Thursday, October 15, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Some would argue that teenagers are old enough to make the decision on what to wear and how often to take a bath, but looking around at youth today I don't think that's true. As a parent, I am still ultimately accountable and responsible for my children. So I do have the right to tell my daughter, you can't wear clothes that show your breasts or butt cheeks hanging out and I can tell my sons they aren't going to wear anything that shows a butt crack or pants that fall off the hip tied on with shoestrings.
Its the same thing about personal hygiene. If most toddlers had their way, they would never take a bath, have their hair combed or brush their teeth, but we don't let toddlers get away with "having their way" because they are just kids and they don't know any better. I don't believe that maturity automatically shows up by virtue of a given birthday. If you have to be told to take a bath because you smell or to comb your hair because it looks like a dust mop, you aren't mature.
All children, regardless of age need to be taught matters of personal hygiene, i.e.: taking a bath daily, brushing their teeth, and combing their hair. Our bodies are constantly shedding dead skin cells and the those dead cells are abundant with bacteria, viruses, and other microscopic organisms. Those critters don't just fall off our bodies as we shed our dead cells. They must be washed off, and combed off, on a daily basis.
While letting a child express themselves is important to a child's comfort with themselves, and strengthens their ego's, it doesn't overrule the obligation to be sanitary in caring for our bodies. Personal hygiene is not optional, its a requirement for everyday living. I find it disgusting for anyone to go weeks and months without ever putting a brush or comb through their head. If you've ever had to sit with a 16 year old girl who hasn't combed her hair through for months and found one big mass of matted hair, you'll understand how heart wrenching it is to continue sitting there with your arms around them as they cry on your shoulder, because at that point, there is no "cure" for matted hair except to cut it off.
My children can try to convince me I don't care or that I am being mean, or try to guilt me into letting them have their way, but it's my job as their parent to do what is best for them despite all of their accusations. Do they think I enjoy arguing every day over clothing and hygiene? There's a million other things I would rather be doing, but since I am the only "parent" and only "adult" in this house, I don't get to take a break from my responsibility.
Not to mention, what about my feelings as a parent? Should "my" feelings count? Should whats important to "me" matter to anyone? Or do I no longer matter??? It appears to be the case around here.
A few weeks ago at a football game for my son, I was standing on the sidelines when I overheard a group of about 6-7 teenage girls discussing my son, and how "ugly" he was, because of his refusal to comb his hair. I felt like crying, for both of us. Over the past month, I have had friends, co-workers, cashiers at the store, and other people as they go by comment about my son's hair, about how he needs a haircut. For my son to go out in public resembling a homeless person who can't afford shampoo and a hairbrush, it makes me look bad.
The same thing about when he wears pants out in public that show his butt crack and are tied together around his hips with a shoestring. It is a reflection of me and how I raised him. It is not appropriate. I don't care what color he wears, and I don't care what type of shirt or pants he wears, as long as its decent. No shirts with foul language. No pants so low you can his nether region or "hairline". No pants with holes large enough to see underwear through.
I have visions of teacher's writing notes about my son saying things like, "child comes to school every day with dirty clothes and unkempt hair." That's the kind of stuff I don't need to be dealing with. If anyone questions his appearance, I am the one going to get judged and rebuked, not him.
Are my rules stifling his "style"? Well if they are, too bad. The sooner he learns that there are acceptable rules of social behavior the better. When he goes into the working world, he isn't going to be going to work looking like a bum, no one is going to hire him. There will be dress codes and the sooner he learns to comply the better.
The issues of personal hygiene are also for his benefit. Once a kid gets a reputation as a kid who "stinks" or is "dirty" or has "ratty" hair, its almost impossible to lose that reputation. I speak from experience. I was branded with a nickname in junior high school that stuck all the way past graduation. I was picked on and teased over my hair every single day. I know what its like to be ridiculed for having ubangee type hair and I don't want my son picked on because of his lack of personal hygiene.
It isnt just his hair, its the bathing issues, clean clothes issue, wearing his glasses or contacts, etc. Even animals in the wild groom themselves or they groom each other. The two dogs and one cat I live take better care of their hair than my son does.
Despite what people may think, what is important to me, also matters. I have feelings and as a parent, my feelings should be considered. I shouldn't have to be stressed every day, worrying about my kids and how they look or how they smell. I am not going to be one of those parents who allow their children to put tattoos all over their body, and piercings through their nostrils or nipples, or wear T-shirts with foul language or symbols.
Hopefully one day my son will forgive me for being a parent and doing things that are for his own good.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
I used to go to all of the musical productions the school had; my favorite was You're a good man Charlie Brown. Some of my favorite classmates to hear singing were Georgia Swan, Michael Sharrow (who had the voice of an angel), Maureen Sharrow, Terri Hand, Leslie McMartin. So many talented people.
I would give anything to be able to sing. I truly believe that the angels must sound like some of the voices I hear on this earth. I get chills down my spines and feel all teary eyed listening to some voices. I heard a new voice a few weeks ago, Declan Galbreath or something like that. It was so tender, so beautiful, so pure.
Growing up, we would get all of the commercials for the big musicals and my sister Judy and I wanted to go to New York City to see a real live musical. We had planned to take a bus and go see Evita, or Fiddler on the Roof, anything. I'm almost 50 and still haven't made it to NYC, but I have seen some musicals on stage.
When I lived in Dallas, the first musical I got see on stage was Fiddler on the Roof. It was really good, I loved all of the songs. I am pretty sure it was Topol who starred in it. Had to be over 20 years ago now.
I then got to see My Fair Lady with Richard Chamberlain. I loved Richard Chamberlain. I remember him first for Dr Kildare, such a handsome man. Then I adored him in all of the mini-series/TV movies he did: Shogun, the Bourne Identity and then my favorite: The Thorn Birds. I thought he was the epitome of Father Ralph Debriccassart. When I heard he was coming to Dallas in My fair Lady, everyone joked that he was gay and I begged to differ. There was NO WAY. We jokingly argued for weeks about his sexuality. Little did I know. I was so excited to see him at the summer musicals and then, well, his feet never touched the floor. He glided from one side of the stage to the other. We got to meet him afterwards at a charity event for AIDS and it was very apparent. I remember him looking so polished, so pristine, and extremely effeminate. I couldn't believe it. I didn't want to believe it. I wanted him to be the man I wanted him to be. Oh well, lol, it was years later that he came out to the world about his sexuality. He did do a good Professor Higgins though.
Then I went to see Evita. It was good, although I think it would have been better to see it on Broadway. That was my favorite commercial as a 12-13 year old, was the previews for Evita. I can still hear the song "Don't cry for me Argentina". I remember having tears fall listening to it on stage.
I didn't get to see the broadway shows Jesus Christ Superstar, Rent, or Dreamgirls, but the movie versions were wonderful to me. I loved JCS so much I joined a fan club for the lead, Glenn Carter. I liked the movie version with him better than the older one with Ted Nugent. My favorite scene is his solo, singing in the garden of gethesemane, such a beautiful voice. It was interesting to find out that the actor who played Christ was not even a Christian or anything similar to christianity. Ever heard of Raelians? if you want interesting readings, look them up one day. They claimed to have cloned a baby and I wouldnt' doubt it.
I loved the movie version of Rent and think I like Rosario Dawson better than the original broadway actress. I also liked Tracie Thomas as Joanne. I think that cast is one of the most talented one as whole of any I have seen. I could watch it over and over and over. Its one of those musicals that I love every single song in it. My favorite songs are the ones sang by Adam and then the ones by Jesse.
For me, Dreamgirls was the redemption of Jennifer Hudson. the first time I heard her sing I had chills. She was so talented and I thought from the beginning of that season of American Idol, so far ahead of every other singer that season, including Fantasia. She nailed Dreamgirls. I like Jennifer Holiday, but when I heard Jennifer Hudson sing the songs of Effie, it felt like those lyrics and that music was written just for her. I loved Eddie Murphy and thought he also deserved the Oscar. I saw it on a sneak preview night at a local movie theater in Orlando and it was the only time in my life I ever witnessed something like that, at the end of the movie, the whole entire audience stood up and screamed and gave a standing ovation, to a movie screen. That speaks for itself.
I miss going to see musicals. I am hoping that I get to see some here in Raleigh/durham. Maybe the colleges will put on some musical productions. I'd love to see other versions of the musicals listed above, or a few I never got to see. I never got to see Miss Saigon, so maybe one day.
For now, I will settle on listening to my showtunes in the car or on my IPOD as I fall asleep.
Doing things with direction/guidance is so much easier. We waste so much time trying to figure things out on our own, when we really should have the instructions or guidance there in front ofus. So I am officially requesting my "life instructional manual." I want to figure out my life and where it's going. I want to know if North Carolina is going to be my last home of record, and whether I am going to be spending my life alone or with someone in particular. Should I plan to stay in this job, or should I get out while the going is good?
It would just be so much easier. I wouldnt feel like I was wasting my time. I just want to get on with whatever it is and then I can make better decisions. I don't want much, just a little guidance. Tell me whether I am Carolina dependent or will be off to the wild blue yonder. Am I going spend my life with someone I've aleady met or someone I am to meet soon, or yet, am I to spend it alone?
For now, I would prefer to stay here, I like the weather and the people seem really friend. its small enough to have a local flavor to it,b ut yet its big enough to have target, some movie theaters, restaurants. etc.
Monday, October 12, 2009
"Phyllis, remember how much trouble Cathy had trying to wear a dress. Good luck, Linda" I remember this event. Cathy Beauchamp was one of my best friends and she liked wearing dresses about as much as I did. Usually, we would pick one day a year our whole gang would wear a dress and everyone would be shocked at us. We were the tomboys who played sports and were generally better than half the boys. Linda was probably the biggest tomboy I knew as a kid. She grew up on a dairy farm near my Aunt Joan's. She was definitely the strongest girl I had ever met. She could run like the wind and she could do more pull ups than any boy I knew. I used to go to her house to ride horses with her. I remember when we were about five, her coming by my aunt's house on a horse and just being amazed that a girl my age could commandeer an animal that big.
She came from a big family, a bunch of girls and one boy, Robert. He was so wild, seemed to be angry at the world. He was actually the one who taught me how to ride, and to ride bareback. He never talked much, but I fell in love with him. He was so good, and so strong and could ride so fast, he seemed like he must have been part Indian. I wonder if he remembers me at all.
I'll always remember Linda. When we were in I think 7th grade, or 8th, there was a fire out on their farm and she was running through the cornfield towards it. Her mother was driving their station wagon at the same with half the kids in it, trying to get to the fire and not seeing Linda, she accidentally ran over her. She didn't kill her, but she ran her legs over. Linda was never the same afterwards. She couldn't run like she used to. I don't think she ever even came back to school. I went to see her, but it made me so sad. It felt like she didnt' want me to see her like that.
I hope that she finally healed and is living a good life. She had a really good heart and hilarious sense of humor, and always made me feel good about myself.
Looking through the yearbook, its funny looking at the pictures of the teachers. Someone wrote "fem" on about ten of the male teachers pictures. It just makes me laugh thinking about it. And the teachers look so much younger than I remember them.
It made me think about the Mrs. Flemings that taught at Kennedy school when I was little. One taught I think it was second or third grade and one taught fifth grade. I remember back then thinking they were 90 years old. I wonder how old they really were. I remember the fifth or sixth grade one was my social studies teacher and i remember her setting up the movie reels we would watch every class. Learning about pygmies and native tribes of south america. Did those classes really matter to me as an adult? Could I have made it through adulthood without ever learning about them? I think I could have. Maybe I needed more science and more literature. I definitely needed more science and even before I was a nurse.
I turn another page and see a picture of Mrs Peck, a PE teacher and I wrote "peckerhead" next to it. And I also put a huge X across her face. If I hadn't done that, I dont' think her name would ever have registered with me. Its so weird to look back and think that, at one point they were so important, or at last that is what I thought. Why did I write "tutu" next to Mr Garafalo's picture?? Maybe ellen will remember, I will have to ask her :)
but I do thank my teachers in the little town of Ogdensburg, New York for my education. For those who fed my eagerness to learn, for those who challenged me to seek the answers to what I wanted to know, from Mrs. Tracy in first grade to Mrs Bateman in fifth. A special thank you to Penny Raftis Sharrow for teaching me the things that books and formal classes can't teach and for believing in me when no one else in the world seemed to. while we may have thought they were "fems" or "peckerheads" they provided us with a valuable education.
"A child miseducated is a child lost." John F. Kennedy
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
The first is a man, almost fifty, who I knew back when we were just young twenty year old's. He was a promising young military officer, brought up by loving, educated, decent parents. Very handsome, athletic, and extremely intelligent. One of the nicest people I had ever met; always with a smile on his face. We worked together for a few years and I don't ever remember him not being happy go lucky. He would tell me about his latest girlfriend, about the trips across Europe he would take, and all of the weekend's social events going on around the base. He always managed to put a smile on my face. Over the years, we kept in contact sporadically.
I knew he married not too long after we returned from Germany. He'd written to me about getting married and the excitement of buying his first house and having his first child "on the way." I'd contact his mom every now and then to get an update on his address to send Christmas cards or drop him a line. I knew he was living in Florida, so when I moved there in 2000, I tried to look him up, to no avail. His mom had moved so I was unable to pinpoint exactly where he was at.
About 18 months ago, I was finally able to reach him through his brother and mother, finding out he was living in North Carolina. We started emailing each other and had a few phone conversations, where I found out things had not turned out too well. His wife turned out to be a serious drug addict who was on a path of destruction very early in their marriage, not caring what happened to her husband and her two young sons.
He told me the whole, heartbreaking story. The drug addiction, the cocaine addiction, the crack addition and everything that goes along with that: financial nightmares, never knowing when she would be home or gone, and when she was gone, never knowing if she were dead or alive. Having to deal with two little boys who wanted to know where their mommy was at and not knowing what to tell them. Having to work to support them, but not being able to be there with them, making sure they were safe. And not wanting to give up on a marriage, because thats not the way he was raised. His parents were married over 40 some years when his father passed away. He loved his wife and didn't want his sons to be raised without a mother.
His son's would call him at work and tell him "mommy is gone" and he'd have to hurriedly leave work to go take care of them. Sometimes it would be a night or two, sometimes weeks would go by and he would never know. When she was there, money would be missing, household items, even cars would disappear-sold to buy crack.
Along with the drug addiction came adultery, he could only imagine and fear what she was doing. When her boyfriends got tired of her, she'd come back home and "promise" it wouldnt' happen again. But it happened, again, and again, and again, and again.
Over the years, he kept telling himself it would get better, she'll stop. He tried everything he could to try to get her stop. Changing himself, trying to change the surroundings, trying one option after another, hoping and praying that something would trigger inside of her to get her to stop. But you can't stop a person like that who doesn't want to stop. You can't make someone change just because you want to, you have to accept they are who they are. You can't make someone treat you with respect. You can't make someone else be a good parent. You can't make someone else turn into someone they never were to begin with.
She finally left him for good, deciding drugs were more important than her family, more valuable to her than anything else.
so what did she leave behind? A trail of disaster. Two sons who are so emotionally scarred that they don't leave the house. They have very little communication with the outside world. Two sons who have built a coat of armor around themselves, around their hearts that virtually enslaves them. They don't have friends. Neither finished school-both dropped out. Neither has learned a trade or attended college. Neither have girlfriends, or best friends that they are involved with. Some online friends-but thats the extent of it. But they do have their dad, what's left of him.
The happy go lucky friend I had? He's a broken shell of a man. The former military officer with the promising future ended up losing a succession of jobs because of his wife. He works two small part time menial jobs. He's been to jail twice because of some things she did and she was responsible for, but he was held accountable.
He's a good dad and he loves his sons, but he's afraid to hurt his sons. Therefore, he can't force them to go to school-they won't go. As much as he won't admit it, he's afraid of the repercussions from forcing them to do anything-they'll hate him, they'll leave and go live with their mother, they'll reject him, they'll abandon him, etc.
He doesn't have any real friends himself. He doesn't have a "real" life either. He can't afford to much more than house and feed his sons, so he hasn't been out of his house for years except to go to work. I've lived here in North Carolina for less than 12 weeks and I already know the area better, because I have gone out and looked around. He doesn't go look around, because he can't afford the gas.
When he comes around, if we have a disagreement, he goes running. He can't stay and discuss anything, he just runs. All that he has heard for the past twenty years is the negative stuff his wife had said to him, and the negative comments from others about being divorced, or being arrested, or losing his job. He hasn't had any positive comments in years. No one has paid any attention to him, so he has just convinced himself he's the bad guy. He's the one with the shortfalls. He's somehow responsible for all of the bad things that have happened to his children. He alone. There are smiles, but it's a game. He smiles because its polite and friendly to smile at others, and thats how he was brought up. You don't people your problems, you keep them to yourself, and you don't tell others. You don't ask for help-real people don't ask for help, any losers do. You get my point. It's been breaking my heart just to see him.
So how does he deal with it. Well he drinks his cares away. He doesn't go out to bars and unless you caught him pouring alcohol into a cup, you'd never know it. You don't really smell it. He doesn't act crazy or violent, or fall down. He just sits on his couch and has a drink every night until he falls asleep. It started off as a way to just drown out the bad times, but then it became a habit. I think he has just numbed his heart from all of the pain and sorrow he has been feeling over the years.
Then the other guy. The young guy. He too was a happy go lucky young man, as a teenager. Had friends, was going to college, played sports, had his whole life ahead of him. But like the first guy, he got married young. Too young. Like the first guy, "had" to get married. Thats what you do when you get a girl pregnant, you marry her. Even if its a great possibility the baby isn't yours. Thats not how you were raised. You marry whether you really love the person or not. Thats the "right" thing to do.
So he gets married, and while his wife isn't into drugs immediately, they are on the way. Her initial "drug" is power. Power over him. Using the children as weapons to maintain that power. "Do this or I will take the kids." "Do this or you will never see the kids again." "Quit this job, or I am leaving and taking the kids." He quits college because now he has a family to take care of. He gets jobs pretty easy, but quits as his wife demands, (she doesn't like it when there are other women in the workplace).
He goes in the army at her demand, and then he gets out as soon as he can at her demand. They move across the country for a new start, but move back to her mother's at her demand. Always with the, "do this or I will take the kids and you will never see them again, ever."
He's no longer the happy go lucky kid he used to be. He doesn't go out much in public anymore. He's got nervous twitches, "tics". He talks to himself. He's convinced himself that he is the bad guy. He loves her. He won't leave her no matter what his behavior is, because he doesn't want to be that guy who leaves a wife and kids. He won't leave with the kids, because he doesn't want to be the dad that took his kids away from their mother.
And she has progressed with her addiction, to real drugs. Initially it was just marijuana, but has grown to pills, alcohol, "oxy" parties, and occasionally cocaine. He too has been arrested. He too has made poor decisions. He too has tried to justify her behavior, change her behavior, try to change the surroundings so maybe her behavior will change, all to no avail. Because he also doesn't get: you can't make people change. You can't make people be who they aren't. They are either going to do the right thing, or the wrong thing, but it's their choice and no matter how hard you try, it has to be their decision, their action, it has to be a part of their "being" to be what they are.
As I look at the younger guy, I realize, he is just the younger version of my older friend. This is how the destruction of a life happens. I've watched it from the beginning and I've watched how his personality has changed. I've watched as he has made bad decision after bad decision after bad decision, all because he doesn't want to give up on a marriage, doesn't want to be away from his children, and doesn't want to accept that his life with his wife is never going to be what he wants it to be, ever.
He's now sitting in jail. He hasn't turned to alcohol to drown out his sorrow-at least not yet. He's in the "I don't know how to fix this but I will do 100 stupid things to try and fix it" stage. And he's going to end up paying for it. He's an army war veteran with a college degree with years of work experience who has been fired, been arrested, and believes he is the cause of all of the problems in his family and his life. His self esteem is also completely shattered. While he was not perfect beforehand, he is not even a shell of who and what he used to be.
so what do these two guys have in common? What is it about them, that they have taken the paths they have taken?
They are both tender hearted.
They have the kind of hearts that will forgive over, and over and over. they will accept blame and responsibility because they are willing to "understand and forgive" the other person, over and over and over again, no matter how destructive it is to themselves. They don't want to stop loving. They don't want to give up hope. They just believe in love and that love will fix everything. They've loved the people in their lives so much more than they loved themselves, that they both now believe they are unlovable.
Many people don't understand people with a tender heart. I understand. I've been there. I made the same mistakes they made. I've lost jobs. I've been to a jail cell. I've blamed myself for "causing" my husband to leave me. I've convinced myself that I don't deserve to be loved and that its easier to just close out the world. I got to the point where I literally begged on my knees.
I shudder now at the thought of what I allowed to happen. I understand now that my intentions were good, they were right. My intention was to hold my family together. My intention was thinking that it really could be fixed if I just gave a little more, did a little more, said a little less, complained a little less. You do that long enough and you really do convince yourself that you do not matter. Thats its okay not to matter. You do everything you can to try and protect your heart, not realizing that you are giving another person the ability to destroy your heart.
Over the past couple years, I've had people tell me I am "heartless". That I am "mean," or "callous" or whatever they want to call me. I am not heartless. i still have a heart. I feel it pounding inside of me every day. I see and think about some things and I do my best to hide my tears. I figured I cried enough in the past 14 years that I don't need to cry anymore. I stand up for myself now and refuse to take any crap from anyone. Anyone wants to ignore my feelings or step all over me, I no longer tolerate it. And I speak up. I don't bite my tongue anymore. I don't cower away afraid of being rejected because of having my own opinion. I am no longer afraid of being me and standing up for what I believe in.
I am not closed off to love. I have found that out a couple times over the past year. I'm not closed off to trust, I do have some trust, I just don't blindly trust by nature anymore. I'll trust you while holding one eye a little more open than the other.
I wish I could do something to protect these two men. I too, wish I could change them into being how I want them to be. but I have learned, you can't make someone be who you want them to be. They have to want to be that person themselves. they have to take action on their own and it has to be a part of their being.
I hope they both know that I love them with all of my heart. That they are lovable, that they did not deserve what happened to them, and that they do deserve to be loved.
And I hope they both learn to love themselves.
Monday, October 5, 2009
The last time I posted, I was living in Orlando, Florida in my own home, with three teenagers, and two dogs. I am now living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with one teenager, two dogs and a cat. Amazing how much can change in such a short amount of time.
It seems as though my string of bad luck has continued, but I am trying to keep the words of Robert Kennedy in mind as I go through this life. "Good luck is something you make, and bad luck is something you endure."
I got here to NC a couple months ago, and right around my second week, I asked for permission to leave a little early so I could go to my son's football game. I got about two blocks from the parking garage and was following a careless teenage girl who was driving some mammoth vehicle. She was flying down the street and I could see she was on her cell phone, just talking away. I tried to stay 3-4 car lengths behind her, keeping a close eye, as it was rush hour traffic in Durham. Suddenly I noticed that she was not paying attention and was going to smash into the car in front of her. I honked my horn and slammed on my brakes. She hit the other car as soon as I honked my horn and I skidded into her bumper. My car came to a complete halt once it hit her bumper, barely scratching the rubber on her car, but mangling my front end of my Tucson, arghhhhhhh. I got out to make sure every one was okay. The girl in front was a young girl, who seemed okay, thankfully, as her car was sent flying. The teenager with the phone addiction didn't put down her cell phone to check on anyone and seemed to ignore what happened. We were lucky no one was injured as there were a bunch of people walking right there who had just stepped off the bus.
I call my insurance company, which is still in Florida, and after a small run around, get my car towed and get a ride home. The next day, the rental car agency delivers a car to me at my rental house. I get in the car with my son and my niece, and driving less than a mile away, a rock pops up and cracks the windshield of the rental car. Double arghhhhhhhhhhh!! I have to trade out the rental car for a new car. I have that car a couple days and that windshield gets a crack in it from a rock. I think get a van to take to orlando to try and pack up my stuff to return to NC.
Everything in Orlando went fairly well (another long story) and I returned to Chapel Hill. I turn in the van and pick up my car, after it being in the repair shop for almost a month. Driving home from the repair shop, a rock is pitched from the truck driving in front of me and sure enough, I now have a crack in my windshield. Thats sort of how my life has been. I can be driving a long, and someone throws a rock at me, slows me down. I get up and start fixing things and start picking up the pieces. While I am still there picking up the pieces, someone else throws a rock. before to long, I am being burdened down picking rocks up off from being tossed in different directions. I say it is now someone elses turn.