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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Junk Reading

Does everyone have a crazy auntie?

Mine is kind of crazy, but in a sweet, childlike kind of way.

She tends to refill bottled water bottles with tap water and call it “bottled water.” 

Seriously.

Since the beginning of time, she’s been obsessed with Princess Diana.

When she died and the rumor was that the paparrazzi was being blamed by high speed chasing, she vowed to never buy another tabloid again.

Well, all these years later, she has regressed.

Auntie visited from California over the summer and brought with her, a stack of magazines. Now, I am a sucker for magazines, but what I saw when she brought them over to share with me, was an assortment of this:

 

 

Now, I love me a good People magazine every now and then, you know, to keep up with “the news”.

But this stack was INSANE.

Total junk.

And I couldn’t help but laugh my head off about it.

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The girls loved staying in their pajamas today, since there was no school on “voting day”. Although it was 65 degrees, they wanted to go see High School Musical 3, something I promised a long time ago. In the end, I was able to run errands for my two upcoming art shows and I feel more organized. I also changed the sheets and opened the windows and did 4 loads of laundry and put the candle lamps in the windows and got the humidifier from basement set up in the girls’ room for the winter.

I’m glad that today I stopped pmsing because if I kept eating the way I was eating LAST week, I’d outgrow all my pants and NOT go into the holidays and winter on a good note.

Today was all about fruit and water and yogurt and whole grain bread and well, I couldn’t avoid the cheese, but cheese is better than two ice cream cones, Halloween candy and frozen cheesecake.

High School Musical 3 was as expected. Packed with kids. My girls were so excited. I had stashed our own water and a bag of gummy worms in my bag for the movie (despite the huge signs on the doors of the theatre saying “no outside food or drink”) because otherwise, we get raped when we pay for food at the concession. 

At the end, if you’ve seen it, remember when he tells the girl he’s going to go to college just 32 minutes away from her because he loves her? (sorry, I spoiled it) Well, I heard on my right, a little “aaaaaaaaahmmmmmmmm!” from Red.

And then my mind started going, because Red’s been mentioning this other 7 year old boy in her class, Joshua. She says his name about twice a day. Every day. Since school started.

Oh my, in ten years, she’ll be almost 18 and probably already had a bunch of crushes (and no dates, since she won’t be allowed until she’s a legal adult, if I can help it, that is).

It occurred to me too, when I went up the street to vote, with the girls in tow, that in ten years, she’ll be able to vote.

I wonder if I’ll be calling her like my dad called me today. When I answered he asked, “So, did you vote for the good president or the bad president?”

My ex-husband, their dad, called at the end of the night tonight and I heard Blue ask him who he voted for. And she came running in to me and yelled, “Mommy! Daddy voted for McCain to cancel out YOUR vote!.”

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I loved baths as a kid and would sit with a novel and read for hours, soaking and basking in the quietness and warmth and stories, for a long time each night.  J takes baths and I admire that he does it, enjoys it, takes care of himself to relax in that way, because for me, relaxing seems to go by the wayside for the most part. Somehow though, I can settle down inside and take a break when I am hanging out with him.

It got me thinking about my grandparents this weekend, when I was visiting J, and he started filling up the tub for us.

My grandfather would clean out the tub and fill it, for my grandmother’s daily soak. Up until my grandfather passed away when I was 23, I know that he cleaned and filled the tub for her nearly every day.

You may think she had been an invalid, but she wasn’t. She was an interior decorator in Los Angeles, was the ultimate socialite and kept an immaculate home. She had dinner parties every weekend and held luncheons in the summer. All my life, I thought of Nana as a strong and independent woman, because she made decisions and walked and talked, proud and put together.

But when Papa passed away in 1996, the reality came to the forefront. He was no longer there to fill the tub for her and what came to light was that Nana knew so much about life on the surface but when it came down to the nitty gritty of bills and business and things as simple as balancing a checkbook or having an estate plan, she had failed.  She became helpless and lost.

What I admire most is that she rose up out of that quickly and learned it all. She closed her own business and started to run my grandfather’s, for many years. She ran the household more efficiently. She paid bills and budgeted. She invested. She also became humble as she educated herself, became unafraid to ask questions and then went on her merry way, something I never saw in my first 23 years with her. She depended on no one.

When I was 30, Nana passed away. I was pregnant with Blue and flew out to see her as she was not expected to live much longer than a few more weeks. Our conversations consisted of womanhood and parenthood, independence and love. And one of the things she reminded me, was to never be left in a lurch. It was important for her to remind me of that.

Something that I remembered as I was going through my divorce was how I wanted to always be sure I could take care of myself, that I didn’t need to depend on someone for daily tasks or things that I am too lazy to figure out just because the other person happens to do them for me. I proudly took everything on, on my own. It was liberating and empowering. I expected nothing from anyone. 

I’ve realized recently that it’s okay to have some help. That it’s not terribly hurtful to ask for a favor or to express humility in not being able to do something on my own. In admitting the need for help actually projects towards those I am asking, “you are needed” and “you are wanted”. 

My grandfather made breakfast for my grandmother almost every morning, drew her bath daily, and protected her from the one thing that she needed the most, tools to take care of herself.

J brought up the idea a while ago, after he learned that I moved half a tree from my parking spot here at home, in the driving rain, on my own (without waiting for him to arrive an hour later and ask for his help), that I needed to be a bit better at asking for help, that I don’t need to and can’t do everything on my own. 

I’m working on it, but honestly, so far, he’s doing great things on his own. As great as a natural reassurance he expresses about his going away for a few months to play down south, and as simple as his turing my car around in his driveway, so that when I left at 5am the next morning, I would be able to just pull straight out onto the road. And as whole and real as his presence with me when we are together, or the way his voice sounds when he calls and calls me “Baby“.

I am reminded of Nana every day when I use the silver flatwear that she left me in her will. When my kids weigh things in the antique baker’s scale in my kitchen, when I put on a pair of earrings that I know she wore to her own wedding. And I have a sense of peace about being able to love and be loved, ask for help and appreciate having my bath drawn…all while being capable of “doing life”, all on my own.

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Money.

Money is annoying. Every few weeks I sit down with my folder of bills and invoices. I pay my bills and send out my invoices. Sometimes they are second invoices to a client. Sometimes a third. I have one that I’ve been billing for $93, every month, since last December. (that’s December 2007!!!)

I get mad that people won’t pay me, even though I have never been a day late on any bill. Ever.

I also realize that people have things going on and sometimes it’s tight and they push it and leave it and try to ignore it. The woman who owes me $93 actually carries children’s tshirts that I designed, for the last few years, that I designed, in her retail store. She carries huge brands of children’s toys and things along with my shirts. Getting her to pay me is like pulling teeth. She’s been a good client though, WHEN she actually pays me. And my shirts sell well in her store. Everyone knows they are there. People buy them there.

And I bite my tongue when people mention it to me (because it is a popular store) and keep myself from saying “yeah, she’s delinquent in her payment!”

Sadly, with the economy going the way it is and people getting scared and families over extended for one reason or another, some of it is moving close to home.

First, I am gladly and gratefully mortgage free. I own my home. When things are bad, at least I know we have a roof over our heads. A relative is about to lose their home. They are frantically trying to sell their nearly brand new house, with in-ground pool and a sort of farm, before the bank takes it. The difference between the two, selling it for cheap or having the bank take it, is massive.

Family members are losing stock in the market. And I feel the franticness they are feeling as it slides and as they see their numbers dip. What was secure to them for their future, not feeling so secure, especially at their older ages.

I find that I am somewhat frugal. I mean, we don’t do without ALL luxuries, but I definitely watch it, more so now. I was thinking ahead towards Christmas. I did my shopping online already. It has all been shipped. And I consider myself done aside from my mom and dad. Mom wants a particular painting done. Dad gets a rare food basket. (random, I know, he likes food baskets). The girls are done though, along with their birthdays, which fall around the holidays. A tree, though, for instance, is an added cost. And I was thinking how I generally can’t get away with spending less than $75 for a decent tree. I was looking at a table in my living room, and thinking “I could find a $40 tree and put it on the table to make it seem bigger.” 

And then I thought about how the poor tree selling people are going to probably have alot of folks this year, buying smaller, cheaper trees. And then the cycle continues of people not making what they need, not making ends meet.

Of course, I am not about to buy a more expensive tree, just cause I feel bad for the seller, but it gave me something to think about. The cycle of what we do and what we change in our spending habits, effects everyone. Prices go higher in markets, gas is up and down ($2.89 at our local place, woot!) fundraising for schools get crazier. 

In fact, I am even going to be canceling my Netflix. Because I realize, I have every movie station on my cable, with comes with my three package deal, which means endless movies and tv that I can record or watch “OnDemand”. 

But, I am not canceling until I finish the final season of Sex and the City. I am on a roll. Almost done. I’m not sure what I will do when it is over. I’ll feel so empty. Oh, but so educated. 

I was talking to J about what we both do for work and we realized that we are both luxuries to people. It’s kind of a bummer because I personally feel it when people are cutting back. I depend on the wealthy in a way who don’t flinch at a price for a painting that they don’t necessarily NEED. You can’t eat a painting. It doesn’t heat your house. Fortunately for me, right now, people are buying and that is MY great need!

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It’s funny what I find myself denying when I hear people’s perception of me, either out loud or in my head.

On a day where I felt particularly muffin-top-like in my jeans, my friend came by and took one look at me and said “have you been doing the California thing?” (seeing that I am from California and his perception of Californians are that we all binge and purge)

I realized that although I felt like a total slob, others may think I am looking particularly great that day. And I am knocked on the side of the head with the notion that I’m not feeling terribly good about myself ON THE INSIDE, and therefore, feeling like the outside is hideous.

Growing up in a household that was silent in terms of nurturing, praise, and outward approval, I spent alot of time thinking I was incapable or not intelligent enough to accomplish many things. I was mediocre in school because I half assed it. I would rather have been drawing or making clothes, writing or surfing, than be in class or doing homework to my fullest potential. I mean, I did what I had to do, but I never really tried that hard. 

Even still, as a single mum, with my own business, having moved to a town a few years ago that was foreign to me, not knowing anyone but needing the space to breathe, I continued to think I would not be able to really put the right foot forward. The girls’ dad’s parting few words to me were “Good luck!” as if I wouldn’t be able to handle a) motherhood b) financial stability, even with the child support that he sends (that the court requires to be automatically deducted from his paycheck) every two weeks. And sometimes, I believe I need alot of it. (luck)

Despite the days like today when I feel like I failed as a mom, as the nurturer and listener that I try to be, but lacked on a day of impatience and tiredness, I know deep down I am doing this right.

Being a mom is a reality. Day by day. The reality of things when you have two little ones who will always tell you the honest brutal truth, despite their occasional skewed perception of things, just because they are kids. Like yesterday for instance. Blue followed me into the bathroom as usual and as I pulled my pants down and sat down on the toilet to pee, she looked at me and says “Mommy, your butt fits on that WHOLE toilet!” I know I’m not fat. I know I have a bigger butt than she does. But I know that if my mother told me I had a fat butt, I would think I had a fat butt.

I’ve learned alot since my sister started going to therapy this year. I mean, I’ve learned alot since I started going to therapy about 5 years ago, but moreso, since my sister started going.

On a weekly basis, we have our own follow-up, when she is enlightened by what she has learned about our upbringing or the areas in which we are weak. We’re a sounding board for each other, on separate coasts, connected by cell phone, ichat and email.

A big thing we both learned recently is to not tell our parents anything. Our parents are divorced and have been since 1991 or so. (I forget, but I was leaving for college at the time). It never occurred to us, until therapy, that our lives have forever felt disapproved of through either our parent’s silence, disinterest or judgmental comments. Interestingly, they are both alot alike, even though they don’t live together anymore. And it’s no wonder that sometimes we both feel completely fucked up.

I basically stopped telling my parents things that were close to me, that hurt me or even that make me feel overjoyed. Because if I am thrilled or excited about something, the response is next to nil. When something is hard, they are not sure how to add support or comfort, but more a venue for them to tell us what they would do if they were in our shoes. Generally, they are telling us that we are doing it all wrong.

I know I’ve mentioned once or twice that my mother is a Christian Scientist. A devout one. Neither my sister or I continued to follow it and I believe it is her biggest disappointment in life, that her two children go to doctors, drink wine and had/have premarital sex. Even worse, WE DON’T PRAY.

My sister is currently going through a miscarriage. No one knows except me and my brother in law and my sister’s doctor. My sister is supposed to fly out here for a visit next week and in the end, due to what is going on, she is rescheduling her trip for later in the year. What’s funny is that she is dreading telling my mother. Not because Mom is going to be upset and destroyed by the information but more that she lacks an empathy for people who are struggling, putting on us often, “you didn’t pray enough” or telling us to “ignore it and it will go away”. Sis decided at first to tell our mom at last minute, that she has the flu and can’t fly.

Yesterday, after therapy, she called me and said “I am going to buck up and tell Mom the truth.”

Walking on eggshells to avoid or control a certain reaction that is expected from someone, feels dishonest in a sense, for me. We are being dishonest with the world about what we are feeling ourselves, and not giving ourselves enough validation to be able to express ourselves as we wish to or need to. By telling Mom stuff that is hard, regardless of her reaction, we are standing up for ourselves in a way and what we believe in. The strength in it brings out a truer sense of who we are  no matter the reactions, and breaks down false perceptions, because it is coming from ourselves, not the bozos around us.

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Walking from my car to Lady T’s building the other morning, I saw a guy cruising down the street towards me with a boom box on his shoulder.

I had to check to make sure I wasn’t back in 1980.

I generally sit at the bottom of her stairs because I am always early, and flip through the books on addiction, loss, healing, meditation, recovery. Some are wickedly scientific, difficult for me to digest in just my ten minutes wait, but others I have to withhold the strong urge to actually STEAL because something shoots off the page at me and blasts me into self realization about something I didn’t expect to bring into therapy.

I wouldn’t really steal them, but I generally end up making a big Amazon.com purchase from time to time after therapy days.

I had a cup of tea from the tea place down the street and when she called me up to her office, I sat down next to the bowl of chocolates and mints and promptly let go of my hot tea. It landed gracefully down my shirt and lap. It was hot. It was wet. It was a challenge to have our session in that manner but I realized that it represented how we as humans continue on, plug away at life, at what we need to do, even with a cup of hot tea in our laps.

There are always “things” lingering and wafting around us as we go about our daily. The ability to function through it is hit or miss for me.

That day, I was functioning.

Today, I am mediocre on my way back up to functioning.

Yesterday, the day of the memorial service, just plain sucked.

The last time I saw my friend Abbie, she was feeling pretty good and we went out to eat in Boston at a nice hotel restaurant, one that we’d gone to for high tea during the holidays and once, to the “chocolate bar”. But our last lunch in Boston was a few months ago, and our plans for next weekend there were cut short by her death. She was pretty sick and knew time could cut off at any time.

On my way home from the service, I thought about Ohio and how he lives with this sort of thing in his line of work. He sees it. I know he feels it. He said he “just does it”, and honestly, I think he is able to do it because he is there for people who are going through pain that is likely worse than his own. Or maybe I’m wrong. All day I have just felt sad. Sad about everything.

I miss the thought of him, or maybe it’s just what he represents to me. Which I’m not really clear on at the moment. I mentioned before, I felt close to him but didn’t really know him . Even when we were still in touch, he was sort of a phantom.

I suppose I haven’t worked this whole thing out for myself.

Greeted at the door when I came in last night from the memorial service, by notes and paper flowers that the girls had made with the babysitter, I felt a little comfort. One had a bunch of Popsicle sticks glued to it and sprinkled with glitter. Some others were wrapped completely in scotch tape and I made a mental reminder to myself to add it to my Costco list.

I’m was sitting on the couch last night for hours, trying to urge myself upstairs and get in bed. I’d already stretched out next to each girl as they sleep, hoping I could just fall asleep there, but Red was snoring and Blue is still sleeping with her feet on the pillow end of her bed, which gets me all out of sorts. I didn’t quite know where to go. She’s all turned around.

Early yesterday, I dragged myself and the girls into the car with a bag of Famous Amos and a thermos of Peet’s Coffee. It was supposed to rain and I left the house at nine with the girls, packed for the small beach at the end of our road. It was warm, but foggy and misty and smelling like fermenting seaweed when we got there.

There was no way we were spending the day at home due to the threat of rain.

Which miraculously didn’t come until evening.

We swam. I ate the cookies and drank a liter of coffee. I had to pee every hour after that and didn’t feel like walking down to the port-a-potty, so I waded into the water every so often to go.

The kids thought it was great “You NEVER swim, Mommy!” they kept yelling.

I didn’t have the heart to tell them I was just going in up to my belly button to pee. In fact, I still think that THEY think, that Mommy doesn’t actually know how to swim.

So, there we stayed until I needed to get home and get ready for Abbie’s memorial service. I drove with a friend who came down from Maine but really, I just wanted to be alone. She caught a ride back to Maine at the end, so I was able to drive home on my own and sing every hymn I knew.

I’ve mentioned before that I no longer practice the religion I was raised in. But when I feel tired and sort of checked out, a way I pray myself out of it is merely to sing the hymns I know from our hymnal. It was the only nurturing thing from my mother, when I was sick as a kid. She would put hymns on the record player and sit on the other side of the room and close her eyes and pray for me. I remember counting to one hundred a bunch of times until she left, grateful to be alone and just have the hymns comfort me.

One of the books I have from therapy is called “Each Day a New Beginning“. My therapist actually gave it to me because a year or so ago, she caught me reading it in her hallway and I brought it upstairs to discuss some of it with her. Already, I’d been reading a few pages at a time each week while I was waiting for her. Something that is in my head today from it is this:

“We can develop gratitude for all conditions, good or bad. Each has its necessary place in our development…We need the sorrows along with the joys if we are to gain new insights. Our failures keep us humble; they remind us of our need for the care and guidance of others. And for every hope dashed, we can remember, one will be realized.”

Interestingly, I find myself sitting still now, listening for clarification on not what I feel I lack, but more what I feel has been taken away.

Bit by bit I figure out portions of what they mean for me.

I feel kind of fucked up. I know it will all unravel for me and make more sense if I just stop and listen.

So that’s the upside.

(the painting above is mine. It is sold, but I did it of the surfers on the beach a few years ago)

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I am wiped out from sitting on my ass all day on the beach yesterday.

Imagine that.

Yes, we have a good life here and today is a day that I feel more gratitude than ever.

I was sitting at my painting table last night, near midnight, realizing I had eaten only sandy donuts for dinner.

As I cleaned out the beach bag from the day, I pulled out the box of “Munchkins” we had picked up that morning on our way to the beach.

Even funnier, I “smuggled” them into my mouth, not wanting the kids to see I was finishing them off.

They weren’t missing much, I mean, sand=sand.

In standing there over the sink eating sandy Munchkins, I was thinking about how simple our lives are here. It didn’t used to be, but in moving here and omitting unwanted stress and choas in my life, it just kind of ended up that way. I suppose it was a subconscious thing.

I-Love-It.

Back when I was married, or even before I was married, I always needed to know what was going to happen next. What time would I go to the grocery store that day? What time is dinner? What day will I use to clean the house and can I do it without being interrupted? If anything got pushed off course, I was unwilling to accept that I had to be flexible.

I fly by the seat of my pants now.

I can make plans and when I do, I appreciate that I have something to look forward to and organize. The difference now is that if something gets altered, I can actually cope and be flexible and go with it.

The biggest problem is when I want something to happen and I am waiting for the plans to fall into place. I realize, I need to let go.

“Stuff” happens for a reason.

I drove home from Boston on Friday evening after dropping the girls at their dad’s house and sat in horrid traffic and blasted Idina Menzel on my new Belkin fm iPod tuner thingy. (okay, I totally forget what it’s called but now I can actually listen to my ipod in the car)

By the time I got home, it was almost eight and so I got some work done, cleaned up the house from the kids’ two weeks with me, messaged with Ohio for a bit. It’s interesting how I start to feel disconnected from him over a time and then when we text or email or talk on the phone as we did on Friday, as well, I fall right back into how I felt when he was here. It’s a cycle of promise one day and hopelessness and frustration another day. And this is where the simple flexibility comes in.

Practice practice.

Perspective.

And just feeling what I feel and being okay with that.

Then I just went to bed.

Way before midnight

THAT was unexpected.

The rest of the weekend I spent floating around getting things done, getting my hair cut, painting, I had breakfast with my piano guy  before my guitar lesson. It appears I can actually LEARN the guitar up until this point, aside from totally stinking at the bar chords. But that takes practice.

I went to the piano bar with some friends drank a little and sang a few.

Some old guy at the bar called me “precious”.

THAT was a new one.

Me, precious.

Heh.

I had a conversation with my father, one that upset me to a point where I actually felt I DRANK to cover the pain of it. He called on Saturday as I was driving down to the piano bar and the discussion that ensued was one that brought up alot in me that put me on the defense, enraged and hurt me. I was reminded of the parent I would never ever be to my girls because I consciously work to not raise them the way my parents raised my sister and me. And I was reminded that in time I will eventually learn that these things have nothing to do with me, but my dad’s own issues…and it can all just roll off my back.

In time.

This time, I just needed a bit of booze to help that rolling movement.

I am due to write about the parents sometime soon.

Despite that little setback, the entire weekend was totally up in the air and felt good. I had no idea what I was doing or where I would be at any given moment. I didn’t expect to find myself sitting in my underwear in bed at 9am on Sunday, reading the paper and drinking coffee. The last time I did that was probably a year ago. (but perhaps I was wearing clothes)

Fly by the seat of my pants.

And when I picked the girls up on Monday morning, I felt refreshed and happy about myself and secure in knowing I can get through the next two weeks as the sole parent of my two girls.

And now, as I sit drinking my coffee this morning, licking out the remainder of the vanilla pudding I fixed myself for breakfast, I think about how there are only five more weeks until school starts for the girls.

Who’s counting?

ME! ME! ME!

It is slightly bittersweet, the girls will be with me much less. But also, summer, for them, is sometimes not so good. Despite our time outside running around and swimming and catching sea creatures, the lack of structure puts them (us all) out of sorts. And they need more stimulation than what I am doing for them on some days. Especially when I am worn out and distant and feeling disconnected.

I will have to have things more together during the school year, between homework, extracurriculars, my work, packing lunches, getting them to school on time and picking them up and making sure the afternoon meltdowns don’t result in my own crazy freak-outs.

It will just be different. But like the summer, it will be good.

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