“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

Spittin’ Grits on The Stir

I want to thank featured blogger K. Emily Bond at The Stir for her interest in Spittin’ Grits and her post last week of the interview with me about being a parenting grandparent. Our hour-long conversation covered many topics and details, and I’m pleased at the ones she picked to include in the post.

The Stir is part of the parenting site CafeMom, which offers its huge community of readers support, friendship, information and advice on a wide range of topics of interest to parents, particularly moms.

The Stir is a place on CafeMom for the featured bloggers to post topics that readers can respond to with comments that begin a conversation where everyone can join in.

The Numbers

My guess is that when all the Census 2010 figures shake out and are digested, those numbers Bond cited will be higher. (You can read the Pew Research Center publication here.) As Bond said, Spittin’ Grits deals primarily (but not exclusively) with drug addiction and being a parenting grandparent. My next guess is that as drug addiction numbers increase, so will the number of parenting grand- and great-grandparents.

Way Up the Mountain

Her insight that my most visible approach to parenting our granddaughter is finding practical solutions is correct. It’s part of getting real about the circumstances.

For example, when I recognized our granddaughter’s suffering and grief for the loss of her “mommy,” even at her very young age, I knew I needed help and guidance.

I am very clear that we are fortunate in being able to get the help we need. My 65-year-old husband recently accepted an offer of full-time employment (not easy to find these days) to ensure we could continue to give our granddaughter what she needs, plus all the extras.

The caveat, however, is that significant steps in the process of finding ways to care for grandchildren whose parents are drug addicts, criminals, imprisoned, mentally ill, or abusive/neglectful can be extremely difficult or impossible: getting the children away from bad parents, getting custody, getting the parent(s) to consent to adoption, finding financial or physical or emotional support – it’s all an uphill battle, and the system is not kind or supportive in most of it.

Sites

A grandparents parenting site I didn’t know about contacted me because of The Stir’s post: GrandsPlace. The Legal Resources link includes a post on a law needed to facilitate adoption and other solutions:

New laws covering the rights of children whom neither live with their parents nor are under the umbrella of the foster care system is needed. We need a law that will protect the rights of children being well cared for by relatives who are not able to adopt them while enabling the grandparents and other relatives to adopt if they choose and are qualified to adopt. Children being cared for by relatives should be accorded the same rights as foster children. If a grandparent or other relative wishes to and is qualified to adopt, the same time limits should apply. If the parents fail to rehabilitate themselves within a reasonable amount of time the rights of those parents must be terminated and allow a qualified grandparent or other relative who have been caring for the children in their absence to adopt those children. Only then can children, grandparents and the special others who are caring for the children depend on the promise of FOREVER.

Another very helpful grandparents parenting site is http://www.grandparentingblog.com/.

Somber Realities

One of my gravest concerns that the Pew Research Center reported in its on-line publication about parenting grandparents is the number who are close to or below the poverty level. Going through any or all of the steps cited above costs money, and some steps are more expensive than others: hiring attorneys, getting professional counseling, paying for medical care, sending the kids to pre-school or schools that require tuition, clothing the kids, seeing to the nutritional needs, and much, much more.

“Nearly one-in-five (18%) are living below the poverty line, while 47% have household incomes that fall between one- and three-times the poverty line. In comparison, among the population ages 50 and older, 8% are below the poverty line, and 32% are living on an income that is between one- and three-times the poverty rate,” according to the Pew Report.

This story is about the children. And the facts are abominable.

America has to find the will and the resources to help these children, starting with the growing numbers of drug, alcohol, and pill addicts among young people and moving on to those who are caring for the children of these addicts.

Once again, I thank K. Emily Bond in helping to bring these issues into the light.

The Birdiest

It’s a word! It’s a word actually being used, and I’m not kidding. Words being used are best, even if they aren’t in a dictionary. Birdiest is SO being used that being named one of the birdiest places is governed by rules.

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Undaunted by even the BP oil disaster, millions and millions of birds are making their annual migration over the Gulf of Mexico, and lots and lots of them are flying over the Alabama Gulf Coast. Right now, the birds are flying south for the winter. And right now is one of the best times to go birding in Mobile and Fairhope, Alabama. To add lots of value to your birding experience, sign up for the 7th Annual John L. Borom Alabama Coastal BirdFest, Oct. 14 – 17.

mudlakes1 Photos: Lisa Comer. Above: Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, taken at the BirdFest
Below: Great White, Snowy, and Cattle Egrets, taken at the BirdFest

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Places in this area, specifically the Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuaries and Sea Lab, have been named one of the birdiest in America. You’ll see all kinds of shapes, colors, and species; you’ll hear warbles, songs, and experts talking about the sights and sounds. And you can walk, walk, walk.

According to John Borom, currently director of Faulkner State Community College and president of the Mobile Bay Audubon Society, birding is not only a special pleasure, it is “big business in Alabama.”

“It is eco-tourism, and the emphasis is on conservation of habitat,” he said. “Proceeds from the BirdFest go toward support of the Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuaries. Over the years we have been able to donate $65,000.”

 

American Avocet The opening night reception will feature BirdFest and other photos by Lisa Comer. Above, American Avocet.

Faulkner State will host a free event that promises to delight the whole family: the Bird and Conservation Expo is scheduled for Oct. 16, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Faulkner State and the Fairhope public library.

clip_image001Becky Collier and raptor friend will be at the Expo again this year.

 

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Borom also suggests the 240-mile long Alabama Coastal Trail. “It is a hot birding area,” says Borom.

 

Birders on trail copy Birders on the trail

 

 

 

He also notes that the BP disaster has raised awareness about the critical importance of conserving habitat, as the marshes and breeding grounds for all kinds of bird and sea life have been adversely affected by the catastrophe. “We don’t yet know how it has affected the food chain. We’re going to be watching closely. Only time will tell,” he said.

He emphasizes that the migratory birds are unaffected, and this year’s BirdFest promises to be as good as ever.

For updated information on the oil spill and how it affects travel in the Mobile Bay area, visit these websites: http://www.mobilebaytravelupdates.com, www.eschamber.com, or www.gulfshores.com. For more information about the BirdFest, call Fran Morley at 251-928-0987.

blue heron Lisa Comer: Above: Blue Herron. Below: airborne raptors.

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For one of 2010's birdiest experiences, put the Alabama Coastal BirdFest on your to-do list.

 

Wake-up Call

Friday morning, September 10, after making all kinds of arrangements in order to leave town, I was just about to get a suitcase to the car to drive to Montgomery to my Aunt Laurette’s 90th birthday celebration. NOT.

“Rriiingg, the phone is ringing,” as the Wonder Pets sing.

It was the owner of the café where my husband eats breakfast. “Joanna, Joe Lee has fallen out or fainted or something. We’ve called an ambulance,” said the frantic voice.

I thought I would choke on my heart. “I’m on my way, Barbara.”

I sped to the café, getting there just as the ambulance had pulled out to go to the hospital’s emergency room. The other paramedics in the Fire Rescue truck said, “It’s going to be ok. Here’s his stuff. Don’t speed to the ER. He’s going to be ok.”

My mind’s blank as I drive to the ER.

I get through the ER’s security gate and the guard walks me to the long hall leading to the last room on the left.

“Sit here with this lady, and I’ll see if you can go back yet,” said the guard. I stood next to the desk looking down the hall.

The lady was clicking away on her computer. “What’s your relationship to the patient?”

I jerked my head around in her direction. “Wife.”

“Is your husband’s Medicare the primary and PEEHIP the secondary?”

“Yes.” I kept looking down the hall. The paramedics were just outside the door.

“Is your address still 3403. . . .”

“Lady, this is the emergency room. I’m worried about my husband. Can’t we do this later?”

The security guard was walking toward me. “Not yet,” she said.

I looked past her and thought I saw the paramedic shake his head. “Oh, my God,” I thought. I started crying.

The security guard looked back and the paramedic indicated for us to come on to the room.

“Come on,” said the guard.

I wiped my eyes on my shirt and headed down the hall. It seemed to take forever.

“He’s ok. His blood pressure dropped and he fainted,” said the paramedic. “He’s going to be fine.”

His shirt lay in the floor, split in half so they could get to his chest. His eyes opened.

“Aren’t you going to Montgomery,” he said.

I just shook my head. “Don’t pick now to say absurd things, please.”

So, we spent Friday and the weekend in the hospital. I had arranged for our granddaughter to stay with friends, thinking I’d be at the birthday celebration. That Sunday was Grandparents Day, and what had been a fairly meaningless holiday took on heavy significance.

The experience was worth several lessons.

First, I learned that LOW body stuff can be more dangerous than HIGH body stuff. Like sugar level and blood pressure level. Second, we learned through all the tests he went through on Friday and Saturday that nothing really horrible was wrong. That left some new blood pressure medicine he was taking as the likely culprit.

Third, just when you think you’re kind of skating after, say, a really stressful week, you can be dead wrong. Then at our ages it takes the next week to recuperate from an experience like that.

Fourth, he doesn’t need to be croaking on me and I don’t need to be croaking on him. We have a 3-1/2-year-old granddaughter to raise. There’s work to be done before we can rest in peace.

Fifth, it occurred to me that life is like this train that cuts right through the middle of Tuscaloosa, paralleling 15th Street. But that’s a topic for the next Spittin’ Grits post.

Meanwhile, my aunt had what she described as “the best birthday I’ve ever had.” Attention, telephone calls, and cards flowed her way.

And last but not least, as I told my aunt, “Laurette, you’re only 90 once.”

Or you’re not. The train can pull into the last station at any time.

 

Cuba, Up Close and Personal via Photos and Conference

 

clip_image001 Photos: Chip Cooper

The Obama administration loosened some restrictions on relations with Cuba; then Cuba shut down again, at least enough that a stunning exhibition couldn’t take place as planned last year. You still can’t just hop on a plane and go like you might go to Puerto Rico. But The University of Alabama is offering a second chance to take a close look at Cuba, via the photographs and a conference, that hasn’t been possible for most Americans since 1962.

In 2003, The University of Alabama was able to travel to Cuba after receiving an academic travel license to initiate educational development and cooperation. UA photographer Chip Cooper has been several times since then and returned with stunning photos and an agreement to a joint exhibition, “Side by Side,” with Néstor Martí, which has already shown in Havana’s Julio Larramendi Gallery in the Hostal Del Havana, and will show at UA next month.

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above: Nestor Marti (l) and Chip Cooper “Side by Side”

 

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Havana at night

As part of UA’s second Cuba Week, October 10-13, 2010, you’ll be able to see images of Havana, other parts of Cuba, and the “beauty and grace” of the Cuban people as seen through these photographers’ eyes and lenses.

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The exhibit’s opening is scheduled for October 11, 2010, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 in the Grand Gallery of Smith Hall on the UA campus. The photos will remain on exhibit through December.

For information on purchasing limited edition photos, contact Chip Cooper at ccooper@ur.ua.edu or 205-348-8329.

Longer-range plans include a book-length publication from The UA Press in 2011.

Cuba Week Conference

At this year’s Cuba Conference, UA faculty will highlight their collaborative research along with their Cuban counterparts, and UA students will discuss their Cuban study abroad experiences. Speakers will look at Cuba through a variety of topics, including geography, astronomy, biology, art, architecture, politics, archeology, and much, much more.

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Technorati Tags: Cuba,Cuba photographs,Chip Cooper,Néstor Martí,The University of Alabama,Julio Larramendi Gallery,Hostal Del Havana,Spittin' Grits

Night Hurts

My husband told me about last night’s upsetting incident this morning.

Our granddaughter has been very wakeful during the night for some time now. Last night she woke up about 1:30 a.m. calling for papa. She wanted him to sleep with her, which he will do in order to get her back to sleep. It took a while for her to fall back to sleep, and it was fitful sleep.

“She was thrashing around,” said my husband. “Then she started crying, ‘Mommy, mommy’. Then she kind of woke up and cried out, ‘Papa? Papa?’. I said to her, ‘I’m here, I’m here’. Then she finally fell asleep,” he said.

This retelling hurts. Knowing she's having such a bad emotional time also hurts. It also confirms to me that these dreams about her mother are interfering with her sleep. I can’t help but wonder about the content that is upsetting her so. Maybe it’s “abandonment” dreams. We all have had them, I think.

My understanding is that part of the function of dreams is cathartic. I hope the experts are right about this.

I am anxious to get an assessment from the children’s mental health professional who is guiding us in how to handle this and help our granddaughter to handle it.

Meanwhile, my feelings about my very ill daughter, who has a serious disease as well as mental health issues, have bottomed out, and these feelings do not feel right or natural. It’s a crummy place to be. I would certainly welcome insights and comments about this situation.

 

Special Note: Time Out

Last week was a trying week, and I am behind in posting to Spittin’ Grits. I hope my readers will hang in with me. I hope to be back on schedule next week.

Meanwhile, life is football. To get you in the spirit:

 

 

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