Thursday, May 27, 2004

My Birthday

Today is my birthday.  This will be the last year that I spend in my forties.  I remember turning 30 and feeling old.  Wow.  That was 19 years ago.  Oddly enough I feel younger today than I did back then.  I suppose that the mature and responsible thing to do on one’s 49th birthday is sit back and reflect upon your life.  Regroup.  Separate what you've already done from what you still have to do.  Dust off the cobwebs and sweep up all those film clips just lying on the editing room floor of your mind.


So what could one say about me so far?  The… Occupant in my life?


You could say that I was born into a fabulously wealthy, prestigious, and influential family fraught with power and fame...

I can understand why some people might have that misconception about me, but it's just not true.  Actually, I was the second of 7 children born to my parents who carefully exposed us to ever increasing levels of poverty.  Apparently my parents selected the 'raising many children in a meager environment with no luxuries' option.  Speaking only for myself, I think that way of life made me a much nicer person, with  a vivid imagination and  a great sense of humor.  Personally though, I think my life would have been as equally enjoyable had they chosen the 'filthy rich, young married couple raising very few but ridiculously spoiled brats' option ... but I’m only guessing. 


You could say that my wedding was THE social event of the season and I married well...

But then you’d be lying.  For some reason I eloped to Elkton, Maryland when I was only 16 years old, with a boy whose last name I didn't even know until we filled out the application for our marriage license.  I wasn't pregnant, so I guess it must have been one of those "you had to be there" ideas that seemed good at the moment.


Some of my old high school pals might still believe that I graduated from Harvard at the top of my class and dedicated many years to scientific research...

In truth, I attended a Community College, but I was on the Dean’s List the entire two years I spent there.  I put myself through nursing school and my husband through the State Police Academy while simultaneously working as a waitress and raising three small, but adorable children. 


One might say that I selflessly devoted myself to motherhood and constantly sought new ways to raise happy, healthy and well adjusted children...

Well... I did read a few books by Dr. Spock.  I started reading them, anyway.  Oh, all right!  I used one of the books to prop open a window in the summer, and a few more to hold up one end of the couch when the leg broke off.  I was a little BUSY trying to bring up three kids, ya know.   But I had every INTENTION of reading them. 


Many of my friends and relatives still believe that after enjoying 28 years in a totally monogamous, mutually satisfying marital relationship, we ended our partnership with the very best intentions, wishing each other well and remain the best of friends to this very day...

Only the kids and my next-door neighbors know that three girlfriends later, I finally decided to pack it in, call it a day and get a divorce.


It may have looked like I embraced my suddenly single situation with an unbridled enthusiasm and a zest for life. That I was ready to fearlessly face life alone while relentlessly searching for not only my soul mate… but also my destiny...

Fortunately, it only takes a few drinks to appear that way.   I jumped right into dating, not because I was looking for love, but after 28 years of marriage, I needed someone to work the remote control on the TV.


By this point in my life I'm sure I had hoped that I'd be enjoying a successful and satisfying career.  One where my contributions actually made a difference in the lives of the people living in my community, and where my many years of experience would afford me the luxury of meeting future challenges before they became problematic...

Although I worked hard to become a nurse, and I’m proud to be a supervisor, I can't say it's exactly... rewarding.  Financially, mentally or spiritually.  My daily contributions to the community usually entail a trip to the cafeteria after it closes to find red Jell-O for a patient who doesn’t like the standard hospital green Jell-O, finding someone to roll Mrs. Weaver down to the lobby in a wheel chair where she can be picked up by her husband, and making sure that someone's mother doesn’t wake up after her bunion surgery with a male room mate.  To me, knowing that there will be a lot of nurses calling out sick the weekend after payday when the weather is nice, isn't  the kind of job related 'experience' I was hoping for.  Call me crazy, but I'd kind of like an occupation where young, happy, healthy people aren’t bad for business.


That when I went to sleep at night in my clean and tidy home, my dentures soaking in a glass beside me, I’d be confident that my upcoming twilight years will be spent living comfortably after a lifetime of sound investments, fiscal responsibility, healthy habits, and good genes...

Living with Ray this past year has taught me that  I will NEVER go to bed knowing the house is tidy and neatly kept.  The most I can hope for is the ability to find a clean glass and a spot next to the bed to soak my dentures in (the word fire trap comes to mind for some reason).  But... I can't complain.  My idea of fiscal responsibility is buy one get one free.  Although I recently discovered that I don't have any good genes, a strong family history of heart disease and cancer do lessen one's need for a solid pension plan. 


So on this day… my 49th birthday… after much reflection, soul searching, character analysis and assessment, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are quite a few things left on my ‘to do’ list.
I’m very thankful that I’m still relatively young.  For that means I still have lots of time and I don’t have to get started right away.


I still have a few more years left to goof off.

Monday, May 24, 2004

American Soldiers


Picture from Hometown

 They are our sons and daughters.  Our brothers and sisters.

                                     Picture from Hometown

                                      Our husbands.  Our wives.                                        

 Picture from Hometown

 They are our friends.  Our neighbors.   Picture from Hometown

Our colleagues.  Our classmates.   Picture from Hometown

Far from home.  On weekends and holidays.  In the middle of the night. Missing their families and friends.  Away from home on their wife's birthday.  Their father's retirement party.  Their best friend's wedding.  Their sister's prom.  Their parents anniversary.  Their Family Reunion. Their brother's High School Graduation.  The birth of their baby.

They are American Soldiers.  Away from home.  Accomplishing what the rest of us cannot do.  Doing what needs to be done.  Let's praise them and thank them.  Support them and pray for them.  For their families.  For America.


A special thank you to the reporters who stop to photograph our American Soldiers doing the things that remind us who they really are. All the things that make our soldiers so special to begin with.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Men and Women


Not too many things about menopause are funny.  I should know... I'm going through it.  I'd rather be going around it, but I don't think that's possible.  Anyway... once in a while I do find something on the subject that catches my eye, grabs my attention and lifts my spirits.


More often than not, it's usually something derogatory about men in general.  I don't want to leave you with the impression that I don't like men.  My father was a man, and I loved him anyway.  I have a few younger brothers who were left in my care many times with no subsequent harm.  I was married to a man for 28 years and he emerged from the union alive, functional, and still in possession of all his body parts.  My favorite teacher was a man.  More than half of the patients I have cared for in my nursing career have been men, and most of them recovered.  All my girlfriends are married to men.  My son grew up to be one, and there's every indication that my grandson will be one someday as well.  I love both of them with all my heart and soul.  And I live with Ray... who is SO much a man... that his friends actually call him "the man".  I adore him anyway, and maybe someday I'll make an honest man out of him and marry the guy. 


So you see, I have a long history with men.  And lots of experience.  No matter what we do, it appears that men are here to stay.  We might as well make the best of it.  And once in a while we can get in a chuckle or two.  Here's one I had yesterday.  Several times.  I wish I knew who the author was, so I could give her the credit she so richly deserves...


Dear Tide:

  I'm writing to say what an excellent product you have!  I've used it since the beginning of my married life, when my Mom told me that it was the best.

  Now that I am older and going through menopause, I find it even better!  In fact, about a month ago, I spilled some red wine on my new white blouse.

My unfeeling and uncaring husband started to berate me about how clumsy I was... he complained that I drank too much... and then he insinuated that I was never a good cook either...  One thing led to another and I ended up with a lot of his blood on my new white blouse. I tried to get the stain out using a bargain detergent, but it didn't work.  After a quick trip to the supermarket, I purchased a bottle of liquid Tide with bleach alternative, and to my surprise and satisfaction, ALL of the stains came out!

   In fact, they came out so well, the detectives stopped by my house yesterday to tell me that the DNA tests they performed on my blouse were negative.  Then my attorney called and said that I was no longer considered a suspect in the disappearance of my husband.  This is quite a relief!


I thank you, once again, for having such a great product. Well, gotta go.


I have to write a letter to the Hefty bag people...


Oh, I hope she had a big life insurance policy on him.  Is it wrong to laugh at such a letter?  At this point in my life... I really don't care.  I'm going to laugh anyway.  Maybe I can blame it on a lifetime of living with the 'persona' of men...

Irritating little teasers that trip you in the school yard, make faces, run faster, and get to pee standing up.  Boys with no fear of bugs, no tangles in their hair and get to go swimming without their shirts on in the summer.  Still... the crush you get on one is all consuming.

Teenage football jocks and local bad boys that get into fights, drive fast, drink a lot, and yell comments at you when you try to walk by inconspicuously.  Boys who spend all night trying to get to first base and then brag about it for weeks later, even if they never got there.  College guys who party all night, major in spring break, drink even more and drive even faster.  Still... falling in love with one is all consuming.

Young men who get paid more and get promoted before you, and can move furniture and open jars.  They look the same in the morning as they did when they went to bed, and don't care if they have a fat tummy or cellulite on the backs of their thighs.  They have never planned activities around their period or stayed home because they had cramps.  Most men never have to shave their legs, armpits or bikini zone and don't care if their breasts sag.  They don't suffer with morning sickness, stretch marks, childbirth, or have to sit on their stitches.  Men never wonder how they're going to have a career AND be a good father at the same time.  They are almost immediately forgiven when they forget to send a card, buy a gift, or write a thank you letter.  They aren't expected to bring any food dishes with them when they're invited to dinner, or feel obligated to help clean up afterwards.  They never wonder if they can wear white shoes past September or starve themselves so they can look good in a bathing suit.  They can talk loud, smoke cigars, curse, burp, scratch all their itchy parts, and tell someone they think they're "hot" without tarnishing their reputation.  Men don't worry about date rape or have nightmares about being attacked.

They don't plan weddings, throw baby showers, or write out thank you cards.  If they volunteer to go on a school trip with the kids, attend a PTA meeting, or bake cup cakes everyone thinks they're wonderful.  They never worry about breaking a nail, getting a runner, or carrying Tampons.  They've never looked to see if there is lipstick on their teeth, or tried to remove water proof mascara.  They've never had their legs up in stirrups, did a self breast exam, or tried to remember if they took their pill this morning.  They've never ruined a pair of panties or talked to their friends about douching.  They've never have an abnormal pap smear, hot flashes or PMS.  They don't have accidents when they cough, laugh or sneeze.  No one thinks badly of them if they never get married or have children, and they've never heard the ticking of a biological clock.  Even if they father a child at age 90, they don't question the health of the child.  They look better than we do as they get older, and they get to keep their last names even after they get married.  Most men don't wonder if their mates are hanging out in bars and strip clubs at night or if they will leave them for someone half their age.  They never have to hope that their spouse will behave themselves while taking home the baby-sitter or attending a cocktail party with their colleagues.  They're never, ever distracted by thoughts of all they have to do tomorrow while they're having sex tonight.


Still... the love you have for one man can last a lifetime.  I cherish the love I have for the men in my life...  I can only hope my daughters are as lucky as me.

Sunday, May 9, 2004

Happy Mother's Day!

Picture from Hometown   Being a mother is one of the hardest things a woman can be, but it's also the most rewarding and fulfilling.

It was rather strange to watch my daughter Tina, go through her pregnancy.  It seemed like only yesterday that I was holding her in my arms, that she was playing with dolls, dressing up like Madonna, and telling everyone she was going to marry George Michael when she grew up.  How could my little girl suddenly be all grown up and having her own baby?  When did this happen?  When I saw her holding her newborn son in her own arms, smiling down at him, I knew that my little girl was a woman now.  More than that... a Mother.  I could see the love in her eyes for this new little man in her life.  He will change her life completely and forever, but she'll never regret it.

I wished for a moment that I could go back to the day that she was born, and hold her once again.  But it's her turn now.  And as much as I miss holding my own babies... seeing the happiness on my daughter's face as she gazed into the eyes of her son, made me realize that all the trials and tribulations of raising her, led to this magnificent and unforgettable moment.  To raise her to this point, so that she could feel the love of being a mother herself, was the greatest gift that I could have given her.

Now I realize... that that was what it was all about in the first place.  Tina doesn't know this yet... she won't until she watches her baby hold his own child for the first time.  Just as my mother must have felt when she saw me holding each one of my three kids.

Thanks, Mom.  Happy Mother's Day!  I love you!