Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It doesn't get easier, it just gets different

Hey Dad. It's me.

It's that time of year again. You know, the one that I dread.

You and The Oldest.
Thanksgiving weekend, 2001.
This will be the fourth Thanksgiving without you, the fourth year you aren't around to lie about how old you are on your birthday with a grin on your face.

The years tick by. It doesn't seem like it's been so long that you've been gone.

It doesn't get easier. It just gets different.

This time of year has driven me a little bit crazy for as long as I can remember. The hours spent in the car, going back and forth between grandparents' houses as a kid for the holidays.

The predictable chaos that was your family, with the house full of people, the scent of chocolate chip cookies always hanging in the air. The long afternoons spent in the backyard until someone dared someone else to climb the pole. The nights of challenges around the pool table, of old bowling team stories, of that time someone ended up on the roof. Trying to figure out how many soccer balls and basketballs and tennis balls and baseballs the ivy on the side yard had swallowed and digested over the years. The recollection of the trips you all took as kids, of the famous dinner guests, the stories always interrupted by the doorbell telling us someone else was there. All the times we took turns sliding down the wooden stairs, sneaking away to do it so we wouldn't get in trouble. The way that the cabinet doors refused to shut anymore unless you leaned into them just so after years and years of Grandma coating them with the same white high gloss paint. The drawer that always held the same toys that we never outgrew and the huge tub that got smaller with each visit. The scent of Listerine that always reminded us that Grandpa was there, even after he wasn't anymore. 

So many memories in that house. Each time we'd make the trek down, it was emotionally charged. It always was. With so many people in house, even a house that size, it's no wonder. Whenever it was time to leave, you'd just announce loudly that we were leaving. We'd hide, or we'd try to because we knew that once you said it was time to go, you meant business.

We could stay only as long as it took you to find us.

You didn't linger.

You hated long goodbyes.

You were more of a rip the bandage off kind of a guy.

You left us the last time that way too. You didn't want to make any of it harder than it already was, and you were more worried about us than yourself. You didn't want to be a burden, and when you said that, you meant it all the way down to your core.

Just before you left, there was that night with your sisters, my aunts. Two of them had come to stay, knowing the end was near, sensing it, and wanting to squeeze out what they could of what time was left. That night is one I am so very grateful for. I saw a side of you that I hadn't seen in so many years before, one that I only caught passing glimpses of back in those days in the house you grew up in on the rare occasions when everyone was home. You teased them, they teased back. We all drank and laughed.

God, did we laugh.

You died on a Thursday morning, swept away by the roaring winds outside. They calmed as soon as you were gone, you know. It's like they were there for a purpose, with intention that day, and once they'd done what they came to do, their work was complete. They left as abruptly as you did.

Tomorrow is a Thursday. Thanksgiving. The first time that it will share your birthday since you died. It happened often enough that I've just always associated Thanksgiving with you, but this is the first time that the two dates are overlapping since you left.

I guess it's more efficient. (That is supposed to be a joke. I know. I know...it's a terrible one.)

We aren't going anywhere. We aren't doing anything. We're just going to be home.

And by we, I'm including a little boy that you never had a chance to meet. We named him after you.

I so wish you could be here right now to see his first smiles.

We don't have plans tomorrow, and I'm grateful for that. We're having dinner Friday with the family that is here these days. I need the break, and you know how I am. I'll be more upset than I'm letting on. I'll act like I'm fine, but I'll be fighting back tears most of the day. I'll instinctively be waiting for the phone call that doesn't come anymore, the one I was programmed for once we moved away.

I know that if you could, you'd tell me not to do all that. You'd tell me to hugs the babies and give them a kiss for you.

I know that. I do.

And I will do those things.

We'll watch the parade, bitch about the awful television coverage like you always did. We'll watch the dog show, argue about which breed is the best like you always did. We'll watch some football game, not really caring who wins or loses, but be grateful for the background noise and the distraction, like you always were.

I'll call my brother, your son, and tell him I love him. I'll check on him, like I always do on this day and he'll tell me that he's fine, like he always does on this day.

If nothing else, we're predictable.

I'll defrost the cheesecake that snuck into my cart at the store and pour the cherries on top and fight back the tears when the kids ask me why we are eating it on a night that is Thanksgiving but isn't, on a night when we are having pizza instead of a fancy dinner. I'll remind them that it isn't just Thanksgiving, that it's your birthday too, and that even though you never did want a big fuss over your birthday, you never met a piece of cherry cheesecake you didn't love.

Happy birthday, Dad.

I miss you.

Monday, November 24, 2014

30 Days of Quotes About Life - Mark Twain and Truth

Hi there. My head is an absolute mess today, just throwing that out there. I have so much going on inside my brain at the moment, I'm working pretty damn hard to suppress so many emotions right now. And all the kids are home from school. And I have to get to the orthodontist in a while...

So here we are. Attempting to be distracted by a quote.


"If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything."
~ Mark Twain

Twain was known, of course, for his writing. He wrote Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn among other things. He was a humorist, but also a great observer of humanity, and quotes like this one show just how well he understood people.

This one is something that I've had to deal with quite a few times in life. I bend over backwards to be honest with just about everyone about just about everything. It's something that has gotten me into trouble more than once, my stubborn insistence on telling the truth almost all the time.

For as much as I try to be honest, I've had to deal with my fair share of liars. Some of them were terrible liars. Some of them were so good at it that it was a bit terrifying. Some of them used to be awful at it, but honed the skill to the point of becoming so convincing that I couldn't tell the difference anymore.

Some were so pathological about it that it got to the point where I just assumed they were lying about everything.

^^^That's not a good place to be. I promise.

I've often said this about the experiences in my life, particularly in circumstances where people made assumptions about something they believed that I was hiding....I don't have the energy to devote to that kind of nonsense.

Seriously.

Lying has to be exhausting, because it is almost impossible to keep a lie contained. Lies multiply, they grow exponentially at times. One lie leads to another, then another and pretty soon that lie has spiraled out of control.

I really don't have the energy to devote to that. I have too many kids, too many things to do, too many responsibilities. There's no way I would layer elaborate lies I have to remember on top of that. I'd lose my damn mind.

Hell, I almost lost it a few times just dealing with the lies other people told.

One of the most skilled liars in my life was my mother. She could tell five different people five different versions of a story and somehow manage to keep them straight most of the time. I never understood how she could do it. After time, those of us around her realized that we all had to talk to one another about things to try and tease out where the truth ended and the lies began.

She was hardly ever honest with any of us. At best, we'd get tiny pieces of truth woven into elaborate lies.

The only time she couldn't lie anymore was when something happened and she was unconscious or otherwise unable to keep it all straight. I can't adequately put into words how frustrating it was to deal with at times.

I wanted to believe her, I just knew that I couldn't.

It's easier to be authentic, to be real. The truth might be scary at times, but it's a hell of a lot better than a constructed illusion.

Besides, I can't remember anything these days unless I write it down. Even then, half the time I forget. I have gone to the store to get potatoes four times in the same week and never come home with potatoes.

I have a gift....it's just not for lying.

Friday, November 21, 2014

30 Days of Quotes about Life - Tolstoy and Thanksgiving

I'm going to attempt to kill two birds with one stone today, primarily because the time that I get to peck away at an actual keyboard is so fleeting these days that I have to try and make the most of it. If this child has done nothing else for my writing career, he's made me infinitely more efficient, that is certain.

I was asked earlier this week to write about familial dysfunction around the holidays. The person who requested that I write on this topic may be submitting a guest post in the coming days or weeks, which I will gladly feature here upon its arrival.

This time of year always makes me think about family, as I'm sure it does for most people, at least in this country. The tail end of November has always firmly belonged to my father, as his birthday is the 27th. Was the 27th. 

Death is so pesky that way. He may not be here anymore, but there is a part of me that still thinks of certain things in a present tense, as though his birthday still falls on the 27th even though he hasn't been here to celebrate it in years now.

This year, his birthday will fall on Thanksgiving Day for the first time since his death. I hate that, though I am sure that it will just work itself out to be more efficient this year, the grief and all that comes with it. We aren't actually celebrating the holiday on that day and have nowhere to be. We'll be spending the following day with my inlaws instead.

To be completely honest, I am glad to not have anywhere to be that day, glad not to have a laundry list of tasks to complete, glad not to be cooking for a small army all day. I think we may just buy some pizzas to throw in the oven and a 6 pack of Coors Light, park ourselves in front of the television and call it a day.

I'll just be home with my husband and our kids that day, which ironically is something I longed for back when I still had both of my parents and every holiday was filled with chaos and expectation and obligation.

Be careful what you wish for, my friends, because one day you'll find that you have nowhere to go on that holiday and you'll long for the days of holidays past.


Since I'm going to try and combine the quote with the topic request, here is the quote I have chosen:

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” 
~ Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina


Tolstoy was, of course, a famous Russian novelist. The book from which this quote was taken, Anna Karenina, was one of his most popular, alongside War and Peace. One of these days, I mean to re-read them both as an adult. I have this habit of loathing some books when I was assigned to read them in the past, but falling deeply in love with them upon revisiting them with the perspective I have on life these days. 

When I read this quote again yesterday, I knew that it would be perfect for this series, and for this topic about family dysfunction, because it is one filled with so much simple truth. We are all messed up in our own ways, certainly, and our issues had to come from somewhere. 

Damned apple trees.

To me, this quote seems to say that we are all indeed screwed up, even those who appear from the outside to be stable and happy, perhaps even more so. 

I can only speak from my personal experiences, of course, but I can tell you that what others see is hardly ever a true full picture of what reality is. Almost never. Those who have family problems that play out for the world to see are called names in our society, accused of being dramatic and worse. Most of us keep it all hidden, behind closed doors, behind those perfectly manicured lawns and bright white picket fences. 

Things in my family were never perfect growing up. They didn't get better as I aged. In most ways, they got worse. Either that or I just became more aware of the dysfunction as I got older. From the outside, though, things never seemed so bad. In my adult life, with my own husband and children, I think the illusion was even grander at times because it wasn't just the outside world being snowed, it was us too. We'd fallen for the idea that things were fine when they weren't. 

We put on the fancy clothes and the happy faces and pretended splendidly.

It's easy to believe that other people have their shit together. It's easy to see what is displayed to the world and believe it to be the entirety of someone. 

It's just not true. 

It's easy to believe that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but you should never make the climb over that fence on the assumption that your beliefs are accurate ones. The grass isn't greener, it almost never is, and even if it seems to be for a while, it might only be because it ends up being astroturf. A fake construct that you had in your head, revealed for what it truly is only once you've scaled that fence to the other side.

We've all got problems. Even and especially those of us who seem not to. 

Some of us are just better at hiding it.

The trouble comes when all those people with all those problems are thrust into the same dining room for holidays such as the one coming up next week. We build up the expectations so high, we hope that everything will be wonderful, we intend to make only good memories, and then we are slammed back down to earth when reality hits and we occupy the same space as all those people we are related to. 

Sure, some people have Rockweillian holidays. They take the gorgeous family photos, they have spirited but civil conversations, they catch up with one another, they leave on good terms. Some people have that. 

At least I assume some people have that.

Not everyone does. 

Not everyone can engage their family without flinching. Not everyone can get past the past. Sometimes the passive aggressiveness takes over, the snide remarks pile up too high. Sometimes the hurts are just too big. There's always someone drinking too much in the corner. Someone avoiding everyone else by staying busy in the kitchen. Someone who volunteers a little too quickly to try and find a store open somewhere in town because we've run out of butter or need a turkey baster. 

I've been that someone. More than once.

Oh god, there are times I've been all those someones.

Holidays are hard because we want them so desperately to be good. We want to believe in our hearts that we can overlook all the bad things about ourselves and each other for just that one day, except that sometimes we just can't. 

Perhaps if we didn't create these expectations in our minds, if we didn't wish for things to suddenly be rosy and perfect just because of the date on the calendar, if we gave everyone else and especially ourselves a break, it wouldn't be this way. 

What I wouldn't give for the chance to find out.

That ship, though, has sailed. My parents are both gone. 

Believe me when I say that as hard as the holidays are with your family, as much as you may wish to be without them at times, as much as you may want to stay home and refuse to engage them...once you don't have any other options, you will wish that you did. You'll miss them in ways you never imagined, and you'll always wonder what could have been.

Once they are gone, so is the hope that things could ever be better.

This Thanksgiving, I wish for each of you out there reading this to find some peace and solace. Be gentle on yourself. Lower the expectations you put on yourselves and on everyone else. It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. 

And know that sometimes, on some years, pizza and beer can make the best Thanksgiving dinner. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

30 Days of Quotes About Life - Bob Marley

Hi there. Welcome to the newest series around the Hive. This time around, I'll be writing about quotes that interest me and those that I'm asked to write about. I'm hoping to get through about 30 of them, though I highly doubt it will happen without interruption.

Anyhow, I hope that you enjoy this series. If there is a quote that you would like me to write about, please send me a message at debiehive@gmail.com.


The first quote up in this series is from Bob Marley. He was an amazing man, one that left this world far too soon, but one that left behind a huge volume of material for the rest of us. His music, his philosophies, his words.

"The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for."
~Bob Marley

Whew.

Anyone else need a moment just to breathe after reading that one? I know that I do.

I'm going to start with the assumption that you all know who Bob Marley was. When I come across quotes with questionable sources or lesser known speakers, I will go into more detail. For him, I think...or at least I hope that you all know a little bit about him.

He was a reggae musician that shared the music of his people with the whole world. He changed so much about the music industry as a whole and has left his legacy through the influence and inspiration of countless artists. He was a peace loving man who made some of the most poignant observations about society in a tumultuous time.

His words cut right through to the heart of the issues that affect us all, and this quote is a perfect example of his uncanny ability to reduce humanity to a sentence.

This quote, one that has painful truth attached to it. One that those of us who've lived long enough know to be true.

When we are young, when we are naive about how the world really works, we don't believe things like this to be true. We think that our friends, our families, our partners will never hurt us. For certainly, if they love us, they wouldn't, right?

In an ideal world, that might be true.

In this world, it might even be true...for a little while.

Eventually though, any relationship with any person at any level will result in pain. It's just a part of the reality of human interaction. There is no universe where two people can exist in perfect harmony forever.

We hope that those we love don't hurt us with intention, and in many cases there may never be intent involved with the pain that is inflicted. As individuals, we necessarily want and need different things in life. At some point, our wants and needs may diverge. At some point, we may act selfishly and do things that hurt others, even if hurting them is never part of what we are wanting.

In my life, I've been hurt the most this way, by those closest to me.

In many ways, the harm inflicted this way is the worst. It would be one thing if someone meant to hurt me, if they made a conscious choice to do something to hurt me.  I've been hurt that way, certainly. I've hurt people I loved that way too, though I carry regret for doing so.

Being hurt without intention, though, it carries more pain I think. At least it has in my experience. Knowing that I was hurt as badly as I was simply because they just weren't considering the damage they were doing to me, that I was irrelevant in their choices, that I was collateral damage...it hurts more. It hurts more, and it requires more levels of forgiveness to move on from the hurt. We don't just need to process and forgive the harm done, but the fact that we were so willfully ignored first.

People do stupid, selfish things. In the process, they will hurt those they love most.

I've hurt others like this. I've been utterly devastated by others doing it to me.

The recovery from this particular pain is something that took years, something that isn't complete and may never be. It's something that changed, fundamentally, who I am as a person. It altered just about everything in my life.

I could have refused to let those who hurt me back in to my life. I could have harbored resentment. I could have stayed angry, stayed hurt. I could have. I could have built walls to protect myself from being hurt again, but those walls would have kept out the good along with the bad.

The people we love can and will hurt us more than anyone else ever could, but if we protect ourselves from the hurt, we deny ourselves the love too. To stay safe, we stay isolated. Opening your heart to love means opening it to the chance of being hurt.

There is great risk in love.

That risk is terrifying once you've been hurt. Allowing yourself to love and be loved requires a huge leap of faith once you've been hurt because it requires a conscious choice to be vulnerable again.

It's terrifying, but for the right people, it's worth it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Things That Piss Me Off Tuesday - the broken internet edition

The sleep deprivation is starting to really take hold, and I'm having a hard time getting riled up about much these days. 

I'm also deliberately avoiding the news because it makes me mad right now. I am fully aware that the head in the sand approach isn't a long term solution, that the problems of the world won't go away simply because I am ignoring them and that I can't kid myself for too long. I know that.

Right now though, I'm tired. And emotional. So there.

Having said that, there is one story that is really pissing me off this week, and it has to do with this.


In case you need a caption, that's my boob in my son's mouth. Yep. 

What is pissing me off about this has nothing to do with nursing, actually. It took him and I several weeks to get our particular nursing relationship all squared away, but now that he's mastered latching, we are good. The funny thing about nursing is that it should be so natural and it isn't. Even for someone like me, a doula with over a decade of nursing my own babies already, it's not always this simple beautiful easy thing like we believe it should be. 

It's frustrating and painful and exhausting and messy at times. It's hard to teach a baby how to do something that they don't seem to want to do, and doing it all while under the microscope of twice a week weigh ins and growth charts and threats of supplements is a special form of torture. I won't lie and tell you that nursing is this magical thing. It can be, but it isn't always, and it especially isn't in the beginning. 

My daughters latched easily and we never had problems. All three of my boys struggled. 

We got here though and we are settled in. Finally.

In these weeks since he was born, the typical fights on the internet have raged. I've tried to avoid them, tried to keep my head down, tried not to comment on things. Really, I have. 

This though, this is what is pissing me off. 

What, you ask?

I'm pissed off by the fact that my picture up there, the one of my beautiful baby boy eagerly nursing discreetly, would in all likelihood be deemed offensive and removed from social media if I posted it there directly and someone complained. Hell, even having it as the photo attached to this post might mean that it gets yanked. 

Instagram and Facebook are notorious for removing pictures of breastfeeding mothers and their babies. I have countless friends who have had pictures pulled. 

To have those pictures pulled, someone had to have reported them. 

Someone on their friends lists, presumably.

Look. If you are on my friends list and you have a problem with seeing a picture like this one, maybe we just shouldn't be friends. Anyone who has known me in real life in the past 13 1/2 years has likely been around me while I was nursing one of my babies. I don't hide to feed them. I don't sneak off to bathrooms. I don't drape huge covers over their heads. I don't. 

I never have and I'm not about to start doing it now.

I feed my babies when they are hungry, wherever we happen to be, and I have the legal right to do so. 

There is nothing offensive about a breast being used for what nature intended.

There is nothing offensive about a picture of a nursing mother and child, particularly in a world where celebrities are stripped down, oiled up, paraded around and turned into trending topics. 

So there.

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