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Archives - May, 2010

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

Mother's Day – 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:

Little 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.” Lee Nelson, 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.

A Peaceful Mother’s Day
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!
Say firmly:
‘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

Roots 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 Alanis Obomsawin 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 roots.

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. This new 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 welcome.
Posted: 2010/05/03 12:20PM    

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