Carry On Tuesday – Only In Our Dreams

Eating Shiva

Eating Shiva (Photo credit: Mirror | imaging reality)

I felt virtuous when I sat, eating an open-faced veggie burger, with stone ground mustard and drinking ice water. I don’t feel the same way now. It’s three hours later and my son is having a barbecue for his friends. He came running up the stairs with a freshly charred hamburger on a bun dripping with ketchup and a slice of cheese slithering on top, shining with grease. I did not hesitate, I ate it  in one minute and I’m paying the price, in fullness and actual physical pain. I can’t lie; I have enjoyed it immensely along with the toasted marshmallow he brought up too. I know this game very well.

It started at birth with me, a six-week premature baby having to stay in the hospital until I gained enough weight to be able to come home. After that, my mother overcompensated and then I went full speed to fat or what they used to call “chubby.” I can pretend to eat healthy food now (most of the time) but I know that I will always be the fat, round, girl, that I have always been.

My mother could never figure out why I never wanted to go shopping when I was a child and a teenager, how could she not know? I was a very slim child only from age five to six until she decided to fatten me up, relentlessly, wherever we went. The Nestle’s Quik was at my side, spooned generously into my milk at every meal, like a religion.

Last year, I gained forty pounds when our house was demolished by termites and carpenter ants and we had to stay in a hotel, in one room, three of us and our dog, our disappointment and our dreams, dashed. My husband was also on medical leave for a snapped Achilles tendon, our sixteen year-old daughter cooped in one room with us while our house was built again from bare walls. That’s when you know who your real friends are, because it is at their house you are sharing a meal, they are asking you in and treating you like family, it saved our souls and sanity.

The only comfort in our lives was that our son was away in college was missing the trauma we were living through, and FOOD. We ate out at restaurants, two or three times a day. It was clear we were not eating healthfully, we were eating to comfort ourselves, dessert for lunch and for dinner every single day and night. French fries with your sandwich? Yes please. The only decision to make was what flavor milk shake we wanted, vanilla, strawberry or chocolate. Candy bars, cookies and crackers were stored in our hotel room like paper cups.

Piles of cakes and pies, white tendrils of coconut smiled down at us from its vanilla perch. Chocolate mousse cake winked at us from its place on the revolving cake display, cheesecake with strawberries, we denied ourselves nothing. Deep, deep down I knew what was happening though I chose to deny it; only in our dreams did I believe that we were not feeding our depression. When times were easier, better, we would deal with it. Then, we couldn’t cope with one more detail, one more restriction.

In three and a half months we moved back into our completely disorderly yellow house. For months we didn’t know where anything was. There are still boxes missing, items that some day we hope to find. I started taking responsibility for my unhealthy body. I worried about my heart, I started slowly and decided to eat more vegetables and less red meat. In the end, I lost forty pounds with another five to ten to go. I drink ice water with lemon instead of soda. I try not to have dessert but lately I have been craving something sweet. It’s a slippery slope; I have to be very careful.

I know I am the same chubby girl I was when I was little. I will always be that child in my mind and body; I will always be the last girl picked for any team sport, the fat kid, the ugly, stupid child. I don’t measure up, why should I be able to do something when my parents always said I wouldn’t be able to do it?

As we get older we make our own choices, we slip away from the past and make up our own rules, our own belief system, we cherish different qualities than those that we were taught. I taught my own children that they can do anything they want and they can do it well. Whatever they want to do they should do it with pride. There is nothing that they can’t do, nothing they can’t succeed at; in my heart, I love and like these two people. When they were young, if I was fearful for them, I hid it, because they had the right to experience life through their own feelings and not become unnerved because of mine. That, is what parenthood should be about. This was my gift to them; the gift of freedom, freedom to choose, but most of all, freedom to believe in themselves, knowing, always knowing, that I believed in them too.

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Carry On Tuesday: “I Had A Dream”

Publicity photo of Ralph Waite (John Walton, S...

Publicity photo of Ralph Waite (John Walton, Sr.), Richard Thomas (John Boy), and Michael Learned (Olivia Walton) from the television program The Waltons. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had a dream, when I was younger, that all families were like the ones I  watched on television: Leave It To Beaver, Father Knows Best and most importantly, The Waltons. Everyone always got along, the siblings were close, sure they bantered back and forth but I could just feel the love between them and the mutual admiration they had for one another. I grew up thinking that life was fair; good people got good things and bad people got what they deserved: punishment. Life was about giving and taking, things always worked out in the end, or so I thought.

I certainly don’t believe in that as much as I used to, hell, I’m not sure I believe in it at all.  There are too many bad people getting away with too much horrible crap and too many good people are given way too much stuff to handle that they don’t deserve. Think about it for a minute, I bet you can think of a few, truly good and kind people who don’t deserve what they have and a few unkind, bad and selfish people you wish had more of the same, negative karma that they give out,  if only to teach them a lesson or two. Does it happen often? No, it rarely happens if at all.

I know I started  my youthful fantasies, back when there was a Santa Claus, and an Easter Bunny and if you had a bad day, the next day was a promise with a kiss to be better. It was a world when moms and dads could tell you things and you believed them in your child-like innocence. Parents weren’t flawed people, they were just, well…parents. Apparently, life is not based out of old episodes of a television series. Reality hit me when I was an adolescent and those innocent years of childhood ended abruptly.

Families, like The Waltons all lived together in one big house; sure they were poor but they all got along and loved and trusted one another, three generations living under one roof. We can’t even have a dinner with the “adults” in my family before someone’s childish drama and selfishness rears its dysfunctional head, loudly and inappropriately, within a matter of minutes. At my mother’s  birthday celebration, one member of my family made it all about her. I wasn’t shocked or surprised it happens that way all the time. I just shook my head, looked at my poor husband who had just been delivered a stern lecture and saw his flushed cheeks and his bewildered, hurt brown eyes; he was very upset. After that, just looking at his body language he had checked out. There’s always one victim, usually it’s me, now it was both of us, but I don’t feel defeated anymore, I just felt disgusted.

Here is what I have learned:  people do not change. The most “enlightened” sounding people can be the most disturbed and do not know themselves at all; they need professional help. As much as we are all in this together with our friends, family, neighbors,  ultimately, we are alone. We are born alone and we will die alone. The most important thing to have is strength in yourself. We all need that wisdom and courage it takes to go to bed and wake up the next day knowing that even though it is hard to put one foot in front of the other, we have no choice but to continue. That even in uncharted territory we must force ourselves to go on and that family is not necessarily defined by blood lines but by goodwill, caring, kind, well-intentioned, love. Pure and simple. Love should not be that complicated, and if it always is, there is something very, very wrong.

Would You Like Some Whine With Your Cheese?

English: Individually wrapped slices of Americ...

Image via Wikipedia

ON PARENTING: TODDLERS AND TEENS

I’m looking back, way back to when my children were small and life seemed uncomplicated and I felt deeply loved. Our two children, twenty-one months apart, were in grade school, only one school year apart and we were busy all the time.We had just acquired two goldfish that my son and daughter won at a school carnival, aptly named “Ball One” and “Ball Two.” Hard to forget those names. There was also a time when my son named his snail TJ for his and his sister’s initials with the sworn promise (including a pinky swear) from her that the next year she would return the favor and name the snail JT. She ended up naming the snail Sarah Allie after her teacher and I don’t things were ever quite the same after that. That innocent little snail became a reference for many years to come.

When my daughter, the baby of the family, now seventeen, was little, she was terribly shy. No one but I existed for her. “Up” she whispered to me, her arms outstretched for me to pick her up. I always did with great pleasure and pride. The feeling of being loved is a rare gift. At 17, she barely nods in my direction now. I admit that I mourned that loss of affection. Once in a while we will have an easy, fun, conversation, most often I feel like I’m walking on egg shells getting icy death stares from her.

I know it’s the teenage years but ask any mom how she feels about this stage, with sons and daughters, and if she is honest she will tell you that sometimes it really stings. Sometimes one’s child is so intentionally mean that you need to escape behind the locked bathroom door, run the water quickly and sob. You get over it, you have to, there is no choice. You are the parent, not a friend, you need to set the example. Bold, provocative taunts are so direct, they bore into me like lasers. Ouch, yes, they do hurt. We are parents, not robots. We have feelings too.

When our older son was little he was everyone’s friend. Outgoing, verbal, a politician. In restaurants he would wave to strangers and if they didn’t wave back, he was sad and confused. When he was two and a half he used the word “compromise” to one of the members of our baby birth- class reunion. This other dad refused to believe him and asked him on the spot, interrogating him like a lawyer; without skipping a beat our son said “if Mommy and Daddy say I have to go to bed at seven and I want to go to bed at nine, we compromise so I go to bed at 8 in the middle.” Suck on that disbeliever. There were no more follow-up questions from the parent as he headed sheepishly back to his own drooling toddler.

The introduction of a baby sister to our son when he was only twenty-one months old was fairly easy for him, after all, she bought him a “cozy coupe.” There were a few occasions when he asked when “we would be returning her?” or “giving that baby back?” but that’s understandable. His position as first and only child had been usurped after a very short time.

I vowed that if I ever had a son, it was my calling to make him a loving and kind young man. He is everything I hoped he would be and more. We can read each others emotions in a blink of an eye or laugh at something no one else understands. It is different but equal with my daughter as we look to each other with “girl power” over the boys. My daughter has a close relationship with her father which makes me proud, I too was extremely close to my dad when he was alive. A daughter’s first relationship should reflect the one she had with her dad, and I couldn’t be happier.

I love both my children the same amount. It’s like saying do you prefer your left arm or your right? They are both part of me. But, connecting with them on an emotional level is different; it has to be, each child has their own, unique personality!

They are children no longer, they are adults, making their own decisions and know that we are here for them, always. Whenever they want to come “home” to ask for advice or to be a child again during college breaks, we look forward to seeing them. I usually get so excited the night before seeing them that I can’t sleep. We will miss you both next year. We love you and we like you and we are so proud of both of you. Truly and of course, Equally.

Carry On Tuesday -“Spend all your time waiting for that second chance”

Linney sat on the reclining chair and abruptly slammed down the phone, in tears. For f***s sake, she thought, didn’t anyone understand? She shook her head from side to side and the tears that were streaming down her face went flying but she paid no attention to that. “Whas the madda Mama?” asked a sweet voiced little girl, her daughter, Amelia, age 5 who had been drawing at the table. “Oh honey, I’m sorry, Mama just got a little upset about the phone call but I’m fine now” she said. “Why” asked Amelia,  “why you uspet?” Linney  picked her up and held her close and started dancing to a song that Amelia loved by Colby Collait, the title she thought was “Bubbly.” They sang the song together and danced around the room until Amelia got distracted and Linney was relieved that she didn’t have to answer any more questions about the damn phone call again.

The woman on the other end of the phone was the doctor in a fertility clinic where she and her husband Greg had been trying for over three years now to conceive another child.They desperately wanted another child, well she certainly did.  Some of the things people said, when she told them about Amelia, were just horrifying. Things like: “You are lucky to have one child, why feel you want another when some of us have NO children?” or “You have one child, what’s your problem?” The PROBLEM, she wanted to scream to them is that she needed, she longed for Amelia to have a sibling and that she, desperately wanted another baby, boy or girl. She felt incomplete with just one child and could think of nothing else but getting pregnant again. She had miscarried twice  and each time the doctor just shrugged his shoulders and said “it happens” or “it wasn’t meant to be.” After that, she went to a specialist who didn’t just have pat answers and started Linney on different medications. The phone call that she had just answered was the result of another negative pregnancy test. She had failed. Again. She wasn’t pregnant.

Of course she appreciated Amelia, she adored her and she and Greg were grateful for her every day. Why didn’t anyone understand that her wanting another child didn’t mean she didn’t appreciate having Amelia? It just felt that her left arm, secure and wrapped in a warm, soft red velvet shirt was complete and beautiful but that she was missing her right arm completely. Her other half was missing and she knew she wouldn’t feel complete until they had another baby. Greg said she was getting obsessed; Linney felt he was turning on her too. Even her girlfriends didn’t seem as sensitive as they used to be, her mom and sister, the same. She didn’t care, she would continue. She would have this baby, no matter what.

A year and a half passed and there was no luck, she had not gotten pregnant again. The doctors were not coming up with any reasons and that was the most frustrating thing of all. The doctors said there was nothing further they could do, even her newest doctor told her the same thing. She grieved for a long time, Amelia asked why she was always crying. Linney was depressed and stayed home, in bed, talked as little as possible.  Finally, after being on antidepressants for six months she felt better, she gave up and decided to try and forget that dream. She folded the onesies that she bought long ago for the new baby, in neutral colors. She folded the crib sheets that Amelia had grown out of and she gave them to her friend who was pregnant and due any week.

Linney went back to work full-time while Amelia was in school and Linney threw herself back into her Public Relations job that she had before she was even pregnant with Amelia. She had worked free-lance for them once in a while when she had free time, when Amelia went to nursery school or on long play dates with her new best girl friend, Maude. Amelia would beg to sleep over at her friends’ houses as often as her parents would let her; but she never invited the girls to sleep over at her house. Of course, it was always more fun at her friend’s house, even Linney remembered that.

One night, after Amelia was asleep and Linney and Greg had dinner and watched the news they cleaned up and dragged themselves upstairs. They changed into their pajamas, brushed their teeth and as usual, went together to kiss Amelia good-night. The bed was lumpy and looked odd, they immediately called her name, uncovered the blanket but she wasn’t there. Linney screamed and Greg called the police, it felt surreal; it is every parent’s worst nightmare. “Where is she?” Linney screamed, “Who took my baby?”  The police came over quickly they were at the house in under four minutes, inspecting, taking down information, Linney sobbed the whole time, she was hysterical and angry. “Why did this happen to them, why did all these bad things have to happen to them?”

Greg talked to the police and they went through the house together. The police noticed there was no forced entry, no window was broken, no lock had been touched. The officer tried to calm Linney down because they needed all the information to try and find Amelia. They wanted favorite places she went to, hiding places, names of her best friends, places she loved to go. All of a sudden Linney remembered Amelia’s best friend Maude and how sometimes she would beg to go over there and stay. “Please, please let me stay at Maudies, I love it over there,” Amelia would cry. They called and Maude’s mom answered the phone sleepily: “Hello? What? No, of course not. She’s didn’t come here. What? I’m sure. Well…..let me check and I will call you right back.”

Maude’s mom had said good-night to her daughter, tucked her in and kissed her good-night, she was in her own bed, she didn’t see anyone else and besides, Amelia was always welcome why would they sneak around?  Sue, Maud’s mom went in and turned on the light in Maud’s room and woke her up. “Maudey, Maudey, Wake up, NOW” As soon as her daughter sat up and Sue looked in her eyes, her heart plummeted to her stomach. Guilty. She saw it in her eyes, on her face and she knew. “Where is Amelia and tell me the truth NOW!”

Maud sighed and whispered “but I promised not to tell.” Her mom told her that Amelia’s mom and the police had called. Maud got really scared and started crying, she showed her mom the hiding place in the attic where Amelia was sleeping. Maud woke up and came down and they all sat in Amelia’s room AFTER Sue called Amelia and said she was fine and that she wanted to talk to the girls but they could pick her up in half an hour.

Sue sat between the two girls on the bed and said “Amelia, honey, you know you are welcome here any time. Why did you have to run away? Amelia started crying, first quietly and then she sobbed and gulped trying to get words out “My mom doesn’t love me. She only wanted to love a new baby, she never loved me, never.” Now she could barely speak but she choked out these last words: “she spent all her time waiting for that second chance of having a new baby and she never paid attention to me, the baby was all she talked about, my little sister or brother.” Sue knew all about Linney’s obsession for another baby, everyone knew but she didn’t know how it had affected poor Amelia. All she could do is hold her and stroke her hair and tell her that her mom, of course, loved her so much.  Amelia was having none of it and asked if she HAD to go home. “Yes, honey, you do, you need to talk to your parents and talk this out, but not tonight. Tomorrow is time enough sweetie.

The bell rang, once, twice, three times. It was Amelia’s parents with a police officer. Amelia clutched on to Sue’s arm as they walked slowly to the door.  Amelia just stared at her mother and when her mother tried to hug her, she pulled away. She hugged her father and wouldn’t say a word to her mom. There were no words spoken, just looks, back and forth; Amelia walked out of Maud’s house with her dad’s arm tightly around her shoulders and her mom, trailing behind her, not knowing for a minute, what had just happened.

Tales of the youngest child…..

Lee doing her thing

Image by kodama (home) via Flickr

I have an older sister who is five and a half years older than me but in some ways I feel like an only child. We are nothing alike and since she never wanted to have anything to do with me growing up, there are not a whole lot of memories that we share. I always told my sister that I would never “pick her to be my friend.” That says a lot. It sums up everything in our relationship. When I needed HER she was never there for me, when I got mugged and asked her to walk me home the next day, she wouldn’t. When I was abused and woke her up she told me to go away and let her sleep. When I had surgery my sister had to be prodded and pushed by our parents to help me; they told me that. She flew to my college graduation and left before my name was called to the stage. My parents had driven up to my graduation which, agreed, was a very long drive, she flew and they let her. I was always the one left to mop up her messes, to parent our mother and father, sometimes, to parent her. Even now at age 54 and almost 60, we are not close; I may love her but I do NOT like her. When my father was in the Emergency Room many years ago I begged her to come. She refused. I begged her again, to come there FOR ME and she said “no.” She did not come, she didn’t feel like driving in the dark even though it was only a 30 minute drive from her house. How can one forgive that? I try to help people, and do good deeds for others, she doesn’t. My mother says “she’s good at calling every day” and “she knows the daughter to call if she needs someone.” Trust me, I am not bragging, believe me, this is not a competition, I don’t consider myself “winning.” How could I? If she is forced to help it is only when if it is convenient for her. I don’t like having a sister that I can’t rely on for anything. My best friends fill that role. I trust them, I can rely on them. I probably could rely on Facebook friends that I have never met before I could count on her. When my first-born, my son, was born she told me to leave a message on her answering machine because she didn’t want to wake up for the news. She is totally self-involved and selfish and she has no clue how she comes across to others, she doesn’t even know herself. She once told our ill mother that she wanted to have lunch with me but I couldn’t and continued to tell our mother that she would NOT drive the extra 20 minutes to visit our mother. My mother, in tears, tells me these things but not her. She has always gotten away with a lot, my parents did not want to make any more waves in her tumultuous past, not even a ripple. That was their big mistake and I knew that as a teenager but they did not. My mistake? For sometimes thinking she will come through, having a tiny flicker of hope and always being let down. My husband questions me: “but it is your sister” he says, “you KNOW how she is” and he is right. I do know how she is; I will never be sure of why she is like that but I have to accept it because she will never change. The ONLY good thing that came out of my sister and me is that we each have a boy and a girl and the “cousins” adore each other. This is one good thing, maybe it needed to skip a generation; they have each other.

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Plain and Simple: Unemployment Still SUCKS

‘You can calm down now,’ I tell myself, ‘everything is okay.’ But, it isn’t. I had trouble sleeping last night and I woke up feeling jittery and nervous.  I’m off-balance and anxious and it seems that any little, tiny thing can set me off course. I know the stress must be cumulative. For the last 11 months, my husband has been unemployed. He is trying so hard and there is not much out there. I FEEL for him, I want to see his pleased grin, his crooked smile.  I want this for him, more than I want this for our family and that says a lot.

I have been a stay at home mom with our children and I’ve also been sick for the past four years. I have a chronic disease ( and a few others) and even I, with my limited skill set,  look at the paper for something part-time. Of course the lack of money  is VERY important but really, we live without many frills. Having two teenagers makes it a bit harder and we have college to pay for: one child, in one year and the other child in the year after that. We will deal with it the best way we can, step by financial aid step.

I cannot see my beloved husband’s droopy face another minute even though he puts on a good show.  I am not the type of person to blame the President and the economy for our misfortune. There are many worse misfortunes and I remind myself of that all the time. It would be nice to see the happy glow back on his face, the spring in his step back. I feel useless and helpless and while we have had a nice summer together, the teenagers will be back in two weeks and that changes the family dynamics drastically. There will be more stress, especially with a Junior and a Senior in High School but also, many more distractions. Even though there may be more fighting, there will also be more laughter to replace the still silence that hangs in the air.

One of the worst parts about being unemployed is the way you are treated. I worked in Human Resources for over 20 years and we ALWAYS called the applicant with the decision that was made, good or bad. Now? There have been jobs he has been assured of getting and then? Nothing. No call, no e-mail, nothing. I know there are more applicants than there are jobs now, but please, a little respect would be nice. No excuses.

I am trying, again, to stay positive in my mind. To readjust and focus on happiness. The house has never been vacuumed that much and that often in the last 15 years. I would give that up GLADLY.  Help me in seeing good things come his way; I’ll keep you posted.