Name That Emotion!

Growing up in a dysfunctional alcoholic family, you learn quick that your emotions are BAD. Don’t be upset, don’t be mad, don’t be scared, are all things I heard. I wasn’t allowed to have emotions, to respect my own feelings as it was always about the addicted person who was my father. Everything in the family dynamic becomes about placating this person and hiding the craziness from the world. The problem is, I have difficulty sorting out what emotions really are even though my father has been dead since 2002 and I’m 48 years of age.

Case in point, my husband and I work opposing shifts some weeks and on top of that my nest has pretty much emptied leaving only my youngest daughter at home. My older two daughters live in our town but they work second shift while I work first so I pretty much only see them on the weekend. I realize I am lucky they live close as many people’s adult kids scatter to the winds after school. My extended family is small, my choice of close friends even smaller as I have become very picky about who I spend my time with since my mom died in 2014. I think once you reach mid-life, you realize your time on this earth is more limited than you ever imagined so frivolous interactions are no longer your cup of tea. Also, evenings alone have been more difficult for me than days alone. I’m guessing this is because for most of my life, there’s always someone home with me at night.

To clarify, I am not afraid to be alone, I’m an introvert and I enjoy my own company. Which when I started to feel very anxious, sad, and what I thought to be lonely, I started to get frustrated. Last week, my husband left for work at 430 p.m. I knew my youngest daughter would be home in 3-4 hours from her job. I literally had people around me all day, I am not isolated. Between work, my family, pets, friends, and activities I enjoy, I really don’t spend a whole lot of time completely alone. I had even talked to my therapist about why do I feel so lonely? And then when I tried to do things to get me more out of the house and among people such as a writer’s club, I resisted fiercely. No, I’m not a socially awkward person. The writer’s club looked like a nice group of people on social media and I have 0 issues interacting with strangers. I simply did not want to go and ended up in my fave coffee shop writing in my journal while watching big snow flakes hit the sidewalk from their big plate glass windows. I was contented alone but I couldn’t shake the feeling of loneliness.

Then finally last week, it dawned on me as I watched my pets stare at me sadly as I was putting on my shoes to go pick up some dinner. I’m like them – Don’t leave, I’ll miss you! I’m not lonely, I’m missing my hoomans. I’ve been telling myself I’m lonely because it sounds better than I miss my grown daughters and my husband when he goes to work. I simply miss the people I love most in this world when they are not around me. That is a lot different than being lonely especially since I was frustrated because I’ve been trying to fix lonely and getting upset with myself when I don’t want to take the ‘cure’. Rather than listening to my internal cues, accepting the fact that I miss my fave people, I just kept fighting the truth. I can join 100 things and still have that same feeling because it’s not loneliness.

I can tell myself things like The kids are grown and this is normal. Stop being a woos. Or You’ll see your husband tomorrow, think about those spouses of deployed military personnel, stop being a big baby. But by berating myself for my feelings, I am invalidating myself which is exactly what I experienced growing up. I should honor my feelings no matter how ‘babyish’ they seem. It doesn’t mean I wallow around in them, but I need to acknowledge that I’m sad and missing my family and then do things to make myself feel comforted. The next night I was supposed to be home between 430-1030 p.m. alone. Everyone was working but me. Since I now knew my feelings weren’t loneliness but missing my family, I didn’t feel all out of sorts. I did things to comfort myself like snuggle up on the couch in a blanket watching movies no one wants to watch with me (OMG not that!). And the funny thing is, my daughter got home early so I wasn’t even alone very long. But the weird empty, unsettled feeling wasn’t there. Just like magic, after several years of fighting it, the feeling dissipated as if it had never been there. It may come back but I will know how to deal with it.

Every time I have ignored my gut feelings or my emotions in general, I have paid. When you meet that person and all the red flags are flying, big ones, like the US flags over dealerships but I covered my eyes to pretend I didn’t see the signs. You knew in your heart that person wasn’t good for you but yet you let them berate you, put you down, and just take out their insecurities on you even when you didn’t do a damned thing to deserve it. You thought you loved that person so much but really when you peel back those dysfunctional layers, it wasn’t love but the familiar pattern of abuse and dysfunction. If they truly loved you, they wouldn’t have been so narcissistic and brutal. This doesn’t even have to be a romantic relationship, I’ve had friendships like that in the past. You get all caught up in their drama that they want you to believe is your fault. But you’re scratching your head like WTF? Then you start thinking you can change them or they will change, so on and so forth the cycle of crap continues.

That first feeling, the gut feeling was the one telling you the truth. It was screaming RUN! Run you idiot! But nope you slogged around in the foggy woods while the murderer snuck up on your dumb ass. We have the choice to honor our feelings and our emotions even if we may not like them. And if you feel like you are beating your head agains the wall over the same issue, step back and make sure you’re really seeing the whole picture. Are you denying the real problem? Maybe. I sure was.

So hint to myself – when I get stuck, step back and look at it different ways. Stop assuming. Maybe all I need is just a hug and a comfy blanket.

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Christmas Peace Comes After Loss

Holidays have been really tough for me since 2013, a few months after my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Those last holidays together were excruciating and the years after have been difficult to say the least. You are just going through the motions feeling empty inside. While you try hard, it is never quite the same again and really that’s okay. It’s a change in your life, you keep old traditions and strive for new ones to make sense of the loss. The change is a way you cope and it seems that each year you embrace the old with the new, like feeling a warm hug from your lost loved one.

My mom loved the holidays and Christmas was her birthday so that day is a double whammy of grief for me and my daughters as well as the other people who loved my generous, kind badass of a mom. The first Christmas without her was blur and by the second Christmas, we no longer lived in the same house as so many of my memories which helped me immensely. But not everyone wants, can or needs to move, it’s just what happened in my life for other reasons but the change helped me spark into a new part of my life.

Last year, my oldest and middle daughter moved out just days before Christmas when my oldest bought her first house. Exciting and a little disconcerting at the same time. More changes. The nest was more empty but what I have found is that while at first, when that whole empty nest starts hitting you, you want to cling to the old and familiar life you had. That’s normal. I went from being a caretaker for my mom, to being an orphan, to having a mostly empty nest in just a few short years. Mid-life can be tough sometimes. There is a ton of transition not to mention the fact you realize, hey, my life isn’t all out there in front of me now like it was twenty years before. But that in of itself isn’t a bad thing either. I mean it sounds horrible but what it does is focus your energy, you start becoming very picky how you spend your time and whom you spend your time.

Chances are if you have made it midlife, you’ve seen some shit. You’ve dealt not only with joys and happy moments, but tragedy and loss. You’re nostalgic for the old days when you gathered at a table with your grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles but you realize that a good many of them may have passed or you live at different corners of the country. While this seems sad and it can be, you refocus once again on the ever-changing station of your life. This is the same things your grandparents and parents probably had to do. Let go of the past and embrace the present, the future. Nothing stays the same but there is joy in today.

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Mom opening presents

Today is a bit snowy and grey in northwestern Ohio promising a white Christmas tomorrow. After leaving my daughter’s house this afternoon, I decided to visit my mother’s grave as it will be arctic cold tomorrow and really, other than checking on it, I never feel that my mom is there. The graveyard sits on a hill above the small white clapboard Lutheran church where we have attended church off and on since the mid 1980’s. Many of the graves around my mom are people I knew as a kid and were very welcoming to us all these years. Before my mom passed, I would ride my bike on these hills and on a hot day, stop and sit under one of the pines to cool off. The graveyard is a peaceful, beautiful place if you aren’t creeped out by dead people (I am not). But since my mom has been buried here, it always made me incredibly sad and I avoid it for the most part other than to look after her grave.

When I drove out, I thought I’m probably just setting myself up to be down in the dumps. I was alone for the remainder of this Christmas Eve afternoon until my husband gets home later from work. I parked in the snowy circle next to my mom’s grave and bundled up. As I stood looking at her grave, I found I didn’t feel sadness but peace. My mom isn’t there, just her body. The graveyard is not a big one, but I walked to the side that faces the church standing between tall evergreens that have been there longer than I have been alive. The snow blanketed the plowed field between the church and cemetery, creating a pastoral winter scene that one might frame and hang on their wall. Maybe this is the point of acceptance. Not that I don’t miss my mom every day, but the point where peace finally settles over you like a warm blanket of love and memories.

I hesitate to say that I won’t have a day where I’m back at the cemetery in tears but this is a step beyond what I have felt. Grief isn’t something I do well but who does? My mom should be here with us, celebrating, wrapping presents, giving us orders on what food we will bring and so on. Except she’s not and it’s taken me four long years to get back into the Christmas spirit. A spirit that is different from my last happy Christmas. Loss changes you, changes the way you see life and now I embrace the small things even more. The edge softens and you start to be able to enjoy the happy memories without crying. There is no magic number or time that this will happen as I am certain it is personal for each one of us.

However, there is hope that one day the pain will dull, your heart will fill again with your changed life and while there is always that empty space, love fills that void allowing you to feel mostly whole again. The road to here isn’t easy. It really f’ing sucks. But now I understand how my grandparents were able to move on, their parents moved on and still be happy. They say that mid-life is one of the most unhappy points of a person’s life and I think with all the change along with just the stuff you have gone through just from living, it’s true. The flip side of that is that as people age past mid-life, they generally grow happier. I thought how could this be? But I think you grow and learn to appreciate the moment more. Each moment becomes more and more precious as your life quickly speeds past.

This year we started even more new traditions to keep our family close. First we had a Christmas Craft day where we did different crafts to help decorated cheaply for the holidays. I’m not a crafter so I rarely do this kind of thing since the girls have grown up. But it was so much fun as it was like when I used to do little projects with them as kids and we laughed so much. Then a few weeks later, we had our first official cookie baking day. Now I see why families do these kinds of activities as it’s a way to recapture the joy of having your kids around and doing what made you happy years ago. Just because the nest empties, doesn’t mean you can’t sit down and decorate sugar cookies with your kids anymore, it just means that the decorating might be more R rated than G now. Well, at least in my family where we all have a crazy sense of humor.

Life changes, you lose people your love, your kids grow up and move out and you get older but there are many beautiful things as well. There are the memories of holidays with my mom and the appreciation today of how our holidays have gone from complicated and exhausting to simple. That my kids can actually cut out and bake their own cookies, so I’m not exhausted by the end of cookie baking day. Where we can relate on a much different level, like friends, where it’s more fun anyway than telling them quit eating the icing. I seriously don’t miss fighting with them over things. I don’t miss them being little. One day, maybe I will have grandchildren but like my mom said the beauty of grandkids is you can spoil them and send them home. I can see where she is coming from even though I’m not a grandmother.

My Christmas Eve has been quiet and relaxing with a hike thrown in this afternoon. Ten years ago, it was always a frantic mess of wrapping presents, trying to do as much cooking as possible among tripping over a bunch of bodies milling in and out. I’m looking forward to tomorrow as I don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to rush through cooking, last minute present wrapping, etc. I’ve had the presents wrapped for a week. I have been spreading out the cooking the last few days. We have simplified our holiday menus, picking dishes that are easy to prepare rather than having more food than anyone could ever eat. Probably a leftover from when women stayed home and were graded on their homemaking skills. Now we’re out working and we don’t have time to make 3 kinds of cranberries. I get to pick how I want to do the day. There is no pressure. I wouldn’t care of my kids came over in the pajamas… None of that stuff ever mattered anyway. Being together matters.

I hope others who are grieving find some peace tonight and tomorrow, well, every day. As close as I was to my mother, I never thought I would really enjoy a holiday again. But I’m pleasantly surprised this year that I actually am looking forward to Christmas as is my daughters. Not that I haven’t had sad moments of missing my mom. They just are less frequent and intense. A relief from the past four years. Life changes, have faith that one day you will feel more peace. I don’t know when, but it happens.

Wishing you a very blessed Christmas (or your holiday celebration of choice) and a wonderful new year full of fun, love and laughter. Yes, there’s going to be some crappy stuff, but in between, I pray you find peace, love and joy. Bring on 2018!

Memories of Mom – Micro Road Trips

Once I reached about 15 years of age and we had moved into the townhouse apartment in my now hometown, my mom’s finances started improving as she moved up at work. It seemed after the first winter in the townhouse, when spring finally arrived, a new feeling came over our small abode. One of relief and hope as we were able to start doing a few things without fear of not paying some important bill, like electricity. The money had been so tight, my mom must have just buckled down at work and did what she did best, excel in whatever she put her mind to.

One late spring day, she had my sister and I load up in the red Ford Fairmont and we went for a drive. We probably packed up some sandwiches and drinks as the extra gas was a splurge and to balance that, we wouldn’t be able to eat out. This was of little concern because we were so happy to be out on an adventure and escaping the grind of our every day lives. It felt like heaven. I remember bits and pieces of these trips. We would drive way out in the country in an area where chicken farms/ barns were very common and I remember passing one barn where there was this huge statue of a white rooster stood in the front yard. We dubbed him “Super Chicken” and laughed about it for years. The statue still stands today and while I don’t pass it often, it makes me melancholy for those more simple days with my mom when I see it again.

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Super Chicken!

Another time, she took us to a local lake where the swimming area wasn’t exactly sandy but mucky. I remember her sitting at a picnic table, trying to hold down papers she was working on while we kinda swam but mostly ran out yelling ‘ewwww!’. We were there for a long time and I could tell my mom was stressed with whatever she was working on. I felt bad thinking she should be able to have some fun with us too but when I asked her to come wade with us because she never learned to swim, she just shooed me away. That day always stuck with me because over the years I watched the stress and strain of my mom’s job tear at her health. Most people who knew my mom wonder why I didn’t follow in her footsteps. For that exact reason, I did not.

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Grand Lake St. Marys

I remember four-hour trips to Youngstown to stay with my grandparents for the weekend. These trips were our big treats. Sometimes on a long holiday weekend or during the summer, these trips would lead to going in ‘home’ as they called it. These were trips into Friendsville, Maryland and Garrett County, where my great-grandmother Sadie and my great-aunts, Betty & Grace both lived. Trips to Maryland were exotic times as we went from the flat landscape of northwestern Ohio to the mountains of Maryland where much of my maternal side of the family lived in some of the most beautiful land I’d ever seen. Roads that my great-grandfather, Samuel, helped build and the old road leading up to what had been my great-grandparent’s farm was named “Sam Friend” road after him. It is this steep, twisting gravel road that came up through the woods and popped out right next to one of the farm’s barn. We would drive by it and I would listen to my mom and my grandmother wax nostalgic about the idyllic days on the farm and it was a shame what the current owners had done to the place.

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Youngstown, Ohio – Grandparents Home

For our Youngstown trips, an hour into our drive was a road-side rest area just beyond Upper Sandusky that we eat our picnic lunch. I remember a few years later, we were able to stop at McDonald’s and actually have lunch in the restaurant though we decided if it was nice out, we would get our food to go and visit the little roadside park which was much nicer than the noisy fast food joint. Sometimes, we would get KFC which was an extra special treat. Now that seemed like a real picnic to us. Fried chicken? What’s a better picnic food than fried chicken?

The fried chicken brought back memories of happier times of when we lived in Knoxville, Tennessee. My mom would fry her own chicken to pack cold along with some sides and we would eat in the mountains, the four of us. My dad, mom, my sister and I just enjoying a day out as a family. I am sure there were moments when my mom had to be wistful for what she thought life as a married woman would be but she really never said much. But I know she cried when we left our brick front home in Tennessee packed in a U-Haul headed to Missouri. To be honest, I did too. We went from a nice two-story tri-level home to a falling down old rental owned by a paternal great-uncle I think I met once in a nursing home. My dad would lose his job and then become convinced life somewhere else was better, if we move here, things will be great. No matter how many times we moved, it was only great for a short time until his drinking would return full-force.

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Our Home in Knoxville – Happier Times

These road trips whether they were just micro one hour drives in the country or a bigger foray into ‘home’ to Maryland were some of the happiest moments of my adolescence. They were the signs that things were getting better and that if you work hard and keep the faith, you’ll come out on the other side of darkness and into the light. It is why when I had my kids and even when I didn’t have a lot of money, we would load up in the minivan, lunch packed, and head to a park or lake. I knew these simple acts of escape, being outdoors, exploring new places would couple together many happy memories for my own kids. They were the ones who coined these trips as ‘going on an adventure’.

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Laura – Tennesee Mill –

Even today, I get ancy if I’m home a lot. I don’t know if it is just my personality or if being ‘stuck’ in one place for long periods of time reminds me of the times when things were harder. I love getting into the car and driving simply nowhere. Exploring shops, restaurants, historical site and parks along the way. It’s amazing what you can find with no itinerary. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a quick vacation of sorts. The simple things in life are true blessings. Sure that expensive vacation to somewhere tropical is exciting and will always be in your memory, but taking a drive in the country can be just as fun and rewarding. There is so much to explore close to home.

Sometimes I pass the two castles about 40 minutes from my home that my mom, sister and I found on one of our drives. Since there was no internet, we didn’t even know they existed. We were just driving out and about, the Ohio map tucked between the seats in case we got lost, when we drove around a bend in the road and there stood this small castle tucked into a hillside. And down the road there was another one. When we got some extra money, we went back to the castle that interested us the most and paid for the guided tour. While this was probably no big deal for most families, for us it was really exciting to actually be doing something out of the ordinary. Every time I pass this castle now, I think of that day, how we were all smiles weaving through the castle rooms with our tour guide. This memory is dear to my heart. Now, I wistfully wish my mom was still here as I would treat her to a tour to this castle that would probably seem tiny and not such a big deal today but just for old time’s sake.

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One of the Piatt Castles – The one we toured mid 1980’s.

As parents, we do the best we can with what we have. We worry that maybe if our kids don’t grow up with everything that we fail. I struggled a lot when my kids were younger after my divorce from my father. My mom was there to help us and she spoiled them rotten at Christmas and birthdays. I listen to my girls talk now as adults, and there were some bad times in their childhood and adolescence but mostly they have fond memories. They thank me now for not being a helicopter parent and teaching them how to do laundry, cook, do chores, etc. Just like I had to learn to take care of myself and also my mom and sister when my mom had to work so much. Independence and appreciate for the little things in life is a good thing.

This weekend, I think I will make time for a drive, just for old time’s sake.

Happy Holidays, I so appreciate you reading my blog. My biggest reward in writing is when I can touch my reader’s hearts or souls. I wish you the very, very best in 2018. Ciao!

Charity – Even the Smallest Gestures Matter

The holidays are a time of year when people seem to band together to help those less fortunate have a happier holiday.  There are toy drives, food drives, Angel trees, Adopt-a-Family, holiday meals, etc.  With all the bad news in the world, bombarding the television, social media and print outlets, this helps me feel like most of the world isn’t crazy terrorists or psychopaths.  I’d like to believe there is more good in the world than bad, otherwise, our world may not even exist soon.

Today, my daughters and I are going shopping for a girl, age 10, whose mother is living at a women’s shelter.  I don’t know anything about her, her life or her situation other than the list of her like on a paper stocking.   I picked her name from our break room board because we always pick the oldest kids as their names are usually the last ones chosen.  This girl loves books and science and girly things.  I figure my daughters could relate to her as they are self-proclaimed nerds who love books and science and sometimes even girly things.

I have no idea if the child we pick will like even one thing we purchase or if she even appreciates the gifts.  We give in faith that we are guided to make the right choices.  I overheard someone Scroogy when I was out one day shopping saying to their shopping companion, they didn’t give to programs like the angel tree because they figured the parents or kids would return the gifts or sell them for drug money.  The person went on about how it was a waste of their money and I had to bite my lip to not walk up to a perfect stranger and tell them how short-sighted they were being.  I just reminded myself, that they were missing the entire reason for giving.  Sure, I bet some people do take this charity and convert it into drug money.  But I’m pretty sure the majority of people who are struggling to give their kids Christmas are not corrupt, drug-addicted heathens.  They are simply having a rough patch.  Anyone can have a rough patch.

Some people think you have to give a lot to give at all.  Not true.  Even a ten-dollar football or baby doll could turn out to be a cherished gift they always remember.  Even if you don’t have a lot of money to give yourself, you could buy 10 cans of canned corn to put into the food drive the next time you grocery shop.  Every little bit helps.  Not all charity has to be donating thousands of dollars to matter.  Even something so small as reaching something on a top shelf at the grocery for an elderly person makes someone’s day brighter.  Acts of kindness are another type of charity that cost $0 to do.  And think if everyone in the world, every day did one kind thing for another person how much better our world could be as the positive energy affects others through a wave of kindness.

I’ve told this story before but when I was young and living in a very, very tiny town in Missouri near my father’s parents, our life was always in upheaval due to my father’s alcoholism.  I never felt as if I fit in at school where I had 7 people including me in my class because everyone knew my daddy was a drunk.  I literally attended a two-room Lutheran school-house, it even had the bell on the roof much like a church. At times I would get tormented by the other students if my dad did something stupid like ran his car off a dirt road into a tree one night.  There wasn’t much going on but farming in that area, so someone like my father generated a lot of gossip which of course kids over heard and then fomented me with shortly after.  I always prayed for summer break because I could lose myself out in the fields of my grandparent’s dairy farm, milling about with the farm animals who didn’t judge me or just hang out in my bedroom, safe from ridicule and the knowing, scorning glances of my classmates.  We were the joke of the area.  The family that made everyone else feel better about themselves.

Looking back and knowing more about my classmates families, mine wasn’t the only one that had dysfunctional drama going on behind closed doors, mine was just more public.  I imagine it made them feel better about their own issues and I don’t hold any bitterness or anger toward anyone.  Not fitting in gave me the gift of my own company, a very creative imagination and the ability of enjoying being alone without feeling as if I’m missing out on something.  This also started me writing as I would make up stories of “dream lives” where I could escape from my own pain.  This bred a lifelong love of writing and reading that has always been a comfort and escape.  It also taught me humility and how even the smallest charity can bring love into a troubled family.

I might have been 8 or 9 when the social worker showed up at our small white house next to the cemetery .  Someone on my mom’s side of the family who lived in another state called social services worried about our living situation.  Actually, I believe they thought my dad was sexually abusing my sister and I which was the furthest from the truth.  My mom was angry and bitter about that for years, I can’t really blame her, I would be too.  The social worker would talk to my sister and I, both together and separately with my mom there or not.  It’s been so long it’s all a blur at this point.  I didn’t really understand what was going on.  I just remember it was near Christmas and the social worker had pretty blonde hair that was curled into ringlets almost which was the fashion of the late 1970’s.  She had a kind face and bright blue eyes.

One day she came with oddly shaped packages wrapped in bright Christmas paper, two of them.  We sat on our small couch and she gave one to me and one to my younger sister.  We were so excited, a present BEFORE Christmas and from a complete stranger.  This never happened.  We knew we were poor, at least I did.  My father didn’t work but attended college classes when he wasn’t too drunk and my mom worked as a typist for a company near the University of Missouri campus that typed dissertations and papers for faculty and students.  We got a few from our parents gifts on our birthday and Christmas and usually not in between.

We ripped open the paper and immediately I was let down.  It was a blonde doll with yarn for hair, a  happy plastic face and a soft green calico fabric body.  My sister got one with brown hair like hers.  She was thrilled, she loved dolls.  Me, no so much.  But not wanting to hurt the lady’s feelings, I smiled big and told her thank you, I liked it very much.  Then I took it up and threw it on my bed and ignored it for days.  One night we were upstairs when we heard my dad’s big booming “drunk voice” carrying on in the kitchen.  These are the times I would get scared and hide under my bed or covers.  Usually my  bed covers because our floors were not carpeted and you could hear whatever fight or commotion even more because there wasn’t much insulation between you and the first floor.

I heard something break and knew he was fighting with my mom.  Sometimes he would hit her or throw things at her in a drunken rage.  One time my mom called the Sheriff but they just shrugged it off telling my mom they couldnt’ do anything because they were married.  Back then, domestic abuse was not something a man, at least in that area, got arrested for.  Today my dad would get arrested and hauled off to jail.  I am sure pre-Internet age, women’s shelters were more for people in larger cities.  My mom felt as if there was no where for her to go.  She would run away to her family only to have my dad follow her back to Ohio and convince her to go home.  That was the time when you didn’t divorce, you had to stay, even if it was abusive.

As the fight escalated, I crawled into bed and for the first time, hugged the doll close.  The soft body and yarn hair were comforting.  As I cried into the doll’s hair, I was grateful for the social worker’s kindness.  She must have known the doll would serve as a way for us to cope with the turmoil in our house.  I kept that doll until my house burned down in 1994.  It was always a reminder that a stranger cared enough to show me a small gesture of love.  The doll probably only cost a few dollars back then but the love it held was priceless to a scared little girl hiding under her covers when her life was so out of control.

Eventually, in 1983, my mom and dad were then living in Ohio and my mom was employed full-time at the company I work for now.  She came home one day from a business trip to find my father passed out drunk at the kitchen table, a shotgun pointed at me and my sister as we cowered in the corner too afraid to move, me, always the protective one, in front of my sister shielding her.  My mom sent us to my friend’s house while the city police removed my father.  This time she wasn’t patronized and told there was nothing they could do.  My father never came back into the house.  My mom and I took all his possessions out of the house and left them on the rental house’s car port for him to pick up.  She had enough.

I can’t say I was sad about my parent’s divorce.  It was more of a relief.  I still lived in a small town but not near as small as in Missouri.  I’m sure people knew about my father but eventually he went back to Missouri and we were left alone.  He never paid child support so we were always hurting for money until about the time I was a senior in high school five years later.  My mom moved up in her company and finally bought a house, all on her own where she lived until she died in 2014.

Since we worked together from 1998 until she retired in 2010, we participated together in the food drives, etc. that our company sponsored.  My mom, knowing the charity and generosity of others who helped her through tough times, gave generously.  Paying back and paying forward the kindness she received during her hard times.  We’d go to stores and load up on canned foods, toiletries and other things she knew people would need filling up the trunk of her Buick Lesabre and sometimes even the back seat.

We would smile knowingly at each other in the car after these shopping trips because we knew we had overcome a lot together.  My mom especially, raising two teenagers on her own while working long hours at a very stressful job.  Sometimes she’d squeeze my hand as if to say, “we made it”.   My mom and I were always a team of sorts, even from the time I was younger because we had to do the things needed to survive.  I cooked and cleaned while she worked long hours, doing laundry to help out.  At a young age, I figured out how to fix plumbing issues because we simply didn’t have the money for a plumber.  I mowed the are and raked the leaves.  I started working early to ease the burden of her having to buy me clothes  and give me spending money.  She never asked, I just did it as I knew I wanted to pull my weight, I wanted her to not feel bad because she couldn’t give me the things she felt she should.

We used to ride to work together, I would get phone calls at my desk all day long as she needed this or that even though I didn’t usually directly report to her.  That’s just how it was with us, we relied on each other heavily over all those years up until the moment she left this earth.  And now I feel her watching over me, her voice still in my head, her soul still living on in try daughters as I will watch them do or say something that sounds just like their grandmother.

Today, the girls and I carry on her spirit of charity not only just around the late year holidays, but all year in being kind to others, especially those who don’t quite fit in.  I’ve seen my girls champion for kids or people who are ostracized by the larger group.  They don’t see race as an issue or disability as something to be afraid of or avoid.  Nor is sexual orientation or even gender differences are something they judge a person on.    They seem to look past all these things that people especially in a small, predominately white town are wary to be exposed to and see the person as simply a person.  I am incredibly proud of my girls for accepting others as they are and not expecting them to be just like them.

Sometimes I hope this is a bit of my influence, teaching them as they grew up that you can’t always judge the book by its cover.  Like when I was younger and people of my community probably poor white trash or someone to feel sorry for as she had a drunk for a father.  Just because my daddy was a drunk though didn’t mean I would grow up to be a drunk too.  Or that being poor meant I was lazy or stupid or would grow up to be on welfare all my life. Or that I had to prove anything to anyone else at all.  I only had to prove things to myself.  There were times, when I had such a bad day at my tiny school, that the only thing that made me feel better was that blonde-haired doll my social worker gave me.  I could look at that doll and know I was worth something to a complete stranger.

Charity can be a powerful way to change the path of someone’s life, it shows them love and that love can make all the difference in someone’s world.

Ch..ch…Change…

Most of us are especially as we get older, resistant to change as we tend to get set into what is comfortable.  We have worked all these years to reach this certain point, what is the point of shaking things up?  Well, I found out though it is really hard when you are set in you ways, dug deep into the trench of “how it is going to be”, that maybe the light of day no longer reaches you or makes you happy.

As mentioned in previous posts my husband basically had to drag me kicking and screaming out to look at new homes.  He was intuitive enough to know that fifteen years of memories including a really bad marriage before him was haunting me and my daughters as well.  After losing my mom the year before, everywhere I looked was reminder of my mom, my ex husband, my lost step kids.  I couldn’t even garden without ending up in tears over some memory of my mom.  Or coming across something the kids gave me.

My first holiday, Thanksgiving, in our new house has come and gone.  We celebrated early inviting our “parents” to join us for a small dinner.  My husband’s parents and my aunt and uncle who never had kids and have somewhat adopted me at least in spirit.  Even though we ate on the table my grandfather made for my mom, used her china and serving dishes from both my mother and my grandmother, now all deceased, I didn’t feel hollow and empty but happy.  I was able to embrace their memories like a warm, soft blanket of love that was wrapped around me and feel their spirits among us.  My aunt and uncle were telling stories of my mom and my grandparents making it feel as they were still alive there with us.

Without the old memories haunting me, I was able to enjoy my first holiday in years.  I would not have been able to do that in my old house.  Creating new fresh memories, without the stain of old hurts and events swirling around bringing me down.  Granted there will be bad times upcoming in my life because it is inevitable and I can’t move every time there is one but sometimes there comes a point that everything stops working and you are miserable.  You can’t even force it anymore or fake it.  It’s time for a change.  In my case, it was purging my life of truckloads of possessions I didn’t realize I was hoarding and moving into a home in the country with more room and no neighbors looking in my windows.

There is a moment when you have to unearth yourself from your deep furrow of your life’s routines and come back out to look around, see what else life has to offer.  I am so much happier living outside the city limits in a home that fits our needs better.  I could have gotten stuck on the financial benefits of staying where we were but eventually I had to face the truth, I wasn’t happy in my home anymore.  It wasn’t working, we needed more room, we were all miserable in it’s cramped spaces.  Giving away truckloads of material possession I had no possible use for was therapeutic and not living in clutter is freeing.

Now I am looking forward to Christmas, I am actually contemplating going and picking out a live tree today rather than waiting for them to go on clearance the day before Christmas Eve.  Even my husband was looking at me like I have grown a second head because he isn’t used to me being in the mood for the holidays.  Except this year I have decided I am going to celebrate my holidays exactly the way I want them, I am done with feeling obligated because it always just makes me miserable.  Cooking and cleaning for people who don’t appreciate it, help clean up or offer to take the burden next year.  Great, thanks for coming over, eating, packing up half the left overs, and now please go sit on the couch while I carry your dishes  to the dishwasher.  I got it, don’t you worry. I’ve only been cooking and cleaning for days.  No I am done with those days.  I am making a change, I am doing what makes me happy and not apologizing for it.

Now I’m going to see what else I can shake up in my life, maybe nothing as major as a move but it never hurts to come back into the light and open your eyes to the possibilities and the writing on the wall.