Monday, July 07, 2008

Bits and Bobs

In case I had yet to figure out that 46 is way middle aged, a not-so-young adult friend kindly assisted me to this conclusion on Sunday.

We were discussing exercise and weight loss. I bemoaned the established fact that I exercise quite regularly and vigorously yet do not lose any weight. Not-so-young adult friend threw this bombshell into the mix: her mom says the same thing, but notes that exercise is keeping her from gaining weight.

Her mom? She's comparing me to her MOM?? Not-so-young adult friend is an adult. I am an adult. I ask her how old she is. I perform simple math. I determine that I, in fact, could easily be her mom. I've passed the stage of "well, I could be her mom if I'd given birth when I was 13, which was technically a possibility." Oh my goodness gracious. I have reached a new stage of Old.

Yet I'm never too old to enjoy fireworks on the 4th of July. Usually, T, J and I--along with various friends and family that vary from year to year--hit a prime spot on the grass near the softball fields. T and family are in Gotland. So I called some friends and we threw together a last minute potluck bbq. Much fun, as we enjoy this smart, funny family. Then some of us ran down to the fireworks at the last moment.

Ooo. Ahhh. We make fun of the collective sighs and swells of the crowd reacting to each display. But, truly, these dazzling sparks high in the sky are among life's ephemeral pleasures.
Can't hold on to them. Can't recreate them. And they serve absolutely no useful purpose that I can see. Worse, now I'm told they're toxic. Don't care. Those fleeting moments of joy are the best of all.

Speaking of fleeting moments of joy, it's always a pleasure when the opposing candidate says or does really ridiculous things, statements or actions that need no explicating, no parsing to prove their idiocy. Daily dose of Ridiculocity from John McCain on ways he will balance the budget when he is President

"The McCain administration would reserve all savings from victory in the Iraq and Afghanistan operations in the fight against Islamic extremists for reducing the deficit."

Republicans and Democrats have both been busy parsing this week, as Obama's "new" stance on Iraq has been assessed. To Chandlerize, could there BE any less news that this "make news" topic? McCain is committed on winning the war in Iraq. Obama is committed to getting us out of Iraq. Obama has admitted that he will continue to assess the situation on how, precisely, to do that as he learns more.

Shocking revelation: a politician who is willing to adapt and change his position based on new information. Far more shocking revelation: Republicans are suspect of such an approach--and so are those anti-Obama factions out there. This is spin, folks. Call me when Obama jumps on the Bush wagon to bomb Iran, wants to stimulate the economy by taxing the poor and giving rich breaks, or backs discriminating against gays.


Friday, July 04, 2008

Patriotic Meanderings

That is today's topic, ladies and gents, being the 4th of July and all. Naturally, I turn to Websters, which tells me that patriotism is "love for or devotion to one's country". How do you love or devote yourself to your country? Doesn't seem like adorning yourself with a flag pin nor your home with a flag gets much below the surface, bringing you closer to love or devotion.

Symbolism so often substitutes for people or action. That's nothing new. Crosses have been decorations for houses or adornment of the body, even among those who have little interest in following Christ's footsteps. I can
buying this year's Old Navy 4th of July t-shirt and feel or seem to love my country, when in truth I am merely celebrating yet another day off work by joining in the collective fun of the 4th.

Symbols invite both great reverence and contempt. Defacing a symbol of another's country or religion is felt deeply, almost as scarring the soul rather than a mere physical pox on symbolic part of who that person is. Symbols, particularly those which have come to stand for principles or principalities, become inseparable from that for which they stand.

Familiar turn of phrase there. :-) And one that helps me remember why symbols become so much more than symbols. "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation (under God), indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." It is not only the nation which becomes indivisible when we pledge to both cloth and country, hence the scarring.

For all that, it is hard for me to regard symbols or the use of them as patriotic. Their use seems much more akin to nationalism, which Websters helpfully defines as "loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially : a sense of consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups."

You know. "God Bless America, land that I love . . ." rather than "God Bless the Whole World--No Exceptions." The extreme is Nazism. In a melting pot like the good ole US of A, patriotism seems far more appropriate than the artificial elevation of one nation over another.

And nationalism seems very boy-centric. Competitive. I am better than you. Which, when you consider that it's often boys--who are barely men--bleeding and thinking they are defending both a symbol and a nation with that blood, makes sense. Even if I don't agree with it.

Me? I think it's patriotic to know the history of our nation, to let that history inform and inspire our love and devotion to each other and this nation. It's patriotic to vote each and every time, to care enough not only to complain about what's wrong with our country but to try to make it right. Yet it's patriotic to complain, too. Loudly and clearly, enunciating in excruciating detail what is not right that needs to be made right in America.

Patriotism isn't mere devotion to a government. It's love of the land. This land (could be a song in that). From my urban, tree-filled tiny backyard in Oak Park, Illinois to the pale vistas of the Sonoran desert to the rugged Rockies to each and every beloved place in between. I am absolutely devoted to this land, my land (I'm sure there's a song in that), both because of its beauty, past and present, and because of the grand history seeped into every nook and cranny. History that fars exceeds a single form of government or the breadth of human knowledge.

I love my country so I revere its past, rabble-rouse in its present, and eagerly anticipate its future, whatever form it might take. Preferably led by Democrats. ;-)


Thursday, July 03, 2008

My boy

So. The continuing saga of Jonathan, manchild with Asperger's Syndrome, well, it continues. Being the mom of a 20 year old with somewhat unusual needs requires a constant rejiggering (that's the professional parenting term) of expectations on both of our parts. I expect him to take on new responsibilities. And he expects me to stop that immediately, as it rocks his boat.

I persist. He presents perfectly logical reasons why he should NOT have to entertain such a heavy life load. For example, this year I've insisted that Jon call the doctor's office each month in a timely fashion to get a refill on his prescriptions (a controlled substance that must be filled monthly with a paper scrip). This requires

1. that he notice he is getting low on meds

2. that he notice he is getting low on meds without actually being out of them

3. that he notice he is getting low on meds without actually being out of them on a weekday
so that the doctor's office is available to write the prescription

4. that he notice he is getting low on meds without actually being out of them on a weekday so that the doctor's office is available to write the prescription and actually call the doctor's office.

that he notice he is getting low on meds without actually being out of them on a weekday so that the doctor's office is available to write the prescription and actually call the doctor's office then commandeer a ride from a driving relative to pick up said prescription.

Do you realize that most of our life tasks can be summed up in such an onerous fashion, that life inevitable breaks down into many little pieces, the leaving out of any of which will cause the wreck and ruin of the whole? OK. Perhaps wreck and ruin is too strong. How about makes life more difficult?

Jon has managed this new responsibility with success. He has also not noticed he was out of meds until he was out of meds, run out of meds on a Friday afternoon, called for a prescription then forgotten to pick it up before the weekend, and just plain forgotten to pick the prescription up, period.

The road to successful assumption of responsibility is littered with failure. Sometimes he learns from the failure, sometimes not. The first two years of college have abundantly demonstrated this maxim. The latest interesting incident involves his admission and now lack thereof, to the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

Do you remember how you had to tell your college or university of choice that you accepted their acceptance of you? At UIC, it's called filing the Intent to Enroll form. It was Jonathan's responsiblity. I bugged him but did not peer over his shoulder. At some point, he said he filed it. Fast forward a few months. Somehow, he did not file it and is now no longer extended admission.

Argh for everyone. Jon is no different than the rest of us, in that when he fails he believes he is a failure. It's awfully hard to view failure, mistakes, pain as steps to success. Together, though, we called UIC admissions and ask for info. There is an ever so slight chance that he may be readmitted. He has had to petition for same, with an explanation as to why he didn't file the form.

This was Jonathan's responsibility. Writing it was a way for him to redeem the mistake, even if the petition is not granted. His petition follows:

"I am petitioning to have my (late) Intent to Enroll form accepted despite the June 1st deadline. I apologize profusely for my blunder; it is my belief that I somehow became confused in the process of setting up my UIC Connect account, and forgot to furnish the necessary form. Slip-ups of this sort are, unfortunately, a roughly annual occurrence for me; I suffer from a neurological condition known as Asperger's Syndrome.

Possibly due to prenatal mercury exposure, my brain differs slightly from that of most people; my intellect and capacity for information storage is vastly increased, but I have trouble with cognitive control (also known as "executive functions") and interpersonal relations. In other words, if I were a mad scientist, I could build a doomsday device that harnessed the principles of quantum entanglement to teleport entire cities into space, but odds are I'd leave the plutonium in my other coat and alienate the minions by bursting into evil laughter at the least appropriate times.

It is my contention that this disorder is both the cause of my current problems and an asset that will prove invaluable to me as an aspiring academic once I have overcome the negative aspects thereof, and I believe that all involved would benefit greatly by allowing me to enroll here. Thank you for your consideration."

Vintage Jonathan. Exaggeration, honesty, humor, and the facts, all rolled up in his inimitable writing style. In spite of his "neurological condition", it seems like he might be a good catch. :-) Hope UIC agrees.