Miscellaneous

Reparations VS Resolutions

I gave up making resolutions for the new year a long time ago. I cannot, in fact, recall the exact year when I decided that placing lofty expectations on myself for the year to come was a good way to start it off….more like a recipe for disaster…setting myself up to fail, and to spend the entire year regretting why I was not ‘good enough’ or ‘strong enough’ to accomplish all the goals I set for myself.

One of my favorite quotes about the coming of the new year comes from Edith Lovejoy-Pierce:

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”

Each new year is a renewal of ourself…a chance to be a little more patient, a little more giving, a little more loving, a little ‘more’ of everything. I spend some time each December 31st thinking about the year that is about to close, and what I learned from it…what lessons from it I can apply to the brand new year that begins ‘tomorrow’.  But before I look too far to the future, it’s as important to look to the past…the 365 days of 2013 that have come and nearly gone.

I used to be like so many others that made promises (some kept, many not) to treat themselves better in the new year…to lose weight, to give up vices and ‘bad’ habits….to save money, to get a new job….to take a wonderful trip. Sure I did some of these things.  But I rarely ever thought to apologize to others and to myself for the foibles of the year that was withering away to memory.

Therefore, my day today is not to be spent setting goals for myself for the coming year, not to be spent making resolutions, but making reparations.

To my friends:  If in 2013 I ever gave you a moment of doubt that I really cared by not being more present in your life , I am truly sorry.  Some of you have had very difficult years….a marriage ending…cancer….deaths of loved ones….financial difficulties….I hope you know that I’ve read and heard your words, and you were on my mind and in my heart.  2013 has been a difficult year for me in many ways, very busy in others….and to know me is to know that in times of trouble, I tend to withdraw quite a bit and process all that is happening around me rather than reach out to share it. I find it terribly, terribly difficult to ask for ‘help’.  I truly regret if this trait of mine led you to believe I had any less desire to have contact with you this year.  I value your friendship, your support, and your love more than I can ever express.

To my kids:  I know that at times I have so little patience when you are ‘just being kids’.  I try, more often than you know, to put aside my own garbage and recognize that you won’t be young forever, and there is so much to savor and cherish about your childhood because it will be over before I know it.  One day I know you won’t want to hold my hand, or sit on my lap, or crawl into bed with me and whisper funny things to one another.  I’ll always look at you, no matter how old we all become, and wish to stroke your cheek, hold you close, and kiss the top of your head.  I try to be the best parent to you I can.   Sometimes I really get it right, and sometimes I don’t.  I hope that when you are adults you look back upon this time of your life and rather than seeing me as a success or a failure as a parent, you see me merely as ‘human’….and know that no matter what patience I didn’t possess…no matter what attention I might not have paid at times because other things either were or just seemed more pressing….I never loved you any less.

To my spouse:  I apologize for times when my own baggage gets in the way of being more understanding and supportive.  I hope that after 13 years of my bullshit you’ve grown to know that my speaking in ‘the heat of the moment’ is when I tend to fall apart in terms of kindness, logic, and calm…..and I say ‘okay’ to get through that moment with little difficulty and then revisit the issue later on when I can better participate in the conversation that is needed, or set my own junk down to listen more, to understand better, and to respond from a place of love, rather than a place of wounding and fear.

To my parents: You’re both getting to a stage of life when you need more and more ‘care’….when the parents become the ‘children,’ and the children become the ‘parents’. I sometimes lose sight of the fact that you are both adults still, no matter what your needs are, and become too ‘heavy handed’ in my approach.  It’s not because I don’t love you, or have any respect for you as adults, it’s because I fear seeing you suffer.  I hate seeing you ‘go without’ and struggling to do what used to be so simple for you.  I’ve watched the generation before you age and pass away. I know what is inevitable here.  I am sorry if I have shown a lack of compassion for your needs and wishes in the past year in my desire to see you taken care of or taking the best care of yourself that you can.  I love you both.

Lastly, to myself – I’m sorry for the times I’ve let you down, and ignored your needs and wants. Sometimes you are the easiest person to disappoint because you don’t yell at me and ask me ‘what the hell is wrong with you??!!!’ You don’t look at me with sorrowful eyes that silently reprimand me for not meeting your expectations.  You don’t berate me for broken promises and missed accomplishments, and that makes it all the easier to overlook you most of all…to leave you behind and make you the last priority on my list.  I do it time and time again, and you’d think by this age I’d learn to handle it better. Hopefully some day I will.

The change from one year to another is neither an end nor a beginning, it’s merely the continuation of the cycle of life….with one higher digit listed on the calendar. Before you look forward, look back…remind yourself where you’ve come from…where you’ve been….and then move ahead….move on….keep moving…keep growing…keep learning…keep trying.  Keep doing new things, even when you fail at them.  Keep changing yourself and your circumstances for the better. Keep reaching higher and doing a little bit more, and believe yourself capable of doing it all the while.

Most importantly, keep living.

Wishing all who are reading this and even those who are not great love, peace, and prosperity in the year to come…..and solace in and for the experiences of the year we all leave behind.

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Reading

Time And Chance by Sharon Kay Penman – December 30th, 2013

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Presently I’m reading the middle novel of a trilogy about the rise and reign of Henry II in England. Book one, When Christ And His Saints Slept, traced the 12th century feud between cousins Stephen of Blois and Maude, daughter of Henry I though an uncrowned queen, to control the throne of England that resulted in a ten years war between them.  In the end, Maude’s son Henry II took control of the throne and married the recently divorced Queen of France, Eleanor of Aquitaine, a woman eleven years his senior.

This book, Time And Chance, chronicles the marriage of Henry and Eleanor, as well as Henry’s appointment of Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury, a move he hoped would give him control over the Church as well as the country. Becket’s unforeseen discovery of ‘God’ and a desire to protect the Church from state interference fueled a rivalry between the two that paved a road to murder.

The first book in this trilogy, though a weighty read at 746 pages in length (the hardcover version), was a rich and detailed recreation of the suffering of the people of England as Maude and Stephen waged their decade long battle against one another.  In retrospect, no matter which side a person took up the cause for, Maude or Stephen, no one, especially the subjects they sought to ‘better’ the life of, won.

The murder of Thomas Becket is one of Medieval England’s most well-known stories of treachery and betrayal.  Sharon Kay Penman’s abundant skill at recreating stories from the middle ages (having read both When Christ And His Saints Slept and Lionheart previously), make this a long anticipated read for me, and one I intend to savor.

I have already ordered the third and final installment of this cycle, Devil’s Brood, and look forward to the release of ‘A Kings Ransom’, the sequel to Lionheart, this winter.  Sharon Kay Penman has an impressive assortment of novels which focus on this time period and the Plantagenets themselves. If you enjoy novels of this sort, she is not an author who will disappointment.

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Miscellaneous

What Could You Do With 2 Million Dollars?

Last night before going to sleep I read an article about the state of Utah ‘planning’ to spend 2 million dollars to defend it’s law barring same-sex marriage equality which was recently struck down. I, like many others, can think of many different, better ways to spend 2 million dollars than on trying to uphold a law that detracts from fairness and equality to all. Here’s a few things 2 million dollars could do for Utah:

-It’s estimated that with 2 billion dollars you could feed the entire populations of Canada, the United States, and Mexico…so for 10% of that, you could feed 10% of those people, or 10 million people.  In January 2012 it was estimated that 633 thousand people in America were homeless. An estimated 16K of those people live in Utah.  The state would apparently rather defend a discriminatory law than help its homeless population which it could do many times over with 2 million dollars.

-The average salary for a teacher in Utah is $47,000.00 per year.  With 2 million dollars you could hire more than 40 new teachers for one year, 20 for two years, etc. The state would apparently rather prevent same-sex couples from being afforded the same rights and legal recognition as other couples enjoy when entering into marriage than provide for more/better education for its children.

-A 2008 study showed that more than 18,000 teens in Utah use illegal drugs.  The average cost of a rehab stay is $15,000.00 per person. With 2 million dollars you could put more than 125 kids in rehab who may not have the financial means or insurance to put themselves in rehab. The state of Utah would, apparently, rather spend 2 million dollars to prevent two consenting adults from pledging their lives to one another, legally, as a celebration of their love and commitment to one another.

Utah is one of 9 states in 2013 that began to legally recognize same-sex marriages.  That brought the total up to 18 states in all in the U.S. where it is now legal for same-sex couples to marry. I live in the first state where it was legal to do so.  The arguments against allowing same-sex marriage are wide-ranging, and some of them are listed below:

1. Calling something marriage does not make it marriage – Well, that’s true…unless it IS marriage. Making marriage marriage for everyone will make it …..you guessed it…MARRIAGE! Then you can call it marriage, since it’s marriage.

2. It is against ‘natural law’. – The last time I checked, Mother Nature did not hold a license to practice law, nor was she a Supreme Court Justice. She does not hand out marriage licenses, nor preside over wedding ceremonies or divorces.

3. It always denies a child a father or a mother. – I have only ever heard of one case of immaculate conception. Even us homosexuals know how the biology works there. Everyone, no matter how they are raised and in what kind of family construct, has a mother and a father. The level of involvement a mother and a father have in their child’s life varies from situation to situation.

4. It does not create a family, but a naturally sterile union. – Just like elderly people, and naturally sterile people. This is not a prerequisite for people to marry, that they must produce a child from this union. This likely was good news to my grandmother who married for the third time at the age of 62.

5. It offends God. – I suspect, if God exists, those who claim to speak for Him with absolute authority might be a bit more offensive. I know I’m offended by people who think they speak for me without even speaking TO me first.

6. Same-sex marriage will pave the way for the legalization of other types of marriage like polygamy and marrying your dog– I have noticed that no matter how many people use this argument…not one of them that I’ve seen have proposed a constitutional amendment against polygamy.  It’s as if gay marriage is the ‘stain fighter’ against all other blemishes on marriage and to ban it, you effectively block all other offensive couplings from occurring.  And as for marrying dogs….the lack of an opposable thumb to sign a marriage license and the lack of ability to read seem to dismiss this is not possible for a dog to enter into a binding contract of any kind.

One of the biggest arguments I’ve heard used is that it ‘threatens’ traditional marriage.  I’ve been married now for eight years.  Roughly 18 months after Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, I decided to take the plunge.  In that time I’ve been close to just one couple who have divorced, and they have not cited me, my husband, or our marriage as the reason for their divorce.  I’ve known several people who have married since I married. They are still married. As of March, 2013, Massachusetts enjoys the lowest divorce rate in the country. Most of the states in the U.S. that have legalized same-sex marriage since Massachusetts paved the way fall below the half-way mark on the state by state list of highest to lowest divorce rates, including Illinois, Connecticut, New York, Michigan, and Iowa.

There is, presently ABSOLUTELY NO CREDIBLE EVIDENCE that same-sex marriages harm children, families, or any other married couple in any way, shape or form.  There is no credible evidence that children raised by same-sex couples are harmed in any way shape or form or thrive any less than children raised by opposite sex couples.  Children’s development is affected by the quality of their relationship with their parents, not by the gender of their parents.

18 of 50 states have now legalized marriage for same-sex couples. None have legalized dog marriages or polygamy.  None have also legalized marrying underage children. None have made it a law for anyone to ‘like’ gays and lesbians any more than they did before legal recognition of their unions.  None have forced people to turn gay….if they weren’t gay already, they aren’t gay now….which is just how it’s worked in the reverse for years…barring gays and lesbians from legal recognition of their unions did not make anyone turn straight, or decrease the number of gays and lesbians in the world.

Rather than continue to defend a discriminatory law that is falling, state by state, by the wayside Utah has the opportunity to do some good with their apparent windfall of taxpayer dollars if they can afford to spend 2 million dollars to try to overturn the legalization of same-sex marriage.  Many other states have shown that the arguments against legalization of same-sex marriage have fallen flat and the doom and gloom predictions of ‘slippery slopes’ and ‘destruction of tradition’ have failed to come to fruition.    Same-sex couples do not in any way, shape, or form threaten opposite-sex couples.  True, there is a shattering of the stereotype of the ‘roles’ of opposite gender couples in a relationship…..and those stereotypes are often interjected into discussions of same sex relationships as to who ‘plays’ the man and who ‘plays’ the woman….and I often wonder how opposite-sex couples would answer that same question as I’ve known opposite-sex couples where the ‘man’ is more skilled at sewing curtains and decorating and the ‘woman’ is more skilled at changing the oil in the car and doing electrical work in the house.

For anyone reading this blog post, I realize I’m simply regurgitating stuff that’s been written and spoken about time and time again for years to make my case.  But then again, so are opponents of same-sex marriage using failed, flawed reasoning and logic to make their case against same-sex marriage.

At least I’ve only spent about 45 minutes to do so.

Not 2 million dollars.

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Parenting

What Do Two Men Know About Raising Kids?

Back in 2006 I started a new job with a new employer after taking several months off when my nephew moved in with my husband and I.  We had gotten married the prior September, after Massachusetts became the first state to recognize marriage equality.  I had been informed that the job I held at the time was being ‘relocated’ to rural Pennsylvania, and not having any intention of following it there, I took the layoff payout being offered.  I also took in a five month old baby, and took on the best job I’ll ever have…that of being a parent.

I had not ever been ‘voluntarily’ unemployed before.  I had no insurance coverage, whereas at the time the Federal Government would have viewed my being covered under my husband’s health insurance policy as ‘income’ that I would need to report at tax time, since they did not recognize us as a legally married couple.  Thankfully that has changed as I found myself, earlier this year, laid off again and needing coverage for myself and our kids.

It was not without a lot of soul-searching that I engaged in ‘raising’ a baby.  My only experience with children was caring for my older nephew and niece when they were babies for a night or two at a time. I’d not ever been responsible for any life other than my own 24/7. I asked myself over and over again if this were the right thing to do for a variety of reasons.  Not the least of which being “what do two men know about raising kids?”

Many people feel that children are ‘better off’ with both a mother and a father in the home.  I suppose I believe that the ‘ideal’ is for children to be raised by the people who created them, for the reason that if you’ve chosen to bring a life into the world, there is a degree of responsibility there to be able to care for them and raise them.  But that’s really just a pipe dream for many.  Adoption opened my eyes to the reality that there are a variety of reasons why parents do not/cannot raise their biological children.  Addiction…mental illness…financial circumstances…..’parents’ who are really just children themselves and find themselves completely unprepared to take care of a baby…..and with no one else in their family able or willing to step in and raise the child….

I am a biological child. I was raised with two older adopted siblings.  My parents were not able to conceive on their own for the first thirteen years of their marriage, and therefore adopted….twice…before I came along.  I’ll never know what it feels like to be adopted.  I’ll never question who my biological parents are, or if there are other siblings out there that I don’t know about; or perhaps grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.  I never had to consider if some person I just met and am interested in romantically could possibly be related to me.  I don’t ever have to consider why someone would not be able or willing to raise me.  I just don’t wonder where I come from. I know where I come from.

After spending a summer at home with an infant, learning all the ins and outs of childcare, I developed a brand new sense of respect for people raising children.  Stay at home parents do not have it easy.  You have to plan nearly every single aspect of your day right down to when you might take a shower in relation to if the baby is awake or sleeping if you don’t have someone in the home with you at the time.  At that time I was home with the baby, but my husband was working full-time.  I re-evaluated my bed time in relation to potential 2am feedings and very early wake ups whereas I am not a person who can easily fall asleep during the day and ‘nap’ when a baby is napping while a monitor would alert me to their waking up and wake me in the process.  Getting out and getting some ‘adult company’  (beyond my spouse) was something I had to coordinate and work at as I didn’t really know any other stay at home parents at the time.  No longer could I just pick up and go to the movies at 2 in the afternoon any day of the week, or run out to the store if I got a craving for some potato chips. It became a long, laborious process of dress the baby, make sure I had a diaper and some wipes handy, load them into their car seat, unload them to take them into the store with me, and then re-load them in their car seat again and take them home.  It all revolved around the baby’s nap time and if they were feeling well or not.  It became a fifty two point decision to make just to think about grabbing fast food for lunch or not.  It takes a lot of work to take care of children.

I did not grow up knowing any same-sex couples, specifically gay couples…and especially those with kids.  In my little row of houses in an area called Tallwood Terrace in Gorham, Maine there were only traditional families of Mom, Dad, and kids – or older neighbors whose kids had grown and moved away, and one single lady who lived a couple of doors down from me in a house that was almost exactly like ours, both having been built by my uncle.  This was what I was raised seeing…traditional families. Some had stay at home moms…none had stay at home dads.  The way life ‘looked’ to me at the time was primarily that Dad went to work and Mom stayed at home and took care of the kids and did the cooking and the cleaning.  That’s the way I think most people my age and older grew up and what they saw.

There were no gay role models on television at the time. The closest you came was seeing Paul Lynde crack wise on Hollywood Squares with lots of double entendre comments and sly looks and covert laughter from other celebrities who were in the know.  Mainstream films that included gay characters were rare, and those characters were, to my mind, simply one ‘type’ of gay man.  There wasn’t a whole lot of diversity in the ‘gay neighbor’ role.  Gay men were the funny, pithy neighbors and over the top campy florists and hairdressers. Even Steven Carrington on Dynasty continually hovered between the gay and straight worlds with his relationships, and was a confused, bitter, tormented man. That’s what you saw portrayed for gay men. They were not community leaders and heroes and athletes. And they certainly were not parents. Not together anyway. They were gay men who followed what society thought they should do and become and had married and produced offspring and hid who they were and what they really wanted in an effort to be part of ‘normal’ society.  They didn’t pair up and set up house and bring in babies by whatever means and stand up to the naysayers and declare their fitness as parents.  After all: What do two men know about raising kids?

I know too many wonderful, wonderful moms to ever say a child, female OR male, doesn’t need a woman’s influence in their life. Women are/have been, traditionally, the ‘nurturers’ in child-rearing. That’s not to say I don’t know some amazing hands-on Dads, because I do.  I know men, heterosexual men, who will lift their crying child and soothe their tears and stroke their hair and comfort them and hug them and say ‘I love you, it’s okay.’  I know men who will bare their souls to their children if they think it will benefit them or teach them something positive that they can carry with them in life.  My dad wasn’t that kind of dad.  He didn’t ever tell me to ‘hide my emotions’ or that ‘boys don’t cry’ or anything like that, but I also have no memories of him holding me close and whispering words of comfort when I did cry or show emotion.  He talks a little more freely now about feelings, and regrets, but not when I was younger.  Back then he was what so many other dads were, in my mind – he went to work…came home…ate his dinner…read his paper, and went to bed. There wasn’t a lot of conversation…he was, at the time, a very quiet man.

To become a parent (by the method I chose) I had to answer a lot of questions and undergo a lot of scrutiny.  There were many hours of ‘interviews’ and some very personal questions asked.  I had to have regular checkups to prove myself in good health.  I had to provide references from friends and co-workers attesting to my character as a person and what kind of parent they ‘thought’ I would be in order for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to allow me to become a parent.  I had to talk about some very personal and very painful experiences in my life and how I felt they had influenced me and what potential impact I thought it might have on my raising a child.  I had to question what I thought my abilities really were in what ‘kind’ of child I thought myself capable of caring for and loving in terms of disabilities or special needs, as well as color of skin, age, family of origin background, etc. I cannot speak for any of my friends who have biological children, but I can say that none of them have informed me if they asked themselves all these questions before they became parents.

Several of the questions asked of us at the time related to being two men raising a child, and how we’d ‘handle’ potential issues that arose of bias in our community. We did provide answers at the time, of course, but in the ensuing years we’ve not once really run into any bias about it. We’ve met other parents who we have become friendly with and even spoken to other same sex couples about becoming parents via the same method we did. We joke with people we know about this, but in reality…neither of us is the ‘mom’ or the ‘dad’….we both take on both roles now and again, based upon the need or the child. One of the kids gravitates toward me in times of need, and the other to my husband. It’s not a competition, and both of us ‘nurture’ when we need to.

There is no handbook to raising a happy child, no matter what your family construct is. Mom and Dad…two moms…two dads….there’s certainly a different set of ‘issues’ that come along with same-sex parenting, but when it comes down to it children need the same things no matter what type of home they are in. They need love and stability. They need someone to pick them up when they fall and set them back on their feet again. They need to know that you are going to be there for them, no matter where they come from or where they’ve been. They need your attention and your support. They need you…no matter what body parts you possess.

What do two men know about raising kids? If they know how to love, they know all they need to know. The rest can all be figured out as you go along.

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Miscellaneous

The Truth About Nana

December 27th was the birthday of my paternal grandmother, Evelyn. She has been deceased now for almost a decade.  I have been mourning that death and that loss every single day since she passed. I still re-live her death in my dreams occasionally. She’s never far from my mind.  I valued that relationship so highly.  I loved her so dearly. I miss her so terribly. 

Some say that, over time, after someone dies you forget things about them little by little. You forget what it felt like to touch them, or forget their scent, or the way they walked, or the timbre of their voice when they spoke. I still cling to the sound of her voice in my mind like I clung to her pants legs when I was a boy and she’d be getting ready to leave after a visit to Maine to see my family.  I can still feel the material of her blue quilted winter coat as I held her tightly and begged her not to leave. I can still taste the salt inside my tears that rolled down my cheeks and into my mouth as I’d watch her car drive away and see her waving to me through her window.  She was my ‘secret girlfriend’ long before I understood how that could never be, and the first woman ever to break my heart when I did understand it.

Nana, as I called her, as every one of my cousins on that side of the family called her (to my knowledge) is never long from my mind. I keep photos of her close though I don’t need them to still recall the curve of her smile, the blue of her eyes….the way she would fold her legs to the side of her chair as we sat at her table and talked when I’d visit her, as an adult, on trips to her home before and after I’d moved. She would lay her hand over mine as we spoke.  Her thumb would find its way under my hand and she’d rub the inside of my palm, back and forth, like a clock pendulum counting out the seconds.  We’d sit that way for hours.  We’d talk about family, about friends, about her, about me….I could talk to her about anything and I never had any fear of losing her love and that relationship until death parted us…her death….which I’ll never, ever reconcile as something that ‘had to happen’. She was 89 when she passed away. She wasn’t in the best of health.  I wouldn’t wish her back in poor health, but oh how I’d take her healthy and smiling for a million more years if I could.

I’ve talked to others who had different experiences with her…different feelings about her….and I would never dispute or debate their ‘truth’ about Nana. It is just that…their truth. My truth of her is mine.  My truth of Nana was kindness and warmth and love. My truth of Nana was that she was the one who made me a homemade cheesecake every year (my favorite) and always instructed me to ‘share it’ with my siblings knowing full well I’d eat it all myself.  My truth of Nana was that she introduced me to the Ewing Family of Dallas, TX when I’d visit her on weekends, spending a night at her house after Grampa (her second husband) died and she’d let me stay up late to watch t.v. with her and tell me what a ‘stinker’ that J.R. was to his poor wife, the drunk.  My truth of Nana was that we’d walk from her mobile home (before she married her third husband, Ray) to the McDonalds on Route 302 in North Windham and have cheeseburgers together and she’d buy me caramel sundaes and tell me to make sure I used my plastic spoon to scrape down the grooves in the sundae container to get it all and not waste any, sitting there smiling at me as I ate it and saying, ‘Nana’s happy you came to see her.’ Nana always talked about herself in third person.  My dad (her son) does that with me. I do it myself with the kids, though not all the time. 

I know she wasn’t perfect. I have heard stories from others about her own young married life to her first husband, my grandfather, from my dad and his sister, and a tiny bit from one of her other two children.  They carry their own truth about her. They carry their own memories and experiences that shaped their relationship with her and in some ways with others. My dad never speaks poorly of his mother, no matter what his ‘truth’ was with her. There’s no real bitterness or anger in his voice. He speaks of her and of his childhood very ‘matter-of-fact’-ly when he speaks of it. He tends to dwell on the details rather than the feelings, I think. I’m different from him in the respect that I dwell on both, I suppose. Maybe too much sometimes, but as Pooh once said ‘How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.’

Every once in a while I pick up one of the pictures I have of her in my home and hold it in my hands and stare into her face…her beautiful, caring face. I say hello to her, and tell her I miss her. I’ve never said goodbye to her…I visited her in the hospital the night before she died. I held her hand and told her I loved her and that it was okay for her to go if she needed to go and knew it was likely the last time I’d ever see her alive. I spoke at her funeral and carried her coffin and stood at her gravesite. I’ve visited it since then. I’ve not held her in my arms in nearly ten years. I never will again. Despite all that, I’ve never said goodbye to her. I never will. I can’t. I still cry like she died yesterday when I am missing her. I’m doing that right now as I write this and as I miss her all over again thinking about her so strongly. She never made me sad. She never hurt me. She never disappointed me. Sure, we disagreed on something once…only once….but we worked it out.

The truth about Nana, to me, was that she was a lot of things to a lot of people. And maybe they weren’t all good…for everyone….but for me they were peaceful….they were safe…they were gentle and nurturing….they were countless hours and days of comfort and joy. They are days I never want to forget…because I’ll never have them (with her) again. The truth about Nana, to me, was that I loved her as far back as I can recall and far beyond her last breath…that I loved her in a way that the hole it left in my heart when she died is greater than I can ever fill.

My head knows she’s been gone for a long time now. My heart hasn’t caught up with it yet. I don’t think it ever will.

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Strictly My Opinion

A reply to jsd@yahoo.com, whoever you are…..

I received your rather vitriolic comment on the post I left here on Christmas. I tried to email you at your yahoo address, but I got a reply saying it was disabled….which leads me to believe you only used it to throw some shade in my direction.  I had hoped that you would reply to my request to identify yourself, since your email address didn’t really ring a bell with me, and so that I could perhaps have a mature discussion with you about your concerns, no matter how hatefully and cowardly you chose to express them sitting behind your keyboard using a generic and non-identifying email address.  I  guess, from your message you think that my making mention of the comment made by my sister (who yes, as you pointed out, is deceased) one Christmas long ago means that I lack maturity, and that I am incapable of letting her ‘rest in peace’ and don’t know how to forgive and forget.  I do have a blurb on my ‘about’ page here saying I welcome all respectful comments.  Yours does not, however, fall into the respectful category, so I’m not going to copy and paste it here in full. I’m just going to speak to some of your points.

1. It’s unfortunate that you find my posts ‘long winded’.  I may investigate writing ‘summary’ introductions in the future so that people like yourself might be able to avoid reading anything you might find distasteful.

2. I do not wish to paint my husband or myself as any better NOR any worse than anyone else. We are human beings.  We make mistakes. We fail miserably at times in parenting these kids….just like everyone else does with theirs.  I am happy to take my knocks when someone tells me ‘you could have handled that differently’…..and that’s why I see a therapist myself….I do hope that revelation wasn’t too personal for you to read about…the fact that I do realize I’m not perfect, have no desire to be perfect as it’s an impossible goal, and find myself flawed enough to want to do something about it.  I am frequently socially inept. I have a nasty habit of verbally fighting my way out of corners when I feel I’ve been put in one.  I have a lot of terrible habits.  I have been a mean, terrible, rotten bastard to people at times in my life.  Some of them deserved it. Some not.  I regret each and every incident, irrespective of the catalyst for it.

3. I am concerned that you feel my writing is an attention seeking device, and that I’m trolling for likes on Facebook and comments on my blog. I really couldn’t care less how many ‘like’ it or ‘comment’ on it.  I am not an attention seeker by nature. I’m an introvert. I have taken several ‘personality tests’ and each and every one labeled me as an introvert. Therefore, I strive to AVOID attention. I like to write. I find a lot of wisdom in what other parents share about their own experiences with their own children.  I write about what I know, and what is important to me.  I find face-to-face dialogue almost debilitating sometimes.  I express myself by writing.  I don’t do it to make others like me…or think I’m some ‘wonderful person’….I’m an asshole…honestly…I’ll be the first to tell you that….I’m an asshole. There, I said it…and I hope NO ONE posts a comment debating or disputing my calling myself an asshole…I don’t want them to.   I don’t want even one person to tell me that I’m NOT an asshole….I’d rather be thought of as an asshole that still has people who put up with his bullshit and stay connected.  Otherwise, I might have to try to be a better person…and that’s really exhaustive….I’m more comfortable admitting I’m an asshole who occasionally sucks as a parent and feels badly about it.  

4. My sister was mother to one of the boys…..she died.  She and I had a long, troubled history.  I raise her son now with appropriate compassion for the fact that it was his mother.  I sugarcoat a lot of stuff I say about that relationship, but I’m never going to try to present her as a saint to me, or in my interaction with her.  She wasn’t.  But she loved him, and he loved her…..and that relationship deserves respect and celebration for him, which I do….every day.  There is a long road ahead for him to process many things.  I will never teach him to be ashamed of himself for who he is, and will teach him that no matter what others say ‘about him’….it says more about THEIR character than his….I won’t teach him to ‘hide’ anything about himself for the sole reason that OTHERS may not like it….I also know how to filter out things about both the kids, myself, and my husband that are not exactly appropriate for public consumption.  My comment about how my sister was hurting that Christmas, and the ‘nastiness’ she displayed toward the rest of us wasn’t meant as a dig against her…I understand a lot about her (any my) unhappiness at that time. But when all is said and done…it was exactly how she responded that Christmas…..and if her son reads it in the future, my hope is he reads the entire message that ‘things’ don’t heal wounds or buy affection or happiness. I’m actually SAD that his mother didn’t have that good fortune to learn it herself before she died. I’m also sad that you missed the point entirely of what/why I wrote it…..I need to work on my writing skills.

5. If you are someone I know, personally, that I have ridiculed…..I apologize if I hurt your feelings over something.  There. I’ve apologized. I ridicule a lot in life….I make jokes out of a lot of situations…..I point out many things I find humorous.  I have a bad habit of getting through difficult situations by ‘trying’ to be funny….sometimes I fail….miserably….and don’t think before I speak. If I’ve done that to you, personally, then mea culpa….it was not my intention to hurt you. The ‘tone’ of your message was rather bitter…leading me to believe I’ve offended you personally somehow, at some point…I’d like the chance to more fully apologize for it, but would need to know what it was I said or did to you, personally, that caused you such angst.

6. Lastly, this is my blog….I post a link to it on my Facebook page because people I know and like asked me to since they don’t read their email regularly. I don’t do it to get ‘more people to read it’….I am grateful to anyone who DOES take the time to read it, but if no one read it, I wouldn’t be heartbroken…I write for myself….and i even keep a more personal journal of the things that are not proper to reveal to a wide audience.  You’d be amazed what’s in there!

The above stuff is my diplomatic reply to you.  If you wish to avoid any unpleasantness,…..don’t keep reading….

I’m interested to know if i really know you personally, or rather if you really know ME personally.  You seem to have a lot of misconceptions about me, and have ascribed some AWFUL intentions to my writing…..so if you wish to have a dialogue about this…please, contact me. If you are not capable of that level of maturity, then I ask only that you not visit my blog….that you remove yourself from my Facebook friends list (if you have not already) and that you not bother to keep in touch, no matter who you are.  Your method of commentary on my writing was cowardly, rude, and hateful.  I’m not sure i even WANT you in my life if you have no other way of expressing your ‘concern’ for my revelations about my past and present life, and level of detail I offer. No one is forcing your hand to click on the mouse, and if you are that uncomfortable with my words…I suggest you not read them.  If you are concerned that one of the kids’ peers might tease them about seeking therapy….or knowing that they do/did as kids….then you underestimate the fact that I fully intend to teach both of them stand up for themselves and call assholes out for being assholes…..and teach them never to bow down to douchenozzles who expect them to change who they are just because someone else might not like it.  That’s the way I live….and have for years. I started this blog for me…not for anyone else….and you know what? It’s mine….my content, my words, and my choice. I will take 100% responsibility for any future fallout of anything I say here.  

So please, if you cannot be a ‘grown up’ and deliver your message with kindness and identify who you are rather than hide behind some now disabled email account like a coward, then at least do me a favor….hang out on Pinterest and learn 500 new uses for ear wax……troll twitter and add some hashtags onto every other word you write…..pick up Readers Digest and memorize ‘Laughter Is The Best Medicine’….obviously my blog and my Facebook of days past is just too distasteful for you……I’d rather you avoid it….and me…in the future…..

Thanks!

 

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Miscellaneous

The Year Santa Found Technology

People bemoan the commercialism of Christmas each and every year. Trouble is we all perpetuate it year after year by buying and buying and buying….trying to ‘outdo’ ourselves year over year, paying for it during the forthcoming year….and many times just imagining that anyone else really ‘expects’ it to be done.  I opened only two gifts this year….a tea press set and a bacon flavored candy cane garnished with a package of bacon.  I’m just as happy with today as if I’d been buried in a pile of packages and told I had to unwrap my way out.

I have, for the last several years, spent Christmas with my in-law family.  Usually we are at the home of my mother- and father-in- law in New Jersey.  This year, in order for my sister- and brother-in- law to be included, we all went to Vermont for the holiday.  The agreement that the adults came to was that renting a place sizeable enough for all of us was our gift to each other and we would therefore just buy for the children. Their loot pile under the tree was really no less than the norm for them, and it took them a full hour to open it all, with squeals of delight as they ripped apart the paper surrounding package after package.

On the second Christmas that my father was no longer living with us my mother made a valiant effort to minimize the downsizing of the family by giving us lots of ‘stuff’ under the tree.  There were many brightly wrapped packages, tons of the chunky 1960’s and 1970’s supersized light bulbs with silvery tinsel melted to them (the smell I associate with Christmas), lots of glittery glass bulbs hanging from the branches….and yet she could not provide us with the one thing that any of us really wanted and likely would have traded anything else she’d given to us (or rather that Santa had brought) for…..Dad.  He was in the next town over, nursing his own wounds over the fracture of the family.

My sister had been very despondent over Dad moving out….to the point of nastiness in her interactions with the rest of us. Christmas Eve  came, and in the wee small hours of the morning she, armed with her laundry basket, loaded up all her gifts and took them upstairs to her room to open them herself, rather than with our mother and her two brothers.  Her expression of gratitude that year was ‘Is that it?’.  The look on my mother’s face was a mixture of frustration, anger, and defeat. 

Mom wasn’t the only one who tried to make Christmas better, or at least less awful, for someone with ‘stuff’…I tried to do the same for her for several years, thinking that one day the tree would be ‘just right’ or there would be ‘enough’ under the tree to mollify her disdain and eventual hatred of Christmas. I learned, after a few years, you don’t buy someone’s happiness for Christmas…there is no price tag on simply enjoying each other and being together, and it doesn’t take a pile of presents or shiny paper or glittering ornaments to be ‘festive’.

Even without spending a lot of money, there is still a lot of magic to be found in Christmas. A small bag of oats mixed with some glitter becomes ‘magic reindeer food’ that we sprinkled outside the rented guest house last night to ensure Santa’s sleigh found us all. The ‘perfect tree’ can be simply some cast-off boughs stuck upright in a metal plant pot with one strand of multi-colored lights strategically and carefully strung in between the needles.  The most beautiful angel tree topper can be a paper plate creation with a pencil drawn face hanging at an odd angle that resembles a pedestrian texting as they walk along.  The brightest ornaments are crafted by scrunching up aluminum foil into balls and finding something to ‘hang’ them with on the boughs. 

None of us, individually, really ‘spoiled’ the children this year. Certainly they had plenty to open under the tree, and Santa left a note for the boys telling them that the ‘blue’ packages were for David, and the ‘red’ ones for Aiden, but always check for a name-tag before opening anything, as I knew there were packages there, all in red paper, that could have been for either one of them. They followed Santa’s instructions well, and there were no mishaps….save for one potential situation that was diffused easily enough.

One of the ‘bigger’ purchases for the boys this year was a brand new game system.  The box for that was wrapped in red paper, and the ‘joysticks’ were wrapped in blue. The packages were taped together in the hopes that they’d understand it was for both of them. Aiden, however, had other plans, and claimed the game system as ‘HIS’ since it was wrapped in red. He quickly got to a frustrated state as we tried to explain that it was probably for both of them. Seeing this as nothing but potential disaster for the day, we all agreed it was best to table the issue for the moment. I informed the boys, verified and agreed upon by the other grown ups present, that there was a website I could verify anything Santa had left without a tag that was in question, and I’d do so shortly.   I made my way slyly upstairs, opened my laptop, and quickly set up a bogus email account on yahoo.  A quickly drafted email later, sent to my legit email account, settled the matter for the boys.

It looked like this:

——————————————————————————————————————————–

From: SantaClaus GiftConfirm

Subject: Game Console

Thanks for your inquiry – The Wii was actually meant to be for both your good boys Aiden and David, and I’m sure they will play nicely with it.  Please let me know if they have trouble with this.

Merry Christmas to you all, and the reindeers really enjoyed the food….tell the boys thank you!

——————————————————————————————————————————- 

The boys were satisfied enough with this technological confirmation of the gift being for both of them, and now I have definitive proof that this is the case (at least as long as I can retain the email, and they buy my line of bullshit).  

A few hours later and some are relaxing with the t.v. – some playing with new toys, or listening to music….whatever they want.

Me? I’m sitting here typing on my blog…enjoying the fact that we are all together again this year…that the boys have another large family Christmas to look back on as they grow. A Christmas where, hopefully, they learned that Christmas doesn’t really ‘HAVE’ to be anything in particular…it can be special just by being whatever you make it with your makeshift tree and ornaments…..and blessing another year, what might be the last one for Aiden as he’ll be 9 next Christmas, when the boys both still believe that Santa Claus is very, very real.

Just hopefully not so real that he drops by later today to bust me for identity theft in trying to diffuse a fight over a Wii.

Merry Christmas (or whatever you celebrate) to one and all.

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