Simple Little Bobby Pins

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As I went to put bobby pins in my hair today, I was caught up in the most amazing memory.
I’m looking in the mirror, and suddenly, I’m watching my mom roll her long, black hair around her finger and then, she uses a bobby pin to hold it in place. Although it is my face, my mom’s face reflects back at me and I smile. I feel eight years old, watching her, the way I did each night before bed for so many years.
Every night, my mom would put those bobby pins in her hair.
Dad, drunk, screaming and yelling, nothing stopped her, nothing he ever did stopped her.
My mum was an amazing, strong and beautiful woman.
She just sat there in her own little space and rolled up her hair.
What a bitter-sweet memory simple, little bobby pins brought to me today.

“I am so proud of you Mum, even more now that I am older, because I have been to war too. Now,  I know how hard you had to fight. I have fought the codependency battles. Your unconditional love and your strengths made me stronger. I love you and I miss you everyday.”

(#7 SHE Saga) Let Freedom Ring

She’s been quiet for a few days, so I was surprised when she whispered, “You know I still love him, right?”
“Yes, She. You remind me every day, several times per hour.”
“Well, what are you gonna do about it?”
“Nothing. I’m going to do nothing about it. I accept that you still love him. He’s been good to you and I understand why you trust him, and you don’t trust me. But that’s not my problem. It’s yours.”
“Wow. You have gotten hard and mean. You used to cry with me.”
“I’m not hard and mean, it just feels that way to you because I used to give in to you every day. I can’t do that anymore. I’m all cried out.”
“I can’t keep torturing myself with accepting unacceptable behavior. He knew what he was doing when he tore us apart this time, no doubt. Of course, I’m sure he didn’t know that it would be the last time. I don’t think that I even knew.”
“Why is it the last time?”
“She, do you remember last 4th of July? We had just moved in the new house. I dressed up in my red, white and blue to go to the block party. When it was time to go, I was already exhausted and couldn’t make myself walk out the door. He left with some neighbors and I could finally breathe again. We sat with the puppies and took pictures all afternoon, so happy to be free for a little bit.”
“Yes, I remember.”
“Well, I’m sorry, She. I don’t want to feel trapped and exhausted all the time.”

(# 1 SHE Saga) SHE

(#6 SHE Saga) Dad Is Dead

She is acting up tonight. Granted we had a rough time last night, and an overly complicated day, but I really can’t handle her fears, on top of my own anxiety.
I whispered to her, “Behave, little one. Please.”
The day began with a phone call from my younger sister.
We have been looking for my dad, a mentally ill, homeless, alcoholic for over thirty years. Checking for at least a death certificate, looking for closure.
My sister has had contacts in the military looking for any information for over a year and today, on Dad’s birthday, she received the information.
Dad is dead. He died alone and homeless in 2000. Buried in a poverty grave by the military.
It hit me hard, even though I had felt that he was gone, I was never sure.
My sister has his Death Certificate and his military records, and we now know where he is buried. The military is even going to put a marker on his grave.
The inner child, She, is taking it much harder than me and while closure is a relief, it’s a rough time to throw more grief into our fragile infrastructure.
Right after I heard the news about my dad, I had an appointment with a local domestic violence shelter and showing up was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I can admit to my family and my friends, my readers and myself that I have suffered and accepted abuse but reaching out to total strangers for a support group has taken me almost a year.
I made the appointment the day before my house sold and I decided to go anyway, if only for an exercise in courage and to give them a copy of my book, Women Who Think Too Much. https://books2read.com/u/md0J5d
Well, they can’t give out their address, so they gave me a meet point and told me to call them when I arrived. I made it there ten minutes before my appointment and called them. No answer.
I started to panic, but I took a deep breath and I prayed. I managed to sit there for forty minutes, calling back every five minutes. Never got an answer.
I left there disappointed, but so proud that I had overcome the anxiety to show up. She even stayed calm, which was surprising. I think she was mourning Dad and wandering in her own little world.

(# 1 SHE Saga) SHE

(#4 SHE Saga) Thirty Days

 

Wow. Why does she jump in my face as soon as I wake up?
Well, before I handed her over to God, she was in charge. Now, she’s not in charge. She still pops in and tries to mess with me, but I can see what she’s doing now, and I can deal with her fears and calm her down.
Imagine tumbling down a waterfall compared to being pushed in the pool. I’m still getting wet, but I’m not drowning.
This month will make me or break me. I have thirty days until my house keys go to a new owner. Thirty days to take my courage in hand and reclaim my freedom.
Freedom from the past, freedom from material things that weigh me down, freedom from this little girl’s fears. Freedom from this crazy cycle of leaving him and going back to him. He will never understand why I leave him, and he will never take responsibility for his addictions. That’s okay. I don’t need him to validate me today. I’ve spent my entire life trying to explain myself to a man. Game over.
Thirty days to put my faith in God’s plan into action. Just take the right next step. Repeat.
She wants me to hold still, she sees doing nothing as safe when it’s the most dangerous choice of all. Life happens whether you participate or not, resist or hold your breath, become paralyzed by your fears, life, it will just keep happening.
Why not choose my path? That is the least I can do to give God something to work with, trust His grace, breathe and make choices.
A lifetime of letting life happen to me must end.
She’s getting a crash course on growing up, owning her fears and overcoming the past.
I have babied her for way too long.
She must be tougher than she appears, or she would have blended with me by now. Well, I’m stronger than I appear too. And my God is stronger than everything.

(# 1 SHE Saga) SHE

(#2 SHE Saga) She’s Back

(#3 SHE Saga) What are we gonna do?

(#5 SHE Saga) She Forced Me Out Of Bed

(#3 SHE Saga) What are we gonna do?

She was waiting for me when I woke up this morning, so before I even had my coffee, I had to deal with her.
The first words I heard were, “What are we gonna do, what are we gonna do, what are we gonna do?”
I yelled at her, “Stop!”
We just sold the house yesterday, and after a few hours of anxiety, we came up with a plan. She was completely comfortable with everything we decided. Now she’s hysterical.
The plan is the best one I could produce to satisfy her anxiety and mine. No more houses. No more boxes. No more clutter.
We will have enough money left over from the sale of the house to buy a small pull trailer and travel for a year or two, but it’s a long way from signing that contract and getting rid of all the stuff that is weighing us down, to hitting the open road, free at last.
This morning, she’s acting like we never agreed on a plan at all.
I think she stays awake all night freaking herself out while I’m sleeping. I told her, “Stop focusing on all the work we have to do in the next month and focus on the fact that God has given us a chance to live our dream. I know you don’t trust me yet, so just look forward to the adventure and trust that God goes before us to pave the way.

(# 1 SHE Saga) SHE

(#2 SHE Saga) She’s Back

(#4 SHE Saga) Thirty Days

(#5 SHE Saga) She Forced Me Out Of Bed

 

 

(#2 SHE Saga) She’s Back

She’s back, but she has an entirely different attitude.
I’m sure God had something to do with that change.
She asked if she could hang out with me today, and while she admitted that she was sad, she said we could do something that made us happy.
So, I said she could stay. I know, I’m taking a big chance, but we’ve been together since I was born, and I do love her.
She has given me some of the happiest moments of my life, especially when she comes out to play with the grandchildren.
I’d been missing her anyway, not her emotions, just her company and her playful attitude. She’s the one who taught me to chase butterflies and to climb trees.
We sat down and tried to decide what we would do today, something that wouldn’t upset either of us.
I went upstairs to get a book and I saw a pile of my mother’s letters lying on a table, waiting months for me to scan and share them.
I was going to write today, but with the water department digging up the road in front of my driveway and an appointment to show my house at 1:00, I’m a little distracted. (Yes. House Fifteen for sale after barely a year.)
The minute I saw the letters, I knew what we would do today. I picked them up and read them as I walked downstairs. (I know…another crazy idea, stairs and not paying attention.)
As I read the notes, they brought tears to my eyes.
The pleasure of hearing my mother’s words speak to me once again, touching the paper she had written on, envisioning her sitting at her tiny kitchen table, with me on her mind, removed everything that was hurting me.
Touching the letters, physically pulled her back into my life for just a little bit.
I am so grateful because of all the things I’ve lost from moving too many times, I still have every note and card she sent me.
Her love and her admiration poured over me and I felt it as strongly as if she was standing beside me.
When I ignored her, she got restless and I had to ask her to go back to sit with my mum in Heaven. Yes. That’s exactly where God placed her when I released her to His care.
At least I am learning to share my personal space with her, without getting bull dozed emotionally.
l have been learning to set boundaries this past year and I think I left her for last because I knew she would be my greatest challenge.
Funniest thing about this day, thanks to Mum’s notes, I’m writing after all.

(# 1 SHE Saga) SHE

(#3 SHE Saga) What are we gonna do?

(#4 SHE Saga) Thirty Days

(#5 SHE Saga) She Forced Me Out Of Bed

 

 

The Pond

THE POND,
By Jodie Lynne

Soft baby ringlets sweeping across her face
Glancing but once to make certain
he’s still in his place.
Her shining dark eyes smile from afar,
So confident, this angel who hasn’t her own fear,
For fear there’s no reason, her goal is quite clear.
Till the slip of a sneaker sucks her foot in the mud
And his arms reach around her,
As he sweeps her up in his hug.
He lets out a sigh, saved her from this fall.
She wiggles out of his tender embrace
Now more than ever she runs with such might,
Determined to catch the quacker
Who’s just taken flight.

It’s The Memories

We start out with nothing and we pick up a lot of things along the way. Some of the things are important and some of them are not.
Some of those things bring us joy and some of them bring us down. Some of them actually hinder us and so many hurt us.
Today, I sit here wondering, where are the letters I wrote to you when you were a baby?
In our crazy lives, we have moved so many times and lost so many material things, and I wonder, are baby letters material things or are they heart things?
I always tell you that you are my sunshine and the first time I told you that you were two years old.
I sat down that night and I wrote you a letter so that you would always know, no matter where you went, if we were together or apart, that you were a ray of sunshine in my life.
Since then, we’ve put a lot of miles on our boxes and our possessions.
We have traveled to different states, to different apartments and lived in dozens of houses.
A lot of memory boxes have been lost along the way.
I spent a moment regretting those losses, wishing I still had your baby book and your brother’s Hot Wheels and Lego’s and your hippie christening dress, but then I remember that most importantly, I still have you and your brother, and all the moments I spent with your sister.
I own my memories and I don’t need to carry around all the boxes.
Even knowing that, I still have way too many boxes because every time I lose a memory box, I hold on tighter to stuff.
I think today I need to clean out some of the boxes and lighten my load because in the end we come with nothing and we leave with nothing.
It’s all the people we love in between our beginnings and our endings that matter and the things we carry around are not important.
The best things can’t be packed up in a box…the memories, the love and the moments.
The boxes are just stuff that can be lost.
We own our precious memories, the moments and the love already received, because those things are safe, packed in our hearts and in our minds.

The Farm-House

 

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I dreamed of the farm-house again last night.
When I saw the numbers match the numbers on the ticket in my hand at the end of the 10:00 o’clock news, when I learned that I’d won the lottery, before I even had the money in my hand, before I took the tiny slip of paper to the Lotto office to be sure it was really the single winning ticket for the $90 million dollar jackpot, I threw my cigarettes, a tooth-brush and my Master Card into my purse. I ran out to the driveway, tore open the door of my blindingly yellow Dodge Hemi truck, turned the key, felt the thunder as the engine roared to life and I flew out of the driveway.
I sped to the Tulsa airport, disregarding the speed limit because I was rich now. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t thinking that money made me above the law, but I could definitely afford to pay a speeding ticket.
I parked the truck in the long-term parking lot, ran inside the terminal to the first counter I saw and walked away with a ticket for American Airlines Flight 144 to Boston.
After a take-forever walk through security, I raced down the chintzy red carpet, catching the flight attendant’s attention just before he shut the door.
I was going home. My husband always told me that it wasn’t home anymore, that home was where we lived, in our 1986 trailer home set on two acres of Heaven in Owasso, Oklahoma.
I always said, “You’re right, honey.”
But he wasn’t.
As the many plaques will tell you, home is where your heart is and I had left mine on the cold, wet sand of Plum Island, nesting in the sand dunes I had crawled on before I could walk and then when I was older, I’d left more of me on the hot, sandy beaches of Hampton and Salisbury.
The last pieces I can remember seeing were hidden in the tunnels behind the walls of the farm-house, the tunnels where I had stashed my baby sister, playing quietly with her on the dusty floor so dad wouldn’t find us or hiding with Mom when the bill collectors pounded on our door.
When the wheels came down as we flew over the water of Revere Beach, I held my breath. I didn’t breathe again until the plane’s wheels touched the runway.
As the familiar seat belt ding sounded, everyone rushed to their feet.
I grabbed my purse and I pushed along with the crowd of people who also wanted off the plane, now.
I headed straight for the Avis counter and rented a luxury car with no idea of where I wanted to go or why I had flown eighteen hundred miles on the very day the lottery had blessed (or cursed) my life. All I knew for sure was that I was going to kidnap my Mom out of the nursing home and she was coming with me for one wild ride.
The car almost drove it self as I left the Avis parking lot. I think that the auto pilot of my soul was driving.
I sped along Route 93 with my feet driving and my heart dancing.
Suddenly, I knew where I was going! My urges were taking me back to the farm-house on High Street, to the house that my dad had bought for $8,000.00 only to give it back to the bank several years later.
So many times, I had dreamed of that familiar front door opening to me.
The present owner would throw open the solid white, wooden door with red trim, welcoming me home. The dream varied, probably depending on what I ate before I fell asleep.
Sometimes a woman, sometimes a man, but the answer-er always allowed me to wander down the hallowed halls of my dysfunctional, childhood home. Well, one of many, but the first real house with running water, walls, doors and a roof the rain didn’t ping off.
The farm-house that I’d been forced to leave behind when I was still a young girl.
In my memories, the curtains that my mom had sewn on her push pedal Singer sewing machine still hung in the living room windows.
I remembered the day she’d made them. I remembered the scent of the hot, damp cotton as she’d ironed each panel and hung it. I remembered the look of pride on her face as she stood back and smiled at what she had created.
I’d left a shard of me behind when I’d left that farm-house while taking a fragment from the walls. A sharp; yet, comforting splinter and it was still tucked away safely inside my heart’s vault.
A splinter that led me home, if only in my dreams, over and over.
Somehow the wood and the mortar had become entwined with my soul, an intrinsic puzzle I could not solve.
Finally, I could buy that now declared historic house, no matter the cost.
Panic pulsed through my veins and I asked myself, what am I doing?
Did I think that I could move back to the farm-house and did I think that I could start my life over again?
I guess so because I had dreams when my mind went back there, so I figured my body could too.
If I went back to there, could I go back to then and start my life over and change my now?
Could I hide in the secret tunnels and let time remove the stains and the hurts I had gathered in the years since I had left?
These were the questions searing my brain as I drove toward Billerica, doing forty miles over the speed limit.
I had to buy the house before I went to get Mom.
Money could bring my mom back to her house, the house she’d lost so long ago.
I dreamed of the farm-house again last night.

 

So Small

My six-foot son hugged me and as he let go of me, he looked down and he said, “Mom, you’re so small. You used to be so much bigger.”
I told him that I was the same height. “You have grown. I haven’t shrunk.”
He said, “No, not that, I don’t mean your height. It’s just that I used to be so much smaller, so you seemed so much bigger.”

Memory Clutter

I was finally in the mood to start some spring cleaning and I decided to begin with my office.
As  I cleaned, I realized why I held on to so many mementos and gifts from the people I love.
It wasn’t the actual notes or the drawings, it wasn’t the colorful gift bags with ribbons and bows that captivated me.
No, what I was struggling to fit into this small room, aside from computers, printers, writing, books, CDs, tapes and boxes of pictures were the moments when the gifts had been created and given.
I wanted back the happiness and the love in each child’s face when they had handed the gifts to me.
The pride in my mother’s eyes when she handed me her handmade crafts and the warmth of my sister’s hugs, the memories remained in the gifts.
After so many years, these items still triggered every emotion imaginable.
The metal sculpture my twenty-five year-old grandson welded for me when he was twelve, a green pipe with a bowl.
It had made my teenage son laugh so hard because he said it looked like a bong.
“Bong?” I’d asked. He’d laughed some more.
The toys from McDonald’s that my grandson loved to give me for presents. The man who spun like a top but could never stand up, the mermaid that he took for me when he could have had a GI Joe, into the Goodwill bag they went, but my hand hovered over a miniature Blue Fairy.
I remembered watching Artificial Intelligence over and over with my grandson and he was so proud when he found me the Blue Fairy.
The movie was about a little robot boy who wanted to be a real boy and he searched for the Blue Fairy to help him.
I couldn’t drop the Blue Fairy in the bag. Four out of five is pretty good, right?
The huge finger paintings with crackling paint. My once tiny granddaughter’s handprints with mine certainly had to stay.
The plastic sunflower my toddler grandson had presented to me…running up to me with his little fist closed tight around a treasure, he had opened his little fingers to present the treasure. “Flower,” he’d said, full of pride. When I saw it was plastic, I knew I’d keep it forever.
The poster created by pain and love that my baby sister presented to me the day after my suicide attempt twenty-eight years ago, that did go into the trash.
I pulled off the pictures, but the memory of that day and how much I’d hurt my family still burned.
Huge envelopes and boxes for each of my four kids and boxes for half of my fifteen grandkids.
What should stay, what should go?
Would they remember the objects and would the objects mean to them what they meant to me?
Would my son and daughter clean out all this junk after I was gone, moaning at my eccentric, hoarding habits? I didn’t know.
I set the bag of donations aside so I could repack it. Another box to be saved.
I just couldn’t part with any of it right now, but I could clean another room tonight.
Who knew spring cleaning could be so emotional?

No Longer The Girl…

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I am no longer the girl you first touched, held, caressed and loved.
I am much older now. I know too much to play Cinderella to your Prince Charming, although I still love you.
I am no longer a girl at all.
The girl grew weary of childish games and a woman stands in her place.
I can’t play Tinkerbell to your Peter Pan, not anymore.
I am woman who knows what she wants most of the time and I definitely know what I don’t want, all of the time.
I have grown-up. Changed.
In some ways for the better and I’ll admit this, in some ways maybe not so better.
As I fight to make my own choices and live my life inside the confines of this codependent relationship, I am often frustrated and angry.
Sometimes, I feel as if I’m walking on floors of Jello surrounded by walls of melting wax.
The rules change as soon as I learn them.
Your truths are flexible and my reality rebels.
I don’t want to be you. I want to be me.
I want to relax and I want to enjoy my life.
I want you to love me, not direct me.
I want my flowers, my gardens, my children, my grandchildren, my great-grandchildren, my sisters, my pink friend, the Sun, the Stars, the Moon, the Sky, the Rain, the Snow, the Ocean, the cool breeze that gently blows as I sit on my porch and write…and you…
I simply want to get lost in my blessings.
I am no longer the girl you first touched, held, caressed and loved.

I Am She…

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I AM SHE
There was a time when my mother was middle-aged and me?
I was young and naïve, not a care in the world
the arrogance of youth was on my side.
I was a footloose hippie girl and I thought love was free.
Her skin was firm and tanned, black waves of hair fell to her shoulders
softly surrounding her fair face, bosom quite generous,
legs as fine as any model, she was my mother,
but with flower child simplicity, I used to call her Grace.
She was spirited back then, although she seemed quite old to me,
and how did I become imprisoned while she has learned to fly–a butterfly set free?
Tonight, as I glance into the mirror, my middle-aged face stares back.
Have I become her, and she, the child I used to be?
At seventy-three she’s still a beauty, but time’s fire has burned its’ trail
and when she had a stroke last year,
I realized how deeply she had aged; yet, become so childlike, so frail.
My firm skin, my shapely legs, will soon bow down to time,
much as my bell-bottoms and tie-up tops gave way
to blue jeans and then on to stretch pants and a baggy tee.
I will lose this interval named youth and as I look into her face,
I see my future and
I am she.

by Jeanne Marie
My mom went to play with the angels in 2009.

Oh Mother…From Michelle Marie for Jeanne Marie

Oh Mother up in heaven as you
sit at the Father’s feet please
ask him to give me strength
I love you and I miss you
Happy Mother’s Day
Love…me
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Have a blessed weekend my friend.
My arms reach out to embrace
and hold you tight!
I love you!
Michelle Marie
Stunning photo JM
You inspire me…thank you!

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle…My college essay on motherhood, 1994

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Are you crazy? Not yet? Well, you can always try motherhood! It worked for me. Okay, so most women love babies. Women are attracted to babies due to a very basic, maternal instinct. Reason and logic are only slightly involved in this picture. The longing to have a baby is so strong in most women that those who can’t conceive are devastated. Babies are so precious, all soft and cuddly, and they’re even more adorable when they start to smile and coo.

Additionally, there’s no sweeter fragrance than the aroma a baby sends forth, fresh from his bath, swaddled in a Downy soft blanket. Combine that with the essence of Johnson’s baby powder and rare would be the woman whose hormones could resist the “maternal urge.” You visit your friend and her new baby one afternoon. When your husband comes through the door that evening you say, “Oh honey, I want to have a baby!”

Well, I’m here to set the story straight and reveal some well-kept secrets about motherhood. I’ll tell you secrets that will expose the reality behind the charming, family portraits from Wal-Mart, those costly, cheap pictures we love to hang on our living room walls. The things that women who are already caught never tell to the women who are still free. Misery loves company and we can’t bear to see the smug expression on your faces as you say, “My kids are going to be different.”

Let’s start with the pregnancy. One night, you and the man of your dreams make wild, passionate love and as a result you become pregnant. (Sometimes, this occurs even when you’re using three different types of birth control. What a miracle!)

Pregnancy. An awkward word, don’t you think? Rightly so, because in about eight months you will be as awkward as your worst nightmare. By the ninth month, you can’t sleep more than twenty minutes without waking up to go to the bathroom. You’ll forget what your feet looked like. Shaving your legs will be a fond memory. You’ll be praying for labor pains and once they start, you’ll be praying for the strength to get out of those stirrups and kill the man who did this to you. As you begin to scream swears in the labor room (swears your husband has never even heard before) little does he realize, you are saving the superlative curses. They will come out of your mouth, unbidden, in the delivery room.

You’ll think, thank God, as the nurse lays the baby on your stomach. The doctor lets your husband (if he hasn’t fainted or run away) cut the baby’s umbilical cord and you both count the ten, tiny fingers and toes. One nurse takes the baby off to be bathed and another nurse kneads and beats on your stomach. (I kid you not!) They wheel you back to your room and you fall asleep thinking, it’s over. (No, I’m afraid it’s just beginning.)

You’ll be so sick of maternity clothes (designed by men who have never carried forty extra pounds around their waist) that you’ll give them to the first pregnant woman you see. Even if it’s your husband’s old girlfriend. Your husband might gently ask, “Why don’t you keep them for the next time, sweetheart?” and that’s when he will learn about post-partum blues. I don’t think I’ll give all the secrets away; let’s save the “baby blues” for a surprise.

The baby is home. Your friends and your family have left. Your husband has gone back to work. At that moment, reality rears it’s ugly head. You are out of diapers (the baby has soiled twenty-four since yesterday), so you decide to get dressed and go to the store. “Whose jeans are these?” you ask. “Why can’t I get my jeans up over my hips?” You double check the closet to make sure these are your clothes. In tears, you pull on an old pair of stretch pants and one of your husband’s sweatshirts. Get used to them. It’s the uniform of motherhood, and will soon be as comfortable as an old friend.

The baby pooped his last diaper while you were rummaging in the closet, and as you pick him up, he regurgitates down the front of your sweatshirt. (That’s part of the uniform.) The fragrance that your friend’s baby radiated the day you held it, is lacking in your infant. She forgot to tell you that babies don’t stay clean. You sit down, crying, and you call your mother. She brings diapers and advice. “Save your tears for when he is a teenager,” she tells you. “This is easy, compared to that.” You don’t believe her. You think maybe she’s just being sarcastic. (However; years from now her words will haunt you, as your child goes to school, learns to drive and chooses his own friends.)

I think you’ve got the general picture concerning babies. Let’s move on to my personal favorite. The terrible two’s. This usually strikes when the child is between one and two years old and lasts until he moves out. At the onset of this natural childhood disaster, he learns to talk and how to say “NO!” He may forget how to poop on the potty, how to pick up his toys or how to eat with a spoon, but he will never forget how to say, “NO!”

He will get into your record collection, he will get into your books and he will get into your child-proof cabinets. He will climb into the refrigerator at 6:00 a.m., but he will never climb willingly into a warm bath! He will climb into your bed when he is sick and vomit on you as you sleep. “Momma, I’m sick,” will be his excuse. ( Just because the child is six years old and knows where the bathroom is, don’t expect him to use it.)

Young couples fall in love and get married, usually thinking that having children will be the ultimate expression of their love. Survival of the human race is ensured by our urge to reproduce and by our raging hormones. However; if given a choice, how many women would actually go back and do it all again? Ann Landers took a survey on that subject and was shocked at the response. The majority of people who answered the survey voted no, they would decide not to have children, if they had it to do over.

Somewhere, there is a perfect mother who has raised healthy, well-adjusted children. She has balanced the demands of motherhood and a part-time job. She has never had any major problems with her teenagers. She has no guilt or regrets, and she is happy that she gave up her life for her children. When you find her, let me know, because I’d like to meet her.

Each child you bring into this world will brand you. My body bears the scars of my children’s births. I had three cesarean sections and my scars cover the area my bathing suit used to bare. (I’m not even going to discuss stretch marks.) I’ve been doomed to a one-piece suit for all eternity.

My heart and soul bear their own scars. Years of toddler temper tantrums, hyperactive children, teenage mutiny, rebellion, hard rock and rap music, they have all taken their toll. Clothes borrowed and never returned. Disappearing makeup. Teenage pregnancies that made me a premature grandmother. School meetings with various principals and teachers, meetings where I was made to feel like an incompetent mother. (As the years passed, I began to have my husband go to these meetings. They never yelled at him.) Motherhood strips you of your dignity, your rights and eventually your vocabulary.

Some women manage to save their brain and can take it out of storage after the last teenager moves out. With a little dusting, it can be restored to an adult brain. Warning: attempting this restoration with even one teenager still living at home can cause further damage! For example, when I asked my teenage son to turn down his stereo so I could do my college assignments, he told me, “You don’t need to go to school; you’re too old.”

What was he really saying? “I want my mother’s attention. I want her to cook me a big meal. I want her to clean my room and entertain me. Unless one of my friends comes by and then I’m out of here!”

He was also thinking, “You’re not a student; you’re my mother!” I was thinking, “You’re not too old to slap!”

Motherhood drains you, uses you up and leaves a huge hole in your heart when your children leave home. If your child gets pregnant or decides to abuse drugs, it will be considered your fault. Even if it isn’t your fault, you will eventually accept society’s diagnosis, because mothers are supposed to be perfect, in complete control. This theory does not allow for the fact that children have their own personality, outside influences and other people in their life.

When will your child become mature enough to thank you for all you’ve given him, given up for him? Usually, that doesn’t happen until he has children of his own. However; with daughters, you can be almost sure it will happen right after the birth of her first child. Maybe even during the delivery.

Sometimes, your husband leaves, long before the kids are grown. He has a choice. You do not. Your time, your energy and all of your resources will go into raising your children. Did I mention the mounds of laundry, the piles of dirty dishes and the mountains of meals you will cook? Well, that’s another story in itself.

There is a positive side to motherhood, but when your children are teenagers it’s hard to remember that fact. I enjoyed having babies and I loved staying home with them when they were small. As I watched my first grandson come into this world, I was overwhelmed with an incredible rush of love and excitement! It was breathtaking to see the miracle of his birth. My grandchildren are precious and by far the best gift motherhood has given me.

As I read Parents magazine the other day, I noticed that most of the articles concerned problems that arise when raising children and how to solve them. The title of this article really caught my eye: “Survival Guide for New Moms.”
So, even Parent’s magazine concedes, it’s a question of survival!

When you’re thinking about that beautiful baby you’d like to have, remember this advice–babies are easy to have, labor included, compared to the strenuous task of raising them. Your career will be motherhood, trust me. Everything else in your life will come second. I’m sure many women would disagree with my views on motherhood. But don’t even let them approach me, unless they have already raised at least one child.

Do I love my children? Yes, enormously. Would I choose to become a mother if I had a chance to start over? I’m not sure. I can’t picture my life without them in it, but my children needed so much more and I had so much less than what they needed.

Motherhood has taught me numerous valuable lessons. We learn how to raise our children by rock, hard experience and by the time we’ve developed the necessary skills, our children are grown-up and they have children of their own.

On the plus side, the experience does prepare us for grand-parenting.

Update, 04-21-2015
I have fourteen grandkids and three great-grandbabies. Their ages span from twenty-five-years old to four-months.

Happy Birthday, Jodie Lynne

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Happy Birthday, Jodie Lynne

April 18

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Today is my younger daughter’s fortieth birthday. Since we couldn’t be together, we created a substitute plan. We would celebrate over the phone.

When she called me, we only talked about things that made us happy. We talked about her silky-haired Chihuahua that I am raising, Maggie Mae, we talked about other dogs that we have loved through the years and we spoke of our happy dreams, instead of our nightmares.

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We talked about peanut butter and marshmallow fluff being her favorite birthday cake (today) and how grateful she was to have snacks in her locker so that she didn’t have to go to the cafeteria to eat on her birthday.

For me, as on this date every year; I am thinking about the morning that she came into my life. She made a grand entrance, all 5-pounds 6-ounces of her. Her daddy had ordered me to have a boy and he meant it, so when they told me I had a beautiful little girl, I started to cry.

It had been a rough birth, a planned C-section, but the spinal that didn’t work before they made the incision was not part of the plan, so I was a bit overwhelmed and the moment she was out, I was over-drugged to compensate for their mistake. Then, they brought her to me and the moment I saw her little face shaped like a pink heart, I fell in love with her. She was so tiny and so cute that she looked like a dolly, not like a real baby.

Everyone’s life is complicated, hindsight is an incredible tool to beat yourself with and you can do some real damage. I often find ways to blame myself for every unwise choice this beautiful woman has made, but I’m not going to do that today.

Today, I am going to celebrate her life, her birthday and the fact that when she is sober, she is full of Grace and Light. I will celebrate the day twenty years ago when she taught me to open myself to the spirit of our Universe, the Sun, the Moon, the Earth, the Stars, the Wind and the Rain. The day she taught me to stand barefoot outside and to raise my arms up to the sky so I that I could ground myself in the beauty and the strength of God’s love through the elements He created. I still try to remember to do this every morning and what my daughter taught me that day changed my life.

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Today, I will celebrate the precious gift that her aliveness gives me, no matter where she has to rest her head on her birthday.

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As my daughter falls asleep tonight, in the gritty gloom of Eddie Warrior’s Correctional Center in Oklahoma, I will fall asleep in sun-drenched Florida. But we will be together in spirit. I will hold her tight in my heart, I will keep her ever constant in my prayers and if I am blessed, tonight she will stop in for a visit as I dream.

Happy Birthday, Jodie Lynne

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Special thanks to Michelle Marie for the awesome family picture above.

Cases of Marshmallows

 

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I think we all wonder what we could have done differently, at least once in a while.
Well, I did some intense wondering the other day.
If I had it to do over again, I would pack up my three babies and a trailer full of supplies and I would drive up into the mountains.
I would build us a home in the woods, a big log cabin.
I would add a huge screen room for us to play in when the weather was rainy or snowy.
When the weather was good, we would tramp through the woods and learn about plants and flowers and butterflies and birds.
I would teach my kids to respect nature.
We would grow our own vegetables and then we would can and preserve them.
We would make jellies and jams from the berries that grew wild and apple pies from the apples growing on our own trees.
I would be their teacher, not the radio or the television, not the gang on the corner. I would teach them about music and we would play vinyl records on our record player, which would be powered by our solar generator. No Satanic music in their ears, no lyrics demanding that they “kill the effing pigs” or screaming “I want your sex.”
I would teach them how to read and how to write.
I would teach them everything they needed to know to go out into the world, but the world would not have polluted them.
They would not have watched me fight to hold on to myself. There would not have been angry, controlling, critical men in our lives.
They would have never seen commercials that used sex to sell everything from shampoo to cars.
They would never have eaten at McDonald’s, getting hooked on disgusting hamburgers made with pink slime. They would have home-baked bread that they helped me cook and they would learn to cook and bake.
They would have squirrels, butterflies, rabbits and the birds in the trees as pets.
Our little home would be surrounded by trees, grass, flowers and vegetables.
My supplies would include books for all ages, finger paints and crayons, scissors and tape and glue, glitter and paper. I would encourage their artistic spirit because we are all born with a creative spirit but it is fragile and so many things can crush it. They would be encouraged, not held down by a limited, biased school agenda.
In the fall, we would twist branches into wreaths and decorate them with pine cones.
We would decorate our Christmas tree with homemade sugar cookies, popcorn and nuts and the flowers we dried in the summer.
We would sit under the stars and roast marshmallows. Oh yes, I would bring cases of marshmallows.
They would have a chance to grow up without negative influences and they would not spend hours watching other people live on the television set.
Angels would surround us as I tucked them into bed each night.
I think we all wonder what we could have done differently, at least once in a while.

…and I would throw snowballs at your bedroom window at midnight…

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I wish I lived in a little New England farmhouse with the wood stove burning and a fire in the fireplace. Beans would be cooking on the wood stove, snow would be falling outside my window and you, living right down the street.
I would sneak over and I would throw snowballs at your bedroom window at midnight so you would come out to see who it was and then I would dance in the snow under the moonlight and it wouldn’t hurt because the cold snow would make my foot pain better, and you would shiver in your doorway and say, “Get in here, you idiot!”
I would grab two icicles from your front window and dance into your warm kitchen and we would have hot chocolate with pink marshmallows and we would laugh.
We would talk for hours like when we were little girls and we would forget that we are not little girls anymore because when we are together we are just sisters. We are not old, we are not crippled, we are not grandmothers, we are not great-grandmothers (me) and we are not old ladies.
Because when we are together, we are young girls again with our future in front of us and we laugh…and I would throw snowballs at your bedroom window at midnight…

Eyelashes

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Eyelashes
by Jeanne Marie

We choose a corner table in the cozy country restaurant, two grown women, yet…I feel that we are playing dress-up. Pangs of guilt and anxiety needle me. I had to sneak away from Mom to steal this time with my sister. She looks as guilty as I do.

My sister and I are two pieces of a puzzle, day and night, the sun and the moon. We complete each other. Years of clinging together through the dark nights, years of my father’s rage, my mother’s silence, dysfunctional machinery that welded ropes of love, hope and faith that even we have not been able to destroy.

It doesn’t matter how long we’re apart; we begin our conversation where we ended on my last visit, as if no time had passed. Once, after a serious argument, we didn’t speak for three years and still; when we made up, it was the same way.

We talk about how we are workaholics, always working for (or loving) men who try to control, use, abuse, manipulate, annihilate and dominate. She tells me that at least I always fight back and stand up for myself. It’s true.

However, we agree that I accept the abuse too. I just make a lot of noise and end up quitting or running away. I’ve never resolved the situations. My life is paved with unresolved relationships.

I talk about starting my hypnotherapy to quit smoking and how when I am under, I always end up in deep, murky moats, smoky castles with walls built from bricks of terror and abandonment. I tell her that they dumped a baby out of a shopping cart into the smoke and her eyes open wide. I didn’t know if it was Sue Sue or me in that carriage. It felt like we were the same baby. I start to cry and light another cigarette. Two years of therapy and I’m still smoking.

“I’m almost fifty and I don’t want to deal with my childhood anymore, I just want to be okay. I just want to quit smoking.” I tell her. Tears fill her eyes.

We order breakfast and settle in with our coffee, letting it soothe us as I light another cigarette.

We need to talk about Mom, the reason I’m home this time. Our oldest sister has already agreed to take responsibility for Mom when the time comes. I’d always planned to be the one, but find now that the time is near, I’m not able to take care of my own needs, let alone imagine caring for anyone else.

“Is she still able to take care of herself?” I ask Susanne. “Keep track of her medicines and her doctor’s appointments? She has cried wolf so many times that I don’t know if she is honestly too confused to function on her own, and even though I just spent a week with her, I still can’t tell. Isn’t that crazy?”

“Alice in Wonderland,” says my sister. “Alice in Wonderland. I have been Alice at the Mad Hatter’s tea party my entire life. Nothing is ever what it seems.”

She talks about the falseness of our “loving, nurturing mother.” A mother who nearly destroyed her by trying to be the man in her life, her father, her husband, her daughter’s father.

I cringe as she talks, remembering my sister trapped, pregnant, the husband to-be my mother drove away, how I helped my sister work and escape when she turned eighteen. How she ran away into a world crazier than the one she left behind and preferred it still.

“Do you remember when dad was ranting and raving and he used to tell us that someday we’d find out that Mom was the reason he was crazy? Well, he was so right. My life has been nothing but a Mad Hatter’s tea party.”

She has mentioned Alice a lot these past few days. It has been years since I heard about Alice, so I know there is something she needs to say.

“Don’t you know?” she demands. “Don’t you know that Mom is your father figure? The dominating male figure in your life? How could you go through years of therapy and never figure out that your inability to deal with men is her fault?”

I know by the frustration in her voice, that she has wanted to tell me this for a very long time. I start to cry. Her words cause my stomach to flop over, my heart pounds with panic.

My gut knows that she is right. I just can’t believe that I have never seen it for myself. If my sister is Alice, I must be Sleeping Beauty.

“With all the therapy you’ve been in, haven’t you ever focused on Mom?” she shouts.

“No. I didn’t. I knew what she had done to you, how she controlled you and kept you a prisoner with Danielle ‘till you were eighteen, but she never wanted me. I was always the one that could handle her. Now I can’t handle her anymore and I realize that when I thought I could, it was only an illusion, I never had control. It was all just part of the game. She controls me too.”

My voice is soft and teary. Her voice is shrill and full of angry emotion. Her pain is the lighter fluid that sparks our conversation.

She cries out, “I can’t handle being around Mom. When I’m around her, I start to pull all of my eyelashes out again.”

I am startled, shocked by the degree of my sister’s torment. Yet, as she speaks the words, she is touching her eyelids in a familiar way. I have seen her do it a million times. How could I have ever thought that she had mascara in her eyes so often?

She continues, her voice taut with pain. “Mom is not normal. She hates everything about babies and childbirth. She hates kids. She is so sick. You know how I eat so fast? Well, one day when we were eating she said, ‘Watch me eat. Watch how I chew each bite slowly. Eat like this. Watch me. This is how you eat your food. Look at me.’ It was awful.”

“When you were little?” I ask.

“No! I was forty-one years old!”

We sit surrounded by elderly couples who pretend not to listen as we talk about our mother, our childhood.

Do they wonder if their own children sit in crowded restaurants exposing family secrets?

I feel as if I should shush my sister because the details that are pouring from her mouth are dirty and tattered, personal, best left to a therapist’s couch.

Her passionate grief, the shrill horror in her voice, the way she touches her eyelashes as she speaks, all these things freeze my words.

I decide that she is the only person in this room that I need to be concerned about.

“Why can’t you see the way that she has damaged you too, why do you think you never feel good enough? You had the same mother as me! You suffered the same things that I did. Do you think you escaped her mind games, her torture? Nothing was ever good enough for her; we were never enough for her. That is why you can’t deal with the men in your life, the same as me.”

My blind eyes are wide open now.

“We are so strong to have even survived, don’t you know that? We are both miracles. We are both so special, so gifted and she has not been able to destroy that in us. We are survivors.”

As we stand, we hold onto to each other for a long moment before we walk away with our heads held high. You can almost hear the people in the room let out a collective sigh of relief.

“Do you think we should have charged admission?” I ask her.

She laughs as she says, “Ya, cause then we could have used a microphone and sat in front of the fireplace.”

Ironic. When Dad was screaming, we used to hide in the old, unused fireplace in our bedroom.

I am grieving the loss of my sister even as we drive away from the restaurant together because I’ve learned that each time I leave her and fly home to Oklahoma, she will wipe me from her heart, erase me from her mind and that I won’t exist until I walk back in her door. I have to accept that it is the only way she can deal with her pain and her anger when I leave her.

Sadly, I know that one day I will knock on her door and she will not open it. She will erase me along with her past, leaving me behind as she runs away to another Mad Hatter’s tea party, an insane event that makes much more sense than her reality.

My baby sister Alice and me, Sleeping Beauty.