The Mother’s Day Gift That Keeps On Giving

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf

Published in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of May 8, 2017

“Children are the anchors that hold a mother to life.”  — Sophocles

File May 09, 10 49 34 AMAs a mother, it is hard to let go of my children and let them lead their lives their way. I want to protect them from making the same mistakes I or others have made in the past. I pray for them every day and they are never far from my thoughts. They are always in my heart. Being a mother was the most important career I can have. 

I love to watch my grandchildren grow and see the way they mimic some of their parents’ gestures when their parents were young or how they grow to resemble another family member. I love to see them develop into their own personalities.

I think most mothers feel the same way. I have noticed when talking with other mothers on my writer’s journey there are many lonely mothers out in the world. They are not lonely because their children don’t love them; they are lonely because life for their children has become so busy a phone call or a short visit may only happen occasionally, or on Mother’s Day. But life is busy, perhaps busier than my generation when we were raising our children. Plus, there is also the distance many families now face with children living all over the United States and abroad.

Mother’s Day is next Sunday. The stores are full of flowers, and restaurants are filling the advertising spaces with ideas of gifts for that special mother. While gifts are nice, I have a feeling that what mom wants is to spend quality time with her children, especially if you are a mother whose children no longer live in the area or live at home.

Those of us who have lost our mothers will tell you that perhaps we can give you this advice because of regrets from the past of the things we never did and said while our mothers were alive.

My family wasn’t a hugging family, so I can probably count on my two hands the number of times my mother and I grabbed each other tightly and gave a hug. When we did it always felt awkward because that was not our relationship. But now, I wish I had one more awkward hug I could give her. I wish I listened when she talked about her past. I wish I made it a habit of asking about her day more often.

In conversations with other mothers I have heard the reasons why kids, adult kids, don’t call their moms at least once a week, or if they live close, stop in for a visit. And because we are moms and we love our kids, we accept what is happening with their life because we don’t want to put more pressure on them. We always want to make our kids’ lives easier. We have all heard these words in conversation: “The kids are busy. They run from morning until night between work, household chores and getting their kids to their activities. They say they just get busy and forget to call.”

Every person needs someone in their life to ask them about their day. Every person needs someone to care about how they are feeling. It might take a few minutes for a phone call, but those few minutes may make a difference in the life of a mother, especially if mom is older and less mobile.

I watch as everyone sits in restaurants on their cell phones; I do too. And I wonder if we put away our texting for a few minutes — if we turned off the television or took a five-minute break from the hectic schedule if there would be time for one five-minute phone call to mom.

I am blessed as I already have a Mother’s Day invitation this year. My kids live within two hours, and I visit with them on a regular basis. I hope that continues as I grow older and am less mobile.

Near or far, take the time to give your mother a Mother’s Day gift that lasts all year. Give her a gift certificate with a promise to call her once a week, or if you are close by, stop in occasionally and have a cup of coffee, give her a hug and ask about her day. Let her know that no matter where you are, she is a priority when it comes to keeping in touch. After all, you were a priority of hers from the minute you were born, and she would have it no other way.

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at hermionyvidaliabooks@gmail.com.

Kindergarten Ain’t What It Used To Be

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf published in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of May 1, 2017

Kindergarten — I still remember my kindergarten years. Mrs. Lewis was my teacher, and kindergarten in those days was half days. You either were assigned to morning or afternoon kindergarten.

Since I was only 5 at the time, I don’t remember what we had to know before we started that phase of our school life. I probably knew my colors and could count to maybe 100 or not. I don’t remember, but if I did know those things it was because of my mother, being a former teacher, took the time to teach me the basics. But it wasn’t close to anything those entering kindergartens have to know today.

A friend of mine who works in an area school recently showed me the list of desirable skills the kindergarten students of next year need to know before entering kindergarten. She attended school somewhere around the time I did, maybe a few years later, and was astounded at what needed to happen before these tiny little people could enter school.

I would assume today’s young parents know what D’Nealian handwriting is, because a child needs to know how to print their name in D’Nealian handwriting. I had to look it up. D’Nealian is a style of writing and teaching cursive, print and block handwriting, derived from the Palmer Method. How many of you know what the Palmer Method is?

Don’t get me wrong, I am not protesting all of the skills a child needs. Some on the list were: Recognize difference between upper and lowercase letters, shows an interest in learning, can attend to one activity for 10 to 15 minutes independently, has a working understanding of basic vocabulary words, can draw simple figures, can color within a given space, can grip a pencil correctly, stays in own space, can get along with a group, able to express a thought in words, and there are more stipulations. It is quite a list.

I know I did not know all of those things before I went to school. I have a feeling our list was quite short. The one thing I do remember is the rug we had to bring for our naps. Kindergarten was fun. When we first got there it was play time. Then we settled down and had a story. Some days we had show and tell. We did have teaching time but it wasn’t too long. Then we had a snack and a nap. It was a time of learning how to get along with others and learning basics to get us ready for first grade. And it was only three hours. I would say in my day and age the most basic function it served was for us to learn how to interact with each other.

There was no preschool in my day. We were kids. We played outside and played with friends or kids in the neighborhood. Our day was not scheduled with learning. We did learn while playing. We played house. We played cops and robbers. We played school. We had fun with no stress.

I wonder at the importance of coloring within a given space. To me, that says color inside the lines. Coloring inside the lines caused me great stress because I am not a color-inside-the-lines person. Why is it important to learn to color inside the lines in kindergarten? They should be exploring their child creativity, and it shouldn’t be wrong at that age to forget about the lines.

I don’t know if I still know how to hold a pencil correctly. As a parent, would I know how to teach my child to correctly hold a pencil, or would I have to ask someone for help? They probably taught me that in kindergarten, but in the scheme of life it wasn’t important enough to retain that knowledge.

A pre-requisite for attending kindergarten seems to be preschool or early childhood education. Because we didn’t have that in my day, did it hamper our learning experiences in elementary, grade school, high school and college? Were we dumbed down because we didn’t have this advance learning experience?

In spite of all the advances in education, we here in the United States seem to be lagging other countries when it comes to education. According to Pew Research, the United State ranks in the middle of the pack in education, behind many other industrialized nations.

There is a push going on in the Legislature to provide vouchers so children can go to private schools and attend more early childhood education programs so no child is left out. It doesn’t seem to be working to send our kids to school earlier and earlier. Will it work to provide vouchers to families to send more kids to early childhood education or preschool or to make private schools available to those with poor economic status?

I don’t know the answer, but in the rankings, the nations that rank the highest have public education. They pour government money into the public schools to educate all. The schools aren’t funded according to neighborhoods or school districts. They have quality schools and education for all. Perhaps, instead of lowering the age and qualification of what children need to know, or providing vouchers that still might discriminate because of parental choice on seeking them out, it might be better to funnel that money into our public education system and treat all schools equally, no matter where they sit in a geographical area. Perhaps we should put our money toward paying quality teachers who have the future of our children in their hands.

That is just my opinion based on an old person’s view of what could be important for our children. But what do I know? I am not sure how to hold a pencil, and I color outside of the lines and I didn’t know what D’nealian is. It must be because I only had kindergarten three hours a day and then I took naps.

My Antique Friends

My latest column from the Albert Lea Tribune. Feel free to share or reblog.

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf

Mary, Karen and I

Best Friends Forever Mary, Karen and I – I miss you Karen but I know you are with us in spirit still today.

Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr once said, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

I find that to be true in different venues in life, especially with old friends.

We make friends in our childhood, in our teenage years, in our adult years, throughout middle age and even during our sunset years. Our interaction with even our best friends from early in our life changes as we go through life. We grow up, move, are busy raising children or go on to jobs that take us in different directions. We stay friends and settle for those moments of Christmas cards and chance meetings to connect. Perhaps our personalities changed because of experiences which impacted our friendships.

There are those friends whom we don’t see for years, but we take up where we left off immediately upon meeting them again — the years falling away. And then there are new friends who are really old acquaintances, with which we connect with in our later years, who become good friends.

At this time in my life I feel I am coming back to some of my beginnings. I have reconnected with best friends from grade school and high school. It is easier to stay in each other’s lives because of technology.

My husband and I play trivia on Tuesday night. I have mentioned that before, but what I didn’t mention was our reconnecting with old friends who were an important part of our early lives. I call it karma that life has taken us around in this circle.

Enter my friend from Wisconsin who called and suggested dinner. We met for the first time in years. She pushed me many years ago into my first date with the man that became my husband. At dinner that night she persuaded me to join her playing trivia at our local Legion. I must admit I was scared. I am not the person who remembers history, etc. I was surprised when I felt right at home with the team we joined.

One man was the usher in our wedding. Well … let’s put it this way, he was supposed to be the usher in our wedding. It’s a long story. Another player was my neighbor from my childhood. We spent many nights playing kick the can and spying on our neighbors to see what was going on in their garage. Should I mention bank robber? We had wild imaginations.

One of our quick trivia minds is a friend from our bartending years. We were bartenders together. I loved that job and the people I worked with, especially this person. Further down the table is a woman I shared my high school years with. We weren’t good friends in high school but now we are coming together in a new, fun adult friendship.

The nice thing about a new friendship with an old friend is we do share memories of a time in our life that was special to us.

There are other friends in our trivia group. Some we have had contact with during the latter years and others are brand new friends. But I feel we have come full circle and have come home to a time where we enjoyed life and enjoyed those friendships with people from our past.

One of the things I marvel at the most is that I can be stupid with these friends when it comes to trivia, and I am not made to feel that stupidity. Wouldn’t it be great if we offered that freedom every day to those we spend our lives with?

Our group is a mishmash of intellect. We have farmers, a nurse, a counselor, a couple of office managers, an author, a service manager, a dental tech, plus others and also those who drop in to join us from time to time. It is always a surprise to see what former members come back and offer us their wisdom.

We have all changed over the years. Our lives took us in opposite directions. We all experienced good times and bad times that shaped who we are over the years. The more things changed (us), the more they stayed the same (friendship).

Our bodies may change, our circumstances may spin out of control, but the caring you feel for someone who was important in your life stays there forever, waiting to be rekindled at the right time in your life.

Here is a little trivia for you today. Who said, “Remember that the most valuable antiques are dear old friends?”

I can identify with being an antique, because a ruler that had my dad’s shoe store logo on it that I used in third grade — autographed with my name — was found in an antique store in Iowa.

I am officially an antique and I am enjoying my time with other antiques.

Happy Memories Grade School Class from St. Casimir’s

Definition of an antique: “A collectible having a high value because of considerable age.”

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at hermionyvidaliabooks@gmail.com.