Tag Archives: love

Lessons Via Bastards Telling You Painful Stories

Once upon a Christmas Eve while visiting home for the holidays, my step-father, after having consumed his customary seven to eight gallons of cheap, rotgut whiskey, cornered me in the kitchen and apologized, ad nauseam, for being such a gigantic douchebag my whole life. He then elaborated on his sorrow by telling me a story I could have happily lived the rest of my life never having heard.

Before I relay the details of this glorious yuletide tale, (cause shiz about to get real……personal, that is) I want to pre-defend my mother’s honor. She was a very good mom, my mama: sweet, warm, loving, super fun and deeply devoted to her one and only child. As a human being, she is equally stellar: funny, intelligent, strong, reliable, incredibly talented and in possession of a heart as big as the mighty universe. But she came into this world with birth defects, back when ruthless bullying didn’t make the news or launch outraged media campaigns to abolish it, so she suffered. Greatly. Horribly. And, naturally it follows that, with low self esteem so instilled, perhaps she didn’t make the best choices in men. To this she always said, “I didn’t have that many options.” Given the right guidance in life, she may have felt differently. She may have empowered herself and she may have discovered many more desirable options, but that’s just not how our collective cookie crumbled.So….what happened was….

Back in that 2007 Christmas Eve kitchen, with my mother and my boyfriend serving as the audience, my step-father cornered me and muttered sloppy, random apologies about my upbringing over his ethanol-laden breath. Then, out of nowhere, he slurred the following cringe-inducing confession: “I feel bad sometimes…..like for that one time…..that one time me ‘n yer mom went to the bar……and you were sleepin’ in the backseat…..you musta been about three years old….and we left you asleep in the car….. while we had some drinks…..I don’t know how long it was….but then this one fucking asshole comes in…..he’s all pissed off….and he yells, at the top of his lungs, ‘WHO THE FUCK LEFT THEIR FUCKING KID ASLEEP OUT IN A FUCKING CAR???!!!’ ….and I kicked that guy’s ass. That guy was a fucking asshole!”

Isn’t that great?! Wonderful story, yes? One to snuggle up with loved ones and tell by fireside every Christmas, for generations to come. Warm family fuzzies for EVERYBODY! (Christ Almighty.)

As Step-Daddy-Dearest recounted his version of deplorable events, I remember turning to my then-boyfriend, now-husband, with wide dear-god-make-it-stop eyes. In that moment I felt an awful mixture of absurdity and embarrassment, and I sent the following message with my fully rounded, please-kill-me eyeballs: “Oh Scottie, I knew I was fucked up. I knew my childhood was fucked up, and that I am ultimately, psychologically, and possibly irreparably fucked up. But I didn’t know I was THIS fucked up! And I’m sorry. I would have warned you if I could’ve. I’m so sorry. If you leave me, I will completely understand. Matter of fact, you should probably leave me now. Save yourself. This ship isn’t sinking. It wrecked a long, long time ago.”

He didn’t leave me, though. He married me instead. Turns out he had a less than Norman Rockwell upbringing himself. Not Child Protective Services worthy, not even close, but his parents’ marriage couldn’t be categorized as a healthy one – and he picked up a good number of his own relationship-killing habits watching that mess go down. Even still, 2015 will mark our ten year anniversary. Ten years of working on taming our inner-insulant-children, and ten years of helping one another to do a lot of growing up. Progress. Improvement. Growth and expansion. My oh my, but it’s a marvelous thing.

I only wish my mom could revel in the same sense of accomplishment, having battled and won so much in her time. Because, while her husband sat spewing old, drunken, dirty family laundry that Christmas Eve,I looked over and found her with her head hung in shame – which simply broke my heart. I hate to see her in pain. I’ve seen much too much of my mom in pain. She’s dealt with more than her fair share of suffering this lifetime, and she really did do the best she could by me. Her parenting wins far outweigh her parenting fails. She taught me honesty and integrity. She taught me compassion and (though it took me something like 25 years to show it) responsibility. She taught me how to love with my whole heart. And, whenever anyone compliments me on what a good mother I am, I let them know I’m only emulating her example – and her overall example was LOVE.

Again, I could have died a happy woman never knowing that I was once a tiny, blonde, pigtailed three year old left alone in the back of a car (1979 Camaro? 1976 Nova? It’s anybody’s whitetrash guess), while her mother and her mother’s jerk of a boyfriend went to drink in a bar. In fact, after hearing the story, it took me months to absorb it. Sorta shook me up. In a logical sense, it shouldn’t have. There are much lousier childhood incidents I can recall easily and vividly, but I still tear up when I think about that little girl left alone.

It’s not the worst thing that ever happened to a child. As far as kids and atrocities go, I got off all sorts of lucky. But a wound is a wound. A scar is a scar. And a drunken stepdad on Christmas Eve is a pitifully old, selfishly unburdening-himself bastard. However uncomfortable inebriated step-dad’s over-sharing might have been, it afforded the opportunity to confront a bunch of my ancient mental bullshit, and it prompted me to work on getting the sam hell over it. I’m far from all the way over it (clearly), but I’m getting there.

What I find truly fascinating, even encouraging, is the idea that I might just be a better person for it. For ALL of it. All the sad, all the shame, all the massive heartache: the whole tumultuous lot of my youth. This notion that it didn’t just “all work out in the end”, or that I didn’t merely “turn out okay”, but rather than it all meant something and it was all intrinsically necessary in order for to me be ME…….well, I dig that. I get that. It makes sense. I lived it all, and now the trick appears to be learning to love it all.
.
If you pay attention, all existential roads seem to lead back to love.
And if you’re not getting there….maybe you (we, US) are doing it wrong.

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Letters to a Tall Girl: Part I

My daughter hit 5 ft. 8 inches tall  just a few months before her 13th birthday.
She openly loathes her new height and actively prays she will cease growing.
In an effort to lift her hormonal spirits, while employing the age-old trick of “as long somebody other than your parents say it, it must be true”  I enlisted help.

These words of love and support go out to all adolescents who currently hate their bodies.
We old-timers have been there. We recall the suck.
But there’s a way out!
Just listen…..

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Dear Maddy,

Being tall is like a super power. For real.
I was tall early on. I’m 5’ 8” now, which isn’t extraordinary, but I haven’t grown since I was 12-ish. I’ve been this height since 6th grade. So… in elementary class photos, I was always in the back-row, center; the pinnacle of the class pyramid. At that time, I liked the fact that when the photographer lined us up, I was always heading up the march to the risers. It made me feel strong, like a leader. But that wasn’t always the case, especially around some smaller, less “strong” friends and classmates.

I had this one friend, especially (my best friend): Kathy. She was quite petite. Delicate even. Somehow being around her made me feel like a lumbering amazon. I struggled with feeling like that around her the most, even though I loved her the most of all my friends. (Incidentally, she thought my blue eyes were unfair – we all have something, turns out).

What I eventually realized, and what I wished I’d realized sooner, is that while we all have our physical differences, strengths, preferences, blah, blah, blah- I really liked what my particular body gave me. I liked having the power to walk into a room and decide whether I wanted to command the space or float along the wall. I have a pretty kick-ass mind and personality and my height gave me the opportunity to meet the eyes of anyone I wanted to share it with. Male or female, young or old.

And yes, boys are suh-lowwwww growers, but not for long, and by the time they catch up, and surpass you, you’re way ahead in the confidence game, that is an asset. I learned that there is a special kind of style that can only be exhibited by the long-of-limb.

While we taller girls will never have the “Hi- I’m a tiny little elf” thing going for us, what we have is an opportunity to display our grace and femininity in a way that others just don’t. So stand up tall. Tilt your chin a little. Make some eye-contact. Be mindful of your movements. When you’re lying around with your friends, find a space that you can stretch out in and fill it. (Oh! And clothes/shoes- you have so many more options. Use them)
You’re beautiful. You are a super-hero.

-Amy Hunt

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Dear Maddy,

Sara said to tell you, “I feel your pain. I’m 5’6, 11 years old and in the 6th grade. I tower over all my friends and all boys my age.”

What I want to tell you is, I too went through what you are going through at your age. While I remember some uncomfortable moments, I’m mostly thankful for this blessing. When I accepted, and gratefully realized, my tallness it was the most liberating feeling! I owned it, embraced it and even gave modeling a shot when I was 16! (Three years away for you… Wink wink). There is no greater feeling than acceptance of yourself. You have you for the rest of your life! I guess what I’m trying to say is that you have sooooo much in your court to make this into a beautiful thing, rather than feeling down. That just clouds all the wonderful things you could achieve; not just because you are tall, but also because you are smart, loving, caring, loyal, artistic and absolutely gorgeous! That’s a recipe for pure success right there!

I love you, pretty girl! Always remember you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Ps. Tell your mom to call me before I shank her. That’s all.

Your auntie,

– Annixa Silfa

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Dear Maddy,

I was always in the back row of school pictures because I was tall. In high school I reached 5′ 8″, which was giant back then. Now, consider not only being too tall while all the petite girls (including my sisters) were 5’1″ and 5’4″, but adding that I had crooked teeth and some other defects that were devastating to my emotional growth; though I got through the rough stuff and turned out pretty ok.

Miss Maddy, be thankful that being tall is your only concern. You are a beauty inside and out. Trust me, the boys will catch up and in the meantime, you can kick their butts.

-Teri Fey Cowley

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Dear Maddy,

In fifth grade I was five foot two and the tallest in my class. I was extremely self-conscious and kept to myself a lot because I felt weird; taller than all the girls AND the boys too. By seventh grade people started catching up to me, and by high school everyone shot over my head. I was then put off, now being the short one of the bunch.

You may never be the shortest again, and feel awkward right now, but these things I can promise you:

  1. Many (many) people will shoot up very soon, and you’ll not be the ‘tall one’ forever.
  2. When you’re looking back on school as an adult, your height won’t matter any. You’ll think about the friends you had, the crazy things you have done, and what made you feel the best.
  3. You can’t change your genes, and everyone is different. Be proud of who you are.

Hope this helps,
Jessica

PS. You have awesome parents. Take their word for it when they say you’re beautiful. They know what they’re talking about!

-Jessica Thompson

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Dear Maddy,

Coming from your vertically challenged neighbor, being tall can be such a blessing. You will never have to: crawl up the shelves at the grocery store to reach the top item that is almost gone, spray spiders who hide at the top of the wall with hair spray so they fall to where you can crush them, use a ladder to reach the top of your SUV when washing it, you’ll be able to dunk a basketball, or at least reach the hoop, and in the far, far distant future, you won’t have to stand on your tiptoes to kiss a boy! Oh, and if you ever want to hang a shotgun over your door to protect yourself from intruders, you’ll be able to reach it!!! If you get lost in a crowd, you won’t have to stand on a bench to see where your family/friends are! There are many benefits I’ve only dreamed of.
You’ll get used to it one day. And even start to love it!
Once the boys pass you up in high school, it’s not too bad. So Alyssa would say!

-Kelly Douglass

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Dear Maddy,

I towered over most too. Finding jeans long enough and skinny enough was a challenge. But  you will find stores that carry long length. Rue 21 carries them. Embracing the height should be done, though. Wearing high heels will be a bonus to finding tall men. Heck, even short guys like tall women. I remember being 5’10” in Jr. High and dating guys that were barely 5′. Lol. Tall is different. Tall is special. I am between 6’2″ and 6’4″ with heels today and I loooooooove it!!!!!!!!!!!

-Christine Brock

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Dear Maddy

As a woman who has been 6 ft. tall since I was twelve, I can assure you your height is a great thing! You can look most everyone in the eye with confidence. You never have to wear heels if you don’t want to – and if you do, prepare to be the belle of the ball! People will automatically view you as more confident if you own your height. Play sports. Stand out in a crowd. There are so many women that would love to be as statuesque as you!

-Heather RobertsQ

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Dear Maddy…boys love tall girls with big butts…little known secrets…get tall…don’t worry about your butt!
Sincerely
6ft tall big assed Rhonda

-Rhonda Peterson

Only the Unlonely

It happened just the way I’d pictured it. We waved goodbye to our girls; one tall, one small, hand-in-hand, backpack-strapped, escorted by a flight attendant aboard a plane headed for Nana’s house. And, as anticipated, tears were spilled. We sat at the gate long after it had emptied, awaiting departure, and, an extremely somber 30 minutes later, they were gone.

A few blocks from the airport we dined at our favorite sushi place and gradually I felt the mood begin to lift. Clouds rolled backward, heavens opened up, and to our mutual amazement, something like a choir of joyous angels descended unto earth, banishing sorrow in a sweet falsetto, “Ah, sweet mystery of life, at last I’ve found theeeeeeee,” and all at once it hit us: we were FREE!

Two seconds after arriving home the mister was naked. Simply to be naked. And, unless forced to be in public, he ceased wearing clothes altogether. At some point I found him standing in the backyard, basking in the setting sun, a warm breeze blowing through his…chest hair. We giggled like loons. We agreed to have naked breakfast on the patio that weekend, because….what neighbors? Neighbors who? We’re a childless couple now. We’re naked old people in our backyard now; top o’ the morning to ya!

Nudey-dudey breakfast time never came to pass, however, for we did something far greater with our mornings; we slept in. We stayed out late, we woke late, we lounged in bed, snuggled like it was an Olympic sport, made each other laugh, made each other smile, made out, napped, watched t.v., ventured outdoors only for food, came home and did it all over it again. We stocked the refrigerator with kale, fish, coconut Thai tomato soup and stinky cheese. We hatched a plan to scope out recipes; alternating nights in which one would surprise the other with an exciting new dish. We didn’t purchase a single frozen toaster pastry, shitty chemical-flavored cheese cracker, or any product with a character from Frozen on it. It was like living in a dream.

By Sunday I, too, had kicked the habit of wearing clothes. Had we ever gotten along so well? Ever been more in love? Was it as magical back when we were dating? I didn’t think so. And the house! We’d cleaned it just after our daughters left, and days later…it was still clean! I turned to my beloved, bald, giant, hairy nudist and cried, “It’s THEM! It’s always been THEM!”

But at the close of our refreshing weekend, around 10 PM, he learned his father had been hospitalized in Michigan. He spent Monday morning gathering info, Monday afternoon making travel arrangements, and by Tuesday morning I was once more at the airport waving farewell (though I’m relieved to report, his pops is presently on the mend and recovering well).

My 37th birthday followed, the very next day, and every member of my household was in a different state; one in Florida, one in Washington, one in Michigan. I was a little bummed out by this, until I reminded myself how I’d kicked them all out, on purpose, just three weeks prior – for Mother’s Day. That was my gift request: GET. OUT. I only wanted time to myself, without having to go anywhere to get it. I sent my little family out to dinner and just kicked back in silence, soaking in the stillness, and ignoring texts like, “If you change your mind, we’d love for you to join us” and “I wish you were with us mama.” Perhaps the opposite of leaving me in peace, but I didn’t mind. I also didn’t feel bad. I told my preteen, “Someday, you’ll be all grown up and out on your own. Someday you might live a zillion miles away and I will miss you like a crazy person. And someday I’ll thrill to get a phone call from you, I’ll ache to spend time with you, and I’ll count the minutes until I see you again. But NOT today.”

And thus, Life, being funny the way Life insists it’s very funny, said, “Happy Birthday, Niki! Here’s some of that mega-extended ‘me time’ you value so much. We left the cat. Cheers.”

But joke’s on Life, for once, since I’ve been enjoying myself. Between my husband making surprise birthday arrangements before he left town and my co-workers/friends rallying around me, I’ve been quite content. In the week and a half since the fam deserted, I’ve discovered this weird, yet incredible thing called “do whatever you want.” I make whatever I want for dinner, rent whichever movie I please, go to bed at any ungodly hour suitable to my fancy, and I leave the house without announcing where I’m going, or when I’ll be back. I answer to no one! Except the cat.

Dr. Pickles disapproves, but he’s not the boss of me.

Dr. Pickles

The entire scenario has caused me to reflect on the fact that I’ve never lived alone. I talk a lot about growing up alone in the woods – and minus a pack of wolves raising me, it’s mostly true. Between the ages of five and twelve I lived smack-dab in the middle of 17 acres of forest, and because my stepfather hated children (and being that I was a child, sucked to be me) I was forbidden to have friends over. I spent A LOT of time alone. With a cat.

As an adult woman, though, not so much. I’ve lived with my mother, a roommate, a significant other, or, later on, my first born – but never alone. Good thing I got so much practice at solitude when I was small, it made the last several days doable. Pleasant, even. Definitely an interesting and introspective journey, but I’m done now. All done. All caught up on the “me time.” If this is some “It’s a Wonderful Life” kind of shit, go ahead and hook Clarence up with those wings, Universe, because I got the message. I’d like my family back now, please.
Posthaste, tout de suite, and hurry the lonesome hell up.
They are my life, and my God am I a lucky woman for it.

We Love Hard For This

The season is upon us! And whether you agree it’s the most wonderful time of year, or you declare it the most expensive, stressful, pointless, irritating and/or depressing, I have come bearing gifts of holiday cheer!

Well, this isn't the YouTube cheer, just regular old happy everything non-motion cheer.

Age old ‘happy everything’ cheer.

Now, after viewing our upcoming YouTube internet gifts to you (our gifts to the world, really…nay, the universe) you’ll likely ask if we are professional entertainers. Clearly we’ve studied dance and mastered choreography at some point in our collective family career. Surely we’ve performed as a professional troupe; a modern-day “Familie Von Trapp.” But no! Say WHAAAT? I know. It’s hard to believe but, no, we are not trained thespians. We were just bored after Thanksgiving dinner, and it was either bust out the Christmas C.D.s and make with the silly, or watch a movie.

Be glad, and rejoice, that we did not watcheth a movie. But instead…

Viewer Discretion Advised: We are not a perfect family.
Many believe us to be so awesome (and we are), so happy (we mostly are), and the snapshot of an ideal familial unit (which we absolutely are not). This impression is derived from the P.R. face we present to the world. And while the truth of us isn’t some dark, ugly, lie behind closed doors, we have our equitable share of dirty laundry; the sort we choose not to air.

When I hear, “Oh I wish my husband was romantic, like yours,” and, “Oh I wish my family had fun like yours does,” I feel compelled to make others feel better by assuring them that we are real, flawed human persons. That my husband is a thoughtless jerkface, just like theirs, and my children are fiercely engaged in the total annihilation of one another – or me, whichever comes first. And I also assure them how there isn’t enough wine in the breadth of existence to make any of it okay. But, one, no one believes me, and two, it just sells my family short. I shouldn’t have to convince people we’re REAL people.

Especially when I should know, by now, those people will project whatever they want onto the joy we attempt release into the world. They will be uplifted by it or they will be disgusted by it – or some intrinsically complicated lovey-hatey limbo therein.

But I’m not going to feel bad about being happy. Or having a happy family.
We work hard for this.
We LOVE hard for this.

The Story of Unconventional Us

The story of the origin of us usually comes up when people calculate our eldest daughter’s age alongside the length of time my husband and I have been married. In response to tilted heads and quizzical looks we launch into a tale we’ve told so many times now it’s like our own very well rehearsed skit.

I usually say…
“Oh, well I brought a child into the relationship. I was previously married.”
And he usually says…
“And the only reason I got to meet her daughter was because Niki decided she wasn’t going to date me.”
“His life was a mess at the time….”
“….I was going through a divorce….”
“….wasn’t going to touch that with a ten foot pole….”
“…..she decided I wasn’t dating material……”
“…..I made it clear he was going to be my new best FRIEND…..”
“……and so I got to meet her daughter, which wouldn’t have been the case if I’d been a romantic interest….”
“….I kept my love life separate from my ‘real’ life. I didn’t want to be the mom with all the boyfriends…..”
“….but since I wasn’t ever going to be a boyfriend, I met Maddiroo right away….”
“….to this day I don’t know who fell in love with him first; her or me…..”
“…we joke that’s how I snuck in under the radar….”
“….and he we are. Happily ever after.”

And we smile; take the opportunity to gaze into one another’s eyes. And everyone smiles, and thinks whatever they think. “How sweet” or “Oh puke.” And now we won’t even have to tell the story anymore. I’ll just say, “Ya know, I wrote a blog about it.” And he’ll say, “Yeah. Like to hear it? Here it goes….”

2005

Just Like Heaven

Home. He’s home. Back from a year spent in South Korea. One long damned year wherein I thought I’d write more, but every time I went to put words to keystrokes those words ran whiney. Some would say I had the right to whine and some would say I’ve had it amazingly easy, as far as military families go, and I should shut my boo-hooey trap. And it doesn’t matter what people say, I just didn’t feel like whining. Wining, as always, another story all together.

Maybe I’ll revisit those days in a later blog, but for now I’m quite content living these new days. After three weeks vacation he’s gone back to normal work-a-day duties. But even those are slight, until he gets into the rhythm of things. Which means he leaves late and comes home early. Which also means he sucks me into a crazy vortex of laziness. “Come cuddle, and eat delicious snacks, and watch more episodes of The Big Bang Theory,” he beckons. “If the kids are at school/napping we can totally have sexy grown up time, then eat more, and watch more TV….and sleep…sweet sleep. You know you want this.”

And I do. I do want this. So much. I can taste the snacks now.
It’s heaven.

Feats of Fancy

Because I’m missing him, I remember this: our feet made out before we did.

The first time we slept together we did not “sleep” together, we merely slept beside one another. We were friends then. We’d come back from a night out dancing and it was four in the morning before we reached my apartment. It would be another twenty minutes for him to drive home to his. I told him he could stay, and I oh-so-cavalierly quipped, “You can sleep on the couch or sleep in my bed, whichever.” He chose my bed, and was a perfect gentlemen.

And it went on like that for over a month. Weekend sleepovers at my place, graduating to weeknights, sleeping next to each other, without a single improper pass. I used to giggle some mornings when he woke complaining of his sore neck and his stiff back, because it was a small double bed and he is a tall, robust man – and to keep from touching me meant he had to keep his body absolutely ramrod rigid, ALL night. Yet he came back for more uncomfortable nights of sleep with me and he complained little. SUCH a gentleman.

I liked him (like, “like-liked” him), but I didn’t want to and refused to admit it to myself. His personal life was a mess: he was only just extracting himself from a marriage gone sour and he was supposed to be leaving the state soon. Every sensible aspect of me screamed not to like him – like that. Regardless, I introduced the cuddling.

Again, in the aftermath of another Seattle night out we headed to my bed in the wee hours, ready to assume our Catholic school dance measurement of distance in the bed, when I (was tipsy enough that I) grabbed his arm and pulled it over top of me. I remember he said, “Oh! Is this cool now?” And I said, “Yes”, when I wanted to say, “Shut up!” And after that small gesture the cuddling was ON!

It was a mega cuddlefest of snuggly proportions for about two to three weeks. How close could we smoosh our bodies together without being overtly sexual? How much of a joint human burrito could we nightly create while acting like this was the behavior of the purely platonic? How close could our lips be to one another’s, for eight long, oft-times sleepless hours, without ever touching? We tested all these limits. We pushed the boundaries of friendly affections. We blazed some serious snuggle-time trails!

But our feet were the main culprits. Our feet were at each other in ways we were not yet brave enough to be. Our feet mingled, moved, maneuvered and motioned amongst themselves, constantly. Our feet flirted, our feet fell in like, our feet fell in love, and our feet told the truth about our feelings LONG before we ever did.

And the lovely thing about that is, they still do. While in marriage we’ve maintained the same sides of the bed as we did in those early days, I can no longer cuddle him face to face, for any extended period of time, for all the goddammed breathing he does (did he not breathe back then?). And while we can only snuggle down for a good half hour of drowsiness before we settle into our more comfy, separate, sleepytime reposes, our feet are still at each other. Like it was their first night together. Like they’d just met and were completely smitten.

And we laugh about that. We have no doubt that they’ll retain their footsie-friskiness, and enduring mutual adoration, well into the their sunset years.
We suppose we’ll be dragged along with them, but we don’t mind.