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Looking Back for Answers in Moving Forward Regarding Youth Violence

It’s been over four years since I originally posted my musings on bullying and what I believe has changed in youth behavior in a generation.  https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/bullying-has-not-changed-how-we-react-has

The situation around how our youth treat one and other has not improved since my original publishing. While I had received many comments regarding that posting, the one that sticks out came from a childhood friend who was raised in a large family. Her comment was simply “Playground justice went a long way”.  Meaning that often during our own childhoods kids worked things out on their own, developing skills in the process. I think about that a lot as the news continues to provide us with heartbreaking tragedies of youth who never developed the basic coping skills necessary to deal with frustration, anger or conflict and ultimately leap to “elimination of those causing me pain” as a solution to their problems.

While finger-pointing and attempts at quick fixes make people feel in control at the moment, resolving this plight and reducing the killing of our kids at the hands of their peers needs some reflection on what exactly are the factors creating this and why now? While I am not an expert, I am an observer and by nature am quizzical in a way that makes me ask questions that make others uncomfortable or formulate opinions that are outside the popular mainstream conventions on a current event. I have had many opportunities to read articles and see news stories that share the same mantra of “guns are bad” and the naïve belief that criminals will be moved by gun laws. Take a look at the statistics of where these blood baths occur, you’ll note the highest frequency is in “Gun Free Zones”. We need to do better.

What has changed is the dismantling of a mental health system that once separated the severely antisocial from society and the elimination of such institutions allows these troubled and struggling individuals the freedom to live among us. That freedom has resulted in mayhem. We have also become more reliant on pharmaceutical companies for “solutions” to the problems of our children. In 1983 after years of drugs being marketed primarily to doctors, the United States became one of only two countries in the world to begin marketing prescription medications directly to consumers via television commercials. While it is well documented that many of our nation’s tragedies have come at the hands of those who have been medicated or recently stopped medications, there seems to be no public outcry against pharmaceutical companies, no demand for accountability for what problems their products may be causing. One only needs to listen closely to the fast paced disclaimers during drug commercials to understand where some of the problems we currently are facing are coming from. Is it acceptable to endorse a product whose possible side effects include any of the following “Hostility, Agitation, Irritability, Frustration, Depressed Mood”? Oh and by all means expect a person to “call their doctor” if they experience “Acting aggressive, being angry or violent or acting on dangerous impulses”. The big one that people seem to have become numb to is “suicidal thought”.  Having never gone to medical school I am uncertain how close “suicidal” thought and “homicidal” thought are to each other in the brain but it seems likely to me that they are in fact close and this might explain why so many who commit large-scale homicides ultimately plan to either be killed or take their own lives at the end of their massacre.

Why are there no marches against big pharma and nobody looking at the role their money plays in current politics? We have made youth reliant on medications because of an expectation that they either at one extreme end of the spectrum focus and overachieve or minimally fall in line and quell any behavior that makes them remotely different than the classmate seated beside them. Is it easier to parent or teach “Stepford children”? My guess is absolutely, at least until one of them has an impulse or “side effect” from their medication. It’s impossible to know how many people have committed suicide out of fear of their own drug-induced homicidal feelings, a self-inflicted “mercy killing” so to speak that saves others. Perhaps a truth in marketing demand should make drug companies add “homicidal tendencies” to the laundry list of antisocial behaviors associated with their products.

While the pharmaceutical companies seem to be getting a pass, people want to blame the perpetrators weapons of choice as the evil culprit. Though facts tell us that fewer homes have firearms percentage-wise than at anytime in our nation’s history and safety measures are in place in greater measure than ever before, it is the gun that has become the rallying point and with it the NRA as the villain. First, let me say that I am not an NRA member, nor have I ever been but I am fascinated by the desire of a segment of the population to demonize them for their support of the Constitution. When pressed about the NRA, ironically many of the people who oppose them don’t know much about them and are simply parroting others.  They are not familiar with:

  • Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  • Always keep finger off trigger until ready to shoot.
  • Always keep gun unloaded until ready to use.

Additionally the NRA  are proponents of proper cleaning and maintenance of firearms and security and storage of guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons. They provide more youth education on firearms safety than any other organization I am aware of. They are basically like the AAA is for car owners, even those who are not members can benefit from their efforts. Just because someone is a proponent of public transportation is no reason to be hating on AAA. That’s the best analogy I have for those who are anti-gun and think the NRA wields all sorts of power. I was shocked but not surprised to hear the Minneapolis Mayor a couple of weeks back during a school walkout exclaim “These kids are the NRAs worst nightmare.” Sorry dude but an antisocial youth shooting his classmates is on the NRAs list of worst nightmares.

Clearly, complicated problems require multifaceted solutions but those efforts should at least be focused in the right direction. Tragic and senseless violence is unfortunately the catalyst for youth involvement for this generation. Drunk driving became the rallying point during my college years and understanding that individual choices make a difference and starting with youth by developing parent/teen contracts for “no questions asked” pick-up from parties evolved to “Sober-sis” and “Sober-bro” programs in Greek life on college campuses. Public transportation in some areas offer free rides on days like New Years Eve and Saint Patrick’s day. While drunk driving still exists, it’s evident that many lives have been saved through awareness programs and trying to eliminate a behavior. Note the solution to drunk driving was not a call for prohibition or a demonization of car manufacturers.

With bullying, shootings and even bombings, it’s the behavior of people that needs to be addressed, not limiting the rights of others who don’t have that behavioral affliction. I’ve shared before in other settings that there were numerous guns in lockers (if you biked) and cars (if you drove) at my husband’s high school, as many hunted after school. My husband even built a firearm from a kit in one of his shop classes. There was no panic, no expulsion, no lock-down. Just like every generation before his going through puberty, there were kids who didn’t get along. Aggressions were taken out in either athletics or fist fights and despite access to guns, bats, knives and other weapons, that simply was not how things were handled. Something changed and it certainly wasn’t accessibility to weapons.

Clearly I don’t have all the answers. Would people be willing to allow their kids to learn about disappointment and how to process it “the old fashioned way” by keeping score in youth sports and only rewarding the winners? Are parents willing to step back and let their child try to resolve a conflict on their own as a way to develop skills they will need in adulthood? Are we as a society willing to accept that not all kids need to act the same or achieve the same and foster an environment where a young un-medicated person who may exhibit more energy than the kid next to him is not considered a burden or disruption but simply a kid?

Why are people so resistant to accept education as part of the solution to guns? As a protected right of our citizens, it seems that it would be wiser to have comprehensive education regarding firearms. Just like in high school after “Foods” class nobody was forced to wield a spatula but at least they knew the basics around a kitchen. Many have backwards ideas that guns are not to be seen or talked about, it’s simply a forbidden topic where “that’s not for you” is what the curious are told. We know that works so well with sex, just tell youth that is not for them, don’t provide any basic information, cross your fingers and that usually turns out well. That’s sarcasm folks.  We teach our kids about nutrition, we teach them about sex, we have them take lessens when learning to drive because it’s an enormous responsibility and impacts others around them. There is greater fear in the unknown than there ever is in providing information and showing a person the proper way to use a tool.

Finally, I will acknowledge that I grew up in a home where guns were present. I was taught gun safety and use by my father and as a result had a respect for their use and capability. While many of my friends are anti-gun, an equal number of my friends are gun owners and not one of them has ever unlawfully used it to take the life of another. Taking away their firearms would save no lives and  laws already exist against the acts that currently fill our newsfeeds.

 

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Uncategorized

Looking Back for Answers in Moving Forward Regarding Youth Violence

It’s been over four years since I originally posted my musings on bullying and what I believe has changed in youth behavior in a generation.  https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/bullying-has-not-changed-how-we-react-has

The situation around how our youth treat one and other has not improved since my original publishing. While I had received many comments regarding that posting, the one that sticks out came from a childhood friend who was raised in a large family. Her comment was simply “Playground justice went a long way”.  Meaning that often during our own childhoods kids worked things out on their own, developing skills in the process. I think about that a lot as the news continues to provide us with heartbreaking tragedies of youth who never developed the basic coping skills necessary to deal with frustration, anger or conflict and ultimately leap to “elimination of those causing me pain” as a solution to their problems.

While finger-pointing and attempts at quick fixes make people feel in control at the moment, resolving this plight and reducing the killing of our kids at the hands of their peers needs some reflection on what exactly are the factors creating this and why now? While I am not an expert, I am an observer and by nature am quizzical in a way that makes me ask questions that make others uncomfortable or formulate opinions that are outside the popular mainstream conventions on a current event. I have had many opportunities to read articles and see news stories that share the same mantra of “guns are bad” and the naïve belief that criminals will be moved by gun laws. Take a look at the statistics of where these blood baths occur, you’ll note the highest frequency is in “Gun Free Zones”. We need to do better.

What has changed is the dismantling of a mental health system that once separated the severely antisocial from society and the elimination of such institutions allows these troubled and struggling individuals the freedom to live among us. That freedom has resulted in mayhem. We have also become more reliant on pharmaceutical companies for “solutions” to the problems of our children. In 1983 after years of drugs being marketed primarily to doctors, the United States became one of only two countries in the world to begin marketing prescription medications directly to consumers via television commercials. While it is well documented that many of our nation’s tragedies have come at the hands of those who have been medicated or recently stopped medications, there seems to be no public outcry against pharmaceutical companies, no demand for accountability for what problems their products may be causing. One only needs to listen closely to the fast paced disclaimers during drug commercials to understand where some of the problems we currently are facing are coming from. Is it acceptable to endorse a product whose possible side effects include any of the following “Hostility, Agitation, Irritability, Frustration, Depressed Mood”? Oh and by all means expect a person to “call their doctor” if they experience “Acting aggressive, being angry or violent or acting on dangerous impulses”. The big one that people seem to have become numb to is “suicidal thought”.  Having never gone to medical school I am uncertain how close “suicidal” thought and “homicidal” thought are to each other in the brain but it seems likely to me that they are in fact close and this might explain why so many who commit large-scale homicides ultimately plan to either be killed or take their own lives at the end of their massacre.

Why are there no marches against big pharma and nobody looking at the role their money plays in current politics? We have made youth reliant on medications because of an expectation that they either at one extreme end of the spectrum focus and overachieve or minimally fall in line and quell any behavior that makes them remotely different than the classmate seated beside them. Is it easier to parent or teach “Stepford children”? My guess is absolutely, at least until one of them has an impulse or “side effect” from their medication. It’s impossible to know how many people have committed suicide out of fear of their own drug-induced homicidal feelings, a self-inflicted “mercy killing” so to speak that saves others. Perhaps a truth in marketing demand should make drug companies add “homicidal tendencies” to the laundry list of antisocial behaviors associated with their products.

While the pharmaceutical companies seem to be getting a pass, people want to blame the perpetrators weapons of choice as the evil culprit. Though facts tell us that fewer homes have firearms percentage-wise than at anytime in our nation’s history and safety measures are in place in greater measure than ever before, it is the gun that has become the rallying point and with it the NRA as the villain. First, let me say that I am not an NRA member, nor have I ever been but I am fascinated by the desire of a segment of the population to demonize them for their support of the Constitution. When pressed about the NRA, ironically many of the people who oppose them don’t know much about them and are simply parroting others.  They are not familiar with:

  • Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  • Always keep finger off trigger until ready to shoot.
  • Always keep gun unloaded until ready to use.

Additionally the NRA  are proponents of proper cleaning and maintenance of firearms and security and storage of guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons. They provide more youth education on firearms safety than any other organization I am aware of. They are basically like the AAA is for car owners, even those who are not members can benefit from their efforts. Just because someone is a proponent of public transportation is no reason to be hating on AAA. That’s the best analogy I have for those who are anti-gun and think the NRA wields all sorts of power. I was shocked but not surprised to hear the Minneapolis Mayor a couple of weeks back during a school walkout exclaim “These kids are the NRAs worst nightmare.” Sorry dude but an antisocial youth shooting his classmates is on the NRAs list of worst nightmares.

Clearly, complicated problems require multifaceted solutions but those efforts should at least be focused in the right direction. Tragic and senseless violence is unfortunately the catalyst for youth involvement for this generation. Drunk driving became the rallying point during my college years and understanding that individual choices make a difference and starting with youth by developing parent/teen contracts for “no questions asked” pick-up from parties evolved to “Sober-sis” and “Sober-bro” programs in Greek life on college campuses. Public transportation in some areas offer free rides on days like New Years Eve and Saint Patrick’s day. While drunk driving still exists, it’s evident that many lives have been saved through awareness programs and trying to eliminate a behavior. Note the solution to drunk driving was not a call for prohibition or a demonization of car manufacturers.

With bullying, shootings and even bombings, it’s the behavior of people that needs to be addressed, not limiting the rights of others who don’t have that behavioral affliction. I’ve shared before in other settings that there were numerous guns in lockers (if you biked) and cars (if you drove) at my husband’s high school, as many hunted after school. My husband even built a firearm from a kit in one of his shop classes. There was no panic, no expulsion, no lock-down. Just like every generation before his going through puberty, there were kids who didn’t get along. Aggressions were taken out in either athletics or fist fights and despite access to guns, bats, knives and other weapons, that simply was not how things were handled. Something changed and it certainly wasn’t accessibility to weapons.

Clearly I don’t have all the answers. Would people be willing to allow their kids to learn about disappointment and how to process it “the old fashioned way” by keeping score in youth sports and only rewarding the winners? Are parents willing to step back and let their child try to resolve a conflict on their own as a way to develop skills they will need in adulthood? Are we as a society willing to accept that not all kids need to act the same or achieve the same and foster an environment where a young un-medicated person who may exhibit more energy than the kid next to him is not considered a burden or disruption but simply a kid?

Why are people so resistant to accept education as part of the solution to guns? As a protected right of our citizens, it seems that it would be wiser to have comprehensive education regarding firearms. Just like in high school after “Foods” class nobody was forced to wield a spatula but at least they knew the basics around a kitchen. Many have backwards ideas that guns are not to be seen or talked about, it’s simply a forbidden topic where “that’s not for you” is what the curious are told. We know that works so well with sex, just tell youth that is not for them, don’t provide any basic information, cross your fingers and that usually turns out well. That’s sarcasm folks.  We teach our kids about nutrition, we teach them about sex, we have them take lessens when learning to drive because it’s an enormous responsibility and impacts others around them. There is greater fear in the unknown than there ever is in providing information and showing a person the proper way to use a tool.

Finally, I will acknowledge that I grew up in a home where guns were present. I was taught gun safety and use by my father and as a result had a respect for their use and capability. While many of my friends are anti-gun, an equal number of my friends are gun owners and not one of them has ever unlawfully used it to take the life of another. Taking away their firearms would save no lives and  laws already exist against the acts that currently fill our newsfeeds.

 

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What Makes a Best Friend the Best Friend

Mel

When it comes to best friends I like to think I’m old school. We were best friends decades before BFF became a thing. I know lots of women who have a best friend that was a college roommate or sorority sister, another mother from ECFE class or from the next cubical at their first real job. No matter where they were acquired, I am happy for anyone who has one.

Mine moved in across the street the year before I started kindergarten. She had four older sisters, I had two older brothers. She got a baby sister before that first year was over and I remained the youngest in my family. The nice thing about having a best friend for basically your whole life is that you never have to fill them in, give them the back story. They know your cousins and you know their list of old boyfriends.

I watched girls in high school, college and even beyond fight with their friends and be mean, sometimes severing their relationships entirely. My best friend and I never went through that. We may have been lucky that she went to the Catholic school on the next block from our houses from first through eighth grade and I was always at the public school. Ninth grade through senior year we were both at Southwest in Minneapolis (where I had been since seventh grade) so we never experienced that petty junior high drama that can impact relationships at a young age. We also pursued different interests; she played basketball, was a cheerleader and played tennis and I did dance line and played badminton. So we were never in direct competition with each other. Though our after school activities would have us departing at different times we had a mile long walk to school together for four years through all kinds of weather. There were times the two of us would ride together on one bike to school which occasionally had comical results.

Over the years we have each made friends through school, work or  our neighbors that have been added to our circle and this has only broadened our friendship and multiplied both the wisdom and the laughter. Laughter has been with us throughout. We have stories that would perhaps not be funny to someone else but can leave us in tears. Stories from bus trips down town, hockey tournaments in Grand Rapids and the parking lot at the old Met. As adults we got “in trouble” in a restaurant after watching  a half of a bag of croutons (purchased from the manager) be presented as a birthday gift and we could not stop laughing. That Christmas I gave a full bag as a gift. That’s what best friends do!

A favorite destination for us over the years was my family cabin, a log building on a lake with no running water. We loved being in the water, laying out on the raft or rowing a boat down to the public landing. We went with my folks, as we got older they would leave us for a week, later still we would go on our own and bring friends. We knew the woods, met folks from the other end of the lake and as we got older we knew most of the bars in the surrounding towns. It was a place to go to before someone got married and eventually it was a place to go with the girls when a marriage was ending. When you are best friends you stand up for each other at weddings, more than once if necessary.

We met each others kids at the hospital, shared parenting advice and hand-me-down clothes. We rented side by side cabins as families one summer and during those awkward elementary/middle school years took all the kids to a Mexican resort for spring break. Our kids are all more mature now than we will ever be but for the most part they admire our everlasting relationship.

We rely on each other for what the other is strongest at. I did the eulogies at her parents funerals, she came over and rehung every fixture on my main floor after my husband’s business trip to Italy was extended by a week.  We had completed a home improvement project just prior to hosting my mother in-laws birthday.  She and I were able to laugh with her squatted on a vanity, holding a medicine cabinet in place with her shoulder and drilling in a way that my husband and I never would have been able to. Instead of bickering about how high to hang a towel rack we would just do it then take a break for a beer outside.

We have stayed best friends despite both of us having moved out of state at times. Through the raising of our children there were long stretches when it was hard to find time for each other unless it was stolen moments during a rummage sale or home improvement project.  Now we have reached that point in life where our parents are gone and our own children are fairly independent. We have had the good fortune of our oldest children attending school at Bemidji State University just a year apart, resulting in the opportunity for a couple of road trips.

Today is my best friends fifty-fifth birthday, we have lived through portions of six decades together. I originally wrote this for her 51st birthday. Since then we’ve rented a cabin in Bemidji together with our husbands and watched our oldest kids graduate from Bemidji State University together. She and her husband have bought a beautiful cabin of their own, a place where we have made even more memories and we have even returned to the site of my families cabin for the annual Cubs/O’s game, a tradition that began the summer that we graduated from high school but had not been to together since the 1980’s when we were both still single. Our relationship is cumulative, when we laugh it is not simply at what is provoking the laughter at that moment, it is multiplied by all of the funny times and situations we have endured together.  Happy Birthday  and in the immortal words of the St. Thomas the Apostle 8th grade boys “Thanks for the memories, the good times with Mel, gee weren’t they swell!”.

 

 

 

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Oh Canada!

Have you ever opened an old cedar chest or come across a forgotten photo album? Such events can open a floodgate of memories, forgotten treasures, the experiences can actually mentally transport you to another place in time that was forgotten, tucked away like an old baptismal gown or wool sweater created on the needles of a deceased relative. A couple of nights ago, after a sushi dinner, an early birthday outing for my husband (before my son returns to grad school) such a thing occurred. I have been quite literally flooded with memories of places and people that were a huge part of my formative years. These people had never been forgotten, the memories not repressed but simply saved on an old hard-drive, buried somewhat by newer memories and experiences.

It began with looking at  Facebook on my phone and seeing a friend request from a name I did not recognize. When I opened the profile, there was the relatively unchanged face of a woman who I had not seen in perhaps thirty-five years. The adult woman who had sat beside me as a teenager at my parent’s dining room table, in a home I haven’t been in for nearly a quarter century. It was the face of a girl (who along with many of her friends) that I had searched for periodically on Facebook over the years. to no avail, as we had married our names had changed.

Initiation

When I was thirteen I was “initiated” into the International Order of Jobs Daughters, a girl’s organization for young women who are related to men who are Free Masons. For those not familiar with what can best be described as a “youth sorority” it might appear that the girls in white satin robes were cult members. I count the young women that I encountered through this affiliation among my closest friends to this day. Instead of typical high school rivalries, this organization resulted in friendships for a girl attending Minneapolis Southwest High School with girls from Minneapolis South, West, Washburn, Edina East, Edina West and Bloomington Jefferson. While much of the function of the organization was social, it’s where my lifelong passion for volunteerism began. We served as candy-stripers at the Masonic home, raised money through paper drives (before recycling collection became the norm at homes) and car washes for philanthropic causes such as cancer research. Jobies dinner.JPG

We worked the phones for the Jerry Lewis MD telethon and sought sponsors for rock-a-thons, a somewhat bizarre event featuring highly caffeinated teenagers sitting in rocking chairs for 24-hours to raise funds for some cause of their choosing. Our “Bethel” (think club house) had the Squirrel cabin at Camp Lake Hubert annually and prepared for the highly competitive skit competition with weekly rehearsals during the summer. We had dances with the boy’s organization “Demolay” that shared in equally mysterious rituals and whose youth leadership pinnacle was the Master Counselor, a counterpart to our Honored Queen. Beyond our local chapters, we often attended the “Installation” (best described as “coronation” to those not familiar) of other Bethels (events that occurred in June and January each year) around the state. We went on “mystery trips”, had midnight breakfasts and even attended state-wide and national events for the organization. While the objective of the order was a wholesome youth outlet, many of my best memories were the unsanctioned activities of 1970’s girls with a burning desire to behave like grown-ups.

Jobs Skit

Though purged from my “permanent record” , this month it’s been  thirty-nine years since I was arrested in St. Louis Park (at fifteen years of age) for “Possession of Alcohol by a Minor” after an Installation. Though that time, it was beer and I hadn’t consumed any of it, my earliest Job’s Daughter’s/alcohol adventure involved Tickled Pink, a fine product of the Boones Farm vineyard that never got the same measure of popularity as Strawberry Hill but appealed to the more youthful palate than Country Quencher which I was exposed to by a cucumber farmer/insurance salesman while at college…but I digress and will save that musing for a future blog.

Judy's Installation

As so often does, while writing this “life happened” . In the midst of writing this two weeks ago I discovered my nearly 13 year old beagle had suffered a stroke overnight which resulted in us putting her down, my son returned to grad school, a severe cold snap resulted in a bizarre attic freezing situation followed by a “January thaw” and water damage and insurance claim in our master bedroom. My son had car issues that ultimately required a new battery and alternator. Not crisis, just “stuff”, the distractions of life that allows you to unexpectedly lose touch with people. Now I shall resume my tale of youth and reconnection.

Molly's

A short time after my initiation I attended my first installation and at a reception for the newly crowned Honored Queen encountered a beautiful Honored Queen visiting from Canada, she was friendly, funny and had THE accent, all qualities that had me liking her immediately. Her name was Kelly. During a subsequent installation the Canadian Bethel brought a busload down and it was then that I hosted two “Jobies” at my parent’s home, one of them being Cathy, the Facebook “friend request”.

During the years that followed I made several trips to Winnipeg, some via Greyhound bus and others with tickets purchased by Kelly’s older sister Lori, a grownup with a real job, who for whatever reason was willing to finance my travels. She was a quieter version of her sister, with stunning eyes, a quiet observer who often had an amused expression at the antics of all of us more animated girls.

I think my first visit was to Cathy’s and I arrived during her exams.  In Canada high school finals are more like college finals here. She arranged for her boyfriend Gary to come hang out at her parent’s apartment while she went to school. Gary was hilarious, seemed to love all things American and preferred to be called “Burt” because he thought Burt Reynolds was perhaps the sexiest man alive. We hit if off and by the time Cathy returned home I had pierced Gary’s ear for him.

Though I have a great memory, after all of these years my recollection of specific trips run together with overall details of my various travels being somewhat blended. I do recall that Winnipeg winters are brutal, the air so cold that ones nostrils freeze shut simply by inhaling. I remember that the summers were similar to ours and cherish many great memories of time spent by the backyard pool of Kelly’s parent’s home on Roselawn Bay (?), either drinking Lonesome Charlie wine (the Canadian version of a Boones Farm) or vodka slushes (made by Kelly’s mother) that were kept in an ice cream pail and mixed with 7-Up before serving.

I remember that on one of my Greyhound bus rides I was near the rear of the bus and got seated in by a handsome former member of the Canadian military. At Customs at the border the agents broke my suitcase after going through every photograph in my luggage (chronicling the adventures of my previous trip). When I returned to the bus which had been delayed because of the search my seatmate commented that he couldn’t believe they gave me such a thorough search as he had a rucksack full of porn in the overhead bin and a stiletto in his boot. The next trip I opted to sit nearer the front of the bus, thinking that would be safer. At a stop to pickup packages at a station in North Dakota, as soon as the driver disembarked a man entered and knelt beside my seat and with a screwdriver removed the side panel and began removing baggies of powder from the seat and tucking them into his shirt via the neck hole. He then rose and hastily exited, leaving the panel in the aisle and the screwdriver as well. When the driver returned he looked at me like “What the Hell did you do to your seat?”. I flew in one time with a horrid ear infection and the pressure brought tears to my eyes. That was the trip that I ran into Duran Duran at MSP airport and asked to take their picture. During the flight two of the band members came up to me and offered me several tickets to their Winnipeg show and an invitation to an after party. It conflicted with the wedding social (a hybrid of a shower/Go Fund Me event for an engaged couple) for my friend Nancy that Lori had sent me the ticket to attend (as a surprise to Nancy). Oh to be seventeen again. The band had played a gig at First Avenue the night before that I had opted out of attending due to my earache. That flight took particularly long to deplane and my waiting entourage was certain it was because Monty Hall (Lets Make a Deal) a native son of Canada was also on my flight.

Though getting to and from Winnipeg was always memorable, the adventures while there were beyond fantastic. Everything seemed exciting to a girl from Minneapolis; 5 Pin Bowling, some of their parents were in Curling leagues, their potato chips had vinegar, their fries were served with a side of gravy and a Rye & Ginger came with the shot at the bottom of a larger glass and a juice glass of ginger ale for you to mix yourself. The liquor stores were called “LC” for Liquor Commission and “vendors” were semi-trailers in what seemed like random locations where one walked up temporary stairs and purchased beer. When you took beer to a party, it was customary to leave your empties behind as a courtesy to the host who could return them for the deposit.

It seemed like a veritable font of culture with teenagers drinking hot tea and where Jobs Daughters had registries just like a bride for a Royal Albert China pattern. I believe Cathy had Memory Lane and Kelly selected Old Country Rose. Near Kelly’s house was a takeout burger place that was owned by perhaps Greek immigrants who sold Fat Boy burgers that were smothered in chili and raw onion. I loved it all.

Music was another area that brings back a flood of memories. We attended a Streetheart concert during one of my visits and Kelly was smitten with singer Kenny Shields the lead vocalist. Martha and the Muffins singing Echo Beach was the soundtrack to my visit the summer of 1980 when I went up to visit for my friend Karen’s installation. The first time I laid eyes on her brother Cory I was serving as the American Flag Bearer and there was nothing between us but an altar with an open Bible on it. It was infatuation at first sight! Kelly and a group of friends came to Minnesota to see Bob Marley and the Wailers and I met up with her for what was perhaps the last time when a group came down to tube the Apple River and go camping in Somerset, Wisconsin.

We went to a Winnipeg Jets hockey game during one brutally cold winter visit and I sang the American National Anthem louder than the soloist on the ice. I rang in the New Year 1981 in Winnipeg. I recall Karen and Cory’s mother calling in favors at dawn one morning when a crowd that had remained up all night had drank the liquor cabinet dry but didn’t want the party to end. The alcohol was replenished and the dancing, singing and laughter continued.

Upon reconnecting I learned that much like our own Bethel members, some had drifted apart for awhile. Sadly I found out that what had gotten their group back together was the passing of Lori from cancer a few years ago. It seems Nancy now makes her home in Georgia but returns near the end of January each year for a visit. During a past visit Kelly dug out old letters from me and they read them and shared some laughs. I look forward someday to seeing what was going on in that teenage head of mine.

Just like the items in a cedar chest, those that survive continue to get older and the memories they evoke grow more precious. Like the lyrics of this nearly forgotten song say, I can’t help but think I’ll be back someday!

Echo Beach
Martha and the Muffins
I know it’s out of fashion
And a trifle uncool
But I can’t help it
I’m a romantic fool
It’s a habit of mine
To watch the sun go down
On Echo beach, I watch the sun go down
From nine till five I have to spend my time at work
The job is very boring, I’m an office clerk
The only thing that helps me pass the time away
Is knowing I’ll be back at Echo Beach some day
On a silent summer evening
The sky’s alive with light
A building in the distance
Surrealistic sight
On Echo Beach
Waves make the only sound
On Echo Beach
There’s not a soul around
From nine till five I have to spend my time at work
The job is very boring, I’m an office clerk
The only thing that helps me pass the time away
Is knowing I’ll be back at Echo Beach some day
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time
Echo Beach
Far away in time

 

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Baby Book Is Never Truly Finished

E 2017

The day my son was born I had a sensation I  never had experienced before and would not again until last week. Like my pregnancy with his sister, I had been induced. Shortly after my doctor had examined me and left, I asked the nurse “Did he say I could push?” her response was “No, he needs to be here.” and explained he had returned to his office across the street. With my daughter I had never had the urge to push and had to be coached through it by the doctor and nurse. Now, I suddenly found myself overcome with the desire and told her she needed to summon my doctor immediately. She said  “Don’t push until you see the whites of his eyes.”. My response between panting was “His eyes better get here soon!” . The best way to describe to someone what this felt like was having the worst case of stomach flu and being told “The bathroom will be available in a half hour.” You simply know that will not work.

The doctor made a speedy return and the team swung into action telling me when to push, when to breathe and then in what I consider to be the most comical part of the delivery, the doctor said “The head is huge.” and my husband concurred and I somewhat angrily and unamused (at the time) said “I KNOW!!!!”. I followed the continuous coaching of being told when to breathe, when to push and when to stop. It only took about three pushes and then I was given the news that it was a boy! I held him briefly before he was whisked away. I then experienced the odd sensation that I wanted to continue to be instructed as to when to push and when to breathe and when to stop. It had all happened so quickly, it was as though I needed further guidance. I had experienced no such confusion when my daughter was born. It was as though I needed further confirmation that what I was doing was the right thing.

My husband left the room to find out where the nurse had taken our new family member and I was left alone to simply breathe in and out on my own without being told to by anyone, much like I had been doing the previous 31 years of my life. When my husband returned his eyes were scared and he told me “There is something wrong with him but they aren’t telling me what.”. So I swung my legs over the side of the bed and waddled to the nursery where my 8 pound plus newborn dwarfed the tiny newbies hooked up to wires and monitors. To my untrained eye, he looked fine to me. A visibly pregnant doctor in a lab coat turned around as I looked down at my son and she said “He was born just a half hour ago.” I responded “I know, I was there.” and her eyes grew wide and she called for a wheel chair and asked why I was up. I told her that my husband couldn’t find out what was wrong with him so I had come to see for myself. She told me that he was perfectly healthy but was getting some sugar, as bigger babies sometimes deplete their supply during the delivery. Everything was fine, those are the words all parents want to hear about their kids. It begins with the first prenatal sound of the heartbeat, continues with the ultrasound and goes on and on through every pediatrician visit and school conference.

In most cases there is very little a parent knows about their child before they are born. My husband and I didn’t want to know the gender of either of our babies before their birth, comparing it to unwrapping and rewrapping Christmas gifts before Christmas morning. After finding out their gender, height and weight, other things are revealed to you like hair color (not much with either of ours), eye color (both of ours have stunning blue eyes) and later their disposition. As time passes more aspects of who they are become apparent. Our son was two when we discovered he was allergic to cats. It wasn’t until third grade we learned he was dyslexic. Between those ages it was apparent he liked Barbies, enjoyed dress-up and could create fashions on a sheet of paper that when cutout were perfect three-dimensional articles of doll-sized clothing. He liked music and loved to dance. He was very social and loved babies.

E and Me dressup.jpg

He has a love for history, the Faberge Eggs led to his interest in Royalty from the Russian Czars to the British thrown.  He is fascinated by the Kennedy era of politics. He likes pop culture, runway fashion and most any movie with Leo DiCaprio in it. I knew none of these things about him when I carried him or in those early hours as I held him in the hospital.

As he has grown older it’s become clear how compassionate he is; growing his hair during the entire year he was ten to raise money for childhood cancer research to have it shaved for the St. Baldericks organization and donating the hair to Locks of Love, running the blood drives at his high school for three years, participating in the Box City Vigil (staying overnight on the lawn of the Capital in boxes) to raise awareness of homeless youth. Participating in (and winning) the Mr. AXO man pageant, a sorority event that kicks off Domestic Violence Awareness week. I recall in middle school him coming home and telling me about a classmate who had been molested by her uncle and his resulting deportation. When I asked if the other kids were understanding of her situation he told me that none of the other kids knew, she had only told him. Over the years he has often been the understanding confidante to his peers.

From pre-school on there has always been a girl(s) with a crush on him. During school open house in elementary school we were often asked “Are you Eddie’s parents?” then were told “We hear a lot about Eddie at our house.” only to walk ten feet down the hallway and have another set of parents say the same thing. His social calendar was filled with five proms, numerous Sadie Hawkins day dances and twenty-four formals and semi-formals filled his college weekends.

E and Crissy

His natural ability to lead people and organizations had him holding offices in student government, show choir and serving two years as a theater captain. His energy and natural gifts lit up the stage at dance recitals, theater productions and show choir competitions. College saw him step away from performance but serving on his campus Activity Board and as a class senator in Student Government, then as the treasurer and eventually as President for his senior year. Joining a fraternity rounded out his “free time” alongside his jobs in offices on campus and academics that garnered him a major in Business Management and minors in Economics, Studio Arts and Religion in four years.

Currently he is in grad school, living in a house with five guys and working on a Masters in Business Design and Innovation. His boundless creativity, time management and circle of friends have seen him accomplish more in 22 years than many do in a lifetime. His father and I are proud of both he and his sister for the people they have grown to be.

E with Bee

Over the years we have frequently been told what a great job we have done raising our kids and my response has been “We can’t take much credit for it. They come to you prewired and you can either support them in their interests and guide them or you can force your own plans on them and make them miserable.” My other sage parenting advice is “Don’t treat your children equally, treat them equitably, as they need different things.” I describe my daughter’s youth as being “linear”, she liked to participate in one activity at a time and valued her free-time for reading, art and time with pets. While she participated in athletics, she did not like when seasons overlapped. More of an introvert (like her father) she often needed a nudge to socialize. My son on the other hand could go from squeezing in an extra class prior to the start of a school day to returning from rehearsals after 10:00 pm, followed by homework and springing out of bed the next day to decorate for Homecoming and emceeing the event. If we had told him “Your sister did one activity at a time, you need to choose between dance lessens, theater, show choir and student government.” it would have crushed him and not allowed for him to reach his full potential. An example of the equal/equitable is their 17th birthday gifts, our daughter received a set of pens for her art interests, our son a used car. Our daughter is still using the markers (also had a Studio Arts minor) and never got her driver’s license until after completing college. I needed my son to have a car after years of drop-offs and pickups at strange hours. Same goes for a cell phone, he had one first because it was a necessity before it ever became a priority to our daughter.

Since going off to college texting has been the primary form of communication with both of my kids. As a Mom I relish the occasional phone call, even when it’s just for information to complete the FAFSA. There was the call that he’d been elected President, the call that he was part of the Homecoming court during his senior year and a couple of weeks ago there was a Friday night call to say that he had gone to watch Elizabeth Smart speak on campus. He told me that as he listened to her account of abduction, abuse and eventual return to her family that he was reminded of what his father had told he and his sister repeatedly when they were kids “If someone ever takes you, know that we will never stop looking for you. If someone tells you that we don’t care about you or have forgotten about you, that it is not true. No matter what, we will never stop looking and we will find you.”. He went on to say that he was looking to volunteer with an organization in the community that works against sex-trafficking and the sex trade.  As Minnesotans and newlyweds when Jacob Wetterling was abducted,  we intentionally raised our kids with an awareness that not everyone is kind and well-intentioned. When I hung up the phone and told my husband about our conversation it was confirmation that our kids carried with them the message repeated in innumerable ways since birth, that they were loved no matter what.

E Snoopy

Last week while I was at my best friend’s cabin, my husband was on a business trip in Georgia and my daughter was planning for a road trip with her roommate, my son sent a group text. In the brief message he let us know he was “coming out” and thanked us for raising him in a household where he knows he has our love and support no matter what. For a brief moment I was overwhelmed with the sensation that I had only previously experienced on the day he was born. I wanted someone to tell me to breathe or push or stop. Then the exact same thing happened, I just kept breathing on my own. It swept over me with the realization that this was simply another aspect of who he is being revealed and confirmed. Like a cat allergy or dyslexia, something that I had once not known that I was now aware of. An aspect of life figured out.

E Agitator.jpg

 

Other thoughts on parenting my adults can be found in previous blogs: https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/i-suppose-we-all-have-to-grow-up-sometime-im-getting-there

 

 

 

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Cousin Dorothy Turned 90

Unlike my typical blogs, the following is a small speech I gave the other night at a surprise party after a fabulous Russian cuisine meal at Moscow On The Hill and before the candles were blown out on the cake by the guest of honor, her son who’d recently turned 60 and a grandson from afar via cell phone. It’s a tradition.

Dorothy speaking.JPEG

October 8, 2017

I am Nancy Rose Pribyl and my paternal grandmother died two and a half years before I was born. On the day I arrived my grandfather came to the hospital with this ring I am wearing today, saying that my grandmother has instructed him “If Charles ever has a daughter, I want her to have this ring.” My grandmother Neona was Dorothy’s cousin, her mother being the sister of Dorothy’s father. Though Dorothy is from two generations ahead of me, most of the generation between us is gone, she is actually more of a contemporary of my father, graduating from West High in Minneapolis with my uncle, a few years ahead of my Dad. Dorothy continues to gather alumni of West High from the 1940’s annually, as they are a demographic best served by not waiting to meet every five years.

Ring

My first piece of jewelry

My first recollection of Dorothy was about half of her lifetime ago, after returning to Minnesota she hosted a cocktail party with games. My parents did not have a sitter for me, so I tagged along. I remember that she was stunning and that my father and her could easily make each other laugh as they reminisced. Dorothy is one of few people I know that attended my parents wedding in May 1956 and the only one who has related to me with clarity what she wore. A yellow outfit that she worked on her tan for, she was 28 years old. She recalls fondly my parent’s courtship and how crazy they were about each other.
While we gather to celebrate the milestone of Dorothy turning 90, it made me wonder what else happened in 1927. Coolidge was in the White House and announced that he would not run for reelection, women had won the right to vote just seven years earlier and as a result the nation was in the midst of Prohibition. The musical Showboat debuted on Broadway. Ford ended the production of the Model T and ushered in the Model A, which could be purchased for $460 dollars. The Kodak Brownie camera could be bought for $2.29. Charles Lindbergh made the first solo transatlantic flight and quartz time keeping was invented. With travel and photography being more easily accessible to the masses, it seemed the world was ready for Dorothy, as long as Prohibition could be repealed before she became an adult. The first week of October that year saw the release of the movie The Jazz Singer which ended the silent film era and that same week work began on Mount Rushmore a monument featuring four men, none of whom lived through more American history than Dorothy has. Ninety years ago today, the New York Yankees won the World Series in a sweep of the Pirates and they continue to bruise the egos of teams to this day!
Dorothy has not simply been on earth for ninety years, she has actually lived for ninety years! She inspires all of us with how she has lived, spending last New Year’s Eve in Dubai because she had heard they had the best fireworks and reasoning that she had already rang in a New Year in both Las Vegas and New York. When a grandson was studying abroad over a milestone birthday, she traveled to see him and hiked in altitudes that were a challenge for others half her age. During her eighties she has sailed, cruised, danced in an Irish pub, attended jazz festivals and maintained relationships with friends and family. She even starred in a grandson’s short film where she was cast as a drug lord She attended one of my son’s high school plays because she saw it posted on Facebook. I personally find Dorothy to be more reliable than our local meteorologists; the first day of spring arrives annually when Dorothy announces it is a beautiful day for “going topless” and posts a picture of her in her convertible with the roof down.
As with all of you, I treasure the time I spend with Dorothy. My 25-year old daughter said after a recent lunch “I want to be her when I grow up!”. I believe we all do. Let us all raise a glass to Dorothy who has made 90 the new 60!

Dorothy and I 90.JPEG

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Five Monumental Moments in a Year of Weight Loss

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of me starting to lose weight (again). The picture accompanying this post was taken sometime in October, when I had already lost perhaps 10 pounds. While I have dropped 8 sizes over that singular calendar, have carted away and donated nearly my entire wardrobe and reaped innumerable health benefits, there have been other, perhaps more subtle milestones along the way.

  1. When I went to Las Vegas with my friend, who is a teacher over her spring break for a second annual girl’s trip I was six months into this and down about 60 pounds. She was the one who took note that I did not ask the flight attendant for a seatbelt extender, as I had needed to the previous year.
  2. When I go to the doctor now, the nurse doesn’t have to scramble to locate the BIG blood pressure cuff. My thighs are now pretty close to the size my upper arms were a year ago.
  3. When I hit the ninety pound weight loss mark, I actually weighed 50 pounds less than the weight on my drivers license. Currently I’m 79.8 pounds less than that “fudged” number.
  4. A high point for me was picking my son up the evening before his college graduation to go to dinner. He had last seen me over Christmas break when I was down 40 pounds and then spent his spring break visiting a friend on her East coast campus, followed by a long Easter weekend spent visiting another friend in Utah. When he came down to the lobby, he shook his father’s hand and then looked at me with a pleased expression. I was down 80 pounds from when we had watched him deliver the convocation address in September of 2016.
  5. Though this final one should likely not be a pride point for a five foot, seven inch tall woman, those who know me will affirm that I find the humor in everything. Those who don’t know me but have tipped the scales with shocking numbers should be able to relate. I currently weigh less than any of the men on the NFL roster!

I am different than many people who struggle with their weight, I think that other than my physical appearance that I am pretty much the same person I was when I was 18. My weight has never defined me or left me feeling depressed. Perhaps that is because I have surrounded myself with people who have always seen me as the person that I am, not one defined by a number on a scale. In looking at the photograph this week my daughter said “I never realized you were that big.”. I know that many don’t have that luxury and feel judged by others for their appearance or some perceived weakness. That’s not what the scale tells us, that’s something we tell ourselves. So no matter what your struggle is in life, I would simply suggest to be positive, be kind to yourself and whatever changes you want to make should be done with patience and the realization that whatever your struggle is, you didn’t arrive there in a day but if you start today, you will be 365 days away from it a year from now.

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