BooWho

Things I want to keep in mind.

Month: January, 2015

One more thing

I remembered something my husband said after I posted earlier today – while we were reminiscing about how much work it is to care for small children, he said, “I just realize how much more you did than me.”  — It was nice that he acknowledged it.

No sex for you

 

All of my best inspirations come to me when I am sitting on the toilet.  Don’t know why – they just do.

This morning, in the dark – peeing – I was thinking about an article a friend sent to me years ago.  We were both in the throes of rearing children, working and trying to maintain a household.  At the time, our husbands were not being overly helpful and we felt exhausted, cranky and as if we were being taken advantage of….  The article – surprisingly – was written by a man who had an epiphany about the differences between the man’s work load and the woman’s…in direct correlation to a desire for sex.  It was brilliantly written and I wish I had kept the copy – but alas, it was lost or tossed when we moved.

I can’t duplicate it but I do remember that it rang so true – for my friend and I – as I’m sure it still does today.  The basic gist was this: If women get up before dawn, feed and dress children in between their own daily grooming and trying to catch a bite; gather their bags and the kids’ backpacks/diaper bags; transport them to sitters/schools; commute to work; work 4, 8 or 10 hours; retrieve them at the end of the day; cook dinner, throw in a load of laundry, pick up toys for the umpteenth time; bath them; read to them; put them to bed – THEN finish their day with prep for the next.  They drag themselves into the bedroom to find their fresh faced husband – the same one who got up on the very same day – showered, shaved, grabbed a coffee and croissant on the way to work, worked 8 or 10 hours, stopped at the gym on his way home; ate dinner and now has a nice little woody and romantic notions for the evening….?  Better luck next time buster.  You want a quick roll in the hay?  Help me load a diaper bag.  Give the kids a bath. Play with the kids for a half hour so that I can decompress after a long day.  Make dinner two days a week.  Take a turn dropping kids off – picking them up.  Commit to being part of the daily routine.  I’ll ride you like a spotted pony!

You can say it a million ways but if they don’t hear it, they don’t hear it.

We just returned from a week long visit to our grandsons.  We had a great time – they are such a treasure to both of us.  We had a chance to help our daughter by babysitting and it was like a flashback to our previous life of raising children.  I was reminded of the times I would get so frustrated with my husband for being inattentive.  (Which probably reminded me of the article.)  He has always been more helpful than most but he still doesn’t get the whole “being present” thing.  Let me spell it out – if you are sitting in a room with your children/grandchildren and you are staring at your phone/computer/newspaper, you are NOT present.  The kids know it – even if they are just toddlers.  They will get into anything to try to get you to look up from whatever you are doing.  DUH.  (Come to think of it, I have a video of my husband sitting at the computer – I was trying to make a point – the kids are making all kinds of racket in the background but he is oblivious, such is his focus.  THEN they make too much noise and he BARKS from his seat for them to quiet down!  Men will never get up and go SEE what they are doing!)  Can you tell this has always been a bone of contention for me?

Sidebar: as I write this, I remember that my husband made dinner – most of the time.  He also gave his share of baths and transported them where they needed to go.  He didn’t always do things the way I would have but he was not completely oblivious.  I have to give him credit for being a helpful dad/husband.  I am grateful for the things he DID do — AND he always made sure that I was able to get out of the house for some “me” time.  So I can’t take that away.

While I always like to think I managed my relationship and family and kept things in order – it is times like last week when I realize that things were never quite “perfect”.  I was frustrated a lot of the time.  In my younger days, I never really spoke up and said what I needed – and even if I did, only part of the message got through. There were many instances when I would go to bed frustrated, exhausted and angry – no sex or cuddling for that matter!  (We do it to ourselves…)

If I thought men would read it and “get it” I would write a book on this issue.  Obviously, I still feel very strongly about it.  So, fellow women/moms – keep trying.  Say what you need – over and over. Things will NEVER be any closer to equal if we say nothing… Maybe by the time my grandsons are men – they will get it.  I hope so – for their sake as well as their wives’…

Women

I just returned from a week long visit to my daughter’s home in Washington.  We found a great deal on a flight and she needed a replacement babysitter so it worked out very nicely.  It is so wonderful to fly over in an hour as opposed to driving for 7 1/2!

My husband and I are old-ER and we fell into bed each night worn out from the days events.  It has been at least 20 years since we had to care for small children!  My grandsons are just adorable!  They are both very cute, very smart and VERY active.  We enjoyed ourselves immensely and I miss them so much already!

My daughter is an amazing woman.  She is one of the ladies I described several posts ago.  Up before the sun, busy working while her 8 month old son plays nearby and up late each night-after the boys are in bed-preparing for the next day.  She works as a part-time teacher; she cares for two rambunctious boys (which, as any mother knows, involves physical, scholastic and emotional care); she cooks, cleans, shops, is responsible for the care of two dogs; she pays bills, she does all transport for kids.  Most of all, she sacrifices herself in so many ways.  No time for exercise.  No time for leisure reading (or leisure anything).  Very little time for sleep.  NO SICK DAYS. She cares deeply about her family – that’s why she works so hard. She is the model of the American woman.

I’m so proud of her.  She is the essence of constant forward motion.  Her boys will reap the rewards, to be sure.  They are loving, caring little boys even now.  They are learning good manners and to be kind to everyone.  They are very social and happy.  They live in a clean home and eat balanced meals.  They know she loves them every minute of every day.

Women run the marathon every single day.  Kudos to all of you.  Well done.

Sidebar: remember to take care of yourselves too.  Your family needs a healthy, happy mom — always.  Whatever snippets of time for yourself that you can grab — DO!

My sunshine

Once again, I awoke very early and immediately my mind switched on:

  • going to see Jack & Charlie tonight, can’t wait!
  • what shall I pack – doing carryon so need to limit my outfits
  • what will I do all day while waiting for my flight this evening – should have booked a morning flight
  • need to add another book to my kindle (as if I’ll have time to read?!!)
  • need to update my tablet; bring my charger (also need to fix the email program)
  • what should I write about for my blog? Something clever, no doubt…
  • is Ethan okay? He’s been pretty quiet lately…oh shit, I wonder what is wrong?
  • which shirts shall I bring?
  • must lose weight – just a few pounds but need to get started
  • need to check in and print tickets for flight

Believe it or not, this is how my mind works all day!  No wonder I’m too tired for the treadmill! (Just kidding.  I actually walked on the treadmill yesterday!  I started a Denzel Washington movie (Dejavu) and time just flew by – sort of – but I walked my allotted two miles!  Woohoo – its a start. )

We are off to visit my oldest daughter and son-in-law in Washington today.  I am so excited to see those boys!  We get to visit for a whole week!

This last week has probably been the slowest (bordering on boring, though I hate to say that out loud) since my retirement.  And yes, I will admit, I did feel just a bit blue – just pale blue though.  Of course, there are going to be times like this – it isn’t going to be gloriously freeing EVERY DAY.  And it is winter – the most difficult time of year for me.  Which is why we have trips planned for each of the next three months.  Soooo – I’m glad to have this chance to go see the boys – they are like visiting a sunny state for a week!

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Retirement ramblings

Winter is a quiet time in Montana.  One day it will snow like crazy, the next day it will melt.  Then, hurricane winds will blow and it will rain – followed by much more snow.  The fog rolls in, the fog rolls out – the sun then shines so brightly that you need sunglasses and the breeze blows little bits of sparkly glitter snow around.  THEN the temps dip below zero.  Suffice it to say, for the most part in the winter, if you aren’t a rancher – you spend most of your days inside looking out.  (If you are a rancher – you go out regardless of the elements.  There are animals to feed and newborn calves to check! So glad I’m not a rancher!)

I love to walk – it is therapeutic for me. One of my retirement goals was to walk as often as possible.  However, I am a fair weather walker.  I get no joy from walking in cold temps, trying to avoid ice or mud patches and having my face freeze.  In the depths of my basement – I do have a treadmill and the only thing that prevents me from walking on it is a plethora of excuses I’ve polished over the years.  It is boring, it is noisy, it takes forever, I’m too tired, I’m too hot, I’m too cold, I have a bad ankle, my head itches.  I have a tv with dvd player in front of my treadmill.  You would think that would be a great distraction – I could watch any one of my favorite movies.  Now that I’m retired, I can walk at any point during the day…no interruptions.  Okay, I talked myself into it.  Maybe.

You may wonder why I would retire in the winter – this is the most difficult time of year for me.  Gray days, early dark nights.  For someone who loves the sun, this is a bad season.  I chose my retirement date based on the holidays – knowing that I would have all the time I needed to prepare and plenty of time to spend with family.  Then the holidays were over.  (queue in scary music)

Retirement is like going back to school.  The course requirements are just plain awareness.  A person may dream for weeks, months or years about it but when it happens it still requires a bit of effort.  You don’t just roll out of bed everyday filled with glee and spend your time whistling and relaxing.  Countless people told me I should develop a routine and have a plan for daily enterprise.  They were right.  The few days that I just thought would be “free” were a little haphazard and felt a little bit boring.  So retirement school is an independent study – learning new things each day – even if it is just a small thing.  Taking on new adventures, a garden, painting, sewing.  The new “thing” that you learn may just be that you don’t like gardening, painting or sewing.  Class dismissed.

Still, in all, I am enjoying myself.  As I’ve said before, my most difficult challenge is in learning not to rush; to let go of that old penchant for obsessive time management.  I confess that it makes me anxious inside – not moving and constantly doing or planning to do…

The good news is that in 2 days we will be visiting Jack and Charlie.  Time slows down – the focus is in listening and watching their every move.  They are such a treasure!  It makes me realize how much I missed with my own kids because I was busy “keeping up” or “staying ahead”.  Seems silly now.  I didn’t miss everything – I do have moments of fun, pride and joy that I remember.  But there was always an undertone of pressure (I did it to myself) that is not there with my grandsons.  That’s what makes being a grandparent so fun – it is a free-flowing adventure.

You can’t go back for a do-over; no matter how much you may want to – so my message to my daughters (and sons), friends and women anywhere – learn to let yourself enjoy every minute.

On my soap box

Just read a brief little essay about how women should choose how to dress.  Granted, it was written from a religious point of few but it set my teeth on edge.  Which book and verse tells men how to dress?   And it isn’t that I disagreed with the essay completely – women are objectified and most of them dress that way BUT I should hope the next essay is directed toward men – quoting book and verse about how NOT to look at women as lowly sex objects.

In my younger days, I never thought of these things – in fact, I always wondered what the big deal was – why do women get so upset at gender inequality?  I was naïve and uninformed.  I will even go so far as to confess that in my first marriage, I actually still halfway believed that my husband should take care of me and I would just be a compliant wife, staying home and caring for our children and answering to his every whim.  Our wedding vows said as much – I NOW shudder at the memory.   It did not take long for me to realize I was getting the short end of that deal.  But that is a post for another day.

After years of working in a male dominated world, one divorce, lots of dealings with male counterparts at work – I am much more informed and much more volatile on the topic.  Most of my jobs were in the clerical field.  What I discovered with EACH job was that the majority of male “superiors” (I use that word loosely) who were thought to be efficient and top performers — had a secretary working behind the scenes doing the lion’s share of their work, making them look good, and getting paid less than half of their wages.  I could go on and on but I shan’t.  Suffice it to say – I became mildly resentful over the course of my career.

Please don’t misunderstand, it isn’t that I think all men are idiots.  I do know that there are some very hard-working, intelligent men who actually do perform well all on their own.  I have a husband and two sons and they are all very proficient — I know its possible.  I also know that it is possible for men to believe that women are equally as capable and proficient.  The reality is that with each step forward, women take two steps back.  Yes, we want careers but we also want children.  Doing both is very difficult – especially for those who don’t have a partner interested in making things reasonably equal.  I.E. if the woman is doing both – the man should be too.  There are men who actively participate – kudos to them.  But the higher percentage is that of women doing 5 times more than her counter part – both at work and at home.  Its exhausting.

I’m out of that eddy but I see my daughters, nieces and friends circling the drain – trying to keep their heads above water.  Prepared to take on whatever they must to give their children a good rearing; trying to make a contribution to this world and trying to satisfy their partners/spouses.  As I’ve said before – we do it to ourselves.  What is the solution?  We can fight for what we want, as much as we want, but the culture of our world won’t change over night.  We’ve been taking baby steps ever since the dawn of time.

Fact is, we do need men.  They’re cute and hairy and if we’re lucky we can find one that we will enjoy (in more ways than one) until “death us do part”.  In most cases, they can make more money than we can; they can move large pieces of furniture; they can tirelessly run the weed-eater; they can dispose of mice carcasses and kill big ass spiders; they can carry sleeping children in from the car and comfort crying, scared children in the middle of the night.  For now, we continue our struggle toward equality (if nothing else, just to find a balance closer to home – in our own little relationships).  We should keep moving forward; keep expressing our needs and wants; keep pushing the men in our lives toward better understanding of their role and the necessity of their participation; keep believing that one day the baby steps will give each of us, as individuals, that golden ticket of being on level ground.

Such luck

Pride.  What am I proud of?  I’m proud of my children and whatever role I had in helping them become the people they are today.  I suspect my role is much smaller than you would think but that’s the way of the world.  They were born with inherent personalities and strengths and though I used to think I had some influence — I’ve since realized that after about the age of 10, it was very limited.

My children are adults – each at a different stage of growth and maturity.  They are individuals and each has a different set of gifts and grievances.  They are all very attractive, smart and kind – good citizens.   They have good jobs, good partners (or will have, I’m sure of it) and they are making their way with the usual highs and lows of adulthood.

I think my kids would describe my mothering style as controlling – OCD is what one son often says about me.  I have always wanted their lives to be perfect.  I wanted them to be perfect.  I wanted to be perfect.  Now that I’ve reached a “certain age” and have realized that is a unattainable fantasy – I am getting better (or so I think, if you asked them???).

Have you ever seen the famous Lucy skit where she is working at a factory? Her job is to add something as the products go by on a conveyer belt (I can’t remember for sure, but I think it is a bakery and she is adding frosting or something to baked goodies).  At first, all is fine and she is enjoying herself, then (as always) something goes awry and the conveyer belt speeds up – she has to keep adding things faster and faster and it is quite funny and quite a mess.  She ends up with frosting everywhere, crying – in the usual Lucille Ball fashion, very loud, mouth wide open.  That scene comes to mind whenever I consider trying to “help” (a.k.a. control) anything to do with my kids’ lives… I am watching one conveyer belt go by and all is well, then I miss a cupcake with the frosting and notice that another cupcake has completely tipped over and on the third, the dough completely missed the muffin cup and there is dough everywhere.  Step away from the conveyer.  Let them frost their own cupcakes.

They don’t need me but I think they do still want me – sometimes.  We are all traversing the chasm that is our ADULTHOOD.  We can either go our own way or parallel each other, the choice is ours.

Sidebar: I am so proud of my children.  They are wonderful people and I wouldn’t trade one second of our lifetime together.  I admire their strength, their humor, their capacity for loving and caring.  How lucky am I?

Another word for passion is ‘strong interest’

My entire life, I’ve been a watcher.  I live most of the time in my own head – having imaginary conversations (usually arguments) with friends or enemies – or people I’ve never spoken to.  When I am alone – which, these days, is not very often – I will talk to myself.  Sometimes, I will talk with an accent – usually british but often I’ll go to my old roots and use a southern drawl.  If people could hear me, I’m sure they would think I’ve lost my mind.  (I am 56 years old, after all, shouldn’t I have outgrown this?)  I think this is part of my “creativity” – or at least that is my justification.

I just read the chapter in Levine’s book called, “Rediscovering Your Passion, Facing Your Fear”.  Epiphany.  For so long, I have been looking for my passion – what really gets me, what do I love, what could I do for hours?  All along thinking that this was going to be something BIG – something I could SELL – something everyone would ADMIRE – something that would sustain me through the next 20 years.  Why do we have such grandiose plans for ourselves?  My epiphany was actually found in Levine’s — I love to write.  I write in my head all the time.  Sometimes, those thoughts never do make it to paper.  Sometimes they do.  I may write another play or write a novel – but I may not.  I will enjoy my imaginings each and every day.

My good friend and I were on a walk and talk some time ago.  We can talk for hours and hours – my dad used to say we sounded like magpies.  We solve all kinds of life issues on our walks – unfortunately, we only see each other about once a year.  At any rate, she told me something that struck home and I try to remember at those times when I am feeling like my passion and dreams are too small.   I’m paraphrasing, because I don’t remember exactly how she said it and I don’t remember if it was her original thought or if she had heard it from someone else:  When you are young, you have big dreams about the things you will do or become.  When you reach our age (late 40’s early 50’s) you begin to realize that those things just aren’t going to happen.  You won’t become an astronaut or discover a cure for cancer.  The window has narrowed.  You begin to realize your accomplishments and to recalibrate your dreams for the future.  Not everyone becomes famous.

For most of us, our value and success is in the day to day.  Maybe we raised our children and they are now raising theirs.  Maybe we were teachers and touched many lives, saving a few along the way.  Maybe we were policemen or ranchers or secretaries or stay-at-home moms or truck drivers or molecular biologists.  Maybe our passion is in a clean house, a pretty garden, a good game of golf/tennis/cards.  Each of us will have made our contribution, lived our lives, made our own way, in our own time.  The big picture is actually a photo album filled with the phases of our lives.  Our passion is in those phases.  Our fame is in the faces of those we’ve touched along the way.

Mom’s birthday

Today is my mother’s 80th birthday.  She does remember that it is her birthday.  I hope she gets a lot of visitors who remember as well.  Even though she has changed so much and doesn’t seem able to visit – she does enjoy the company.

I always wonder what she remembers and what she thinks about.  Does she think about previous birthdays?  About the old days?  About her life with my dad?  About raising her children?  If you ask her about any of those things, she will say she doesn’t know.  I think mostly, she will think of things when she has a reminder – a photo or if she hears a story.  But even then, her window of recognition and comprehension is narrowing.  Sometimes, she will look at a photo of someone in her family and say she just doesn’t know those people.

I believe this disease is more difficult for the family than it is for her.  She knows that she is forgetting and that things are confusing.  I suspect she has moments when she realizes that she is slipping away, but I think those moments are fleeting.  In many ways, we are already grieving the loss of our mother.  For me, it is a daily struggle and I waffle back and forth between accepting it and denying it.  I think that is normal.

All of my adult life, I have wished and hoped for the day when we would come to some plateau of reason and understanding.  I would know why she did and said things the way she did; why she was so distant.  Over the years, I have given the topic much thought and rumination.  I have always had my own speculation based on what I’ve felt and observed.  I now have to accept that I will never know the reason – not from her lips anyway.

If I could get a message through to her, one that she would comprehend, I would tell her that I understand.  “I understand why you were angry so much of the time.  I wish that I knew then what I know now, maybe I could have helped you in some way.  I am sorry that I didn’t know.  I’m sorry that we couldn’t get beyond the barrier that kept us apart.  I am sorry that the opportunity for salvaging a relationship has passed.  I am grateful to you for the lessons of my life.  You were a good mother.  You made sure we had all of the things we needed – as best you could.  You were a good grandmother and you were very giving to your grandchildren.   My wish for you is peace and comfort for the rest of your days.”

The cure for “stuck” is “still”

Another quote from the book “Inventing the Rest of Our Lives” by Suzanne Braun Levine.  I just discovered that she has a website also – http://www.suzannebraunlevine.com in case you are interested.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I am re-reading the book because I have found myself feeling angst about having NOTHING of import to do and feeling like I am wasting time.  Old habits.  I am fully aware that it is very difficult for me to be “still”.  I joke about having ADD and honestly, that is a possibility, but I also know that I’ve equated stillness with laziness, being bored and feeling depressed.  When I watch TV, I crochet because then, at least, I’m DOING something.  If I sit down to read a book, I feel like I’ve wasted away the day.  Overlooking the fact that I’ve gotten lost in the world of the book and my mind has been busy picturing the scenes and hearing the voices of the characters.  Far better than television in the list of time-wasters.

The lesson here is to shift the old views.  Continue working to make peace with time.

I ran into a friend yesterday and she invited me to have a cup of coffee – we sat for 45 minutes and chatted.  It was hard at first – for both of us – we are not accustomed to taking our time on our weekly “errand day”.  We have a list, we follow it to each location, check off each errand,  and then we book it for home.  But as we sat and chatted, we began to relax.  I must confess that I was still a wee bit “edgy” – my list was calling to me from my back pocket and the clock in my mind was re-calibrating.  By the time we said goodbye, though, I felt good about having taken the time.  I KNOW this is important for my well-being;  both spending time with friends and letting go of the clock Nazi.  Easier said than done – as I write this, I can hear the panicked voice in my head – “if we don’t have a rigid schedule, how will we survive???”.  Indeed.