Friends – May 16, 2010
I’ve spent a few precious in-person hours with a couple of long-time friends
recently. A month or so ago, I had dinner with a friend who now lives across the
ocean; I hadn’t seen her in about ten years. A few days ago, I spent a couple of
hours at a funeral home with another friend who lives across another ocean and
whose father has just died on this continent; I hadn’t seen her in more than ten
years. In both cases, our shared history (in the latter case, literally a
lifetime of it) meant that we slid easily into conversation. It was conversation
that went deep, even as we spoke of the mundane.
I don’t have a lot of friends, and many of them are
dispersed around the world. I have an abundance of wonderfully interesting
contacts – colleagues in business, people in town and those I’ve “met” online –
and many of them I’d love to get to know better, in a friend sort of way.
Although I’m friendly with these people, I can’t bring myself to call them
“friends,” in spite of Facebook’s lingo. I count on one hand my true friends –
aside from my adult daughter Melanie and her family, and my husband Rolf, who
are also friends in the deepest – soul mate – sense. Maybe I’m old fashioned
that way. Maybe the word “friend” has taken on a new meaning and I’m resistant.
But I think that true friendship involves sharing stories, occasionally
face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball. It involves patience. And time.
Interestingly, I communicate with neither of these two friends on
Facebook or Twitter, although I probably would if they were there. I value those
online media as tools for both my business and personal lives. But that way of
being in-touch would be almost beside the point with these two women friends. I
don’t need to know what they are thinking every moment or what they are planning
for dinner. I know their histories, their stories, their habits. The
relationships I have with them are unique and private. And, when we meet every
once in awhile, we pick up right where we left off years before. I value the the people I have connected with on social
media websites and may eventually become actual friends with them, although I
cannot shake the idea that most of those contacts are faux-friends, if only
because we have no (or little) shared history. Or maybe not, since I wonder if I’ll ever be willing to conduct
my friendship life in public.
Posted: 2010/05/16 3:11 PM
– May 9, 2010
Thanks to magnificent
Melanie and her fabulous family for sharing their breakfast with me via Skype
this morning. It’s as close as we can get over the 800-mile distance, although I
hope we can remedy that soon...permanently. As usual, I am busy writing about
ten things at once today, and haven’t given
much thought to Mother’s Day. So here are two retreads from past posts,
the first from 2007 (my mother died in 2008) and the second from 2005:
Bits of My Mother…and Daughters
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the intersection of the lives of mothers
and daughters: My eldest daughter’s 35th birthday is approaching and
my 98-year-old mother is, once again, quite ill. Ever since our daughters went
their own ways, I have often felt the somewhat disconcerting sensation of there
being two bits of me floating around out there somewhere distant. The feeling
has intensified now that they both live half a continent away. Occasionally,
these days, I feel a twinge of regret at not staying in better contact with my
mother when we lived in far-flung places as a young family (OK, and sometimes
not so far away.)
Recently, I stumbled upon some
research that seems to put some facts behind the floating bits sensation –
and reinforces the bond between mother and child. Apparently, cells can migrate
from mother to fetus and remain there long after the child becomes an adult, a
phenomenon that is called “microchimerism.”
of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, is studying the effect
of these cells and whether it’s good or bad. The research results are mixed so
far, with some experiments suggesting that maternal cells can produce insulin
when a child develops diabetes. But other research suggests that these same
maternal cells can trigger autoimmune diseases. That’s of particular interest to
me, since my mother and I both have lupus.
The reverse is true too. In addition to having some of our
mother’s cells in our bodies, we apparently left some of our own behind in her
bloodstream when we were born. Fetal cells appear in mothers’ organs long after
birth and have even been found in the bone marrow of grandmothers. These fetal
cells, say some researchers, have a role in healing disease. In one
experiment, fetal cells migrated from the mothers’ blood to the disease
sites (including thyroid, liver and cervix) and seemed to form healthy tissue.
To complicate matters, some women may have three generations of
cells in their bodies – their own and some from their mother and their children.
So there’s an explanation for my floating bits feeling. And there’s also plenty
of support for my current task of trying not to complain when somebody tells me
that I’m just like my mother.
Today is Mother’s Day. I hope all the mothers reading this are having a good
one. I didn’t always express that sentiment, once scorning it as just another
“Hallmark Card” day, something my daughters came to tolerate at an early age.
However in the mid 1980s, a group of women friends and I discovered the origin
of Mother’s Day and developed a new enthusiasm for the event. The original
concept was a protest against war and a celebration of peace – the brainchild of
Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910), a suffragette and poet who is, ironically, better
known as the writer of the Battle Hymn of the Republic. In an attempt to
unite women in the cause of finding peaceful resolutions to conflicts, she
issued a Declaration in 1870. It read, in part:
“Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
‘We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.’
From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: ‘Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.’”
Julia failed in her attempts to get a formal recognition of a
Mother’s Day for Peace, but after her death, her daughter took up the crusade.
As a result, the first Mother’s Day was celebrated in West Virginia in 1907. In
1912, President Woodrow Wilson declared the first national Mother’s Day. The
celebration eventually spread to other countries.
Once we learned that, my friends and I took out an ad in our
local newspaper, financed and signed by women in the community, to tell Julia
Ward Howe’s story. So to my old (and now geographically scattered) friends
Julie, Jill and Jacquie – and to our daughters, now grown – Happy Mother’s Day!
Posted: 2010/05/09 3:29 PM
and Wings: Telling Our Stories
– May 3, 2010
I recently watched a
wonderful film about documentary making
called Capturing Reality: The Art of Documentary. In it, Aboriginal film maker
talks about the importance of recording personal stories to understanding our
histories. And it scratched an itch I’ve had for some time now: The need to tell
some stories about my life and that of my family…especially our place in the
history of the homeschooling movement. That film, and a recent flurry of
publicity in the U.S. regarding what is being presented as the “new” phenomenon
of “unschooling,” reminded me that there is new generation of homeschoolers who
don’t know what came before. It, in the same way we tell our family
stories to our children, it is important for any movement to know why it’s
where it is today and how it got there, in order to keep its evolution on track. It’s
about respecting roots and providing wings – just like parenting. I
realized that, as my participation in the homeschooling movement has
internationalized over the past few decades (because I believe learning has no
boundaries – political, geographical or otherwise), I have neglected my
The publication of an article in Today’s Parent, a Canadian
mainstream magazine, about homeschooling pushed me beyond thinking and into
action. Although I donated hours of my time to providing information to the
author, the article’s resource section listed an American magazine with little
or no Canadian content and very high Canadian subscription rates, and a Canadian
home-based education website that hasn’t been updated in years. That, according
to the author, was all that was available. The result of my frustration over the
lack of useful information in that article led me to start pulling together all
of the resources I’ve accumulated over the past 35 or so years about
homeschooling in Canada.
website is the result. I’m still mining the depths of memory, of cardboard
cartons, and computer hard drives, so it’s a work in process. But it’s the
beginning of the Canadian home education story. Contributions and feedback are
Posted: 2010/05/03 12:20PM