Columns

Don’t Blink: Summer and Childhood Vanish

They marched out of the old Orchard Prairie schoolhouse, eyes alight with excitement.

“Are they done yet?” asked the oldest.

The three boys had been waiting for their mom, the school’s PTO president, to finish an afternoon meeting that I’d just left.

I’d paused to take a picture of the historic schoolhouse when the boys bounded into view.

They’d been busy while they waited.

“We catched a spider!” shouted the littlest boy. “A GINORMOUS spider!”

The middle brother shouldered him out of the way.

“We put it in a Gatorade bottle that I found,” he said.

His older brother held the spider aloft, soldiering on in search of their mother, while the youngest stayed behind, eager to explain his role in the capture.

“I founded it first!” he said. “Back there!”

He pointed behind the building, bouncing with excitement.

“It’s GINORMOUS!”

Then he hurried to catch up with his brothers.

That encounter brightened a long Monday and memories of my sons tumbled through my mind.

Once upon a time, I had four little boys whose summer adventures frequently included capturing creepy crawlies.

For the record, I’m not a fan of creepy crawlies, but I am a fan of boys and boundless curiosity.

Summer often seems endless when you’re an at-home mom. Endless can equal excruciating when bored boys fight over video games. I worked hard to balance planned activities while leaving room for unstructured play. Anything to keep my busy boys away from electronic devices and spontaneous wrestling matches.

One summer, I grew tired of my Tupperware being used to re-home spiders and insects, so I bought the boys a bug-catching kit. It came with a net, a magnifying glass, tweezers and a plastic container to house their captures.

They spent hours turning over rocks, crawling under decks, and digging through dirt to find new specimens.

We checked out bug books from the library to help identify their finds and to recognize spiders they should avoid.

I realized that backfired when I overheard my middle son saying to his younger brother, “Nope. That’s not a black widow. Keep looking.”

In retrospect, it’s amazing that no one got bit or stung.

I wished I’d been more patient when they careened through the house, shrieking with excitement, holding a newly captured specimen aloft.

Instead, I often feigned interest and wearily reminded them of the “no bugs in the house” rule. In my defense, you can only rave about the coolness of pill bugs a finite number of times.

I just didn’t realize how quickly those summers would pass. Older friends tried to warn me.

“Slow down, enjoy these days, it all goes too fast,” they said.

Sometimes I did slow down enough to savor the sight of four little boys crouching in the driveway, watching a row of ants march across the gravel.

I wish I had a picture of that. But when my sons were small, cellphones didn’t come with cool cameras. Capturing memories meant running back inside the house, trying to unearth a camera.

Summer can seem endless, but it isn’t. You blink and suddenly there’s a chill in the night air and the leaves start to turn.

As I watched the three little boys run across the Orchard Prairie schoolyard with their ginormous spider, I wished I’d taken their photo.

I would have sent it to their mother.

A snapshot of a boyhood that will disappear in the blink of an eye.

War Bonds

Empowering Women through Elevating the Conversation

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I was delighted to be a guest on the Whatever Girls podcast “Elevating the Conversation,” though as a journalist it was odd to be on the other side of the Q&A!

Host Erin Bishop and I covered a lot of ground. Her grandparents are the beautiful couple on the cover of War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation.

War Bonds Cover Photo

We talked about how the women of that generation revolutionized the workplace and what it takes to have lasting relationships.
Then we talked about writing. How I got started and what’s coming up next. Of course, if you asked me a writing, I’ll talk about reading. The best writers are the best readers!

And then the heart of the podcast– the value of female friendships and how we can empower each other by elevating the conversation.

You can listen to the podcast here.

The-Whatever-Girls

 

 

Columns

Family, friends, foes and Facebook: Election 2016

There’s a reason I keep my Facebook page politics-free, and it has little to do with being a journalist.

I don’t like conflict. I don’t like name-calling, and I really, really don’t like intolerance and ignorance.

Sadly, there’s nothing like a contentious election season to bring out all of the above. But I purposely keep my political views to myself. In fact, for someone who’s written a column about her underwear, I’m actually an intensely private person. Imagine my surprise when I found myself unfriended by a family member following the election.

My apparent offense? I “liked” a comment another family member had left that repudiated a label often used during passionate political posts. The label? “Privileged white male.” The PWM in question explained why he was tired of his opinions being dismissed with this label and I liked his explanation.

Bam. Apparently, hitting the like button on that comment exceeded her tolerance level. Keep in mind I’d never disagreed or argued with anything this person had posted.

I’m not alone in my experience. A friend was banished from Facebook friendship by a family member because he admitted he’d left the presidential spot blank on his ballot. He couldn’t stomach either option, so he did what he felt was honorable.

He was accused of being a sexist, racist jerk and told that he should … well, I can’t print the rest of the rant in a family newspaper.

When imagined incorrect interpretations are applied to Facebook likes, when rage and rhetoric rule the day, how then can our country and our community move forward? Is it possible to stand and fight for causes and people we’re passionate about without dipping buckets into wells of hatred and splattering others with venom and vitriol?

I’d like to think it is. Perhaps part of the solution is getting to know the “other” among us.

In the weeks preceding the election I had coffee with a friend who said she honestly didn’t know anyone who would vote for Donald Trump. She was joyfully planning a small voting victory party for election night.

That same week I had lunch with a friend who said she didn’t know anyone who would actually vote for Hillary Clinton. “Of course, that doesn’t mean she won’t win,” my friend said. “It’s just that I can’t imagine anyone I know choosing her.”

My reticence renders me like Switzerland, so both of these friends felt comfortable tossing around labels about people who would vote for the candidates they opposed.

“Underclass, undereducated, sexist bigots,” my liberal friend opined.

“Sensitive snowflakes, elitists and whiny millennials,” my conservative friend asserted.

And therein lays the problem. The minute we apply a blanket label to anyone who may vote differently from us, we’ve ensured our bubble is intact. We have become so comfortable in our social and political isolation that we have lost touch with the wider world.

This past week I’ve seen an outpouring of grieving and gloating on social media, and while the hateful rhetoric of some shocked and saddened me, I was relieved that my closest circle of friends had more measured thoughtful reactions.

Whether frightened or hopeful about the next few years, I hope the path forward will include listening and learning from those who differ from us. Hatred can never be part of the solution.

Violence won’t beget tolerance or peace. Rage doesn’t lead to enlightenment.

Our children are watching. They’re listening to our words. They’re reading our posts on social media. If we truly want to create a safe world for them to thrive in, we owe it to them to forge ahead with courage and to take every opportunity to choose love.

The words of Martin Luther King Jr. have never been more apt, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.

Columns

A visit from the Frown Fairy

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In which I’ve come unglued. Or something. Seriously, aging isn’t for the faint of heart– or weak of ankle.

Squinting at my phone, I rubbed my thumb across the screen, certain there was a smudge on it marring the photo I’d just taken of my friend and me.

After posting it on Facebook, I checked the enlarged photo on my computer and that shadow I’d seen between both of our brows was still there. Only it wasn’t a shadow – it was most definitely a crease. How had we both suddenly developed frown lines right between our eyes? Neither of us is prone to frowning.

And not for the first time, I realized I should have listened to my mother.

Sometime in her late 40s in an effort to combat wrinkles, my mother came up with an innovative solution to prevent pesky frown lines. Before going to bed at night, she affixed a corn plaster right between her eyes. She dubbed them “frownies” and was confident the plaster would prevent wrinkles from creasing her forehead while she slept.

 The only problem was sometimes those frownies migrated during the night. She’d come to the breakfast table with one in her hair or on her cheek. This was the subject of great mirth to me and my siblings. To Mom, not so much.

I’ve noticed other signs of increasing decrepitude. A few months back I started having severe pain in my right elbow that radiated down my forearm.

“How could I have tennis elbow?” I moaned to my husband. “I haven’t played tennis in 25 years!”

I took ibuprofen and soldiered on, unwilling to spend time or money on a doctor visit. A colleague heard my groans and diagnosed the issue. Turns out it wasn’t tennis elbow – it was “mouse elbow,” a common problem for people who work at computers all day.

She sent me a chart about how to sit at my desk to help alleviate the pain. I adjusted my chair and desk, bought an elbow brace and before long, the pain was gone. Who needs a doctor when you’ve got a journalist?

It’s a good thing my elbow felt better, because lately I’ve been limping. The pain radiates from my Achilles tendon, making walking miserable. This is not good news because I walk several miles three to four times a week and need this exercise for both my physical and mental health.

Achilles tendinitis is most common in runners, and I can assure you I only run if something or someone is chasing me. Baffled, I tried ice and heat and ibuprofen. Nothing seemed to work.

I took several weeks off from my walking routine, but it’s not like I can go through life without walking anywhere.

Even my journalist friends were baffled.

Then one day while sitting at my desk, I discovered the source of my strain. While writing, I often cross my legs and push my right foot against the back of my desk, flexing my Achilles. I also often tuck my legs behind me, flexing my right foot against the chair leg.

Bingo! Pain solved. Kind of.

Keeping my feet on the ground while working has fixed the source of the problem, and I’ve been able to resume my walking routine, but hills are still painful and if I walk too much, the limp returns.

According to Google, this type of injury can take up to two years to heal. Google further said this problem is also associated with the aging process.

Sometimes I really hate the internet.

So, there you have it. Apparently, I’ve reached the age where frown fairies sneak into my room and slap a crease between my brows while I’m sleeping. I can hurt my elbow by typing and my Achilles by sitting at my desk.

This morning I woke up, stretched my arms over my head and sighed when I heard my shoulders snap, crackle and pop. I didn’t bound out of bed, I cautiously tested my tendon and groaned when I felt the familiar ache that told me I’d walked too many miles yesterday.

I took the stairs to my office one at a time and carefully adjusted my mouse pad, keyboard and chair before I began writing.

As I type my feet are firmly on the ground. At this rate, they’re going to be the only firm thing about me.

Like Bette Davis famously said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.”

Which could be why she also said, “There comes a time in every woman’s life when the only thing that helps is a glass of Champagne.”

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.