Only The Lonely, As In Child

Something About Nothing in The Albert Lea Tribune the week of April 17, 2017

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf

Whoopie! There is an Only Child Day, and I happen to be an only child! We have a day to celebrate so we don’t have to feel bad anymore when all those people post their pictures on Siblings Day. But what do we do with an only child day?

I think there are many misconceptions about only children. One of the ideas is that only children are spoiled. I was spoiled when I was an only child, but I think it had more to do with the fact that I was born to parents who were in their 40s who knew I would be the only child they ever had. Also, they lost twins earlier in their marriage. Contributing to the spoiling was perhaps the fact I was left with family or alone a lot because my parents were busy working.

There were perks of being an only child. I had a lot of toys. I didn’t have to vie with siblings for attention. In my case, I lived my early years in a household with a grandmother and an uncle who also — especially my uncle — did many special things for me.

He made me my own ice skating rink in the family garden. I had a swing and a homemade teeter-totter and a merry-go-round. My uncle also built me a winter slide from the top of the hay rack, which let me slide down the track across the entire pasture. If I think about that now, I can’t imagine anyone would let their child slide on a homemade contraption like that for safety’s sake today. It’s amazing I survived and never once did the sled leave the track.

I have memories of helping load hay and learning how to drive a small tractor. I spent a great deal of time with my uncle when my parents were working.

As a teenager, I spent most of my time either alone or with my friends. My parents were busy taking care of my grandparents and uncles and running their shoe store. Those who envied my spoiled life or those adults that blamed my parents because I was spoiled, didn’t see the other side of the picture.

I had a wonderful life as I grew up, but being an only child also has its ups and downs.

I spent much of my time with adults, so I learned to talk to other adults, which helped when I became an adult, or in volunteer activities when I was a teenager. I learned to handle death, as it was never hidden from me when a family member died, and I was included in plans. I got to travel with my parents, although at the time I didn’t appreciate all I got to see because I didn’t have other kids to mingle with on our journeys, unless we were visiting relatives. And, I didn’t have to fight with my siblings for toys, bedrooms, time with parents, television shows and whatever it is siblings fight about. I have imagination because I spent so much time playing by myself.

I still feel the downside to being an only child. It can be a lonely life. I spent so much time alone that as an adult in my younger years I did not like being alone. I wish I could experience the feelings others have for their sibling being love or hate or ambivalence. When it came time to making decisions for my mom, I was alone in the decision-making process.

I miss having a brother and sister to share memories with — good times and bad. Most of my mother’s and father’s close family are gone. I miss family get togethers at holidays with other relatives. And I must admit I don’t understand when brothers and sisters do not keep their connection going throughout their life.

My friends had to become my brothers and sisters. I don’t know how I would feel about a brother or sister family member, but I would imagine it is the way I feel about some of my friends. However, there still is a difference as friends have their own siblings and families they spend holidays with.

My being an only child influenced how many children I had. I did not want to have only one child because I felt it was a lonely life after your parents are gone. I am fortunate to have three children and five grandchildren. I still have family.

Can you miss what you never had? I do. Or maybe it is the idea of what could have been and what I see with others who are blessed with siblings. Sibling love is not always rosy, but usually that close family member has your back when the chips are down. In spite of the fights and feuds, the love is there.

I can’t quite figure out how to celebrate Only Child Day. Buy myself a gift? Buy a lottery ticket? Do something I did as a child by myself?

I think I want to celebrate next year and find another only child to share the day with. It’s more fun when there is two instead of one.

Here Comes The Judge

From the column Something About Nothing in The Albert Lea Tribune and Courier Sentinel the week of March 20, 2017

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. 

There have been occurrences in the past few years in my life that have absolutely taken me down to my knees in prayer. If you do not believe in prayer or God, then please don’t read this column today. I seldom write about my beliefs, but this week with Lent and Easter approaching, I want to share some of my feelings.

After going through all the experiences and thought processes the past few years, I came to the conclusion it would possibly be easier to not care about anyone. In that conclusion, I knew if I chose the route of not letting myself feel emotion for others, I would have missed out on blessings in my life.

I have been affected by illnesses, divorces, accidents, addiction, to name a few. It has touched and hurt those I care about and love. People have let me down by their actions. I have been angry. I have been sad and I have also not been able to put a name to some of my feelings.

Over the years I spent time trying to figure it all out and cope with all the human emotions. Here is what I know in my life. We are all flawed individuals. We all hold secrets about ourselves no one else knows. We all disappoint others, and we all make mistakes that affect others’ lives, including me.

Holding on to anger only makes me an angry person. Only forgiveness frees me from my anger. I can’t judge another because I don’t have that right. It would be like the pot calling the kettle black. I sin, and I can’t say my sin is less than my neighbors.

I love my children, and I have always told them I will love them no matter what. I may not always like or agree with what they do or enable them if I see they are doing something that is causing them or someone else harm, but I will always love them. I hate the sin but love the sinner. That is the way I would like to be treated. And I extend that to my friends.

Perhaps that is why I feel uncomfortable with judgmental behaviors hiding under the guise of Christianity. I know even though I was brought up to know right from wrong, I am not perfect and I don’t feel comfortable when Christians judge one another and do not show another person caring, but judgment in a church society. I feel my judgement does and should come from God because He and only Him knows the entire picture of who I am. God gave us the Ten Commandments to live our lives and he will decide if we live our lives accordingly.

In a society we have laws and rules we also have to live by, and if we break those rules we are held accountable. But in that system something more needs to happen. Our prisons are full of offenders of what may be unforgivable crimes. These offenders may be a threat to our society. Yet, we have mothers who have forgiven their son’s killers. We have store owners who have forgiven their perpetrator’s crimes. They know the power of forgiveness over anger. And their forgiveness changed the lives of those who committed the crimes.

I have talked to friends who visit prisons and hold Bible studies or teach language and writing skills to prisoners who have felt worthless all of their life and were taught nothing but brutality and crime growing up. These volunteers are changing the lives of those who have not had anyone care about them before. It is not judgment but forgiveness that changes lives.

Those who are in prison are training service dogs, and these dogs are teaching the hardhearted to love. The dogs don’t judge, but they teach love.

This Lenten season in our churches we are learning the sacrifice Jesus made for us, all of us who are flawed.

It is hard not to judge. I have been a very judgmental person until I was taken down to my knees with experiences that taught me my judgment makes an enormous statement about who I am. It means if I judge, I don’t see my own sin. And I personally need that Christian place where I can visit, know I am a sinner, know I will be judged by my higher power and not others sitting in the pews with me. We are all in this world together. Let us pray.

Micromanager? Not Me!

Something About Nothing, by Julie Seedorf

Published the week of March 13, 2017 in the Albert Lea Tribune

This past week someone asked me if I would mind if they changed or tweaked an idea that was birthed from my brain. I, of course, answered, “No problem.” I actually meant that. A few years ago I probably would not have been so nonchalant about someone tweaking a vision I had for a venue.

 I no longer have the need to be in charge. In fact, I don’t like being in charge anymore. I no longer feel threatened if someone feels something could be made better by tweaking or adding their ideas to something I created. I now like collaboration. However, I will say when it comes to my books I don’t always agree with the tweaking, and I will fight tooth and nail in leaving a line or a word or something I feel I believe in and is necessary to a story, but it is not because I want to have the last word but because I want to put out the best work.

I must admit I am still a micromanager. Aren’t we all? We micromanage the little things in our life — that we possibly can control. That can lead to amusing conflicts in our households.

I am the drawer organizer in the kitchen — or at least I try to be the organizer. When the dishwasher gets unloaded, my husband is our dishwasher unloader person, I am the person who hand washes if we have pots and pans. This division of labor works well. I don’t mind washing dishes, but I dislike unloading the dishwasher for some unknown reason. He doesn’t like to wash dishes. This is where one area of micromanagement shows up in our relationship.

He rearranges the dishes I put in the dishwasher. I rearrange the dishes he puts back in the cupboard. He doesn’t understand why I don’t load the dishwasher right. I must admit I don’t understand his formula. I don’t understand why he can’t put things back correctly in the cupboard. My theory is that mixing blades should go with the mixer. Gadgets should go in the gadget drawer. We don’t get each other, and we constantly jockey for our way of arranging things.

When we had the wastebasket sitting in the kitchen, I felt it sat too close to the laundry room door, making me have to twist my body to open the door and squeeze in the laundry room. I would set it where I wanted it. A few hours later it would be moved a few inches to where he wanted it closer to the door.

Our cats get confused when I move their cat dishes where I think they should be, and he moves their cat dishes where he thinks they need to be.

When I fry bacon it is on a low flame and takes a little longer so grease doesn’t splatter all over the kitchen. When he fries bacon, the flame is high. When he is walking past the bacon frying while I am cooking, the flame sneakily gets turned up. I slink past the stove when he is frying bacon and turn down the flame. We micromanage and drive each other crazy with these little things.

Our life becomes a negotiation over the little things, and most of the time neither one of us realizes we are doing it.

I think the same is said for volunteer organizations and our church organizations or even our interactions with our friends. Many of us have a tendency to own what we do, and not give others the chance to help us make our environment or activity spectacular because of team input.

I realized the past few years I probably steamrolled over many people in my volunteer activities or work situations. I so protected my ideas and my vision that I couldn’t see others creative and constructive suggestions would make it better. It was my way or the highway.

A good manager values input, can sift out what will work and incorporate others’ ideas into their vision.

I rejected others’ input for a few reasons. One of those reasons was insecurity about myself and my ideas. It was a threat if anyone threw out an idea that didn’t jive with mine or told me something was wrong. That would make me more rigid in my managing skills. I wanted it my way. If someone rejected an idea, I would feel it was a rejection of me as much as what I had suggested or written. In order to keep that control, I was the one who had to be right.

I make mistakes, and this week I made some doozies on a script I wrote. I make mistakes because I am not really a detail person, and so I make detail goofs. I realized how far I had come when I took ribbing about, and was laughing right along, and able to own up to the fact that — yes, it was my mistake. Although I had made the changes, I didn’t save them so no matter which way you looked at it — I flubbed.

I haven’t grown up enough yet though to not be a micromanager in my house. I must admit it keeps things interesting because each of us never knows where something is going to be moved on any given day depending on our need to control for the day. I can’t control the big things but by gosh, my mixer blades will be in the right drawer.