Monthly Archives: April 2016

Teachable Moments

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Teachable Moments

For those who are not familiar….teachable moments tend to be awful and necessary. They also like to present themselves at inconvenient times and mostly in public places usually when you are exhausted or at least exasperated. My husband and I are raising two kids; a nearly 13 year old boy and an 11 year old girl. If you haven’t raised humans up to the tween phase let’s just say things get interesting. My number one goal in parenting is to raise kind, productive people that contribute to society in a positive way. I’m not hoping to get a sports scholarship, ivy league acceptance or even perfect hair….I just don’t want to raise assholes.

My kids are opposites in some ways. My son wants to stay a kid. So much so that I had to break the news to him about Santa Claus a few months ago. For the past two years I’d been leaving hints in bits of conversation like scattered bread crumbs, hoping he would ask for more. I leaned heavy on the “traditions” aspect of Christmas and would often say things like, different families have different traditions. We would discuss this regarding Santa and the Elf on the Shelf. I even suggested…scratch that….flat out told him…..”Do NOT talk about Santa at school.” The point is the hints were there, I left them scattered about to ease the transition. He didn’t bite, not even a nibble.

This Christmas Eve he had the “Santa Tracker” on his Ipod and made intermittent announcements about where Santa was in his one night gift giving world tour. I made a mental note to squash Santa on December 26th. Of course that day came and went and I finally had to make myself tell him the last day of winter break. It was hard. I waited until we were alone and I looked him in the eye and decided to ask “Do you really believe in Santa?” I saw sadness and fear in his eyes and I knew I was about to take away a piece of his childhood. It killed me to tell him but he’s in middle school if word got out, the mob would descend on him like vultures on a fresh carcass. I was gentle and direct when I told him something to the effect of……..there isn’t one Santa, there are many Santas – moms, dads, grandparents, brothers, sisters, neighbors, friends….there isn’t one man dropping off presents all over the world. Santa is the idea of giving without expectation, it’s a tradition and a fairy tale rolled into a beautiful message of giving. We both cried a little and hugged. A few minutes later I asked him if he had any questions or if he wanted to talk about it. His only response was “I don’t believe you”. True story.

Now for the girl….ahhh tween girl drama is brutal. We have already experienced frenemies and flat out bullies. At times I think my daughter has been a bit of a bully and I called her on it immediately. I tell her constantly about the importance of not talking smack about people and treating everyone the way you want to be treated. I monitor her Instagram and I am shocked at some of the conversations that take place.

My kids have limited access to electronic devices. Half an hour during the week and an hour on weekends and holidays. They are not permitted to have their Ipods in their rooms at night. This past Valentine’s Day there was a conversation with several girls on Instagram and two girls were pondering where my daughter was since she wasn’t responding. One girl suggested she was dead, another suggested she was pregnant. Yes you read that right and these girls were 10. Do you think their parents monitor their Instagram? Doubtful.

My daughter has not yet found her tribe. She floats between different groups of girls and has some close friends. She does not have a best friend at the moment and she is trying to make me her best friend. This is achingly sweet, but let’s be honest I can’t be her BFF, I have to discipline her. She is very emotional right now and requires a lot of one on one time and I am juggling the chainsaws and kittens the best I can. Yesterday was a disaster.

We set time aside to go shopping in a mall. Let me just state this for the record – I hate to shop, especially at malls but this is my girl so I make time for it. We stopped at a friend’s house on the way which took longer than expected and as a result we had less time to shop. She had about 10 items on her list of things she wanted to do and we had time for maybe 7. When I told her it was time to go, a tear slid down her cheek and I got the instant whinny rebuttal from her. I felt a lava like rage boiling in my gut and I insisted that we had to go.

I won’t lie it was ugly and I wish I conducted myself differently. My initial fear was that I was raising a self entitled spoiled brat and that is oh so unacceptable. I told her we needed to leave and I walked at a very fast pace. She was a wreck. I did not yell but the anger was coming off of me like steam, it was palpable. She was crying before we got in the car.

My tone of voice and body language made it clear that I was angry and I wasn’t good at listening to why she was upset in the first few moments. I came to my own conclusion that my daughter was being a spoiled brat. That probably wasn’t entirely fair but it wasn’t completely off the mark either. So I stepped on to my soap box and told her how I will not tolerate a spoiled entitled child. I explained that I wanted her to focus on kindness, a work ethic, academics and not on shiny pretty things we get at the mall.

Then I droned on in a way that has made kids eyes roll for centuries. I told her that when I grew up, the only clothes I got were hand me downs from my cousins. In addition, I got one new outfit that my Nana would buy me in early September before school started each year. Then I realized that this conversation was taking a toll on her and I reminded my daughter that she is funny, smart and kind to animals and people and that I liked those things about her. I told her that I worried that she was too concerned about designer labels and material things…. Geezus it was just too much to put on 11 year old shoulders.

At the end of the day we were both calm and discussed better strategies for our next outing. We have determined that a prioritized list will help us stay on track and help us better focus our time. We both apologized to each other and ended the night with our usual tuck in – saying prayers, reviewing the best parts of the weekend, making plans before the final I love you for the night. So many teachable moments this weekend and sometimes it’s hard to keep my own brand of crazy out of the mix. My own childhood haunts me and I know it echos into my present parenting abilities. So as the teachable moments keep coming, I need to remind myself to stay teachable. Parenting is hard.

 

 

 

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I’m Obsessed with Numbers…

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I’m Obsessed with Numbers…

Lately I’ve been obsessed with numbers – weight, age, finances and the big one, the blog related likes, views and comments. I don’t even math well so I’m not entirely in love with this obsession. I have to constantly give myself pep talks about the various numbers in my life.

The weight number, ugh. I don’t weigh the same as I did when I was 22, primarily because …..I am no longer 22. I know, duh, but I still obsess over the scale. Truth be told I have a one way abusive relationship with this apparatus. I weigh myself a few times a week….here are some of the conversations I had with the scale over the past several days: “Are you fucking kidding?!” “Yes!!!!!” and silent treatment with a defiant middle finger aimed at the scale display.  It’s not pretty but it’s honest.

Age yeah I know….it’s just a number right? Wrong. It’s a marker of time which pushes the needle closer to our own demise. I’m a realist folks and I’ve been a hospice volunteer for nearly 10 years….we are all going to die. That ascending number is a reminder, I have less time than I did a year ago. I know, depressing as hell, let’s move on.

Finances, well I leave most of that worry to my husband. Calm down he isn’t in charge because he is a man….he’s in charge because he is the most qualified one in the house. Before kids, I was a career gal, bought my own house, researched my 401K options…now not so much. I do have a small business that I run but honestly the numbers are so small at this point it isn’t a big deal.

The blog numbers….these are the greatest obsession of the moment. How many likes versus how many views. I lose my mind when the orange light is on – a comment, gasp, heart beats faster….I’m embarrassed to admit it. I tell myself that writing is cathartic, I do it for me, to tell my stories. That is true but I still want people to read the stories.

So…..if you have taken a moment to view, share, comment or like this post (or any of them), thank you!

 

 

I Ain’t Raising No Lady

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I Ain’t Raising No Lady

I ain’t raising no lady. That’s right I said it. I am the mom of a tween girl and a nearly teenage son. The tween angst is high in this house right now and it tilts heavily toward my girl. My husband and I are raising a young girl but by no means do I ever want her to be a lady. Remember the lady rules back in the day:

  1. Speak when spoken to
  2. Be submissive to your husband
  3. Always be polite
  4. Don’t be bossy
  5. Don’t be overly competitive
  6. Learn how to cook, sew – hone those domestic skills
  7. Don’t play ‘xyz’ sport that is for boys…..Engineering ? Heavens no also for boys….insert every other gender specific toy, activity, profession, etc.,.

These were the messages many of us midlife and older females received as girls. Rubbish complete absolute rubbish. And the idea the boys should never cry, equally stupid and harmful. Enough with the gender stereotyping, please let’s be done with that crap.

Here are my rules or shall I say suggestions for raising a female, male, dog, goat, gecko….you get the idea:

  1. Always be kind. When you can’t be kind, be quiet. The urge to be a jerk usually passes pretty quick and leaves no icky after taste.
  2. There are times to be quiet and times to speak up. The right answer is not always obvious. However, if you are ever being physically harmed or verbally and/or mentally abused it is always right to speak up – not to the aggressor but to someone that can help.
  3. You will make mistakes and it is usually OK. I say usually because I want you to know that there are rare instances where your mistake is so huge that you find yourself pretty far from OK. And honestly, most of the time you can pick yourself up and claw yourself back from even the biggest disasters….sometimes you need to ask for help. Eat that elephant one bite at a time. You may have to forge a new path, one nibble at a time.
  4. Follow your gut. Your stomach usually knows when a situation or a person is off. Listen to that inner nudge. There is an exception to this……if you are a survivor of a traumatic event or you are struggling with mental illness, you may need to run your thoughts by a trusted confidante or mental health professional. I say this out of love and personal experience. There have been many times when the thoughts in my own head could not be trusted.
  5. Find a way to forgive people that have wronged you. But wait my mother/father/brother/uncle/second grade teacher….shhhhh….dear one. I am not telling you that you need to be best friends or be in a room with this dreaded person ever again. What I am suggesting is to forgive the person enough so that you can move on from the place of pain that you find yourself in. Hate, anger, resentment those are poisons, do your best to remove those toxins. Forgiving someone is an act that you do for yourself, because ultimately you suffer if you can’t move on.
  6. Be accountable for your actions and take responsibility for your own happiness. Before blaming someone for a circumstance or situation take an introspective look in the mirror. If you are not happy try to identify what the problem is and start digging for a solution. No one is entitled to a “happily ever after” and if a person gets there….chances are they worked their ass off for it. Being content is an inside job. It’s about attitude, perseverance and believing that you are worthy of happiness.
  7. Take care of you at all times. Self care is not self indulgent – go to the gym, take voice lessons, meet with friends, do yoga, take the class in Mandarin, write that novel – whatever self care is for you, make room for it. You’re worth it.

The hardest part about raising kids is knowing that I can’t take my personal experiences and inject the wisdom I have gained from them into my kids. They have to learn this stuff for themselves. Learning is painful at times. They will be betrayed, feel snubbed, have their hearts broken and hurt others along the way. Life is messy and imperfect and I can’t stop the inevitable pain that will come their way. What I can do is be a sounding board, an honest confidant, a safe place and a soft pillow to land on.

If you could only pick one thing that you could teach your kids, what would it be?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Other Man in my Life

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The Other Man in my Life

The other man in my life is kind, generous, funny, cute and pretty much an all around top notch guy. Before you get too concerned, don’t worry my husband knows about him. In fact he kind of hijacked our date last night. Curious?

My daughter had plans to sleepover a friend’s house and my husband was supposed to have dinner out of town. For days my guy and I planned what we would do, just the two of us. After much debate, we decided on the Speedway and dinner at a local favorite. He really likes the chocolate cake at that place.

I was so happy to spend time with my special guy because I know this isn’t going to last forever. At some point in the next handful of years, he will leave and I don’t know if he’ll come home again or settle in some other part of the world. The other man in my life is my son and he is weeks away from turning 13.

The first thing he wanted to do was race electric go carts. This is something he is freakishly good at and he loves it. We got to the place and there were a dozen or so 20-somethings waiting to race. I’m sure they saw my short, skinny kid and thought, poor guy hope he doesn’t cry when we beat him. Nay, nay my boy raced three times came in second for the first race and came in first for the second and third races. I tried not to laugh out loud, it was difficult. He was racing guys that chose names like meatgobbler and BigDaddy and he crushed them, hard.

My husband joined in for dinner and the venue changed to meet his request. I have to admit I was a little sad to shorten my exclusive night with my son. I feel blessed that we have such a close relationship and he is just a joy to be around.

Is there another man in your life?

The Family From Hell

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The Family From Hell

I am angry and sad, disgusted, grateful and happy. So what led me to be this twitching mass of emotions? My past. Old wounds long ago scabbed over and faded are suddenly brought to light. Burning sun on Mercury light. Yesterday I unearthed a message that was buried in the not yet friends message folder in Facebook. It was waiting there for three weeks.

It was from a lovely women living in another continent who stumbled upon my humble blog. She was enthusiastic in her message to me, a total stranger, because we shared a common teenage horror. We were each sent to “The Family” in Long Eddy NY in 1984 when we were 15 years old. We were not there at the same time but our experiences had some unfortunate overlap.

I have written about “The Family” before in some of my posts which describe my first year of sobriety. Here’s where they come in to play in my story if you are so inclined,  https://wasthatmyoutloudvoice.com/2015/05/02/1-out-of-37-part-4/  it was a horrible place to say the least and not something I think about often. Of course now that it has been revisited, I find myself in investigative mode and the stuff under the rocks is pretty gross. Think contender for Dante’s 10th circle of hell and you’d be getting warmer, much warmer.

Tony Argiros and his wife Betty ran “The Family” when I was there  in January of 1984.I’m not sure how long they were in the group home/work farm business at that point but I found some testimonials that go back to 1979. I suppose they tweaked their sadistic craft over the course of several years and decided that they were so fabulous at wrecking lives that they ought to expand their services.

My new online friend informed me that Tony and Betty Argiros founded The Family Foundation School in Hancock, NY. According to Wikipedia The Family Foundation School was established in 1984. In googling the school’s name I came across a website http://www.thefamilyschooltruth.com/Home.html whose sole purpose was to get the place shut down. They sought testimonials from alumni, parents and staff. After a 5 year battle, they were successful and ultimately the place shut down. The Family Foundation School, later known as the Allynwood Academy closed in 2014.

Sadly, in the time that they were open, hundreds, if not thousands of lives were forever altered. I’ll toss a bone Tony’s way and suggest that perhaps a handful of kids were helped along the way. And I say that knowing the ends do not always justify the means. Based on the testimonials that I read, the school shared some common traits with it’s precursor group home “The Family”.

Both places had a strict blackout period during which residents could not even communicate with their parents. Pro tip, if a place says your kid can’t talk to you for 3 months, that’s a red flag. They shared a focus on breaking down the individual.  They did this by removing all personal belongings, providing unfamiliar clothes, cutting hair in a severe manner and horrid meal times where staff and residents would select targets for humiliation and degradation. With the added bonus of sleep deprivation and physical labor to the point of exhaustion.I honestly don’t know how some of these kids made it, some where there 3 or 4 years. To top it off many of the alumni complained they never finished school due to excessive punishment or manual labor. It was supposed to be a school….shouldn’t the academics come first?

Imagine if Jim Jones opened a school except there’s no Kool-Aid. Just a steady barrage of soul shattering punishments, isolation and humiliation. The founders loosely based the school on a 12 step program and inserted their own brand of insane diabolical fundamentalist values. The result was disastrous.

Read the words of the alumni testimonials. Visualize for yourself what these teenagers endured, some for several years. I only spent a month or so during my incarceration at the family farm and in that time I ran away twice. I was successful the second time. Others tried to runaway from the school or the farm. One kid was killed by an 18 wheeler in his desperate attempt to flee the farm. Many attempts were made at the school and at one point they used search and rescue dogs to retrieve the escapees. Another student killed himself by jumping off a second story balcony. During my time I fantasized about breaking a leg just to go to the hospital. I even had a failed attempt at burning the place down. I understand their pain and I want to tell their stories.

Today I spoke with another survivor, she lived at The Family Foundation School for 993 days. I can only imagine what she endured there. It would likely include a daily barrage of yelling, demeaning confrontations, sexual misconduct and/or abuse, violent physical altercations, forced to eat foods that may cause an allergic reaction or be against religious beliefs, squalor, back breaking physical labor and punishments for imagined misdemeanors. Oh and by the way a  large chunk of students that attended this pay as you go private “therapeutic school”, never even earned their High School Diploma. Many students spent so much time in some form of punishment – for example, being wrapped in a blanket with duct tape around it, sometimes for days while they soiled themselves, sitting in a corner staring at a wall for endless hours because you wouldn’t say you were an alcoholic or admit to some horrendous deed that your house leader insists you did (even when you didn’t). I’ve read the testimonies of the alumni and it is heartbreaking.

My new friend keeps a memorial page for the alumni of the FFS that have passed away. She just posted condolences for #85. That is the 85th known alumni to die. This school was opened for approximately 30 years and the oldest alumni would be under 50 years old. I’m not sure how many teens went through the school in the time it was open but that seems like a lot of deaths. Sadly, a high percentage of these people have passed away from suicide. I’m sure others have died from complications of drug and alcohol abuse. Some of the students had no prior alcohol or drug use before they got to FFS and when they got out they found it nearly impossible to blend into the real world, many started to use drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism.

Please keep this mind if you know someone looking for a school setting for a “troubled teen”. There are so many organizations that currently exist that are every bit as horrible as FFS. They are scattered across the country as therapeutic schools or teen wilderness programs. I realize that there are many troubled teens that need help….I implore you to do a thorough search when considering these residential situations. It is not enough to read reviews on the facility or agency website. You need to do your own search with county and state agencies, see if there are complaints, seek out alumni that have nothing to lose from being candid. Insist on being able to communicate with your loved one on a consistent basis with some level of privacy. Trust your instincts, if the place seems off, don’t risk it, keep searching.

 

 

 

 

 

Feral Dinosaur Toes…….

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Feral Dinosaur Toes…….

So I’m just going to put it out there…..my current shame……onychomycosis (on-ih-koh-my-KOH-sis) other wise known as toe nail fungus or what I lovingly refer to as feral dinosaur toes. It’s gross and somewhat uncomfortable and I have been hiding it under painted toe nails for years. I have tried the random home remedies – oregano oil, Vicks VapoRub, bleach….this fungus is persistent. I finally decided to be a grown up and deal with it head on when both big toe nails were about to fall off.

I shimmied into my big girl panties and went to the Podiatrist. If you haven’t been, it’s like going into a time machine. You may enter the waiting room as a 40 something hipster but you will leave feeling like a 87 year old infirm granny. My Podiatrist is great. He manages to make me feel like an equal whilst dealing with my toes of shame. He is honest and kind and has a sense of humor. I like those qualities in a human. He tells me that all the topical stuff is a waste of time and money. As for laser treatment, he snickers and does an eye roll at that one. Even the medicine he suggests has a cure rate of about 65% and those are the best odds. Knowing that I am not likely to dutifully apply eye of newt and chant every day, twice a day, for the next infinity…..I decide to investigate the oral medication.

My present situation is this…I am taking Terbinafine HCL (a generic form of oral Lamisil) to treat my moderate to severe case of ick. This medication is so intense that I had to have blood drawn to confirm that my liver is functioning properly. Fortunately, I haven’t been drinking in over 30 years so that sobriety thing is really paying off. When you read about this medication you just assume that it will kill you. The pros and cons list is pretty skewed but ultimately I want to get rid of this problem. It goes beyond pretty toes I want this fungus eradicated.

So in reading the precautions you are advised to avoid caffeine and sun exposure. This seems insurmountable but OK I will triple up on the sunblock and get some long sleeve light weight shirts. Avoid caffeine, well shit just got real. The no alcohol thing is not a problem but no morning cup o’ Joe well that seems extreme. I did some further reading and basically caffeine takes longer to leave the body while on this medicine. So in my selective reasoning, I have determined that I can have one cup of coffee early in the morning. Will have to see how that goes. The coffee may have to be shelved for a few months (who just typed that?). Whaaaaat??

For the pros…..I may lose my sense of taste. Yeah I know, this is listed as a con in the literature but momma needs to lose some weight so I’m going to look on the bright side. A little loss of taste wouldn’t necessarily be bad as long as it’s temporary. Insomnia is also a possible side effect. OK that sucks no getting around that. I am hoping that is due to the extended life this drug gives caffeine. So maybe if I drink just one cup of coffee early in the morning I will be alright? I realize I have just outed myself as the desperate coffee junkie that I am. Only time will tell. I have 3 doses in me so far so we will see how things progress……fingers and toes crossed.

 

 

 

What’s Your Superpower?

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What’s Your Superpower?

What’s your superpower? Wait, you don’t have one…..I bet you do. I bet there is something that you can do that eludes most of us. I’m not going to suggest that you have a superpower that is yours alone. I’m sure there is some overlap of powers out there. So I just want you to take a minute and pat yourself on the back for whatever that thing is that you do better than most.

I think we spend so much time comparing ourselves to the flawless pictures on social media. It’s easy to get sucked into that black hole of beauty and expectation that surrounds us all in our daily lives. Far too easy to feel bad for not measuring up. We do it to ourselves and our children soak it in like little sponges. As a parent I try to tame my crazy critical self around my kids so they don’t take on my personal quirks and anxieties. Yes I purposely censor my inner critic and try to keep my own brand of crazy tucked in. It doesn’t always work. They’re on to me and I suspect they know I would like to lose twenty pounds though I have never said it aloud in front of them. I try to put the focus on the fact that I work out consistently, 3 to 4 times a week. I place emphasis on the fact that I am strong and healthy. I won’t even get into my inner turmoil over aging naturally or fighting it with modern science…..I debate this one on a regular basis and I’m still undecided.

But back to the superpower…..my superpower is my willingness to go outside of my comfort zone. I will offer help in situations that I have no idea how to handle. I am secure enough to admit when something is too far beyond my comfort zone and I will ask for help or admit my short coming. I do this as a volunteer and as a business owner. I know it’s a little shocking for someone to admit when they are in over their head but I’m here to tell you it is OK.

I have a small business (super tiny – one woman show small). I basically provide help to people (and their pets). It’s a simple business which genuinely strives to help people. I started it a couple of years ago when I found it daunting to try and get back into the working world. I had been a SAHM for over a decade and I really needed to work again. It’s just a tad hard to get a job after 10 years out of a career during a dismal job market. So I took some time and thought about what I wanted to do. I decided that I wanted to work part time and model humility and a work ethic to my children and I have done that.

Right now my primary client is an 88 year old woman with dementia and mobility issues. I check in on her every day for a couple of hours and make sure she is safe and comfortable. She lives with her daughter who works full time. There have been times when I have walked into a literal shit storm. One day this week my sweet client was trying to wash out her poop filled Depends in the bathroom sink. She was extremely distraught when I got there and my first priority was to get her away from the poop to avoid further contamination and get her clean and comfortable. She was so upset that she was crying and apologizing to me. I remained calm, kept eye contact with her and told her that is was OK and that is wasn’t her fault. I got her settled and cleaned the mess. The one advantage of dementia is that you forget stuff. Within an hour my sweet lady forgot about this horrid incident and we went on with our day.

Another challenge I had this week involved a hospice visit. I have been a hospice volunteer since 2008 and this new patient will be one of my toughest. The patient is 47 (my age) and has several adult children and an 11 year old son (same age as one of my kids). I dreaded our visit this week. I have lost friends this age to cancer, this one was hitting me close to home.  I shed tears before I even met her. To top it off she wanted me to paint her toe nails which is something I generally suck at. But I showed up and offered to do it anyway and her toes looked pretty when I left. I soaked her feet and filed her nails. I rubbed lotion on her feet and we chatted like old friends. I left our visit uplifted which is the weird thing about hospice. It is incredibly rewarding in it’s own mystical way. I don’t question it. I just bring my willingness to go outside my comfort zone, my superpower. Tell me what is your superpower?