Saturday, May 10, 2014

Lessons From My Mothers

For many years after my mom's death, I absolutely hated Mother's Day.  I walked around town feeling jealous of my friends (and strangers) who had mothers.  To be honest, I still find myself sometimes feeling that way.

I have friends who are definitely caught in the "sandwich generation".    They have busy lives themselves but still have to regularly go to their moms' homes to do the daily activities - cooking, cleaning, errands - that their moms can no longer do.

It is a burden - an extra job - to take care of an elderly momma, but it is a burden that I would give my eye teeth to have.

I can get into a really pissy mood over this.  I can focus on the fact that my mom didn't even make it to "elderly".  I can feel sorry for my kids who don't remember ever having a grandma.   I can have a pity party that by the time I was 37, I didn't have parents or siblings.

And you ain't been to a pity party 'til you've been to one of mine........

I hurt for some of my friends who have recently lost their moms.  I know the pain that tomorrow will bring.  When I was in the middle of that pain, I didn't think it would ever get any better.  But it does.
For years after my mom died, I couldn't pull myself out of the special grief that comes on this day that we (with the help of Hallmark marketing) have set aside to honor mothers.  But it's been 23 years.   It's been long enough that now I don't hurt.  I miss my mom but I can say that without pain, without grief, without the need to cry.

I wish she had been around longer.  I wish Tyler hadn't had to experience her fairly ugly death when he was five.  I wish Nina had known the person that she is named after.  I would have liked to show my mom that I survived Charlie leaving me.  I would have liked to have an opportunity to take care of her in her old age - like she took care of me when I was a child.   I would like to be able to talk to my mom about Tyler and have her give me advice about how to help him.  I would like to be sitting here writing a blog about how I'm celebrating Mother's Day with my mom.

But none of that was meant to be.

So...... right now I want to focus on some of the other mothers in my life.  "Mothering" is a verb that isn't exclusive to the woman who raised you.  The word isn't even exclusive to a woman older than you.  I have been mothered by many women - and some men.  And I'd like to honor them on this Mother's Day.

Here's a list of some of the mothers in my life and some of the lessons that they taught me:

Aunt Sissy - Aunt Sissy taught me the importance of singing in the mornings.

Billie Jean - Aunt Billie Jean teaches me that you can really and truly make lemonade when life gives you lemons.

Carol Jean - Carol Jean taught me a lot about how to live - and how to die.

Donna - Donna teaches me to be my children's champion - even when I don't agree.

Karen - Karen reminds me of the lessons learned by working the Twelve Steps - just like my momma used to.

Charlie - Charlie (when he was the man I was married to - before he morphed into another person) was able to hold me like a mom.  I know that sounds weird but he was able to hold me in an intimate, but nonsexual, way.   When I am in pain and need physical nurturing, my friends can hug me but not hold me.  You know the difference?  Charlie had that gift.

Nina - My daughter, Nina, continues to teach me right from wrong.  And she knows more about boundaries that anybody I know.

I thank God for continuing to give me people in my life to 'mother' me.  And I hope that I'm able to fulfill that role in the lives of those who need me.

Happy Mother's Day, everyone...

Thursday, May 8, 2014

If A Little Is Good, A Lot Must Be STUPENDOUS!

This has been a week of being faced with character flaws.  I guess that's good because without seeing them, I have no chance of changing them.

Earlier in the week, I was faced with my fear of conflict.  Yesterday, I was faced with my faulty thinking of "if a little is good, a lot must be better".

I am aware that I carry this idea in all areas of my life.  I think it's part of my 'sprint or stand still' mentality - doing all or nothing.  It affects my eating, my spending, my exercising, my sleeping, my creating, my parenting, my emoting, my planning, my cooking, my cleaning, my Facebook posting, my picture taking, my bang cutting, my lipstick putting on, my drinking ....... everything.

Here's some examples:

Yesterday, I decided to paint some vines in my guest bathroom.  I am a seasoned vine painter.  I painted vines in my kitchen in a house I used to live in.  Nina and Donna were with me at the time.  Donna finally said "STOP!  You're making it look like Jumanji!"

Well, yesterday I was home alone.  In hindsight, I shouldn't be left unattended when I have paints and stamps in my hand.  I started out with a plan to make one long, brown vine stem that started at the floor on one wall and crossed the bathroom door to the other wall, ending close to the bathroom ceiling.

However, once I started with the brown paint, I couldn't stop.  I ended up with probably 100 vine stems that started nowhere, ended nowhere, and were connected to nothing.

Then I got the green leaf stamp and started frantically, compulsively putting leaves everywhere.  I say 'frantically' because once I started, I became obsessed with finishing it before Nina came home and told me to stop.  (Actually, when she came home she yelled "HOLY SHIT" but that's just her way of saying 'stop'.)

Once I covered the vines with leaves, I needed to put little flowers on them.  The problem was that I had more than one flower stamp and more than one favorite color to use.  So my vines have two totally different kinds of flowers in two colors on them.  It crossed my mind that that wasn't very realistic.  But then I reminded myself that neither are vines floating in space not connected to anything.

By the time I got to the flowers, Nina found herself actually enjoying the project - as much as one can enjoy something while ridiculing it.  She found a stamp of a little lady bug that she started using on the wall, all the while calling the little creature "Simon".   (The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, you know.)

I ended up with this.

Prepare yourself, we're going in.....

We're shutting the door...

Take a deep breath and sit on the toilet and see .....



I obviously went on a vine bender.

Which brings up another example of my faulty "If a little is good, a lot must be better" thinking --- my drinking.

When I was drinking wine, I would start out with a wine glass.  However, I would fill it to the brim with red wine.  I was 57 before I learned that those big ole red wine glasses are not supposed to be filled to the top.   I just always thought fancy restaurants were being stingy and cheating me out of a whole glass of wine.  With my "........ a lot must be better" thinking, I gradually started drinking my wine out of water glasses.

The day I quit drinking, Donna had made me a drink of cranberry juice and vodka.  It was tasty but it had just a little tiny bit of vodka in it.  I made my 2nd one - and my 3rd one - and the 4th - with the thinking of "If a little bit of vodka is good, a lot of vodka will be wonderful!"  I did that until I threw up all over Donna's house, Donna, my daughter, my foster daughter, and myself.

So, I went from being a "sprinting" drinker to a "standing still" drinker - meaning not drinking at all.
Life is much better this way.

And, of course, I do this with eating.  After making good choices around food last week, this week is Teachers Appreciation Week.  There has been food everywhere, every day.  I have partaken in it all - even though I'm the counselor, not a teacher.  We don't get food on School Counselor Day.

I'm making light of this but it really is a serious thinking flaw.  I need to change my thinking from "If a little is good, a lot will be better" to "A little is enough".

A little is enough.
A little is enough.
A little is enough.

A little bit of vines is enough.
A little bit of facebooking is enough.
A little bit of bangs cut off is enough.
A little bit of ketchup is enough.
A little bit of guilt is enough.
A little bit of spending money on myself is enough.
A little bit of calling Tyler to check on him is enough.
A little bit of 60th birthday party plans is enough.
A little bit of cheesecake is enough.
A little bit of enchilada is enough.
A little bit of lipstick is enough.

A little really is GOOD enough.

This is what the Universe has put in front of me to work on right now.  A little bit is enough.  I don't need to obsess on it.  I need to sit with the idea and observe how it impacts my life.
Then, a little bit of change will probably be enough.

Now, to repaint my bathroom..........


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Weenie Woman (And This Has To Do With Conflict, Not Skinniness Or Penile Things)

I pride myself in being a peacemaker.
I'm big on compromise.
I'm a fan of negotiation.
I'm good at mediating other people's arguments.
I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion.
I strive to be nonjudgemental.
I believe that I can't know what the world feels and looks like to another person because I have never walked in anyone else's shoes.
I try to turn the other cheek.

In other words, I am a weenie.

Isn't it funny how our strengths can also be our weaknesses??

Today, someone pissed me off.  Through an email, she made me feel that she questioned my professional abilities and that she thought she knew better about something that is really and truly "my business".  In her email, she squashed a treatment team decision made by a treatment team that she is not a part of.  And possibly, she vetoed a plan that might have been in the best interest of a child.

And I caved.
Because (my words this morning) "I don't want to make waves".

Because she has a PhD.  Because she knows more.  Because she has the ear of the important people.

Because she's scary.

Being a peacemaker, being good at compromise, teaching negotiation, mediating............... all of that is just one side of the coin.  The other side is my fear of conflict.

I hate conflict.  I will literally run from it.  Well, not literally.......        But I avoid it at all costs UNLESS it is with my children, then katie, bar the door..... I'm all for it.

With anyone beside my kids, I am a mouse.

How can I be a hero if I'm scared to stand up for anybody?
Screw 'hero'.............  how can I even be a social worker if I'm a weenie?

Whoever heard of a weenie social worker???

And this character strength/flaw impacts other areas of my life, too.

There is someone very important to me who is angry at me because I haven't been what she needs me to be in her life.   As with all stories, there are two sides:
My side is that I have done everything I can to meet her needs but her emotional 'hole' is unfillable.  It will never be enough.
However, her side is that I have abandoned her.

She is a fighter.  Not a fighter like a cancer fighter but a..... an..... arguer.  She has a need for us to get together in person and HASH THIS OUT.  We've already tried that and, to me, it felt like having knives thrown at me.  I felt wounded and bleeding after the 'talk'.


I want to 'talk' through email and text - at least initially - until some of her rage is gone.  She sees that as me "playing games".

So we are at a standstill.  When I wished her "Happy Easter " through text, she responded with "Please don't text me if you won't even talk to me.  I don't want to play these games".

I NEED to woman-up and be willing to be in the same room with her rage and abandonment.
She needs me.  She may not realize that she does, but she does.  She needs me to love her when she's unlovable.  She needs me to stand next to her when she is in her unfillable hole.  She needs me not to be afraid of conflict.

Because, some people ARE conflict.  It's under their skin, in their blood...... it's how they deal with life.  I don't think she made herself this way.  And I think it might, unfortunately, be impossible for her to make herself any other way.

Ugh.   I HATE conflict!

I'd love to blame it on being an only child.  I don't know how to fight.
One of my mom's favorite stories was how, when I was twelve and playing outside with a neighbor girl,  I ran into the house and cried "Barbara hit me!".  My mom (who grew up with six siblings) sardonically said, "Well, go hit her back".  A few minutes later, I ran back in and blubbered "But she won't stand still!"

When am I supposed to fight and when am I supposed to remain peaceful (cave)?

Let's see if I can answer my own question:

In my first situation where someone is squashing a treatment team decision based on the (assumed) perception that they know better than me .......
* I need to ask myself what is in the best interest of the child.  Not what is in the best interest of my ego.
* My job is to ALWAYS go after what is in the best interest of the child.  My job is to be an advocate, a champion, a hero.  Not a professional scaredy-cat who doesn't want to 'make waves' with my coworkers.

In this particular case, I believe that the child will not be affected by the the plan being squashed.
I think it's about six of one, half a dozen of another.  It won't make a difference.
In this particular case, it was primarily my ego that was hurt.
So........ my response will be to     l.e.t.   i.t.   g.o.
I don't need to react in a way that will damage professional relationships.

But I ALWAYS need to make sure that I'm truly looking at what is in the best interest of the child and not justifying things just so I won't have to face a conflict.  For that, I need the opinions of others in the know.  I've gotten that today.

In my second situation with one of my people being angry at me.....
* I need to call her and set up a time to meet in person.
* I need to be willing to, once again, hear her complaints and hurts.
* I don't need to be a doormat and take all the blame.
* I don't need to point fingers at her.
* I need to remember that while she is pointing her finger at me, she has her other nine fingers pointing at herself.  She's smart.  I think she knows that she's being unreasonable.  I don't need to add to her guilt and self-hate.

I need to embrace the conflict with faith that it will lead to a peaceful resolution.  Sometimes we have to go through the fire to reach the stream.


Friday, May 2, 2014

The Blogging Diet

I don't know what to say...
For some reason, it works for me.

I've lost four pounds since I blogged earlier this week.

Weird, huh?

I think it's just the level of consciousness....

I've drank more water.
I've been more vigilant.
I've thought about going to the Y.  (That counts, doesn't it?)

Whatever.... I'm not going to question it.
I'm just going to thank the heavens.