it, I’ve done a little research in this area (OK, more than a little) and the predominant thought among experts is this: If boys see through examples that their fathers care about and are actively engaged with their families, and live by their own standards of masculinity, they will begin to see that men are not defined by society's rules, but by the kinds of people we are inside. That’s all well and good, but not something that my situation allows for. So I look for other examples (like the husband of a friend who helped Jonathon with a woodworking project, or the 24 year old family friend who occasionally calls Jonathon for a game of chess and some guy talk).

5. Talk about what it means to be a real man.
When the appropriate situation presents itself, we have an impromptu discussion about the kind of man Jonathon’s Dad was, or Grandpa was. Every once in a while, usually when something just isn’t feeling right, Jonathon will approach me and say “what would Dad have done?” and we talk about what decision Dad would have likely made and why.

6. Communicate clear expectations of MY opinion of what a good man is.
Yep, this one is my ego trip. I get to dictate the rules. I get to tell my son what a woman perceives to be a good man. Things like “hold the door” and “help carry packages” and “show respect for yourself and others thru your words and actions”. I get to slam the door on demeaning music or phrases (No, you may not call the girls in your class “really slammin’ hot chicks”)

I have a great kid. Yeah, he drives me nuts sometimes; he’s a teenager, that’s his job. But he’s a great kid. I have a son who seems to have found a balance between the highly physical and highly competitive (track, swimming, taekwondo, soccer) and the very peaceful and quiet (science, reading, math). He is average in his performance on the track, and excels at his other 3 chosen sports. He thrives in school, and is in the top 1 percent of the IQ scale.

I understand that boys want to grow up to be like their fathers. The human brain is wired for imitation. Boys imitate and emulate their fathers. Every boy loves his father and wants to be able to do what he does, both to honor him, to earn his praise, and to compete with him. Men are extremely important in giving boys messages about being a man. Boys want to grow up to be like their male role models.

Boys who grow up in homes without fathers must search the hardest to figure out what it means to be male.

Monday, July 24, 2006

It's my turn today

I claim the blog today. I can't quite figure out why. I guess because I've been thinking alot in the last few days about becoming a good man. You know, learning how to make all the right choices and how hard it can be to do what's right. And how to know all those things a man is supposed to know.

The most influential person in my life is my mom. My mom is kind to evverybody. She loves me. She believes in forgiving people's mistakes. When I have a rough day, my mom understands. When I do something wrong, she's fair and listens to my side. If I need someone to talk to, she is there. My mom doesn't lie or cheat, she follows the law, and she cares about people (even people she's never met).

So you're thinking I've got it pretty good, right? And I guess I do ... except ... how can a MOM
help me figure out how to be a good man? I mean, the "guy stuff", not the general "people stuff".


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Ways You Can Help

I received an e-mail in response to "My Life as a Recluse" asking for practical suggestions of what to do when an acquaintence dies. So today, I give you this mini to-do list of practical suggestions on how to help a grieving family.

Section 1- during the month or so immediately following the death

1. If you are grocery shopping, please pick up an extra gallon of milk or some fresh fruit and drop it off with a friendly word or note. It is unlikely that the survivors have had the time or the presence of mind to go grocery shopping. If you live out of town, check their area for a grocery store that delivers.
2. If you are at the post office, please pick up an extra book of stamps. Writing thank you notes is hard work. Realizing you're out of stamps halfway thru this project is worse. You can even enclose a book of stamps when you send the family a card or letter!
3. If you are cooking, make a double batch of whatever it is. It is unlikely that the survivors have the energy to cook right now, and the hot meal you deliver will probably be the only one they get this week.
4. If you are taking your children to the movies, please pick up the survivors children and take them along. Believe me, these children could use a couple of hours escape.
5. If you don't want to see the survivors because you don't know what to do or say, please send a note or a card. You don't want them to think they are forgotten, DO YOU?

Section 2 - in the year following the death (Yes, you have returned to your normal life. The survivors have completely and permanently lost "normal".)

1. Make a note on your calendar to call the survivors once a month and offer a coffee/lunch/dinner/whatever invitation. "I'm going to the flower show tomorrow, would you like to come along?" is more appreciated than you can ever imagine.
2. Don't always expect your invitation to be accepted. The survivors are being buried by the weight of a giant grief monster. They sometimes cannot join you. Do not take offense.
3. Please offer to include the survivors children in your carpools. It is often impossible for the survivor to drive the children everywhere they need to go.
4. Look and see ... and do. If the grass is getting long, mow it. If the child is outside trying unsuccessfully to learn to ride a 2-wheeler, take a few moments to help. If you notice the flowers on the porch need water, water them. If you notice that there are no flowers on the porch this year, bring a few extras from your garden.
5. Please ask "how are you doing?", and "how are the children doing" But only if you really want to listen. And talk. And share. If not, it's ok - just don't ask.

So, there's my mini-guide of what to do ... here's a few "what not to do" reminders

1. At the funeral, DO NOT approach the widow with the words "it'll be ok, you're young, you'll remarry"
2. At the wake, DO NOT endlessly and loudly discuss business as if this social situation were set up strictly as a networking opportunity for you.
3. 3 weeks after the death, DO NOT casually say "So, are you going to sell your husband's motorcycle?" This is NOT a conversation opener.
4. When the plumber visits (because the dishwasher decided that 9 days is long enough time to grieve and it's time to get back to a "normal" (ha!) life so it completely explodes all over the kitchen making a huge mess, do not trot your busybody little self across the yard to visit the widow 5 minutes after the plumber leaves to say "So, I see you had a MAN visiting today".
5. Please, Please, PLEASE - do not offer to do something and then not do it. Please DO NOT offer to take the little boy fishing and then not show up. PLEASE.

(Do ya get the feeling like you've just been peeking in my diary?)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Top Ten Wishes

Yep, we're in Fantasyland today!

10. Have the money to pay off all our debts and a little left over for some much-needed home improvements.

9. Relax in a new Jacuzzi on a new beautiful deck in our wonderfully landscaped yard.

(You DID see that we're in Fantasyland, didn't you?)

8. Have the house cleaned top to bottom - by someone else!

7. Spend a week hiking in the mountains followed by a week relaxing on the beach. (even though my Mom is protesting, I have to add - followed by a week at Disney World and Universal Studios! -J)

6. Go on a major shopping spree and update our beat-up outdated excuses-for-wardrobes!

(…wishing the fantasy would come true …)

5. Buy new bikes so we can stop spending my time trying to fix our bikes and actually go riding!

4. A drum set!!! (and ear plugs for Mom - boy, am I getting old! -K)

3. Order take-out once a week for the rest of the year!

2. For summer to last just a few weeks longer.

(and our number one wish today)

1 For the price of gas to drop dramatically - like below $2/gallon!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Overdue Introductions

Jona realized that we hadn't introduced ourselves - so here goes!

25 Things About Me … by Kate

1. My name is Kathy Sue
2. My parents let my sister Sue give me my middle name.
3. She was 4 at the time.
4. My sister was ill when we were children.
5. My grandma took care of me.
6. She died in 1995.
7. I miss her very much.
8. I married my husband 8 months after we met.
9. He was a wonderful man.
10. He died of a massive heart attack at age 42.
11. I was just 32.
12. I got old real quick.
13. Our son looks nothing like his Dad in a photograph.
14. But he has his mannerisms, his walk, and his sense of humor.
15. Our daughter was born and died the morning of her Dad’s funeral.
16. I love all kinds of music.
17. I love to read.
18. I love to make lists.
19. I take tons of photographs.
20. I have a few close friends.
21. I am thankful for each of them.
22. I am an expert at penny-pinching.
23. I have to be.
24. This is not the life I signed up for.
But …
25. We’re working to make it better every day!

25 Things About Me … by Jona

1. My name is Jonathon Daniel.
2. I live with my Mom.
3. My dad died when I was 5.
4. I’m 13 now.
5. I still miss him every single day.
6. I like to play soccer.
7. I am on a great swim team.
8. I play drums in the school band.
9. I am a Boy Scout.
10. I love to read.
11. I always have a book with me.
12. I get in trouble for reading after lights out.
13. I have red hair and freckles.
14. I used to hate the freckles.
15. Girls like my freckles.
16. My mom is cool.
17. We do stuff together.
18. I love to visit lighthouses.
19. I’m going to be a cardiologist.
20. I really like school, especially math and science.
21. I want to go to U of M.
22. I really need to clean my room.
23. But I really don’t want to.
24. I am on the Science Olympiad team.
25. I collect postcards and pressed pennies.

Monday, July 17, 2006

My Life as a Recluse

A few days back, Dana at the Club Mom blogs commented on the difficulty of making friends.

I can totally relate. It’s so difficult to make friends. We were in the middle of relocating when my husband died, and I knew NO ONE in this new town. I was overwhelmed by grief, busy finding a job and a house, and trying to care for my then-5-year-old son.

Well, I worked 55 hours a week, bought a home, and continued caring for my son. I became engrossed in HGTV and do-it-yourself books as I learned how to repair my fixer-upper and I continued to raise my son. And I would fall into bed at the end of every day, thankful for the exhaustion that would allow me to sleep instead of think.

Now more than 7 years later, I am still very much alone in the crowd.

Oh, I made efforts to connect with others. In fact, I made many efforts. I was Den Mother for my son’s Cub Scout Den, worked as day camp staff for 3 years for the local Boy Scout council, I was a soccer coach for 2 years, I attended church, I made an effort to talk with other parents at school events, I volunteered to chaperone school field trips, I sat for countless hours at the taekwondo studio attempting to chat with the other mothers.

But let’s face it – the word “widow” (and even the situation itself) makes people uncomfortable, no matter how gently you try to phrase it. “So how long have you been divorced?” “I’m not divorced, unfortunately Jona’s Dad died a few years ago”. Silence. Conversation ended. “Jona’s Dad must work a lot, he hasn’t been at one game this whole season!” “My husband died a few years back, it’s just the two of us now”. Silence. Conversation over. “Is your husband here tonight, I’d love to meet him.” “No, I’m afraid not – I’m a widow”. Nothing – absolutely nothing. Conversation – full stop. The current conversation and apparently all future conversations were over. It was like I had the plague.

So here I am, disconnected from others. I have stopped going to church (I got tired of sitting alone and having no one speak), I do not volunteer with my son’s Scout group (especially since one of the mothers expressed how very uncomfortable with my being the only female on several outings – Hey, honey – look at what you’ve got – he ain’t no catch and I ain’t fishin’!), I no longer chaperone school field trips (again, why bother when no one speaks – no matter how hard I try to strike up a conversation), I do not coach soccer (hell, I rarely attend my son’s swim meets because it is so agonizing to sit alone all of the time), I drop my son off at the taekwondo studio (and use that time to run errands) and I’ve been known to skip the occasional band concert. Yep, I’ve slowly become a recluse.

And when this recluse tries to connect with people, I find I have very little patience for the following:
1) Women who say “I know just how you feel, I’m a single parent too, little Joey is with me this week and I have to deal with him all by myself”. No, ONLY parenting is not the same as SINGLE parenting.

2) Women who say “You don’t know how lucky you’ve got it, I have to deal with Tom’s dirty laundry all over our bedroom floor and his tools all over the garage”. You’d rather have him DEAD? I don’t think so.

I long for the loneliness to subside, for friendship, for someone to talk to and share with. So here I am, a recluse who’s trying to reform! I joined the summer reading club at the library. I'm again making the effort to smile and wave at neighbors. Maybe someday, one of them will wave back.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Best of all Gifts

I was reading Moreena’s Blog over at ClubMom
and again find myself praying that a donor is located soon.

As I read her post, I smiled at the Gift of Life Logo which appears on her page and thought of my husband and my son. My husband was an organ donor, and my son has been a proud champion for the cause for a few years now.
Jona’s first project was at age 8, when he organized 3 other little boys in his Cub Scout group to join him handing out literature and signing people up to become donors at the sidewalk sales at our local mall. They worked with the local Gift of Life chapter and set up a very nice booth. They had rehearsed nice polite lines to get folks to listen, but really – most people don’t want to think about their own demise while out shopping for a new whatever. Jona found the hook to get people to stop and listen. He would walk up to each passerby, literature outstretched, and say “My Dad was an organ donor”. Eyes popped wide open. Mouths dropped practically to the floor. And suddenly people were stopping to listen to the small red-haired child. And signing up.
Jona was 10 when he did his second project. He decided to get to the parents through the children. He got permission to distribute pencils, rubber bracelets, coloring books, (and of course the sign-up forms!) promoting the Gift of Life at kindergarten round-up night. He wore a Gift of Life t-shirt with iron-on letters that proclaimed, “My Dad was an organ donor” boldly across the front. Oh, yeah, he got their attention!
When he joined a new Scout troop at 12, he quickly grew tired of explaining over and over again where his Dad was. He arranged to give a presentation at a meeting, and a notice was sent out asking all parents to attend with their sons. With well over 100 people in the room, Jona began with his now-standard line “My Dad was an organ donor” and went on to give quite a speech, the first half of which was all about Dad. Yep, made his mother cry. The second half stressed the need to become donors and a bunch of folks signed up that night. He was so proud!
Last year a teacher assigned the children to write to the local paper about an issue they believe in. Jona wrote to our local paper about – what else? – organ donation. He reworked his speech into a letter to the editor and was the only one from his class to have his letter published. Yeah, you guessed it – it began with the words “My Dad was an organ donor." (I framed it and hung it on the wall – he told me it was “such a Mom thing to do”).

So today I honor my husband and my son with this blog – and ask anyone reading to consider becoming a donor. If you need a reason why, well, please visit Moorena’s blog and look at her beautiful little girl.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

On my father's death

This is my entry into the Wednesday writing contest at the "Finding Joy in the Morning" blog:

This is my contest entry in 2 parts, an introduction and the poem which follows the "I am" format. 2 parts because the intro is a necessary part of who I am.

age 13

intro to my poem:

I remember clearly how she looked
Empty, terrified, broken.
I crumble
I fall

No one knows how I feel inside
As we try to rebuild our lives
I tumble
I crawl

No one tries to understand
They pretend my pain doesn’t exist
I crumple
The gall

I long to return to the safety of her lap
But I am bigger than her now
I fumble
I bawl

Life is harder than you can imagine
I don’t know how to be a man
I grumble
I brawl

Working hard to do what’s right
She says he would be proud of me
Be humble
Stand tall

Today surrounded by a world
Filled with fathers and sons
I stumble
I’m small

my poem:

Yes I am from pain, from despair, from loss.
I am from the knowledge that safety and security can be gone in an instant.
I am from the earth itself, from the God who created our planet, and the wonder and joy of it all. I am from love and understanding, from my mother Kate and and my father Don,
from the love they shared before fate ripped him away from us,
and those who generations before them arrived penniless at Ellis Island.
I am from compassion and giving, from The Boy Scout Law and The Golden Rule.
I am from a confusing God who feeds my soul then strips me of all that I am, leaving me cold, naked, and starving.
I am from summers spent hiking the Appalachian Trail
and winters spent in the glittering lights of the Plaza in Kansas City.
I'm from Cornwall, England and the Black Forest region of Germany,
from Pasties crafted into the perfect pocket meal and Lebkuchen, the perfect taste of Christmas. I am from my Aunt, who didn't come to my Dad's funeral because she "hates dead people",
from my Grandma with her heart of ice and her non-existent soul and from my now-gone Grandpa and his big booming voice and police badge and heart of marshmallow fluff.
I am from scrapbooks filled with photographs, Bibles filled with pressed flowers, and boxes filled with pocket watches and memories of a life now ended. I am from the golden voice of my father and the musical talents of my mother, from a love of nature that runs so deep it's indescribable, and from a love of life that can only be born from the knowledge that at any moment it can all be ripped away. I am from good and bad, love and despair, anger and understanding - I am a child of God and a child of fate. I am still just a child.