Marjorie Writes…

Everyday Musings of an Extraordinary Woman

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A Survivor’s Tale

Once again, it appears public opinion seems to be attacking women after they have been raped. This has inspired me to pull out a piece I published in the Daily Cougar at University of Houston in 1992. I wrote this a couple of years after being raped during my sophomore year of college. They’re not new words, but I think they’re still fresh and relevant and moving. 

 

We’ve all heard about rape from people who have never experienced it. Now let me tell you the rest of the story. I know from experience.

I was raped two years ago, yet it is only now that I am able to talk about it. And the feelings are at least as strong now as they were when it happened.

I don’t want to tell you about what happened to me on that night. That’s not important now. I want to tell you about the aftermath – how it’s affecting me now.

It’s commonly said that the rapist takes something from his victim. This is very true. Let me tell you about myself before I was raped, and show you how I’ve changed. I used to be very happy and carefree. I really trusted people, especially my friends. I was very self-confident and always smiling. The rapist changed all of that.

The essence of my personality is still the same, but now it carries extra weight. Little things can upset or scare me. I worry more. I’m afraid to really trust anyone – especially men. I’m never carefree, even when I’m happy.

He took away my dignity, my pride. I felt cheap and dirty and humiliated, degraded. Worst of all, since he had been a friend, I felt like it was my fault, and I didn’t think it was rape. You see, I thought nice girls weren’t raped, and that friends didn’t rape friends.

After the rape, I was afraid to say no. I felt cheap, as if because he hadn’t taken no for an answer, no one else would. I was afraid that if I said no to someone, they wouldn’t listen, and it would happen again. In that sense, I was raped over and over again, emotionally. So, I tried to keep myself out of those situations.

Aside from taking me away from myself, the rapist left me with something. He left me with negative feelings about myself. He left me feeling dirty. No matter how much I scrub myself or let the scalding water burn my skin, I don’t feel clean. The feelings are inside, where no cleanser can reach. It’s similar to the scene in Macbeth, when Lady Macbeth felt she couldn’t get the blood off her hands, and it nearly drove her crazy. Sometimes I feel that way.

Then there are the nights I wake up crying, saying no, trying to push an invisible, non-existent person away from me. One night I awoke from my own screams. I have never been that scared, even when I was being raped. I woke up one of my roommates and talked to her for awhile. When I thought I was okay, she went back to bed. But as soon as I was alone, I was afraid again. I turned on the lights and checked under the beds, in the closet, in the bathroom. I even checked under the papers and clothes on my floor. That’s how paranoid I was. Then I sat up and smoked and walked around for several hours. Finally I fell into an exhausted but fitful sleep – every little noise awakened and frightened me.

Also upsetting are the visual images. I can see him on top of me, ignoring my struggling and protests. These won’t leave me. I’ll be walking across campus in daylight, and there he’ll be, clearly. As many times as I blink to clear my head, the image won’t go away.

It got to the point where I had to talk out loud. “Go away. You can’t hurt me anymore. I won’t let you.” Or, “Leave me the hell alone. I won’t let you lead my life.”

Being a survivor of rape has affected my relationships with men. I’ve been afraid to get too close to anyone, afraid to commit. And I can freak out at things that remind me of the incident. Recently, a close male friend tickled me. He was half on top of me and I could not get up. As I struggled, the scene began to remind me of the rape. Instead of my friend on top of me, I saw the rapist. I started crying and hitting him and saying no. Unaware of my fright, he continued. When he finally stopped, I was crying and covering my face. When I finally told him what had happened, he was upset. And I was still crying.

All of these feelings are only internally based. The ones triggered by external actions can cause more anger. People react strangely to learning I was raped. Responses can cause as much anger as the rapist did.

One of the worst responses was to be “reassured” that “at least you weren’t a virgin.” That’s not a fair statement. That makes it seem like it was okay for the man to have sexual intercourse with me, even against my will, since I had been in a previous sexual relationship with someone else. That makes it sound as if it was no big deal, as long as I was not “deflowered.” That’s not true. That just makes it sound like it was my fault, like I had aske for it. I didn’t.

Another reaction, from a close male friend, was the incomprehension of the feelings that haunt me. He acted as if I had just experienced bad sex, like, “sure, it was against your will, but get on with your life.” How he can say that is beyond my understanding. I was raped. When people say that the land has been raped, don’t they mean that it has been used and abused and left destroyed? Well, it’s worse with people!  We have feelings. The rapist took something from me, something nobody has a right to take. He took my security. He took my personality. He took my pride and my dignity. And in their places, he left humiliation, degradation, fear, pain and terror. NO ONE has the right to do that to another person.

I am not ashamed of what happened. I am not embarrassed. But I still can’t tell my family. I don’t know if I will ever be able to. How can I tell them something like that? How can I do that to them? Especially since I was raped by someone I had invited over, someone I thought was a friend. How can I explain that? And their not knowing about something so traumatic makes it hard. This summer I went to visit my family on the East Coast. The Kennedy rape investigation was in the news, and my grandmother and I began discussing it. Don’t get me wrong, I love my grandmother dearly and I am close to her. But I couldn’t tell her. I wanted to, but that’s not something you can just say. Anyhow, she said that a woman who went home with a man at 3 a.m. was asking for it. She was leading him on. I was so upset by the whole conversation, it felt like she was telling me that I hadn’t been raped, that it had been my fault. Yet she didn’t even know. Driving home that evening, I shook and cried, feeling shameful and guilty and dirty all over again.

Right now I’m very angry. He had no right to do this to me. I’m reduced to a frightened, crying child whenever something brings back the vivid pictures. This from a woman who was once self-assured, trusting.

There is no way you can understand how I feel unless you have been through it. But rape is much more common than you think. The guy who raped me, who did this to me, probably would never think it was rape.

I am left with these feelings, this terror, this anger. And I am told that I led him on. Or that I should get on with my life. Or that at least I wasn’t hurt. Well, I have scars. Deep scars. But no one can see them because they’re on the inside. Maybe if I had a big, ugly scar on my face, people would understand that the rape was not about sex – he didn’t just get carried away. Rape is about power. He took away my power to be happy, and I’m fighting to get it back. I hurt inside. I see him in my mind all of the time.

But I’m a survivor. I’ll never forget the pain, the feelings. But I won’t let him ruin my life forever. I’ll never get my old personality back, but maybe part of it will return, or at least the bad feelings will stop.

I hope so.

A Letter to Mom

Written May 7, 2009

 

I’m sitting here, Mom, reflecting over the past 20 years. I can’t believe you’ve been gone for so long. When I think back to who I was back then, and who I am now, it seems like it has to have been a lifetime ago, not just a generation ago. 

While you were still here, I was still confident, sure of myself and my beliefs, just starting out in life but feeling like I knew it all. Yet you had faith in me – you knew I’d find my way. At the time, I didn’t know any better than to not question that. How many times over the years I have wanted to sit down and talk to you; to tell you about my life, to ask you for advice, to have you hold me and stroke my hair and tell me that everything would be allright. 

Once you were gone, I learned of your greatest regrets – that you wouldn’t live to see me (and Jay) graduate from college, to watch me walk down the aisle, to hold your grandkids. Mom, Joy is you reincarnated. I give Nana so much more credit than I used to (not that I ever didn’t) – from the stories I’ve heard of you, and from knowing my daughter, you had to have been quite a handful as a child! What perspective 20 years brings. You were only 47, young by anyone’s standards. And 20 years later, well, ok, just shy of 20 years later, Dad has joined you. And although everyone says he was so young at 66 to be dying, we know that he was the lucky one, the one who lived a full life. You gave him the perspective to go in peace. He said frequently in his last years that he had lived a full life, had done everything he wanted to do. He watched us graduate from college, he watched me walk down the aisle, he held his grandkids, he had the two best wives anyone could have wanted. You gave him that – and he did that for you – he was able to enjoy what you weren’t granted enough time to do yourself. 

When I look at all of the changes I underwent over the past 20 years, I sometimes think that you wouldn’t recognize me, the person I have become, the person I am today. But I know you would – you’re my mother and you’ll always be inside of me and around me, watching me, guiding me, loving me. As proud as you were of me 20 years ago, as confident of the way you’d raised me and happy at the young woman I was becoming, you would be (and I like to believe are) even more proud of the woman I am today. 

When I find myself struggling with the eternal perplexities of raising good kids (not to mention their high spirits and stubbornness – gee, I wonder which one of you (BOTH!) passed on that gene) I remember hearing from Aunt Amy after you were gone that at one point during your brief but oh-so-long illness, that she asked you to whom she would turn for questions on raising her children. Apparently, you’d done such a good job that she asked you for advice. And you told her to ask Margie. What faith you placed in me even then. (Somedays I wish I had that confidence in my own mothering skills – although I know that I am a good mother – how could I not be with you as my guide?) 

When I was getting divorced and wondered where I would find the confidence I would need to stand up for myself and my children as a single mother, you were there. You made sure to give it back to me, in spades.

I miss you so much, Mom. I can’t believe it’s been 20 years next week. Somehow, it feels like only yesterday, yet at the same time, another lifetime ago. I remember so much about my childhood, so many things you did for and with us. The strength and values you instilled in us. I remember how smart and talented and creative you were, how confident and loyal. I also remember so much about those 4 1/2 months that are somehow frozen in time. Coming home from Virginia Beach over winter break to be told you had a tumor on your lung. I can almost feel myself sitting in the car, in the dark of night, with Dad driving and telling me and trying to give me hope. I remember going with you to the hospital for the needle biopsy. I remember that fateful Friday the 13th afternoon when the doctor called with the results, you on one phone and Dad on the other. I remember holding you and consoling you when you were scared because you’d been diagnosed with cancer. That was the only time I ever saw you cry. I remember telling you it was just a word. Cancer. You were stronger than it was. You could beat it. But it’s a scary word, you said. I know, I replied, but you can do it. 

I remember packing to go back to school, just 2 short days later, despite my uncertainty. Against my better judgement. Would it have made a difference? Would I somehow have been able to help you more or provide you comfort or ease your pain? But you wanted me to go back to school, even though you didn’t want to see me go. You didn’t want me to give up, or even postpone, my education. So I went. I left with the promise that you would call me home if it got to that point…….little could I have known then that if the semester hadn’t ended when it did, you would have done just that. 

I remember coming home over Spring Break – how could I have not known at that point? How could you have gotten thinner than you were then? I remember sitting at our kitchen table, talking about when you got better and could come visit me at school, Dad sitting there saying I would come home to visit, you saying, no, you’ll come visit me. You had to have known, were trying to help me stay positive and keep our future in sight. 

I remember coming home the day before Mother’s Day, after the semester ended, and Dad taking me out for lunch – how did so many of these fateful conversations occur in diners over food? I remember Dad telling me you were in the hospital, getting over pneumonia. I know that, I said. He said, she looks bad, Margie. She’s gotten very thin. I said, I know, Dad, she was tiny when I was here in March. But I didn’t know. 

The next day, Mother’s Day, we went to visit you in the hospital. How I hope I put on a good front for you when I saw you, how I hope you didn’t see my despair. I remember excusing myself sometime later to go find a bathroom, and going in there and crying and crying and crying and feeling like my world was falling apart and not knowing how it had come to this. And I remember splashing water on my face and smiling back into your room to put on a good front for you. Knowing now how my eyes get so puffy and red after just a few tears, it had to have been obvious. But you didn’t say anything. 

I remember riding home in the ambulance with you, in what had to have been the longest ride of my life. How excruciating that ride was – for both of us. For you, every time the ambulance turned, slowed, went over a bump or anything, you cried out in pain. For me, watching you, feeling so helpless even though I was in there to help you and to be there with you. 

I remember hospice finally coming out, we finally let go of hope, didn’t we, Mom? We couldn’t avoid the truth any longer, and that was good, because you couldn’t hold on any longer. The nurse came out in the late afternoon and examined you and then told us in the living room that you wouldn’t make it through the night. No, I cried out, she’s not going to die tonight. The nurse told me that I had to accept that she wasn’t going to make it. I know, I said, but not tonight. 

That evening, I wanted to go buy more lollipops for Jay for his student government campaign. It was raining out. We were all gathered in “your” room, our dining room. Remniscent, huh, of Dad in my house at the end? And you wouldn’t let me go. With what little strength you had, you were adamant. And I just wanted to get out of the house for a little while. It was so hard to watch you like that. That night you couldn’t talk anymore. Jay and I were telling you we loved you…it was all you could do to get out “I love you” back. One time. We told you it was ok, even though it wasn’t. It still isn’t. But at the same time it is, because what can you do? I told you you had to try to get along with Grandma Sadie this time. But honestly, if I’d known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have bothered. 

Uncle Ricky slept on the couch that night. I stayed up until midnight to give you your morphine. You couldn’t even drink all of it, you didn’t want it all. In hindsight, you were on your way out and didn’t need as much since you weren’t feeling as much pain anymore, being half in both worlds. I went upstairs to my room, my window opened a crack, with a towel on the ledge to catch the little bit of rain blowing in. I cried myself to sleep, cried harder than I think I’ve ever cried, hurt more than I ever thought was possible, desperately not wanting this to happen and knowing there was nothing I could do. Finally, drained from crying my heart out, I fell asleep. I awoke at 2 to an eery stillness. And a strong sense of peace. I knew you were gone, no longer in pain. I tiptoed downstairs, around the room in which Uncle Ricky had fallen asleep with the tv on, and crept to your bedside. You’d pulled the oxygen tube out of your nose and the mask off your face. Your eyes were open, staring ahead, and you were at peace. I kissed you, told you I loved you one last time, and went back to bed knowing you were now safe. 

Fast forward 19 1/2 years, to when Dad’s lung cancer (can’t seem to get away from that awful disease) started to take him. Just the hospice part of his illness was longer than the 4 1/2 months you had from the day you were diagnosed to the day you died. In his last 5 months in hospice, I took care of him, day by day. You know that was in part for you, since I’ve always felt that I wished I could have done more for you. What I hadn’t been able to do for you, I did for Dad, for both of you, and I think he wouldn’t have made it as long as he did without my love and care. (During the whole 3 long years of his illness, not just the last 5 months). 

So in 20 years, we’ve come full circle. You and Dad have been reunited. I know that someday, hopefully many, many years from now, I’ll see you both again. And in the meantime, I’ll dry my tears, hug my kids and hold my head up high, following my path. I’m thankful that I had you for my first 18 years, but also wish that I could still have you here, physically. But I know that wherever my life takes me, you’ll be right here with me. 

I love you, Mom. And I miss you more than words could ever express. I can see your deep brown eyes and your almost-smirking smile. As I re-read those words, I realize again just how much like you Joy is. Thank you.

I Miss You Poppo

This was written March 16, 2009, a little over a month after my father passed away…

 

It’s been just over a month. I was just sitting in my living room, looking at the hardware on the walls near the dining room, where the curtains hung for not even one week. His empty recliner faces the dining room just below them. How is it that I was picturing him lying prone in his hospital bed when he was only in it for a little over a day. The recliner was his bed, his throne, for the last part of his illness, when the pain was too great to get in bed.

Every morning, as I walked down the hallway to his condo, I said a little prayer as I got to the door. G-d, please let him be ok. And every morning as I let myself in, he looked up at me and his face lit up. Once I got in, after he asked how I was, it was often one demand after another. But those first looks were something I’ll remember forever. It was like a child who’s face lights up when he sees his mother; in many ways, that is an appropriate comparison, for by that point, we had come full circle and I was then more his mother than his daughter.

Who could have thought that we would have been given such a gift just by the deterioration of his health. For the better part of that last period of his life, I like to believe the pain was mostly controlled. As the nurse told me, when I lectured him about taking pain meds as he needed them, it was his choice. I couldn’t make him knock the pain out completely. He wanted to stay coherent. So in those long days, that stretched out seemingly endlessly at the time, we talked. A great deal. We had the best conversations I could have ever hoped to have had with him. And we never would have had them if it weren’t for his inability to keep plodding on with his daily life.

He constantly worried that he was a burden on me. How could he have been? While my father had his faults,I never doubted his love or that he would always be there for me. His frustration when I wouldn’t take the roads he believed I should stemmed from his trying to shield me from anything that wasn’t what he wanted for me – which was only the best.

While I had days where I felt overwhelmed by what I was doing, I never lost sight of the alternative – that if I didn’t have it to do, it would mean he was no longer here. There were times, such as when his hospice nurse would say he could have months more because he was doing so well, when I questioned how I could continue this pace one more day, let alone three more months. Yet that was always followed by the feeling of how could I not? It was always better than the alternative, of not having him physically here anymore.

There were so many days when I felt like the energizer bunny, keeping a cheerful face at his house as I fluttered around taking care of him and performing the multitude of tasks there, then going to the business, out for supplies, back to his house, back to work, to the bank, back to him, and then trying to find the energy to give my kids what they needed from me. However, there were also many days when I didn’t have the energy to do my frenetic dance and would lie down on his comfortable couch and fall asleep. Invariably I would awaken feeling bad that I hadn’t been awake for him to talk to, to ease the lonliness he must have felt at being alone so much of the day and night. Yet, he would just look at me and tell me he loved it when I slept there because he liked that I was there.

On his last afternoon, in a brief period of semi-consciousness, he held my hand and repeatedly told me he loved me, kissing me over and over. I like to believe that part of that came from my mother, as she was unable to say it more than once while she lay dying. 

I take great comfort in the fact that I was able to give so much back to my father. He was such an amazing man, always giving, always making people smile. I’ve always felt bad that I wasn’t near for my mother’s illness – I was away at school. I always wished I could have done more to show her how much I loved her in those brief months of her illness. In caring for my father, I was caring for both of them. And I believe I was able to truly give back to them what they have given to me.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

My Christmas wish this year is two-fold. Well, maybe three-fold. First, I hope that all of those families whose lives were upended by Hurricane Sandy find peace and sanity in the coming months. There are still so many people without so many basic necessities, it’s horrible.

Second, and this one is my first wish for me and my most fervent wish, selfishly, I wish for a full-time job with a real paycheck and real benefits. Freelancing has been a good experience, but I need more stability.

Third, and this is just fantasy, I wish that Santa would drop off a couple of his elves while he’s on his travels and they could spin their Christmas magic and get my re-organization/cleaning project completed.

It has been a very busy but very fulfilling couple of months since Hurricane Sandy.

I spent the first three weeks or so helping daily at the community recovery center, helping people replace items they had lost in the storm – giving them clean clothes, cleaning supplies to start their arduous clean-ups, toiletries, you name it. I was moved to tears daily by the stories of these survivors – my neighbors on my small island. 

I pushed for and helped organize a Thanksgiving dinner for our community, feeling strongly that at a time when so many had just lost so much, we needed to come together and celebrate as a community, as a family. We had so much support it was incredible, and there were over 200 people there, and probably over 50 volunteers – we had people who just showed up that day and wanted to help, as well as more restaurants and individuals showing up the day of the dinner with donations of food and drinks. It was truly one of the best Thanksgivings I’ve ever had.

Then I had the opportunity to help an organization distribute items that were still needed by members of our island, although on a smaller level. Through Blankets for Brigantine and Beyond, I was able to help make Christmas better for various families in the area, in some cases providing gifts that they wouldn’t otherwise have had for their kids. Although I’m now pretty wiped out, I’m definitely so grateful and thankful and completely fulfilled by the experience. I still have more items to sort and distribute, but the toys were the most pressing due to time.

I continually feel so blessed for all I have – for the fact that my home was spared by the floods, for my two wonderful, amazing kids, and for the fantastic friends I am blessed to have in my life.

Santa has come to my house for the first time in my kids’ lives (we celebrate Chanukah, but I decided this year they deserved some Christmas magic). My daughter played into it this year, by deciding to sprinkle the reindeer food on the front lawn (oats mixed with glitter) and leaving cookies and milk for Santa. I asked her if she believed in Santa (I’ve always told them that he just doesn’t come here because we don’t celebrate) and she said she didn’t know – she would see. My son said there was no Santa and asked me to tell him the truth. I said simply that I believed – that Christmas magic was special.

So I need to go to sleep so when they wake up and see the 2 unwrapped gifts with the note from Santa, and they wake me up way too early, discovering the gifts and the note and the cookies eaten and the milk half empty, I can act surprised and not believe them until they show me the evidence.

So on that note, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Live, love, laugh…it’s what makes it worthwhile!

Thankful

As I sit here in a mostly dark room, listening to the peaceful breathing of my son sleeping next to me, I’m so thankful. I’m thankful for so many things, even as I sit here in a crappy but dry and warm motel room. I am so glad I listened to the authorities and fled the direct path of Hurricane Sandy, that I didn’t have to watch the water rise outside my house and sit in fear with my children that our house would flood while we were in it.
As I sit here in the dark, I don’t know what I will find when they finally clean up enough to let us return to our homes. So many of my friends and neighbors stayed behind, and the images that they have captured are terrifying and devastating and unbelievable. I know the quiet, little, friendly island I left on Sunday afternoon is no longer the same place. When I hear of pieces of houses in the streets, saw the pictures of the water up to my porch, and my house is raised since it’s near the bay, my eyes fill with tears, as they are now. My heart aches for what we have lost. I know without any uncertainty that my little, sweet town will come together, stronger than they ever do (and it’s an amazing community to begin with) and rebuild. I know that if my house was damaged, I will rebuild. And we will all be stronger than ever. Even though we’re torn apart.
I spent most of my life living in the Gulf Coast. Hurricane warnings and watches were part of my childhood. I remember sitting in the kitchen during Hurricane Alicia in 1983, eating soup heated by a sterno can, watching shingles blow off my neighbor’s roof, one by one; all of us sleeping on mattresses dragged into the family room since there were no outside windows in that room. Then watching the devastation of downtown Houston on tv once our power was restored. But I never felt scared. I knew my parents would keep me safe. I’m hoping my children felt the same way as they watched the storm on tv, and on pictures on my laptop, and listened to the wind howling outside.
I remember Tropical Storm Allison in 2001, watching on tv as my city flooded and 18-wheelers were under water. The 36″ of rain we received in under 2 days was devastating. But I was thankfully high and dry.
I never would have thought, moving from the Gulf Coast to the East Coast, that I would be forced to evacuate for a hurricane/nor’easter hybrid storm, at the end of October, and not be able to return to my house until days later because there was such widespread devastation.
I sit here not knowing whether my house was flooded, my belongings ruined, my memories waterlogged, or if I will only have to worry about the contents of my garage being damaged and having to worry about having the under part of my house checked out to make sure there is no damage to the stability of the house since my crawl-space was filled with water. When I first saw the picture of my street, with probably at least 4 feet of water flowing down it, surrounding our homes, invading our garages and crawl-spaces and yards, I burst into tears. I have been through more than my share of tragedy and pain and loss in my life. But thankfully never of this nature. I am an amazingly strong and resilient woman. Yet I wondered at that moment whether I had the strength to get through this, to keep life normal for my kids as our home was destroyed.
Of course, that moment passed and my strength came back and my tears turned to bad jokes, the kind I usually make to keep from crying. Like how my vote is now up for sale to whomever offers me more (FEMA) money for my house. Or how I wanted to renovate and now could do it courtesy of Sandy, the insurance company, and FEMA. Or even how my island is such a cool place it has sharks swimming around on the island and how so many of our homes now have indoor pools.
After just viewing more pictures posted on Facebook by my local police department, I was just in tears again. It doesn’t take much these days. We have streets that have been destroyed, homes torn apart, sand and water and debris everywhere. Yet as I said, Brigantine is an amazing community. That’s one thing I’ve always loved about it. People will come together and help each other out, and we will rebuild. We will hold each other up and pick up the pieces and put them back together.
I’ve often seen pictures of those in ravaged areas. I always felt bad for them, couldn’t even begin to imagine going through that. Now I’m sitting here, grasping for every bit of information from my home, waiting impatiently for the danger to be cleared and the authorities to declare it safe for us to return, to begin to assess our damages and rebuild our homes and take our lives off hold and start living them again. For that is how it feels. It feels, sitting in this motel room not 20 minutes from my home, that my life is on hold and will begin again once I can go home.
In the meantime, I’ve been given the rare gift of a few days off from my regular life,

A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That…

This week has been incredibly unproductive so far. After an unproductive long weekend (kids were off school on Monday for Columbus Day), I thought I was ready for a very productive week. Yesterday was gray and rainy – the perfect day for a nap. But no, I didn’t give in, even though my bed seemed to be calling my name all day, beckoning me into its comfort. I stayed strong, but my focus seemed to be blurred with the dreariness of the day.

Today, I had to get up super-early to get my daughter up to finish her homework (she went to sleep early last night because she didn’t feel well) and then rush her to school early for choir, then get my son up and off to school, then jump in the shower and rush out the door to the social security office, where I had a 10am appointment. I figured since I had an appointment I shouldn’t be there for more than an hour, and would have the whole day to get a lot done. WRONG. I was finally taken at 11 (after I’d all but killed the full-charge on my cell phone). By then, I was falling asleep. Another hour later, I was finally leaving to start my day, at noon. After a “quick” trip to Sam’s Club (yea, quick?) I got home with less than 40 minutes to spare before having to pick up my daughter from school.

Oh, and when I went to leave to pick her up, I looked out back to see a plank from my pvc fence on the ground, and my doggies no where in sight! So I got her, finally found the dogs, got them home, my son got home, got them settled into homework, and I was done. Just wiped out for no reason, probably aside from the fact that I don’t sleep nearly enough and was feeling really crappy on top of being tired. So I decided we were skipping football and I gave in to the desire for a nap from the other day. An hour or so later, I woke up to find my son lying next to me (and the two dogs as well), reading one of his new books from the Scholastic sale from school (I mention that because I remember those order forms from when I was a kid and I used to love them and just thinking about it makes me happy with the memories that flood in).

Now, I’ve been trying to enforce his 1 hour of reading time, spread out throughout the week, for school. And it’s always a struggle. And it truly pains me that my kids aren’t book fiends. I have always loved reading. I remember getting my first library card, and how much I thought it a treat to go to the library. And I’ve done everything in my power to instill my love of books in my kids. When they were little, they loved being read to – we would easily read 10 books a night. They would have let me read 100 books a night if I’d been willing! And tonight, my son read for probably about 3 hours total. Made me a very happy mommy. And made me realize he’s more apt to read if it’s something non-fiction he thinks is cool (one of the books tonight was about tornadoes and hurricanes – the other two about dangerous and disgusting things, literally).

But wait, I was writing about productivity. See how easily distracted I am tonight? Sadly, that’s been my week. Not good and not me. I’m the one who’s usually on top of everything. This week it’s all around me. Mind you, I’m getting done what I need to get done for my clients, but I haven’t been on top of everything I need to get done for me.  I’ve been bidding on the jobs I see that I want, with some response, not a lot. But the site I told you about that my friend is building is amazing! I’m a beta tester of the site, and will let everyone know as soon as it goes live because it’s such a time-saver – seriously – I had been spending 5/6 hours a day looking for jobs to bid on, and now it’s just completely streamlined.

So this week my productivity is pretty lame, which is pretty much the result of my focus being low. However, I’m hoping to have a fairly productive day tomorrow (haircut and errands in the morning will prevent full working productive day) and a very productive day on Friday. I need to get this moving!

Sorry for the ramble – I think this is my cue to shut down the laptop and go to sleep before I have to get up again and start it all over. But at least I had a really nice, quiet afternoon and night with my wonderful kids, who actually listened, did their homework and went to bed well and without arguments at the time I told them to go to bed! That was a wonderful surprise since they’ve been fighting so much lately that I’m almost just waiting for one of them to get seriously injured. And not one punch thrown or flying foot kicking the other one in the stomach or neck. I guess it’s been a good day after all.

 

Happy Birthday Mom

I haven’t written here in a while – I’ve been keeping busy with RottenMonkey.com and other small jobs. It’s a start, but at least it’s keeping me busy. Well, that and looking for other freelance jobs. But at least it’s finally starting to pick up.

Now, it’s into the school year and we’re all keeping busy with school, activities, sports, HOMEWORK, etc. So most nights I just collapse into my pillow and wish there was more time before the alarm buzzes in the morning.

Tonight, I’m reflecting on several things, most importantly the date. It’s October 8. Seventy-one years ago, my amazing mother was born. Although I was only blessed to have her physically until 23 years ago, it’s still a day to celebrate her life. You see, one October 8 years ago, I was sitting at work, tears in my eyes, missing her terribly, when it hit me that she wouldn’t want me to cry for her every year. That year I decided to honor her life and celebrate her legacy each year on her birthday. So October 8 I celebrate her and April 27 I celebrate my dad. And I never stop missing them or wishing they were still here on this earth with me.

One of the many legacies left to me by both of my parents was that of friendship. Both of my parents were blessed with life-long friends. As I was growing up, I just took it for granted that people had this – friends they’d had since childhood, well into their adulthood. Indeed, throughout their lives. I’ve since learned not everyone is that lucky. However, it’s such a blessing that not only were my parents the kind of people to stay true to their good friends forever, but they were also the kind to inspire such loyalty within their friends that they would stay loyal to my parents well after they were gone.

You see, I am lucky enough count as family (not blood-related, mind you, but family nonetheless) people from different times in my parents’ lives, from their youth through their young-adulthood, and even later in their lives.  Some of these people are present in my lives on a regular basis, and many of them are here now and again, annually or whenever I see or speak with them. But they all honor their friendship with my parents in their own ways, and all are blessings to me.

One of the things I’ve realized lately is that not only has that legacy of lasting friendship been passed down to me through those in my life due to the friendship and love of my parents, but also just the legacy of loving your friends and treating them like family and keeping those friendships for life.

Like most people, I suppose, I have friends of different sorts. Some are people I see on a regular basis, in my daily life. And the more acquaintance-type friends. And then there are those I’m closest to, whom I may not see as frequently, even may not see for many years, but they are always there for me, as I am for them. I am a very loyal person to those who’ve managed to earn my trust (something not given very easily). And thankfully, those friends are just as loyal to me. I have a number of friends like that, but right now I have 2 in particular with whom I interact (virtually or by phone) on a daily basis. They have kept me sane, kept me smiling and laughing, kept me remembering my blessings during some tough times.

While everything in my life may not be perfect right now, I am truly blessed. I have two amazing, wonderful children (remind me of that next time they start fighting or won’t go to bed, please) without whom i couldn’t imagine my life. I am lucky enough to own my own home (although really I’m just renting from the bank until I eventually pay off my mortgage), which is a blessing despite the fact that it could use some serious tlc at this point. And I am seriously blessed with wonderful people in my life who keep pushing me to keep going when things get tough or seem bleak.

I believe in treating people the way I want to be treated, and I believe this was learned from my parents. And this has filled my karma bank to the brim, resulting in my life being full of the love of beautiful children and wonderful friends. And I’m so thankful to be so lucky.

So Mom, on what would have been your 71st birthday, thank you, for everything you did for me during your too-brief lifetime, and for those wonderful gifts and friends that have continued on in my life thanks to you. I love you, Mom. And I’ll always miss you.

RottenMonkey.com

I just posted my first article for a new site – Rotten Monkey (.com). I’m so excited to be writing again for someone other than myself (and whomever is reading me on here)! Ironically, I was struck with extreme writers’ block after doing my research for my first piece. More ironic since I think when I was in college the idea of writing opinionated pieces on political issues was probably my dream job. Of course, that was before a 20 year plus hiatus from even tuning in to political issues. However, check out the new site: http://www.rottenmonkey.com. And look for my piece. And tell your friends!

Anyhow, I don’t think my piece is up yet (it was approved by my editor earlier, but I just posted it, which means it has to be reviewed by the editor before going live on the site.

Mom’s Football Heartache

Have you ever tried to put a football uniform on a lump of an 8-year-old boy? A crying lump of an 8-year-old boy? It’s not very fun, nor is it very easy.

After telling me he’d hurt his ankle on Sunday and couldn’t go to his football game, my son came home from school on Tuesday (the next practice) with a bad headache. That time, I believed him. I mean, this kid would never willingly lie down in bed in the afternoon and take a nap if he wasn’t really feeling bad – not even to try to fool his mother. So since school started, he sometime decided he didn’t like football as much as he had loved it the first couple of weeks.

Last night, before bed, I sat him down for a long talk. I told him that football was a team sport, that his whole team was counting on him and he couldn’t let them down. And since he’d now missed 2 practices, I reminded him that it was also dangerous, and he needed to go to practice so he’d know what he was doing so hopefully he wouldn’t get hurt during the games. And that this weekend his huge team would be broken into taxi and pee wee teams so his team would have fewer players and he’d get a lot more playing time in the game (with 26 players, he was spending a lot of time on the sidelines during the games, except, of course, for the game Sunday which he missed which was also a smaller group of kids so he would have had a lot of play time, not to mention they won 26-0).

So I told him he had to think about it and decide if he wanted to play or not. If he decided he wanted to play, he had to go to his games and practices, always. He had to either be all in or out. No middle ground. I even asked him if he’d gotten hurt, if he was scared, if someone was being mean to him, you know, all of the normal “mom” questions. He said nothing like that was going on. And that he did want to play.  Then I told him that he had to go to sleep, no games tonight, no coming in and out of my room or whispering to his sister or any other nonsense because I had a call to a client I had to make and could not have interruptions.

I left his room and called my client. After finally getting in touch with her, we ended up rescheduling the call. So I made another, personal call that I needed to make. And stayed on the phone for a long time.

This morning, after I woke him up, he came into my room and told me he had been up really late because he was going to talk to me after I got off the phone but I was on the phone too late. (WOW – he actually listened to me and followed my instructions!) He told me he wanted to talk to me because he didn’t like football and didn’t want to play – he said it was boring. I told him he had to gear up this afternoon and go to practice and tell the coach that he wanted to quit the team, that I would support him but he had to tell him.

Now, my son has no problem telling me anything I don’t want to hear (not that I didn’t want to hear that) but he doesn’t like telling other people anything that may not be copacetic. And since this kid LOVES sports – he usually gets mad at me if we’re literally 1 minute late to a practice or game, and for the first two weeks of football practice (before school started, when it was FIVE days a week) he was geared up and ready to go at 2, for a 5pm practice, I accepted that it wasn’t his sport and was willing to let him quit. Mind you, this was the day after I ordered his new jersey with his name on it.

So this afternoon, he didn’t want to gear up, didn’t want to go to practice. I held firm, but in the end didn’t make him gear up, just got all of his gear together to take with us to turn in. He purposefully left the house without shoes – told me he had no intention of talking to the coach, I had to do that. At that point, with his mood, I wasn’t going to argue, although I really didn’t want to be the one to do it, since that particular coach kind of intimidates me. Anyhow, we went to the field and I left the kids in the car and went and told the coach that I’d had a long talk with my son and he didn’t want to play anymore. The coach asked if he was in the car; I said he was. We walked over to the car and the coach opened my son’s door and told him that it was a team sport, his team was depending on him, that he wasn’t going to let him quit. He said he’d made a commitment when he’d joined the team, and he had to fulfill his commitment – that at the end of the season if he still didn’t want to play, he didn’t have to play again next year, but he couldn’t quit this season. And he told him that one of the other players had gone up to JV (the next age bracket) and he needed him on the team because he was a really good player. So then the coach told him to gear up and come practice. I told the coach we had to go home to get his cleats but we’d be back.

We got home and my son didn’t say a word. He came in the house, I made him put on his cup and he sat on the couch and cried as he did. I felt so bad for him. I then had to dress him, which is much easier with a squirming baby than trying to put tight, football pants with lots of pads over short, tight shorts with pads and pull them up. His foot got stuck in the lining of the pants at one point, yet he still made no effort to help me. He was still sitting there, defeated, crying. Did I mention that hurt my heart? Anyhow, I got him ready and he came out to the car and we went to practice, now late. He walked as slow as I’ve ever seen him walk across the field, in no hurry to reach his team. And he practiced. After practice, he seemed to be in a better mood, but still very quiet and not happy.

I agree with the coach. My personal ethic is that if you sign up to do something, you do it, to the best of your ability. You don’t quit and let people down. Your word is the most valuable thing you have – if you do something to render it worthless, it is impossible to fully get your credibility back. And yes, he needs to learn that ethic.

That said, my son is also not a quitter and normally gives every sport his all – he is a pure Type A personality. He wants to excel at everything he does. He’s played soccer, hockey, baseball and taken karate. He’s given each sport his all and tries his hardest – and usually does excel at them – he’s just naturally athletic (he certainly doesn’t get that from his mother!) Anyhow, he’d also never wanted to play football before. The coach’s wife asked in the summer if he wanted to play, he said he didn’t. Later in the summer she messaged me saying her husband wanted him on the team, so I told her I’d ask him if he wanted to play, but I’d asked him a few times and he’d had no interest. That time he said yes. When signing him up, I asked him a few times if he was sure he wanted to play, instead of playing soccer. He said he did. Then he asked if he could just try it. I said yes. So the first week I kept asking if he liked it and he really did.

I definitely have mixed feelings on tonight. I feel very bad for my son, but it’s a good lesson to learn, an important lesson. And if he’d wanted to quit the first week or two, I would have made sure he was off the team. But he’s into the season now. I just hope he has a lot of play time on Sunday in his game, and he sees how much he likes it, or it will be a long season. Some days are harder than others to be a mom.

Live, love, laugh…it’s what makes it worthwhile!

Perceptions: A Love Story

I heard an interesting tidbit from my past last night, which I had never known. It’s actually very sweet and romantic, mostly sweet.  Apparently I was part of a love triangle 25 years ago, but never knew it (until last night). I was talking to an old friend and we were reminiscing. I said something (I honestly don’t even remember how exactly this came up) and he disagreed with me. I started to insist, argue my point, tell him what had transpired. He tried to correct me but was also evading my questions. However, some people are better than others at evasion, and he is just like I am – he ends up telling the truth because he can’t help himself (I really hate when I do that. In this case, I loved it!)

So my friend I was talking to last night, whom I’ll call Fred, was a friend of mine in my senior year of high school. He was in the army when I met him, but only 6 months older than I was – he had gone to college at about 15 and then joined the army. He’s incredibly smart, but I think at the time wasn’t sure what to do with himself, or something like that (I’m still unclear on this part). Anyhow, when I first met him, we went out for a couple of weeks and I broke it off, because he was more a friend to me than anything else. We remained good friends, obviously, and I would hang out with him and his army buddies and they would hang out with me and my drama group (rather, Thespian friends) and it was always fun. So I developed a crush on one of Fred’s friends, whom I’ll call Roger. Somehow, I convinced Fred to set me up with Roger and go on a double date with us, and he took out one of my drama friends. We ended up at this park/lake where we were hanging out and paired up, walking around in the moonlight (very romantic). For years, I’ve remembered my first kiss with Roger, under the moonlight on a beautiful night by the lake. We were walking and talking and laughing and we stopped and were looking at each other. We both leaned in close, my heart was pounding, ready for him to kiss me. Just as his lips got close enough to almost touch mine, he pulled back. “Psyche!” he cried out. I can’t even fully explain my reaction – I pulled back, shocked, surprised and embarrassed. I must have looked upset. He put his arms around me and leaned in and kissed me. Of course, given how it started, I think I will probably remember that first kiss better than any other in my life. It was at once sweet and deep and took my breath away. Oh, and this is another change from my memory, or actually an explanation. Apparently, when Roger got close to kiss me, Fred gave him a look saying no, and he stopped short. Of course, obviously, he couldn’t resist me and kissed me anyhow.

So Roger and I started dating, and soon fell in love. He was my first love. It was a love so deep that I harbored it for many years, until I fell in love with my second husband, and realized I was no longer in love with Roger (and no, he wasn’t my first husband, whom I did also love, but not in the same way). Anyhow, in the spring of that year, I asked Roger to go to my prom with me. He hemmed and hawed, wouldn’t say yes, told me he didn’t like proms, that he was 20 years old and hadn’t even been to his own prom, etc. He kept putting me off. I argued with him that I really wanted to go to my prom, that he was my boyfriend, that I didn’t want to go with anyone else. Finally, he acquiesced and we ended up going to prom and had a wonderful night together. The next week, Roger broke up with me, telling me he was getting orders to be sent overseas and didn’t want to hold me back. He knew I was going away to college and wanted me to go without anything holding me back. He broke my heart.

Anyhow,  last night I was talking to Fred and somehow this came up and he told me that Roger had really wanted to go to my prom with me. No he didn’t, I told him, and gave him all of the excuses Roger had used 25 years ago. He tried to get out of my tenacious questioning but eventually told me that he and Roger had argued repeatedly because Roger wanted to take me to my prom, he loved me, but Fred had wanted to take me to my prom and told Roger he couldn’t (despite the fact that I had asked Roger). So finally, they decided to fight it out, a duel of sorts for the honor of escorting me to prom. Mind you, as Fred was telling me this last night, I was completely flabbergasted. I kept pressing him for details. So he told me that I had been there the night they had the fight. Immediately, I asked if it was the night he tried to fly out of the tree, and laughing, he said it was. That night, we had all gone out (there were 4 of us that usually hung out together, the 3 of us and another guy in their platoon). Fred was beyond drunk that night, and was hilarious – which is why I remember the night so clearly, 25 years later. Fred climbed a tree, and about 500 birds flew out of it. Then he decided to fly out of the tree, which of course, didn’t end so well for him, since he ended up on the ground. He was fine, just got up and walked it off. There were also several other things he did that night that were even funnier, including blowing up a condom while in the backseat of a small sedan; it actually blew up almost as big as the backseat of the car before it popped.

Well, apparently, after the guys took me home, they went back to base and Fred and Roger “dueled” for my hand. Now, Fred was a tall, lanky guy, and Roger had about 50 pounds of muscle on him. Fred told me last night he’d gotten so drunk that night hoping it would make the punches not hurt as much – he knew going into it that Roger would take him, but was determined to fight for my hand. The next day, Roger told me he’d decided to go to prom with me. I assumed (for 25 years) that he just changed his mind, not that he’d “won” the right to be my date. Of course, I found out last night that he just finally agreed, as he’d wanted to all along. Oh, and Fred told me he had gone with Roger to order my corsage, and to rent his tuxedo, etc, because they both wanted to make sure I had a perfect evening. So sweet!

All day today, I’ve been thinking of this huge difference from what I’ve believed for so many years. And all day today I’ve been smiling. I actually had 2 amazing guys fighting over me, and I had no idea. I probably never would have if it hadn’t been for some random conversation I had with an old friend last night, who got backed into telling me the parts I didn’t know. Wow. Now, I have a lot of confidence, I know exactly what I’m worth (a whole lot, and I’m not talking about finances, I know the kind of person I am). However, I could never have imagined that these two guys, two best friends, literally had come to blows over me. It’s stupefying.

And it’s funny. If I’d known back then that Fred was trying to tell Roger that he was going to prom with me, I would have been very upset. I was madly in love with Roger, Fred was my friend. I wanted to go with Roger. It would have been a huge teenage drama filled with angst. Instead, I think it’s about the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard.

It’s funny, the difference in perception that 25 years will make. As I’ve thought about it, it’s also a lesson in the way we view things that happen. We never know the back-story, what else is going on in a situation. Our circumstances change the way we view things. This is an important lesson to keep in mind – we only ever know one side of the story, even if we believe there is nothing else going on. When I was studying journalism, we were taught what to find out in reporting a story: who, what, when, where, why, how and what else. That’s something we should consider every day. What else?

Live, laugh, love…it’s what makes it worthwhile.

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