Does Your Family Think Less of You?

While the world around us is ripe with outcries against social injustices, people crying racism, ageism, bigotry, sexism, hate, etc.  I have been regularly taking a good hard look at how my family treats me, compartmentalizes me and sees me.  It is hard to even type but for a multitude of reasons, the most significant one being that both of my children have special needs, based on their actions and words, I have been made to feel less in the eyes of my immediate and extended family.

I honestly would have never thought it would come to this but I really do think it has.  It has everything to do with the fact that everyone wants their life to appear as a Christmas card – everyone handsome, well-dressed, smiling and uniformly looking like the perfect all American Family.  That is the opinion and perspective that most people want to emanate to those on the outside looking in.

We as a culture have an insatiable appetite for Hollywood stars and their glamorous lifestyles and seemingly perfect lives.  If only we looked like them, had their money, our lives would be perfect – or at the very least, much better than the lives we have now.  I don’t know about you but my Facebook timeline is constantly jammed with comments about reality shows and completely unrealistic TV shows about people who have everything and still want more.  While some may crack up at all of the dysfunctional family TV shows on these days, they only want to see it on TV, not in their own family tree.

Well, I live in reality and refuse to live my life by these terms and because of it, I often feel that I am being marginalized, often by my own family because we aren’t that Christmas card family.  We live our lives around the needs of our children, drive older cars and don’t dress like we walked out of a fashion magazine every time we walk out of our house and don’t live via credit cards.  Good Lord!  We actually live within our means and don’t try to appear to be anything more than what we are – a middle class family with two special needs kids trying to do the best we can with what we have.

Yes, I wear jeans and T-shirts most days because that is what is most comfortable for me.  Let me say this for the 5,000th time – I have no one to impress.  I can’t even remember the last time I went on a specific clothes shopping spree for me because we simply can’t afford it.  If I need something, I get it when I need it and that’s it  This lifestyle works for us but it seems to make my family think less of me – even at times my parents.

I see the look in their eyes all the time, they see the smart, intelligent and highly educated daughter they raised who had the world as her oyster when she was 28 years old and now they see a tired, often worn down woman whose choices they respect but really can’t brag about with their friends.   I have often been hurt by things that my mom says to me about her friends kids and how successful they are, their nice homes, new jobs, exotic vacations and then my mom will turn around and tell me, “What do I have to brag about?”

You see, while she respects my decision to stay at home to do what is best for our daughters, she cares about what others think and in our day and age it’s all about what you can brag about.  No one gets excited over the fact that her daughter has two special needs kids and stays at home – they only give her the “oh that’s too bad” look and that stings her.

She keeps telling me that she can’t wait for me to get my life together and make something of my life.  Caring for her granddaughters apparently isn’t good enough.  And I see these same looks in the eyes of other family members when we show up for family events.  While they are genuinely happy to see us, and don’t get me wrong, my family loves us, I just feel that we make them uncomfortable at times because we aren’t the picture-perfect Christmas card family.

Because they think less of me, they do treat me differently, that there is no doubt about.  I am the first one many of them come to when they need a favor or someone to go the extra mile for them because they know that my mindset as a special needs mom is one of self-sacrifice and that I am a pro at putting everyone else before myself.  If they need something researched online, writing done, errands ran during the day while everyone else is at work, etc.

Yet, here I sit today with a family funeral on the horizon and I almost don’t even want to go because I don’t want to be an embarrassment to them because what other people think is more important than how I feel.  They want to show the perfect happy family to everyone on the outside looking in … and my family isn’t aesthetically pleasing, I see it all the time when their eyes dip down for a moment or when I run into them in public and they just introduce us by our names to their friends, not mentioning the fact that we are related.  It hurts but at least they are being real.

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The Joys of the Over Parenting Parents!

Good Morning, Readers!

I hope you don’t mind my taking a week off from blogging.  Here in snow country the kids get two breaks in the early part of the year; Winter Break in February and then another week off for Spring Break just before Easter.  Last week the girls and I had a blast, which I will write about in upcoming posts.  But today, I am going to take the opportunity to share another of the things that irritate the hell out of me.  It is going to seem so trivial but when it happens five times a week for some 35 or so weeks a year, it grinds at you – and then the expletives start.

I just got back from dropping the girls off at school.  As you may recall, I explained several posts ago that Mia’s school is actually in a highly commercial area.  The school was built in what was then a rural area and over the past 20 years a commercial corridor built up around it. The grounds are quite impressive, they extend at least 200 yards and there are some five athletic fields surrounding it. It is quite convenient for moms who drive their kids to school because we can get shopping done once we leave off the kiddies.

Because the school is set back a good distance from the road there is one entrance that forks off in two directions; one for the buses and another for staff and parent parking and drop offs.  In the mornings parents line up in a circle-like drive to unload their precious cargo.  I don’t know if it was in reaction to Sandyhook or not but over the past few months, either the principal himself or the PE teacher are posted in the circle drive to greet the kids as they arrive and wave good morning to parents. 

As you can well imagine, at any given time, that circle drive can get pretty congested with vehicles.  For some odd reason, some parents, even with presence of the principal, feel the need to wait in the circle drive and watch their little ones and their bouncing backpack walk the entire way up to the front doors before they pull away and allow the next vehicle to pull to the curb for drop off.

Now, if you are dropping off your child and the school is set back from the road with only one way in or out and there is a school administrator at the drop off point; do you really have to sit there for three to four minutes and physically watch your kid into the building? Let’s get real here, you have no honest to goodness reason to do this other than wanting to make yourself feel better or to make others think you are some kind of wonderful parent. Between the administrators, teachers working bus duty and the dozens of parents in the drop off line, do you really thing that someone is going to be hiding in the bushes in front of the school, jump out and grab your kid and escape with him or her? Let’s not forget the twenty plus security cameras that directly feed into the District’s security center.  This waiting until they walk to the door is just over kill.

It only makes you look like an ass, pisses off other parents and makes other kids that much later for school than they need to be.

To quote Lt. Daniel Kaffee in A Few Good Men

“Thank you for playing, should we or should we not follow the advice of the galactically stupid!”

What Friends & Family Are For …

ImageThe past few days have had me on the go.  A family member whose final days are numbered, was admitted to the hospital and we have all been dealing with the emotional toll.  Yet God has surrounded me with some wonderful people who were able to make me smile today.  So, I thought I would share these gems with you!

My infamous friend Mark, the one who encouraged me to start this blog, was just being himself, not knowing about my loved one in the hospital, and made me laugh for the first time in days.  You should also know that Mark loves it when I mention him in my posts so, this is a win-win for him!

I was running some errands for family today and thought I would call Mark while I was on the highway, let him know what was going on and that I would probably be incommunicada for a while.  Mark and I, because our individual family lives are so busy, usually email when it is convenient for each of us and just catch up via email.

Around 11 am this morning I called Mark’s cell.  After a few rings he answered and instead of his usual jovial greeting, he just yelled “WHAT?”  I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was playing around and it just hit me as over the top hysterical. I burst out laughing, as did he, and then I said something like, “Well, that was a hell of a greeting!”

Then we went right into our typical conversation topic, hockey.  Mark, like me, is a huge Chicago Blackhawks fan.  (Mark, I was so tempted to write, “Mark, like myself …”)  🙂

Let me digress from my story for a moment to fill in the blanks for you all.  A few weeks ago, Mark emailed me asking a grammar question about the grammatical correctness of a sentence that included the phrases, “John and myself participated in the event.”  Without boring you with the linguistic mumbo jumbo, it suffices to say that myself is being used incorrectly in that sentence. So, I became his heroine when I confirmed for him that it was used incorrectly and restoring Mark’s faith in humanity.  If I had used “myself” I can almost guarantee that Mark would have spit his coffee out all over his keyboard at work.  Since he just started a new job a few weeks ago, that would have certainly been some serious no bueno yet damn funny!

So, Mark and I had a detailed conversation about the previous night’s game and for a short time I forgot about our loved one in the hospital.  Without knowing it, Mark was being a great friend.  When the time was right I told him the real reason for my call and things got serious for the rest of the call.  Yet, even after hanging up I had a smile on my face because he reminded me that smiling was important, even in sad times.

Later in the day, more laughter while I visited my aunt and uncle.  My uncle is a born story teller.  He had a colorful childhood – he grew up with my dad – enough said.  He and my dad were such good buds growing up that he eventually married my dad’s sister.  Best friends also became brothers-in-law and I can honestly say that I probably have only two memories of him in my entire life where he wasn’t laughing, cracking jokes or telling one of his hysterical stories.

The next hysterical moment was when I stopped by the home of my family member who is in the hospital to get a few things they had asked me to pick up.  They live in a close knit neighborhood and everyone knew that no one was home.  So, while I was there the door bell rang.  So I went to the door and opened it up to find a half-scared 2nd cousin who didn’t recognize my car and came over to make sure everything was safe at the house. The look of fear in her eyes was hysterical as I slowly opened the door.  She was standing there with inquisitive eyes half afraid that the face would be that of a thief.  Her eyes widened when I opened the door and then her shoulders went limp as she let out a sigh of relief when she recognized me and put her hand over her heart.  Once she caught her breath, she went into a length story about her concern, how she’d forgotten her cell if she needed to call 911 anyway and that her husband probably wouldn’t have come looking for her, etc.  It was certainly one of those, you had to be there moments, but nothing is better than scaring the shit out of a relative.

Picking up the girls at school is always a happy time of day for me, but today in particular they made me smile again.  They went with me to the hospital to visit our loved one and then on the way home they had one of their over-the-top laugh-out-loud conversations.

Bella commented how at this time of year, the trees were naked.  She was obviously referring to the fact that the large majority of the trees didn’t have leaves on them.  In typical Mia fashion, she didn’t miss a beat and said, “Yeah, I know, they should be charged with public nudity!”

This is my life and I love sharing it with all of you!

Be Good Anyway

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It is often times hard to raise kids because every family has a different value system and when there are conflicts between your child and another one of their peers there are a litany of issues that come into play.  Unfortunately, when you are a parent who sees things as black and white, right and wrong, other parents are looking at the big picture and how their handling of an issue with their child will affect their position or social standing.

For the past year or so we have had an issue with the daughter of someone who holds a visible position in our church.  This girl had been bullying Bella and several other girls in their age group. It has been a rocky road and the things that this girl’s parents have done and said would get the entire church in an uproar or should I say, it should.  Like it or not there are cliques within a church and when you have kids with special needs, you aren’t going to be part of that perfect Christmas card family that everyone wants to portray every Sunday morning.  

We brought our issue to a select panel of church leaders and while I was told I did nothing wrong with bringing my concerns to these parents, after meeting with us both, it was decided that each family should deal with the issue separately using it as a teaching moment for each of the girls, etc.  We were also asked to not discuss it with anyone outside of the panel and our individual families.

I have watched Bella be marginalized and often ostracized because of what this girl and her parents have tried to do to us.  It has been very hard for me because it has affected me as well. It seems that our family is the only one who respected the panel’s wishes that we not discuss it beyond those already involved. This past Christmas the mother, without mentioning my name, told a room full of women from the church about how someone “went after her daughter” and that she “fought back hard and was filled with hate towards this other mother.”  A close friend of mine, another mom, was in the room during this Christmas event and was floored that this mom was ignoring the panel’s request to not discuss the issue further and basically using a public forum with a captive audience to slam me without my knowledge.  

I have struggled finding a way to explain and justify all of this to Bella.  We have talked about it over and over again and I have watched her so-called friends transition from being Bella’s friends to being the bully’s friends because of who her parents are.  The bully’s mom has told other moms to keep their daughters away from Bella and I have watched my daughter and the rest of our family shunned for the most part by people in the church.   Yes, I know it is time to find a new church but in the mean time, Bella has decided that she wants to stand her ground and stay to make a point.

She made this decision because of this poem that I shared with her that Mother Teresa apparently had on her wall in her room in Calcutta …

Mother Teresa’s Anyway Poem

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

So, Bella has decided that no matter what others say or do, she is going to “be good anyway.”  Every morning when I drop her off at school with the sharks, I yell out the window, “Remember, Be good anyway!”  She always smiles back at me.  Her strength is a marvel.  

More Facebook Drama

 

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If you regularly read my blog you know that while I love having Facebook as a tool to keep in touch with family and friends who are all over the world, I despise how some people utilize it. It is called Facebook, not Bragbook and I really don’t need to see where you and your significant other go out to each every single time. (I’m not stupid, I know you put it on your expense account!)  Nor do I need to know the intimate details of your personal life.  This is the theme for today’s post.  People need to keep their personal and intimate shit off of Facebook and away from public consumption.  There are several reasons for this, all rational and, if anyone sat and thought for a moment, they would realize they are figuratively and quite possibly literally shooting themselves in the foot.

Now I understand we all have weaknesses, sometimes people can be one of our weaknesses.  I actually saw someone, whose husband had just left her, post a status message professing her love for her husband, how sorry she was that they argued and she asked that if anyone were to see him out and about around town to please, just tell him to come home.  Then the real fun began because people then started commenting about her marriage and what a bad person he was.  A relative stated that there was no way in hell he would let her know where her husband was.  Then a relative from her side of the family started making lewd comments about the husband’s family and within minutes we had a virtual Hatfield’s and McCoy’s on Facebook.

I get it, Facebook is an easy access system that allows you to communicate with hundreds of people at once and if you are looking for someone to babysit your dog for a few days or to find out if anyone has the coupon section from Sunday’s paper; Facebook is perfect.  Yet, in the situation explained above, one would have to think that it might have been better to send a private inbox message.  That way you can be specific with who receives your message and, you save some face with the general public.

What triggered today’s post is a couple that I have known for some 20 years and they openly fight on Facebook and have been doing so for as long as I have been on Facebook.  If one of them stays out all night, we read about it the next morning.  I have lost count of the number of times they change their relationship status from married to single only to change it back again within a few hours or days.  A few times it was changed from married to Its complicated.

Well, it is hard to tell if today is really it or if it is just another bump in their rocky road of marriage, I have no clue.  But, at the very least, it is cheap entertainment.  Yesterday the husband posted something about getting rid of some dead weight and today the wife posted about getting rid of the whole damn cow. Yet, I do think that it is a reflection of our society’s obsession with thinking that we are movie stars and every personal aspect of our lives needs to be shared through a public lens so folks can take sides and the ensuing fight will pit his friends against hers and create more drama than is really necessary.  Why? Because there are kids involved in this too. Sadly, the couple is only thinking of themselves and not the kids that are sitting idly by watching the two people they love the most in this world tear each other apart in a public forum meanwhile these poor kids have to go to school, out with friends and etc.

Lastly, posts like these are a divorce attorney’s fairly tale!  Speak to any paralegal in a law firm that does divorces and they will tell you that the first place that they go to dig up dirt is on Facebook.  So, the photos that your friends tagged you in of you passed out on the bar or dancing on the cocktail table will come back to bite you in the ass.  And for the guys, the photos from the bachelor party for the guy at work or of you looking down the waitress’ shirt at Hooters, while funny, might cost you.

Just ask yourself it is is really worth it!

Full Disclosure

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One of my readers, who is also the infamous Mark who encouraged me to start my blog, has been hounding me to provide readers with full disclosure.  I have told you all about my family, my parenting philosophy, my pet-peeves, etc.  But I have been reluctant to share my true passion, my raison d’etre.  While I love to read CIA/spy novels, I have literally read some twenty or so on the past year, this time of year brings about my completely unadulterated selfish passion … hockey.

Yes, believe it or not, I love the game of hockey.  I love everything about it except the present National Hockey League Commissioner, Gary Bettman.   But this isn’t a sports blog so I will keep that commentary to a minimum.  Why do I love hockey?  Well, growing up in Snow Country certainly attributed to it and where I spent my childhood you learned to skate usually before you started kindergarten.  We had an ice rink within two block of my house and when I wasn’t playing in the snow, I was at the rink, sometimes on the weekends I was there for some five or six hours a day just for open skating.

I love the sound that the blades make when they hit the ice, the sensation of the cold air in my nose, the smell of the ice, the swoosh of the spray that is made when you stop quickly and on and on. I would have played hockey when I was growing up but my mom wouldn’t have it.  No girls play hockey, they figure skate.  So I figure skated, all the time wishing I could play hockey.   I used to love to go to hockey games, there was never a shortage of them where I grew up, and there were three rinks in town and leagues for all ages.   While it wasn’t part of my decision in choosing my college, it was nice to know that I went to a school that didn’t have a football team, but it did have, and still does have, one hell of a hockey team.

So, as most families’ evenings begin to wind down around 8 PM, homework is done, showers are taken and bedtime is just around the corner – my life is just beginning.  Most NHL games start between 7 and 8 PM, which fits into our family schedule perfectly.  Once the girls are in their rooms for the night, usually around 8:30, I can be found with my happy ass parked on the couch watching either my beloved Chicago Blackhawks or the ever-disappointing Buffalo Sabres.

How bad is it?  Well, let’s just say, much to my husband’s chagrin, there are two Chicago Blackhawks pennants hanging proudly in the living room that have been there for over three years now with no intention of every coming down and my cell phone cover, keychain and computer desktop all share this same theme.   Last spring, during the playoffs, my favorite player, Marian Hossa, was hit illegally and laid motionless on the ice for what seemed like an eternity. I was crying so hard that I woke up Bella.  She came into the living room and sleepily rubbed her eyes asking what was wrong.  I told her what happened and she cuddled up next to me on the couch as we watched his unconscious body being taken off the ice on a stretcher.  He suffered a concussion and was out for the rest of the season and the player that hit him was suspended for 25 games.  Trust me, he got off easy.  The NHL should have just put him in a room with me for about five minutes and I would have happily called it even.

Hockey is my other life.  I have hockey friends that I have made on Twitter over the years and every year we have a fantasy hockey league.  We have a blast taunting, teasing and torturing each other over bad trades, players who have bad games and most importantly, who is kicking whose ass in the points standing.  Right now I am rocking in 2nd place posed to take over the lead come Monday.  I am down by just 10 points and if my team has some good games today and tomorrow, I will have bragging rights, for the week at least.

So, there you have it, my full disclosure.  Now, think for a moment, what do you do for you, totally and completely for you?  If you don’t have something, find one – it will be what keeps you sane in moments of insanity, calm in moments of adversity and smiling in moments of sadness.

What have you done for you lately?

It’s The Maid’s Day Off

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Hello Readers!

Today’s post has been a long time coming.  We can thank Mia for this one! LOL … Yesterday, after a trip to Wally World, Mia was so excited about something that I bought for her that she ripped it open while she was in the car in passenger seat, right next to me.  She pulled and yanked until the cardboard packaging gave way … and threw the packaging on the floor.

I immediately told her, jokingly yet with some seriousness, “Pick that up!  It’s the maid’s day off today!”

That got me thinking about my major pet-peeve about staying at home/working from home; the simple fact that for some subconscious reason, everyone thinks that because I am home all day that they are somehow devoid of common practices that every other human being has to uphold – basically picking up after themselves.  And don’t think it is just the kids, The Hub is just as guilty, if not more so because he is a grown ass man.

I am regularly picking up water bottles left in random places throughout the house, including in the bathroom.  Candy wrappers, granola bar wrappers, napkins, tissues, etc.  The Hub is the most annoying due to the simple fact that his things, I suspect, are done just to irritate me and have some fun at my expense.  For example, the foil that covers the opening of a new tube of toothpaste, I mean come on!  There is a small trash can just a foot away from you.  You can’t lean over and drop it in there? Then he is notorious for making himself something to eat and leaving everything out on the counter.

When I say something to him, he insists that he was going to pick it all up “after” he ate.  Well, considering the fact that there is an empty plate and wadded up napkin sitting next to you, dare I assume that you might be done?  Oh, that’s right; you ate in front of the TV and got lost in your History Channel documentary – MY BAD!   Then when I start verbalizing my discontent he comes into the kitchen and tries to take things out of my hands and pick up after himself … during a commercial break.  Mama Please!  He also insists on trimming his mustache using the large mirror in the bathroom … leaving the clippings on the counter just under said mirror.  I can guarantee you that when he lived under his mama’s roof he didn’t do that!

Yet, of all of his little “crap he leaves around” my ultimate pisser is the godforsaken toothpicks.  I find them on the counter in the kitchen, on the dining room table, the end table in the living room, on the counter in the bathroom, on his night stand, on the headboard of the bed and the ones he leaves laying around in the garage I am not even going to count because that is his domain to keep clean, not mine.  But really?  Toothpicks?  And then, I swear they do it just to piss me off, when my parents are here, he and my dad will sit on the couch, both with toothpicks in their hands mindlessly picking away at their front teeth watching some World War II special like zombies and then ‘inadvertently’ drop the toothpicks on the floor.  It is a conspiracy I tell ya!

The girls on the other hand, are simply testing boundaries.  I know that, because I did it too.  But I have begun to have the last word because I have taken complete ownership and copyrights to the phrase, “It’s the maid’s day off!”  Just last night, after a long day, at about 9:30 they both announced that they were going to bed.  HA HA!  Not so fast cowgirls!  I reminded them that it was the maid’s day off and that they would have to pick up the living room and dining room of all of their sh#t before their heads were allowed to hit their respective pillows.  Oh the abuse!  Oh the indignation!  Oh the “you should have told us”! The whining could probably be heard all the way to grandma’s house.  Too bad they are snowbirds and still living large in the South and won’t be back until Easter.

The pain in their faces as they picked up water bottles, put the remotes in their place, returned the DVDs to their proper spot and good Lord – I should be arrested for making them hang their jackets up!

I am waiting for the call from Child Protective Services any moment.  Hopefully Nor’easter Nemo might just be what saves me as other neglectful parents, you know, the ones who don’t feed, clothe or care for their kids, will most likely trump the horrible mom in Oz who makes her daughters (and husband) pick up after themselves! *sigh*