How to Be the Perfect Parent…

Don’t have children.  Sometimes I get an idea for a blog and I start a draft of it, so I don’t forget.  The post-menapausel Alzheimers I get sometimes has me forgetting things two minutes after I think of them. so I try to get a title and few sentences to lead me, when the time comes to actually write. .  I sat down to write the other day and looked at some of my thoughts and all I had written under this title, was “don’t have them.”  I laughed trying to remember what my mind set was that day.    Was it the day when there was an eye roll, or a sarcastic rebuttal to my advice?  I don’t remember!  🙂

I was not the perfect parent, nor am I still.  The news flash?  No one is.  Are you? Have you met one?  Do we love our children like they’re perfect?  Absolutely…  Are they?  Are we?  Depends on the day…

I wished I had done things differently; somedays I do.  There were days when I made mistakes, or came close to making mistakes, that I shudder at now.  I gave them quite a bit of freedom; freedom to try things, to travel, and to express themselves.  I let them fail, but if I had to step in because someone was unjust, my reaction was predictable and swift.  I didn’t helicopter; oh once in a while a rotor started to spin, but I would always try and think first, trust that they could take it and could figure it out.

I could have done better with father figures for them, by the time I figured it out and married Dave, they were grown and have had to figure out on their own what a good male parent looks like.  They have faced disappointment and sadness, but have survived. They are all very strong and very independent, sometimes more than I would like.. they don’t need us so much anymore, or at least don’t think so, at least that’s what they sometimes tell us.   🙂

When Dave and I were married, our youngest daughter wasn’t independent.  The two youngest kids had lost their birth mom to cancer and understandably so, were fearful about loss, about decision making…..  I worked hard to make them more independent.  I wanted them to know that loss was hard, but that they could survive.  I wanted them to be strong enough to survive the other losses that invariably happen.  There was a day though, when our youngest made it very clear to me that she was independent.  I was lamenting to my husband, when he reminded me that her independence had been my goal.   Huh…success?

My sister told me about a time when she overheard our mom tell our dad that they were shitty parents.  There were days when I felt that was true; there are days when my children think they had shitty parents; there are days when your kids have thought you could have done better.. later curfews, more toys, less toys, earlier curfews, less harsh words, more hugs.  We look at them with pride, not only because we feel like we had some small part in the greatness of who they are, but because we know they are surviving us..our mistakes, our youth, our lack of parental example or in spite of our parental examples.  They are not only surviving, most of us are lucky enough to see  them thrive.

Don’t get me wrong, I still worry; I wished I could wrap them up in bubble wrap, store them in a closet so that they are only mine, safe from harm and heartbreak, but that’s not the answer by any means and we all know better (except for that couple in California).   We have to loosen the reins, let them live their lives, and pray that God will keep them safe.  The alternative, if we don’t, is that they break free on their own, with no guidance, with no safety net for when they fail, or someone fails them.

There was this quote in the 70’s, “If you love something let it free, if it’s meant to be yours, it will come back, if it doesn’t it wasn’t meant to be.”  A cheesy quote that we can blow holes in a mile wide, but really the idea is to release what you love, with a glad and open heart, before it wants to escape.  Relinquish the control..we don’t get to be in control, we only pretend.

I told my kids one day, “I’m not going to live my life feeling guilty, I did the best I could”.  “If you think I did things wrong, be a better parent, show me how it’s done, but I did the best I could.”

When I write about our children, it’s with a smile on my face.  They are my biggest worry, losing them is my biggest fear, but they are my greatest accomplishment.  I love watching them parent, whether it is with one child, three, or practicing on a dog.  The growth doesn’t stop for any of us; the learning doesn’t stop and neither does the pride.

How to be a perfect parent?  Don’t ask me; you need to practice on your own.  🙂  You will do the best you can; they will survive it and hopefully so will you..



Can We Be Grateful?

The last couple of weeks, there have been several moments, when I was caught up short by how grateful we could be.  I am an avid reader and it plays a huge part in my education, and my opinions, based on my education.  Traveling to many interesting countries: China, Cuba, Ecuador, England, France to name a few, have also changed many of my perceptions.  Even traveling to different states, has been an eye opener, as we are such a big country, with so many different cultures of our own.

I will never forget, as a young woman, who was raised in a God fearing, gun carrying, anti-abortion family, driving a brand new pickup truck, off of the interstate, on to Lake Street in Chicago.  I and my friend were the only two white people on the streets.  All of the advertisements had black people in them, everything seemed different.  When i reflected on the trip, it changed me; it didn’t change my opinions of issues, but I understood that we are a complex country, and that there are different opinions than my own, because other people’s experiences are different than my own.  What I find interesting, is that as I age, as my experiences change, my opinions, while not entirely changed, have modified.

I read a book last week called A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape From North Korea. While I have never been in either of the Korea’s, it brought back memories of Cuba and thoughts of conversations with Cuban people.  I was in a salon receiving a pedicure one day, and was visiting with the woman next to me.  I remarked that we were going on an educational tour to Cuba, through my alma mater, the University of North Dakota.  She said to me, “I think we should just leave that country alone, in it’s natural state.”  I about choked.  I said to her, “It is a country with great culture, but people are giving up their lives, and their children’s lives to leave.”  I had to choke back my dismay, and probably didn’t do a very good job of it.  Cuba is not a zoo, to entertain us when we want to see how people lived in the 50’s.  Cuba and North Korea are Socialist, ha! Communist countries, where they were promised wonderful things and ended up getting nothing that they were promised.  Nothing.

Masaji Ishikawa tells us about his mother, and later his wife, going into the hills and picking weeds to cook to try and survive.  Stealing food from the animals, boiling bark, being so constipated from the horrible diet that they had to dig their own feces out of their bodies, with their fingers.  I’m sorry; I know that’s more graphic than what you needed.  We can’t sugar coat socialism and it’s rapid fall into Communism.  We can’t close our eyes and pretend that they are these cute, eccentric countries that we can ogle like the lion in the zoo.  If the lion were allowed out, he would be dangerous, so is Socialism.

Two conversations with Cuban people  have stuck with me: One was with a Cuban woman I met, on the flight to Cuba; she told me how glad she was that some of her family members were able to live in Florida, because the schools were so wonderful..  American schools wonderful?  Yes, she was adamant.  She had been a teacher in Cuba and was so impressed with our schools.  Another conversation was with an Uber driver, who was also Cuban.  He talked to us of his hatred of Socialism and that he liked Trump.  He offered the information, I didn’t coach him.  I was surprised honestly, but couldn’t help thinking how lucky we are to be Americans.

On the heels of reading this book, my husband and I went to the movie Darkness last night.  It is the movie about Winston Churchill, right as Dunkirk was happening.  He became the Prime Minister in the darkest of times, as Hitler was getting ready to invade England.  He was dislike by everyone, including the King, and Churchill’s own party.  He couldn’t seem to control his emotions very well, and said a lot of things without thinking first; does that sound like anyone we know?  I saw many correlations between now and then.  There were conspirators behind his back, as much in his own party as the others.  Corruption, greed, selfishness, time doesn’t make us much smarter or our souls any less black.

I was at the Salvador Dali museum in St’ Petersburg Florida.  So many painters, writers and designers of that time, were eccentric, and the opium was plentiful.  If they weren’t using drugs, many of them were alcoholics.  After seeing Darkness, I thought about how horrific it was in Europe during that time.  Between WWI and WWII, and in the aftermath, there was chaos.  I can’t imagine what the people of Europe were going through for at least two generations of peoples.  What they saw?  What they experienced?  They understood that their lives could be snuffed out in a unexpected second; they needed to forget.  It is understandable that in there attempts to explain their feelings, or to express their fears, they reached out to substances opening them up to abusive use.

Many people in our country feel fear, get caught up in the drama of over sensationalized politics, have a sense of doom and gloom.  We are blessed; we have never gone through what Cuba, N. Korea, Europe have had to go through.  Individually we have had our traumas and our losses, but if we look to others, we can be grateful; we have survived; we will survive.  We can gain wisdom, modify our opinions, educate ourselves and be grateful….


Creating Family

When I was teaching and working with at-risk students, I taught them things like interview skills, how to iron, how to set a table, etc.  We also talked about finding mentors for ourselves.  I shared with them examples of people that I had looked up to and ways I had set a plan for who I wanted to be and how I wanted to live my life.  “Find someone, or someones, that you respect, emulate them, copy the parts of them you want and disregard the rest.”

My Grandma Patten was a huge influence on me.  Many of her coping skills have become mine: reading, sewing, working outside, baking … Her love and devotion to her grandchildren, I have exceeded at, only because they all live closer to me and I have more freedom and the finances, to travel and have additional experiences with them. Many of these are obvious traits that were developed because of my loving relationship with her.

There was a woman in town, who was a second cousin of my Dad’s.  Valdean was tall and classy.  She was a member of the sorority in NewTown, she and her husband were considered wealthy (they lived in one of the largest houses in town, which would seem normal, by today’s standards) and she was a great hostess.  We, as the poorer side of the family, the country mice as it were, were invited for a few occasions.  I remember a couple of parties and dinners.  I, very carefully, watched what she did and how she handled herself.  I appreciated that when I would talk to her, she appeared to listen, and I think she was curious about how I would turn out.  My love of hostessing was developed because of the confidence I had, from practice and from remembering Valdean and her confidence.  I knew what I wanted my home to look like and the feeling people should have when they walked in.  I was unable to mimic tall, and only on my good days, do I pull off classy.  🙂

It would be unfair and untrue if I didn’t consider the effect of my mom, on me.  We would have very early jazz band practices, and I hated and still do dislike getting up early in the morning.  Mom would make it a treat for me, by getting up and making hot chocolate, before waking me and enticing me up the stairs, for my ride to town.  It was Mom who argued fervently, as I listened through the door, with Dad about why I should be able to be in band.  The saxophone they bought me was expensive enough to be considered an investment.  It was Mom, who stood by the school bus, as I got on to travel to a band trip, who apologized to me because I had cashed in my savings bonds to be able to go.  She took me to 4-H and participated as a leader.  I wouldn’t have learned how to make hospital corners, when making the bed, or  the practice at making kettles of homemade chocolate pudding.  (My Family loved it.)  She loved her kids the best she could, it was apparent she tried and succeeded in getting us to adulthood, before relinquishing us to life.  Mom taught me many things about how to do the best you can, and about surviving.

We watched the “Waltons”, if you don’t remember it, you are missing out. The Waltons were a family that was imperfect: John Boy was condescending, Mary Ellen was a straight up bitch sometimes, the grandparents interfered, the mother was overwhelmed…but they loved each other and protected each other. They were my fantasy family.  I distinctly remembering laying on the floor of our living room, in the semi-darkness, with my family watching the weekly drama unfold.  I’m not sure what the attraction was, or why I thought their family was any more normal or attractive than ours, but they were my ideal.

I was pregnant with my third child when his Dad said he thought we should be done having children.  I was 26 years old and had a tubal ligation.  I wan’t happy about it, I had always wanted a larger family, a Walton’s family.  Life works out; I had a round-a-bout way of forming my family.  It’s not everything I imagined, it’s more.  There has been more sadness, more laughter, more arguments, more fun and definitely more marriages!  Lol.  As of today, (it could change at any moment) I have three children I gave birth two, two I didn’t and a step-daughter from my second marriage, all of whom  I love very much; My step-daughter has three children and I have 6 more grandchildren.  Every single adult child is happy, healthy and in love. I hold my breath……..  Grateful…..

Goodnight John Boy, Goodnight Mama, Goodnight Shanna………



Not My Family…

Ok, I have to set the record straight right off the bat; I was not adopted.  I wanted to be, sometimes could not believe that my family was really mine!  We had a family member who was adopted and I think I saw how special he was to everyone and wanted to get my parents to admit to my adoption. “Hey, I’m special too!”

I received my name from my parents, because when Mom was about ready to deliver me, she and Dad had gone to one of those beach movies.  Do you remember them?  Everyone was happy and dancing around in those one piece swimsuits that came down mid-thigh..  There were surfboards everywhere and perfect waves, in the water and in their hair?  Luanna Patton was one of the actresses, so I became Luanna.

When I was little I told my classmates the story and they teased me and asked me if John Wayne was my father…I wished!, but in fairness I had told them that the end of a rainbow had ended up in our basement, where I found a pot of gold….so maybe my imagination was a little active..

I remember telling my Mom that I wanted to see my birth certificate, so she could prove to me that they were my parents.  She was not happy.  I found the numbers and opened the safe myself.  I was so excited that I was finally going to know the truth!  I snuck into their room, opened the closet door and hunched down.  Three to the right for the first number…two to the left for the second number and one back to the right for the last number, I heard the satisfying click and opened the door.  I opened one of the little drawers and there they were..  I sorted through, found mine and waalaa!  Shoot!  I think I was not saying shit then, or the f word, because I definitely would have said something stronger than shoot.  My dreams were dashed. My parents were my parents…  At least my mother was my mother.

When I became older, and thought I understood sex, I started hoping that she had an affair with someone from the mail route.  Mom regularly took mail down to Mandaree, which was the deeper part of the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Indian reservation.  If I went with and saw her visit with a customer, I would wonder, “Is that him, is that my real father?”  I, of course, only considered the good looking ones as serious contenders.  My thoughts were refueled when I read about Lewis and Clark talking about the Hidatsa women’s pot bellies.  Now I at least had proof that I was Hidatsa.  That was about the time I asked my grandma, if there was a chance that there had been an indiscretion in the family, and she glowered….( I have a good friend that I discussed this with that said it was more likely our diet, from poverty, not nearly as cool of a reason.)

Our families, are our families..  I have no fantasy about different parentage now.  The more I talk and listen, I have found there are no perfect families.  Mistakes are made, hopefully are forgiven, and we do the best with what and who we have.

“I yam, who I yam,” said Popeye.   You are who you are!


New Years Resolutions? Every Year Resolution!

I remember the morning I rolled my car.  I was headed in to town for just a short day at school; we were picking up our report cards or something.  I was driving down the road listening to and singing along with:

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
And them good ole boys were drinking whiskey and rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die…”

After the morning at school, my sister Lisa and I jumped in my car and started for home.  It was a few minutes later, when my good friend and his buddy came up along side of us and grinned.  I was fourteen and had my license for only a few months. (I was a farm girl and of course the paperwork for me to take my test for my driver’s license was signed off quickly.  The oldest child in the family needed to be driving; the folks were so relieved to have someone to drive kids the four miles to town, so they wouldn’t be on the roads constantly.)  I remember putting my foot down on the gas pedal and speeding up; he sped up too and quickly pulled in front of me.  I remember seeing the speed limit side on the right and thought I was going to hit it, so I over corrected and went across the opposite lane, into the ditch and rolled over on the grassy side hill.

We weren’t wearing seat belts and our eyes were wide, when we landed upside down.  I asked Lisa if she was Ok, and she said she was, but I could see there was some blood on her toe.  Construction workers from the apartments along the road, came down to check on us.  I don’t remember much more about that; I’m sure some sort of shock was going on; I think there was an ambulance, and I know there was trouble.  When we made it to the clinic, I made the phone call and Mom answered.  “Mom, I rolled the car.”  Her first question was if we were both ok.  I answered that we were and she came in to pick us up.

Well, long story short, I was grounded for the summer and then actually there was another accident and I was grounded for the next winter.  Mom and Dad didn’t quite get the driving break they thought they were going to get.  😦  Dad had a buddy who had told me that my Dad had a similar “incident”, I reminded Dad of that and he made some comment about me not needing to be as stupid as he had been.

The best part of that summer is that while Dad decided it was his chance to fence off every side of six quarters of land (160 acres at a time) and have me help him, Mom made us great lunches.  Finally I’m getting to my life resolution.  🙂

I guess we grew up fairly poor.  I didn’t even really realize it until I was in high school.  A friend said to me that I shouldn’t buy something, because I really couldn’t afford it.  I wore lots of hand-me-down clothes and clothes that Grandma had made for me; I got a job when I was 14, cleaning motel rooms, and paid for most of my own things, but with all of that, I never thought of our family as poor.  I mentioned it to Dad one time and he said, “You weren’t poor, I only had one pair of jeans for all week, that was poor.”  I guess it’s all in the perspective lol…

Mom was careful with money; when it was pow wow time on the reservation, or close to a holiday, she would be approached on the mail route, and asked if she wanted to buy any commodities.  She would get a box or so of groceries, pretty cheaply, lots of canned vegetables and if we were really lucky, commodity cheese.  It was a large block of yellow American cheese and was delicious.  I ate more cheese sandwiches with homemade rhubarb sauce than I could ever count.  It’s one of my favorites to this day.  We also had a lot of cake with homemade fudge frosting.  Cake mixes were cheap and it seemed we always had one in the cupboard.  Fruit and sandwich meat was always in the fridge, but it was for the men, who worked.  Well the summer I rolled my car, I got to have “man” lunches and it almost made the fencing worth while.  Everyday when I opened up the lunch bag, there was a summer sausage or ham sandwich and at least one piece of fruit, many times two.  It was the only time we were allowed to eat fresh fruit, anything purchased by the lug was made into sauce, although there were fruit pies; peach is still my favorite.

I’m not sure if it was our diet, or genetics, but us kids all struggled with our weight at different times.  I am blessed with a large frame, hands bigger than a field hands, and shoulders, that even when the blades have stuck out, still make a men’s large shirt fit my shoulders and arms the best.  Exercising and learning to eat differently has been my life’s resolution.  A few years ago, I was told I’m pre-diabetic, destined to be truly diabetic.  I got tears in my eyes, when the pharmacist told me that most pre-diabetics become diabetics, even with work and diet, it seems unsurmountable.  I keep trying though…more vegetables….. more exercise.  I started at a gym last week, with a program designed for me.  I did it ahead of the New Year! Ha!  Trying to beat Father Time…

Poverty, eating habits, genetics?  It’s like everything else; we can’t change some things; we can only move forward and do the best we can.  I’m headed out the door; I have some lunges and weights waiting for me….





Enjoy Today!!

If you are Christian, you are making dinner, or in the car headed to someone’s house, or church, or you are getting ready to relax and watch a game or read a book.  Hopefully if you are Jewish or Muslim, or Buddhist, or another culture or religion, you are enjoying the day in your way.  The bottom line is enjoy your day! Count your blessings! Praise your God!

I have been in the habit of saying how grateful I am for the blessings I have been given.  I got to thinking about it one day and decided that I am grateful.  I don’t think God intends to bless me more than a homeless person.  There are other things at play; there must be, but I am grateful.  I don’t have what Bill Gates has, or Mark Zuckerberg, but I am grateful!  I am grateful for my health and the health of my family, I am grateful I am alive and I am grateful that there are people I know who respect and care about me.  I am grateful our children pay taxes and love each other.

Thanksgiving is typically the time we give thanks, but we can  and should be grateful every day.

Many of you may be having a tough day, and my gratefulness is nauseating.  My empathy is yours.  It will get better.  Life gets better, and then it gets worse, but it does get better again.  You know me; you read me; life always gets better.

Hopeful you find your joy today.


When You See One, There Are Always More….

My Mom and Dad moved back on to the family farm, when I was about four.  Dad had worked in the oilfield, but he wanted to farm.  Grandpa Pat was ready to slow down, and then died.  We moved into the old farm house.  It was a sea foam green two story house, that originally only had an outhouse.  Grandpa and Grandma had taken a porch and made it into a small den, bathroom and enlarged the kitchen area.  It sat on a dirt basement, with a coal burning stove that heated the house, sometimes.  In the coldest days of the winter months, we would all sleep in the living room, with a blanket blocking off the kitchen-half of the house, the door shut to the upstairs, and the furnace full of coal, trying to heat that little bit of house we were sleeping in.  We didn’t mind much; we were warm, and it was “camping out” to us kids.

The only thing we had to worry about on those nights, is that the mice wanted to be warm too.  They would come up from the basement, and risk life-or-death, by running around.  They especially liked to surprise you in the bathroom.  I would be sitting on the toilet, and a mouse, or two would come out and look at me.  We both had our jobs to do-me finishing my toileting and them trying to survive.

Dad would periodically catch a bull snake and release him into the basement, to try and control the population, but never seemed to make much difference.  It only made going down to get canned goods more interesting, as I was terrified, the mouse would survive and I would not.

Dad later gave the house away to the mover, who sold or gave it to someone in the White Earth Valley.  Dad told me in later years they used it for their animals.  We built a new house, whose only infiltrators were salamanders, or a calf or lamb, who were brought in by the humans.

I was lucky enough to have repeat performances of mouse escapades, when I lived in a 12×60 trailer house in an oil camp, in 1978-1982.  I was visiting with my mother-in- law on the phone, when I saw the tinfoil move, that was covering the roast beef on the counter.  I looked again in time to see a mouse pull a piece of beef off the plate, slide it across a bit of counter and take it down behind the stove.  There were times I would be laying in bed nursing my oldest son, and a mouse would come out from his hiding and look up at me, with no fear in his eyes.  We were outnumbered.

When we sold that trailer house, very soon after that, I pictured it going down the road to Billings, Montana; the mice waving goodbye as they began their new adventure.

An interesting insight into my life on the farm?  I have tried to give you a few of them, so you know who I am; based on my experiences you can see when we are similar.  So you can believe me, when I tell you I understand where many of you have been.

I was watching TV one morning, working on a Soduko puzzle.  I’m trying to keep my brain more toned than my body.  The announcement came on that Charlie Rose had been suspended.  I set my puzzle down and tried to take it in; I’m obviously not one of those people oblivious to abuse; I’ve had my share of it, in several different versions, but Charlie Rose…  I didn’t see that coming.  Many of the broadcasters have made the point of saying, how do we balance our feelings for someone we care about, who has done something so wrong.  I don’t care if it’s the Senator from Michigan, or Alabama, or our favorite morning news commentator,  the President, or family member.  It hurts when someone we respect, betrays trust.

How do we balance our feelings?  By lashing out at others?  The women in this case, and there have been men in other cases as well, are like mice…They for whatever reason, have held on for five, or ten, or 40 years.  Their lives were changed, but they survived by doing what they had to do.  Victims are like mice, stories of abuse are like mice…if there is one, there is more.

The stories in the news have been mostly sexual abuse of power, but my analogy can be any form of abuse.  I have thoughts and prayers in my heart right now for people who are physically, emotionally, and verbally abused as well.  Verbal and emotional abuse leave no outward physical scars, but the damage is so difficult to overcome.  Please don’t become so comfortable with it, because of your family, or culture that you don’t pay attention to the mice.

With all of my heart, I wish you..