Wake Up Calls

I have two beautiful, wonderful, amazing and stressful teen daughters. They’ve spewing negative comments and criticism seemingly non-stop since their dad and I split up last fall. I know divorce isn’t easy on anyone, but their words have been filled with anger and malice and it’s wearing me down.

After facing the ridiculousness of post-divorce life, the last thing I’ve needed is for my own kids to point out my shortcomings. Just when I think I’m on better ground with myself, there’s yet another comment pulling me backward.

I’m not proud to admit that I’ve been getting angry with them rather than talking it through. I’m sure that is a great deal of our difficulties.

Yes, they are kids. Yes, I am the parent. But, it just sucks some days. No matter which way you look at it. I don’t want to prevent them from expressing what they need to express. I’m the adult, I can think through what they really mean.

I had two major wake-up calls in 2013. Both were readjustments in our relationships for me and my girls.

In July, my oldest went on a vacation to the Adirondaks with a friend. She texts me on a Tuesday saying that she hurt her foot in a boating accident, but she’s okay. Two days later she is cranky as we text and then she tells me that she is unable to walk. Long story short, after the urgent care doctor said she needs to go to the hospital immediately, I drive 8 hours there on a Thursday night and 8 hours back home on Friday to take her to the emergency room. The doctors kept her overnight on IV antibiotics out of fear that she might have a fresh water bacteria (think of those stories in the news where people have had limbs amputated). I stayed with her the entire time, of course. Slept on a couch in her room. She took her fear out on me in the form of anger. I took it. I was patient. I was mom. Unfortunately her foot still isn’t back to “normal” and it’s been 6 months, but she has a foot and we got through it together. She is the luckiest girl that it was soft tissue damage and only a minor break. I had envisioned surgeries and pins when I first saw it. And I felt more like a parent than I had since my kids were infants. As they’ve grown we’ve become a family and have great, deep conversations, but not as much of the tender nurturing as when they were little.

In December, my younger daughter had brain surgery to (hopefully) prevent her version of the degenerative condition we share from progressing. She began to lose her speech during the summer and fought against it, as well as the headaches that have plagued her all of her life. I was the one who drove with her to Chicago to see the neurosurgeon three times before her surgery last year. I was the one who took time off from work (borrowed time from 2014) and stayed by her side for the 4 days in the hospital, as well as in the housing after she was discharged. We got through it together.

It’s my job to be there for my children. But, I’ve failed them more times than I can count due to various issues. I know I’m no different from any other parent, but the divorce hit all of us hard and they blame me for all of it. Because I was the parent who stayed by their side with no complaints, I know it left an impact – on all of us. Regardless of what happens, I am there for my children to the best of my ability. When they are in need, I will take care of them. Both of my girls needed to relearn that lesson and I needed to relearn what my priorities are.

Two of the greatest moments of the past year were when my daughters thanked me for being there for them. The best thank you was after surgery, my daughter, still hooked up to IVs, looked at me and said, “Thank you mommy for being here with me. I couldn’t have done this without you.” These children are what really matters in life. Having a surplus of money would be great. Taking a vacation every year would do me a world of good. But, being able to be a mom is the greatest gift I could ever imagine.

A Different Kind of November Challenge

I read a blog this morning that really gave me pause to review my life and analyze things differently (thank you to stilllearning2b). I’m a grudge holder and I know that holds me back from many things. I tend to destroy things that were once dear. Despite my efforts to hold back, I find myself, more often than not, speaking out of anger and frustration instead of sitting back and waiting to cool off before I speak.

As I grow older, I see the products of my anger and I’m ashamed. I really am. It’s something that I acknowledge and need to work harder on in order to break my habits. I could blame it on a marriage in which I was not allowed to speak about my feelings. I could blame it on being hot tempered and passionate about what I believe in and feel. I could blame it on all sorts of different causes, but in reality…My actions are entirely my responsibility and I do take ownership for what I’d said and done.

The blog I read this morning included a challenge. The writer asked that readers identify the person/thing/situation in your life that has caused you the most grief, pain, anger. Then, create a list of 10 reasons you are thankful for your biggest life challenge.

Yikes.

I’m accepting this challenge as another step in my growth as an individual.

I’ve chosen to write about my father. I’m sure I could detail 50 reasons why I’m angry with him extremely easily. But 10 reasons why I’m thankful? Hmmmmmm…  It, honestly, didn’t take as long as I expected it to, but my list is rather weak. Allow me to explain.

My parents divorced when I was three due to my father’s alcoholism and infidelity. He was not very involved with my brother and I although we did see him every weekend. My childhood is filled with stories of being let down over and over again. Bills unpaid, performances missed, promises made and never kept. As an adult, my relationship with my father has been rough, to say the least. We’ve gone without speaking for five years and are now in the middle of another estrangement. The reasons behind it are many, but when all is said and done, he is an unapologetic alcoholic who sees nothing wrong with his verbal abuse and inappropriate behavior when he’s drunk. I’ve mentioned rehab to him and he says he has no desire to change who he is. I endured a lot of verbal abuse and even more empty promises during the past few years before I made the decision to, once again, cut him out of my life. Unfortunately he’s been cut out of the life of his grandkids, but trust me when I say – they are better off away from him.

So, to find 10 things about him for which I’m thankful isn’t easy. But, it forced me to look at him in another way – between the bad times and find the things that were good. It’s a great lesson for me in being thankful during this month in which so many (including me) are trying to focus on the positive and all of the blessings in our lives.

Well… here goes…

  1. He created me. Without my father, I wouldn’t exist and for that I am thankful.
  2. He got me involved in sailing/being near the water. The times I feel most complete as me (not as a mom or anything else) is when I’m near water. There is nothing more calming, reaffirming and inspiring than hearing the sound of waves crashing against the shore. Learning to sail when I was a preteen was an amazing experience and has provided a lifetime of practical knowledge.
  3. He exposed me to a lifestyle I would not have had the opportunity to experience. Living with my mom, we grew up in poverty. She did the best she could, but free lunches and food stamps were the norm for us. My father married a woman from a wealthy family and with the exposure to that lifestyle, we learned so much about how to behave in that environment. Not that my mom didn’t teach us etiquette, but he provided the opportunity to use it.
  4. He taught me about animals through his work as a biology professor. I have great memories of sitting in his lab while he was dissecting animals to study. It opened my eyes to how the body works and enabled me to understand the world better. A friend of his was a veterinarian and had so many exotic animals in his house that it was like going to the zoo. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t bother me to have so many pets in my own home and why I’m interested in science.
  5. He showed me that it’s okay to laugh loudly in public. My father is probably the most boisterous person I know and I’ve been that person also. His laugh echoes wherever he is and he never hesitates to bring others into his jokes. It’s an incredible gift.
  6. He inspired me to be educated. Because he had a PhD and worked as a professor, I have always felt more than comfortable in a collegiate setting. I love going to college campuses and enjoyed my experience so very much. I never stop seeking new things to learn.
  7. He encouraged me to keep an open mind and explore different types of literature and film. My father was an avid reader and huge SciFi buff. His collection of hundreds of SciFi paperbacks always put me in awe of the creativity behind the stories. I’m happy to say I’ve read Asimov and Heinlein. We watched Star Wars together probably 20+ times (and more on my own), as well as episodes of Star Trek. SciFi is still fascinating to me even as I lean more toward classic novels, mysteries and biographies.
  8. He taught me the art of conversation. My father can talk with anyone. As he’s aged, his lack of being empathetic has increased, but he can carry on a 10 minute conversation with someone he accidentally bumped into if he so desired. I can honestly say that my mother was and is the same way, but their topics conversation deviate from one another.
  9. He taught me about networking. He seems to know someone no matter where we would go. It was a great gift of his that he, as family legend has it, learned from his own father. I wish had that gift, but at least I understand the importance of it.
  10. He taught me by example what happens when you let your demons destroy you. I know I have an addictive personality so I am always on guard to remain in control of my life. I’ve stumbled many times, but my awareness of what can happen if you give in and give up has saved my life.

I pass along this challenge to you. Identify your biggest challenge/open wound and find ways to be thankful for it.

 

Loving and Letting Go

A friend I’ve known for several decades is laying his son to rest today. Even as I type the words, tears fill my eyes. Again.

His son was a handsome 22-year old just beginning his life with an energetic 2-year old daughter.

Unfortunately, what began as smoking weed in high school turned into a heroin addiction less than two years ago.

Despite his family’s efforts (his daughter’s mother denying him access to his child until he sobered up, a stint in rehab, tough love with his father calling the police on him for various things), he overdosed. In a shady hotel room. Alone.

While I never met him in person, I have known his father for 20 years. I remember the stories of the energetic, wonderful little boy who loved all things Barney.

His family will be, I’m sure, filled with “what ifs,” that will haunt them. But sometimes you have to let an addict sort through things on their own not allowing them to pull your into the black hole in which they are stuck. Sometimes all that can be done for an addict is to love and let go.

Studies have shown that while teen use has gone down one percentage point since 2001 (3.1% down to 2.4% of teens have used heroin), young adult use is on the rise. Nearly 30% of seniors in high school say heroin is easy to obtain and even middle schoolers know where to find it (12.6%).

Average age of first time use is approximately 20-1/2 – right when my friend’s son tried it for the first time.

Heroin and morphine account for approximately 50% of all drug overdose deaths in the U.S. Use is typically preceded by abuse of prescription opiates such as vicodin or codeine.

Spending $150 – $200 per day to support their habit, many addicts also deal drugs, steal to support themselves or live in squalor. Of course, there are the unusual few who are “functional addicts” and support themselves with full-time jobs.

Further statistics show that 80% of addicts use with someone else. Yet the negligent actions when under the influence have shown that 80% of victims of overdose are found alone.

Unfortunately, my friend’s son is just a number to those who never knew him. Another heroin fatality. Nothing more.

 

http://www.heroinabuse.us

www.michaelshouse.com

 

 

 

Okay. But is s/he dead?

My kids have always had an odd concept of time and death. Or maybe it’s just an odd concept of time. And curiosity about death.

Let me start with saying that I’m one of those moms who likes to talk to her kids constantly. We will talk about anything. Literally anything. We have had some of the best conversations in the car since the oldest of my kids was going back and forth to preschool.

Music has always been something we’ve shared and talked about.

And I’m shaking my head with a smirk on my face as I write this, but every single time I would say, “HEY! This song is from when I was a teenager!” At least one of my kids would say, “Okay. Is he/she or are they dead?”

I have no clue what makes them think that a) that question is appropriate or b) that I’m old enough that every single artist/group that was around when I was a teen could possibly be dead.

It’s now been about 10 years since this question first started and it just hasn’t stopped, but at least now the kids chuckle when they ask it because they know I get flustered.

My oldest now loves “Jesse’s Girl” by Rick Springfield (so do I, as I did his guest appearance on a cable show recently – WOW he looks GREAT still!). She’s find the song on her iPod, press play, say, “I know you love this song, too, mom. He’s not dead, right?” Then smile at me.

No, honey. He’s not dead. And he has a nice ass, I think to myself. But I do tell her that he’s still hot even in his 60s (gasp! I AM old!).

But, yes, Elvis is dead. A fact we talked about ad nauseam when we drove by Graceland last summer.

We’ll watch older movies together and I will has a sense of sadness even when watching Star Wars and having to admit that, yes, Sir Alec Guinness is indeed dead. Big sigh. Yes, half of stars from Young Frankenstein are dead, too.

That’s a sad dose of reality. Thanks kids.

I patiently will wait until they have kids of their own. Then, when the perfect moment comes, I will whisper in my grandkids’ ears (you know – 15 or so years from now), “Ask your mom/dad if _____ is dead.”

It all comes full circle. HA!

My friends made sure my bad choices weren’t tragedies

The Steubenvile, Ohio, rape case is the most recent case to show how impersonal and hands off our society has become.

There is nothing about this case that gives me an okay feeling.

A girl made a mistake and drank too much. I’ve been there. Many times. It’s not a good place to be.

Her own “friends” left her hanging out to dry and didn’t a) watch over her to make sure she was okay that night and b) told law enforcement and attorneys that she typically drank too much and was a liar. In what world are these actually “friends.”

The boys not only took advantage of the girl, but videotaped it, photographed it and joked about it. Disgusting. No further remarks are necessary

NONE of the other kids at any of the parties or the houses helped her. In what civilized society do people allow this to happen?

What in the hell!?!?!?

I’m not proud of it, but let me be honest. I made plenty of bad party choices in college. But I had real friends who watched out for me. If they were the ones making bad choices, I watched out for them. We made it through college with few battle scars — only those that could be joked about later.

The people we were around had respect for others – even the ones we didn’t know. There was community.

I remember that one of the girls in my dorm OD’d on alcohol my freshman year. Other people got her help. She survived.

Community. Responsibility.

Where is it? Where was it in Steubenville? Not just at one party, but SEVERAL?

And, let’s be truthful here, we all know this isn’t an isolated incident. This is just the most recent high profile case. I am sure these kinds of things happen frequently and don’t always make the news.

What are we doing wrong as parents, as a society, that this generation of kids don’t have that sense of compassion, responsibility, empathy, community? I don’t understand.

I truly hope that this girl can recover. Although I’m sure it will be a horrible memory for the rest of her life.

I hope that every one of the other kids who were involved in any way — a bystander, received a text, saw a picture — is haunted for the rest of his/her life for standing by and doing nothing, just making things worse by playing a part.

I hope that this verdict is a lesson that this CANNOT continue to happen. There are repercussions to actions or lack of action. People need to get involved. Silence does truly give consent – by standing by, you are allowing things to happen. It’s not okay, it’s not good, it’s not acceptable.

To my friends and all the people I have known — a sincere thank you for never being THAT kind of person who would think nothing of taking advantage of someone who does not have control of all of their faculties. Thank you for making me feel safe no matter what.

I hope that my children will always have the kind of friends I have had.

I’m raising a Mini-Me and today she’s fun

From the day she was born, I knew this baby girl would be trouble.

She has my eyes, but they’re a completely different color. They change color depending on the level of mischief she’s stirring up in that devious brain of her’s. Just like mine.

From her earliest days and the moments of her sitting in her highchair throwing food to the dog giggling like crazy to her preschool days getting crayons stuck up her nose, I knew, I just knew I was in trouble.

When my phrases began coming out of her mouth, with the exact same intonation, I chuckled, then worried. Those fateful words rang in my head. The standard curse that follows from generation to generation, “I hope you have a daughter just like you.”

I have pictures of her conjuring up silly thoughts on her own, then convincing her younger sister to run around in their diapers when they were toddlers. She has always been the ring leader. With a freshly polished halo.

But I know the tricks. I wrote that book.

Now that she’s a teen, she is a handful. She is so identical to me, but with far more confidence than I had at her age (and far greater athletic skill). Some of her moments of being “slick” I let slide. Other times, I listen to the conversations she has with her friends as I drive them around and gather all sorts of information that I’ll ask her about later.

It’s almost like being part of the clique, but having a better view.

Some days we butt heads like crazy mountain goats. Both as stubborn as they come. The worst moments are hearing my own words coming out of her mouth when we’re angry. She hasn’t learned how to censor herself yet. Tactic is a skill I’m trying to teach. We both have some mental bruises from the arguments we’ve had. But we’ve always promised one another to talk it out afterwards. We’re good at that.

The best days are when my Mini-Me and I are partners in crime. This evening was one of those times. We share looks across the room and just know what the other is thinking. We’ll crack jokes and laugh. These are the moments I most treasure.

In few years she’ll be heading out. I’m going to miss her cute little face and too-sassy-to-be-good-for-herself attitude. But for now, I’ll take the good, the bad and the ugly. Thankful for every moment.

I wish I was back in college

College was a great time. Being an adult without all of the “real” adult responsibilities. Endless opportunities to learn. Endless opportunities to meet people. Just an amazing all around experience.

Why I was so eager to leave? Stupid student loans. And a naïve desire to earn a living.

Had I thought about it more, I would have stayed. Gotten a graduate degree. And just stayed. Maybe have become a professor like I had dreamed.

One of the best parts of my college experience was my roommate. She was/is one of the funniest people I have ever met. I still tell stories about her, as if it was just yesterday. It seems like yesterday. I met her my first day at school at our job in the dorm cafeteria and we quickly became friends. We cooked next to each other at the grills. We served food. We partied. We hung out. We were roommates our last two years. She’d take care of me and make sure nothing horrible ever happened and I took care of her. It worked.

As an adult I look back on those days with a smile. And days like today, with a sad smile of nostalgia. One of the things I miss most about being her roommate was the silent competition we’d have over dishes. We would let those dishes pile up in the sink until we ran out of room and every last dish, glass and piece of silverware was used. It was a battle of wills to see who would cave first and wash them. Every other person who roomed with us in the years we lived together would cave before we did and we’d sit there with glee as they washed the dishes. It was just….fun.

I adopted this battle of wills with my ex-husband. He quickly became the dishwasher. giggle

Now that I’m single again with three kids and a constant pile of dishes in the sink, I feel like I’m always losing the battle of the wills. It makes me sad. Then I think of what my college roommate would be doing at that moment. She’d be sitting at my kitchen table, smirking at me as I washed the dishes. Every. Single. Day.

I really wish I was back in college so someone would play the game with me and I might actually win once in a while.

I live you. Yes, autocorrect, you got that one right!

We’ve all seen those crazy autocorrect screen shots. Some of them are absolutely, cringe-worthy hilarious and some are just so outrageous they can’t be real. A skeptic by nature, I can’t help but “know” that many of them were staged for our entertainment.

Nonetheless, in this era of text messaging rather than using that same cellular device (is that still the correct terminology?) to actually make a call, most of are both thankful for and daily curse the autocorrect feature. That “little” program can change everything about your message if you aren’t careful.

As a mother of three (almost always) delightful children I have adopted many misspoken words into my vocabulary over the years. I compare these changes to real life autocorrect.

  • Birds were “boogas” for years thanks to my oldest. She has a nice little figurine which she inherited from my grandparents that I continue to call the “booga of happiness” even though I receive an eyeroll every time.
  • Puppies were “puddies” when I was growing up thanks to my brother and I. That was in my vocabulary for a very long time.
  • Instead of bend over, my kids said “bound it down.” To this day, I still don’t understand that one.
  • All three of them like to say “I suv you” instead of “I love you.” It works in our house.
  • Our poor dogs have more nicknames than would take up an entire additional blog.

My point here is that I’m not against the “cute” changes to the English language that kids bring or even misspellings, etc. I have added in a few words in other languages to my kids’ vocabulary when I can.

  • “Andiamo” means “Let’s go” in Italian. They know I’m serious when I say that.
  • “Hai capito” means “You understood” in Italian. I say that just to annoy them.
  • “Dupa” is just yet another great word for butt, derriere, ass, hind-end.

I will be forever thankful to autocorrect for “I live you.” My kids are now accustomed to me texting that instead of “I love you” on occasion. The truth is – I do live them. I more than love them. Everything I do is for them. Okay, that’s a bit of exaggeration, but 90% of my day is about them – earning money to support them, taking care of the house in which we live, washing their clothes, being a mom. Prior to being a mom, my life was about me. I lived for me. But, now, I live for them. I want them to be there for them, be present, but also do things that make them proud of me.

So, thank you autocorrect for making me look at things a little differently. And, yes, kids, I really do live you. And I love you, too.

I’m reliving my teen years and not the good parts

I really was happy when high school and college were over and I thought I was done with dealing with “mean girls.” You know the type – the ones who look you up and down passing silent judgment as they do. You walk away either hearing the comments, the whispers, or just KNOWING that something is being said. Worse yet are the ones who make the nasty comments directly to your face.

I have gone through various phases in my life. The cute little kid. The chubby elementary school kid. The incredibly awkward (read “unattractive”) preteen. The decent looking high schooler. I’m now the overweight, over 40 mother of 3. I have had my moments when I have looked good and moments, like now, when I know I could look better. Suffice to say that my self-esteem isn’t where it should be. I am confident enough to know that I have done my best to not look down on anyone by their attire or body size/shape. Yes, I have passed judgment (I’d like to know someone who hasn’t). But I’m also old enough to know that everyone has their own battles they are working through and I’m not above anyone, so I have no right to pass judgment. Shame on me. Quite frankly, 98% of the time I have other things on my mind than to worry about what the woman next to me in line is wearing.

Unfortunately, I still have been in business situations, or in personal situations (particularly with other moms) where I KNOW I am being analyzed head-to-toe. At those times I’d love to put down my Coach or Vera purse (I have a purse thing, but not a shoe thing, work with me here) and make sure that I have my crappiest track pants on (after wearing Corporate attire all day) to ensure that I am “deserving” of such judgment. Then give a nasty look back. But, honestly, I don’t care. At work, I dress well, but I don’t have the cash to dress in all designer clothing (I’m a single mom of 3, I have other things to spend money on). Clothing has never been my top priority. Allow me to pass judgment (in self-defense, of sorts) of those women who are looking at me – I just want to stare back, then ask if they are that empty inside that they have nothing else to concern themselves with that they need to worry about me. (I believe I have mentioned in other blogs that I can be evil.) I digress.

I really thought I was past all of this pettiness as I grew older. Sadly, I was mistaken. I’m also dealing with my two early teen daughters going through the judgments that are a truly unfortunate part of growing up. One of my daughters is concerned with being popular and, as a result, has all of the baggage that comes along with that. I have made her watch the movie “Mean Girls” several times and she now loves it. Great lessons there about how we become someone we never intended sometimes. Also, it’s a great insight into the teen girl mind, in my humble opinion. My other daughter is more of the artistic type and I have always encouraged that. I love that about her. Unfortunately, her free spirit does not always endear her to her “friends” and classmates and she has been on the receiving end of too many “mean girl” comments to count. Ridiculous comments about the nails she spent over an hour painting the night before looking ugly. Comments about her hair not looking right. Cruel and needless, plain and simple.

Steadfast, I continue to repeat the mantra, “Treat others as you wish to be treated.” They have heard that phrase from me all of their lives and I try to emulate it. I do my best, and do fail too often, at being a good person. I do lose my temper. I do pass judgment. But, I do my best to keep my judgments to myself rather than belittle someone. No one knows the path I have walked and I don’t know the paths of others. It is not my place to be negative about someone else’s appearance.

My biggest questions are –

  • What do the mothers of these mean girls tell them? Are they teaching them the golden rule? Or is the focus in the home on appearance?
  • Is our society so far broken and image so highly valued by the media that mean girls will always be an issue?
  • Whatever happened to focusing on substance?
  • Are mean girls destined to grow up to mean women? Or is there a chance for some sort of epiphany and a new-found kindness for others?

I’m definitely in favor of always wearing clean underwear in case of an accident and bathing daily, but clothes do not make a person. How can you judge a person’s character by their weight or the label you assume is on their clothing? Ugly inside truly does equal ugly outside. All of the beautiful clothing in the world can never mask the hateful things that come out of people’s mouths and cause hurts that echo in the minds of the recipient. I really thought I was past this petty period of my life, unfortunately the part of us that remains young forever sometimes includes the bad, too.