Destination: Washington, DC

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Photo Copyright Taraka & The Tara Chronicles, 2018

Yesterday was the long-awaited seventh grade field trip to Washington, DC, to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Veruca was very excited, at least insofar as one can be excited to spend a day away from the classroom and visit a different city. I would be lying if I said I was looking forward to this trip. And not just because of the solemn nature of the lesson.

We had to arrive at school at 6:30 a.m., and would not be returning for… twelve hours. I was a chaperone and so again responsible for other children not my own. That alone induces anxiety, though I have to admit it’s far better with 12- and 13-year-olds than it is with 8-year-olds. We were going to Washington, DC, a place my apocalyptic mind is certain is North Korea’s prime target. (Nevermind that if this were to truly happen, we don’t live far enough away from DC to survive anyway.)

So we arrive at 6:35 and board one of four buses. I get the last adult seat next to a very nice, but large, man. We introduce ourselves. And then he buckles up his seatbelt (they have these on tour buses!) while remarking he doesn’t want “another Tracy Morgan situation.” Great. What the hell do you say to that?

I texted my mom friend, Ashley, who was on another bus. Our bus didn’t have enough seats, as it soon turned out when three more people tried to board, and one of the two teachers riding with us was outside on the sidewalk losing her shit. And I can hear the bus driver saying all the buses have 58 seats, they’ve always had 58 seats, blah blah blah. All this, before 7 o’clock in the morning. I sipped my coffee and watched them through the window with fascination.

Disaster was eventually diverted when some seats were discovered on the other buses and we were soon on our way. Spazzy loaded the Night at the Museum movie and, later, the second one. After the longest bus ride ever, we finally pulled up next to the United States Memorial Holocaust Museum.

Our ticket time was 11:30 and we had an hour and a half to kill. Ashley announced that she needed Starbucks NOW and so she plugged it into her GPS and we were off. The six of us loaded up on beverages (my girls went with “The Pink Drink” – seriously) and I went with a White Chocolate Mocha Tall. I was so proud of myself for not screwing up how to order at Starbucks.

There are A LOT of black SUVs with tinted windows in DC. It’s creepy, the way they’re parked, engines running, along the streets. Something about them gave me anxiety. Or, maybe it was the caffeine. Either way, I was grateful to get away from them.

It’s a very serious matter, entering museums today – like going through airport security – bags are put through x-ray machines and we walk through metal detectors. V cannot go through – because her insulin pump cannot go through x-ray machines – so at every entrance we have to announce this and she goes around the machine and is personally inspected. Oh, did she love that.

After, we’re handed “Identification Cards” we aren’t supposed to open until sometime later (though no one ever tells us when and we end up cheating, I suppose, because we look). Each card holds the name and photograph of a real person who lived during the Holocaust.

Our group was lined up on a staircase, four across on each step – or, were supposed to be – but it’s kind of hard to squish that many people together especially when many are full-sized adults. One of the chaperones or teachers (not sure who she was) ordered my three girls and me to step down, because every step had to have 4 people on it. I said, there’s no room to step down. (There was a dad directly in front of me who was easily 6 feet tall, twice my size and clearly need TWO steps – picture this scenario). She said, you have to… every step has to be filled. I’m not pressing my body against a stranger, I snapped. (Yeah, I know. Not good form in front of the kids.) For the record, I’m usually very agreeable. I don’t know what got into me.

And before you think I’m a total asshole, I GET IT. I know there was a point to that exercise as we waited for our whole group to get through security. The mom on the opposite end of that step in front of me sniggled. The dad behind me, equally as large, announced a few minutes into our wait that, I hope I don’t get lightheaded and fall down like that last time. And I burst out laughing. I told him at least he’d have a soft landing.

We were soon led to a more open area and three elevators designed to look like something industrial and that’s all I’m going to say about that because I was having the most uneasy feelings here and I couldn’t shake it. (Yeah, yeah, I GET IT.)

The guide asked our group some questions, including – How many people did Hitler kill?                  Do YOU know?

Anyway, the museum was very crowded. But quiet. People spoke in whispers. There was at least one other school there and we spent so much time reading the exhibits that I looked around at one point and didn’t recognize anyone. To say that there wasn’t enough time to spend here is the understatement of the year.

We were never taught much about the Holocaust in school. I didn’t read anything related to it until I was in college. I didn’t know who Elie Wiesel was until my Junior year. I don’t think I knew that some 25,000 books that were decidedly “un-German” were burned on this very day in 1933. I didn’t know that books were published and taught to German schoolchildren, intended to indoctrinate them to Nazism and prejudice against Jews. I don’t think I knew that the Nazis also exterminated people who were “incurably ill.” Veruca said, I would’ve been killed.

We left the museum roughly 2 hours later. We were all hungry and also wanted to visit another museum while there was still time. At least one of us wanted to shop.

 

Details….

Raizel Kisielnicki was a 44-year-old mother of three who lived near Warsaw. She and her husband owned a grocery, gas station, and restaurant. On September 25, 1942 she and more than 3000 other Jews in their town of Kaluszyn were deported to an extermination camp, where she died.

Attack on Intellectual Freedom. The 1933 Book Burnings were carried out by German students from universities around Germany. “Any book which acts subversively on our future or strikes at the root of German thought, the German home, and the driving forces of our people” and/or written by authors considered enemies of National Socialism. These included Einstein, Mann, Freud, Kafka, Marx, H.G. Wells, Upton Sinclair, Helen Keller, and Margaret Sanger.

Indoctrination of schoolchildren. The Nazi regime removed Jewish teachers and others who were considered “politically unreliable.” Hitler’s portrait hung in every classroom. New textbooks that taught obedience to state authority, racism, militarism, and antisemitism, and love for Hitler were utilized in classrooms. Der Giftpilz (The Poisonous Mushroom) was an anti-Semitic children’s picture book metaphorically explaining how to recognize a Jew, in the form of “good” mushrooms vs. “bad” mushrooms.

Who. Hitler only singled out Jews, who he saw as an inferior race, for complete annihilation. Germans were among the first to be persecuted for their political activities, for being mentally or physically handicapped, or homosexuals, criminals, or nonconformists. Hundreds of thousands of Roma and Sinti (“Gypsies”) were also killed. The people of Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia were also considered inferior races.

How many? The question was, how many did Hitler kill? The answer is ONE. HE killed one person. Himself. Yet he was able to commandeer an army of Nazis to exterminate an estimated SIX MILLION Jews, and others…And an entire population of people was complicit in these killings.

Think about that.

 

 

 

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Of Blogging, and First Dates

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I wasn’t going to write today. I don’t typically write every day. I had a few thoughts rolling around my brain of what I wanted to write about next; they’re an eclectic and somewhat schizophrenic collection of ideas that have little to do with one another.

Todd and I worked on one of them together, several arctic nights ago. It began by the fire and ended in bed. We slid our bodies between silken sheets and soft blankets, he picked up his toy and I picked up mine and….

He continued his Angry Birds game and I pulled up the Notes icon on my own mobile device.

I took down notes on my phone about one of my creative thoughts (coming soon), because if I got up again the animals of the house would have expectations.

So yesterday I posted about blogging vs. reality and I didn’t expect the reactions I received. Hell – I didn’t expect any at all. The most I ever see is a “like” here and there; otherwise the readers are really just ghosts that come and go, silently.

So. Now I’m wondering if this will affect my output and content. To be relevant, and not just a “whatever” poster. I guess. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe I just say thank you and keep moving forward.

I really want Todd to guest post. He seems reluctant. And while he shares my ridiculous and often bizarre sense of humor, he has a preference for privacy that rivals my salacious Gemini nature of the shock factor. He is amused by my naughty jokes amongst friends, my improper remarks about our sex life to him in intentional earshot of others; however, to write about what really goes on behind our bedroom door, or when the kids are away and the cat is sleeping at the foot of the bed … is that-which-shall-remain-sacred.

I once made a remark to a gay friend that had everything to do with my mom’s shop vac – I said, Todd’s is much bigger. It truly wasn’t spoken out of turn, but when I saw his reaction, I winked. Todd, however, laughed it off and really – who in their right mind would be angry with that implication? Besides, on the heels of yesterday’s post and in the interest of honesty, Todd really does have a big… shop vac.

Anyway. As we careen toward another shiny object… on a different arctic night (we’ve had several here in our region of the world)… Todd remembered! At least we think he remembered, and since I’ve rendered what facts he presented to support this memory as highly likely… I think he uncovered the mystery of When Our First Date was.

A number of times I had admitted to not remembering our first date, and Todd was equally perplexed though perhaps it was irrelevant anyway because, today. I said before that while I don’t remember our first date, I do remember spending New Year’s Eve together.

Well, the mystery has been solved. I think. Through a series of what should have been the most obvious deductions… Wait! Back up.

Todd and I met in the fall of 1984. But, as my mom taught me that girls don’t call boys (or wear black, whatever the hell that meant in the 80s) and I was shy anyway and would never have flat out told a boy I was interested (which really deserves a separate post), and therefore he had no idea that I was because he’s also oblivious – and yes, that’s in the present tense because he IS and shamelessly admits to it – we never went out.

There was an awful lot of “let’s insert myself near this person so they can’t miss me” behavior, but it wasn’t until the fall of 1985 that we danced around each other again. And it wasn’t until another young man named Tom told Todd he’d better ask me out before someone else did, though I have no idea what insight he could possibly have had since I never spoke two words to him. Sometime thereafter, the timeline of which remains a mystery, Todd did ask me out.

However, the following deductions have led to the conclusion that the actual real First Date was, in fact New Year’s Eve. (Which would also explain why we can’t remember another first date – because there wasn’t one.)

#1 – Todd’s birthday is in mid-December, and we didn’t spend that day together, nor was it acknowledged.

#2 – Wrestling was ongoing, so there were meets and tournaments going on on Saturdays, which meant we likely wouldn’t have gone out then either. Except for maybe a rendezvous or two in our cars, though I can assure you I was Not That Kind of Girl. Yet.

#3 – We both had jobs. He worked for KFC after school and weekends, and I worked in my family’s restaurant which was over 45 minutes away.

#4 – We didn’t exchange gifts or acknowledge Christmas.

Therefore, my Murdoch man determined that New Year’s Eve had to be the night. Not that night. Just the first date night.

I’m so excited by this revelation, if only because I’m sick of forgetting and/or not remembering shit. It’s embarrassing. And annoying.

And to think these memories were triggered by someone else’s first date. Yes, there was a first date around here recently. And that’s all I’m going to say about that, because, privacy.

New Year’s Eve 1985/86 was spent on the floor in my bedroom, two floors away from my parents who I am still shocked allowed this first boy into my bedroom on our first date and trusted us. I had a stereo system on which we played my collection of Prince vinyl and talked for hours about lord knows what. I’m certain that his lips found mine somewhere during that long conversation. I’m certain that I melted in the glow of this intensity I’d only written about in journals before.

I had no idea where that night would end. Living in the moment and flying by the seat of my pants is an earmark of Gemini existence. I’m sure I’m a young soul, still learning the lessons old souls like Todd have known for centuries. It still thrills me to kiss him and smell the very same smell of his 17-year-old skin. It stirs something in me I’m afraid I’d need another blog to specialize in. Nevertheless, I remain blown away that that night was over 30 years, and several relationships and a marriage ago, and that we ended up here anyway in spite of it all.

2017 – The Year in Review

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April was by far the busiest and most eventful month of the year. I started working at CHOP, Veruca started her softball career, Opac had oral surgery, my maternal grandfather passed away, a week later my uncle unexpectedly followed, a high school friend lost his battle with cancer, and Todd and I attended the college’s posh annual gala.

Work

I got a new job, and Todd stepped into the Pathways Coordinator position, in addition to teaching and serving on multiple committees. I had a one-day orientation in Philadelphia spent a week training on the EPIC platform in early May, and learned my way around the city I’ve never loved. It’s been a great experience so far – I love the people I work with and the opportunity to be a part of this organization. I’ve given up my weekends at the restaurant, and I think they’re doing fine without me.

The Kids

Veruca quit cheer for good and took on softball. Her first season – her team won the division with an impressive, nearly undefeated record, and she has another trophy on her shelf. Girlfriend can knock a ball out of the park and it turns out she’s a great catcher.

Opac moved up to varsity football this year and spent most of the season pacing the sidelines, with only quick bursts of time on the field. I don’t know how but the team was the second worst team in the league and the head coach resigned. A new coach is coming in to kick some ass and we’re all excited to see what he’s going to do to turn this team upside down.

Furry Kids

Oliver and Sabra are healthy and happy. One is overweight, and one is underweight. Guess which is which?

Moses, my mom’s dog, has spent several days with us over the past year while mom was away on vacations and hospitalizations. He nominated me as interim mom, and I’ve never had a furbaby happier to see me come home from work than him. Makes me wonder what the other two are for.

We adopted a black kitten we named Shadow back in March, who cost me $1200 and 6 emotional hours at the emergency vet. After only 3 weeks with him, I got to be the one who had to decide to let him go. It was horrible and turned me off from ever wanting to adopt another pet.

Adventures and Travel

We attended two weddings, one in May and one in November. Both were wonderful events and we were so blessed to be a part of their special days. We also attended the Lymphoma and Leukemia Man & Woman of the Year gala in Baltimore, for which I rented my first Rent the Runway gown. A floor-length black and gold Marchesa Notte that made me feel like royalty, and I highly recommend RTR. It’s the perfect way to wear a gorgeous dress that costs more than your last paycheck; it’s affordable; and you’ll always have something different to wear. (You’re welcome, RTR, for the free publicity to my 3 followers.)

Todd and I went to San Francisco for a conference that was cut short thanks to the Nor’easter back home. It was a nice respite, even though I missed out on Alcatraz. We also returned to Ocean City, Maryland over the summer.

This year’s State Bowling Tournament was held locally, so we didn’t have any traveling to do.

Cars

We got 3 new vehicles this year and no, we’re still not rich. We replaced my out-of-warranty Explorer with a brand new Edge – if you don’t already know, we do so much driving to and from PA that a car with 4-wheel drive under warranty is an absolute necessity. Todd acquired a beater truck: a 1990 F-150 for less than the cost of my RTR gown. I’m not sure I’m allowed to officially mention car #3; so let’s just all agree to keep it on the down low and I’ll tell you the coveted 2017 GT California Special was acquired around the same time as the Edge for a deal that couldn’t be turned down.

The new Edge just might be a lemon – it spent 3 weeks on hiatus at the Ford dealership while I learned exactly why I don’t want an Expedition. Ever. And not just because V fell out of it. Twice.

Extended family news

Neph has been on the move and working a lot, but he calls his auntie occasionally, which I really appreciate. Nephtoo graduated high school and started college 3 hours away, and posts beautiful photos of the water there. I have yet to send a care package. I’m not a very good auntie.

Gloria, my illustrious maternal grandmother to whom I credit my tough-as-shit attitude, turned 92 and not only interrupted the pastor several times during my uncle’s memorial because “WHAT’s he saying?” and claimed not to remember his ex-wife,  is still kicking it like a rockstar. I delivered her a bottle of J&B for NYE, after she called my mom to cry about her forgetting to bring it to her. Almost as much fun as the Teddy Bear delivery of 2012.

Health

My mom had laparoscopic surgery over the summer that turned into major abdominal surgery, and we were both blessed to have a dear friend present during the procedure to hold my hand. Todd also had surgery later the same month, and was equally as hilarious coming out of anesthesia as my mother. They’re both lucky I am too thoughtful to consider video-recording.

I’m proud to report I passed my very first drug test and received my first flu shot. I also had two doses of tetanus (I’m still pissed about this), and received an MMR booster because my titer said I needed one.

I ordered Veruca a new pump through Animas – our pump provider – only to learn the day after it arrived that Animas was closing down operations. SO, we will be transitioning God-knows-when to a new pump from Medtronic (who partnered with Animas) – whenever Animas decides they’re done producing supplies too.

Opac had his wisdom teeth out and I got a root canal and crown.

I stopped drinking for just over 3 months and lost 11 pounds. I guess it’s a good thing when your friend tells you that “there’s less of you” when he sees you at the holiday party.

Celebrations

V had her first birthday party sleepover last spring and everybody seemed to have a great time. Well, except for the one girl who’s apparently allergic to cats.

Opac turned 17, exactly eight months after he obtained his learner’s permit. He still has a long way to go before he gets his license.

We ended our 2016 with parties for both Todd’s birthday and my father-in-law’s…one impromptu night at the restaurant Christmas Eve and a planned work night on New Year’s Eve.

I can’t wait to see what 2018 will bring.

Just An Echo

The pronouncement was made and there was much anger and yelling and screaming, but strangely, no tears. There were no tears. Seldom were there any tears. The dish rack in the kitchen was wiped from the counter, shattering to the floor. Always, something had to be broken.

Hearts were pounding, all of them. One for loss, one for freedom. Two more for the uncomfortable familiarity.

It was not much different than any of the other times. She managed the distance between them, not fearful, but vigilant. This time there would be no backing down. This time, when the words came out, she would not take them back.

If he lunged at her, if he closed the space between them, spitting familiar words in her face, she would not back away. She would not look away. She would meet his eyes.

No more. No more name calling. No more criticisms. No more destroying personal property, space, private journals. No more threats. No more physical threats. No more empty apologies. No more gaslighting. No more.

***

In a tumultuous life and the changes it brought, accusations flew. False accusations. A pot, calling the kettle black. Misdeeds and affairs of the past denied, but known. Promises to change, promises to commit to things promised long before and long ignored. Threats to destroy. Demands to end friendships.

Soon after, she refocused her efforts on the time ahead. What must be done. How to accomplish it.

Interference from an outside, and separately invested source, compelled her to withdraw from much needed support. And what followed next – a song. A song, shared on Facebook, meant to express disappointment, sorrow, frustration – cut her to the core. Fade to Black.

An inconceivable ache in the soul, opened an old wound long ago healed. The tears flowed freely. Another kind of loss flooded back to her, one healed but never forgotten. A loss not wanting to be felt again.

So much to be done. No easy way out, but a way out – the only way now.

Four Years in Maryland

It’s officially four years since I reluctantly excitedly nervously optimistically went kicking and screaming moved to Maryland. Four years!

Opac is now a high school Junior, and learning to drive. Veruca is in her second year of middle school. Todd has gotten a promotion and is simultaneously launching another business. I got a new job. We lost Pi, and we loved – and lost – our adopted kitten, Shadow, in one short month. The ex got remarried. I like her more than I like him. Is that wrong? We’re all getting along. We got a new car. Or two. And the coveted beater truck for all that hauling Todd plans to do. (He chastised me for calling this “nice truck” a beater, but I call it like I see it.)

Four years later… home renovations continue. We gutted the apartment and a friend subsequently moved in and broke the smoking ban. We painted. We repainted. We bought new rugs which the dog has managed to shit on already. We renovated the rec room, got a pool table. Still need to build a bar. We got the fireplace working. We acquired a hot tub friends were giving away.

We built a home gym, acquired a used treadmill – because Facebook marketplace rocks – for $75. We cleaned up our stationary bike, which spent several winters outside while we were away living in PA. We added a weight bench for Opac last Christmas.

We had parties and poker nights. We took short trips to several places I’d never been. We finally took a real vacation together. We both gained weight. We tuned up our bikes and started riding. We’re both losing weight.

We attended some galas and felt rich for a night. We attended a couple of weddings and embraced the love we felt. We attended more than a handful of funerals and remembered how fleeting life can be, and how blessed we are.

We celebrated 50 years of enduring love with my in-laws’ anniversary party in our backyard with seventy guests.

We made new friends, and watched others fade away.

We continue to slowly claw our way back from a mountain of debt that has plagued us since the beginning. All that money I sent my lawyer every month is still a mystery to me. I’d like to know where it came from and where it’s going now.

Six years ago, Todd wanted us to move here. Six years ago, I told him there was no fucking way. Well, I said it nicer than that, and left out the f-word. Six years ago I spent many overnights in this house, escaping – but not really – the debilitating pain of divorce and child custody, rediscovering faith, myself, and the supernatural power of first love. There is some existential healing power in this house I cannot explain, but everyone who needs it, feels it when they enter.

Four years ago I felt like a stranger in a strange land, and desperately wanted to not regret coming here. But my children made friends quickly, and Opac’s declaration that this place was so much better than where he’d come from made it all worth it. I didn’t see the limbo they lived in, in our former place, until we moved here and everything clicked together like the missing pieces of a puzzle.

I trusted Todd that this was going to be good, because I couldn’t trust myself. Today, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. This is home. More home than anywhere I’ve ever wanted to be.

 

 

It Starts Again

After a long summer that didn’t feel like it went all that fast, we’re back to real-life rush hour. The first day of summer always feels like I want to slit my wrists when Veruca is demanding an activity schedule worthy of an organized, intinerized trip. Yeah, I totally just made that word up.

The kids had their vacation with their dad and Todd and I had ours. We spent time together, we spent time apart. Summer slogged along. Then football started the second week of August, and suddenly time jumped on the A train and took off like a bullet.

This is the first year I wasn’t counting the days until the first day of school. Instead, I’ve been checking the tears at every door we pass through. Seriously, two weeks ago I totally used my burning eyes from a long day staring at insurance verifications to cover the tears that kept welling up as I watched Opac begin his 3rd year in football.

To say I’ve been emotional lately would be an understatement. I sat there in the bleachers, watching him across the field, and acutely felt the loss of the little child I held in my arms with his head snuggled into my shoulder.

He’s a Junior this year. He has two years of high school left, before he leaves the nest to go be a college kid and create his own life. Two Years. Two years is a blink in the world of parenting. And I’m not ready. I’m not ready to let him go. Of course, he still doesn’t have his driver’s license, so I suppose he can’t go too far. Yet.

I have several friends who drove their firstborns to college this year and that, itself, has nailed home the reality. Nephtoo began college this year. Which reminds me, he still hasn’t sent me his address so I can send him stuff. And why? Because he’s off living his own life and adulting, and has temporarily forgotten his family.

I hear dumb music and I start to cry. I think about his soft baby hair and his little hand resting on my chest, and the long lashes that curled over his big brown eyes – because I would sit on the couch and hold him while he slept. He never learned to sleep in a crib.

Every moment he walked out my door, he took a part of my heart with him. Every moment I think about the inevitable bearing down on us, my heart feels like it’s being squeezed in a vice. I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m terribly emotional about him.

This is the first year I’ve felt the weight of the second child growing up. V started 7th grade this year. I remember my middle school years, probably better than I should. I don’t remember clinging to my mom quite like she does, or smothering her with my love and attention. My mom keeps reminding me that V loves me so much, and that I should enjoy it. I’m not good at being smothered though, which is where I struggle with her. Smothering me was the kiss of death for many a boy, once upon a time.

This year, however, while I’ve been working on setting those personal space boundaries with her – which, ironically, is a topic that figures into my next post – I’ve also begun to embrace the moments she’s close to me that way because it’s inevitable that she may change her M.O. as she enters the teen years. And if my teen years with my mom are any predictor of the future, or at the very least Karma – it’s gonna get ugly.

In any case, I’m experiencing some occasional sadness. It’s not every minute, or every day, but it comes with the suddenness of a drive-by shooting. I’m feeling sadness over my kids growing up, over growing older, watching my parents age and what that means, what life will look like in 20 years.

And these are the times I’m most vulnerable, and then the door to the attic of my soul cracks open and I start to feel everything. Including the things I’ve tried to heal, and locked away. I think of the child I lost, and it opens a Pandora’s box of whys and why nots. And suddenly I’m feeling that loss again, not nearly as acutely as that day, but a dull ache in the pit of my stomach. And I have my reasons for that too, but there are some things I prefer to keep to myself, even as I choke on them.

So it starts again. School is three days underway and we’re back to a bumpy groove, as O has practice daily after school and games every Friday, and V has softball practice at night and games every Saturday. Even Todd has the schedule from hell this week. The four of us have not had dinner together in almost 2 weeks. I’m behind on personal appointments, and I’m picking up extra hours at work. All of those things on my summer to-do list have now been transferred to my Fall to-do list.

I had big plans for the first week of school, but like all plans, even the best laid plans don’t always get laid.

Not Always How It Looks

I’ve had a plethora of thoughts about my next post, one of which was planned last week on a topic that has long bothered me about the business I’ve grown up in. I didn’t get it written before the weekend, and damn if it didn’t happen again and it not only pissed me off that it happened again, but that if I wrote about it NOW, someone would assume it was because of THEM. So, I’m putting that post off for a few days while I process some other stuff. Yes, I’m cryptic sometimes. Deal with it.

I went to bed last night exhausted, but my brain wouldn’t shut off and I was turning over some thoughts about Life. Profound thoughts, some with sadness, some with gratitude, and some with just more questions. I fell asleep then and, as always happens, those great thoughts got sucked into the black hole of my dreams and it may take me a few days to conjure them up again. Am I being cryptic again? Okay – I’ll be direct – just this once.

Exhausted – because one of my BFFs came for two days and we didn’t get much sleep. Profound thoughts – because a friend from high school just lost his battle with cancer two days ago.

But before all of that, I was putzing around this closed group I joined under the probably somewhat misguided notion that we were all there because we were fans of a certain blog. Which is mostly true, but many of the posts mentioned troubled lives, inability to get out of bed and/or leave the house, insecurities, and so on. One girl posted how her life was so messed up while everyone else on Facebook is living the dream and have families and kids and great jobs… you know the story.

We all know the story. Who hasn’t been on Facebook and seen how great some people’s lives are? And maybe felt like, wow – I wish my life was like that/better.

Well, here’s a newsflash: NOBODY’s life is perfect. And I told her so. I also told her that social media is a place where one can be whoever they want the world to see. People do it every day.

A friend gushes on and on about how smart her kids are, how they made distinguished honors again, and what great athletes they are. Another calls her husband the best husband ever because he did something nice for her – maybe he brought flowers home, or made dinner and took care of the kids one night. Another travels all the time to wonderful places.

About seven years ago I reconnected with a friend who – in a nutshell – was living her dream. Great job, great husband, beautiful house, beautiful kids, lots of great friends. I felt a pang of jealousy, mingled with joy for her at having those things that she so deserved after years of struggle. It was another card stacked against the deck I was living in back then. I couldn’t ignore the feeling of, why can’t I have all of that too?

Appearances are deceiving. Some people gush to cover up their own shortcomings, insecurities, or fears that they don’t measure up to “the dream.” Some of those people will experience divorce, illness, job loss, money and stability, loss of a parent or loved one, or – heaven forbid – the loss of a child. The mother who gushes over her children? She has lived the last 18 years without her mother. The friend who has money and is always traveling? Lives a lonely single life and is struggling to find love.

I write a lot about my own life. People who know me personally, know who I really am. I write tough sometimes. Sometimes funny. Sometimes I write about my weaknesses. I try to be honest. I live in a nice home, drive a nice car, have beautiful kids, wonderful friends and neighbors, and the love of my life. Gushing?

No. I count my blessings. Because 7 years ago my life looked very VERY different… and I was the one wishing it could look more like hers, or his. And I am not so naïve to believe that anything can change in an instant. And that – my friends – is a truth I will share today. Inside myself lives a terrible fear of losing those who are most precious to me. I don’t focus on it, and I push it down, but it is the demon who occasionally whispers my darkest fears.

I have this God-awful anxiety that I cannot explain, that came to roost in the cobwebs of my sanity and steals my inner peace with wordless whispers. Not every minute of every day. But it’s there. My life is far from perfect. It may look like it is, to outsiders. I struggle with bills, I don’t work enough or earn enough of my own money. I have debt. A lot of it. It’s not Todd’s burden, but mine.

I don’t get enough quality time with my kids. I don’t get enough quality time with Todd. I wish I could travel more. I wish I had money saved for college. I wish I hadn’t given away 13 years of my life to abuse and unhappiness. I wish I didn’t still hear his critical voice in my head. I wish I didn’t have to work weekends. I wish my knees didn’t hurt, and that I could run again. I wish I was more this, and less of that. I wish, I wish, I wish.

And all any of that does, to repurpose a meme – is steal today’s joy. Which is my long-winded way of saying:

  1. The grass is NOT always greener on the other side and
  2. Don’t believe everything you hear/read.
  3. Don’t kick yourself for what you haven’t done. Do what you wish you could.
  4. Nobody’s life is “perfect.” The only world that’s perfect is heaven.
  5. Count the blessings you DO have. (In religion-speak, that means you praise God for what He has done for you. You reap what you sow.)

 

I’ll just leave this here…

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

~ Walden, Henry David Thoreau

Call Me Honey

I don’t know how it happened. Somewhere along the way after I moved south, I became Honey. Everywhere I go, somebody calls me honey. Every time I’d enter the elementary school, which was often thanks to a T1 kid, the girls behind the desk would call me honey. Hi honey. What can I do for you, honey? Bye hon.

At first I was a bit offended, if only because – though I may not always look my age – I am at least as old as they are. After the third or fourth time, I realized it wasn’t that big a deal and felt familiar in a way I could appreciate. Like becoming part of a tribe.

But the tribe spread to other places. The doctor’s office. The pharmacy. The liquor store. (Not that I go there that often to be recognized as a regular or anything.) And then – the Asian-owned nail salon – hi honey, when I walk in the door. Honey, pick your color. Even the men who work there call me honey. Which, under any other circumstances, might be considered weird and/or offensive in our currently heated feminist world.

No biggie. I find it amusing. They don’t even know my name, I’m SURE of it. But I thought it was kinda nice and familiar, welcoming. Until I realized that everyone is Honey and, well, I kinda felt a little less special. Which might indict any of the above people for laziness since by calling everyone honey, they never have to remember any names. Brilliant!

Even Todd calls me Honey. Shocking, I know. But I’ve never been a big fan of such an old-fashioned endearment between married folks. Not wanting to crush his affectionate gestures, I just let it flow. And now, much to my dismay, I find myself calling him Honey.

And what’s worse? I caught myself calling my co-workers Honey and thought, Good God how did this happen to Me?? But we are a tribe at the restaurant. A motley mismatched tribe, but a tribe, nonetheless.

There’s something in that old-fashioned endearment. I shied away from it because it felt unnatural to use it. Perhaps I didn’t consider myself old enough to use it without it sounding false and condescending. I don’t consider myself old, like the original Honey who graced my life for only a short time.

The summer of 1989, I took a job as an ancillary aide at a nursing home. Among the many colorful characters who graced those halls (which could comprise a whole other post), was a woman in her 80s we called Honey. We all called her Honey, because it’s what she called all of us. Constantly. I didn’t know then that she was in the early stages of dementia, though it should’ve been obvious after she told me one afternoon that she was a having a baby. Honey was having a baby!

So, now I’m in my late 40s, thinking about how I was Tara, and somebody’s babe, baby girl (I’d kill to hear that again), Miss Tara, and then Mommy, which evolved to Mom, to Todd’s Honey, and now to the public at large – just, Honey. No one calls me Mrs. anything. Most likely because hardly anyone can pronounce it correctly anyway. There are also a handful of nicknames that I won’t mention here. Even Veruca calls me Honey, which is incredibly annoying and sort of unintentionally condescending.

I briefly considered renaming the blog The Honey Chronicles. But that seems to imply a different genre of blogging, and would leave a trail of disappointed visitors in its wake. Nothing wrong with that genre, but it’s not where this Honey’s blog is going.

Melancholy

giphy-13

 

I went to Walmart yesterday with Opac. He was adamant about stocking up on his favorite hair glue, so much so that he was spazzing out because I didn’t want to go since my brother was over and Veruca is overdue for a haircut and I wanted to kill two birds with one stone (hairdresser is in the same shopping center). And Veruca wanted to stay home with her frizzled hair with Uncle Matt and play video games.

Side note: this is an interesting stage – this age 11-going-on-12 stage. She’s obsessed with the clothes she’s wearing, and little else. She ransacks her room for clothes every morning, and right now every drawer is open on her dresser, and clothes are spilling out of them onto the floor. The ones that have escaped the dresser are covering the floor like measles on a sick kid. She obsesses over the leggings and t-shirts/sweatshirts she wears every single day – nevermind all the nice stuff I got her from Justice – but never remembers to brush her teeth. And her hair? Her hair makes me nuts. It’s tough keeping quiet, yet I know there are bigger problems worth arguing over, like the snacking without bolusing that continues like a blister on my heel. And I do know, thank you very much, that this will all shift in some blindsided way and suddenly the raging hormones will render her certifiably irrational.

Meanwhile, back to Opac. It’s always nice when we get one-on-one time, even if it’s simple like going out to eat or a trip to the store. He will always say he’s glad when it’s just the two of us. We shopped together. It was nice. He shares things with me. Although initially I was reluctant to go, I later realized it was something he needed. An old friend of his from middle school, whom he hadn’t seen in over 2 years, was killed in a car accident yesterday morning. The news spread through the high school like fire; he told me there were people crying everywhere. One of his good friends, was this kid’s best friend. He said it was weird. He feels weird, not sure how to feel at all. We talked about it. About my own experiences with this – how it’s difficult to understand why something like this happens, and what I believe is at work spiritually, behind it. He swiped at his eyes once or twice.

I’ve fallen into that delicate place, the “life is a tragedy for those who feel” part of Shakespeare’s prolific words, and I was already feeling emotional, as I always do, on my Nana’s birthday. I can’t explain what I feel, though I often speak of her with love and honor. My kids know who she is, even if they don’t remember anymore. I’d give almost anything to talk to her today. If even just one more time.

The news of this young kid dying struck me senseless, left me weeping in the car this morning after I dropped V off at school, as I literally felt the physical pain those parents are feeling. It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. For a moment I felt the inside of their hearts, and I felt sick. I don’t know how one goes on living after such a loss. I don’t know that I could. I call myself strong, I think many people see me that way, but on the inside is a weakness, a compassion or emotion for tragedy that I must consciously block out sometimes, for nothing less than mental survival. Please Father, don’t take my children. I will die.

I was also reminded of another friend of his, when he mentioned that even “John” had tears in his eyes, because about a year ago “John’s” mother died a horrific and tragic death that left me crying for days. She suffered from some form of mental illness, and believed to not be getting the proper care and support she needed. She told John one night where all the important documents were kept in the house, and told him to go upstairs to bed and not to come back down, no matter what. What followed is a police account of what happened. They were called to the darkened home with reports of an intruder, only to break in and find her seated in a chair in the dark holding what appeared to be a gun. She ignored repeated requests to put down the weapon, and when she raised it, they fired on her, killing her. The sorrow I felt for John was overwhelming. How does a 15-year-old boy recover from that?

The sadness was overwhelming, not because I knew them, but because his was a familiar face and I just wanted to reach out to him. And because I remember seeing him and his mother in the grocery store, weeks before, and I attempted to smile at her to be friendly but she never once looked at me. And in retrospect, I can’t help but wonder if she had – would it have made a difference in her day? In the future?

Of course I’m not that powerful. But the takeaway is, it’s always better to offer a friendly smile to anyone – because we’re all fighting battles that are sometimes less obvious than a grumpy face. If you can turn one person’s day around with a simple gesture, would you do it?

Meanwhile, my other grandmother, a life-long smoker and drinker, is approaching her 92nd birthday. She has type 2 diabetes, and now takes insulin to manage her blood sugar levels. She told my mom the other day, she doesn’t know why she’s still here. She has body failings, that upset her and add to her overall depression. My mom reminded me that the body as it ages is only going in one direction… that improvements, while small, will ultimately only hold up until they don’t. The body, at 92, is slowly deteriorating, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it. That revelation made me sad too. What must it feel like to be where she is? Will I approach it with today’s half of Shakespeare’s quote, as my mommom does, or will I approach it with Tara’s usual MO – the other half that says, that “life is a comedy for those who think”??

 

 

 

Honoring Friends

With all the negativity circulating social media and most often in my morning news feed, I made a couple of self-preservation decisions. One was to start my morning with coffee and my journal. In other words, I don’t start my day reading the stuff that gets my blood pumping. I’m journaling “almost” regularly now, like I used to, since 1987. The current journal’s (numbered #38) opening date is August 23, 2013. That’s over three years ago! Which at one time would  have been unheard of.

I’ve also begun writing what I’ll call a “long piece,” because I’m not ready to call it a novel yet. So far, I have 15 pages and 7500 words. Which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s an accomplishment for me to actually DO it. I have so many ideas that I bounce back and forth between this one and that – which do I want to write? So I can now say I’m committed to writing this one.

I met the sweetest woman at the restaurant about a month ago who told me she keeps a Gratitude journal. Every day she writes in this journal, about something she is grateful for. I thought, what a wonderful idea! So positive, so enlightening, so powerful. We ALL need more of this, especially now. I decided that I wanted to keep one too, but couldn’t decide whether to include it in my current journal or keep a separate one just for gratitude, and then I thought that perhaps there would be times they’d overlap and then it would be like writing twice, and who has time for that? Plus, I could be in danger of creating my own version of the Golden Notebook and I already have enough anxiety.

Anyway, back to social media. I started what I’m calling an Honoring Friends Initiative. Every day I choose a friend to honor. So, in essence, it’s very much a gratitude-type of journal, only it’s public.

I’m 8 days into what I limited to a 30-day initiative. It’s been easy so far, with the exception of locating a suitable photo with both of us in it. I clarified that it was random, so that the order in which I introduced each of them wasn’t a declaration of their order of importance to me – which I suspected could easily be misinterpreted.

What I’ve noticed so far, on this eighth day, is that if I had to get married all over again, traditional wedding and all – I would want every one of them to stand up with me.

These eight women are comprised of a friend who traveled with my family to Greece when we were 14, another dear friend I met at the bus stop who 30 years later is still one of my closest, my oldest friend I’ve known for all (but 5 months) of my 47 years, a best friend with whom I shared all the ups and downs of adolescence, my pledge sister from my first college, another long-time friend and maid-of-honor (the first time around), my roommate at NYU, and still another long-time friend who’s been there since the 6th grade.

They are all special in their own ways, they have all been “best friends” with whom I have collectively shared laughter and tears, sarcasm, arguments, hugs, secrets, sleepovers and concerts, late nights, hangovers, vacations and silly adventures, broken hearts and weddings, and most of all – unwavering friendship in spite of our absences.

What is life without friendships? They are all valuable, for they are all different. I want to thank those eight ladies for their friendship and love, in spite of me.

My friends have made the story of my life…. turned my limitations into beautiful privileges, and enabled me to walk serene and happy. ~ Helen Keller