Eye See

“You have your Mother’s eyes.”  I have been told this so many times over the times of my life when I have met or been introduced to people, which is ironic, since we seldom if ever saw anything the same way.  However, since today is my Mother’s birthday, I think it is high time I admit that several things on which we often, if not always disagreed, are in fact, exactly right.

My sister and I spent our early childhood in a rather modern 70’s style home, with white carpeting and white furniture…it is my belief that I “keep house” in the way that I do because of my Mother, and for that, I thank her.  My home is my castle, despite it’s rather small, by today’s standards, size, and I owe her thanks for that feeling of pride that I have of this space.  I reluctantly made my bed every day from the time I was about four-years-old, because she told me it is nice to come back home after a day to a tidy room, and there needs to be a place for everything, and everything in its place.   She was right, and I ALWAYS now make my bed, and ALWAYS make sure that things are where they “belong” and for that I thank her.  I reluctantly filled the dishwasher as a child because she told me a kitchen looks dirty even when it’s clean if dishes are ever left in the sink.  She was right, I never leave the house or go to bed with used dishes in the sink, and for that I thank her.  Although I fought her every step of the way as a child, it is because of her care and manner of keeping a home that I am the kind of woman I am today, and for that I thank her.

My Mother and I butted heads over the years about SO much, but the older I get, the more I find, I am quite a bit like her in many ways.  All she ever wanted out of life was a happy marriage and a healthy family and a beautiful home.  No matter what I “wish” for or “dream of” it seems that those “simple” desires are ultimately what now also make me the most content.  My sister and nephew and brother-in-law live next door to my parents, and my daughter, granddaughters, and son-in-law live next door to me.  I currently have a deeply  loving relationship and a healthy family and a beautiful home, and these things make me so happy, & the older I get the more I find, I don’t need much else, and for that I thank her.

When my daughter was little my mother so often would say, after I had punished the child in some way, “oh come here…” and would dote and love and smooch & cuddle and spoil my daughter and that would make me SO MAD, you know, the love of Gram totally counteracting my immediately forgotten discipline…but fast forward these years, and you KNOW I am very happy to spoil these wee-ones next door and pretty much give them all the love and smooching and spoiling that I so choose 😉  I suppose, I learned that from my Mother too…I learned how to love others, and for that, perhaps more than anything, I thank her.

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Equal means = doesn’t it?

I remember enough about 9th grade and college algebra to know that equal means equal.  The sign = indicates that both sides are the same…and whatever kinds of formulas we have to use to get THERE, we use.  Our goal when doing math is that both sides of the = sign are the same.  I read a headline in the  news today that perplexes me in so many ways, that the Supreme Court was reluctant “to rule broadly on the fundamental right to marriage for gays and lesbians” and frankly, I just don’t GET IT.

We live in a culture that provides all sorts of benefits to people, incentives if you will, to be married.  The filing status of “married filing jointly” on tax returns is simply one of many.  There are all sorts of financial benefits to being married in this world in which we live  that are not afforded to us who are single or who live with someone we love.  In a country so often filled with unease and unkindness, I just do not understand how anyone can think that gay couples should not be entitled to the same benefits of marriage as straight couples.

I know and have known gay couples in much healthier, much more loving, much longer, much more compassionate, much kinder, and much more joyful & committed relationships than I have been in over my life…and that I have the right to marry whoever I choose and they can’t legally marry the person they choose positively blows my mind.   Weddings make me cry, mostly because I just feel so full inside of happiness for two people who met and fell in love and decided that they wanted to share their life with one another.  Why my friends who are gay can’t have THAT just confuses me.

I love my parents, so much, but they are very conservative in all of their views, compared to me at least, and I tried to talk to my Mom and Dad about this issue several years ago, and my father said something about that  if the courts allow for men to marry men and women to marry women, then who is to say that somebody won’t argue someday that they want to marry a goat.  I ended the conversation at that moment because I realized that I would never have the skill or the vocabulary or the knowledge of the subject to ever state my position in a strong enough way to them that could sway them.  They simply would  never see or understand my point of view.

Yes I am aware that in the last 13 years several states have adopted rules that allow for civil unions, like marriage, but not the same, and while I think it is terrific, I think it is ridiculous that if you are gay you might have to travel out of your own state in order to marry the person you love and have chosen to share your life.  I am often very naive, I know this, but I just can’t understand, in the world in which we live, filled with so much hate and so much that is unkind and so much that is unsettled, that anyone would want to deny people who love each other, the right to marry.  Why would you want to make loving any more complicated than it already is?

It is already something of a miracle really, when you think about it, that we meet people and get to know them and fall in love…that anybody would think it right to dictate who we love and who we can marry, confuses me on so many levels.  There is so much about relationships that is hard, any gay couple and any straight couple will agree…there is a constant balance struggle…who earns the money, who empties the dishwasher, who pays the property taxes, who does the laundry…just living life is hard enough, why make it so difficult for a couple who just happens to be gay, to make the choice to marry?

If Equal means Equal, then stop giving perks to married straight couples.  Stop giving them the best tax rate or breaks, stop giving them better prices on car insurance, or health insurance, STOP giving marrieds more financial breaks and incentives than singles, and then we can simply all be equal!  Men and women, white and black, gay and straight, people are people…let us all be the same.  Why should a married man and woman together for 20 years get financial benefits that are not given to a gay couple who have been together for 20 years but who have to file as “single” every April 15th?  Just because they (the straight and the married) are the majority, doesn’t make it fair, or right, or equal.  I don’t know enough about the laws or the issues to have much more of an opinion than I already do, but I do know this…we love who we love.  We are who we are.  Equal means equal.  Always.

The Fabric of our Lives

My eldest granddaughter came over the other night and was wearing my favorite coat, from 1974, a Wrangler jean jacket on which my mother had embroidered a little girl viking on the back.  That my mother saved it all these years thrilled me, even though I am hardly a sentimental kind of woman, and this grandchild of mine noted that in fact her mother, my daughter, had also worn it, as her name was written in magic marker on the tag.  I often tease my mother for her sentimental ways…I ask her why she bothers to save old things, but seeing my granddaughter wearing my jean jacket gave me goosebumps.  Last summer my Mother sent me a photo of this same child wearing the red dress she had made for my daughter to wear for the first day of kindergarten, and now I have another picture, of her wearing my favorite ever coat…as much as I have given my mother grief over her ways, I can’t thank her enough for her love of family history.

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I have a little white dress in my laundry room that has a black and gray kitten embroidered on it…I wore it, my sister wore it, my daughter wore it, and both her  daughters wore it.  Now it just is folded in the laundry room cupboard but it exists, and through no effort really of my own…my mother saved it all those years and now I simply can’t bear to part with it.  I have the first quilt my mother ever made me, before arthritis set in and made her fingers ache and her hands hurt.   I don’t use it anymore but I have it in the blanket chest at the foot of my bed…which actually is my first ever toy box…now repainted and reupholstered and  used to hold bedding I seldom use…I “pick” on my mother for being so sentimental, yet here I am, in possession of my first toy box and the kitten smocked dress…My mother’s poor fingers are so sore with arthritis now that she only does minimal mending and no longer sews or quilts.  Last week she texted me a picture of the girls at her house getting their first lessons at the sewing machine…perhaps the fabric of our lives will just continue to unfold…

Return to Sender

I was raised to believe in “making plenty of deposits” in my karmic bank, an expression my Dad has used all of my life.  I’ve read that you get what you give, and that what you send out is returned to you three-fold.  I suppose in many ways this belief is partly why I do my nightly “was I an asshole to anybody today” apology to the universe.  ‘Being good is its own reward‘ was something my Nana used to say and it seems that all of this is related to that whole ‘do unto others‘ Bible stuff…but whether it is karma I fear or not making it to heaven if there is such a place, it seems to keep me on the path to being, well, good.

When I love a friend, I try to be a good one, and I suppose because I want it returned, but also because it does feel good to care about people.   I’ve had very few “falling outs” with girlfriends, and of course lots of break ups in relationships or dating that just didn’t grow into something more.  Relationships end sometimes and we just keep living and maybe our friends list gets smaller or maybe we try to make new friends, but over time friends come and go, lovers come and go, we fall in love, it ends, we fall in love again…it just keeps on going as long as we keep breathing.

I think it would be egocentric and self-serving to write that I try to be good to people because I want them to be good to me, but in reality, I think it is partly true.  When I care deeply for a girlfriend or a man with whom I am sharing my life, I guess I expect those people to also care deeply for me.  Boyfriends over the years have let me down far more often than girlfriends.  I’ve been “in love” only six times in my life,  but I still have the same two girlfriends I have loved for a very long time; one I met on the 1st day of first grade, and the other I met on the first day of spring gym class when I was a freshman in high school.  They have been the ones who have shared my laughter and my tears through all my ups and downs, heart-breaks and joys.

I’ve been accused over my life, although I hardly see it as a flaw, of being too Black & White, and to be fair, I have never been particularly fond of all the shades of gray that fall in between.  I generally either like something or I don’t, love someone a lot or dislike them immensely, want something desperately or don’t care about it at all…yes black and white is perhaps quite accurate, but friendships have lots of gray areas over time.  We go through periods where we talk every day and see each other often or we drift apart for months or even years, we get busy with living and choices and obligations and the amount of effort we put into our friendships becomes minimal.

We choose our friends and we can’t choose our family.  My parent’s love for me is unconditional, my child’s love for me is too, and her children’s as well, and whether I’ve screwed up or done right, my family seems to love me no matter what.  My girlfriends have put up with a lot more of my “crap” than I have had to put up with theirs, and still, they miss me when they don’t see me and they ask me to make more of an effort to be their friend, to spend some time with them, and so, as it is spring, and spring is a time for renewal, I started last night, by having dinner with my first friend and I plan to have dinner later this week with my second friend.  They’ve both asked me over the last couple years, regularly, to please try to make more time for them, and even though I so often have failed to do so, they still seem to love me and their love has proved over time to be unconditional.  I chose them years ago to be my friends and I am going to do better, to be a better one.

When the first daughter of my daughter was born, I described the feeling as that “I had no idea I had so much love inside of me” and I have come to believe over these years, as a second granddaughter has come into my life, and now the daughter of the man I love, that my capacity for loving is much greater than I knew.  My heart just manages to keep growing, and I guess be it in family, in friendship, or in love, I feel happy that I am a point in life where it is returned to me, repeatedly, from all of them…

Good Medicine

There are all sorts of pills and elixirs in this modern world that we can buy to cure what ails us, but I have found that for me, a woman who is seldom sick, but who suffers occasionally from some mental or physical ills, that the best medicine is a strong dose of Jane Austen.  I read her work when I was young, and loved the language, but frankly often found the stories hard to follow because OF the language…fast forward to my adult life and the PBS version of Pride and Prejudice and the Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibility are my panaceas of choice.  The words are generally still the same and the language in particular still excites me, but because I am watching the story unfold, rather than re-reading paragraphs that confused me, I find I GET more out of them than when I read them.  I could watch both of these films once a week for the rest of my life and not ever grow tired of them.

S&S gets me thinking deep thoughts, mostly because I see myself a complex and confused mix of Elinor and Marianne; I think about being, or trying to be,  sensible and clever and practical, and knowing that I ought not be so bold to so openly and frequently share my thoughts and emotions and wishes… and yet often I am so painfully aware of how those more “practical” demeanors often conflict, deeply, with my hopeless romanticism and carefree expressions of affection, desire, elation or melancholy.

P&P gets me thinking about what it means to me to be independent; how lucky I am to live in this modern world where women can own property, earn money, and make choices and decisions without having to answer to anyone.  Self sufficiency is a gift we contemporary women have received through time and changing social norms, and to be sure, there are many many times I depend on my father, but I take great joy in how often I depend on no one but myself.

I needed some regrouping of my thoughts last week, and I was, well, there is no other term for it, blue, and so one cold afternoon when I should have been doing many things on my to-do list, opted instead to get out my yarn basket and I sat on my bed and crocheted and watched these films.  I replayed some of my favorite scenes, I paused the films at times to rethink the words I had just heard, I watched with anticipation for what would come next, despite knowing exactly what was coming next…I spent many nights over a week thinking about my life, my choices, my regrets and remorse, as well as my contentments and joys.  I thought a lot about my failures and my successes, the times when I have been so “up” and the times I’ve been so “down.”  Both films have gloriously happy endings but so many hardships and upsets are suffered on the paths along the way.  Jane Austen’s works reminded me that living life was not easy then and is not easy now, but that we press on, we move forward, we strive to do better next time with each time we miss, and hopefully we learn a lesson with every stumble, and that is good medicine to me.

Backspace-Delete-Esc

I write, a lot.  I proofread, perhaps not as much as I should, but enough that if I don’t like the way a sentence flows, or the words I chose, I can change them…backspace and delete are keys often touched by my right middle finger and pinky.  Sadly, I talk, a lot, and once the words come out of my mouth, there they are, forever.  Once they are listened to, they can’t be un-heard.  I have no option to backspace, delete, or even escape once I speak and when I want to take back the words I have said, I can’t.  It’s sometimes like the filter in my brain gets clogged and the words go right from my mind to my mouth.  I’m so fond of referencing the Jewel lyric, “in the end only kindness matters,”  but alas, I often don’t walk the walk, or talk the talk.

When I am worried or frustrated or uneasy, I find I say things that, not necessarily I don’t mean, but rather which really don’t need to be said, and I don’t know why.  I seldom or maybe never, wish to be mean, but when I think about things I have often uttered in these states of worry, frustration, and unease, I know that the words were many things, and kind wasn’t one of them.

Maya Angelou wrote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”   She also wrote that one should “be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud,” and I’m pretty sure she might also suggest that whatever I do, don’t be unkind.  My worry, frustration, and unease pales in comparison to many I know, and since real life is not a computer keyboard and sadly lacks a backspace, delete, or escape button, I have nothing to do, but to do better.

A La Peanut Butter Sandwiches…

Remember the Amazing Mumford, from Sesame Street?  His tricks seldom went the way that he was anticipating, despite his efforts and to always say his “magic words.”   I wish on stars, burn sage, put notes in my prayer bowl,  leave the last bite of food for the Buddha,  throw the pinch of salt over my left shoulder after a spill, and don’t step on cracks, and truth be told, I have lots of magic words, but despite my efforts, the magic does not always go my way.

Today is a new month.  I have changes to make, both physical and mental, and I am frankly forced to admit, regardless of  my unwillingness to do so, that there really is no magic involved.  It ALL has to come from me; better choices, smarter decisions, superior judgment…

My cousin used to own a gourmet to-go restaurant called “The Easy Way Out” which I thought was a positively brilliant name for such a business, but in the business of self-transformation, there is not an easy way out.  The only way to have more money is to work harder and spend less.  The only way to get into these 11 pair of skinny jeans is to eat healthier and work out, a lot.  The only way to have a better life is to make one.  I am the captain of my ship, the ball is in my court, I’ve got to paddle my own canoe, and wake up and smell the coffee…nobody can do for me what I need to do for myself, and therein lies the ‘magic words’  for me:  It all begins with me.