Engagement rings, history and searching for answers – Part 1 of 3

This is a trilogy of posts looking at the history of engagement rings and what they really mean.

Getting married? Want to get married? Already married?

I was. I kind of did. Then I really did. Then I did and so I remain.

I got married without an engagement ring. Honestly, I never really thought that I would get married, I knew that I would have children, but marriage? It was a foreign concept to me. That said, I always knew that if I did one day get married, it would involve a HUGE dazzler on my finger. I never pictured myself in a big white dress and having a huge wedding, attended by people I barely knew, but of the ring, I was certain. And aside from my natural obsession and attraction to shiny things, I always just wanted a seriously big diamond ring. And like so many other people, I felt that a beautiful, sparkly rock on my finger would let other people know at a glance that;

1) I was loved and desired (and therefore worthy of their attention);

2) that I was worth A LOT as a person (because a bad or worthless person surely would not have such a beautiful ring? *insert eye roll here*);

3) that I was special enough for someone to spend a whack of cash (at least two MONTH of his salary, right?) on to gift me something so coveted and valuable; and

4) That I was finally pretty enough, smart enough, sexy enough, funny enough, just plain GOOD enough and someone amazing had sealed his promise to love me unconditionally forever by putting his money where his mouth was and I had the 1.5+Ct VVS1 or better, white gold/platinum, 3+ total carat weight knuckle duster to prove it.

Now, I don’t need you to tell me that this kind of thinking is some seriously twisted shit. I can read. I get it.

I have been married over a decade now, and there is no engagement ring in sight. We had a small, perfect ceremony (we eloped locally) and I would not have changed a thing (except perhaps to extend an invitation to our respective parents). Even so, it has always nagged at me that I do not have an engagement ring, that I lack that one, seemingly very important cultural symbol of love. What does it mean? Does it mean that I was not (am not) special enough or worth enough to deserve the very splashy and public declaration of love that only an expensive, flashy ring screams? It has bothered me so much so that over the years, I have started various savings funds to purchase my ‘dream ring’ for myself. But those funds always end up being needed for the family, so I use them happily and start again.

Recently though, I’ve been thinking – is my internal struggle over having an engagement ring about me, for my ego or well-being or it is for the benefit of others? Would it enhance my life or would it merely give me the false belief that other people will perceive me to be a ‘better’ or ‘more worthy’ person? Would it make marriage easier, would it make any difference in the day-to-day realities of being married? Would it mean that my husband loved me more or better than he did before the ring?

And the answer is, I just do not know. But I do know that I want to learn and understand how the engagement ring became such ‘a thing’ and how it came to represent of love and the worth of a woman within our society. Because if I can understand those things, then maybe I can get honest about the origins of my motivation and determination to have one of my very own.

The next two blog posts in this mini-series will explore some of the history behind the engagement ring ritual and try to sort out fact from fiction and meander through through centuries-old relationship drama (spoiler alert: not a hell of a lot has changed in the past 600 years). And by the end of it all, I hope to have a better idea of what I am really searching for and if it can really be found at the top of a band of gold.

P.S. I post more nonsensical blithering and updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s worth ‘Liking’ ‘Following’ or just checking out The Keswick Blog on those sites as well. Because on too many days right now, micro-blogging is all that I can manage to pull off.

If you need to know what love is, feel free to ask my eight-year-old. He knows the answer.

A friend on Facebook, who has a small army of young, adorable children, recently posted a list of questions to ask your kids, typical stuff like “what’s your name, age, favourite food, etc.” The last question on the list was “What does love mean?”

I do not usually do these with my kids and when I do, I won’t post their responses, but for some reason, this time I did ask them the questions, privately, without the other three listening in. And for the most part, their answers were not surprising, I like to think that I know my kids fairly well (well, except for finding out that my twelve-year-old believes that my favourite thing to do is wash dishes, but I digress). Overall though, their answers were not shocking. Until that last question, that is. Ugh. My heart is pulverized by the sweet, tender, kind, loveliness of it all.

My oldest small and my youngest both answered ” That you care about other people” and “that you care” respectively. My second youngest son answered “kiss!” with a giggle. And my youngest son, well, he had some thoughts on the subject and I took them down while he dictated. He propped up his head with his fists under his cheek bones, thought for a few minutes, then looked at me with his deep blue eyes, took his time and slowly answered:

How does my eight-year-old know and understand the answer to this question so completely,  but the people in positions of power, who are threatening to destroy every ounce of progress made toward equality and human rights over the last century cannot connect the dots?

For me, being one who is prone to great, big feelings, able to go from feeling great big happiness to great big sadness in a matter of moments, I needed to hear this today. It gives me hope. It makes me think that maybe things really will be okay.

#BeKindAlways

P.S. I post more nonsensical blithering and updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s worth ‘Liking’ ‘Following’ or just checking out The Keswick Blog on those sites as well. Because on too many days right now, micro-blogging is all that I can manage to pull off.

 

Family bike rides just got so much easier and I’m not complaining

It’s no secret that I loved, loved, loved being pregnant and having babies and raising babies and cuddling babies and everything about being with my babies 24/7. It is also no secret that part of my life has come to a close. So rather than having a depths-of-dispair pity party for myself, I’ve decided to appreciate, enjoy and NOTICE what a blessing it is to be surrounded by bigger, older, stronger kids. And the first blessing on that list this week? Family bike rides. No more baby seats, no more tricycles, training wheels or 12″ bikes that take A LOT of peddling for VERY LITTLE distance. The only pain I feel now is the burning of my thighs as I try to peddle myself up even the smallest of inclines. 🤦🏼‍♀️

That’s right, the last small of my smalls has ripped her training wheels off and is flying down the roads (staying mostly at the side and always wearing a helmet) and this development has transformed family bike rides from long, treacherous affairs to enjoyable, fun experiences.

No, really.

Deacon’s squeal at the very end of the video was because he thought he saw a butterfly but it was enough to startle me. 😂

P.S. I post a lot of nonsensical blithering and updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It’s worth ‘Liking’ ‘Following’ or just checking out The Keswick Blog on those sites as well. Because on too many days right now, micro-blogging is all that I can manage to pull off.

Are you kidding me? Why didn’t anyone tell me?

Every now and then, I get a wake up call that serves to show me that what I had always suspected is true. Sometimes it’s an accidental wake up. Other times, I go looking for it. And sometimes, it’s forced upon me after willfully hiding from it forever.

It’s no secret that I have a long-standing fear and avoidance relationship with having my picture taken. I can sometimes take one of myself, and if I do, I’m usually surrounded (read: protected) by my children, but generally, as soon as someone wants to take my picture, or there is a video recording being taped, my anxiety begins to rise and I start looking for a way OUT. I could spend an entire post psychoanalyzing WHY I’m photo-adverse, but that’s not the point of this post, so I’ll leave that for another angst-filled day.

No, the point of this post is to say “what the fuck, guys?!? Why didn’t any of you tell me that I have gotten THIS far out of control and that I’m walking around looking like a frumpy, middle-aged, worn down and tired out sack of shit?” But that was too long for the title, so I’m just putting it out there now.

Seeing myself on video, without the protective shield of my children was painful, embarrassing, uncomfortable and just plain, UGH. The fact that the video was for a school assignment made it just that much more UGH because I had to share it with other, SIGHTED people

But, you know me (or, if you don’t, you’ll quickly learn that) I’m not one to hold a grudge (ha!), so I’m just going to take it from here and start turning this ship around. No more complacency in my own gluttony and sloth. No more convincing myself that I can eat “just one slice/square/cookie/tub of ice cream.” I can’t. My willpower and self-control is not that highly evolved yet and it is time that I take ownership of that fact and stop being a victim of circumstance and emotions.

So, that said, I’m also a realist in a  lot of ways. I know that the best way for me to fail is to completely swear off sugar, white flour, junk food, pizza, and desserts forever. So I’m not doing that. I’m going to take a more mindful approach to food and what my purpose is in eating whatever it is that I’m about to stuff into  my gob. I have found that more often than not, if I stop and really think about what I’m eating, why I’m eating it and what effect eating it will have on my health, both physical and mental, I can easily resist the urge.

When I was younger, my weight struggles were about vanity and appearances. Now that I’m older, my weight issues are about health and mortality and being fully present for my family. You see, I have this goal to live to be at least 106-years-old and to share a beautiful, triple-layered chocolate cake frosted with pink vanilla buttercream with my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren and I am painfully aware that it is going to to take more than a wish and a prayer to get there. It’s going to take mindful, willful, determined effort, and only I can make it happen.

I am a mindless eater. Awareness is half the battle. The other half of the battle will be choosing to switch my modus operandi from mindless to mindful and I’m calling today day one. And I may call tomorrow day one as well. And I may call every day from here on out day one, because as long as I’m trying, I’m not failing. As long as I’m trying, there is hope. As long as I’m trying, I will, eventually, figure out my way through even the hardest of obstacles.

Yes, for some of us, even stairs are an obstacle.

 

Kid conversations. Or, Being schooled using a banana analogy

So, this conversation happened at my house tonight:

10 year-old: UGH! This banana has a HUGE bruise! Blech! *insert lots of gagging noises*

6 year-old: *insert hand gestures and adult tone of voice* Okay. I’ll tell you the story of how I ate my bruised banana. Ready? I opened my banana. It was bruised. I just it ate through it and didn’t say a thing about it. Not a word. And that’s how I got through it. Just eat through it. See?

My six-year-old is wiser than me again. You’d think that I’d be used to this humbling truth, but the fact is, I am not. It takes these moments in time, these overheard conversations to remind me that for as much as I think that I’m teaching them about life, it is they who are teaching me.

Because Miss Moon’s banana story is a lot like life. Sometimes, you just have to keep moving forward, not complaining about anything, and just get through it. Sometimes, it really is okay.

Like Miss Moon and Shia say, sometimes, you just have to do it.

Transition pains and birthday wishes

Lucky me. The New Year and my birthday conveniently occur with only five days between them. This means that I have barely the time it takes to eat a cheesecake before beginning (and failing at) New Year initiatives and deciding (and failing at) birthday initiatives. So, while earlier I blogged about my objectives for 2017, now I find myself trying to put words around more personal objectives and meanings as I pass into yet another (early) year of my 40’s.

It is my birthday on Friday, so the time to get this done is now as short as my skirts once were.

Turning 40 did not hurt. To be honest, it was painless because I did not (and do not) feel it. In my mind, I’m still the deranged, scattered, dippy teenage girl I was (except now I have a credit card, a car and a bunch of kids to drive around). Until now, I don’t think any age has really struck a chord with me. But this upcoming birthday has been bothering me, and I think that I have finally figured out why.

It is because this year, I feel very much like I am on the cusp of a brand new chapter and a whole new way of defining and living my life. And that is terrifying and exciting, devastating and energizing, mournful and celebratory, all at the same time (this may be a side effect of my basket case mental health status).

I have always prided myself on being smart and certain. Not muddled, not confused, not unsure. But muddled, confused and unsure is where I have been residing lately, during this ‘life’ changing of the guard, so to speak (and no, I’m not menopausal, thankyouverymuch).

This birthday is a milestone for me. It’s not a traditional milestone, it’s not 40, 45 or 50, but then, rarely in my life have I done things how and when I was supposed to. Chalk it up to a potent combination of the ‘nature and nurture’ forces from which I was created.

This year will be the year that I finally lay to rest my belief that ‘one more baby’ is reasonable, possible and ‘right’. This year I lay to rest my belief that my life circle and purpose is incomplete without mothering one more child. This year I move forward knowing that I have five beautiful, healthy, wonderful(ly infuriating) children who depend on me to help their worlds make sense and who also need me to  love them, protect them, feed them (possibly the most important item on this list), and mother them. Alas, this is the year that I stop thinking of my body in terms of its function and ability to produce and directly sustain the life of another and start thinking of it more as the irreplaceable, important and worthy entity for the sake of MY survival. To sustain MY life. Because my survival matters too.

Change has never been my forte. I am a planner, perhaps a bit of a control freak (as much as hippy-dippy and control freak go together, that is). I’ve been told (more than once) that I do not shift gears very easily or quickly, and as much as I dislike the sound of that or what it feels like it means about me, I have to begrudgingly admit that it is a true statement. I like things done my way. On my schedule. And I’m not terribly good at trilling “plot twist” and moving on when presented with an unplanned-for idea or event. But I am working on it. My personal goal for this year is to be better at plot twists and plan changes. Oh, I’m not giving up my lists, but this year their role will shift from that of an unforgiving dictator to more of a gentle guide for my days.

I’m looking forward to my birthday this year. I’m looking forward to doing the work that I need to do on myself, to be a different, if not better, version of me. I am looking forward to figuring out who I am and how I fit into this world now that my baby years are behind me and my future is still wide open.

~A.

Parenting is just one long conversation with myself, apparently.

Like many parents, I spend a fair amount of my life time and energy stressing out about and arranging for my kids to clean their rooms, organize their belongings, purge broken toys and to donate outgrown and un-played with games, and generally try to keep the chaos that surrounds them to a minimum. And my smalls are awesome. They never say “no,” they just don’t get the job done. Either they forget and start playing, or they stuff crap everywhere so that it “looks” cleaned up but it’s one bursting cupboard door away from a “random crap tsunami.”

But today? Today was different. Today, I really thought that I had finally achieved a new level of success in my quest. Today, one of them had *finally* taken my words to heart and actually cleaned off the top of his dresser without me asking/telling/cajoling. It was pure magic, I tell you.

This is what I saw when I walked up the stairs and glanced down the hall toward his room:

This is the K’Nex ferris wheel set that he received for Christmas. He spent a lot of time building it and is very proud of it. So, naturally, I assumed that this pride of accomplishment had finally given him the motivation that he needed to finally clean off the top of his dresser without being asked, so that he could display his build.

I was woefully, dreadfully wrong.

After taking a moment to marvel at how great the cleaned up area looked, I made a mistake. I glanced down and to the right.

Everything else that once cluttered his dresser top, now lies in a hoardy pile beside his dresser. 😭

This is not progress. This is not the direction in which I was hoping to go. Ugh.

Three days until the New Year. Think there’s still time to impart the importance of not living in a disorganized, hoardy mess? Yeah. I didn’t think so either.

~A.

Confirmed. We are going to Hell in a hand basket for this one.

I’m a bit pensive today. Feeling a bit older than my years, and much older than my usual 17 year-old maturity level. And for the first time, it occurs to me that somehow, over the years, bit by bit, we’ve taken Christmas from this:

The Nativity Scene at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, NY

The Nativity Scene at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, NY

and this:

A Charlie Brown Christmas scene.

A Charlie Brown Christmas scene.

and turned it into this:

and even worse (if that’s possible), this:

And the result is THIS. WE have turned Christmas into THIS for our children.

And then we wonder why society is shot to shit, why we are faced with one crisis after another, why people are so rude, angry and aggressive now, why Britain is leaving the EU, why Donald Trump is the POTUS-elect, why a man can receive three months for brutally raping an unconscious woman, why more and more places are legalizing marijuana use and why the middle class and women represent a higher percentage of heroin use and related-deaths than ever before.

Are we using twerking Santa’s and Frosty’s as a salve for our scared and wounded souls and bruised psyches? Or have we just given up trying to regain any semblance of innocence, joy and citizenship, even during the season of peace, joy, love and giving?

31 days and counting until Christmas. Is there still time to undo ANY of this damage?

Reflectively yours,
~A.

The problem is not kids these days. It’s us.

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As much as we want to blame the internet, the kids, the teachers, the schools, the media, none of those things are the problem. This is not a fun message to send or receive. The problem with kids these days is us. Children watch the adults around them (and their parents more specifically) and what they observe shapes the foundation for their views on the world. These observations help to develop how they, themselves react and behave towards others over the course of their day. And let’s face it, the majority of their day is spent at school.

Many parents and adults are polite, considerate, lovely people. They are not the problem (clearly). Many other parents and adults are loud, rude, angry, confrontational and reactive. They are the problem (clearly).

Today, the common thought by professionals in the education and helping professions is that children need to learn how to “self-regulate” and that being a successful “self-regulator” will resolve much of the behaviour and acting out that many schools are forced to deal with everyday, all day, with a greater number of students than ever (at least so it appears based on anecdotal evidence). Behaviours that are often serving as a barrier to accessing a solid education by all students, not merely the ones acting out.

Self-regulation is an excellent idea. It is a great theory. It fails in practice. Why? Because until the PARENTS are able to self-regulate and behave in polite and civilized ways, children do not stand a chance. Until the PARENTS begin to support educators and the importance of being educated, their children will continue to act out.

Children’s behaviour is NOT a school board’s responsibility. Children’s behaviour is the parents’ responsibility and if the parents need support, then THAT is where to school board can provide assistance. Educators and school staff are not there to RAISE children. Schools exist to educate and support children and help to guide them toward successful and productive citizenship. Schools are NOT daycares, babysitters or nannies.

This goal of educating and guiding children cannot be met when parents abdicate their parental responsibilities once their child(ren) pass through the doors of their first school. I have had parents say to me ” meh, it’s their [the school’s] problem to deal with, he’s with them all day. He’s perfectly fine at home. What do they expect ME to do about it if he’s not listening to them (replace ‘listening’ with any of these: hitting, acting out, swearing, fighting, refusing to work, spitting, running away, bullying, etc)?”

My opinions on raising children, school, and parenting are not popular and I accept that. I did not become a mother in order to have a bunch of new friends, or create my own clique, or to be popular with tiny people. I became a mother to raise good humans and pass down some of the skills and knowledge that I had gathered in my lifetime (turns out some those skills were somewhat less developed than I thought!) and sometimes that means that I am about the most unpopular person in the house, possibly the planet (just ask my kids!).  I am the primary caregiver in our family, and as such it is one of my jobs to set and enforce the majority of the routines, rules and consequences. I do not make excuses for my children’s behaviour when they make poor choices. They must take responsibility for their choices and they are held to a higher standard than “I don’t know” or “well, everyone else…” I do not let things that are wrong slide. We talk it out and problem solve what they could do differently next time. They do not get away with blaming others for their choices. Because they always have more than one choice. We all do.

I am not writing this from a place of infallible, perfect parenting. I am not the perfect parent. My kids are not perfect. One thing that I am though, is constantly aware, constantly watching, listening and seeking better ways of doing things, handling situations, and guiding my children (and the children with whom I work) toward making conscious choices rather than following the crowd, acting on impulse or simply being reactive.

And you know what? Sometimes it works. And sometimes it doesn’t. When it does, great, when it doesn’t, we try again.

One thing that every parent needs to know (in my unpopular opinion), is that it is the PARENT’S job to parent, that as a parent that you, and you alone are your child’s first and most important teacher. With that responsibility comes the requirement to work WITH educators and other helping professionals to ensure that your child is giving and receiving all of the effort and cooperation possible to ensure a successful result. When parents are combative to or confrontational toward the very people they are depending on to raise their children, it only serves to escalate the problems the child, and therefore the school and the rest of the children, must deal with.

This quick post has grown slightly longer than I expected. In the end, here is my wish list for all of us:

  1. Demonstrate the behaviour we want our kids to copy;
  2. Instill a love of learning and a sincere belief in the importance of being educated in all areas of life (i.e. history is not pointless and French is not dumb);
  3. Bring back social etiquette and manners – across the board;
  4. Place the responsibility of parenting back on the parents and provide support where needed and when necessary;
  5. Allow children to be children and to make mistakes without rushing in to ‘rescue’ them from all natural consequences of their choices;
  6. Learn, teach and share problem solving and dispute resolution skills with children from a young age (but it’s never too late to start);
  7. Spend less time on ‘devices’ and more time interacting, in REAL LIFE with our families – no more technological babysitters and distractions;
  8. Realize that not everything is personal or requires your response. If I say that I don’t like the colour blue, and your shirt is blue, that doesn’t mean that I don’t like you, it means that I don’t like blue. Period.
  9. Stop jumping to conclusions or attributing the worst possible meaning to everything. Give people the benefit of the doubt first.
  10. If you’re talking, you’re not listening. If you’re not listening, you’re not learning. If you’re not learning, you are standing still (and possibly moving backwards). Talk less, listen more.

And that, my friends, is my (consistently) unpopular two-cents on the subject.

~A.

Are you in on the craze of the season? Just stop. Please.

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Are you in on this Hatchimal craze?

I’m not. My kids are not. And if they were, I’m afraid that they would be sorely disappointed. Because Christmas is NOT about getting the latest fad or the most expensive doodad. It’s about sharing time with your family, giving gifts that hold true value to the recipient, not just over-advertised, over-hyped and over-priced poorly made and likely soon-to-be recalled pieces of garbage.

Sound harsh? Yup. I probably am. But I feel like I’m fighting an uphill battle to raise good humans, people who care more about other people and the world we live in than they do STUFF.

A lot of people pay lip service to raising kids with manners, a lot of people complain about the quality of education their children are receiving, a lot of people are so worried about keeping their children HAPPY, that they are not actually doing anything to prepare their children for reality.

The reality that people are not ALWAYS happy. That not everybody is going to give you what you want. That sometimes people say NO and you need to accept that and move forward, not throw a fit or fall apart. The reality is that you really can’t always get what you want, but, if you try sometimes, you just might find, you’ll get what you need.

And yes, I realize that I am quoting The Rolling Stones to try to get my point across, but hey, they had it right. So why fight it?