Be Thankful: Finding Beauty in Your Surroundings

I live in a suburban town in KY.  A short drive will take you past a great many fields, some expansive, and most featuring dilapidated but somehow charmingly antiquated barns and farmhouses.   Tobacco fields in the summer.  Cows, horses, and deer.

And of course, there are trailers, and yards littered with children’s toys, one or many broken down and rusted out cars.   A great many of the yards are what you might typically expect of the hillbilly stereotype.

Despite the trashy look of some of the yards, there is much beauty to be seen in the farmers’ fields, shady wooded areas, creeks and rocks.  But when things become commonplace, when we are used to seeing them day in and day out, we forget how amazing some of the little things in our world are.

I admit to being dismayed when I drive through a beautiful area and a hulking industrial structure the nature of which I couldn’t even begin to guess mars the beautiful landscape.  I wish the skeletal looking scaffolds and dirty looking pipes would disappear, and I have to remind myself that it may be ugly, but it probably helps create a service or product most people including me use everyday, and is (or was, if it is no longer in use) a necessary evil, so to speak.

As I said before, I live in a sort of suburban area, still twenty or thirty miles from an actual “city,” but not quite in the middle of nowhere.  I live in an apartment complex, and my front door faces a shopping center.

But as I stood outside enjoying an ill-advised cigarette, I took a moment to enjoy the mild temperature, the look of the wet flora around the small patch of ground that constitutes my “yard.”

Last night I laid in bed thinking about how things are going in my life, and just being thankful.  I have a great husband and kid.  I get to stay at home with my child and write, and this blog, which I started a year ago, is garnering more views everyday.   Maybe it’s not the novel I wanted to have published, but it’s more than I had last year at this time.  My bills are paid up and I have a few bucks left over this week.  I’m looking into classes for something I’ve been thinking about for a while, something that would give me the skills to start the next chapter in my career life.

So I guess the point of this long-winded post is the cliche’d “appreciate the little things.”  Is it still a cliche’ if it’s true?

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“You Have One Zillion Friends”

Good friends are hard to find.  No matter what your Facebook friends list might say, we’re blessed with few people in our lives that fit all the criteria of a good friend.  My blogger friend, Crazy Train, raised a good point in a recent article.

…is your life so rich in friendship that you can afford the loss of a loved one or treasured friend over some small incident or word spoken in haste. If you can honestly say that your relationship with this person is too emotionally costly then possibly it is time to move on.

Good friends are hard to find…unless you’re Chuck Norris. [insert random Chuck Norris joke here]

I heartily agree.  In fact, it’s odd to me that the very fact that I am not more angry at a specific someone very close to me for something they did, or rather failed to do, has actually royally pissed off another specific someone in my life.  They don’t understand why I “forgive” the one person the slight that person B perceives.  There are several reasons for this, but the short version is that I choose my battles.  Some things are just not worth being angry over when you never know if the people in your life will be there from one day to the next…

Okay, enough of the sappy shit.   The point of all this is that I happened to mention to my blogger friend my feelings on a certain type of friend.

I call them my Friends In Small Doses.

We all have one or more of these friends.  When I describe them, you will know exactly who in your life this may refer to.

-They’re people who are at heart basically good, but they tend to be self-involved.

-They usually like to be the center of attention, and often find ways to draw the attention away from you and back to them.

-They are often sarcastic or unintentionally condescending (I’ve been told I can be condescending at times-  unintentionally, I assure you. 😀 ) and have been known to utter an “I told you so” on occasion.

-They tend not to take criticism, even constructive criticism, well.

-They often show up when they need a shoulder to cry on or someone to bitch to, but are unavailable when you may need a ride somewhere or a favor…yet they have redeeming moments when they see you through a traumatic event, or do something completely generous, or you go out with them and have a complete blast, and you remember why you love them.

In my experience, these are people you do want to stay in touch with, but after being around them for a bit, you find that you need to take a step back every once in a while.  Sometime for a few days, sometime for a few months.

Friends come in all shapes and sizes, especially in this age of social media (which is raging out of control- but that’s another post entirely.)  Just be aware of who you can trust, who you can’t.  Who you want to keep in your life and who is toxic.  And don’t be afraid to let the ones you love know it.

 

 

related: Why Don’t You Like Me Anymore?”  AlienRedQueen

Bah! Humbug! Homesick for the Holidays

Ah, the smell of BBQ, like a campfire in the fall.  My Peppermint Patty coffee creamer.  The joys of experiencing the holiday through my toddler’s eyes…

The ridiculous crowds at Walmart, the rude drivers, the stress of not having enough money to buy groceries, let alone presents…

Oh, and it’s currently 69 degrees outside.  Bah! Humbug!

But all of this I could handle if I didn’t feel so down and out.  The holidays are drawing inexorably nigh and it’s looking less and less like I’m going to make it home to see my family.  I was going to hitch a ride with my uncle in his motor home (he generously offered last year,) but he told me they had planned on taking the car this year.  This was a few weeks ago, and he said if they changed their minds, of course we could ride with them…  But it’s hard enough for my husband to get time off for the holidays ahead of time, so the closer the holidays approach before we ask, the less likely he is to be allowed off of work.  Last year, as we were the only one’s whose family is almost exclusively (with the exception of my uncle) out of state, he was the only one of his coworkers who did not get to spend Christmas with his family…any of them, because the baby and I flew home by ourselves (oh, holy night…mare that I will never repeat!)  He had off Christmas of course, but as we live 800 miles away from family, one day just isn’t sufficient travel time.

If my uncle were able to take the motor home to MD this year, I’d tell Hubby to tell his boss that he was takin’ off, and tough titty said the kitty if they didn’t like it.  It’s not right.  Seems to me they could spare him for a few days, as everyone else at his job generally stays instate.

“Tough Titty…” (Tough Kitty)

It’s bad enough I only see my parents like 3 times a year now (and consequently, they only see their granddaughter 3 times a year.)  It’s killing me, and I know it’s killing my mom.

I miss my family and I want to move back home… but I also don’t want to.  Simply put, I’d only move back to MD because most of the family is there.  Frankly, I don’t like what the place has become.  I feel safer out here with the good ol’ redneck, racist, ignorant, fat hillbillies than I would back home where I’d fear getting mugged going to the freakin’ Wawa.  I realize part of this is perception, and that there is crime everywhere…  but according to my perception, it seems like the people out here are more ignorant than actually malicious.  Prime example; last year, in my home state, a guy I went to school with was stabbed to death in his own apartment when a seventeen year old hood broke in to steal the gun my classmate had for home protection.  Did I mention he knew the kid from around the neighborhood?  Did I also mention this guy was legally blind?  Who the fuck stabs a blind guy?

But back to the point, suffice it to say this conflict of feeling is causing me some distress…

Were we to magically discover hubby had the time off of work, thus allowing us the opportunity to drive ourselves home, then there’s the question of the $300 dollars in gas we’d likely need to get there– one way.  Would our POS Explorer even make it that far?

Assuming we’re grounded and we just have to accept it, how now am I going to afford to get everyone I want to gifts?  Our parents usually understand if we can’t afford to get them anything, but I like to buy for my sisters, and then their are my nieces and nephews, and my best friend’s kids, and my cousin’s kid…

Obviously I am not the first person to observe with no small trace of irony that this holiday is not supposed to be this stressful.

Yet I feel blue, and despite what I intellectually know and what I would tell others in my position, I feel like I deserve a big lump of coal in my stocking for not being able to give my family, and most importantly, my child, the things I want to be able to give them this holiday season.

Yeah, yeah, I know.  That’s not what the holiday is about, if they really care about us, they’ll understand, and all the baby needs is love…

So why do I still feel like a giant, disappointing piece of crap?

Bah! Humbug!

Is Marriage Bullshit?

What is marriage?

I realize what a loaded question this is.  And on this, my third wedding anniversary, I coincidentally happened on a Penn and Teller: Bullshit episode on “Family Values.”  If you’re not familiar with Bullshit, it was a popular Showtime program running from 2003 to 2010, aimed at debunking pseudoscientific ideas, popular beliefs, and misconceptions.  Penn and Teller host the show, typically take an abrasively libertarian point of view, and there are usually people interviewed for the show from both sides of a given topic.

In the “Family Values” episode, the idea/institute of marriage comes under fire as impractical, restrictive and, according to one arguably misogynistic radio personality, entrapping to men, as he remarks, “[We] are paying for use of a vagina.”

One professor of History and Family Studies claims, “There is no such thing as a traditional family… the idea one man one woman, nuclear family […] that’s a pretty rare family form in history.”

Also mentioned is the fact that marriage historically was rarely about romantic love, but rather protecting family interests and assets.  Arranged marriages were common, as was the existence of lovers other than one’s spouse.

While it can (and has) been pointed out that Bullshit is usually fairly one-sided, with Penn voicing over interviews rather than allowing for actual back and forth debate with said interviewees, I found enough valid points to sort of dishearten me with the idea that romantic marriage is a fairly new (and often unsuccessful) endeavor.

I’ve always considered myself a romantic at heart, and although I try to be pragmatic, I want to believe in love.  That’s not to say that I think there is only one soul mate out there for any given person.  Were that the case, given the size of the world and the number of people in it, it would be highly improbable that so-called “true” soul mates would find one another in their lifetime.  Still, if you can find even one person you can trust, confide in, lean on, have fun with, and love, you are a lucky person.

So, considering my cognitively conflicting ideas of pragmatism and romance, I thought it over…very briefly…and decided to rephrase the question to myself.

What is marriage…to me?

In short, it doesn’t matter what the statistics say, what marriage has  historically meant, what other couples are doing, what “biology” says, or even what religions say about marriage.  At least not to me.  The only thing that matters to me are the values I’ve internalized, the values my husband and I agreed upon when we discussed what marriage meant to us, and what we want out of our relationship.  In my husband I have a friend and someone who knows my heart (and my body) well.  And hopefully we can pass along our values and ideas of love on to our daughter.

So…Nya!

Pffffttttttthhhh!

Saying Goodbye

I just called the University of Maryland hospital to speak to my grandmother for what will likely be the last time.  She was not awake.  I don’t know if she heard me or not, but I had to try.

Approximately two years ago, as I lay in the hospital in labor with my child, she lay in a hospital 12 hours away, after having passed out and fallen in her bathroom the night before and having lain there all night.  Despite our concerns, she largely recovered from that episode.  She even eventually went back to her own home, despite my family’s concerns for her being alone.  Then last week or so,  she fell again and hit her head.  Come to find out she had something wrong with her carotid that when she turned her head a certain way, she would pass out.  While she was in the hospital this time as the family and doctors decided what course of action to take, her health began to decline.  She has gone from lucid, although understandably depressed, to what basically amounts to comatose.  She has a cyst and fluid on her brain.  Now she is having difficulty breathing.  She will likely not live out the weekend.

And I really have no feasible way to get there to see her.  Even if my mother bought me a plane ticket (because my husband and I can certainly not afford one much less two right now,) the last experience I had taking my toddler through airport security without the benefit of my husband’s help was harrowing and stressful enough that I swore I’d never do it again.  The thought of it makes my stomach feel icky.  Nevertheless, my mother really wants me and the baby there for the funeral…needs us there.  She is emotionally incapable of handling the impending  loss of her mother.  Even if my grandmom lived to be 100 and died peacefully in her sleep, I think my mom would be incapable of handling it.

Lately I have been thinking a lot about the people I have known and loved, the “old days,” when I was a child.  As a child, I suffered from an undiagnosed anxiety disorder, so I was almost never completely carefree, but those days were probably the closest to carefree I’ll likely ever be.  And when I think about those old days and how they are over for good, it’s something I am not completely at peace with.  Everything changes.  That’s life.  Nothing can stay the same.  It’s just the way of things, and the old adage “youth is wasted on the young” is fairly accurate, in that children generally do not have the emotional or mental maturity to be fully present, “in the moment” so to speak, as they grow and experience life.  I mean, they definitely live life in the moment in many regards, but do they stop while they run, while they play, or even while they sit bored in church, to appreciate the moment and realize how fleeting it is?  I doubt it.  That was something I myself first discovered around the age of twelve, and my anxiety over the passage of time and the retrospect way we experience life in general has been a source of anxiety for me ever since.

Well, I feel I have digressed from the original subject.  But then again, maybe not.  This is all related in one way or another, and as I got off the phone with the nurse who held the phone to my grandmother’s ear, and the tears pricked at the back of my throat, I just felt like I had to write.  And there is so much more I could write.  Like how my grandma will never get to see my daughter, her great-granddaughter, again.  Like how my mom’s health is not good either or how my cat is dying.  About my cousin who died tragically six years ago or my uncle who we lost in ’99, and how it’s still hard to believe he’s gone sometimes.

I’ll just say one more thing.  Right after Christmas, only days after my daughter and I returned, my husband’s grandmother succumbed to a stroke brought on by hip surgery she had right before Christmas.  I am very thankful that I made it a point to take the baby to see her on the night before her surgery.  That was the last time I saw her as well.  My husband and I could not make it back to Maryland in time for her funeral either.

Both his grandmother and mine were (are) wonderful ladies who were, in many ways, the heart of the family.  In the case of my mother’s side of the family, my grandmom is likely one of the only things still keeping a strained family together.

But like I said before, resistance to change is futile and will only end in anxiety and fear.

I don’t know what beliefs I subscribe to at this point in my life.  That’s been another source of confusion and anxiety for me for a long time.  But I do hope that peace will somehow find my grandmother and the rest of my family during this difficult time…and maybe there will be some peace left over for me.

Quick, cover your eyes! Boobs!

Unless you’re living under a rock (and the way the world is going down the shitter, believe me, I’d understand if you were,) then you’ve probably at least glimpsed the ‘controversial’ Time Magazine cover of the mother breastfeeding her toddler.  The impression I get is that America is pretty much the only place where this seems to really piss some people off.  One reason may be that most of America seems to elevate breasts’ sexual function above their biological one.  In other parts of the world, not only is nursing normal, but so called “attachment parenting” is a way of life.

I nursed my daughter for 20 months (for you mathematically challenged folks, she was almost two) and believe it or not, I heard some pressure to “switch her to formula,” etc, etc.  When I nursed around others, I often covered up as much for their comfort as for my own modesty.  That said, that was a personal choice.  All of those things were personal choices, based on mine and my child’s needs, from the decision to nurse, to when and how to do it, and when to stop.  If you don’t like or agree with someone else’s style of parenting, the cool thing about living in this country is, hey, you don’t have to do it!

I really don’t understand why people in this country feel the need to beat others about the head with their own morals, social mores, and opinions.  I read comments regarding that magazine cover to the effect that the child would later on be scarred and embarrassed when their friends inevitably saw the cover.  Really?  Scarred?  Because I see and even know some people who ignore their kids, emotionally batter them, belittle them, overfeed them, smoke around them in enclosed spaces, get drunk around them, foist them off on others, have ugly fights with their spouses around them, and use them as ammunition in their spousal fights…   If the worst thing that happens to that kid is an embarrassing photo, then he’ll be okay, I think.   I’d worry more about the airbrushed tits and ass the kid has to see on every other magazine cover, billboard, and advertisement every day, all the time.

And for you people that think that the photo or the practice of extended nursing is perverse… grow up.  Get your mind out of the gutter.  Consider therapy even, if ‘boobies’ embarrass you so badly.   

I could say a lot of things about this cover, these ideas, but they’d probably all be things you have read before in one form or another.  So I’ll content myself with reiterating a theme you may have noticed courses through a lot of my articles.  People need to mind their own damn business.  Stop trying to make decisions for other people.

Additionally, some brilliant soul came up with this version of the Time cover that really hits me on an emotional level.  ~sniff~

BE The Mom; loving yourself

I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the past couple of days, and what better day to stop thinking and write it all down than Mother’s Day?

I have been pretty hard on myself, especially lately.  I’m sure there are a few reasons for that, but for this purpose I guess they are pretty irrelevant.  What is important is my stomach is too fat, my nose is too big.  I’m not pretty enough, I’m not a good enough mother.  I spend too much time on the computer.  I don’t keep the house clean enough.  I’m a naggy wife.  I’m not successful enough.  I screw things up.

And as I looked at my poochy belly the other day and once more thought to myself “that’s just disgusting,” I realized something important;

I love my daughter more than anything, and I want her to grow up loving herself and knowing she is special.  I would love her even if her nose was too big or she had a pudgy belly…and SHE loves me no matter what I look like (or clean like or what I screw up.) 

How can I expect her to love herself, though, when I am not setting that example for her by loving myself?  When she gets a little older and comes to me and says, “Mommy, I don’t like my nose,” or “Mommy, am I fat?” (and it may happen considering all the pressure put on girls and women to be beautiful,) how can I tell her she is beautiful no matter what when I don’t believe that for myself?

So, for her sake, if not for my own, I am going to make an effort to be kinder to myself, and see in me all the good that I see and want for her.

I love you, baby. You’re beautiful.

photo ©Cynthia Gemmill and alienredqueen