The One That Got Away

I’ve said numerous times, in a sort of humorous way, that most all of my previous boyfriends are dead with the exception of one, and he’s the only one I wish was.   Dead, that is.  And it’s really not funny.

 But actually, that’s not entirely true.  My first boyfriend, whom I do still consider my “first love” is still alive and I’m happy he is.  He’s not the one I wish was dead.  He was a good guy.  I “went” with him when I was in eighth grade, I believe, and he was a sophomore.  He was two years older than me.   I broke up  with  him after a year or so and he soon took up with a senior; a girl who was supposedly very experienced in certain areas.  Except he still called me constantly.  I consider him my “first love” in a nostalgic way because he really was the first guy that I really liked and I did really care for him.   We had a blast together and he was so nice – and so nice to me.  He had his driver’s license, but I could not go anywhere in a car with him, so every morning before school, he drove his car to my parent’s home, unloaded his bike, waited for me to finish breakfast with my family, and then he and I walked to school.  He pushing his bike, and me carrying my books.   He eventually broke up with the experienced girl and went with numerous others, yet continued to call me the entire time I was in school.  I have very fond memories of that innocent time and relationship and am glad it is such a happy memory for me.  We eventually lost all contact, but years later, living two hours away from my hometown, I was a social worker for a preschool and was making home visits.  I had met the child whose home I would be visiting that day, and as I got to his home, and headed up the walk to their front door, it opened and there he stood.  My boyfriend from the 8th grade.  He said my name, as if it were a question.  I stood on the sidewalk staring at him.  He asked me why I was there and when I told him, he invited me in.   He had a house full of kids and a wife watching a soap opera. 

 Let’s jump to my college years, shall we?  I met him soon after we both arrived for our freshman year.  And from that point on, through many trials, tribulations and a breakup, we remained together for five years and were actually very proud of that fact.  That we had stayed together through thick and thin for a long time, had each changed but still loved each other, we felt was an accomplishment.  And even though I was still a mixed up, immature and unaware young woman and he had his own not necessarily healthy habits, neither of us had any doubt we would stay together and we were committed.  Then I answered the doorbell early one morning to two people standing on my front stoop taking steps toward me as they said, “there’s been an accident”.  He died in a car wreck.  That was a hard one for me.  A very hard one.  It was the 25th anniversary of his death a couple of years or more ago. 

 Then the next serious relationship lasted about two years.  He was very sweet, very nice and very devoted to me.  But he had his problems and issues, and I obviously had mine, and together we had many.  But we had many many fun and good times.  Too much fun.  And I needed it to stop.  So I left town, he followed, we tried to make another go at it because I hated hurting his feelings but I finally had to.  And I did.  Hurt his feelings.   Big time.  Lots of drama and half-hearted stalking (not the scary, mean kind, but the “can’t let go “ kind).  And then he died weeks after our last  and final run-in.  I did tell myself it was not my fault, but don’t ever think I actually believed it.

 Then a year later, the next relationship. This person pursued me because he saw a very vulnerable young woman who was fairly lost, insecure and had been through a lot and he wined and dined me with money he didn’t have and he romanced me with his charming, yet egotistical and narcissistic ways, of which he had lots.  This one was obviously a huge and stupid mistake on my part and so six months after I broke it off with him, I was not glad, but not sad when a girlfriend called to tell me he had died.  Suffocated after a drunken bender.  Oh, I was sad that there are people out there who are “like that” and believe their own bs and drink until they die, but I was not sad that this person was unable to prey on vulnerable young women any more.  I wasn’t the first and am sure I wasn’t the last.  Period.  End of story.  This story, at least.

 Then many years passed and I got married and had my two wonderful, wonderful sons.  And then years later, my husband died.  And since my husband was my sons’ father, I don’t want to go into too many details out of respect for my sons.  The point is, for this piece, is that he has passed away. 

 Unfortunately, this isn’t the end of my story of my past relationships.  I wish it was.  This is the one I wish I had never happened.  The disaster relationship that happened between my “first love” in eighth grade and my “soul mate” in college.  That would put this one during my high school years.  I was a cheerleader.  I was also the daughter of a raging alcoholic and was going to school each day amidst a world of problems at home and after nights of drunken rages and screaming.  So I was very insecure, not the least bit confident and basically very very easily led.  I didn’t know him prior to friends setting me up with him.  He was my age and played sports with the boyfriends of my two girlfriends.  I basically “went with” him because I guess I thought I was supposed to.  Actually, in retrospect, in hindsight that is so illuminating, I can see that not only did I not even like this person, we had absolutely nothing in common.  I was bookish, shy and needy.  He was boorish, egotistical, chauvinistic and chunky.  As in fat.  And not good-looking.  This should have been a very clear sign for me, that I was not making decisions for myself but rather, was letting other people and pressures influence me, because I was very into “looks”.  In any case, a healthy confident “me” would not have been attracted to him and frankly, I wasn’t.  He was also the football and basketball star.  I can’t remember the first time he slapped me.  But I remember being stunned – and afraid.  And I also remember the pools of tears that immediately formed in my eyes.  And I remember thinking, “what the hell?”.  The slapping escalated to hitting.  And then hair-pulling.  Shoving.  Choking.  And more slapping.  Bloody noses.  Bruises on my forehead and arms and legs.  But the most damage was on my self-esteem.  I went from dealing with an alcoholic father at home in the evenings to a pathologically jealous monster who beat the hell out of me just to let me know “who was in charge” during the day.  This was when I began to look down when I walked.  Because if I looked up, I might see some guy and if he saw me looking at some guy, I got pinched really hard during school and warned of what was going to happen after school and then I got hit after school.  I came to live in a state of fear.  And since my self-esteem was shattered at this point, I amazingly let it go on for over a year.  My parents had big, big problems of their own and couldn’t handle one more.  This guy made the kick at the football game that propelled our little team into the State Finals for the first time in years, so I didn’t think anyone would believe me or it would cause a bigger deal than I could handle at that point. I didn’t want to be the one who rained on the entire town’s parade.  And quite frankly, I was embarrassed; too humiliated to say anything to anyone.  I felt something was wrong with me for someone to want to hit me.  My parents didn’t even hardly spank us, much less hit us.  Some people knew it; some people witnessed it.  I always wondered why his parents never did anything, because some of these beatings went on while we were in his bedroom of their home and I just knew that they must have heard it.  And then he dumped me for the daughter of our school principal.  I was devastated.  Literally.  He treated me like I was nothing, and now I had nothing.  But the worst injustice and the reason for my devastation was that I knew no one would believe me now, because now he was tight with the principal’s family, and the principal had a fair amount of influence, and everyone would just say I was accusing him of something terrible because he broke up with me.  But I wouldn’t have been.  I just wasn’t strong enough to say I was a young woman who allowed herself to be beat up almost daily for over a year and never spoke up about it.  I do know there were a couple of teachers that knew it because they used to always pull me aside and ask if I “was okay”.  And they would ask me about the bruises and when I would tell them some lame excuse of how I got them, they would just stare at me like they didn’t believe me but didn’t quite know what to do about it either.  And one of them died of cancer and the other moved away.  Eventually, I went on to college and tried to continue on with my life.  Readers might wonder why I didn’t just leave him or tell someone, but unless you are in a situation like this, you have no idea of how it unfolds and the different emotions a woman feels while dealing with an abusive relationship.  Her self esteem plummets and she feels she has no one and nothing, and if she doesn’t have him, even abusing her, then she has nothing.  Also, because of the constant depression, worry and fear, she isn’t thinking rationally and it’s hard to summon up the confidence to speak up for herself.  One day I did leave school early, because I was afraid of a threat he made to me that was going to happen after school.  I told the school nurse I was ill, and when I was supposed to be waiting on a parent to pick me up, I just left the school and started walking home.  He saw me from his classroom, and soon I heard a car driving slowly behind me as I walked.  It was him and he asked me what I thought I was doing.  I said I was walking home and to leave me alone or I would hit him with my flute case.  He just stopped car before I knew what was happening, got out and grabbed the flute case out of my hand and grabbed me by the arm and hustled me to the car and shoved me in.   No one in the nearby homes I guess saw us and if they did, no one wanted to get involved.  This is another reason women find it hard to get away from abusive men.  They are much bigger and much faster and the people who do happen to suspect it or possibly witness it don’t always act like they want to get involved .  Also, research show that men who choke women have a greater probability of eventually killing that woman than men who do not choke.  I have to include this one more thing because it is so typical of men who beat women.  Amazingly,  after my fiancé died in college, and I returned to my hometown, this guy went around town telling everyone who would stand around long enough to listen, that my parents were trying to get him to contact me again in hopes of a reconciliation.  I think my mother wanted to beat him up after she heard that and she’s a pacifist.

 So, he’s the one that got away.  Has cheated death so far.  The one who is still living.  The one whom I wished had died, but hasn’t.

It All Started With Ree

I can’t for the life of me remember when I first happened on to the blog, thepioneerwoman.com. I’ve recently spent a few nights before bed trying to come up with how and why I initially found Ree Drummond’s award-winning blog. I don’t think I had heard of her before I found the website. Actually, I think I found it because I was looking up the word “pioneer” on Google for a school project for one of my sons, and it came up with all of the other stuff regarding “pioneers”. But what I do know is that night was the start of this infatuation I have for Ree and her blog – and Marlboro Man and their kids and their extended family and Ree’s sister and nephew and Ree’s brother and Ree’s best friend, Hyacinth and their hired help and Walter and the rest of their pets. I didn’t even know Ree’s blog was a “blog”.  I didn’t know what a blog was.  This was just a fantastic website put together by this obviously cool and talented woman and it looked good and professional and it had all these different pages describing different areas of her life with all these great pictures. And there were advertisements – from places like Macys!!!  Real ads!!  And then there was the story of Ree. Back then her book about the courtship of her and Ladd (yes, I know him well enough from the blog to call him by his first name) had not been published yet. So, I read the story on her blog in nearly one sitting, only stopping that first night because I HAD to get some sleep before it was time to wake the boys up for school the next morning. But as soon as I was back from the morning school run the next day, I sat back down and found the blog again and started reading and finished it that day. I lOVED reading about Ree and her family. And so began my fanship (like friendship only we’re not friends) with the Drummond’s.  They have absolutely no idea I even exist on this earth. But I know a lot about them because I read Ree’s blog every morning. I think one of the things that initially drew me to Ree so much (besides her amazing blog) was that even though I figured I was probably older than she, I knew I grew up in nearly the same time period as she did, because I completely identified with all the trends and fads she mentioned when talking about her youth. And I grew up laying out at the country club pool in our town. And I live in a neighboring state to Oklahoma, where my brother now lives and I was fairly familiar with where she lives now.  I spent those first few weeks of reading her column trying to figure out if she grew up in Enid or Edmond, OK (it was neither) and just where they lived now.  AND I loved her clothes and all the other stuff she put on her blog.  I even still think about something she wrote about what her maternal grandmother said about being a “lady”.  And then I started telling friends about this amazing woman, this cool woman about our age, who had this website telling all about her life on this cool ranch, and my friends would just stare at me for a minute, and then start talking about something else. And now when the blockbuster movie comes out about Ree and Ladd, probably starring Reese Witherspoon, all my friends will go and LOVE it and I will tell them I knew her FIRST!!!, and will remind them I TRIED to tell them about her over a year ago, and they will stare at me for a little while and start talking about something else or else they will tell me they don’t remember me ever telling them about her. But I love Ree, I watch Ree’s cooking show and Ree introduced me to blogs. Only she doesn’t know she did. And she’s helped turn me into a “great cook”, according to my sons. She doesn’t know that either.

But anyway, Ree introduced me to theletteredcottage.com, and then I learned about younghouselove.com and then I happened onto Flower Patch Farmgirl and so on and so on and now I spend a GOOD part of my morning reading a list of blogs that I have in my “favorites” and it’s one of my favorite parts of my day.  I could easily spend hours clicking from one blog to another, because there are SO many GOOD ones out there and I probably only know of a very very small fraction of all the good blogs out there!  I add a new one almost daily, on the recommendation of one I already read.  I have to limit myself to about an hour a day reading my blogs.  Dogs need to be walked, house needs to be cleaned, laundry needs to be done,  bills need to be paid.

The list of blogs I read are as diverse as my personality.  I’m an Aquarius and like a lot of different things.  I love bourbonand pearls and I love Miss Janice.  I love Home Joy by Frances Schultz (is she Charles Schultz’s widow?) and I love Momastery.  I love Monograms and Manicures and Maryland Pink and Green.  I love Back Down South and Collect 5.  I love Dixie Delights and I love An Inch of Gray and . . . . . It All Started with Paint, Non-Consumer Advocate, Southern Hospitality, At the Picket Fence, Beantown Prepster, And Now We Are Six, Pink Wallpaper, Chinioserie Chic, House of Fifty, Tenth Avenue South, Centsational Girl, Ten June, Diary of a Domestic Failure, Nat the Fat Rat, Pauline Wiles, Isabella and Max, The Mustard Ceiling, googiemomma, Better After, Windlost, PeaHen Pad, Thistlewood Farm, Beard and Pigtails, The Simply Luxurious Life, fourgenerationsoneroof, ourvintagehomelove.blogspot.com, Between Naps on the Porch, It’s Official, Unabashedly Prep, Never A Dull Day, Bible Love Notes, mynottinghill and Reggie Darling.  Yes, that many and there are actually more.

I love blogs because I love to read.  And I love to learn.  And I love to look at people’s homes for ideas on how to decorate.  And I love to hear advice on raising children.  And I like to read stories about people who are trying to make a difference.  And I like to hear from others who have struggles sometimes and read how they work through them.  And I like to hear about people who are trying to be better people.  And I like to see what clothes and jewelry and shoes people like.  And I like to see how to do stuff.  And I like book recommendations.  And I like family stories.  And I also share in grief with some people who have had major and tragic losses.

I also like to write, which is why I started this blog.  It may not end up getting a lot of “traffic”, and it will probably never have any fantastic, high-quality pictures of our life (because I only take regular pictures), but so far I like it and I have two fans who live with me.  I’m sure I won’t ever win any awards at blogging conventions and I probably will never have any publishing houses try to outbid each other for the rights to a possible book of my writings and I will never have a movie made about me starring Reese Witherspoon.  But I like being part of a group of people who have made me laugh, made me smile, made me cry, impressed me, amazed me, taught me and entertained me.  All on a daily basis and all from this chair I’m sitting in now.

And it all started with Ree.

Karma – And An Open Apology

There are some things that happen in this universe that cannot be explained. Strange coincidences, bad things happening to good people, and my sons’ overwhelming embarrassment of my mere presence in most situations. And their overwhelming acceptance and approval of their grandmother’s presence in any situation. Their grandmother who never embarrasses them is my mother.
Growing up, I remember being embarrassed by my mother many many times. In her defense, I was a pathologically insecure child who was embarrassed by even my own shadow. And in her defense, my close friends loved her and liked sitting around and chatting with her, and when we were at cheerleading camp one summer, one friend became homesick and announced she wished she was “at your house with your mom and the three of us sitting on the couch together watching a good movie with a big bowl of popcorn”. So, my embarrassment I felt for my mother had nothing really to do with her, and had a lot to do with me.  And before I go any further, I want to emphasize that no one else seemed to have a problem with my mother but me.  And I certainly wouldn’t want her to type up a piece on all the ways I mortified her when I was younger.
I wanted a mother who was sophisticated looking; trim, with gorgeous clothes, and I guess who never spoke. My mother was and is beautiful, but during those years of trying to raise four children, hold down a full-time job and deal with a husband who was becoming increasingly irresponsible, sophisticated and elegant she was not. She had gained some weight, she wore double-knit polyester, elasticized pants and sensible shoes and she cut her hair in a “practical” style.  She wasn’t a member of the group of mothers I considered the “in” group, she didn’t play golf, and every car she drove was a hand-me-down from the local funeral home that my dad worked for.  Each time the funeral home purchased a new “family car”, we got the old model for our family car.  She smoked, but not while lying around the country club pool in her bathing suit with a beer or cocktail in her hand like the sophisticated mothers.  She never had cool parties on weekends with her friends, serving alcohol and exotic snacks.  She put her bare feet up on the coffee table.  She cut my bangs too short.

If she caught me out in public with the cool crowd who had bad reputations, a crowd I would desperately try to impress, she thought nothing of roaring up in her big Cadillac with MY little grandmother in the seat next to her and  my siblings in the back, giving me a piece of her mind before ordering me to “get in”.   If we were marching with the school band or performing in some other school function, she would yell our names and wave and cheer to get our attention.  Once, when she picked me up from school in the middle of the day, as we drove off in front of the whole school in her old Cadillac, the muffler partially fell off right in front of the school, meaning one end of it remained attached to the undercarriage of the car and the other end fell off, and so it was drug as we drove and I can still hear the excruciatingly loud din of the sound of a metal muffler dragging and scraping against asphalt coupled with the even louder racket a car makes when it has no muffler.  I wanted us to crash and die, but it didn’t bother her in the least, and when I was forced, literally forced by her to return to school that day, people told me they could  hear us and the car from their classrooms blocks from the school as we drove home.

As I got older, I became even more immature.  I simply cringed when my mother even opened her mouth in public.  As I became even more introverted and self-conscious, my mother became more confident and outspoken.  Her every move mortified me.  And became exaggerated in my own mind.  Her opinions sounded boastful and arrogant.  Her table manners seemed crude.  When she popped her gum, it reverberated in my ears.  If she needed help or directions, she made no bones about hollering to get someone’s attention and assistance, whereas I would rather flounder for hours on end than ask for assistance.  I thought she talked too much.

I always vowed that if and when I had children, I would be the type of mother that my children would be proud of.  A cool mom.  A good-looking and thin mom.  A mom who had absolutely no traits that would be embarrassing to a child or teenager.  Then I had my sons.

Long story somewhat shorter.  I am not a loud person; I don’t say much out in public; I am slim and I love clothing and fashion and dress well.  But what goes around, comes around and it has come around to me.  My sons don’t want me saying even the slightest thing to anyone out in public.  They don’t want me to roll down the window after I let them out for school and say good-bye.  They don’t want me to get out of the car at school for anything.  They don’t want me asking waitresses for anything and they really don’t want me to complain in a restaurant even if I have good reason.  I said something very nice to a friend of theirs recently in a store and one of my sons stormed out of there, angry and humiliated.  They don’t want me saying anything to coaches and they want me to keep my mouth shut at parent-teacher conferences.  They don’t want me cheering them on from the sidelines during games or runs.  They mumble and when I ask them to repeat it, they get mad.

However, their grandmother can do no wrong.    She now goes everywhere with us and on her cane and walker, and it doesn’t bother them in the least.  She cheers them on loudly from the sidelines and waves her cane and they don’t mind.  She talks to their coaches and teachers, introduces herself and brags on them for minutes on end it seems and it doesn’t faze them.  If I try to discreetly ask her to bring something down a notch, they get irritated with me and tell me to leave her alone.  She talks to everyone and even becomes friends with waitresses by the time we leave a restaurant and they love it.  She talks loud because she is losing her hearing and they happily repeat what she doesn’t hear.  They hug and kiss her in public in front of everyone; friends and coaches.

So this is a public apology to my mother.  I am sorry for being so rude to you when I was younger and when I was older.  You weren’t doing anything wrong but trying to be a mom, and my own insecurities about myself were being taken out on you.    And few things amaze me more and make me happier than seeing how my sons delight in having you around – and in public and in front of everyone.

Karma is a b___ch.  And so was I.

Random Acts of Kindness – or Unexpected Gifts

When was the last time you received a gift that just completely threw you for a loop because it was so unexpected and because it made you feel so good at the moment you received it?  And when was the last time someone did something so kind to or for you, that you walked away so moved?

For me, the last time either of those things happened to me was yesterday.  At around noon.  In a supermarket parking lot.

Just as I was approaching the doors to the grocery store, a woman I know was coming out of the store.  I would call her a friend, but I don’t know if we’re even familiar with each other enough to call each other friends.  I know her because this is a small town we both live in, and even though there are people who live here I don’t know, it’s the kind of community where I do know a lot of the people who live here.  She is married to a man I used to babysit for when he was a boy; whose mother I used to know very well.  They used to be our neighbors when I still lived with my parents.  And when I moved back here ten years ago, after being gone for over twenty, the boy had grown into a man and he was now married with children and this woman, Lori, is his wife.  She has also cut my hair before, and she is now my mother’s hairdresser.  She has two daughters, one of which I know of because I have heard the nicest things about her from some other mothers.  I don’t even see Lori that often.  It even takes me a minute to recognize her the few times I do see her.

So yesterday, as I was approaching the doors to the store, Lori was coming out and we saw each other, and I realized it was Lori, and we greeted each other and she said she had just seen my mother and done her hair.  As we spoke, we each kept walking in opposite directions, and then . . . all of a sudden, Lori stopped walking the opposite way and took three steps in my direction and threw her free arm around me (the other one held her sack of groceries) and gave me the sweetest, snuggest hug.  She just squeezed me.  And then she stopped and we continued chatting for a minute as we each again started walking on our respective ways, and we said our goodbyes . . .and I was so touched I kind of forgot for a minute why I was at the store.

That random act of kindness was so unexpected and felt so good that I felt like my whole being was smiling.  And I’ve reflected on it many times since then.  It’s like it made my whole day, and cast a much happier light on things that maybe wasn’t there earlier.  I wasn’t having a bad day; I was getting things done and was in a good mood.  But the fact that Lori was moved to give me a hug at that moment brought me more joy than she will probably ever realize.  I think I mumbled “thank you” but I’m not sure because it happened so fast.

And now I feel like I know Lori just a little bit better.  I feel like she must be very nice, with a good heart, and is not afraid to open that heart up and spread the love.  Her gift didn’t cost anything, it probably wasn’t planned, and I had done absolutely nothing to deserve it.  Like Grace.  And it made me feel so so good.  About Lori, about myself and about life.

Thank you, Lori.

 

Raising Children

How do you raise your children to have a happy childhood full of good memories when yours was so awful?

Lately, as I watch my sons go through their teenage years, it brings back many memories, and that’s not a good thing.  As I watch and try to help my two sons try to navigate through the ups and downs of these confusing and uncertain days, it’ brings to mind my unhappy and chaotic childhood.  As I’m trying to help them make decisions that will build self-confidence, happiness, and self-respect, I’m trying to deal with my own recollections of myself at that age; a girl with absolutely no confidence, who was sorely depressed,  and someone who was utterly ashamed of her existence and family and wanted nothing more than to be someone else.  If I see even a glimpse of any of those feelings in either of my sons, it makes me panic to the point of an anxiety attack, because I wouldn’t wish on anyone the feelings I had about myself when I was that age.  And I don’t want my sons to go through these years that should be relaxed and happy, feeling like I did.  But as I’m trying to be a parent, and a single one at that, who is trying to raise sons to be happy and self-assured and youth who don’t feel like I did at that age, I feel like I’m sinking in my own memory bank of insecurities, shame and utter sadness.

I told a friend yesterday that each day after I let my sons off at their respective schools, I feel like I’m going to burst into tears.  And then I go home and I read the news, walk the dogs, do my Bible study and pray earnestly, do my household chores, eat lunch, plan dinner, and pick at least one of them up from school.  And then after they’re both home, as they tell me about their days, I try not to overanalyze everything they say for hints of self-induced feelings of failure or regret or embarrassment.  And I try hard not to transfer my own feelings of insecurity that spring up from my past, into their present.  And if need be, I calmly and hopefully assuredly try to advise in a rational manner if they need help or support in any given situation or if they do express feelings of embarrassment or unsuredness.  Then later I go to bed and sleep a while and then wake up and worry about how I handled everything and if I should have done it differently.

But I also try to tell myself occasionally, but not enough probably, that my sons are not growing up in a household with an alcoholic parent.  They can invite friends to our home, and not be afraid of what’s going to happen or if I’m going to be passed out on the living room floor in my underwear.  My sons don’t have to lead me out of business establishments in front of friends, because I am so drunk I cannot see.  My sons don’t have to witness me drunk out in public in front of their circle of friends and their parents, when I’m making a complete drunken spectacle of myself in front of everyone.  My sons won’t have other parents say disparaging remarks to them about me and my drinking.  My sons won’t get in a fist fight at school because their friends make mean remarks about me and my drinking.  They don’t have a home which is the scene of regular drunken fights with tears, cursing, throwing things and screaming.

Hopefully, I am teaching my sons coping skills, other than screaming and yelling and threatening to abandon them – or drinking. (Although I have done my share of screaming).  And I pray that my sons won’t feel so bad about themselves that they just give up on school work and drop out of school activities and gatherings.  I pray that my sons won’t start drinking at an early age, to the point that they black out before they’re even a junior in high school.  I pray that my sons only hang around with kids who are positive, are involved in school and activities, and who don’t do bad things.  I can control this to a degree and I do.  I pray that my sons forge lasting relationships with friends, and don’t feel like they cannot do this because they don’t want to let anyone know about their awful life.   I pray that my sons aren’t bullied, even tho one of them has experienced it already at a younger age and was ostracized for a couple of years because he spoke up about it and I tried to help.  And I pray that neither of my sons becomes romantically involved with another student, a supposed “athletic star”, who physically abuses him on a daily basis for more than a year, but he doesn’t speak up about it because he’s too embarrassed, shattered and besides, there are too many problems going on at home for anyone to want to deal with it.

It’s hard for a parent to raise successful children when they have felt like a failure for so much of their life.  I’ve made many mistakes still, since I’ve given birth to my sons, but I have tried to correct those mistakes, am very self-aware now and more confident.  I do not want to send them out in this world until I know they feel good about themselves, are fairly self-aware, and can make good decisions that promote self-respect, even in the face of peer pressure.  I see now that most of my mistakes in life were made by a person who had such a traumatic childhood that she was not equipped at all emotionally to be let loose in this world to fend for herself.  Even my college years were a disaster because I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing and so I did nothing or the wrong things and I went through a terrible terrible bullying episode that went on for years because again, I was too shattered and embarrassed to stand up for myself.

I don’t know if how I’m raising my sons will produce success.  Success, meaning well-adjusted, well-mannered productive citizens.  But at least in the end, my sons will know I tried with every ounce of my being to get it right.  And near my end also, I hope to finally be the person I was supposed to be in the beginning.  Happy, confident, powerful, content, and successful in something.  I will have many many regrets, but hopefully, the pattern of addictive behaviour brought on by raging insecurities will be broken in my family.  Or at least in this line of this family.

Don’t start a blog . . . . .

Okay; here’s some advice.  Don’t start a blog . ..

seven days before you leave on a week-long trip to Louisiana to see your nephew get married,

or two and a half weeks before you take the confirmation class your son’s enrolled in on their class field trip to KC, MO,

or three weeks before you leave for your church’s five-day annual state conference, which is also 4 days after you get home from LA and one day after you take your son’s confirmation class to KC, MO,

and a month before you have to set up and man and break down a water stand for your church at your town’s annual summer celebration AND at the same time come up with an idea for a float for the parade at said annual summer celebration and build the float and ride the float with other victims, kids and adults, you’ve begged to ride the float with you.

But the above trips, celebrations and projects were all well worth it and I wouldn’t have missed them for the world.  And I’m home now for the time being and am committing to “restarting” my blog and hopefully will continue to post my random thoughts and opinions on a daily basis.

Enjoy!

Am I spending more time and energy training my sons – or the dog? Part 1

I try very hard to be a good mom.  This is the truest statement I can say about myself.  I may waver back and forth on how I’m doing in a hundred other areas, but when it comes to mothering my sons, I try very hard to do a good job.  And my family and my friends who really know me would attest to that with much surety.  But that’s a whole other post.  This post is about our dog, or rather MY dog.  Nicki.  A hundred pound female German Shepherd who will be two years old in June.  And I’m a good mother to this dog.  Or at least I try to be.  Family, friends and even strangers would also attest to this with much surety.  And I put an incredible amount of energy and thought and money into training my sons, but am I spending more time and energy training the dog?  I know last year it sure seemed like I spent a heck of lot more money on the dog than I did my sons.

Nicki’s a big dog and always has been. We got her when she was five months old and she already appeared full-grown.  And, she is, as her REAL (hired and paid for) trainer says, “very very driven”.  And very “strong-willed”.  So, she needs and wants lots of exercise.  From early on, Nicki has always been very full of energy.  And her idea of playing in the early days was running at breakneck speed all over our house and jumping on us and pretending to want to bite our legs and arms.   At least we think she was pretending.  But it scared us.  To death.  Did I mention that after I signed the papers to adopt her from the pound AND after I handed over my check, the employee mentioned in a very soft rushed way that Nicki had a “slight aggression” problem?  But suffice to say, we had on our hands in those early days and weeks a very large, fast, energetic and now aggressive dog on our hands.  Appeared happy, but acted aggressive – in a happy, joking kind of way.  Like the big uncle or cousin you hated to visit when you were young because their idea of socializing was to pummel you to death while laughing of course the whole time and insisting he was “just joking”.

We don’t have a fenced in yard.   So I started walking Nicki multiple times throughout the day.  And if I had money for every time someone I know would pull up beside us in a car and say “Just who is walking who?” I could take my sons on a fabulous vacation this summer.  It happened so often, I had to just grin through gritted teeth and it was all I could do to keep my mouth shut and not beat them to the punchline by screaming, “YEAH, I KNOW, WHO’S WALKING WHO, HA HA HA, KEEP DRIVING BUDDY”.  But walking Nicki did require me to be extremely alert at all times because she was and is a highly reactive dog that does not like cats or squirrels and wants to chase and catch every one she sees.  And the sight of another dog to Nicki is akin to putting a red cape in front of a bull in a ring.  She immediately becomes the aggressor, like she wants to get the first punch in or wants to let the other dog know what’s up before they attack us.  And quite frankly, it’s such a scary, jarring, aggressive and loud fit she throws, that most dogs DO scurry away all the while looking back like we’re a couple of freaks.  I had a friend witness this scene with another dog and Nicki once and she was so terrified and shattered she could barely speak afterward and I was mortified and I’ve never heard from her since.  We have no dog friends and we never will, I’m afraid.  I used to be upset about that, but now I’m resigned to the fact.  And she’s very very strong.  So our walks weren’t really walks,  but rather they were Nicki charging through the neighborhoods looking for predators with this gleeful maniac-looking expression on her face with me stumbling and running behind her trying to keep up and also keep my arm from being literally pulled from its socket.  Now,  if you saw a sight like that, would you really stop and make some wisecrack  to the human?  The obviously, traumatized human who was holding on for dear life to a dog that scared the bejeezus out of her?  Would you?  And when we would finally thankfully arrive back on our street in front of our home, Nicki would cap off our terrifying trek across town by turning on me and jumping up and putting my forearm between her jaws and biting down enough not to break the skin, but enough to send a tingling jolt all the way up my arm and she did this repeatedly the entire time I would be dragging her across the lawn, screaming and crying (me), and hollering for my sons to open the door and help get her inside.  I seriously think my arm now suffers from nerve damage.

So . . .I started checking out every dog training book from the library and buying every dog training book I could find.  Now with the stacks of childrearing books next to my bed on the floor, I started new stacks of these new books. And I read them and tried to implement most of the ideas.  And I watched the “Dog Whisperer” on tv constantly and rented the videos of the show.  And the boys and I would watch him and stop the disk and rewind and try to see JUST what he was doing to keep the dog from going completely nuts on the walk.  We never did get it.  But I did get that a lot of obedience on the dog’s part comes from the walk.   So . . .I then started buying every muzzle and type of leash and harness I could find.  The muzzles worked for a while, but the way she breathed or couldn’t breath, rather, while wearing one, freaked me out.  And the sight of her in a muzzle freaked other people out.  People would ask me “what is that?” like I was walking some sort of professional fighting dog through town amongst the townsfolk.  And she would fight like mad NOT to wear the muzzle.  So, after trying many different harnesses, someone recommended a “Gentle Leader” that would help me control her a bit because I was controlling her head.  And that worked for a while.  Until her trainer decided we needed to take more drastic measures.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

When it became apparent that we needed help because we were afraid to come home to our own house for fear of Nicki turning on us, I started trying to find a dog trainer.  We live in a small community with an even smaller selection of services like dog training, but while checking out the umpteenth dog training book at the library, the young new librarian asked if I had heard of a certain trainer in the next town over?   She wrote the trainer’s name and number down for me and I now consider this young new librarian an angel God sent to me.  And did I mention that this trainer used to own, train and show German Shepherds??

So . . .Nicki and I started making our half hour treks down the highway to Donna’s.  Suffice to say, Nicki and I had to have private  (and more expensive) lessons as we were obviously not ready for a “group class” setting.  I purchased a “clicker”, a “fanny pack” (which at some point in my life years earlier I swore I would never wear and now I was wearing one 24/7), and began purchasing pounds of dog treats.  And just weeks and then months later, Nicki was a different dog and I was also a dog of sorts.  The Alpha Dog.  And I woke up every morning with a new mission; to let Nicki know I was the Alpha and SHE wasn’t.  And I spent every waking moment with that goal in mind.  And I came to feel about Donna the same way I felt about my therapist I had in my late twenties; I wanted her to move in with us and instruct me and advise me on every issue and problem I encountered throughout our day.  I respected Donna and I came to depend on her and hung on every word she said.  She is an excellent trainer.  And I worked hard on my weekly assignments.  Very hard.  And so did Nicky.  And eventually we were allowed into one (just one) group class, and even though Nicki and I had to stay on one side of the room while the rest of the class were lined up on the other side, Nicki eventually got used to the other dogs (sort of) and we were allowed at times to work alongside the other dogs.  Their masters were very hesitant about this and some were downright scared, but all very polite about it.  I felt like a mother whose toddler had just been let out of juvie and at a new play group at which everyone was scared sh —less of us, but my dog won THE awards at the end of the class for best obedience.  And then she got promptly got loose after the awards ceremony while the boys were walking her to the car and chaos ensued and everyone panicked and Donna instructed everyone to “remain calm” and “pick up your dogs and go to your cars” while Ben, Matthew, Donna, Donna’s husband and I ran around madly screaming at Nicki to “COME” trying to catch her, to no avail.  She was taking her victory lap.  And she was having the time of her life.  We had to corner her in their garage to catch her.  I think Donna was embarrassed and more than a little pissed.  It was an awkward moment.  But we continued on to the next level of lessons.

Part Two later.

Why are we so interested?

Since the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Maria Shriver story broke a couple of days ago, and I’ve watched it become the leading news story on both the internet and tv newscasts, I’ve started wondering why I am and obviously lots of other people are so interested in these kinds of stories.  I’m ashamed to admit I’ve wanted to check on this story upon awaking in the a.m. even as I get my sons off to school.  I clean up, dress, run downstairs and turn the kitchen tv on while I’m making breakfast.  Actually, this is my usual routine, but for the past two mornings, I would have to admit I have I rushed around a bit more than usual with the intent of getting the tv on so I could hear Matt and Meredith open the Today show and wouldn’t miss any possible new breaking news about Arnold’s indiscretion.  Furthermore I call myself a Christian, but why am I not rushing downstairs to do my morning Bible study FIRST and waiting to turn on the tv for the scoop after that?   What does that say about me???  And do I even want to explore the answer????  Yes, I do.  I think.

The story is amazing.  In this age of media intrusion, you would think that someone who apparently is intelligent enough to get voted in twice as the governor of a very high-profile state, AND is such an “in-our-faces” public figure would have enough common sense not to get himself into such a personal mess, especially when he’s married to a very respected and admired woman.  So I think one reason I watch this kind of news is that it’s so unbelievable that some people are so stupid.  When people have such seemingly perfect lives, and then we find out that they’re just as messed up as a lot of other families then we want to know.  Sort of.

Public officials behaving badly are always interesting to me.   And not in a good way.  I think it’s very tragic to the voters who’ve voted these people into office to find out later they’ve been lied to or misled about what kind of person they’re voting for and I want to hear what they have to say for themselves.  Granted, I don’t think Arnold actually said during his campaigns anything like “I have not fathered any other children”, and he did admit he had “behaved badly” when it came to women in the past, but it’s fairly appalling that a man would let his wife get up in front of people and defend him like Maria did about his supposed bad behaviour during the campaigns.  Didn’t anything in those “gracious bones” in his body compel him to ever want to interrupt her and say, “Uh, wait a minute; I’m not THAT great of a person; in fact . . .” . These days, finding out bad things about politicians is becoming so commonplace, I would rather they just say, “I’m the best person to lead this state, or country  or whatever because of these reasons, but you might not like some of the following things I’ve done in my personal life . . .” and be upfront about their stuffage and THEN let us decide if we want to vote for them.

But am I being judgemental, even in the teensiest way and is that partly why I’m watching it?  I wish I could say no, but the more honest answer would probably be yes.  And there’s the rub.  And I don’t like that about myself.  Who am I to judge someone else’s behaviour when I’m no saint and certainly wouldn’t want all the bad things I’ve done (and there are more than a few) broadcasted all over the news outlets.  The good news is that I don’t watch these kinds of stories because I delight in other people’s misery.  I genuinely feel bad for this family and I don’t even know them except from tv and magazines!  And thankfully, after a couple of days I feel like a voyeur looking in on someone else’s personal life and it doesn’t feel good. And eventually it just feels like I’m participating in listening to gossip – but on a national level and that even feels worse.  And so I move on and pray that I continue to grow as a person AND a Christian and hope eventually I will not waste time in the future watching tragic personal news about people that is really none of my business.  And I will continue to fantasize that someday in the future there will be a time when no one will want to buy gossip magazines and they’ll all be put out of business.  Except maybe for People magazine, which seems okay, don’t you think??