When did checking out get to be an Extreme Sport?
Hubs and I shopped not long ago. Efficient is our middle name. We came, we saw, we bought. Or, we tried to buy. Turns out buying isn't for the faint of heart or the short on time. This was not an isolated experience. Go anywhere, to any retail outlet, and you can expect your experience to look something like mine:
Crazed Cashier (in that annoying, high pitched, keel): "How's your weekend going?"
Right out of the gate she pisses me off with her nosy, fake familiarity. Having waited in line already 30 minutes in front of a guy with a herd of snotty nosed kids doesn't help.
Crazed Cashier: "Any plans?"
Me: "No." Is that any of her business? I know she could give a flying crap about my weekend plans.
Crazed: "Zip code?"
Me: "99001." I totally just made that up.
Crazed: "Phone number?"
Me: "Seriously? I don't want to give you my phone number."
Crazed: "Can I have your email?"
Me: "Why?" WTF?
Crazed: "For our system."
Me: "I'd rather not give that out either."
Crazed: "Do you have any coupons?"
Crazed: "You could get them if we had your email." Now she's smug.
Me: "That's okay." Like I'd ever come back here.
Crazed: "These are buy two get one free. Do you want to grab two more?"
Me: "I don't really need three coffee makers."
Crazed: "Are you sure?"
Crazed: Turns the only other item I want to buy over and over. "Do you know the price on this? It's not marked?"
Me: Now I have to do her job for her? "No, I don't know."
Crazed: "Can you run get another one that's got a price on it?"
Me: "Ahh...no." Like I run anywhere if I'm not on fire.
Crazed: Yells, "Can somebody tell me how much this is?" She holds my scented candle aloft, like the Lion King with his cub. Some kid wearing a headset that apparently doesn't work, lumbers over at a glacial pace with another candle. Crazed rings it up. Maybe this debacle is coming to an end.
Crazed: "Do you have a Most Irritating Store in the World credit card?"
Crazed: "You can save 10% if you apply for one right now."
Me: Faint from hunger and fatigue, "No, I'll live." I shove my Visa toward her.
Crazed: "Can I see your I.D.?"
Me: After digging my wallet out of the bottom of my purse and wrestling to get it out of the too tight slot I throw it at her. The man behind me with the three screaming kids is now so close to me his breath is making sweat on my neck.
Crazed: Pushing my drivers license back toward me and ignoring my death stare, "Paper or plastic?"
Me: "Plastic." I am now in such a foul mood I'm fantasizing about how many birds might choke on my NOT environmentally friendly plastic bag and smiling.
Crazed: "Would you like your receipt?"
Me: "YES." I'm screeching. Heavy breathing guy climbing up my ass jumps back.
Crazed: "Emailed or hard copy?"
Me: "Hard Copy." Crazed can barely hear me what with heavy breathing guy's kids mania - crying, yodeling and general mayhem.
Crazed: "Do you need help out to your car?"
Me: I grab my one bag and run out the front door straight to the McDonald's across the street. Since there's no bar nearby, carbo and fat loading is the next best thing for my post traumatic stress.
Me to McDonald's cashier: "I'll have the number two."
McDonald's cashier: "Small, medium or extra large?"
Somebody kill me.
Women get a bad rap.
Women in groups, I mean.
The rumor is we can't get along, we're competitive, backstabbing, backbiting, writing on the bathroom walls bitter, and don't forget, jealous. The term bitch fight is not about men. In fairness, and in my experience, it is sometimes true. Particularly with the younger set.
We are not the younger set anymore.
There are many (many, many) things that suck about getting older. Realizing my bloat was just fat suspended in water that quickly descended down around my knees was not a fun day. And when did my ass trade places with my gut? And who does my esthetician think she is anyway, asking me when I planned to do something about my moustache? This is the definite downside.
The upside is learning what I value.
I've learned I value the sisterhood.
At our age, in the war between women, we are united on the battlefield by our losses, and we're not leaving anyone behind.
We've loved and lost. Hated and lost. Fought and lost.
We've lost husbands, children, parents, siblings and friends.
We've lost jobs, muscle tone, teeth and our eyesight.
We have husbands we love and ex-husbands we don't.
We know what heartache is.
We aren't perfect and we're tired of pretending we are. Our families and marriages aren't always rosy. Our kids have substance abuse problems, disabilities, can't find jobs, or sometimes they're just assholes.
We still love them all and press on.
Then we get together in groups to drink and bitch about them behind their backs. So what? We've earned it.
We've cared for sick husbands, handicapped children, aging parents, co-workers on the verge. We've adopted children in need, taken step-children into our hearts. We've saved lives on the side of the road, raised families on a wing and a prayer, figured out how to buy $500 worth of groceries when we only have $150. We've worked full time and gone to school at night, written novels at 5 am because we had to get to work by 9. We've run when we barely felt like walking.
But, the best thing is, we've figured out there isn't much that happens in life that isn't funny. And there's no better balm for the soul than gathering your sistas in a herd and laughing so hard your ribs hurt for days.
Let's face it, if you can't laugh about the time you broke down in tears because your cataract exam was postponed, you need to re-evaluate.
There are many (many, many) things I'm grateful for in this life. My husband, my children, my grandchildren, my writing career. But today, I'm grateful I've been smart enough, and lucky enough, to hook up with some badass women who inspire me. If you can bring it, they can take it. If they're called on, they'll come, bearing gifts, booze and warm clothing for the homeless, or whatever else you might need.
'Cause that's just the kind of gals they are.
So, if you take away just one thing from this post, I hope it's this:
Women in groups rock.
If you need to get shit done, send a group of women. Preferably those who've been around the block, who wear their stretch marks and cellulite with pride and know what weapons to bring.
The other day while avoiding my manuscript like the Ebola virus and shopping online...I mean...researching...I came across the Five Stages of Grief. I really am going to write about a guy in a grieving group, just probably not anytime soon. Anyhoo, as I read through them I realized that grief is a lot like writing a book.
A good time was had by all.
"OMG. I've really got natural talent."
"Editor? I don't need an editor."
"I've got to check the mail, I sent my manuscript off last week and I know I've got offers from a bunch of publishers."
"I'll be able to quit my day job soon."
If you've said anything even resembling these sentences, congratulations! You have embraced this first stage with both carpal tunneled arms. If, while reading these sentences you think, "Well...these really are true about me," get your jammies, your slippers, and a couple bottles of Jack Daniel's. You're gonna be here awhile.
You've come somewhat to your senses and decided to take your Steinbeck-esque manuscript to a writer's seminar. You can barely contain your glee because, as luck would have it, an agent and an editor, both big city publishing house sorts will lead several groups. You've re-read your manuscript and it's just as polished, funny, heartbreaking (you fill in the blanks here) as you thought.
After ingratiating yourself with said agent and editor, it's time to trade chapters with the other writers in attendance for their critique. The romance writer who cried during the first session, never met a heaving bosom or "ly" adverb she didn't love, thought "point of view" was a Barbara Walters talk show, and whose own manuscript would make excellent kindling, has handed you back your work with so many red penciled corrections it looks like she cut her throat over it.
It's finally your turn to go over this ridiculous travesty with the group. "She's crossed out the first five chapters," you wail. "The story really gets going after the first 100 pages," you insist.
"Then start the story there," says the big city editor. WTF? He's siding with the Danielle Steele wannabe?
"What is the story exactly?" Big city agent asks. "I read it and I couldn't figure it out."
You reel. The floor is coming up to meet you. This. Can. Not. Be. Happening. Afterall, you didn't come to this thing to get criticized. You came to get discovered.
I had to pause here to wipe my eyes, I was laughing so hard. Sorry.
After your time in hell is up, you've gathered your things and what's left of your dignity and head for the door. Agent and editor wish you luck and bid you a fond farewell.
"Thanks for coming, Jennifer," Editor says.
Your name's not Jennifer.
This stage so sucks.
In the modern age, this stage has two components -social media and soul searching.
"If you Like my page, I'll Like yours."Or, "I'll give you a 5 star review if you give me one."
"Dear God, Allah, Buddha (again, feel free to fill in the blanks here) if I get my book published, I'll volunteer at the hospital for the rest of my life."
This isn't true for so many reasons, the first is you'll be so busy Liking, Posting, Tweeting, Plussing, Reviewing, Blogging, Commenting, etc., that you just won't have that kind of time. The second is, you're a liar and an atheist. You write fiction for a reason.
But, back to the time thing - you won't have any.
Although, you might have to find time for the divorce lawyer because it's right about now your spouse wants to leave you. You don't remember the last time you took a shower, but it was somewhere around Obama's inauguration. The first one. Shave your legs? Fuggetaboutit. Sex? He'll have to read your book for that, but even he can't make heads or tails of it.
I hate to tell you this...but you could be at this stage...forever. Just sayin. Which leads to:
Ahhh...the writer's best friend. Along with your obvious talent, you're known for your self discipline and thick skin. You're an adult, you can take it.
You drink all day because you want to, not because you have to, for God's sake. The good news is you really can mix those meds with your glass of wine. Anyone who tells you otherwise is spineless.
Today's writer needs to buck up, stop whining, grow a pair. What did they do back in the day?
Do you think Virginia Woolf or Ernest Hemingway sat around...nevermind.
You've been at this for years. You might've even been published. Unless you're in the five percent who make a living writing novels (which you aren't) if you did get published you've still spent about ten times what you've made on the damn thing. Who knew they'd actually cut a royalty check for $1.50?
This is your life and welcome to it. If, after you get to this final stage, you are still compelled to express yourself through the written word, you're a writer and there's nothing to be done about it.
So, get out your Prozac, your Abilify and pour yourself a scotch and water.
Skip the water.
It's funny the things we keep.
Last year, when my mother died and her house sold, we had to clean it out. During our excavation (Mom was a bit of a hoarder) my son-in-law found her medical records. For no known reason, I wanted them. I couldn't bear to part with them.
Several weeks passed before I screwed up the nerve to look through them.
On paper, thin and delicate as old lace, her breast cancer odyssey unfolded. There it all was. From the lumps, first diagnosed as Fibrosis, to the radical mastectomy.
She was 32.
I read every word. I'm pretty sure I held my breath the whole time. Even now, I can't glance at the non-descript brown folder without a lump gathering at the back of my throat. Because reading through her medical journey, I couldn't help but see her as someone other than my mother - a real person.
A 32 year-old female caucasian housewife to be exact.
I thought of her, alone and frightened in a cold exam room. My dad wouldn't have been with her - he wasn't the type. In his defense, this was the early 60's and men stayed out of their wives doctor's offices in those days. I tried to imagine what she might've been feeling and thinking. My mother was not one to identify or talk about her feelings, but it didn't take a shrink to get inside her head. I know her first thought would've been of me. I was only four years old. She and my dad couldn't have children of their own, so after ten childless years, they adopted me. Cancer, often a death sentence back in the day, might keep her from being what she'd wanted more than anything - to be a mom. I knew she worried about my well being. Could I thrive in a world without a mother?
Knowing my mom, any questions she might've had remained unasked, to avoid inconveniencing the doctor. Of course it wouldn't have mattered much, pre-surgery they didn't have many answers to give. They kept the best for last - she simply woke up without her breast. That's what they did in those days, lopped it off if they found cancer while the patient still lay unconscious. They didn't get options, or time to think. Like thousands of women before her, when she came to, it was without a breast, and that's how she found out she had cancer.
I know she kept what must've been a terrifying heartbreak to herself. That was who she was.
As I scrolled through her records, one small sentence struck me: Physical examination reveals a young, nervous, female.
It was the nervous that got me. She'd have to have been dead to not feel nervous in that situation. But, of all the illnesses my mother survived, it was the nervous she never got over. Maybe this is when it began. Maybe it started out a kernel, in a child from an alcoholic home, where it burrowed and sprang to life in her early thirties, during her first bout with cancer. No one can know. All I know is her acute anxiety shrouded her life, and mine, until her death.
It was the inability to calm herself, to quiet her own mind, that drove her to the many risky behaviors that eventually took everything from her - her money, health and dignity. A cruel,relentless force that she couldn't control. To me, it was the saddest diagnosis of all.
It's been almost a year since she passed and I still try to reconcile who she really was with who she appeared to be. I grieve over our conflicted relationship and the wounds we could never heal. Mostly, I miss her.
Had she lived, tomorrow would've been my mother's 80th birthday.
So, wherever you are Mom, happy birthday. I know some lower level angel is lighting your cigarettes while you lay out your bingo cards.
You know what they say, "Talent borrows. Genius steals." And no one said it better than Macy Gray. Every time I hear this song I think of my mom:
On and on and on I've searched
What I'm lookin' for is not here on earth
I can't stand, I can't take no more
So I know that I gotta go
So long everybody, don't be sad for me
Life was a heartache and now I am finally free
Don't know where I'm headed, hope I see you someday soon
So long everybody, I have gone beyond the moon
All I ever wanted, love and the peace and the harmony
Just to be, to live and shine, when I get ready I up and fly
And I can't remember none of the things that I want to forget
It's the best satisfaction no less, ask if I'm free and I'll say, "Oh yes"
I know that now, my mom is finally at peace, and free.
The thing about the roads we choose to go down in life...we can choose different ones at any time.
I think I'm taking a detour.
This year, I've been lucky enough to get re-acquainted with a few people from my far distant past. Almost 35 years past. The dreaded high school years. Ack.
No one was more surprised than me to find out how much its meant.
When I left my hometown, I barely glanced in my rearview mirror.
So long, suckers.
I never looked back. To say I haven't kept in touch would be a gross understatement. I didn't pine for home. Ever.
Don't get me wrong. Contrary to what some might think, I was not ashamed of my more humble beginnings. In fact, I felt a certain sort of pride (Girl, Interrupted) peppered with a generous dose of affection. But, it was a chapter I'd closed and as far as I was concerned, it didn't need to be opened. I held onto many painful memories from those days, I didn't want to dwell. Let's just say it was a dirt covered onion I didn't intend to peel.
Then, life happened. My mother died (The Mother Load). To my astonishment, several old friends were kind enough to come to her memorial (The Things We Keep) including my best friend from high school. I felt awash in gratitude and a little ashamed. They'd all taken time out of their Saturday to help me grieve, to wish me and mine the best. I hadn't held up my end all these years. It was then I steered toward a different road.
I reminded myself that more than one truth can exist at a time. Along with the painful, there's the sweet. I could pick what I wanted to think about, what I wanted to remember.
I picked the sweet.
When my book got published, I joined the social media fray, begrudgingly. I made a conscious decision to not include my high school in my personal info, or to try to Friend anyone from the good old days. Preferring to stay in the present.
After my mother's memorial, I changed my mind.
I've since been graced with a peek into many of my old cronies lives. I've seen their children, grandchildren, dogs, cats, spouses. I've peeked in on their vacations, celebrated their victories, felt sadness if they suffered. Some would argue that a virtual relationship via Facebook isn't a real relationship. I would agree. But, call it what you will, whatever it is, I've felt a part of it all. Even just a little feels like salve on a wound.
Because of my newfound fervor for old friends, hubby and I met up with one of my girlfriends from school, and her husband, during our recent trip to Florida. Just like in the movies, the years fell away. We laughed, gossiped, solved several of life's more serious problems, broke bread, shared wine. She opened her heart and her home to me, introduced me to her friends, hosted a shindig to celebrate my book.
William Faulkner wouldn't have gotten a warmer welcome. I felt like a literary star and the prodigal daughter all at once.
I had the time of my life and I am still reeling over her generosity. My heart feels full with all sorts of warm fuzzies and I'm not a warm fuzzie kind of gal.
Maybe I am now.
I realized then what I'd really missed.
My friends helped raise me. Let's face it, after the age of 12 our friends become our sounding boards, our parents shift into the background with their white noise and unwelcome advice. Our friends informed our opinions, values, helped discern what was important, what wasn't, they helped picked our clothes, our hairstyles and our peer group. They were there during the toughest part of life...adolescence. When your whole life could fall apart if a pimple showed up on your chin.
Lately, when I think about home, it's in grateful appreciation. I remember with a smile how my best friend and I used to ride our motorcycles to the dump, singing (badly) at the top of our lungs. We'd go there to smoke, to bitch about our parents, to talk about whoever wasn't there, and laugh. We weren't allowed to go during hunting season. Our parents worried we'd get shot. Those were different days, my friend.
We'd have sleepovers, which at my house involved working my parent's turkey farm, as my friend in Florida reminded me. We'd have to pick up and chuck the dead ones. That was some kind of fun for country kids.
I have a great life with a great man and all the joy filled trappings that go with it. Kids, grandkids, a home and career I love. My life would've gone on quite happily had I never reconnected with old friends. But, there's something important about mixing the old with the new. It's humbling to know there are people who knew you when and still love you. So, while I might not need them to make my life happier, I want them.
And isn't that the best kind of relationship? One you want only because it makes your already rich life, richer?
And, I am rich indeed.
There’s something so moving about the absolute confidence young children have in our judgment.
They trust us.
They believe to their core that we wish them well.
Over the past several days, I got to know my granddaughter, and I lived these truths. Amelie lives on the opposite coast so I haven’t seen her as much as I have my other grandkids who live nearer. In fact, it’s safe to say she didn’t know me at all.
But, we got on like a house afire.
Without a thought, she’d hold my hand. Sit on my lap. Get in my car.
She believed everything I said.
That, my friend, is a terrifying responsibility.
Unfortunately, I’m one of those who can’t see my own life while I’m in it. It’s only in hindsight that I see the light. Like a grain of sand in an oyster, my often-painful life experiences evolve, and become a pearl over time.
When my kids were small, I was still a kid myself and unable to appreciate their devotion and dependence.
I did my best, but couldn’t see the wonder.
For some reason, spending time with Amelie allowed me to fully realize what I’d had…and missed. The way she’d lie next to me on my pillow and tell me her stories, breathless, anxious to please, to get out all the words. And no matter how inane my reply, she'd soak it in, because if I said it - it meant something to her. Despite my many shortcomings, she felt I deserved her attention and affection. Just like that.
When asked by her Dad why she felt sad that we were leaving, she said without pause, "Because I love Mimi."
Isn't that the way it is with kids? Faster than the speed of sound they fall for you, and you for them.
Then, it hit me.
I am a lucky soul indeed.
Multiply Amelie times six and you’ve got my life.
I’ve got six grandkids who fill me up with all things good and true. They like to spend time with me, they make me feel clever and laugh at my jokes. They sing me songs, show me their dance moves, draw me pictures, and call me on the phone. They are funny, smart, eccentric, and they give me so much more than I could ever give them.
There’s a lot I don’t know about parenting, or grand parenting – except this:
It is an honor to be loved by a child.
As threatened...a progress report on our mini-remodel that actually feels pretty major. That's our knocker. And we love our knockers around here.
That's our entryway gargoyle. Making everyone feel welcome. Or creeped out. Whatever.
Speaking of our entryway...
This is the family room/kitchen before. Dullsville. This is what it looked like when we first looked at the house. This is not our furniture. NOT.
That was then...this is now...
On to the Master. When I saw this photo online I thought it was a garage. Turns out it was more of a brothel type deal. We didn't do much to it. That's the kind of people we are.
As you'll see in the following photos we have a pillow situation. Hubby has two master's degrees but he is not qualified to arrange the pillows. It takes a pillow master. Which, I happen to be.
Next up - the stairwell. Who cares about the stairwell? Me.
Snoooooze....but not anymore!
The media room. It was, and is, tacky city. But, we've pretty much run out of steam to do anything to it other than put stuff in it that we don't have room for anywhere else. This is it before...you'll notice it doesn't look much different after.
No, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you. That IS leopard print carpet. Meow....
You will notice that the original photo is of much better quality. Naturally.
The guest rooms. I only have before photos of one of them. This is why I would suck at food or style blogging. I never remember to take the pics.
No, I don't know what that is growing on the walls. They might've filmed The Ring in here. This room was one well away from having a dead girl climb out of it. Or, it was some bio-terror experiment gone awry.
This last room has no before photos. It was just empty. Now it's not.
This blog takes as long to read as the remodeling did. But, that's it. Almost.
Just the living room (still waiting on the furniture. Why does it take 10-12 weeks to get it? Does anyone know?) and the landscaping.
I read a blog post a while ago written by another blogger about all the things she didn't do because she didn't have time. I thought that was a smashing idea so I intended to steal it.
Then, I realized…who am I kidding?
I have all the time in the world. I haven't been gainfully employed in several years.
I just don't want to do them.
So, the following are things I have plenty of time to do but have no intention of doing.
1. Nail or Hair Maintenance:
Toenails creep me out. Even my own.
The whole clipping, cuticle scraping, whatever. Ack. Thank God my manicurist doesn't feel the same way.
I don't know why anyone does their own hair...I mean the big stuff. Cutting, dying. I get some are constrained by budget so I give them a pass. And young people who, on a whim, color their mohawk blue in the bathroom. That's okay too. But, everybody else?
Bangs go in the front. Need I elaborate?
This is shameful.
When my kids were little, I kept a spotless house. I didn't know anyone who hired out their dirty work. Now, my nest is empty and I have 5 toilets I wouldn't get near in a HAZMAT suit.
My idea of cleaning is spraying Febreze on stuff. I mean, you've seen those commercials. They find some saps to sit in a filthy car with bags of old food, dog crap, etc. and they spray the whole disgusting mess with Febreze.
"It smells like Spring," they say. That's good enough for me.
I do have bad hips. Which obviously means I can't hold a sponge. Not even if you paid me. But, I will pay others, quite cheerfully. I take that back. My husband pays them. See below.
3. Pay Bills:
We should all admit our weaknesses. Handling money is not something I do well, or enjoy. Unless I'm handling it to buy stuff. That's a whole other thing.
Balancing the checkbook is...wait...I nodded off.
4. Put Gas in the Car:
I don't do gas stations.
5. Keep up with Current Events:
I didn't watch Breaking Bad until 6 months ago. I equate a fictional television show with current events. THAT's how uninformed I am. I don't Keep up with the Kardashians either. I do occasionally check in on Bruce Jenner. By all accounts his gender reassignment is going well.
Hubby occasionally reads me something interesting out of the Wall Street Journal. Usually it has to do with sporting events or sporting events.
Being uninformed doesn't stop me from having a strong opinion though. I have been known to take a political argument to the mat all the while talking out my ass.
6. Lawn care/Gardening
I saw the gardener using one of the blower things. I think I could handle that. But why would I?
You might wonder...what the hell does she do? Well, I'd make a list but do I look like I have that kind of time?
Lately, I've had cause to wonder...what does a healthy parent/child relationship look like? Why is it often elusive? How can something that usually starts so blissfully go so terribly awry?
As anyone who follows this blog knows, my relationship with my mother was turbulent, my father nonexistent.
My mother's relationship with her parents was somewhat of a mystery. She never said, well...she said...but her stories were fantastical, fiction. From what I could surmise from her sisters, her father was an abusive alcoholic and her mother...well...she was a woman of her time, looking the other way. Let's leave it at that.
My father's parents were both alcoholics who slept in separate bedrooms and yelled a lot. I don't remember a lot about them other than that.
Do these complicated family ties weave through the generations? Are they like dominos? One difficult relationship falls onto the next and the next until we all fall down?
Perhaps. I don't really know. There's a lot about this topic I'm in the dark about.
I have loving, close relationships with three of our four adult children. It might be important to note that two of my four kids are stepkids. I'm not sure how relevant that is since the most troubled relationship isn't with one of them.
I know many people who are in the same predicament. I am not alone in the disappointing parent/child relationship boat.
What's up with that?
Whatever we don't have, we tend to romanticize. I'm an only child, so my whole life I envied kids who came from big families. Their squabbles with their siblings seemed like a kind of Nirvana. I assumed it was all fun and games, that even the squabbling was a sign of a deeper bond, a love that could never be shaken. They were a unit, had each other's backs. To my chagrin, I've discovered that is often not the case. Siblings stop speaking to each other, abuse one another, even kill each other.
When I was a kid, my mother worked. In the late 60's, early 70's this was not commonplace. I felt neglected, jealous of my friends with stay at home mothers. Several of them made homemade cookies, sewed, headed up the PTA. I was shocked to hear these blessed, lucky kids bitch and moan about their "homemade" lunches and clothes. Their embarrassment when mommy dearest showed up at the school for her committee meetings in her frumpy clothes and mom perm, floored me. They looked longingly at the house key I wore around my neck, certain I'd live it up unsupervised as soon as I got home to an empty apartment, while they suffered, still tethered to the umbilical cord. They'd actually trade my seran wrapped Twinkie for their "made with a mother's love" chocolate chip cookie. "What idiots," I thought.
When I entered high school, my mother quit work. And guess what? I hated that too. The last thing I wanted was my mother breathing down my neck while I tried to sneak cigarettes and skip school.
Does our predilection to want what we don't have make us ungrateful? Unrealistic? Do we all spend our adult lives getting over whatever we feel we didn't get in our childhoods? If so, are we ever successful at it?
I know with all my heart my mother was the very best parent she knew how to be. I know she loved me and I loved her. I did the best I could as well. I was the best 17 year old parent I knew. Need I say more? What I've discovered is that well meaning and doing your best is often not enough in the parenting arena.
I think the trouble starts when a kid first realizes his parents are flawed, human. In this day and age, that usually happens with the divorce announcement. So, at least half of us found out the whole thing was a ruse, we were left rudderless, frightened, unsure of our place between two warring parents. The addition of stepparents often adds insult to injury. I've observed that it's not always the presence of a stepparent that's so offensive - it's the influence they have over the biological parent and the resulting changes in their behavior that's the sticking point. I don't think anyone comes out the other side of a divorce the same. Sometimes the changes are for the better, sometimes not. Resentments start, build, come to a head and often stay there.
Parents indulge in an array of embarrassing behavior. They drink too much, take too many prescription pills, have affairs, have too many boyfriends/girlfriends, get married too many times, they have less money than their kids friends, or more money, they dress too weird, or too stylish, they hover, they're absent, the list goes on.
The uncomfortable realization that people are inherently flawed is not just the purview of children. It's just as jolting when parents realize their little darlings aren't so darling after all.
Kids disappoint their parents in spades as well. There's just a stigma to saying so. It's fine, even encouraged, in our Jerry Springer/Reality show culture for kids to air their parents dirty laundry, lay blame, and otherwise voice their criticisms. When a serial killer makes himself a poncho out of his neighbors skin, it's usually his mother's fault. When a kid goes wrong, all kinds of fingers point at the parents. It's not cool or politically correct to blame the kid...for anything.
But you show me a tight lipped parent and I'll show you someone who's been embarrassed by their offspring at least once in their lives. Tantrums, mouthiness, mohawks, tattoos, unfortunately placed piercings. They don't go to college, they never leave college, they marry losers, they never marry, they take drugs, go to jail, a whole plethora of disturbing possibilities. Nobody's boasting about Little Johnnie's upcoming parole in their annual holiday letter.
Perhaps it's evolutionary. Parent and child conflict is necessary for the continuation of the species. Kids have to leave home to start families of their own so a little friction makes that more likely. If we felt the same way about our grown up children that we did when they were babies we'd never let them leave. But often the friction turns to something ugly and crippling that leaves us stumbling and broken.
So, what are we left with? A whole bunch of disenchanted people. And, what can we do about it?
Do we bring it all out in the open? Shake our fists at each other and bellow out our grievances? Call out everyone we feel has wronged us? I can tell you, that doesn't work. A great way to crater any relationship is getting things off your chest with insults and cruel criticism aimed at the jugular. But, is sweeping it under the rug healthy? Is there a happy medium? An unhappy medium? Do we grin and bear it?
Must we stay in relationships that cause us only grief, or are abusive, just because they're family?
Again, I don't know. It's a choice between shitty and shitty. Neither choice is painless.
Perhaps my daughter Kayla's theory has legs. She says that when everyone is grown up, we're all just people then. We're not just mothers, children, etc., we're fully formed human beings. We have our own opinions, quirks, we make our own mistakes. And sometimes, our personalities just don't mesh. We simply don't always like one another.
That sounds so reasonable, grown up. Enlightened even.
So why do so many of us go to bed with aching, heavy hearts and regrets, pining for the relationships we've lost or never had to begin with?
I've been a registered, and voting, Democrat since I turned 18. I'm now close to 50...52 is still close, right?
I believe in social programs to aid the disenfranchised and vulnerable.
I believe in providing opportunities to those who don't have any.
I don't believe quality healthcare should only be available to the wealthy.
I believe our healthcare system is broken.
I didn't realize just how much till hubby and I got our health insurance through the new exchange.
BTW...I hate it when Obamacare is referred to as "access to healthcare for all." It is not access to health care. It's access to health insurance. There's a big gap between buying insurance and getting quality health care.
When you sign up for health insurance through the exchange, all the insurance rules still apply. You pay a copay, and the insurance only pays a "certain" percentage of your costs after you've reached your deductible. Here's how it shakes out for me and hubby:
We have the Bronze Plan -
Monthly premium: $750
Deductible amount annually: $12,600
% of doctor visits covered before deductible is reached: 0
% of prescriptions covered before deductible is reached: 0
% of emergency room or hospitalization covered before deductible is reached: 0
BTW...this is NOT based on income. The only time income comes into play is if you are eligible for subsidies. It is based on age and number of people in the family. Period. We are both over 50 and are empty nesters.
So, for the hell of it, I pretended to be a family of four making less than $60k per year (actually, it's $0-$59k per year so I guess these guidelines apply if you make $59k or $5k). Here's what Obamacare tells me:
You could enroll in a Bronze plan for about $1,654 per year (which is 3.31% of your household income, after taking into account $3,952 in subsidies). For most people, the Bronze plan represents the minimum level of coverage required under health reform. Although you would pay less in premiums by enrolling in a Bronze plan, you will face higher out-of-pocket costs than if you enrolled in a Silver plan.
Remember...me and hubby have the Bronze plan which pays for nothing.
OUT OF POCKET COSTS Your out-of-pocket maximum for a Silver plan (not including the premium) can be no more than $10,400. A boatload for a family of four making $50k per year. They don't mention what the premium is for the Silver plan.
Whether you reach this maximum level will depend on the amount of health care services you use. Currently, about one in four people use no health care services in any given year. No shit. Because they can't afford it.
You are guaranteed access to a Silver plan with an actuarial value of 73% (you know you're in trouble when they start talking about "actuarial value"). This means that for all enrollees in a typical population, the plan will pay for 73% of expenses in total for covered benefits, with enrollees responsible for the rest. My one hip surgery (I've had four) cost over $100k. So the family of four who makes $50k per year would pay more than $25k of that cost.
So, guess what? That family of four will have health insurance but will avoid doctor offices like the plague they will probably get due to lack of health care. I know that because I'm doing it right now. I won't go to the doctor unless a limb is hanging off. And only if its the limb I use the most. I've also been a single mother with two kids who had health insurance but still couldn't afford to go to the doctor, back in the day. Not much has changed.
Of course, it's now illegal to NOT have coverage. In response, folks are choosing to pay the fine (a percentage of income) instead of getting insurance. There are "fine calculators" all over the internet.
There's really nothing groundbreaking about the Obamacare scheme. It works the way insurance has always worked, only it costs a hell of a lot more. The young and healthy subsidize the older, unhealthy (Obamacare is not paid for by the beleaguered 1%). Which is why they need a huge percentage of youngsters to sign up. But, they're not. Even the youngins that will tell you how great Obamacare is, are NOT signing up. I've asked. I get a blank stare, then "Why would I spend that kind of money? I can't afford it."
So, in my humble opinion...Obamacare is yet one more government program that keeps the working poor, poor...and unhealthy. And now, many that used to seek out health care as needed (like me) won't.
I'm not speaking for the masses. This is my experience and I'm not gonna say Obamacare helps no one. I'm sure there are some who consider it a Godsend. Particularly those with pre-existing conditions. But I haven't met any of those people.
I normally avoid political discourse on my blog. But, then I remembered I'm a writer. And no one becomes a writer to stay silent. I don't know what the answer to our health care problem is. But I know this isn't it. If the idea was for more to get health care, I think the opposite is happening.
Just writing this has given me a migraine. Which I would treat except the migraine medicine costs me $15 a pill.
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