Lunch with Marjorie: A little help for happy, healthy homes

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Carla Klein grew up in Michigan, the oldest of five children. Her mom was single, head-of-household by the time Carla was a teen-ager.

“They didn’t have the resources that we have now,” she said. “My mom depended on me.”

Helping to care for her younger siblings, she still had a good childhood.

“I was out playing cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers—anything with guns and shooting arrows. I was climbing trees…there were a lot of trees. I was hyperactive…and stubborn; I’m a very stubborn person, I guess.”

We lunched at The King’s Table. Owners Kevin and Robin Seuring recently opened a Stewart’s Square store, but we chose the original, Charles Street, location. My delicious veggie wrap was served with balsamic and key lime dressing. Carla enjoyed chicken salad on wheat bread.

Carla continued with stubbornness stories.

“I remember my first day of kindergarten—these big yellow buses going by, and they didn’t stop for me. It seemed like a lot of buses, but I was 5. It could have been the same bus going back and forth. My mom called, and they sent a special bus for me.”

At the end of the day, Carla refused to board the regular bus.

“They forgot me in the morning. I told them, ‘you’ll forget me now.’”

“That’s pretty assertive for 5,” I observed.

“My mother didn’t appreciate that. I was supposed to be ladylike. I was never ladylike.”

“What happened the next day?”

“I got on the bus. But until I knew that they knew where I was from, I wasn’t getting on the bus.”

“It’s a story about your strength.”

“Yes, but a lot of people don’t look at it that way. A lot of times, hyperactive kids go against the rules to see what’s going to happen, because they’re not really sure.”

We talked about her getting on A.D.H.D. medication in her 40s.

“You’re not really calm,” I said.

“Oh, this is nothing,” she said. “Medication allows me to solve problems; I’m a better driver now; people tell me I’m organized now. There are so many things I didn’t realize I was doing because I was A.D.H.D. Mine is severe.”

Carla married her high school sweetheart. They’re both very involved with their children. But her parenting skills also go to work in Rockford helping other parents get it right. She’s the regional coordinator for Children’s Home & Aid Society of Illinois’ Parents Care and Share of Illinois program. She trains and helps people start parent groups.

“I never had career aspirations. I have so many things that interest me. I worked in mental health and really liked that. But I don’t like to do the same thing day after day. I really like talking to people, interacting …helping them reframe how they think about things.”

“And, now you help parents with problems?”

“They don’t have to have problems to start a group. It could just be that you’re lonely and need somebody to talk to…knowing if something goes really well, you can call and tell them this, and they will celebrate with you.”

“Is this fulfilling?”

“Yes, I like selling—and you kind of sell this process, but it doesn’t cost money. But I don’t ever love my job. You love people. You love your family. I like my job. The most exciting thing I’ve ever done is to have kids. It’s the wildest roller coaster I’ve ever been on.”

“So it’s still about parenting.”

“I want kids to grow up in happy, healthy homes. The best way to grow up in happy, healthy homes is to have good parents. It drives me crazy that we have to have classes that tell people how to be good parents. I don’t understand people who hurt kids.”

We couldn’t resist two of Kevin’s homemade desserts.

“Do you like the fruit tart or the bread pudding better?” I asked.

“See, I can’t really say I like one better than the other, because they’re both distinctly different, and they’re both really good.”

“You don’t like being pinned down.”

“No. I like heavy metal music. I admit that. I like Star Wars movies … romantic comedies, John Wayne movies. I don’t like horror movies. I like to sing. I think singing is important.”

“What legacy do you want to leave with your children?”

“I would tell them to be honest.”

She thinks for a moment.

“Remember Lynrd Skynrd’s song, ‘Simple Man,’ about a mother talking to her son: ‘Take your time…don’t live too fast …find (somebody you) love…be something you love…and don’t forget, son, there is someone up above.’”

Marjorie Stradinger is a free-lance writer residing in Roscoe. She has covered food, drama, entertainment, health, and business for publications in California and Illinois for the past 25 years.

From the May 11-17, 2005, issue

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