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.

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.

 

Presidents and Their Best Friends!

Column the week of February 20, 2017,Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday in the Albert Lea Tribune. Send email to her at hermionyvidaliabooks@gmail.com.

FDR at a picnic on "Sunset Hill" near Pine Plains, NY. Fala is 4 months old. The doll next to the president is a handmade shaker doll made by Mary Garettson of Rhinebeck, NY. August 8, 1940

FDR at a picnic on “Sunset Hill” near Pine Plains, NY. Fala is 4 months old. The doll next to the president is a handmade shaker doll made by Mary Garettson of Rhinebeck, NY. August 8, 1940

Today is Presidents Day. Do you know why we celebrate this day? I am one of those people who have not paid much attention as to the observance, other than it is a holiday to shop and have a long weekend.

I decided to look up a little history, and then I thought it might be fun to look a little into the history of first dogs, too. Those presidents loved their animals.

Following George Washington’s death in 1799, the day of his birthday, Feb. 22, became a day of remembrance because at the time he was venerated as one of the most important people in history. It wasn’t until 1879 that President Rutherford B. Hayes signed a law declaring it a national holiday. Presidents Day isn’t celebrated on any president’s actual birthday but on the third Monday of February. Today it is a holiday to recognize the achievements of all of America’s chief executives.

If you enjoyed the little tidbits about the day, visit the History Channel at history.com for more.

In researching some of the information for Presidents Day, I found many of our presidents had first dogs. I always feel you can tell a lot about a person by the animals they have. Or the fact they are an animal lover at all. Our past presidents loved animals.

In fact, Franklin D. Roosevelt had a Scottish Terrier named Fala. Fala had his own press secretary.

Did you know John F. Kennedy was allergic to dogs, but in spite of his allergies they had nine dogs, one of which was named Pushinka, which was a gift from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

Herbert Hoover used his dog, King Tut, in his campaign photos in 1928. They say it could be possible it was his police dog that helped him win the election.

During George W. Bush’s reign his Scottish terrier, Barney, was an internet sensation with his “Barney Cam” videos.

The website dogtime.com has an impressive list of presidents and their dogs, plus the other animals in their lives.

George Washington had interesting names for his dogs: Sweet Lips, Scentwell and Vulcan were American staghounds. I can guess what President Washington had on his mind when he named his black and tan coonhounds, Drunkard, Taster, Tipler and Tipsy.

Maybe the name Fido for a dog caught on when Abraham Lincoln named his dog, Fido.

Calvin Coolidge said, “Any man who does not like dogs and want them about does not deserve to be in the White House.” He certainly had the dogs to back up his statement.  He named his dogs, Peter Pan, Paul Pry, Calamity Jane, Tiny Tim, Blackberry, Ruby Rouch, Boston Beans, King Cole, Palo Alto and Bessie. The most famous of their dogs were Rob Roy and Prudence Prim. These dogs got baths with bluing to make their coats look whiter.

These are just a few of the White House dogs. My research found 32 presidents owned dogs, but this number is a little fuzzy depending on the resource. These dogs came in all shapes and sizes from terriers to collies to sheepdogs and yes, let us not forget Bo, President’s Obama’s Portuguese terrier. That I could find he is the only president that brought a Portuguese terrier to the White House.

Richard Nixon’s dog, Checkers, is immortalized in history in the Checkers Speech. Unfortunately Checkers’s life ended and Checkers never made it to the presidency, only the vice presidency.

Other animals that helped the presidents in the White House were  mockingbirds, parrots, an alligator, silk worms, horses, tiger cubs, a goat, a cow, an elephant, white mice, cats, a Piebald rat, a zebra, a hyena and many more usual and unusual creatures.

Perhaps Dwight D. Eisenhower summed up the reason we have had so many first dogs.

“The friendship of a dog is precious. It becomes even more so when one is so far removed from him … I have a Scottie. In him I find consolation and diversion … he is the “one person” to whom I can talk without the conversation turning back to war.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower

Today let us also remember those first dogs, that as Dwight D. Eisenhower said, bring consolation, diversion and solace to the past presidents. We might owe them more than we know