As The Toilet Paper Rolls


toilet paper heartWhen my children were small, I knew the location of every clean and easily accessible public restroom in three states. Not really, but it was important for me to at least have a decent knowledge of clean toilet locations in my area, because my little darlings had tiny bladders that never needed emptying at the same time.

Now that they are all grown and on their own, I’m finding myself, once again having to learn where the clean and easy to get to toilets lie, preferably those with toilet paper still on the roll. The reason is thanks to an aging bladder and a gastric issue that began a couple of years ago.

At first it was just acid reflux at night, that slowly but steadily worsened. Next was the discovery that eating would make post meal time, a solid hour of wishing the damned Tums would work already. None of the OTC remedies worked, so I buckled down and got the entire digestive tract checked out. I walked away with a diagnosis of Diverticulosis, IBS,  an extracted benign polyp, a script for Nexium, and a whopping bill.

Six months later, I’ve discovered that my body is starring in a soap opera.   My colon and the toilet are carrying on a torrid affair with the roll of toilet paper acting as  a gleeful enabler. There are some days I can’t keep those two apart.  The indignity of spending more time in the bathroom while these two cavort is  when my stomach begins to serenade rumbling “love songs” to whomever may be in earshot. This is not an issue that is easily kept secret.

I’ve done all I can to keep this affair from getting out of control, trying without any success to see what foods are the siren mating call between intestine and porcelain, but I can’t figure it out.  There is no food, or food combination that can guarantee  whether or not another episode of As The Toilet Paper Rolls is pending.  Episodic renditions of “POOP NOW POOP NOW!!!” , “Bloat Till She Floats”, “The Rock In My Belly” or “Is This Nausea or a Pending Belch?” at least add a bit of variety,

One of these days I will figure out how what it is that triggers all of this. It’s still a mystery, as what bothers my digestion one day, leaves it completely unfazed the next. I just wish there was a hidden benefit to speedier digestion in the form of less of me to lug around. No such luck.

 

“Dating” Daddy


daddy dateThere is a trend happening in evangelical circles that I find somewhat disturbing. Its the trend of fathers dating their daughters.  Yes you read that correctly, and apparently its highly recommended as a means to for fathers to spend time with their girl children. A common event is the Daddy/daughter dance, where the fathers wear suits and the girls dress up and go to a planned evening, complete with photographers, punch and a DJ. Its more like a prom. In fact in some cases it is a prom. Some of these “proms”  are not designed for fun, tiaras, and all the punch you can drink while dancing to Selena Gomez.

If you have clicked on the links and are skeeved out, you are not alone. Those dances with the “purity” theme send a very negative message to girls about sexuality. I find them highly disturbing and coercive. They use fear wrapped in tulle and ceremony to get girls to consider their virginity the whole of their value. Yet they are quite popular in conservative evangelical circles.

Thankfully, some father/daughter dances  do not have the sexual purity undertones, but instead are simply billed as fun events for dads and daughters.

I understand that such events are an attempt to get fathers to spend time with their daughters. I understand that its also an attempt for dads to try to instill  positive views about the male gender, or to try to teach religious ideals about sexuality. I understand that little girls often love dressing up like their favorite princess and dancing to Disney tunes, and think Daddy hung the moon, but I wonder if such events takes away from the natural,  spontaneity  that can exist between parent and child.

I have to ask, do daughters really have to wear frilly dresses just to have some one on one time with their dads? do dads have to go to planned, events where they likely feel completely out of place just to spend time with their daughters?

I don’t think so.

I remember dancing with my dad, at family themed church dances, where he patiently tried to teach me the box step. I happened to like to dance, even if I lacked elegance, but dancing with my dad is not what rates high on my Time With Dad highlight reel.

best bag swing evah!

Best bag swing on the planet.

Instead I remember him taking my brothers and me to the lake, where we learned how to put our own worms on hooks, and catch bluegill. I remember the bag swing he built in our back yard. The bag swing was nothing more than gunny sacks, rolled up together with a rope tied to the middle. The other end of the rope was tied to the branch of an oak tree branch, a good 15 feet up. I still remember the thrill of my dad pulling me back as far as he could make that swing go, then throwing me forward. I’d screech in delight as I’d hurtle to make the arc complete, than back down again.

I remember years of playing cards or checkers with him, and never once beating him. I came close once or twice. The consistent defeat didn’t daunt me, as we enjoyed the game, as well as all the jokes, silly bantering, attempts to catch one of my brothers cheating.

I remember the entire house being dark, and hiding, while my dad tromped around, loudly yodeling the melody of the marching soldiers from the Wizard of Oz, while wearing a KFC bucket on his head. I was always found before my brother. My brother was very hard to find. It was such spooky fun, ending with giggles and a tickle.

I remember Dad being the only person on the planet who could help me almost understand algebra. It is thanks to him that I passed any math class. I remember when I was sixteen being taken to a movie, the first grown up one we’d been to together. It was Alien. He loved it, thinking it the best monster movie made in thirty years. I was scared shitless.

I wasn’t treated like a fairy princess, the idealistic little girl fantasy. The idea of going out on a date with my dad, would have likely horrified us both. For him to take me to an event where I was supposed to ceremoniously hand over my virginity so he could give it later to a spouse of his approval was unthinkable.  I was treated like a daughter, a human being with autonomy, who had a step sister and a host of brothers, each of us special in our individual ways, being groomed to step out into the world on our own.

My own children’s father  proved to  be a poor role model, so I did what I could to share the lessons my father taught me. Lessons taught that being a great parent, was simply spending time with your kids, enjoying their company, showing  a sense of humor, quick to apologize for messing up, teaching practical skills, like cooking, mowing the lawn or doing laundry, to be available to listen, to help with homework or to play Scrabble with, and to do those everyday things that they may never appreciate or remember, but they often do.

I really don’t understand the idea of “dating” daddy. I don’t understand having to plan events, schedule time to spend with one’s child. I certainly do not understand having to suggest to fathers things to do with their daughters. Even busy dads, as any parent often is, take five minutes to listen to her to play Fur Elise on the piano, or help with a Geometry problem, or teach her the trick to throwing a curve ball. They can show her how to check the oil in the car, have her hand him the tools while fixing the sink, and play pranks on Mom. Doing those small things consistently, and willingly will mean more than any fancy dress up dance with a DJ playing Justin Bieber and Pharrell.

Memories of Mamal


I wrote this poem to read at Grace Stewart William’s memorial service. She was my step-grandmother, and a sweet, gentle soul. She will be dearly missed.

Memories of Mamal

Coffee and toast, her usual breakfast
Enjoyed each morning, dressed in her housecoat
A moment of quiet to start her day

Small children, drawn to her like bees to honey.
Who’d hold a disabled child for hours
So his parents could enjoy a family gathering

Her chickens, lovingly tended,
Eggs laid, she skillfully cooked
Her grandchildren feared the meanest roosters in five states.

Hours around the table, playing cards
Friendly competition amongst family
She was tough to beat, a delightful opponent

Peanut Brittle, one of my favorite treats
Delivered by hand from trips up north
Candy, gifts, small statured hugs, infused with love.

Hair, white, permed shoulder length
The sides pulled back and pinned
A beautiful look she never changed.

A tiny woman with a tremendous heart
Gentle, stubborn, gracious and loving.
Thank you for your gift in my life

Bubble Wrap


bubble wrapLast weekend I went to Florida for one of my grandmother’s funerals. The night before all us grandkids went to her apartment and chose a few mementos to take back home. I took mostly photos, plus a cross stitched item, and a small vase.

Among the photos as a picture of me at about age sixteen.

What you can’t really see in the photo along with the braces is that I’m not squintinScan (2).BMPg from the bright summer sun, but because I refused to take photos with my very thick, geek alert glasses.

Damn, I was skinny back then.

Somewhere, after three kids, a failed marriage, a new marriage to a man who feeds me so he doesn’t have to eat my lousy cooking,  a deterioration of those squishy things between my vertebrae, one french fry too many and about 35 years. I now look like this.

easter 2014 085

 

Yes, I’ve been Bubble Wrapped by Mother Nature. Well at least that is what I want to call all that squishy padding I am walking around with these days.  It could be that Mother Nature finally realized how amazingly accident prone I am, and decided it was about time she took some protective measures on my behalf.  A bit late lady, a bit late.

I look back at that skinny girl and remember how awkward I felt, out-of-place, unsure of herself, unattractive and a bit lonely. I was just a few years away from a couple of decades of life of misery, poverty, and real loneliness, thanks to a disastrous marriage that I got myself trapped in. Part of me wishes I could go back to that skinny girl I once was and try to give a big boost to her floundering confidence, as well as warn her away from the man with pretty blue eyes and charisma that hid the evil underneath.

But even if that had been possible, I doubt the younger me would have listened or understood. Instead I honed what was to be one of my better assets, sheer unbridled tenacity.  I used it to keep my children as safe and loved as I possibly could, teaching myself another vital skill, optimism, just so I could face yet another day. Meanwhile, ounce by ounce, the bubble wrap started to appear, wrapping me in courage, in hope, in confidence and in an embracing of myself  as a geeky, heart on her sleeve wearing introverted pacifist with a quirky sense of humor. When I finally escaped marriage hell, that wrapping prepared me for the next stage of my life, where uncertainty was no longer to be feared, but met head on.

Deep beneath the layers of artery clogging layers of life, too little exercise and too much pizza, that skinny girl still lives, still awkward, sometimes lacking confidence, still questioning her attractiveness, but at peace with her former and her current self. She grouse sometimes about all the layering, that may or may not some day be abated somewhat, but she also knows the value of what it portrays. Somewhere along the line she discovered happiness and to be comfortable in her own skin, even if that skin was never going to ever have that much public exposure.

Grumbling


 

contemplating girlThe list is long and tiresome

Of personal disillusionment

Things that erode away,

bit by bit what should have

me satisfied.

 

Pain of mind, of spirit of body,

that marks the passage of time,

of life lived with good times and bad,

Pain, that would have faded by now

If only I had let it.

 

Why do I keep it close by

the list that hinders my sight?

Why do I not instead favor

what comforts and illumines me?

 

Why instead of grousing, complaining

bitching and moaning

am I not content, at peace

seeing all around

the beauty that surrounds me?

 

Its difficult

to trade grumbling for thanksgiving

Its hard to refocus on the good I have

instead of fixating on the bad

Who will it hurt to polar shift my mind?

Who will it hurt if I don’t?

 

Maybe I’ll one day master

gratitude as a focus

thankful for what life has gifted me,

each thing that’s made it richer

Maybe.

 

Considering Cancer Awareness


cancer

 

 

 

 

 

I  got the following email from a reader the other day. Heather writes:

 I’m reaching out to you today in hopes that you will help me with a cause that is very near and dear to my heart. At age 36, just 3 ½ months after my first and only child, Lily, was born, I was diagnosed with mesothelioma and given 15 months to live. Miraculously, I beat the odds and I’m still here eight years later.

Mesothelioma is considered one of the most aggressive and deadly cancers; most people are given just one year to live upon diagnosis. There is no known cure for mesothelioma and the future continues to look grim as attention to the disease as well as research funding continues to decline. The only known cause of ‘meso’ is exposure to asbestos, which is still not banned in the US. Sadly, it doesn’t look like asbestos will be banned anytime soon, as there is too much money being made by using this deadly mineral.

Since May is National Cancer Research Month, I’ve made it my personal mission to try and spread awareness of this rare, preventable disease. The more people that know about this cancer, the more lives are potentially saved! Would you be willing to share the site that I blog for with your readers? The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance has tons of information about the disease, asbestos exposure, and is also where my husband and I blog about our journey with mesothelioma.

Please let me know what you think :-) From awareness grows hope. Each voice could save a life.

 

Of course I agreed to share her letter. I admit I knew little about Mesothelioma other then those class action suit commercials paid for by some attorney’s office hoping to get rich off of other people’s suffering, (a rant for another day). I didn’t know asbestos exposure was the only known cause of this very deadly cancer.

Heather is correct, May is cancer awareness month. On Mother’s Day I went to a minor league baseball game. They handed out pink t-shirts and carnations to all the moms, and there was a a lot of hub-bub about breast cancer. I’m glad for the focus, as I lost my step-mom to breast cancer. But I have to wonder if we shouldn’t also be working to eradicate, or at least better the treatment options for the other cancers out there. How many of us have lost friends or family to cancer? How many of us know someone suffering right now?

I want to see an end to a disease that sickens so many using such diversity to do so. I want people not to suffer surgeries or treatments that cause them pain. I want people not have to worry about losing everything they own, just to be able to help one family member live, even if its only for a few months, because of the incredible costs of treatment.

I’m just one voice, with a little blog. I am also an empath, who feels deeply, other people’s suffering. Heather and her family want a cure. She wants to see her kids grow up, just like my sister-in-law  who is also fighting another form or cancer. We can all help, in small ways, as we look for the means to end a disease that robs so much from us.

What Mom Could Ask for Anything More?


180237_10151493447669317_1339669079_nOne of the great things about being a mother of grown children is the memories. Part of the fun of those memories, as a writer is putting them into a more concrete format, that may or may not embarrass those now grown children. Any long time reader of my work knows, that I’ve been mining parenting memory gold for awhile.

It is those memories, the happy, the sad, and the hilarious that I feel have made being the mother of these three people so rewarding. My children are vibrant, intelligent, funny, creative and accomplished. Of course that’s just a mother’s bragging, but its true.  I was often so proud of them. I’ve also had times where I wanted to pinch their naughty little heads off.

I have great memories of then they were little. Of my oldest finally mastering potty training. I honestly was afraid, I’d still be trying to get that child to use a toilet at the same time he was getting his learner’s permit. But he got it. Soon afterwards, I caught him and a little girl who was visiting, on my front porch. He was demonstrating how to pee off the porch.

My middle child, cried, no wailed, every single morning the first weeks of kindergarten. She begged to stay home. “I’ll be good mommy, I promise I will!” Thankfully she overcame her disdain for school, and went on to be an honor student.

My youngest  grew up to possess far more clothes than I, mainly because she’s been stealing out of my closet for years. This child when young, HATED changing clothes. She always wanted to pick out her own clothes, usually the same damned thing, a pair of stretchy shorts and a Sylvester the Cat t-shirt. She tried for three years to wear that outfit every single day. It would mysteriously reappear into her drawer, after I bagged it up to take to Goodwill. Once when she was about three, and I was tired of the daily “dress the toddler cage match” I let her pick out an outfit herself. She picked out socks and a belt.

When they all were in grade school, their collective antics were funny, sometimes dangerous, and often messy. I refused to buy grapes for a year. Why? Because Michael, the oldest, thought it would be a great idea to make grape juice. Their method of juicing was to smash grapes on the table, then try to capture the juice somehow. I don’t think they’d figured out the last part when I walked in on them.

My crew was the first generation of kids to successfully use the laundry chute at their great grandmother’s summer cottage as a slide. To determine its safety factor, they piled all the blankets and pillows they could find, and used Megan, the youngest as a guinea pig.

They also decided to play “cat fishing, extreme style” one day. On this event, I heard uncontrollable laughter coming from the living room. I walked in to see the kids in helpless heaps, one cat staring at the ceiling, the other making rapid laps around the room. I looked where the first cat was looking. There tied to the ceiling fan was the racing cat’s favorite stuffed duck. It was making slow helicopter rotations tethered to a shoe lace. Cheese-puff was  desperately trying to catch his toy, while the other cat eyed the whole scene in disdain. Once I too stopped laughing, I made them stop the fan and take down the wind blown stuffed duck.

There were so many things that have made me so proud of my kids. Michael broke his collar bone one summer. He had made the middle school cross country team. Even though he nursed that shoulder for most of the season, he ran in every event. His tenacity was to me an inspiration. He’s been running ever since, and regularly enters events.

All three of my kids have accomplished something I’ve never managed, a college degree. Ashley did so, while parenting very small people, and with her husband either deployed or based far from home for most of her time in studies. She graduated, with honors, weeks before she gave birth to their third child.

All three are home owners, and accomplished that feat before age 30. I was in my mid forties before becoming a home owner. Megan, the youngest bought her first home a year and a half ago. She and her new husband purchased an older home close to ours. It needs to be upgraded to meet the standards of,  at least,       the early 2000′s, but they are up to the task, taking things one small project at a time.

One more thing I appreciate about these amazing people I birthed is how well they support one another, genuinely like each other and have become a source of support for me. When I made the decision to finally end the marriage from hell and leave their father who had been abusive to all of us, they were there for me, for each other. We were all hurting, yet they rallied  around me, listening to me, chiding me at times, giving me ways to distract me from how difficult things were, and letting me know how much they loved me.

I know Mother’s Day is a time to honor mothers. I, of course, appreciate the sentiment and the bit of extra personal attention. This year, I want to spend more time enjoying the gift, of being a parent of three people, who have made my life so rich.  It has been a delight watching my children grow from adorable chubby babies, to strong beautiful adults. Being their mother hasn’t always been easy, as we’ve endured some truly difficult times together.  We’ve also had a lot of fun together. They’ve made me laugh, cry, lose my temper, exhausted, physically ill,  (because germs are the gift that keeps on giving), want to run away from home and join the circus, proud as any mom could be, and feeling extraordinarily valued. A couple years ago, when I remarried, I gained two more grown boys, so now I have more fantastic kids to love.

What Mom could ask for anything more?