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I just closed another show yesterday and it was a good one. If you ever get the chance to see You Can’t Take It With You by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman, do it. Written in 1937, the message is still relevant today. I won’t got through the whole play for you (but you should!), but I wanted to share with you something that resonated with me. When I say resonated, it hit me right in the gut the first time I heard it. Hard. It coincides with what I’m going through right now, life decisions that I’m making. Here’s a little speech from Grandpa Vanderhoff in Act III to help you understand. He’s speaking to Mr. Kirby, a businessman with indigestion and anxiety whose son wants to marry Grandpa’s granddaughter. Mr. Kirby is against the match because Grandpa’s family, the Sycamores, are not the typical family. They don’t hold regular jobs and happiness is their main goal rather than the “American Dream” of making money. They’re not rich, but they’re really a happy family. Grandpa understands that Mr. Kirby is unhappy with his life, even though he is incredibly successful, but Mr. Kirby won’t see it. After learning that Mr. Kirby had originally aspired to be a trapeze artist and a saxophone player as a young man but put those dreams away when his father “knocked it out of him”, Grandpa tells him this:

“Where does the fun come in? Don’t you think there ought to be something more, Mr. Kirby? You must have wanted more than that when you started out. We haven’t got too much time you know- any of us.

“How many of us would be willing to settle when we’re young for what we eventually get? All those plans we make… what happens to them? It’s only a handful of the lucky ones that can look back and say that they even came close. So… before they clean out that closet, Mr. Kirby, I think I’d get in a few good hours on that saxophone.” (Hart and Kaufman)

I’m at the point in my life where I need the few good hours on my proverbial saxophone. I need the fun. I need to not wish my life away. I feel like I’m on the brink of change, I just don’t know what it is.

Maybe you don’t know either. Maybe you recognize that your life isn’t going the way you want it. It doesn’t mean that you’re not grateful for being employed or whatever, just that  you recognize that you need to make some changes in your life because it’s not your path.

I’m working on my path.

I’m curious. Are you happy? Or have you realized that you’ve been sacrificing your happiness for something else? Share if you’d like, support is good. Comments are welcome.

Much love to you all.

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Do you want to know one of my favorite things?  It had been blah-cloudy all day. You know what I mean, cloudy and muggy with no good reason. Seriously, it’s a real downer and I spent a lot of this afternoon trying to get motivated to do something.

So, after watching Jeopardy, I made myself go out side to do something and saw the pile of branches I’d been meaning to cut up all week. Not my favorite thing, but it had to be done. Awesome.

I was outside for maybe half an hour, which encompassed not only cutting branches, but a petting session with one of my favorite neighbor kitties, the wind suddenly picked up with a purpose. All of the little hairs that had worked loose from my braid suddenly stood straight up in the rush and there was a note of change in the air. It was exciting, exhilarating. I could smell the rain, but it didn’t arrive for a good ten minutes after it began announcing its arrival. I continued cutting dead branches, just enjoying the feel of the wind with a purpose running through my hair.

It was a wind of change, a wind with a job to do.

I felt joy.

Suddenly, the day that had been somewhat boring weather-wise (I did get some good reading and writing in) was now exciting and unpredictable. I stayed out as the first few sprinkles fell and didn’t go inside until it was a semi-decent rain.

Life is beautiful sometimes, God gives you these little gifts. You just have to be open to find the joy and I need to learn this more than anyone.

Many thanks for the joy of the wind tonight.

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Someone needs this today.

You’re amazing. You’ve overcome so many things.

You’re wonderful. Someone thinks so, for real.

You have a purpose, even if you don’t know what it is yet. I don’t know mine, either.

Don’t give up. Please.

Life sucks sometimes.

Still don’t give up. Ever.

You’re worth it.

 

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It’s a beautiful early Spring day. The air is crisp, but not freezing. The sky is the deep blue that looks clean and fresh, the sunlight is streaming through the (dirty) windows. (Time to clean. Later.) My son was just playing beautiful music on the piano. Marty is reading on the couch, still in pajamas. I cleaned the bathroom and am getting the laundry done on my own time, not in a frenzied rush. I’m not doing my homework or schoolwork, I’m simply breathing in yoga pants and a hoodie, eating lunch, getting ready to go to the library and then write. The anxiety and depression monsters are out for the day and I can relax.

Life is good right now.

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I attended a funeral this past week. A friend of my mother’s from her childhood had suddenly and unexpectedly passed away, leaving behind two not-quite-grown children and a devastated husband.

Dee Dee was a quiet force of nature. I remember her from the very beginning of my memories, from those fuzzy edges when I was very small up until the more clear thoughts of today. I loved her. She had a pet skunk for a time, I remember, named Mandy. I wanted a skunk for the longest time after that and didn’t understand why my mother didn’t think that was a good idea. She always had animals, which made me an instant fan.

Her mother was my godmother, my Nina. I still have the cross necklace with a diamond chip in the middle that she gave me on my baptism day when I was just a few weeks old. They lived just down the street from us and it was there where I got to know Dee Dee’s three sisters, who fussed over me, and where I got my first delicious taste of lobster dipped in melted butter. (There is dispute over that. I remember them saying it was lobster, my mother said it was crab. Either way, the experience is etched in my memory.) Her family had been a refuge for my mother when she was pregnant with me as a teenager, loving her as their own, and they have always been in contact.

As I mentioned, she died rather suddenly, without warning, at only sixty years old. Sixty is young these days and although she did have some health issues, no one expected her to be gone so soon.

I met my mother at the service, held at a local funeral home. It was already quite full of people when I arrived, about an hour before the service began, but as the time drew nearer, more and more people poured in, leaving the staff to hurry and add many more rows of chairs. If I had to estimate, I would say that there were around 150 people crammed into that small room.

The priest began the service by welcoming everyone and asking Dee Dee’s son, and then her husband to speak. My heart broke for this strapping young man, set to graduate from college soon, as he choked back tears and referred to his mother as his best friend. Her husband, the shock still evident in his voice, told the room how there was not one single bad thing about her in the many years that they had been together.

The floor was opened to other people who wanted to share their memories of Dee Dee. It was touching and beautiful to hear from so many people, at least twenty, who got up and had a story to tell. Some were poignant, some were funny (the Sam’s Club Cheetos story had everyone laughing), and some were sad. For most of her adult life, Dee Dee had worked for a company that helps people who have disabilities and many of her current and former coworkers filled the room. I was moved by the stories of her selflessness, her patience, and her apparent love for her vocation, a calling she had always had. It didn’t surprise me at all. I remember when she had adopted a young boy with severe disabilities back when she was in her twenties, before she was married or had her biological children. Meeting him was my first experience with someone disabled to that degree and I remembered how patient she was with him. She taught me through her actions to not be afraid of people with disabilities, that they want to be loved and accepted like everyone does. I’ll always be grateful to her for that lesson.

The service lasted for more that an hour and a half as people shared their love for Dee Dee. In her short sixty years, she had touched so many lives, probably more than she ever thought. I’m sure she would have been embarrassed by all of the outpouring of emotion, she wasn’t one to toot her own horn, always working quietly in the background for the good of others. After the priest made sure that everyone was finished sharing, her daughter read from Ecclesiastes and her husband thanked everyone for coming. In closing, we all held hands and said the Lord’s Prayer together, then listened to one of her favorite songs.

When the service was over, my heart was full. The world is a scary place and these days, watching the news often makes me feel as if nothing will ever be right again, that hate, discrimination, and willful ignorance have taken over the world. Just read the comment section of any article to see some scary people. (Or don’t. Really, it’s horrifying to see what some people post online.) It’s hard for me to understand how people can be so awful to each other, or how terrible things are condoned or ignored because of money, religion, or politics. It makes me sick to my stomach sometimes. Hearing all of the wonderful things said about Dee Dee. though, reminded me that there are good people in this world, that things like love, patience, and understanding still do exist, even if they are hard to see through the haze right now.

Yes, I’m sure that Dee Dee would have been embarrassed about all of the fuss made over her, but what a legacy she has left behind! Think about it. We’re all going to die someday, whether our lives are short or long, whether we know it’s coming or, like Dee Dee, it takes us by surprise. There’s nothing we can do to prevent it, though we try to put it off as long as possible. What we can do, though, is choose to live so that we leave some good in the world when we’re gone and, hopefully, inspire others to do the same. We can stand up for what is right, we can help in a million ways, we can love. Yes, indeed, we can love.

We’re going to make mistakes. We’re going to mess up sometimes. It’s human nature that prevents us from being perfect, that lets our masks slip now and again. But I firmly believe that the more we do the right thing, especially when it’s difficult, the easier it becomes. I also believe that when we own up to our mistakes and admit that we made a bad choice rather then blaming it on someone else or circumstances, we earn the respect of others and we grow as people. It’s not the easy way of doing things and it’s hard to bite that bullet sometimes, but it’s so necessary.

We need more Dee Dees in the world. We need more of that patience and understanding that she lived every single day. We need to accept people as they are, the way she did, and to protect those who don’t have a voice. We need to be good people.

So, I challenge you. I challenge you to open your mind, to open your heart, and to deliberately do something different today that will benefit those around you. It doesn’t have to be huge, it can be as simple as opening the door for someone when you normally wouldn’t. It can be letting someone go ahead of you in line. Instead of getting angry at another driver, take a deep breath and let it go. (I especially need to practice this one. I say a lot of bad words in my car.) The point is, the world isn’t going to get better if we sit back and wait for other people to do it. It begins with us. It begins with you.

I’m closing with part of Lin Manuel Miranda’s speech from the 2016 Tony Awards. I feel that it is appropriate here.

“We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger;
We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.”

Dee Dee loved, with her whole heart. It’s a goal to work toward.

 

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The title is self-explanatory. These are things that I don’t understand, some in good ways, some in bad ways, some in neutral ways. These are in no particular order.

  • Sushi. I know people like it, I just don’t know why. For the record, I’ve tried it a few times just to make sure. After almost hurling up the last attempt sixteen years ago, I decided that I was done. You can have my share.
  • Misogyny. Why do some men hate women and think that they are inferior? Is your ego so fragile that you can’t accept women as equals? Smh.
  • Child prodigies. Amazing, but HOW???
  • Urban sprawl. I brought my son home from college this week and we went the long way down Geddes Road. We passed a bunch of new subdivisions and all of the houses were beige. Every. Single. One. Why beige? And why don’t real estate investors put their money into revamping old neighborhoods rather than taking over wild areas? It could be awesome and not beige. Something that I think about.
  • Football. Four years of marching band and being married to a football fan for twenty-one years and I still can’t tell you what’s happening.
  • Parents who don’t parent and their kids are wild. Enough said.
  • Real Housewives of Anything. I can’t watch spoiled, middle-aged, drama queens.
  • The Bachelor or The BacheloretteNot my cup of tea (she says while watching Hoarders and Say Yes To the Dress).
  • Sardines. I’m Italian and I still don’t understand sardines.
  • Beer. I LOVE the smell of beer, I truly do, and I tried it enough times to know that it makes me nauseous when I drink it. Friends of mine are discriminating beer drinkers and love it. I wish I understood beer, but wine makes it better.
  • The Golf Channel.
  • Early morning band or sports activities on a Saturday. This is sadism, pure and simple. This goes hand-in-hand with:
  • Waking up early when you don’t have to. Nothing against early-morning people, but I’m naturally a night owl. Yes, sunrises are beautiful, especially in December when the sunrises at a decent hour, like 8 o’clock. Wake up at 5 AM in June to watch the sun come up? Nah, I’m good.
  • Lawn obsessions.
  • Mosquitoes.
  • Girl toys and boy toys. Let the kids play with what they want without putting a label on it. My boys had cars and Legos, but they also had dolls and a kitchen. Big freaking deal.
  • Pointy-toed shoes.
  • Walmart.
  • The addictive power of Cadbury Mini-Eggs.
  • Kanye West. And while I’m at it,
  • Kardashians in general.
  • The “teenage boy smell”.
  • Blue Moon Ice Cream.
  • Racism. It’s ugly. It’s ignorant. It needs to stop.
  • Giant houses. The bigger the house, the more there is to clean.
  • Unmade beds. 
  • Internet trolls.
  • Armpit hair. Why? It’s smelly and yucky and serves no purpose.
  • Purposely loud cars. 
  • Fake geese that wear clothes as porch decorations.
  • Astrophysics. 
  • Regular physics
  • Frogs legs as food. I want to know who the first person was to think, “Let’s eat a slimy frog!”
  • My life. You’d think, by now, that I’d know what I’m doing. Not true. I’m just winging it.
  • God. Not the idea of God; I’m unashamedly a believer. I just wish I knew more real information, clear-cut answers to things instead of listening to people who have twisted things to their own interpretation and agenda. I have to go by my heart and what I feel, but there are times that I would love a “what do you really think about this?” conversation with Him.

This is by no means a full list. The older I get, the more I realize that I don’t know. Some of these things I’ll work to understand, such as the God thing, but others aren’t important, just points of curiosity. In the meantime, I’m going to go look for an episode of Hoarders and chow on some Cadbury Mini-Eggs.

Feel free to comment with things that you don’t understand.

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From my earliest memories, I always wanted to be a mother. I had a bevy of babies that I would wrap up, feed bottles to, change diapers, and talk to, including my actual baby doll, Jill, three Cabbage Patch kids, and an assortment of stuffed animals. They are some of the very few things that I saved from my childhood. I loved playing mommy, it was always in me, and I looked forward to the day when I would have my own real babies.

When those real babies began arriving, I was exhausted and sometimes overwhelmed or irritated, but totally and completely in love. I still am, even though they’re all bigger than me now. My job was very simple to me: I was entrusted with these new souls, these helpless little squishy beings that I brought into the world and depended on me for everything. It was my job to protect and nurture them into becoming caring and wonderful adults one day. Did I and do I continue to make mistakes? Oh, yes, indeed. There are things about raising them that I would go back and do differently if I could, times when I let adult problems overwhelm me and I would lose focus, times when I was just too tired to play or I didn’t listen properly. But I will tell you this: I tried my best to make sure that they knew that they were loved and wanted, no matter what. I hope they felt that way, I hope they still do, because I wouldn’t trade them, or the experience of raising them, for the world

That being said, I know that not all women are geared that way and I get that. I have dear friends who have always loved on my kids and the kids of other friends and family, but are very content not having any of their own. I admire that, because, let’s face it: there’s a lot of pressure for not only women, but people in general, to have children. Kids are a humongous life change and commitment, but society pressures couples to have them anyway. Women especially, who choose to remain childless, are often called selfish or unnatural if they choose to not have kids, a totally unfair judgement. Society doesn’t make it easy to make those decisions permanent, either. Women of childbearing age who seek out voluntary sterilization are often turned down by doctors, told that one day they may change their minds. How insulting! Sterilization is a pretty intense operation for a woman, I seriously doubt that anyone would go through that on a whim, not to mention that it is incredibly condescending to question a decision like that, but I digress.

So, why am I writing about this? I read an article the other day that infuriated me about parents who regret being parents, which again, I understand that someone could feel that way.  In a perfect world, every baby would be wanted and born into a loving environment where all of their needs are met. Unfortunately, not every child brought into this world is wanted or loved. People have children sometimes because they feel like they are supposed to, because of restrictive birth control issues, or because it’s expected, rather than having a real desire to parent. It would be a terribly difficult situation to be in, one that isn’t true for me, but I definitely have sympathy for those who find themselves there.

No, my beef isn’t with parents who regret having children, it’s with the parents who regret having children and then publicly tell the world about it at the expense of the feelings and well-being of those children. That second part is definitely not okay.

There have been several articles written in the past few years by both women and men who regret having children and then decide to write about it, using their own names and stories, such as in the case of Corinne Maier, author of No Kids: 40 Reasons Not To Have Children.  Google it, it’s amazing how many sources there are. As much as I think that those feelings of regret are legit for a lot of people, is it really ethical to air those grievances when those very children will very likely hear or read them one day? Simple answer: No! No, it isn’t. It’s never okay for a child to hear that they should never have been born.

To be fair, many of these articles contain comments from parents who are remaining anonymous or who are using pseudonyms. There are even closed Facebook groups for parents who regret having kids, with the idea that it is a support group. Again, I understand that those feelings are real, even among parents who initially wanted children, and having an outlet to discuss those feelings with others could definitely be therapeutic. In fact, I think that therapy is an excellent idea in general. But it was shocking to me to see how many parents did not bother to conceal their identities, who openly stated that their lives would have been better if they had never had their kids.

Normally, I’m all about being open to ideas and feelings, truly I am. I draw the line, though, when airing those ideas and feelings can only serve to hurt innocent people, especially kids. Kids can’t fight for themselves, they need adults to stand up and do it for them. If your own parent doesn’t accept you, how does that shape your self-worth in relation to the rest of the world? Articles and statements like that are extremely damaging.

Children have no choice about whether they are born or not. They come into this world as innocents, helpless and needy. Part of parenting is to not only fulfill their physical needs, but their mental and emotional ones. When those needs are not met, the emotional damage is extreme and lasts a lifetime. I’m no psychologist, but I’ve had the very eye-opening experience of working with children who were victims of abuse and neglect for most of their lives. Underneath the exterior of violent outbursts and abusive speech, they were still children, desperately looking for someone to trust, for someone to love them. The child who had cussed me out right and left and tore my room apart one day would come into my classroom the next day, lay his head on my shoulder for the entire lesson, tell me that I was the best teacher ever, and let me mother him a little. As damaged as they were, that instinct to be taken care of, to feel that someone out there gives a damn, was still present, as it is in all children.

Children not only want, but need to feel loved and accepted by their parents; it’s a basic life necessity. Sadly, it doesn’t always happen. Families can be dysfunctional. There are so many world problems that it can be difficult to be present with kids and to give them everything they need. But what purpose does it serve to tell a child that if you had to do it over again, you wouldn’t have had them, that they should never have been born, that they should not exist? It’s selfish and destructive, no good can come from it. I can’t even imagine it’s cathartic for the person saying it. What comes next after that moment? What do you say when your child reads in an article or a book that your life has been dismal since he or she came along? How would you ever repair that? I don’t know if you could.

We live in a society where everything is overshared. Social media provides an easy platform for us to get things off our chests and say things online in the heat of the moment, especially when we’re angry or frustrated. I know that I’ve been guilty of that, especially when social media first started becoming a thing. Opening up about things, speaking one’s mind, and speaking truth are all very trendy, but I firmly believe that there are some things that should not be publicly shared. Telling your kids that you regret having them is one of those things.

So, what to do then with those feelings if one has them? Again, therapy is GREAT. I should know, I’ve been in it long enough. There could also be underlying problems that a therapist could diagnose that might be contributing to those feelings, such as depression or anxiety. From what I’ve read in these articles (I tended to be a bit obsessed once I started reading), there are also support groups where one can talk about these feelings without hurting the children involvedHopefully, actively addressing those feelings and having a support system instead of taking them out on kids will help temper the angst into something more manageable.

A wise neighbor once told me that with children, the days can be long, but the years are short. As parents, we only have so much time with our kids, especially when they’re little. We think the sleepless nights will never end, the diapers will never end, baseball season will never end (oops, maybe that one’s just me), but it all will and one day, they’ll be gone and the house will be empty. Depending on who you are, this might make you happy, or, in my case, you will tear up every time they leave after a visit home. Whatever the case, a parent’s job is to turn out grown kids who are prepared to be a contributing member of society. If a child believes that he or she should never have been here, what motivation will they have to believe in themselves, to be joyful, to have a happy life?

To wrap it all up, parents have good days, parents have bad days. It’s a parent’s job to raise the children they have to the best of their ability, whether they regret having them or not. It can be a tough racket at times, mistakes will be made, but if you brought them into the world, you owe it to them to give them every possible chance at having a successful life. That starts at home, in the heart.

Until next time.

 

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