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Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Life Through Someone Else's Eyes

It's a new year so maybe I'll start writing again.  In fairness, I write a fair amount I don't publish because it's angry or whiny.  Neither is how I want to be remembered.

We spent our New Years Eve in Baltimore on a frigid cold night waiting for fireworks.  We went to the Kona Grill as we have in years past.  I love their aquarium and there's something there we all like, so it's a perfect way to end the year.

Our waitress was interesting.  At first I guessed she was around my age.  Then I figured she was younger.  She was chatty with my girls.  I thought she was just being friendly but then she talked to us for a bit.  She had a lot of thoughts about the fact my teenage girls were with me on this party night - and they were there voluntarily.  She told us a brief rendition of her life story - pregnant and unmarried at 25, later married with a couple of kids and a step daughter (so I'll assume a divorce and remarriage in there but I didn't actually ask). Judging by looks alone, she's had a harder life than I have. She referred to herself as an "old lady" several times.  I finally told her I was pretty sure she was younger than me so maybe finding an adjective other than old might be good.  Her comments about me looking to be in my late 30s or early 40s were just flattery, I was pretty sure.  Then she asked me questions.  You're not a smoker, are you? I'm a former smoker (I didn't mention the number of years). White women who smoke have lines.  They look older. Not untrue and it became clear she was a smoker.  Then she asked why the girls were with us on New Years.  They wanted to be with us?  Did I know how lucky I was?  This was a fairly long conversation.  I'm curious if her other customers noticed.

We paid and were getting ready to leave when I went back to thank her.  She made me feel happy by being surprised I was 50 and I appreciated the reminder to be thankful for my very chatty, kind of clingy, funny kids.  We're hitting the time where I feel the time crunch.  One and a half years of high school left.  Not many more New Years Eves watching fireworks, drinking Martinellis and eating junk food in a pricey hotel room. Soon friends, jobs, life and responsibilities will get in the way. Do you know how lucky you are? She reminded me of that a few times.

Yes, I do.

This will by my year to not only remember it but to make the most of it.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Crisis or Anger?

I posted a blog piece the other day on facebook.  It was titled The New Midlife Crisis for Women (http://www.oprah.com/sp/new-midlife-crisis.html). I was fascinated to learn that I AM NOT ALONE.  I have become angry.  I have become motivated.  I'm on a mission.

For what, you ask?  It's not really to find happiness because overall I'm a pretty happy person.  I am in love with someone who is kind and respectful to me.  I have two children who make me laugh.  A lot.  I have lots to be happy about.

But I'm also angry.  I'm tired of knowing that my male partner is treated differently that I because of his anatomy.  I'm tired of feeling like my kids are going to have to fight the same battles my mother did.  Angry over SO MUCH STUFF.  So what is my mission?  It can't be to make the world fair.  That's not going to happen.  I don't want to learn acceptance.  I'm not entirely sure what my mission is.  Maybe it's to light a fire under my girls so they'll be the change of their generation.

The blog brought up many topics. My friends comments brought up just as many.  The first thing that struck me was I am not alone.  I had no idea so many women were as frustrated as me.  I had no idea so many of my friends have experienced the injustices that anger me - simply because of a perceived difference of ability based on their anatomy.  I have a major problem with this.

"Part of the reason we don't know much about women's midlife experience is that the focus has often been on men."  My partner reinforced this for me today.  He expressed that most people, when thinking of a mid life crisis, think of men.  First, I don't really believe "mid-life crisis" is the correct term for me.  I'm not out buying a fancy car (though, don't get me wrong.  I really want one but I'm so fucking logical and frugal that my kids' college education comes before me getting a car.).  I'm not having an affair and have no desire to have one.  I do, however, want to run away on a daily basis.  Part of that stems from living in a country I no longer want to live it.  I am tired of living in a country that believes women are a lower priority to men.  We see it daily in the standard approach to healthcare, reproductive rights, the glass ceiling, the mom-tracked professional career.....I could continue but you get it.  Part of it is being responsible for EVERYONE.  And part of it is from accepting the fact that I am lower on the priority list than just about everyone else.

Now, truth be told, I allowed that to happen.  But in reality, there's little to be done about that.  In this age of people moving away from family, there is no one to help when someone (often the mom) becomes overwhelmed.  That's no one's fault.  It just is.  Sometimes there is no one else to make sure my mom is safe (when she lived independently) or is secure (when she's living by herself in a nursing home).  There is often no one to take my kids to (name the activity).  There has to be someone to listen to them when they have a threat of violence in their school (that one sucked), or they're feeling bullied or neglected.  Someone has to listen to them.  And yes, I realize how incredibly lucky I am that my children talk to me.  I know many folks who aren't that fortunate.  They don't know who their kids are hanging out with, getting (often bad) advice from or what class they're struggling with in school.  I am lucky.  I'm aware of that.

The money discussion in the blog post was fascinating to me.  I really had no idea other women were like me.  In my marriage, I was the common sense spender.  I knew what we could afford - and what we couldn't.  My perspective was dramatically different from that of my spouse.  I would argue that my frugal approach is smarter but I'll say he's happier.  His level of concern is so much less.  This shit keeps me up at night.

"When a woman takes time off to care for a sick relative—and it is usually the woman who takes time off—the potential cost in terms of lost wages and Social Security benefits averages $324,000 over her lifetime."  I cannot tell you how many days, weeks, I've lost to taking care of a sick kid or a sick parent.  Yes, having children was my choice.  Yes, I knew my entire life I'd be taking care of a parent.  I never thought about doing both simultaneously and certainly not as a single parent.

I've been thinking about this stuff for days.  I keep coming back to the idea that social media does some harm to women.  In many ways, it's fabulous.  I keep in touch with family and friends that I wouldn't otherwise see.  I have learned what it means to have privilege, that my politics really don't make me a communist and, probably the most important part, I am rarely alone in my thoughts.  There are others who feel gun control needs to happen now, that all women, regardless of economic status, should have access to healthcare and menstruation products - all sorts of stuff.  It also encourages the idea that the grass is greener on the sides where your friends are.  After all, they're traveling to Europe, islands - all the places you dream of going.  They have family to watch the kids so they can take a weekend away.  They have this fabulous life.....but sometimes they don't.

Several years ago, I saw the pictures that an acquaintance had posted.  I sent her a message, probably sounding slightly jealous when I commented on her beautiful pictures of her European trip.   You have a wonderful life, I commented.  Only when she responded, "I am in the middle of a nasty divorce.  I don't see my kids daily.  My friends from my married life don't talk to me.  Tell me again what a great life I have?" did I realize that she did the exact same thing I do.  She posts enough to keep family up to date, to keep friends abreast of some current events.  But none of the serious stuff is posted.  It makes sense.  No one is going to post "had a whopper of a fight with my husband.  I hid in my kids' room because I was scared of what was going to happen."  No one posts "my father in law not only doesn't recognize me but has a new partner in the alzheimer's unit of the nursing home."  No one posts "my kid hates me.  Again."  So we never see the hard stuff.  It's easy to glamorize the good stuff when the bad stuff doesn't seem to happen to them.

So short of making facebook a bitch-fest, what's an angry woman to do?  I'm not a big believer of complaining about problems without providing solutions.  But I don't really have any solutions here.  But I'm kind of at a loss here.  Suggestions anyone?

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Very Good Day

It's easy to stuck in self pity sometimes.  I don't often think why me but I do often think enough!.  And then things happen to remind me that I am indeed loved and cared for.

Today was a very good day.  It was a long day but it was good.  I was reminded why I actually like coordinating an event that makes my stomach hurt with nerves.  It makes my heart happy to see teams working well, having fun and ending with everyone feel positive about their day.  I watched people who make my interpreting heart happy.  So that was good.

I was able to match Andrew's extra furniture with folks who needed it.  That's a big relief.  And it makes us both happy.

I arrived home after a 13 hour day to find dinner for the next few days attached to my door.  I feel so very loved right now.  This is a massive help to me.  And lucky for me, I have friends who cook!

And I'm oh so grateful I'm not in Florida with massive power outages and flooding, or in Mexico cleaning up after an earth quake or anywhere else chock full of natural disasters.

It was a very good day, indeed!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

What's A Dozen Years

Twelve years ago yesterday I was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  The day, the events, the looks on the nurses' faces are forever etched in my head.  The tears my then-husband shed, my yelling at the doctor who didn't see me in person (talked to me on the phone) - it's all forever engrained on the timeline of my life.

There are lots of days I'll never forget but only a few that I remember exactly by date: the birth of my children, my wedding day, the day he moved out, the day my mom fell - all left marks that changed my life.

So, what's a dozen years?  I've done a lot in that time, though it's not really what I expected.

I forgot to mention something important.  The "little something extra upstairs" was found because I had lyme disease (another fun chapter of my life that continues today).  The things that happened to me are likely caused by lyme, not my brain.  Important distinction.

My kids were in car seats.  I lost my ability to control my hands for a while and had to teach them how to work their car seats themselves.  Now they are getting ready to drive.

I had speech issues.  Still do.

My kids were getting ready to start school in a few short years.  Now my kids are getting ready for college in a few short years.  Time, please slow down a bit.

My mom lived independently in PA.  She's in a nursing home here.

I was married.  I'm not any more.

I was dependent on others to help me.  I've learned to depend on myself.

I've learned a ton about medical stuff and how to deal with insurance companies.

I have been to Switzerland and Paris twice in the last 12 years.  I have been to California, Colorado and a few spots in between, though I haven't seen as much as a girl who thought she was going to die should see.

I've learned to stop taking things for granted and to stop waiting for things to happen.  I have to make things happen.

Mostly I learned that I'm stronger than I ever thought.  I'm pretty tired of being tested but at least I know I'll always end up on my feet.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Do You Have Rules?

I was interviewed a few months back for an article on teens/tweens who color their hair for the Wall Street Journal.  I find it interesting that people find this a thing.  I've been coloring my hair pretty regularly (except during pregnancy) since I was 14.

The interviewer was super nice.  I enjoyed doing it.  She asked me a question that made me think:

Do you have rules in your house?

Huh?

Well, do you make your kids go to bed at 10?  Do you have rules about electronics?

Oh, yeah.  My kids think I'm strict.

Really?

My kids go to be bed at 9.  There are no electronics at the dinner table.  We eat together.  We hug often. My kids refer to adults as Mr. or Ms.  I have lots of rules.  Hair isn't one of them.

It got me to thinking about things and what other people might think looking into our family.  My house is unorganized.  I don't always cook the healthiest of dinners.  I'm a fairly unorthodox mom who is struggling to raise two girls who have self esteem, are proud of their smarts and think of the world around them.  But yes, I have rules.

My kids tell me I'm stricter than most of their friends' parents.  But their friends like me (I'm lit, which is apparently good) and tell my girls that.  I'll take that.  We all have or have had interesting colored hair.  I find it odd that there's a perceived correlation between that and rules.  Whatever.  I'll take the label of strict mom with oddly colored hair.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Sign or Coincidence, I Don't Care

I have, by and large, stopped looking for and believing in signs.  My life is such shit right now that I can only think of signs as punishment.  Plus my very pragmatic boyfriend can always explain them, often in ways I don't like.

This past week has been a tough week.  It's been especially rough as a daughter.  Yesterday, I left my mom's nursing home upset and angry.  As I was making my way home, winding through back roads, I found myself behind a pick up truck.  It swerved to run through all the big puddles.  I was immediately brought back to maybe age 5 or 6.  My mom would do the same thing.  I can remember opening the window and sticking my arm out to see if it would get wet.  I loved that my mom did that.

I did that when my kids were young (and confession time: I still do it if I'm sure there's no pothole under the puddle).  They loved it.  It always made me smile and think of my mom.

It's amazing how splashing through a few puddles can bring me to tears and make the anger subside.  At least a little.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Mr. Flannigan Would Be Proud

When I was little, around age 9 or 10, my mom bought me a bare bones, toy-like metal detector from Radio Shack.  It could find bottle caps, things near the surface of the sand and not much more.  We lived in Ocean City, NJ at that time and I had an ENTIRE BEACH to search for buried treasures.  I loved it.

Around that time, I met a little old man, Mr. Flannigan.  He really was little - I don't think he was much over 5 feet tall.  He had no teeth, unless he was taking his wife to dinner (then he put them in).  He wore the same exact thing every time I saw him.  He was dressed in a brown work suit - the kind mechanics wear.  He had the fanciest metal detector I ever saw.  This thing could find anything - and it did.  He wore a gold lion ring that had emeralds or rubies for eyes and a big diamond in the mouth.  He had all sorts of stuff like that.

He took a liking to me.  He'd bring things up to the surface so I, trailing behind him, could find things.  Often it was coins but once in a while it was jewelry.  I suppose this is where my love of treasure hunting started.  I would see him every summer into my early twenties.  I clearly remember the conversation where I said he'd known me more than half my life.  He was a fascinating old man.

He saw me through braces, my first job (at the Habitat), my first forray into my love of purple hair.  We talked about and met each other's families.  He was important to me.

Now, flash forward thirty years.  A couple of years ago, Andrew got me a metal detector for my birthday.  Not the radio shack version this time - a real one!!  I have gone metal detecting a few times but not often.  I don't get a chance to use it on a regular basis.  But when I do get to go, I love it!

Last weekend, we went to Ocean City, MD.  I needed a beach day.  I needed to search for buried treasure.  It didn't really occur to me that no people on the beach (it is winter, after all) would mean no buried treasure.  I was out there for about an hour before the first beeps started.  There were several beeps over the weekend.  We left with a small haul of....stuff.


We found a few bottle caps (found by Mikaela and me), a hook (that one took me by surprise), a rusty nail (that was pretty far down so I'm excited to know it can react to more than the first inch), a piece of wire and a disfigured penny (found by Andrew).

While I was waving the metal detector from side to side, I thought of Mr. Flannigan and how much fun I had with him.  I hope he knew that.