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By Randee Bergen
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
“Oh my God, are you filing your nails?”
The stylish guy behind the counter at BC Surf & Sport looked up from his casual slouch. “First I bit them, now I’m smoothing them down.”
Not missing a beat, my teenage daughter continued. “So, is that, like, your personal nail file or do you all share it?” Two other young male employees, looking just as hip as the first, had sauntered over to join the conversation with this outgoing, plenty-hip-herself potential customer.
“Oh, no, it’s the shop file. We have to fight over who gets to use it.” All three of the guys chuckled.
“I hear ya,” said my daughter. “The struggle is real.”
The struggle is real? What an odd thing to say. Perhaps it was a trendy phrase among the young and cool, something I hadn’t yet heard my daughters use around the house.
The thing is, the struggle is real.
My teenager has had a rough couple of weeks. She’s a senior and will graduate in May. That is, if she can muster the will to get out of bed in the morning; if she can trick herself into believing that it’s worth it to go to class, to finish her assignments, complete the required service learning hours and supplementary reflection paper, to graduate because she has a future that’s worth living; if she can dispel the anxiety that obliterates her days when she’s forced to think about what’s coming next–a summer job, leaving for college, a lifetime of expectations to be capable, competent, optimistic, and excited about life.
For her, the struggle is real.
I try to understand. I try to hide my dismay and disappointment when I find her hunkered down in bed when she should have been up an hour ago for school, when I get yet another automated call from the school reporting her random absences, when she says she’ll take care of timely business later because she just can’t deal with things right now. I try to suppress my natural parenting instinct of taking away privileges or at least letting natural consequences play out – as would be effective with most teenagers – for some of the things she does and doesn’t do.
But what good is it to take away her car, her means of getting to school? Sure, she could ride the bus, and that would be the perfect consequence for most teens who have trouble getting to school on time when driving themselves, but for her, having to ride the bus, as a senior, would be another good reason to stay in bed. And the joy of driving, of being independent, is probably the main thing that’s getting her to leave the house these days. Grounding doesn’t make sense when what I really want to see happening is her going out more and interacting with the world and spending time with friends. And should I cut back on her already minimal weekly spending money when doing so might result in her being more anxious, less hopeful?
The struggle is real.
Luckily, my daughter makes fairly good choices within the confines of her disorder. Her depression has not resulted in any run-ins with the law. She is not failing her classes. Like she says, she’s got healthy ways of coping, her music, drawing, art. She always finds the time and plenty of humor and love for her sister. She is open about her depression and willing to explain what she’s going through for those of us who don’t get it, who can’t possibly imagine not embracing each new day and what the future has to offer. These past few weeks, as she’s mourned her childhood and confronts her future, she’s felt more anxious and out of control than ever.
I’m always fighting myself.
I don’t feel like I’m on my own team.
I have my coping mechanisms in place – playing guitar, drawing, writing, walking – and I have plenty of time to do those things now, but what about when I go to college? I’ll be so much busier. How will I find the time to calm myself down? I’m already freaking out about it.
I know I miss some classes, but you have to understand that, for me, going to most of them is a huge accomplishment being that I can barely get out of bed.
Every time I’m happy, I feel like I’m just faking it. I know who I really am, that the bad feelings are going to come back.
I feel like you deserve a better daughter. You should have a smart daughter, someone who gets really good grades.
I’m so afraid this is hereditary and I’m going to give it to my kids. I don’t want them to suffer. I’m keeping a journal so that when they become teens I can look back on my writing and hopefully remember and be able to help them get through it.
I listen. I see her tears. I feel the bubble wrap in which she’s encased herself, that protective layer that keeps her safe, but simultaneously keeps me from her. I’ve helped her get a diagnosis, medication, counseling. And yet I cannot give her what it is I truly want to – optimism.
She’s going to have to discover that on her own. And find a way to let optimism rule.
And I cannot give myself the one thing that would help me to understand her better, that would allow me to more thoroughly accept and support her. I cannot give myself depression. And for this, I sometimes feel guilty.
The struggle is real.
For both of us, and for so many more out there, it’s real.
By Robin Dearing
Monday, April 21, 2014
As I was lugging my school bag through the door after class on Thursday, Margaret was reading on the couch surrounded by the detrius of her after-school snack. She dryly stated that we needed to go the Art Center.
I was taken aback. Mar likes art well enough, but she's never asked to just go to the Art Center before. I asked what was at the Art Center and she broke out in a huge grin and said, "One of my paintings."
Her middle school's art teacher submitted one of her paintings to the Annual Altrusa Art Fair. I had the same reaction to pretty much every one of my daughter's accomplishments, I wanted to just weep with joy.
Friday after school, we took her and two of her friends to see the exhibition of middle- and high-school art work. Can I just say: What a bunch of good art! I was truly impressed. The art faculty in the Grand Valley are really doing a great job of getting the students engaged and creating significant works of art. It made this art historian mama very happy.
My favorite, of course, was Margaret's painting:
She was disappointed that it was mislabeled "Flying Cow" while she insisted that the real title was "Demon Cow." Of course, my kid would paint a demon cow. It all goes perfectly with the misfit persona she has created for herself.
Beyond the title, she did such a good job of representing the cow rising up through the air and twisting back toward the viewer. The wings are rendered nicely in relation to the position of the cow's body. Plus, the colors are so bright and in your face. Great stuff right there.
Because her goal is to never be normal, getting her to stand with a somewhat neutral look on her face was quite a chore. Take a look (she gets that from her dad):
At least no one can say she's boring.
Even though middle school has been a struggle for Mar (and me and probably most people who were forced to go to middle school or junior high or whatever it was called), she's having an amazing year. I hope when she looks back on this time that she remembers her many, wonderful successes which she earned through her own hard work.
By Randee Bergen
Thursday, April 17, 2014
You've got to watch this video:
Dad Films His Daughter Every Single Week for 14 Years
In this video I saw my daughter, my other daughter, and every young girl I've taught over the past 20-some years. The faces, the expressions, her countenance - it's universal.
I was so moved it brought me to years and I had to write this:
Her Countenance Alone
It doesn’t matter who she is
Nor father that created this beautiful piece of art
What she’s saying
In all those seconds
Over all that time
What I study instead
Is her countenance alone
Living, expressing, growing, changing
As the baby girl
Expressing without words
No words to express
How she is every girl
Every baby grown up
All the same
She is my daughter
My first daughter
She is every girl
I’ve taught over the years
At some point talking
Without me hearing
Her countenance alone
Entitling me to see, just see
Of every girl
All the same.
By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Monday, April 14, 2014
We've rediscovered the library recently. We used to go all the time, but then the boys kind of outgrew the puppet shows, they weren't ready to read on their own, it closed for months and months, and our patronage gradually lapsed.
But, now all those things are all cured up and the Ashcraft family, all of five of us, have stepped back within the shelves. It's a land of new discovery for Soren and Jonas who can now read well and read voraciously. It makes me so happy.
I let them choose whatever they want. Books about LEGOS, Minecraft, choose-your-own adventure, and fun-facts are their very favorite. I don't even limit them to choose from the kids section. Last weekend Jonas brought home a book about the Colorado gold rush from the historical section because he liked the pictures. Fine by me.
Books their friends are reading are popular choices which include "Captain Underpants" by Dav Pilkey. Jonas just finished reading "Attack of the Talking Toilets." Just the title alone enthralled my kindergartener. Talking toilets — the wha?
This series is one of the most reviled by parents these days I guess according to an article today in the Associated Press. Parents complain about the potty humor and other offensive antics of the two main characters that write their own comic book and get into general mischief at home and school.
Okay, I get that. But consider this — your kid chose a book called "Captain Underpants — Attack of the Talking Toilets." What did you think it was going to be about? I read a few chapters out loud with Jonas. The potty-talk isn't too bad and it makes him laugh. He's a boy. I know he's smart enough to know that what is read in a book isn't necessarily appropriate in real life. That's the joy in reading ... letting the 'what-if' and imagination run wild. Books wouldn't be nearly as interesting if they were all about good kids planting flowers and doing good deeds. Aww, isn't it sweet — but boring. Toilets attacking people — well, it's funny when you're six.
The thing that bothered me about the book wasn't even mentioned by the complaining parents in the article. My complaint is there are lots of mispelled words in the comic book sections. I get that the premise is that it's being written by kids, but misspelled words are a much greater concern to me than somebody saying poopy. How about that Dav Pilkey? Can you at least make them good spellers? That'd be great. Thanks.
By Robin Dearing
Monday, April 14, 2014
Me to my husband, Bill: I don't expect you stay home with me when I'm sick ... but I sure do appreciate it.
Bill: There's no one I'd rather spend my time with.
I hope one day to deserve his genuine devotion.
In the meantime, I hope he knows how much his time and company mean to me.
By Randee Bergen
Monday, April 14, 2014
Of course, a 5k can't be a perfect three miles; that’d make too much sense. A 5k is 3.1 miles long. But it’s that final .1 that’s so much fun. That final .1 when the finish line is in sight.
This weekend I labored through the last stages of my 5k. I’ve been steadily planning the Lincoln OM ROARing to Run 5k—a joint effort between Lincoln Orchard Mesa Elementary School and the Mesa Monument Striders running club—for the past four months. The event is happening next weekend, April 19, and I’ve only got a few days now to get all of the remaining details in place.
Just a short distance until I reach that final .1 of this run I’ve been running.
I want to say first of all that though this project has been like an extra half-time job for me, I have had a great time with it. The learning curve has been challenging and I’ve enjoyed thinking about how to make this race the best it can be.
Here are the highlights:
• a flat straightforward course starting and ending at the school
• low registration fees – just $5 for kids
• 30+ volunteers, with many of them on the course to help cheer on the runners and keep children safe
• post-race snacks
• raffle tickets for a kid’s mountain bike
• lots and lots of door prizes
• popcorn for sale
• the school’s bathrooms and drinking fountains handy
• music rocking the race scene
• covered areas in case of inclement weather
• finisher awards for all kids
• age group prizes
• the National Anthem
I’ve completed most of this race, meaning that I’ve put forth most of the mental and physical energy necessary for this race to happen. I’ve learned how to time races, ran several possible routes, secured insurance, checked into permits, created a website, designed a race t-shirt, set registration fees and age groups, selected awards, accepted and stockpiled donated door prizes, planned race day snacks and registration goodie bags, created and distributed flyers, organized a running club at the school to get the students fired up about and trained for the race, lined up volunteers, held committee meetings, and rounded up sponsors.
Thank you to the race committee that helped all of the above come to fruition.
This weekend I spent nearly 12 hours in my classroom (which doubles as my 5k planning and storage area) making signs, preparing the results boards, stuffing race bags, and sending emails to all the volunteers with their assignments and instructions.
I think I’ve got enough accomplished and feel ready enough to go with this event to say that the first three miles are done.
And now I’ve got just that final .1 to go. The super fun part, when I know that all of my hard work is going to pay off. The finish line is in site, right before my eyes. I’ll be crossing it next Saturday as the event starts, happens, and concludes.
I’m excited. I truly believe it’s going to be a fun time for all – runners and volunteers alike. And what an awesome way to build school-community relations and pride.
A shout-out to all the businesses that are supporting this race in various ways: Bicycle Outfitters, Mesa Monument Striders, Fiesta Guadalajara, Reddy Ice, Domino’s Pizza, Fairground Liquor and Wine, Meadowgold Dairy, Chipotle, Octopus Coffee, Supercuts, Smiles in There Photography, Randy’s Diner, A&R Enterprise, and Silo Adventure Center.
Looking for something to do next Saturday? Something healthy and fun and that supports a local school? Look no further than the ROARing to Run 5k!
By Robin Dearing
Thursday, April 10, 2014
By Robin Dearing
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
I freely admit that I take satisfaction in some pretty strange things. I love showing people when I've run a ball-point pen out of ink or used a pencil down to an unsharpenable nub.
No one cares about these things, but it feels like an accomplishment to me. So when I tackle a real job and get it done, I can hardly contain myself.
I had that feeling several times recently. Thursday and Friday, I worked in our much-neglected front yard. To make Bill happy, I cut back everything to tiny stumps. I'm loath to admit it, but he was right. The yard looks much better. The Russian sage, pampas grass, lavender all are neatly trimmed and free of as many of those evil elm seedlings as I could find. I tried to dig up as many of the volunteer hollyhocks as I could get and now that bed looks a bit bare. Luckily, the planting season is upon us. I can't wait to go the greenhouse to see what I can fill it up with.
The yard was a just one of the great accomplishments that happened more recently.
Saturday and Sunday, Bill and I (mostly Bill) cleaned out our garage. This is huge because our garage has been the universal dumping ground for all things useful and un-useful since we moved into our house over three years ago. It was packed with Bill's tools, my dad's tools, too many bikes, a couple motorcycles, discarded household items and various detritus from our lives. It rendered the garage completely functionless. It was impossible to find anything and there was no room to do anything in there even if you could find the right tools.
We took everything out of the garage and began organizing it. Then the negotiations began. I wanted to get rid of everything that didn’t have an immediate purpose. Bill wanted to keep a bunch of junk. We dickered and I took much glee in hauling unneeded items out to our junk pile in the front yard.
Oh yes, the junk pile. It’s that time of year again when the city of Grand Junction allows us to pile anything heading for the dump in our front of our house to be picked up in a couple of weeks. Of course, it becomes a crazy recycling program as pickers creep slowly through the neighborhoods searching piles for items that have value or can be reused.
I take strange satisfaction in that the fact that the pickers are going to love our pile this year. We’ve got a bunch of good stuff in there. The neighbor kids already gleaned a couple sets of golf clubs and a fish house. Now that I think about it, the old computer desk is already gone. Hope it went to a good home.
In his defense, Bill did agree to get rid of a fair amount of stuff, so I didn’t argue about a bunch of other stuff. Now, we still have too much stuff in the garage, but at least it’s organized now. Plus, we can actually get to the toolboxes and workbench.
I’m strangely proud of our almost-tidy garage — even more proud than I was when I used up another Bic softgel writing lectures this week.
By Randee Bergen
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
My teenage daughters aren’t that into hiking – you know, exertion and sweat and covering ground just for the sake of covering ground – so any hike I planned for our Spring Break road trip had to be extra beautiful or unique. And short. I know they’re not planning on walking far when the sturdiest shoes they have along are their Vans. And so it was we found ourselves hiking in an underground lava river tube.
Lave River Cave is northwest of Flagstaff in the Coconino ponderosa forest. A rock pile and short rock wall marks the opening. It is small and drops downward immediately, giving us the feeling right from the start that maybe we didn’t want to do this hike after all.
I hung back, initially, to take photos of the girls entering the cave and dropping down into it, and then panicked a bit as I realized I was getting behind and that catching up would be difficult due to the big boulders on the floor. It seemed wrong to call out, “Wait up!” when the girls were just fifteen feet in front of me. I was happy when Addy said, “Come on, Mom, we’ll wait for you.”
Just before the cave floor leveled out, I turned back to get the last glimpse of daylight.
Now we seemed to be walking parallel with the Earth’s surface above us. We turned our headlamps off to check and, as expected, found ourselves in complete darkness. Most of the cave was wide and up to 30 feet in height, but portions of it got to as low as three feet.
The cave is 3/4 mile long, so 1.5 miles round-trip. A short hike, right? Yes, but a long time to be underground. At no point was it relaxing. For starters, we had to keep our headlamps trained on the ground right in front of us, which was rocky and uneven. Looking ahead required stopping, getting my balance, and moving my head rather than just my eyes wherever it is I wanted to look. And looking around wasn’t all that revealing. The cave walls and floor looked almost the same the entire way, giving few hints that progress had been made or that the end was approaching. And then there’s the fact that our minds started racing with all kinds of crazy thoughts.
Like a good mom should, I started worrying while driving down the forest roads to get to the cave. Were we the only ones out here? Would it be better to be alone in the cave or to have some other hikers in the area? If something happened and I needed to drive out of here quickly to get some help, would I be able to find my way back if in a state of panic? I dropped my mental breadcrumbs.
And as soon as we were in the cave: What if someone covers the opening with boulders? What if there’s an earthquake? What if today is the day the cave becomes unstable? It was only a 1.5 mile hike, so I didn’t bring water or snacks. I didn’t bring anything except an extra headlamp and the clicker to my vehicle. Bad hiker. Bad mom.
There were others ahead of us, we assumed, because there were two vehicles in the parking lot. And there was another family arriving as we were starting down the trail. You’d think you’d hear voices echoing throughout the cave. But no; it was eerily quiet. Was anyone hiding down here, just waiting to attack us? I thought about how hard it would be to run out of here, and the worst, having my headlamp knocked off and the batteries coming loose while struggling to get away from someone.
To cope with these irrational (maybe not so irrational?) ideas, we started acting really goofy. It started in a low section of the cave, where we had to bend over to continue moving forward. The girls’ hands touched the floor and then they were suddenly acting like gorillas. While they do plenty of strange things, I have not seen this particular behavior elicited anywhere above the earth’s surface.
Amy kept us laughing with possible journal entries, doubly funny because they were all for Day 1 – as if one day would be the extent of our survival in the event something horrible happened – and they all had the word growing in them. Day 1 – Some of us are growing hungry. Day 1 – The soles of my Vans are growing thin. Day 1 – My mother is growing crazier by the minute.
Addy tried to get our minds off the situation by writing raps. She would start and Amy and I were supposed to add to it. I wasn’t very good at it. I was slow to think of rhyming lines and was getting hung up on whether we were doing couplets or quatrains and what was a quatrain, again, anyway.
After what seemed like several miles, we finally reached the end. There was a large family there, or two. It was awkward visiting with them in the dark, nothing like stopping to talk with other hikers while in the daylight and nothing at all like celebrating with whomever you find when you finally reach the summit of a 14er.
We continued our silliness on the way back, but now that we were on our return trip it was more for the fun of it than for the sake of retaining our sanity.
I must say I was plenty relieved when I saw that shaft of sunlight, which was slow to come into view because it was above us (remember I said we had to go down at the beginning of the hike before it leveled off) and not in front of us.
Am I glad we went? Absolutely. Any short hike that is unique in some way is a hike worth taking.
What exactly is a lave river cave? According to Wikipedia, between 650,000 and 700,000 years ago, molten lava erupted from a volcanic vent. The top, sides, and bottom of the flow cooled and solidified, while lave continued to flow through, and out of, the middle, forming a cave. I don’t know how common lava river tubes are, but there is one near Bend, Oregon. Lumbermen discovered the Arizona lava river tube in 1915. I’m a little surprised that the area hasn’t been made into a national monument or park, to be honest. A sign outside the opening explains that there have been problems with litter and graffiti. It’s a pretty cool place and I’d hate to see it destroyed.
By Robin Dearing
Friday, April 4, 2014
After my class on Tuesday, I jumped in my car and headed to Denver. (I may or may not have stopped at McDonald’s first and bought way too many Chicken McNuggets.) I was in a hurry and drove the entire 250 miles without stopping.
Four hours and one cracked windshield (darn you, loose blacktop) later, I pulled into the parking lot of Denver International Airport. Just as I was parking, my cell phone rang. It was Margaret. She was just about done with customs.
I hurried inside the terminal and found international arrivals. Moments later, there she was, my 13-year-old girl lugging her suitcases, all smiles.
Margaret spent nine days of her spring break touring England and France with a group from her middle school.
From the moment we dropped her off at the airport until I saw her beautiful face again, I remained both very happy and very emotionally bent up. Many times over those nine days, I did my “I’m so happy, I’m going to cry” thing.
I missed many opportunities to travel abroad when I was younger. I never made it priority and now here I am, a 43-year-old, art history professor who has never seen most of the things I teach in person. I wanted to make sure Margaret didn’t miss any opportunities.
While we were so happy Mar took this trip, Bill and I worried our fair share. Luckily, our worrying did the trick and she had a great trip with no major issues. And she had a great time.
For Christmas, Santa brought Mar a new camera with a megazoon lens which she used to take 945 pictures. Seriously, 945. Here are a few:
This is the view of Paris from the Eiffle Tower.
Giving my daughter these opportunities is the best part of being a parent.
This trip saw Margaret get three new stamps in her passport (they stamped it on their layover in Iceland, as well as England and France). Along with her Mexico stamps, she’s got four foreign stamps. I’m not afraid to admit I’m a bit jealous, but so very happy.