Breaking Records

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I’ve lived with autism for 16 years. I have yet to understand it. Take Andre. High school student who is also taking college classes and getting A’s and B’s. Smart, right? Then why can’t he change his underwear?

Seems to me that he is on some sort of record-breaking quest because recently I have noticed a pattern which I am sure Guinness World Records would love to have a stake in.

Record Breaking Attempt #1.

Number of Days Between Showers….SIX

Yes, six stinky days. Believe me, it’s not that we are willing participants in these record-breaking attempts. It’s just that life gets in the way. Often we take notice after Andre walks by smelling like road kill and the following conversation ensues:

“Honey, when was the last time Andre took a shower?”

“I don’t know. I thought it was your month to remember all his idiosyncracies.”

“No, my month was last month. This is your month.”

“No, last month I caught him hiding cookies in the downstairs bathroom so he could have a snack when he was on the toilet. It is definitely your month this month.”

And then all is revealed when little sister pipes up with:

“Well this week is my week to clean the bathroom and he hasn’t been in there once!”

AGGGGGG…epic parental fail.

AGAIN

Record Attempt #2.

Number Of Days Without Changing Underwear…..SIX

Yes, I am at fault here. I forget that an almost 6 foot tall person may need reminders to change his underwear EVERY SINGLE DAY. The lazy mother in me is tempted to teach him to turn his skivvies inside out in order to get a few more days use out of them but butt skid marks on the outside just look worse than skid marks on the inside so I am going to let this one ride.

Record Attempt #3.

Number Of Days Gone By Without Brushing Teeth……FIVE

I know this to be true because we just returned from a holiday where I put his toothbrush in his bathroom. On the last day I asked him to go get his toothbrush so I could pack it.

“Toothbrush? You brought my toothbrush with us on vacation? Why would you bother…its our vacation.”

At home I have signs up as reminders to brush his teeth. I have placed multiple toothbrushes in multiple locations. Even at the kitchen sink. And I think that is the problem. There are so many around that, just like dust bunnies, pretty soon they just begin to blend into the scenery. Sadly, little sister who brushes her teeth numerous times a day has cavities galore. Andre…not one. Ever. He is the Anti-Christ of the American Dental Association.

 

Record Attempt #4.

Number Of Times Per Day “I DON’T Wanna” is said. 1,440 x2=1880. That is about every 30 seconds.

“Time to go.”

“I don’t wanna.”

“Did you brush your teeth?”

“I don’t wanna.”

“I think you better start on your homework.”

“I don’t wanna.”

Clean your room. I don’t wanna. Take out the trash. I don’t wanna. Take a shower. I don’t wanna. Come eat breakfast. I don’t wanna. Find your shoes. I don’t wanna.

And so it goes.

I admit, that these things, while annoying, are definitely not life-threatening. YET. But that is exactly the point. Because one day we will no longer be on this earth to monitor (even half-assed) Andre’s idiosyncracies and our fear is that one day his mummified body with rotten teeth laying nearby, will be found in year-old underwear, crushed under piles of pizza boxes and food wrappers that he refused to clean up. And like global warming; we don’t know how to stop this slide toward disaster.

The one positive thing about all this record-breaking talk is that it has spurred me on to try to break one myself.

Record Attempt #1.

Number Of Days I Remain Consistently Sane

I’m going for….

ONE

 

 

 

 

 

One Of THOSE Posts

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This weekend our cousin died in an automobile accident. She was 29 years-old, newly married, and had a three year-old daughter. For her family it is a tragedy that defies understanding or words. For her husband and daughter it is incomprehensible loss in which parts of their lives will never be able to be restored. For the rest of us it has shaken us to the marrow of our being because we have lost such a wonderful woman which just reinforces how fleeting life can be. How random things are. How we really never know when our number is up and how scary that can be.

Sometimes I wonder that if you knew you had 24 hours to live whether it would be a good thing or a bad one?  Would it be wonderful to have the time to say your goodbyes, express your love, and to impart your wisdom? Would death be a tad scary if it all boiled down to 1440 minutes? Would being surrounded by loved ones make that fear disappear?

Obviously, V didn’t know she would die on Saturday. She woke up happy and carefree after having a date night with her husband. Life was looking good as she was going to pick up her daughter from her mother’s house.  And then, just like that, she rounded a curve and she was gone.

Did she leave the house planting a kiss on her husbands check? Does her husband wish he had if he didn’t? And how often have I left my house irritated instead of in a loving mood? What would my family’s last impression of me be the majority of the times that I have stepped outside of my front door? Would they have the good to remember or the bad? Would they feel guilty for the rest of their lives because our last words were not the words we would have said if we had known that they were the last words we would ever say to one another? It gives me pause to think about the ending of life in this way.

And so, yes, this is one of THOSE posts. A gentle reminder that we never really know when our time is up. A “go hug your kids” kind of post. Have sex with your spouse kind of post. A wake-up call to phone your mother. A take out the trash because you love your dad post. It is a post that calls attention to the fact that what we do today really does matter because it may be the last thing we are remembered by the people that mean the most to us.

Amen (so be it)

 

Hands

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When I walked into the room it was her hands that I noticed first. Fingers tapping, moving and pulling at the invisible threads of her tightly woven pink blanket. Hands that never stopped the entire time I knew her. Hands that told her story, even now, when she couldn’t.  She once told me, “Idle hands are the devils workshop” and as a result she made sure that hers were never still.

When she was young, it was her smooth hands that grabbed onto the teats of the family cow, filling the pails with warm milk every morning and evening for the next 12 years. Hers were the fingers that took the reins and drove the buggy two miles to the school that lay in the middle of Brown’s field; a half-dozen children crammed onto the seat beside her. And for years magical sounds floated from her fiddle as her fingers ran up and down its neck until Jason Riddle sat on it and silenced it forever.

Hers were hands that pulled squat potatoes from the rich brown earth and threaded earthworms onto shaggy sharp hooks in hopes of luring lunch from the icy-cold stream banks. She could always  be found with dirt under her nails except when she was pulling babies out of the wombs of her friends, neighbors and kin folk. Three hundred twenty-eight to be exact, always lifting them up and into the light of their lives, hands wrapped around the slimy bundles gently but just firm enough to keep hold.

They were fingers that where pricked with hundreds of needles over the years as she sewed dresses from flour sacks, made blankets from cat tails, and crafted the rag rugs that she was famous for creating; the colors dyed from the coneflowers, lilacs, and wild plum root that she gathered from deep in the woods. And they were fingers that knitted and crocheted hundreds of the blankets used by local babies, now stuffed in the back of closets and considered to be antiques.

Her fingers were the ones that shined shoes, swept the rough wooded floor boards, and tucked her children into bed and took them off to dream land as stories flew from her mouth while her hands painted the images in the sky.

These were hands, palms, and arms that were scarred from welding bomb heads at the Richmond Engineering Company during WWII. Hands that worked 12 hours shifts day-in and day-out; only to be told when the men returned home that the services of those nimble fingers were no longer needed. But still they were incapable of rest.

They were palms that prayed for everyone in town at least once, were always seated in the 4th pew on the right in church and were lifted on high as she celebrated her Lord. Fingers that could flick from Bible verse to Bible verse in a split second and could be counted to give your hands a sharp squeeze during the Pass The Peace part of the service; the part that came before the long-winded sermon of the minister.

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These were the now gnarled hands laced with nicks and cuts. One from the time she accidentally got her hand too close to the meat grinder when she was making her secret recipe sausage and one from the time she touched the wood stove with her bare hands. There were scars made from paring knives as she removed the peels from the Granny Smiths apples, the only apple deemed fit to use in the 1,000 deep-dish pies that she made during her lifetime. And of course, there were scars gained from chasing the chickens and beheading them for the countless Sunday dinners to which the homeless and lonely were always welcome.

I looked over at those still moving hands. It seemed strange to see the pink nail polish (Revlon #28 Hibiscus) perfectly painted on her nails; a concession she made to old age and institutional food; her fingers no longer needed to pull stalks from the earth and shake clods of dirt from round deep purple beets that used to dominate her garden. Two years ago she was convinced by the beautician that beautiful nails were the gateway to heaven and her age she decided she would concede her personal beliefs on the subject and do whatever it took to get there; even if in her day girls who painted their nails were hussies.

“You can go now,” I whispered.

It took a while but finally she did, her fingers still twitching, as the rest of her body slipped into an eternal sleep… her hands the last thing to become idle… the devil missing its chance again.

 

Love Knows No Bounds

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Last night my sweet aunt Nan died. She was almost 90. Nan was the one I could call and discuss family politics with. She always had an answer to ponder and at times I think she knew her brother, my Dad, almost better than he knew himself. She was the one who nurtured my interest in genealogy and the records I am going through now are a result of her holding onto those pieces of family history that she believed could improve our future if we had access to the past. Yes, Aunt Nan was the family historian and was well suited for the job.

Aunt Nan was also a go-getter. She was practical, forthright, always willing to take your call, and smart as a whip.  She was someone I admired immensely. And while the majority of her life was happy and enjoyable, the end was not, as she suffered from severe dementia for the past seven years or so.

Dementia is cruel. It is disheartening and robs its victims of their personalities. It steals away their memories and drops a steal-clad veil over what makes a person uniquely themselves. For years, Aunt Nan no longer knew her husband, her children, her life-long friends, and was unable to celebrate the births of her great-grandchildren in any sort of meaningful way. While she held a baby she had no idea who the baby belonged to. Even worse, she lost a child and never knew it. Aunt Nan became a shell of her former self. Her brain  locked away while her body lingered on.

Unfortunately, a few years after Nan’s mind started shutting down, her husband, Uncle J, also began developing dementia. It was heartbreaking to see this former surgeon slowly begin to fade away into himself.My cousins now had two parents who needed round-the-clock care. I grieved for them understanding the difficulties of having two parents who were both incapacitated. To make matters worse, a doctor recently told the family that Aunt Nan could live another 10 years because she was as healthy as a horse.

Then three weeks ago my Uncle J died. It was expected for he was fading and rebounding for the past several weeks. He and Aunt Nan had been married 64 years. Thankfully, Nan didn’t know that J was gone…or did she?

It seems strange that a woman who just a few weeks ago was as healthy as a horse just up and dies. Rapidly. With only a few days notice. And it makes me wonder if love truly does transcend all. Is there some sort or life current that flows silently between long time lovers? Do we somehow “know” what we don’t? Can deep-seated love never be pulled out of you? It seems plausible. After all, I have many instances in my life where I knew something bad had happened to someone though I could not pick up on the particulars of what it was.

I think we all have invisible connections to those we love. Some of these “currents” are stronger than others but often, if we try, I think we can tap into them. Sometimes we get glimpses of  our loved ones state of mind. We can “know” without “knowing.” I think that is what happened to Aunt Nan. Although her mind was locked up somehow love held the key which let her know that J was gone and she had to go too. She really had no other reason to “live” for her one true love was gone.

So to Aunt Nan and Uncle J… I send you my love. I thank you for your kind words and advice. I appreciate the things you taught me and I thank you, Uncle J, for saving my sister’s life. My greatest hope for the two of you is that there is a swimming pool you can frolic in throughout eternity and that your undying love for one another and your family remain strong.

 

Food …The Children Should Not Suffer

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I live in one of the poorest most economically depressed counties in the entire United States. It’s a place where English is most often the “second” language and where individuals follow the fruit and vegetables, often picking in 100+ degree heat. It is a place where poverty is rampant but food in the fields is abundant, illegal drug use is prevalent and the gulf between “haves” and “have nots” is wider than the Grand Canyon. Frankly, there is no bridge big enough to traverse this giant chasm.

Make no mistake about it, I am a “have.” I have a roof over my head, money in the bank, and clothes on my back. My life is plentiful. But all around me are reminders that this just isn’t the case for so many. I do what I can…carry McDonalds cards in my car and hand them out to folks who need a meal. But that is just a miniscule drop in the bucket with what is truly needed in the area.

Today on the short drive from downtown I saw three different adults searching trash bins for bottles and cans that can be turned in for change. And while it is shameful that any human being is forced, for whatever reasons to live this way, I am not as worried (though I am concerned) about them because they are resourceful. It is the children that I worry about especially during the summer, for it is the children who suffer.

During the school year kids from low income homes have the opportunity to have free breakfast and lunch at school yet President Trumps budget calls for an elimination of this program. Continue reading

Things Your Mother Never Told You About Aging

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So How Does It Feel Turning 55?

Frankly, it sucks …but… it is better than dying in the toilet with your pants down. I mean at this age the probability of that happening increases with every trip to the bathroom. Unfortunately, by the time you are over fifty your bladder has shrunk to the size of a pea which means you “go” every ten minutes which means the chances of getting caught dead with your pants down are approximately  144 per day. This makes going to the bathroom a terrifying experience which often results in holding everything “in” which in turn causes severe constipation.

Turning 55 makes you grumpy. It becomes a perpetual state of being because everything gets even bigger than when you were in your forties. Your medical bills, your waist size, and your appetite. Even your ears get longer…and why? What exactly is the point of having bigger ears at this point in one’s life? I really don’t want to hear the normal everyday crap. Frankly, I just want to tune my kids constant arguing out. I really don’t have a need for longer ears but I suppose since I have two they will just match my not-so-perky breasts. Yep, their giddy-up-and-go, to my dismay, turned into how-low-will- you-go? And need I remind you that your feet also get bigger. Why so you can trip over them and break a hip? Oh yeah, and your nose also grows. Really! I already paid for one nose job does this mean I will need another?

At this age vanity about one’s appearance is just not attractive. You may raise, nip and tuck but you certainly don’t talk about it because no one wants to hear about the fact that the nurse forgot to deflate the balloon on the catheter when she tried to pull it out. (true story that!)

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Another not so pleasant aspect of turning 55 is that you develop gas…bad gas. The roll down your window down for 5 minutes, blow fresh-air-in-your-face kind. The “ewww are we driving by a dairy or something?” kind of farts. It’s then that you realize that your only option to prevent cow comparisions are to live on foods such as liver and onions and tomato juice. Nasty disgusting foods but luckily your taste buds are also going on the fritz so suddenly low-gas causing silk worms seem palatable.

And did I mention hot flashes? The kind that can light up  New York City. The kind that mean you have to wash your sheets on a daily basis. I don’t know about you but I kind of feel like at this age the laundry should be getting less and not growing into monstrous unending piles of drudgery.

Fifty-five is when you start thinking your cellulite looks good compared to the rest of you. It’s when chin hairs become a topic of conversation and figuring out how to clip your toenails becomes a half-day chore. It’s when the bags under your eyes weigh more than the ones you have to carry home from the grocery store and its a time when your g-string gets lost in the folds.

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When you turn 55 you also start considering your options for funerals and do complex calculations to determine if buying the plot now is more cost effective than waiting for when its needed. And if you are smart you leave written instructions instead of letting your kids decide you look good in red when you know all it does is make you look  all washed up and out.

Yet, if you think us over 55 women are washed up/washed out and less desirable than any other woman then there is only one thing I have left to say

 

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Hatred Is Not The Answer-Terrorists

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I’ve been to Paris three times during my life. The first was almost thirty years ago during our honeymoon, the second time was about five years later and recently we went two summers ago. Like most major cities, I have tended to avoid Paris because there are just too many people in too small of a place. I feel the same way about London, Beijing and New York. So when I frequent these places, I am already on edge. But usually then I meet people who have stories to tell, tears to fall and a love of life that is extraordinary and somehow these big cities become almost magical because I am reminded just how similar we all are in our shared dreams and in our desires.

The last time we were in Paris we were traveling with our children. Around the corner from our hotel was a bank of small restaurants and sandwich-to-go types of places. We entered one of the latter. It was a small place and behind the counter were three men who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent and spoke Arabic to one another. When they heard us talking with our distinctive American accents immediately their faces hardened. Then when I went to order for our family all of a sudden the place was CLOSED. They were no longer serving they told us. Yet, after we walked outside all of a sudden they were serving again to the lady who ordered a tomato baguette. So I went back in to order only to be told again that they were not open even though there were more new customers being helped. I was mad and sad about the situation but what was worse is that my children were witnessing this and wondered why they would not let us buy their food. And so I told them this:

“For some reason these men do not like us. I do not know why and neither do you. If I had to guess I would say that they were probably hurt or their relatives were probably hurt in some way by American policies or forces. They are probably still upset or angry by this. Of course, we will never know the real reason and I am guessing only to try to understand why someone would hate us even though we have never ourselves done anything to them. So this is why we cannot hate because hatred begets hatred. Anger creates more anger and people do things to one another that they should not. So I want you remember today not because of what happened but because of how we will handle it. For if we let it, the small thing they did to us will someday make us think that we can do something to someone we think has wronged us. But what is most important here is that we must remember that our lives as human beings are linked together in so many mysterious and interesting ways to people we know and people we don’t. If we allow this link of distrust and anger into the chain of humanity that we carry with us it will only create sorrow both for us and others that we will unintentionally effect by this hostility. So we must smile at those men and show them that we see their humanity even though they do not see ours.”

And so we did.

I wish I could say something changed and one of the men smiled back but that did not happen.

Tonight as I sat and watched the news pouring out of the City Of Lights I was dismayed as I listened to the political pundits demanding retribution, retaliation and encouraging a decrease in our hard fought freedoms (as if that will make things safer!) so the world will be a “better place” and I wished that they had been with us that day in Paris. For while the experience of being hated just because of where you come from was a bitter disappointment; I also know that my children learned a valuable lesson on that street in Paris that day. They realized that hatred is not the answer. I hope that calm heads will prevail in Paris and that human beings throughout the world will remember this truth too as they struggle to find a way through the carnage that they have seen and endured.

Are You Kidding Me?!!!

If I had to pick one set of words that have spewed out of my mouth more often than any other, my guess is that you would have heard, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? ”  or “ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!! ” the most.

“You let the dog eat your $400 retainer!! A.R.E.  Y.O.U.  kidding me?!!! 

Standing on the pull-over lane on a major highway in the 100 degree heat with a dead van as I said to Paul, “You took the panel off of the van (while I am driving) and pulled apart those wires. ARE YOU FREAKIN’ KIDDING ME!!! 

Are you kidding me? ” upon finding out that Andre was systematically going through the house and using everyone else’s toothbrushes when he couldn’t find his own.

On seeing Andre go into an outhouse sans sucker and returning from it with a lollipop in his mouth that he found on the outhouse floor. “Ohhh, gross, are you kidding me!”

Are you kidding me?!!! has become my mantra in regards to my slightly crazy mixed-up life.  Judicious use of “Are you kidding me?!!! ” makes me just that much closer to winning  THE MOTHER OF THE YEAR AWARD because I use it in place of “Oh, FUCK!” (my first inclination) in front of the elementary school just about every single day.

Are you kidding me, you forgot your lunch again!”

“What do you mean you forgot your homework? Are you kidding me!”

“No, I don’t care if you tell your teacher you are on strike due to an increase in homework. Are you kidding me?!!! Yes, that is the way Democracy works and yes you have rights so go exercise them and get out of the car! NOW!”

The “Are you kidding me” phrase was also one of the first thoughts that ran through my head when B stated me might want a D.I.V.O.R.C.E. ….as in “are you kidding me????? ” you think you can manage this loony bin by yourself…”are you f’ing kidding me!!!!! 

As much as I have used this phrase throughout my life, no one has used those words better than John Stewart when mocking the Republican party. His “Are You Kidding Me” tirades are classic. Mine too. Therefore, in honor of my extensive use of these perfect tell-all-end-all words, I have decided to give them the glory that we both deserve:

are you kidding me

The Dead Fund

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After B came to me and announced he might want a D.I.V.O.R.C.E. I realized just how silly and naive I have been my entire married life. Yes, I bought into the Prince Charming and the “Happily Ever After” notion and truly believed we would be together forever. Granted, studies on successful marriages show that to stay married you have to believe that there is no “out” and it is forever. And that is well and good if you believe that but what if your partner does not?

This “maybe” divorce has instilled in me a hard lesson that has been missing in my life. And it is this… no matter how happy you are, no matter how secure you believe your marriage to be; you should plan ahead for the demise of your marriage. Why? Because often in divorce one partner is not honest, accountable and will do everything he/she can to destroy you.  Often, divorce leaves the woman struggling and broke. Her economic status plummets while her ex-husband’s goes up and that doesn’t change over time.

Therefore, I have recently told all my girls that the minute they get married they should start a DEAD FUND. Every week they should put $10 into the fund and just let it build. The fund should never be touched except in case of divorce at which point they would have enough in it to at least re-establish themselves and their family in an apartment and be able to put food on the table. Nothing is scarier than not having a penny to your name and no place to go especially when you have children depending on you. And we women are remiss in not planning for this possibility.

It is imperative that women protect themselves in case of divorce. Women still earn 77% percent on the dollar compared to men and if nothing else the DEAD FUND will help my girls get over the hump of economic inequality on a short-term basis.

If I had invested $10 a week in myself over these past 29 years I would have $15,080 put away. And better yet, if I don’t divorce my family has a nice amount to pay for my burial costs.  The DEAD FUND protects you in case your marriage dies or it provides for your family in the event of your death. Either way, having a DEAD FUND will provide peace of mind no matter how the dice are thrown. Because every woman should have an exit plan in which she is financially secure for a short amount of time. Period.