Friday, December 27, 2013

I love you so much. Please go home.

My children have been home for Christmas week.  Now that they are adults and are not living close to me I only see them once or twice a year and at the most stressful times, generally Christmas or Thanksgiving - when there are just far too many expectations of what it "should" be like.   I've always said that the best thing about living close to my father is that I don't have to visit him for more than a couple of hours at a time.  I visit frequently but in short bursts.  I think that would be best with my own children, too. We had a fabulous visit during our "Kidsgiving" where we were only in town for 36 hours for our visit with them.

Being back in the childhood rooms seems to have some power to make them children again.  Redecorating the rooms didn't remove the aura of old grudges, fights, hurts, and disappointments.  They try to push past it all but boredom, exhaustion, and drink all get in the way of maintaining that hard-fought-for control of hurt feelings.  Then someone lashes out at someone or makes a hurtful comment or just takes offensive at something completely unintended and innocent and the room either goes quiet or erupts.  Hard to tell which way it will go.  I've tried to make an effort to just not react or come to anyone's defense this year which makes me just sit staring into space much of the time. They must think that I'm drugged.

I love them both so very much but I do wish that I could have their visits in more frequent, smaller doses.  And I bet they do, too.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Instead of panicking I should just be grateful that over 50 people want to spend Noche Buena with us. Off to grocery for more cheese, crackers, and maybe meatballs!  I'll slice the pork roast thin and add a couple of cans of beans.  Fun night ahead!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

and now for a reality check

A man rings my doorbell.  When I answer he is standing away from the door, as though not to frighten me.  In broken English he asks if I have any work.  A number of years ago a similar man knocked at my door on Christmas Eve with the same question.  That day I had work that needed to be finished in the yard so I gave him work.  He still works for us many years later. So this time  I sadly shake my head and say no, I'm sorry I don't have anything.  He says thank you and walks on to the next house.  I come back into my nice warm house and wonder what I should have done.

Friday, December 06, 2013

the traditional Noche Buena to-do list

Sent the evites for Noche Buena yesterday and now the countdown begins!  With invites out to potentially 80 people we will probably end up with 30+ as actual attendees.    We are currently at 14 and the invites haven't been out there for 24 hours yet.  I'll have to look at past years attendance  I think it has been as many as 50 and as few as 28. Edit:  now approaching or surpassing 40. It all depends on which people are hosting Christmas for their families and which are going out of town for Christmas.  And on which children's friends are home for Christmas.  Alas, my favorite Michael is now living in LA and won't be here.  It's a tradition that I find him on the sofa on Christmas morning and send him home to his parents house.

My menu is always a work in progress so I'll see how it ends up at the end.

Boneless pork loins - need to buy another one  Now have three ready to cook
Picadillo meat ballsj - made and in freezer  Need to make one more bag of meatballs
Black Beans - in freezer  Will throw in a couple more cans of beans
Rice  Borrow extra rice cooker from Margie
Plantains - maduros and tostones? purchased and ready for re-heating  Receheck supply and cook in advance for reheating

Deviled ham spread  Buy cream cheese and deviled ham
Olive/Cheese balls  Done
Salami/etc  check supply and buy some more cheese
Parmesean cheese sticks - in freezer
and what else?  search through new tapas books - make olive/almond recipe from Trader Joes's cookbook 
Cream cheese and guava jelly on triscuit

Dessert -  Cookies!  - in freezer


  • Get tree decorated and place plastic poinsettias around for color and decoration.    -
  • Start the cooking frenzy and freeze, freeze, freeze - In progress
  • Trader Joes for wine
  • Decide on a non-alcoholic punch for this year.  I hate all those left over sodas that we don't drink.  - Cranberry/Lemonade -
  •  Wrap gifts - basically done
  •  Clean, Clean, Clean

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving in three parts

Thanksgiving doesn't follow some specific pattern at my house except I always cook.  Occasionally it will be a small group of just us and my dad and a child or two.  Usually it has been a bigger affair, since once you are cooking all that food you may as well have lots of people to eat it so we've had the year when the table was full of children's friends who were all criss-crossing the country during Thanksgiving and happened to be in DC at the time.  That was a giant rauccous group including a stuffed owl doll at the table!  Another noteworthy Thanksgiving was one where one simple invite to a divorced friend ended with me hosting her new boyfriends entire family for Thanksgiving.  (I did not issue her a T-giving invite in subsequent years.)  Often it is  just a random collection of famlly and friends and one of my favorites was when Thanksgiving dinner was the rehearsal dinner for K and G's wedding and we had our entire new family in attendance - all 17 of us plus kids!

This year was entirely different.  Starting with what may end up as a new tradition we had a Friendsgiving at a friend's home on the Saturday before Thankstgiving.. A group of us who are all good friends were invited and she fixed a lovely Thanksgiving meal.   It was a nice small friendly group, not including any family so we minimized the potential for family arguments, door slamming and tears which also seems to go hand in hand with the Thanksgiving tradition.

Then on Thanksgiving Day I made a turkey pot pie from leftover turkey I found in the freezer from last Christmas and we enjoyed a day at the house getting some chores done and an all around quiet and relaxed day.  I LOVED it.

And our final, and family Thanksgiving, will be next weekend when we go to Michigan and join the children at the girls home where they are planning to cook a Thanksgving meal (god help us) and we will spend a whirlwind 36 hours with them, and get to meet the girlfriend!  (I am taking back-up Cuban sandwiches and pastries just in case........)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

From "I See You Everywhere" by Julia Glass

"I've tried, I really have, to let go of the world - but I can't.  The world weighs so much and it bears down so hard."

"......we had our full dose of Sunday school - like a course of antibiotics...."

"I have learned, just recently, to give people things to do in a crisis.  Accepting favors is an odd form of mercy."

Friday, October 25, 2013

Inspired by Cinderellen

cinderellen's corner: My Stuff, Prole Style

I was inspired by Cinderellen's post to create my own list of necessities:

Necessary Extravagance:   A good haircut
Favorite Place in the World:  The beach
Jeans:  Gloria Vanderbilt from BJ's
T Shirt: Actually a heavy weight long sleeve polo from the Eddie Bauer circa 1999
Jewelry: fun Gumball necklace from cheap beach store
Obsessed with shoes by:  any shoe in a AA or AAA width at any price
Sheets:  Would love to have good sheets, am too cheap to pay the big bucks
Lipstick:  Rimmel
Moisturizer:  from the drug store sale flyer
Where do you go for facials:  I put my face over the dishwasher during the drying cycle
Toothpaste:  Crest

Monday, September 09, 2013

more perspective

I posted about my good friend whose life is hell due to the incapacity of her husband caused by medical errors.  Although they will be financially able to afford his care, they will be forever in a state of hell.  That put my petty concerns into perspective really fast.

Now, I have had three friends in the last couple of weeks who are all dealing with various stages of medical problems - all of which have long term consequences for them and remind all of us of our mortality.  One friend, who was actually just diagnosed a few weeks ago, is undergoing treatment that I'm afraid my actually kill him.  Although no one wants to say the words "palliative care" I think they are important to keep in mind.  Treatment that provides no anticipation of any future quality of life may not be the best choice.

Another friend is having problems with medication balances which are rendering her virtually a prisoner in her home since she has no idea when she will just collapse!    A scary thing to find your body is just unable to hold you up anymore and finding your self on the floor.

And another just sent an email that says "Need to reschedule because we have an appointment at Hopkins that day that we can't change...."  OK, that is actually code for "we are seeking a second or third opinion, or we have something so complicated that we are heading to Hopkins."  Although Johns Hopkins is just about an hour away from us no one uses it as our first line medical care.  So, that email tells me a lot in a few words.

Knock wood, we are all in good health, including my 92 year old father, so even when I complain I really know that I have nothing to complain about.  Life is good.  My job now is to be a good friend to all these good friends since I know they would do the same for me.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

catching up, getting ready

After a lovely "work week" at the beach where I sat around watching people to install new windows and a new door at my condo I returned home to get things around the house here caught up. 

My father' birthday dinner - Thanksgiving Birthday Dinner - went flawlessly thanks to the catering company that provided all the food!  This was both easy and surprisingly economical.  Food for 6 guests (and plenty of leftovers) all cooked to perfection and ready for my pickup came to $140.  I don't think that I would have spent much less on the food had I prepared it myself.  Turkey breasts at this time of year are not cheap, if you can even find one as was my problem when I tried to do this myself a few years ago.  And we had food for everyone to take home.  And the price included a spectacular birthday cake that was truly the best cake I've ever eaten (one trick was she added a touch of almond extract to the yellow cake, but she wouldn't tell me the secret to the perfect fudge icing).   Everyone had a good time, my father was happy and I didn't stress over getting the dinner on the table so success all around.

Next we have had some maintenance work done on our house - recent installation of a new heating and air conditioning, then exterior painting and repair of roof and siding.  I feel like I've done little but watch people work.  The house now looks good and should stay in good repair for a number of years.

Now I'm working at getting the inside of the house in order for us to be gone for almost 4 weeks.  Its not like leaving for the weekend.  And I'm deciding on clothes, changing my mind, pulling out different items, repeat.  Actually I'm good with the clothes now (until I change my mind again) but I do have a definite shoe issue.  I really dislike shoes, I have few shoes that actually fit me, and I can't stand wearing athletic shoes at all, which everyone seems to insist are necessary for walking distances.  My feet just get claustrophobic and want to be let loose!  So I have had a new cycle of purchase, return, repeat.  I had a huge box for (which I love because I can try on the shoes at all different times of day, kinds of sock/stockings, with pants, dresses, etc.  and then return the ones I don't like) from which I selected 1 pair which I'm still debating on keeping.  (Another perk is you have a whole year to decide if you like them.) 

We are at two weeks and counting before our departure for Spain and I'm into making the last of the lists of things to get done.  Rental car is next up but I had to recover from buying the train tickets which should have been easy but like most things in Spain, was not.  I tried the website in English and in Spanish to see what I was missing and it was just hit or miss if the transaction would go through.  Finally, after two days of trying,  I got all the tickets purchased and printed.   The rental car issues were things that could be discussed in English with insurance and credit card companies so I think I have a handle on the rules and insurance coverage and just need to deal with the second driver charges (I'm thinking that Charlie can do all the driving and I'll save that money!)

Busy weekend ahead - Happy Hour with friends on Friday, Bar Mitzvah for grandson of dear friends on Saturday, movies with other friends on Saturday night, Sunday brunch for my father.   Now off to make another list ......

  • Let all credit card and bank know we are in Europe so they don't close down our accounts
  • Get zinc tabs and meletonin from health food store
  • Copies of all documents scanned on put onto phone/cloud
  • Stop mail/Stop paper
  • Arrangements for airport transportation
  • Hair cut/eyebrows/makeup purchase - sounds like a day at the mall
  • ............

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

My day put my life in perspective

Today I had spent the afternoon with a friend who's living in a strange version of hell.  She was a widow until she remarried a few years ago.  He was a nice enough man, not the love of her life, but they seemed on track to have a pleasant life until.......   he needed neck surgery.   The surgery was basically successful but then he fell while in the hospital and that started a series of medical issues that have gone on for a year.  He has finally returned home from multiple hospitalizations and rehab centers.  He should not be living at home and she should not be having to care for him.  He can't eat, he can't swallow, he can't walk;  he is a living skeleton.    It is the saddest thing I've almost ever seen.  She has arranged for daytime help but she does the night shift.

She is a beautiful, vibrant, smart woman who loves life.  He is barely alive.  We spent the afternoon at a nice French cafe, sitting outside and chatting and drinking wine and trying to forget what awaited her at home.  I dropped her back at her home and like I was leaving  her in hell. 

No matter what my problems and frustrations I wouldn't trade for her's for anything.    

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

When I was in high school my father took a job running an electrical power plant for the U.S. Navy in Rota, Spain.  Rota is in southern Spain, Andalucia, on the Atlantic coast.  My years in Rota were magical and I have always wanted to return.  This fall, over 40 years later, I finally get my chance.

The base is still there, albeit smaller than when I was there, and the town of Rota where I lived is much bigger, but it is still a classic Spanish beach town without the hoards of foreign tourists.  It is where actual Spaniards go on summer holiday.  We will be staying almost four weeks in Spain and 11 days of that will be spent in Rota.  I've booked an apartment right in town from Airbnb so that we can actually "live" in Spain again.  We will do our breakfast at the small bar down the street, go to the mercado to get food for dinner, and take our paseo in the evening.  I'm getting more and more excited as we are now within a month of leaving.  Every morning I look at the Airbnb pictures of the apartment and think about what I'll do once I'm there.

If you want to dream along with me you can find me here -

Monday, August 19, 2013

Just finished reading.....

"The Orphan Master's Son" by Adam Johnson.    It won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for 2013.  This is our book club selection for our September meeting and some friends who read it before I did really didn't like it.  I think it is not the kind of book you "like" but I found it fascinating and scary.  Taking place in North Korea it deals with the issues of propaganda,  the power of the North Korean government over the people, and the subjugation of "self" in order to survive. The government has the power to declare false to be true and create histories and stories that become true by their telling.  If you are wearing the clothes and the leader calls you a name, you have just become that person and even people who know you are NOT that person will accept your new role and persona and go along with it without missing a beat.  Lots of violence and awful stuff but I believe it is a pretty violent and awful place.  I recommend it with the caveat that you need to read a better synopsis and review before you make the decision to spend your money.  I think it is another one of the books that people should read to remind themselves that not all people "think" the way we do and we cannot expect them to react as we do.  We need to understand people on their terms, whether we like those terms or not. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

There are some things I just don't understand.....

like how one family I know thinks it is ok to have a feeding tube inserted into a 92 year old woman in a coma and agonize over (and prolong) her impending death.  And the son who made the decision is a medical doctor! Does he have not one clue that he is making the very short time she has left that much worse?  Is he so very frightened of death that he cannot imagine that it would be better than the hell this woman is currently experiencing?  These people are devout Catholics so I would think that they would be comforted by the idea that she is going to "a better place with God".  Or is their faith really so tenuous that they only believe in punishment not reward for a life well lived?  Or maybe her life wasn't well lived and she maybe was a truly awful person and they think she is going to hell?  And we have now spent ten's of thousands of Medicare dollars to keep this body nourished (but clearly not eating or interacting).  This is good use of medical resources?  I just don't understand.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

OK, things are getting better.  I finally told him flat out I was tired of him bitching at me all the time and then I made a trip to his house where I only did the chores and errands, did not stay for conversation, and took a very businesslike approach. I made it clear I would not abandon him but I would not let him rule my life (both internal and external).  I've had two days off from his demands and time for lunch with a friend and an afternoon learning to play Mah Jongg.  I'll just enjoy this for the time that it lasts.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

I thought it was a joke. I guess it wasn't

Today with my father started poorly with me calling him to say the latest contractor/estimator had called and asked to reschedule his appointment from 1 - 4 pm to 11-12 pm.  I told my dad that I had accepted this new appointment time since 1) it was better for him since he has a friend coming over this afternoon and 2) it was better for me since I wouldn't have to sit around for 3 hours at his house waiting on the contractor to show up.  His response was (and I quote) "Jesus Christ, no."  After I assured him that I would deal with the contractor and that he didn't need to even get involved to even say hello and that I would be at his house in advance but that I would wait in the driveway for the person to show up so as not to disturb his morning routine, he agreed that as long as he didn't need to be involved AT ALL it would be ok.

So, I went to his house and sat in the driveway with my crocheting and as it was a lovely day I enjoyed the sun and the cool temps and managed to find my crochet mistake and rip things out to correct it.  The contractor arrived and and after some grumbling and hostility my dad retreated to the kitchen and allowed us into the house.  Later, after the contractor had prepared his estimate my father invited us into the kitchen to discuss it.  I had warned the contractor that my dad was a bit gruff and grumpy and that his hostility was not with him but with me.  The contractor was very nice and tried to make some easy conversation with my father as he presented his work plan and estimate.  During the conversation he joked that he had four daughters and that was why he had no hair and he asked my dad how many children he had.  My dad replied "Just the one."  And then I continued in a joking manner "Yes, I'm the only one and I'm the greatest disappointment."  My father didn't make any comment..  He just stared straight ahead.

I know I was fishing for some recognition, I just wasn't prepared for the recognition that I received. So, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out....... Namaste

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Things I think about during the 5 minute drive from my house to my father's house

My dad lives about  a mile and a half  from my house.  When the kids were little it was wonderful to have my parents so nearby and the kids could even walk over to visit once they were old enough to cross the busy street.   Now that my dad is old it is nice that the trip can be made quickly and easily since I often do it multiple times each day.   While on the short drive over there things just pop into my head.

  • I hope that I raised my kids to know that they can live anywhere they want and I hope they realize they have no obligation to me.   That is my gift to them and it was not a gift I was given.   It was always clear to me that the responsibility for my parents would be mine alone.  I am an only child so there is no one with whom to share the burden but more than that, ratings of  "she's such a good daughter" when in reference to other families were only given when the daughter had clearly subjugated her own needs for her parents needs - that she had moved home, that she had quit her job to care for them, that she had been the "good daughter".  So, my attainment of "good daughter" status is clearly dependent on how I handle this last task as I've been unable to get that rating  for anything else I've ever done.
  • When I die I want it to be fast and unexpected.  I don't really want to die of old age and I don't want to get sick and fade away, I just want to be here one minute and not here the next.  It has to be hard for my father who, even though he is in basically good health, knows that he will not outlive his new furnace.
  •  How on earth do people cope with all of this when they have young children or jobs?  I am busy all day long dealing with petty stuff - groceries, checking on him, arranging for maintenance, waiting on the maintenance people, fixing his computer, taking him some supper, fixing his computer (again, and again, and again), trips to the library for talking books, getting him a haircut, going to doctor/dentist appointment, back and forth to church.  The list is endless.....  Although this is not how I imagined spending my time during retirement I'm glad I don't have to squeeze it all in between children and work.  
  • When should I (or has the time already passed) step in and "just say no" to him?  I feel like as long as he is mentally competent that I can't really overrule his wishes.  I just keep working to make things work for him and being thankful that he has sufficient money to cover the expenses.  
  • I know other cultures venerate old people but I don't I think that old people should have any more claim on our time and resources than, say, children, or teenagers, or middle-aged folks.  They have different needs that must be met but why are their needs higher on the scale than those of others?  I don't mean we should put them on an ice flow and let them drift away, but why are we allowing them to suck up all the medical resources when many children can't get basic medical care.   I really dislike the AARP and all their lobbying efforts which don't have any balance on what is good for the entire population.  We have people far more at risk than most of the elderly.  I hate the sense of 'entitlement' that is held by many of the elderly. 
  • I hope I have the good sense to move from my home and make lifestyle changes before my kids have to step in and make me do it.  I have made it clear that I am extracting no promises from them regarding my care.  They are free to step in and make me do it when they think that they should. My mother was blackmailed by my grandmother with the "please don't put my in a nursing home" plea.  And my mother didn't and my grandmother's care was a constant worry.   My father clearly won't make a move to a place where he would be safer and  would provide me far more peace of mind.  He doesn't seem to realize or, maybe more truthfully, care that it isn't only his life he is impacting. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Now for a moment of public bitching.....  I know I should keep this stuff to myself, showing grace and patience, but I just can't.  I need to publicly shout the things that I can't shout at my father or I may explode at him in a spew of vitriol that I can't control.

My father is almost 92, is in good health except for using a walker and has all his mental faculties.   He continues to live in his own home because 1) it is nice and big and it is his and he has lived there for over 30 years, and 2) it is across the street from his girlfriend.  It is an old house and it needs a considerable amount of maintenance.  My father is much better at making money than at spending it.  It needed a new kitchen when my parents moved in and it still needs a new kitchen.  It needed new bathrooms when they moved in and it still needs new bathrooms.  These updates have not been postponed for lack of money but because my father just doesn't want to part with his money.  Because this is now an old house that has not had the requisite remodeling done it continues to deteriorate.  And because it is an old home it doesn't have a bathroom on the first level so consequently he must climb up stairs each time he needs to use the bathroom.  He is also basically blind, having macular degeneration and blindness due to glaucoma (which grew progressively worse because he didin't like putting in the eyedrops so I have only limited sympathy for this).

Because of the stairs, blindness, and concerns about him cooking for himself I have hoped that he would move into a nice retirement apartment building close to his house.  He has been on the waiting list for a two bedroom apartment there for over a year.  (This place is highly sought after, you basically have to wait for someone to die to get in.)  They finally had a two bedroom apartment available which we went to see today.  It is actually the BEST two-bedroom apartment in the place because it is one of  the very few with a balcony.  It was a lovely apartment, he could choose on a per-meal basis to eat in the dining room, they have lovely reception and common areas, a van to go to shops and errands, and he has friends who live there.  He turned it down.

So we return to his home and I start on my list of fixes that need to be done to try to make his home safer for him to remain.  Make arrangements to have a backup electric generator installed, have stair elevators installed, find a personal chef (who will probably only last through one meal prep session since he will find fault with everything), and a lot more smaller fixes.  This still doesn't solve the problem that the cleaning lady does an awful job keeping things clean and he lives alone and can't see but I can't tackle everything at once.  I tell him I'm heading to the grocery store and ask what he needs.  He opens the pantry to take stock and it is like an Alfred Hitchkok movie about ants.  They are everywhere!  Now I had just sprayed for ants yesterday where I saw a little trail of them but from this is clear they have invaded like a conquering army. 

So after a trip to the grocery, a trip to the hardware store for ant spray, removal of everything from the pantry, and spraying everythng with ant spray and cleaning all the shelves and putting down ant traps, and calling an exterminator, he still doesn't understand why I think that he would be better off in the retirement apartment and that the house is really too much for him (and for me).

Now off to shower and hopefully get rid of the feeling that things are crawling all over me.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I've been in Florida during the George Zimmerman trial and got suckered into watching portions of it on TV.  It was on every major station so if you turned on the tv at any point during the day that was all you had to watch.  It was fascinating.  The prosecution did a totally piss poor job even to my untrained eyes, and the defense lawyer was a complete and total ass.  I guess that what they pay him to be but I just wanted to slap him. 

It was pretty clear that the prosecution hadn't managed to make their points or provide a coherent explanation on why George Zimmerman's acount of the night didn't make sense and even I would have probably had to return a not-guilty verdict on second degree murder based on the evidence presented.  The manslaughter charge should have been the initial charge and if they had done that they may have won that one.

But, as my daughter pointed out, the real lesson here was that it allowed me to find out which of my friends are racists. The conversations during the trial, and it really was a major topic of every conversation down here in Florida, gave insights into peoples' perceptions and fears of young black males that were so saddening and disheartening. Many of these people have never had a actual personal or friendly relationship with African-Americans, especially young men.  The young men who serve them at the local McDonald's are probably the closest they have ever been.  These white folks have no context except their longstanding belief that these kids and families are somehow different and dangerous and they firmly believe that Trayvon was a thug in training who had some kind of superpower that made George Zimmerman so fearful of him that he "had" to shoot him.  That's because these folks don't see that Trayvon was just like their kid, if their kid wore a hoodie and ate skittles and iced tea.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

movie recommendation

Watched "Nowhere in Africa" on Neflix instant streaming tonight.  A German film from 2001, the original title was "Nirgendwo in Afrika".  It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for 2002.  I highly recommend it.  The advertised plot is that a German Jewish family flees to Kenya just before WWII to work on a farm.  Although critical to the film the real story is the difficult decisions that people must make in their lives. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

some things are forever

Overheard while sitting on the porch:

Two little girls walking by, one about six and the other eleven.  The older one asks the  younger, "What's your favorite TV show?"

The younger responds, "I like 'I Love Lucy'.  Have you ever heard of that?" and then she continues to provide a great synopsis of the show!

Lucille Ball is forever.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I used to love reading "News of the Weird" in the Washington DC City Paper.  Now all I have to do is read the Washington Post.

God is Opposed to Food Stamps?

GOP Lawmaker:  Rate of Pregnancies From Rape is "very low"

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Some days you just can't win. 
Shake my head......

Monday, March 18, 2013

I guess I'm the neighborhood hippie

Recently we attended a neighborhood party and I was chatting with a long-time neighbor.  While discussing general stuff and kids, and grandchildren, etc. she made a comment, in response to my daughter's lesbianism, that our family had always been rather eclectic and avant garde.  This was not said in a bad way but was rather her way of understanding how I am so matter of fact about what my children do and have done.  Then I came home and read an article about grandparents not accepting their gay grandchild.  I realized how lucky I am that for my family, including grandparents and if still alive, great-grandparents, we never flinched at the choices our children have made. And it does make for an interesting family tree.

Read and discuss...


Guilt Just Makes You Feel Guilty About Your Guilt

Guilt Just Makes You Feel Guilty About Your Guilt

I was going to ask you how often you, as a woman, feel guilty. But I don't have to, because studies have shown that you feel guilty all the time. At least once a day. And for the high-level worriers among you, the awful feeling in the pit of your stomach that you've yet again failed to do or be something better than you actually are can strike up to four times a day. That's a lot of sad trombones, ladies. What's our damage? Let's excavate.
In order to feel guilty all the time, a few components have to be in place: you'd have to feel enormous pressure to achieve an arbitrary benchmark. For women, that ideal no doubt, is "goodness." To be good. We are taught from an early age that we are nicer, kinder, sweeter, more compassionate, more delicate, more gentle souls. Spiritually nobler, sexually less tempted. This ideal of goodness, however, is at odds with our actual humanness, which causes untold levels of dissonance as we try to make our way through the world as people first, and women second, all while being so good.
Another component in place for guilt is that you'd have to believe your ability to be this thing you're supposed to be, in our case, "good," is entirely within your power, so that when you fail to hit the mark, you correctly deduce that it is your fault. So when you are treated badly, or skipped over for the promotion, or ignored, or worse, when crimes are committed against you, you search yourself for your own culpability.
In a Germain Greer piece over at CNN called "Guilt Poisons Women," she cites a Spanish study that found that women are "more susceptible to guilt."
Guilt is one side of a nasty triangle; the other two are shame and stigma. This grim coalition combines to inculpate women themselves of the crimes committed against them.
While some guilt is, of course, necessary for us to become "considerate, conscientious adults," on overdrive, it's a paralyzing anxiety that leads to real depression. And women tend to feel this at a much more significant level.
In the study, some 350 people were interviewed, aged 15 to 50, about their feelings of guilt about a variety of daily occurrences. Women, it turns out, cared a lot about hurting other people, whereas men felt guilty when they overate or binge drank, but not so much over things that actually affected other people who were not them.
The heightened worrying, it was concluded, led to a weakened defense system with fewer antibodies in their saliva, so that even when a woman was doing something she liked, it didn't make much difference if she was also fretting about what she should be doing instead. So much for escapism.
For many women, this becomes a kind of ever-present background anxiety over angering friends, forgetting a birthday, not being attractive, not being generous enough, and on and on and on.
Greer says:
Rescuing women from their burden of unwarranted guilt is going to require "educational practices and socializing agents" even more effective than the ones that have been relentlessly loading female humans with responsibility for other people's behavior from their earliest childhood.
I doubt there is a woman among us who hasn't been told to smile more, be nicer, be more pleasant, make nice, play nice, share more and in general, sunny up whatever joint she happens to occupy. Certainly men are taught to be polite, too.
But you can't throw a friendly dart today without hitting a mixed message about "how to be" when you're a woman in terms of balancing other people's feelings with your own desires and goals. This very debate rages today over women in the workplace having to mix deference with determination in pursuing that corner office.
These lifelong messages of deference and greater sensitivity to others — some of which are incredibly useful, such as in the care of babies — combined with the pressure to achieve on equal footing with men, are a perfect recipe for guilt. It can become so ingrained in women to consider others at all times, that healthy activities that promote well-being that (may) serve only us, whether getting a master's or masturbating, can be loaded with guilty feelings of self-indulgence.
And this goes back further than our collective childhoods. Women have historically been handed a swirling cauldron of mixed messages about their "true nature," and it is almost always one of perplexing duality as viewed through man's eyes: we are pure, but evil, spiritually superior, but a gateway to sin. We are noble, but we have to be, since we're lower forms of life. Even our ability to carry children has been viewed with great awe and greater suspicion. Viewing ourselves through this distorted kaleidoscope of femininity as defined by others has not made it easy to become fully enfranchised human people, particularly when we are still fighting for the concrete laws and protections necessary.
In my view, the problem of women's guilt is precisely that gap between being "female" and being "human," when the very definition of feminine still comes heavily burdened with implicit or sometimes explicit instructions on the care and concern of others, and always, about how you come off and look. There is nothing in connotations of maleness per se that suggests a similar kind of reflexive, selfless concern. (Saving people is one thing; caring for them quite another.)
Sometimes it seems as if we decided collectively that women could join men in equality, but only if we promised to still be nice. Being "tough" — like men — while still feminine, as in pleasing, deferential, is still a recipe for success, even when the femininity is the very argument being used to keep us out of the things we want into, whether it's the military or the boardroom. Doing otherwise is seen as impractical.
But in a world where the blame for men's crimes still lands squarely on women's shoulders, "nice" feels like a suffocating mask. Or worse, it's massive scapegoating.
And Greer sees the cost of this scapegoating as a major impediment to women's true equality:
Women feel more guilt than men, not because of some weird chromosomal issue but because they have a history of being blamed for other people's behavior. You get hit, you must have annoyed someone; you get raped, you must have excited someone; your kid is a junkie, you must have brought him up wrong.
Any victim of sexual offenses who denounces the perpetrator should incur no shame. But she does. And to conceal the identity of a victim of a sexual offense, which is routine, is to endorse this profoundly misogynist prejudice. Until women feel free to identify offenders without shame, the wounds inflicted on them will remain unhealed.
Those wounds have been unhealed for a long time already. It was St. Jerome who allegedly said that women are the root of all evil, but St. Clement of Alexandria totally had his back when he said that the "consciousness of their own nature must evoke feelings of shame."
What is shocking about that is not that some misogynist dudes from the single-digit centuries — venerated Saints, no less — thought women were intrinsically shitty and ought to know it, but that women still suffer gravely from these attitudes to this very minute. Says Greer:
For example, the Indian gang rape victim who was given the International Women of Courage Award by the U.S. State Department on International Women's Day recently is known only by a collection of sobriquets, of which the popular favorite is "Nirbhaya," or "Fearless."
No member of her family was present at the ceremony to hear U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry say fatuously that there would be "no more stigma against victims or survivors" when he had perpetuated that very stigma by refusing to reveal Nirbhaya's identity.
Why can we not know who Nirbhaya was? Because to be raped by a gang of drunken goondahs is to be dishonored. The stigma extends to her family, her community and even to her university. She has been honored because she did the decent thing. She died.
She is not around screaming for justice; she is dead. Her achievement is to be a victim. When the Obama administration hooked its wagon to the star of a sex martyr, it did little for the women who endure humiliation and stigma every day.
And so we go on with our lives of continual apology. Greer says that, "Until women themselves reject stigma and refuse to feel shame for the way others treat them, they have no hope of achieving full human stature."
This is important, but easier said than done. And we cannot lay this at entirely at women's doorsteps. Feeling less guilty, while critical for women to behave as free people in pursuit of their own autonomous, emotionally healthy lives, still won't single-handedly change the compulsion for men and society to tell women what they are like, or how they are to behave, or to blame them as victims. But greater sensitivity from men for women to define themselves on their own terms could prevent all this from happening in the first place.
Image by Jim Cooke

Saturday, February 02, 2013

My daughter and her partner would love to have a child.  KT discovered after many tests that she had a less than 1% chance of success of getting pregnant through artificial insemination or IVF due to the chemo she endured.  G is somewhat iffy about the whole pregnancy thing so they may decide their best option is adoption.  They're attending some info sessions to get a perspective on what the challenges they will face adopting being a lesbian couple with one partner with a history of cancer.  But they are also reviewing prospective parent profiles to see how people describe themselves to the birth mothers in their attempt to win the adoption lottery.   After reading some of them (who am I kidding, I read a LOT of them), most of them blend into white bread soup of 1) we really respect your decision, 2) we really want a child 3) we really think that we will be good parents and provide a great extended family experience, and 3) we live in a nice home in the suburbs with a yard and good schools.  You could pick any one of these people and not make a mistake that you could forsee.  So how would my letter read?

Dear Birth Mother,
I'm the potential grandmother of your child.  I did my very best with my two children and will always do my very best for your child, too.  I will provide love, direction, care, discipline, laughs, hugs, and lots of hand-knit sweaters and hats, and trips to the beach.

I realize that things don't always turn out the way we want them to or expect them to.  I imagine that is true in your case but I promise to support our child even when they make bad decisions and I will always love them, even when I'm mad or discouraged or disappointed in them.  Because that is what grandmothers do.  And I hope that your family is supporting your decision to allow your baby to be adopted. 

And I'd like to tell you that my daughters may not have a fancy house in the suburbs, or take European vacations, or even vacuum enough to please me, but they have love that is overflowing, and passion, and they will be the best mothers around, teaching their child about  love, and joy, and respect, and tolerance, and inclusion, and soccer, and basketball, and piano, and guitar, and there will be crazy poopy talk at the dinner table so that everyone rolls their eyes and laughs.  Because that is what families do. 

Please help them complete their family.

The Grandmother