Things I want to keep in mind.

Category: Family

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.


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?

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.


“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.

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.



A conversation with my grandson, Ollie, last week (while looking at a portrait of Grandpa Sarge):

me: He was a cowboy just like you.

Ollie: But why?

me: Oh he just liked to ride horses and feed cows.

Ollie: But why?

me: oh, he just liked it.  Did you know he was my dad?

Ollie: But why?

me:  I was just really lucky…

Monday the 13th would have been my dad’s 85th birthday.  I often wonder what he would be like now – if he had lived.  I believe he would be thrilled to have his children all living on the same road, within a mile of each other.  He would absolutely love seeing all of his grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.   It has been almost 16 years since he passed away.  Doesn’t seem possible.

As time goes by, I think of him less and less.  It is a natural part of the process.  But there are still things that remind me of him.  Red flannel shirts. Tobasco sauce.   Seeing my uncle Pat who looks JUST like him from a distance.  Seeing a sorrel horse.  Hearing a tuneless whistle.  Seeing the age spots on my own hands.

Dad loved to talk and he was a great story teller.  He had a very soothing voice and a colorful vocabulary.  I still miss hearing his voice.  I have very vivid memories of times when he knew I was hurting and he tried to talk me “out” of it or when there was a point he wanted to make, a lesson to teach.  I don’t always remember the specific things he said but then his message was usually relatively covert.  He would start talking about how to chop wood and the conversation would morph into being proud of a specific talent you might have or how to avoid a certain type of boy.  How did he manage that?  It was a gift.

After his heart surgery, and the subsequent staph infection, the doctor had to reconstruct dad’s sternum using the muscles in his chest.  We were told that dad would have to wear a shield over his chest for extra protection.  He would also be limited with some of his activities after his recovery.  Unfortunately, he didn’t survive the infection.  He was 69 years old.  That was in 2002.

I am so grateful that he was my dad.  I’m grateful for all of his camouflaged life lessons.  He was a wonderful grandpa.  He was so good to all of us.  He was a cowboy.  And I was just really lucky.

Ours is not to reason why

It is hard to imagine what you would be like today if this disease hadn’t stolen you away.  In many ways, you have already passed but, unlike being in heaven, we can still see you but you can’t see us.  It is heartbreaking to see you in that place, in this state.  Your beautiful blue eyes are vacant.  Your face is relaxed and absent of emotion.  Each day your body is thinner, more emaciated.  You sleep, you sit in a chair with your head in your hands, you eat, you walk, you wait.  What are you thinking?  Are you thinking?

My wish for you is that you will fall asleep – sideways on your bed, as you always do – and peacefully find your final rest.  Though I didn’t know you as well as some daughters know their mothers, I do know that this is not what you would want.

I know you were lonely most of your life.  You were torn from your core family as a young woman and moved across the country to a small town where winter and your in-laws were equally unyielding.  You were in a relationship void of day-to-day intimacy.  I always like to believe that you and dad loved each other – but your timing was always off.  Neither of you understood how to communicate in a loving relationship – or how to belong.  Poverty was not new to you but it was something you abhorred.  Who doesn’t?  We can all withstand poverty if we have steadfast love and friendship.  That was just another thing that was in short supply.

Resentful.  That is the word I would choose to describe what I knew of you.

And now, I am to come visit you.  We had nothing to talk about when you were you.  Now, it is all I can do to stay a full 5 minutes.  The heartbreak is the loss of you but visiting isn’t much different than most of my visits to you throughout my life – except you can’t speak to infer an offhanded criticism.  I know you loved me – but you didn’t really like me and it hurts me to this day.

When the time comes, I will help write your obituary and I suspect that I will learn things about you that I never knew while you were living.  I will always remember and appreciate the love you gave to my children.  I will remember the life you gave me. But I will also struggle with the neglect and resentment I have felt from you in my lifetime.  And I will never know why.

Silliness is essential

Boogers.  Co-sleeping on just 12″ of bed.  Running.  Hiding.  Laughing.  Speaking with a british accent or a very high, strawberry shortcake voice.  The joys of gawee-hood.  Seeing those happy little faces and hearing them squeal your name in delight is beyond precious.  Even before they can speak your name, they wrinkle their noses and smile, waving their arms in glee.  And when those arms reach for you….priceless.

Being a gawee is so much easier than being a mother ever was…there aren’t the competing impediments and anxieties of household chores, jobs, daycare issues, school necessities, clothing inadequacies, financial balancing and just sheer exhaustion from keeping all those balls in the air – day in and day out.  When you are the gawee, you can just PLAY.

I am a very silly gawee.  I am still young (or so I like to think) and I will run, jump and do goofy things just to hear them giggle.  I don’t mind climbing into small areas and pretending it is a cave or that a bed is a boat or that playdoh is dinner.  I will sing off key, making up the words as I go; and holler at the imaginary lions.   But that isn’t half the fun – the true joy is in how they react and join-in.  Watching them use their imaginations, when they stare at my face and try to match my enthusiasm.  Together, we will quote important lines from Disney movies or we will talk about wild animals on the trails as we walk.  When they get tired and ask me to carry them, I ask if they can carry me instead.  I try, unsuccessfully, to crawl into their arms while they laugh and do their best to lift me.  We also tell stories in the bathroom – as a practice routine for potty training.  They will be on the commode and I will sit on the footstool and tell them exaggerated stories while they relax and go “poo”.  They always offer to do the same for me – but I have a pretty well-established routine by now.

As they get older, I know they won’t have the same reactions and desires for frolic and imaginary games.  Life happens and other influences come into play.  The thought of them out-growing Gawee is heartbreaking.  Oh, I know, they will always love me and we will always have a fond, heartfelt relationship but there will eventually be other friends, activities, interests, peers, and the need for independence from old, sillier days as they grow older and go to school.  The most important part of that shift, from giggly toddler to school-age child, is for them to know that I will always be in their corner.  (I don’t HAVE to be silly, but I can be at a moments’ notice).

For now, I will bask in the joy of their adoration.  We will play, laugh, wrestle and run.  I hope to teach them that playing is a lifelong enchantment, one for which they should never feel shame.   And when those sweet and sticky little hands encircle my neck – I know I am living the best life.

Oh the shame…

Vulnerability.  Low self-worth.  Shame.  These are the feelings I work hard to suppress.  Every. Day.  Just about the time I think I’ve outgrown those fears – when I feel stronger, brighter, more mature, more confident – a wave rolls in.  What the hell?

Recently, on our vacation trip to Vegas, I got a good dose of insecurity and self-loathing.  I was doing just fine – smooth sailing, minding my own business and from out of nowhere came “Jacob”.  He was a handsome young man, well-dressed, friendly and handing out free samples in front of a little store in the mall.  Free foot lotion samples.  Lovely.  He introduced himself then asked me to come into the store where he could give me a treatment that would help the dark circles under my eyes.  I would like to make those disappear, wouldn’t I?  My husband and I reluctantly walked into the store.  Foolishness!

Jacob was a well-trained salesman – speaking in a calm, soothing voice, with a thick middle eastern accent; he recited facts about aging, skin, the products he was hocking.  He was well-versed about skin care, how the skin breaks down, the layers of skin, blah, blah, blah.  At that point, I’m still feeling okay.  He puts his “miracle” cream under one eye – all the while talking to my husband and I – some small talk and some sales rhetoric…within minutes, the dark circle under my left eye IS lighter and the skin IS tighter.  Tada!  (Side bar: I’ve seen videos about this product on facebook – it really does work!  But here’s the rub, you don’t use it during the day–only at night.  So the benefit of the fact that it holds your skin tighter is lost on the wee hours of the morning as you sleep!  Minor detail Jacob neglected to mention!  SUPPOSEDLY, using it every night for one week will show improvement and then you just do a maintenance treatment of once a week…jury is still out on the actual “noticeable improvement”!)

Jacob promises to fix the other eye as well but, in the meantime, he starts to pitch a face peel product.  Using the inside of my wrist, he shows how the peel very simply takes off the first layer of skin and makes the arm SO SOFT and with a little moisturizer it is so much more incredibly soft than the other arm!  Imagine if that was my face!?  Tremendous.  Now, he starts to introduce the topic of cost…I am normally a hard sell.  I do NOT spend money on frivolous things like face creams (which explains why I have such dark circles and wrinkled skin!).  Let the manipulation persuasion begin!  The tactics were covert and indirect — passively demeaning.  Here are some examples:

  • You are a mother aren’t you?  How many children do you have?  You always sacrifice your needs for your children, don’t you?
  • Why wouldn’t you want to look better?
  • These products won’t change how you look, you will just look like you used to look 10 years ago.  Same you, just the younger version.
  • If you spend this amount, will it take away from your house payment or other necessary bills? (In other words, are you too poor to buy this?)
  • Why wouldn’t you spend this amount on yourself?  Don’t you deserve to feel better about yourself?
  • When we are finished here, I’m going to give you a free treatment to help you get rid of your jowels and your loose neck skin.
  • If you could choose, which would you improve first – your eyes, your jowels or your neck?

Just about the time I was ready to get up out of the chair, he would say that he needed to fix my other eye so that I wouldn’t look lopsided and he would do that BUT…..and then he would launch into another tactic.  An hour and a half later and two FREE treatments under my belt, my husband and I finally walked out of there! And, as much as I hate to admit it, I did buy some of the product.  I spent FAR TOO MUCH money and bought stuff that, while it will last 2 years (woohoo!), I may never use??  Oh sure, I have good intentions but, like anything, you lose interest after a couple of weeks.  Since I did spend what I consider a small fortune on this stuff, I will use it come hell or high water!

The final outcome is that I am upset with myself for falling for the malarkey.  Jacob played on all of my weaknesses and I fell for it.  Yes, I hate my dark circles, jowels and turkey neck – OF COURSE I DO!   When I walked into the store, I was feeling fine – knowing that I’m aging but being okay with it.  When I walked out, I felt that nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach.   Do I look older than I thought?  Is it THAT noticeable to everyone?  And on top of that, I felt SICK at having spent that much money for LOTIONS AND PEELS!  For heavens sake!

The shame of it all followed me all that day.  That night, I told my husband I was going to return everything for a refund.  I was livid and ashamed that I had been so easily manipulated.  My husbands response was  not to worry about it…I didn’t return to the store (frankly, the thought of returning was equally humiliating!).  The whole episode has nagged me ever since.  I’ve been using the product and I don’t doubt that it has improved my skin (wishful thinking?) but I am bothered by how easily I lost my confidence – it only took a matter of minutes and I felt like I was a teenager again, worried about being judged for my gangly appearance and pale face with bug eyes!  I consider myself a strong woman and I’m embarrassed that I didn’t walk out after the first 10 minutes (which was my first instinct)!

After I got home I sheepishly looked at the receipt and was surprised to find written in bold letters on the customer copy, “NO REFUNDS”.  Tells you something, doesn’t it?  I’m not the only person who had buyers remorse — obviously, it was an issue or they wouldn’t print it directly on the receipt!  No money-back guarantees….  I learned my lesson.  When approached with free samples – a strong but polite “NO THANKS” will serve me well.

I am aging.  I have dark circles under my eyes, laugh wrinkles, jowels and a turkey neck — my belly is jelly, my triceps are saggy, and my legs are cottage cheesy.  Such is life.  No amount of money, lotions or fear-mongering can truly change any of that.  And why would I?  I’m here, vertical and happy to be such.  Can’t get any better than that!  If wishing for something different makes you feel bad – stop wishing for something different.  What is real?  What really matters?

For both of us

Recently, I have been missing my mom – which is unusual because we had never been very close.  I’ve been thinking about the way she used to be — about 10 years ago when she was still delivering the mail and stopping by on a whim.   She would call fairly frequently just to fill me in on gossip or ask something about the kids.   In those days, she was a gadabout.  If she got bored, she would jump in her car and drive to some unknown point in the valley or to a neighboring town.

Every Sunday, she played the organ at the country church.  For a time, she would regularly come to our house for dinner after the service.    We had a small family discord and she stopped coming over and rarely called.  As time and her dementia progressed, we lost contact until the memory loss became a safety issue.  By then, when it was time to step in and arrange for her care, she no longer remembered the discord but the disengagement of recent years only made matters worse.  I feel deprived of the last few reasonably normal years of her life before the dementia changed her into a stranger.

As I said, we were never very close but the dementia has forced into grim reality the realization that we have lost any possible opportunity to be close. Looking back into my childhood, I wished for a mother who would talk to me, tell me things, hug me and tell me she wasn’t angry with me.  That just wasn’t meant to be and, now, it truly never will be.  Having to let go of that hope and wish is hard.   It makes me sad for both of us.

Mom remains in a memory care facility.  She has lost a lot of weight and she no longer recognizes anyone.  Her biggest pleasure is when my sister brings her cinnabons or something from McDonalds.  She still walks loops around the hall with her walker and she hasn’t fallen for a couple of months (knock on wood).  It isn’t easy going to visit her – in fact, it is very difficult.  Her face is sallow and her eyes are vacant.  She rarely makes eye contact and only grunts as a response to most questions or she repeats the question.  Somewhere in that shell is a woman who had 4 children, cooked on a wood stove, chopped wood, taught children how to read, delivered mail, played the organ and acted as eucharistic minister in her church.  She was also a woman who wanted to go to college but couldn’t because of financial constraints, a woman who loved her family but always wanted something more – a woman whose true dreams and desires will never be known.

I miss having her around and I wish that things could have been different – for both of us.