BooWho

Things I want to keep in mind.

Kids are the best teachers

I am a lucky mom.  My kids have been a treasure.  We grew up together.

I had my first child when I was 23.  It was November and I was living about five hours from my family and friends.  I was petrified to bring her home as I had no idea how to care for an infant.  She wasn’t an easy baby, not at first.  She cried every night for about an hour until she was six weeks old.  After that, she was a peach;  happy, smart, adorable and very loving.  We spent every waking moment together and she was my world.

My second child was born when I was 25.  He was a very large baby and very peaceful, rarely cried and quite pleasant.  He had these huge cheeks, wispy blond hair, dark brown eyes and was always happy.  I was much more confident bringing him home but then, at that time, we were living near family.  His sister was not thrilled at his presence.  Oh sure, she thought he was cute, but he took a little bit too much attention…  For six months of his life, we were a fun little trio.  Then, I had to go to work and things got a whole lot more complicated.

I had my third child when I was 30.  In the interim between child 2 and child 3, I had divorced, remarried, and had 2 miscarriages.  She was our little miracle girl.  The smallest baby thus far, she was like a little china doll with fair skin and light brown hair. We were all thrilled at her arrival.  Such a pretty, smart and dainty girl, she was all smiles and giggles.  She adored her siblings and they adored her.

My fourth child was a surprise package I delivered the very next year when I was 31.  He was born a little bigger than child 3 but he looked smaller because he was so thin.  His hair and skin were dark and his eyes were almost black, at first.  The first two months of his life, if he wasn’t sleeping, he was eating.  He eventually filled out very nicely.  Child 3 dubbed him “boy” and that is what we called him for the first few years of his life.  By now, I was an old hat at bringing babies home from the hospital.  I had lots of help and he was an easy baby, very happy, handsome and laidback.

As I look back now, I enjoyed motherhood.  Although at the time, it was very labor intensive and I was constantly filled with self doubt.  I had divorced when child 1 and 2 were very small and I worried about them constantly.  They didn’t see there dad very often and visitation was hard on them.  Also having to deal with a “step” family was an adjustment for them as well.  I was also working full-time and had to shuffle between shift work, babysitters and school.  It was exhausting and my time was spread very thin. Above all, I wanted all four of them to know they were loved but to grow into good citizens, caring people, loving parents.

I often felt inept as a mother and had to learn as they grew.  Lots of mistakes were made and some were corrected on subsequent children.  If I knew then what I know now – wouldn’t it have been better?  If wishes were fishes.

What I do know is that I am very proud of my children.  So much of what they are today has more to do with their own personalities and growth as adults than my abilities as a mother.  They are intelligent and caring people; loving to their partners; great parents – loving to their children but also intent on teaching them to be good people; they have good friends; they are good to each other as siblings.  I am go grateful to have grown up with them.  They taught me so much.

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Who really knows?

Parenting is hard.  Not everyone should do it.  There are lots of “manuals” in the form of “self-help” books, thousands of them.  Every theory, every strategy, every study, every child-rearing notion known to man available in print.  Oh, and blogs galore!  Present company included.

I can honestly say that, as a parent, I read my fair share of books.  I also observed other parents and their children to help me decide what was the better plan of attack.  Raising children is like planning a war – preparing for battle each day – and you will all get plenty of battle scars, parent and child alike.  If you are a parent, you know exactly what I mean.  (They don’t want to wear that, they want to wear that.  Put it on and they don’t want to wear that either.  They don’t want to eat that not even one single bite.  They don’t want to read OR to take a nap OR to pee!)  It is exhausting!

My husband and I were very strict with our children.  We had very rigid rules:

  • No screaming unless you are bleeding or dying.
  • You must clean your plate – if you take it, you eat it.  (And you must try everything – at least a small portion)
  • Good manners are important.  No talking with your mouth full.  Say “please” and “thank you”.
  • No fighting!
  • Saturday was chore day – everyone must clean their room (older children had to help younger children)
  • Mom & Dad were in charge and there was NO ARGUING and you should never have to be told something twice.
  • If you are out playing and you hear my whistle – stop what you are doing and come to me. (this still works to this day and they are adults!)
  • If you make a mess, clean up after yourself.

I’m sure there were plenty of others (my kids could probably add to the list) but those are the major rules that I remember.  Of course, in hindsight, I do realize that in some cases we were far too rigid.  Meal times were often very stressful because my husband was adamant that everyone learn those good manners.  We both regret it now — although, they DO have good manners and could make a good showing at a meal with foreign dignitaries – but mealtimes should be a time of sharing and relaxation.

I do know that, as a mother, I needed to have these rules in order to keep my household moving forward.  When I was in my thirties, my friend told me about John Rosemond, an author on parenting.  I bought his book, The Six Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children.  It helped me immensely!  That was back in 1994 or so — but so many of his ideas remain true (to my mind anyway).

Life has changed.  There is so much technology and lives move much faster.  With divorces, same sex marriages, single parents – the core family looks very different.  There have been many new studies and there are new theories on how to raise children, as a species we continue to evolve in that regard.  But I am old fashioned, I still believe that the parent has to be in charge and while you can be less rigid than we may have been – you still have to call the ball.  You make the rules and you enforce them.  Children need to know that you are watching over them – they may not like it sometimes, but they know where they stand in the grand scheme.

BUT.  Parenting is hard.  Sometimes, you are co-parenting with someone who has no parenting skills.  You spend much of your time doing damage control.  Sometimes, you work a full-time job and are exhausted before you arrive home to your second job – parenting.  Who wants to continue the battle – 24/7?  Take it from me – rules do help.  In this day and age of loving the child and trying not to hinder their spirit – things do get muddled.  Before I understood what my true role as a “mother” was – I wore myself out trying to reason and argue and yell – basically, begging my children to behave.  Rosemond’s book helped me to realize that I was expending all of my energy and they were learning how to ignore me.  I wanted them to behave but I didn’t expect them to do so.

“Tolerant parents repeat themselves, threaten, bluster and otherwise work themselves into a state of frustration that eventually expresses itself in yelling. Intolerant parents do none of that. They are mean. A parent who qualifies as mean does not yell. Said parent is virtually unflappable, which is to say cool, calm, and collected.

From a child’s perspective, a parent (or teacher) is mean if the child discovers that the parent says precisely what he means and means precisely what he says. No means no. It does not mean maybe. “I (parent) want you (child) to do thus and so” means the child is going to do it. It does not mean anything short of that.”  John Rosemond

Once I finally understood this and began to implement this attitude., I was truly amazed at the difference for my stress level.  The kids didn’t like it and it took a while for them to adjust but eventually they knew that the dance had changed.   I would love to say that I was a calm and stern mother for the rest of their young lives – that would be an exaggeration.  I still had moments of doubting myself and falling back into feeling like I needed to let them have their way because I did so love them.  There is a magnitude of outside influences for all of us.  Each one of us has our own road to travel and struggles to endure.  No two children are alike but they can accept (and need) guidelines and boundaries.  They need to know what to expect and what is expected of them.

Even with the manuals, self-help books and advice from scads of sources — parenting is hard.  We do the best we can and when we know better, we do better.  It’s all in the knowing…and who really knows?

Like holy water…

“When the well is dry, we know the worth of water” Benjamin Franklin

I can attest to that.  On Saturday afternoon, our water stopped working.  We didn’t know if it was the pump in the well or if the well had gone dry.  A frightening proposition – since digging a new well would be very expensive and not very convenient – at all.  Replacing a pump could be expensive as well but wouldn’t involve excavation of our yard and trying to find water!

I am very lucky. My husband is a fix-it-guy.  He knows a thing or two about a thing or two.  And if he doesn’t know, he can figure it out.  He exhausted every avenue he could think of to get the water back on.  Time to call in the big guns.  Just up the hill from my home lives my uncle, the plumber/fix it guy.  If you call him, you don’t have to wait hours for his arrival.  Within minutes, he cheerfully arrives at my door.  He goes through the same steps my husband did and determines it is probably the pump.  Also, luckily, we know a family of excavators – they installed the first pump – they are moments away as well.  We were not placed on a waiting list, we didn’t have to make an appointment.  They arrived on Monday morning and two hours later, we had a new pump and water running freely!

We spent exactly 44 hours (and a few minutes) without water.  Until you are “waterless”, you have no idea how much you rely on it.  You can drink bottled water – a lot of people do – but there is washing dishes, clothes, your hands, brushing your teeth, taking a shower and most importantly: flushing the toilet!  FLUSHING THE TOILET!  You can do without a lot of things…but you really do need to flush that toilet.

Countless times, you walk to the sink and turn on the water – nothing.  Then you remember.  You also begin to monitor, very carefully, how much fluid you consume and how often you will be vacating your bladder.  Things you, normally, wouldn’t give a second thought.  (And we won’t even talk about vacating anything else!)  And since you don’t “flush” with each use (saving on water use), the bathroom takes on an unpleasant urinary type odor.  Too much information? Sorry – wanted to give you the full effect.

I am also very fortunate in that I live across the field from my sister.  As soon as we knew we would be without water for awhile, my husband loaded up our truck with every receptacle we owned and filled them at her house.  We had jugs available in each bathroom for “flushing”.   On day 2, I was able to shower in her lovely new and very warm bathroom.  If we had been without water for any length of time, they would graciously have opened their home and bathroom to us for as long as we needed.

My husband and I were elated to have our water back on.  We looked at the water with renewed adoration.  I sang a happy tune as I did a load of laundry.  He took a nice long hot shower and washed twice!  We are so grateful for our water.   Even more grateful for our wonderful neighbors!!!  THAT is why we live here.

Versions of family

Each of us has our own version of the truth based on what we saw, what we wanted to see and what we choose to remember seeing.  Several people can witness an event but each person would report a different account with differing details.

I’ve always believed that I came from a close-knit family.  I’ve always wanted us to remain close throughout our lives.  I’ve wanted the storybook fantasy of a family — spending all holidays together with big family meals and seeing each other weekly, talking on the phone regularly and knowing every detail about each other.  Isn’t that the way it is supposed to be?

I know that is what my dad wanted for his family.  He talked about it all the time.  He had lost contact with his own family because of his marriage to my mom.  His family did not like her and she didn’t really like them either.  For years, he missed family gatherings because of the disparity.  He tried very hard to bring everyone back together again – but there were many obstacles; hurt feelings and lots of blame and grudges.  He spoke endlessly about the importance of family.

It was only after my dad passed away that I realized my own core family was not as close as I believed.  We held it together for his sake.  Once he was gone, the interest in being close waned.   We don’t talk regularly – only when we happen to see each other or if there is some kind of news we need to share.  But then, we didn’t necessarily talk regularly when he was alive.  He was the one who maintained regular contact and kept us apprised of what was going on with each of our families.  He was the hub of the wheel and without him we seem to have collapsed.

Oh, we love each other and when we see each other, we are genuinely pleasant and loving.  But we don’t have big dinners together except at Christmas or some other big event — like a wedding or funeral.  We all live on the same road all within a half mile of each other but we don’t “do” anything together.

I’ve realized that my thoughts and dreams of being close — like we were in our late teens and early twenties — were just that.  Dreams.  Being young and naive, I didn’t take into consideration that we would all marry different types of people; work in different fields; have children and be busy raising them and attending all of their different activities; we would develop different interests and have other friends from every avenue of our lives.  I used to feel like I had to do everything my siblings did, follow in their path right behind them.  I didn’t allow myself to make my own plans or try to do something that was my own.  For years, I was afraid I would be cast aside if I didn’t stay within the boundaries my family role.

In the years since my dad’s death, I’ve realized that I was hanging on, with a strangle-hold, to my need for that “dream” of what our family should be.  Each time I was faced with the reality of what it really was, it made me sad and woeful.  Over time, I’ve realized that we are our own version of family.  We don’t spend a lot of time together but we’re still whole.  I don’t know every detail of every family member’s life, nor do they know mine.  Each of us has moved into a circle of our own but those circles touch each other like bubbles in dishwater – sometimes gathering as a group on one edge of the sink, sometimes joining as one large bubble in the middle.  We come together when we are needed – sometimes it is deliberate; sometimes it is happenstance.

We all have different versions of what we want and need from each other – our own truth.  It all depends on what we see and what we choose to remember seeing.

Cousins

“Ollie Bollie, Henry Benry, Jack Back and Charlie Barlie went for a ride on their four wheelers….they went to the ditch bank and threw rocks into the ditch.  Charlie Barlie fell in and Jack Back pulled him out; Ollie Bollie had a towel and dried him off.  They rode to Paula’s and played in the gravel then Henry Benry was tired and they went back home to Gawee’s.  They had a snack and took a nap and they had a great day.”

Try to imagine that as a song, none of the words rhyme and depending on the tune, it isn’t very musical but that (or some revised version thereof) is what I sing to my grandson, Ollie, when I am putting him down for a nap.  It is the “cousin” song – Henry, Jack and Charlie are his cousins.  Sometimes, the cousins will go swimming or one of them may fall off the four wheeler or they might feed apples to the horses.  I can tell that Ollie is picturing their adventures in his mind because he will ask me a question about something in the song that either needed explanation or that he thought was funny.  I’ve considered writing a children’s book with the cousins but I’m not sure their adventures would make sense to the outside world.

Cousins are like best friends only better.  In our family, the cousins are pretty close.  We spent a lot of time together as children and young adults.  We all attended the same school.  The cousin’s in my childrens’ generation are also close, although not all of them attended the same school at the same time.  Some cousins are closer than others.  We don’t get together as often as we would like, but once or twice a year, it is nice to see everyone and to reminisce.

It is important to my own children that their kids are close.  As often as they can, they get them together or talk about them so that they will feel a bond.

My cousin, Carla, is my best friend.  She is 8 months older than I am.  We were in the same class all through school.  She has been my idol since I can remember.   Carla was (and still is) very intelligent, well spoken, attractive, athletic, funny, creative, tough, assertive, and tender — all of the things I aspire to.  I’ve always paled in comparison but it didn’t make me jealous just a little envious.  I wished I could be more like her.  As it was, I got to ride on her shirt tail and be in the periphery of her prominence.  I felt important just by association.

When we were in elementary school, Carla was several inches taller than I was – she entered puberty four or five years ahead of me.  In our eighth grade promotion photo, Carla looks like a young woman and the rest of us look like little girls (we so envied her breasts).  As it turns out, when I finally did hit puberty, I shot up and grew to be several inches taller than Carla (but I was a little scant in the breast department).  Our graduation pictures from high school are much different but I don’t think many of us caught up to Carla in maturity and grace.

As Carla and I left our childhood homes and went out to make our way in the world, we have weaved back and forth into each other’s lives.  We have each had struggles and, magically, maintained a strong connection.  She continues to be my mentor and has helped me through countless dark days.  She encourages me to be my best self and always manages to reach through my fear and isolation helping to reveal my potential and strength.  We’ve shared the loss of our parents and other family members and,together, we’ve learned so much about family, strength and forgiveness.

Hers is the face I see in my strongest childhood memories.  Hers is the voice I hear when I need kindness, strength and understanding.  She is my cousin and dearest friend.  Cousins are better than friends.

This day

 

I am grateful for the usual things.  My husband, kids, grandkids, siblings, friends, my good health.  I have an abundance of food for my table and I have a wonderful home. I am lucky and blessed.   In gratitude, so are we ashamed.  I have so much when I know there are others who have so little.

I guess that is the point of the holiday.  Taking stock in your world – being in the moment.  Knowing that there are people who are not so fortunate.  Considering your role for the greater benefit.  Certainly there is nothing you can do on this particular day for those in need, but you can commit to doing what you can, when you can.  Begin by thinking about it for more than just this day.

For this day, be present.  If you are spending the day with one person or twenty, make eye contact, shake hands, hug.  Breathe.

I can say for myself, that I create my own stress and anxiety on this day.  I hold on to perfection and fear — it amps me up and I feel the need to run (though I abhor running!).  My plan for the day is to stay in “real time”.   The day isn’t about the perfect table, the sparkling clean floor, the phenomenal meal.  As hostess, I am not the cruise director responsible for the entertainment and conduct of my guests.  I cannot control the outcome of the day.  I am only one cog in the wheel.  Staying in “real time” means talking, listening, moving slowly, staying afloat and not trying to paddle so hard.

So.  Yes, this message is for me.  Relax.  Try to sit still.  Breathe.  This day, let yourself feel blessed.

It’s just food…

Cooking can be fun, if you like to eat.  If you don’t – it is a chore.  Luckily, my husband likes to cook and has been the main chef in our household for about 15 years.  He began cooking most of our meals because he would get home from work earlier than I did.  I would arrive home to a warm meal.  It was nice.  Of course, now he acts as though I NEVER cooked or don’t remember how.  If I am cooking something, he gives me helpful tips.  I just smile and say thanks.

I have had a long, sordid relationship with food.  As a child, I was very finicky and refused to eat many things that my mother served.  She tried forcing me, coercing me, begging me and then, finally, just leaving me to eat whatever I would.  For a time, I had to take iron supplements because I was anemic.  I honestly don’t remember much about that period of time other than the little brown plastic men with the yellow helmet that were filled with liquid vitamins and iron.  I had to drink one a day.  I remember hearing my mom tell the story about the doctor saying to feed me whatever I will eat — add peanut butter every chance you get.  To this day, I eat pancakes with lots of peanut butter and Karo syrup.

As I grew older, I developed a childs’ eating habits — candy, cookies, cake.  In high school, when I was very active and burning a lot of calories – I lived on bread and sweets.  Once I started college, and continued that diet without the activity — I ballooned up 20 lbs.  (Most of us do, it is the known as the “freshman ton”).   That type of food was filling and comforting — any stress or anxiety was met with donuts, ice cream and Doritos.

When I returned home from college, with a broken heart and a 1.6 gpa, I was at my all time heaviest.  I felt horrible.  I was ashamed, sad and lost.  I tried every fad diet: over-the-counter diet pills, protein shakes, binge-purging, water and bran cereal, chewing gum.  Of course, none of it worked because food was the main focus — no matter how you sliced it.  I tortured myself for almost 3 years.  I refused to buy more than two pairs of pants at that size.  I isolated myself because I didn’t want anyone to see how heavy I had gotten.  I drank a lot.  I felt so alone and lonely – unlovable.

Then I met someone.  I almost hate to give him any credit for helping me recover because he is my ex-husband – but alas, he did.  If for no other reason than because once we started dating, we spent every free moment together and I couldn’t continue down that self-destructive path without him being witness to the devastation.   I dieted, exercised and starved myself and got down to a normal weight. I got a good job, we got married, we moved, we had a baby — my life was busy and difficult and reasonably happy. (We later moved back, had another baby, and divorced – but that’s another post).

Over the years, I began learning about diet, fitness and good health — and eating disorders.  I realized that eating had become a crutch – I was trying to fill my anxiety.  But starving myself could be equally as detrimental.  Though I felt better if I was denying myself that food – it was something I could control — the anxiety remained.  It was hard work maintaining that control.

It has taken almost 40 years of my life to slowly, painfully work through all of those maple covered demons.  I’d like to say I am completely anxiety free, calm and at peace.  I’m not.  But I am better.  I am aware of the triggers.  Sometimes, I can even catch them BEFORE they trip me into the pit.  I no longer eat to excess or starve myself when I feel out of control.  I AM still a very finicky eater.  I try to eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full.  If I eat small meals/snacks every two hours or so — I avoid feeling the nausea that accompanies a full stomach.

Most events/holidays in life are celebrated by eating a meal as a group.  The focus is cooking and the smells and the conversation over the heaping plate of hot food.  Everyone overeats.  Its’ tradition.  If you don’t like eating, you lose a lot from the holiday. Your plate is scant and you finish LONG before everyone else.  And if you are trying to overcome the fear and anxiety of overeating – the holiday is a nightmare from beginning to end; so much aroma, so many things to nibble, so much desire to join in the fray.

The Rummage

The rummage.  (Definition: an unsystematic and untidy search through a mass or receptacle).

As a child growing up in a very small town on an Indian reservation in Montana, like most of the residents in our valley — we didn’t have much.  My dad was a logger, working in neighboring towns at logging camps.  He would come home on weekends.  Mom stayed home with us kids – cooking on a wood stove and washing clothes on the back porch – no matter the season.  They owned their home, such that it was, and one vehicle.  Money was very sparse – but they made do.  Everyone did.

I don’t have a lot of specific memories of those days.  As children, we really had no idea how “poor” we were.   As far as we knew, we were royalty living in a castle.  Though the castle was always cold and the roof leaked when it rained.  We did have an indoor toilet, however!!!  That was an improvement from the modified granary we had been living!  My mom and dad were very proud to have their own place and unbeknownst to us, they had plans for further improvements as time and money would allow.

Meanwhile, we lived in the very old house and entertained ourselves as children do.  My mother’s companions were the few family members who accepted her, her sisters-in-law (who were also considered interlopers within the family); and the women from the Catholic church.  Mom belonged to the Altar Society – a group of women at the church who performed some sort of service – making quilts and helping the needy.   They had bake sales and meetings.  To be honest, I don’t really know what they did, I just know she attended the meetings and made friends with the other members.  In helping those less fortunate, they had an old building at the church filled with discarded clothing, shoes and other items.  I do remember that Tuesday was Rummage Day.

The building was called “The Rummage”.  It was an old Indian agency building right next to the church – I’m not sure what it was used for initially but it was full to bursting with OLD stuff.  Shoes, clothes, a veritable treasure cove for little children.  There were old bras to stuff, clothes for dress-up (including high heel shoes!) and some jewelry – but that was a rarity.  The Rummage was open every Tuesday for drop-off or for shopping.  Each item was sold for a dime.  Most of the clothing could be washed and would be in relatively good condition.  Some of it should have bypassed the rummage and gone directly to the dump.  There were boxes of old shoes, old coats, old dresses, old hats.  Truly, it was a fire hazard but there were no restrictions in those days and many were served by The Rummage.

The building and the contents therein smelled old and musty.  My mom and Delores would smoke and sort through the clothes, trying to keep them in some semblance of organization.  We kids would gleefully look through the piles trying to find something to buy for ourselves.  It wasn’t until we were a little older that we realized shopping at The Rummage was not an adventure for everyone.  The stigma became much more evident as we approached puberty – that glorious time when you become aware of comparisons, judgments and ridicule.

In those days, hand-me-downs, used clothing, “rummage” as it were, was very common.  It wasn’t just a fad, it was a necessity.  I wore hand-me-down clothing until I was in high school.  We didn’t have to shop at the rummage very much as we had other resources for hand-me-downs.  And I was really lucky because my mom could sew and, in my wardrobe, what wasn’t hand-me-down was sewn by my mom.  Although, I could never figure out why she always chose such wild and bold colored material.  At the time, I thought she was a little eccentric. I now know that she bought whatever material was on sale – it was never her intention to “choose” that wild and bold material – it was affordable.  Still, she sewed some beautiful clothing.  Our prom dresses were lovely!

I think I was lucky to live when and where I lived.  Most of us in the Jocko Valley (my home) were in the medium to low income range.  Many of us had hand-me-down or home-made clothing – it was bad form to criticize or judge.  And most of us knew The Rummage was there if we needed it.

 

Why AM I here?

I guess I’m not going to be a soap opera star.  You won’t be seeing me on The Young and the Restless or The Bold and the Beautiful.  My dreams of being another Mrs. Chancellor have faded into the sunset.

Part of getting older, is having to realize (and accept) that those lofty dreams were just that and just weren’t gonna happen.  When most were talking about becoming doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses…I was thinking of Hollywood and being able to pretend I was someone else all day, every day.  I could cry on cue and had a definite flair for the dramatic.  However, I was lacking in the beauty department.  (Which is why I was aiming for the “Mrs. Chancellor” role – she was old and mean – I could easily do that!).  I also liked doing comedy – maybe my hero, Jerry Lewis, would take me under his wing and teach me the ropes.  I could find fame and fortune down that path.

Montana is a LONG way from Hollywood.

What to do, what to do.  Like many girls my age in the 1970’s – I was never really encouraged to do anything other than find a husband and have a bunch of kids.  I went to college with no particular goal in mind, other than to play basketball.  I attended a small college for teachers (even though I did NOT want to be a teacher!).  Surprisingly, I really liked college.  Having the freedom to do what I wanted, when I wanted was great.  I met a lot of people, made some good friends, fell in love a time or two.  Unfortunately, I had no direction, no true independence – I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I was waiting for someone to tell me what to do, what to want, what to pursue.

It took me a very LONG time – and many repetitive lessons –  to comprehend that no one could tell me what I should do, certainly not the men I kept assigning to my future.   There was the boyfriend in college – I thought for sure he was THE one, he would have all the answers and would lead me to the path of enlightenment.  But no, that was the path to heartbreak and devastation.  Then there was my first husband, he TOLD me HE knew what I should do with my life – he could orchestrate the whole thing for me.  But no, that was a yoke I could not bear.  My third husband was knowledgeable but not interested in guiding my life for me (thank goodness).  Nevertheless, I continued to flail about – looking for that one passion that would make me feel worthwhile, if not famous.

I worked a multitude of jobs – switchboard operator, waitress at a greek restaurant, 911 dispatcher, secretary, receptionist, administrative assistant, medical transcriptionist, school secretary.  All were jobs that I enjoyed but were certainly nothing that I was MEANT to do and be (although being a 911 dispatcher was very, very close).

Meanwhile, as I am searching, flailing and tripping along, life happened.  I had four children.  I did my best to raise them – despite feeling ill-equipped to do so.  I read parenting books and magazines.  I made mistakes along the way and tried not to repeat them with the next child.  I learned a lot.   I wish I could go back with the knowledge I now possess – so that I could do better for them.  Still, I am very proud of what they have become – good citizens, kind and caring people, smart and attractive.  And they are good parents.

They are grown, out on their own.  I am back to that empty canvas that is my hindrance.  What to do, what to do.

 

Prepping for the holiday

Thanksgiving memories.  Cold weather, big meals, touch football games on my grandma’s front lawn.  As children, we usually tried to have a sleepover on that weekend because my best friend at school was also my cousin and we would be spending Thanksgiving day together anyway.  (I loved staying over at her house!)  There usually wasn’t enough snow to go sledding on Grandma’s hill nor was there enough to preempt our yearly football game.

Things were very different in those days.  We didn’t have snowpants, warm winter boots or thinsulate gloves.  We wore layers of our regular clothing, hand-me-down coats and mismatched gloves – at best.  And we were happy as could be; out in the cold, playing and laughing.  If we were really lucky, my uncle would come out and play with us too.  He was a good quarterback and brought lots of fun to the game.  We were very competitive and each game would usually produce at least one argument and one injury.  Still, I think of those days with fondness.

Thanksgiving as a parent is very different than as a child – but then everything is different from a parental point of view.  Thanksgiving dinner itself is a LOT of work, with lots of preparation and planning — timing is everything if you want to get everything hot and on the table at the same time!  I am lucky, as my husband does most of the meal – my job is the potatoes and the jello salad.  No one ever complains about whether everything is hot or not.

Timing also becomes an issue as the kids grow older and start having families of their own.  Holiday travel can be expensive and stressful – depending on the distance traveled and the weather on that given year.  There has to be equal sharing of holidays too, with the “other” parents.  (An additional stress for the adult children – trying to appease both sides of the family!)

As parents, it can be feast or famine.  Some years, the house is full to brimming – others, it is just the two of you.   We’re pretty lucky in that most of our kids live fairly close but there will come a day when the kids will want to stay at their own homes and start their own traditions. My husband and I have decided that it is best to have a traditional holiday dinner even if it is just the two of us.   We are learning to roll with the flow and not let crazy expectations cloud our holiday cheer.  Being together is the important thing – however that looks.

Times are changing too.  In recent years, the retail market is trying to entice everyone to catch “early” sales for Black Friday — staying open on Thanksgiving day with irresistible hot prices!  Most of us are able to refrain — but the campaign is formidable and with Christmas around the corner – the retailers would have you believe this is your ONLY chance at these deals.  I love a good sale as much as anyone but I easily resist – why lose a perfectly good day like that?

We should also acknowledge that holidays are not always goodness and light.  Some memories are not so affable and there are those who dread the holidays.  Additionally, the holidays are a reminder of those we’ve lost or of things we want but don’t have.  The fairytale holidays are not always within our grasp.

So.  Thanksgiving is coming, with Christmas fast on her heels.  Prepare yourself like you would prepare the holiday meal – thaw the turkey (think about what you can be grateful for, not about what you DON’T have but what you DO have).  Bake the dinner rolls (get ready for that obnoxious relative you’ll be forced to face).  Peel the potatoes (prepare to face the absence of someone you’ve lost).  Stuff the turkey (find some peace and grab hold).  Every holiday has the potential for being memorable and each of us has the potential for making it happen but, like the holiday meal, everything may not be hot and on the table at the same time.