Tag Archives: life

My Kids Think I’m An Alcoholic

Drunk Bree on Desperate Housewives

Drunk Bree on Desperate Housewives

Yes, my children think that I’m an alcoholic.  It came up one night when my girls were in my bedroom.  I try to keep my bedroom nice, as a retreat for me.  I didn’t realize that it would attract my female offspring.  They keep their rooms like hoarders-in-training but come to my room to relax.  It’s just not fair . . . but I digress . . .

One night when they were lounging in my room one daughter told me she thinks I’m  an alcoholic.

“What?  Why?”  I asked, completely shocked.

“Well, a recovering alcoholic,” she clarified, and further explained,  “I’ve never seen you drink.'”  She pointed out that she’d seen my sisters and my best friend drink but, “You never do, Mommy.”

“Even Daddy drinks,” she added.   I must have made a face of some sort because she quickly said, “But not too much.”

She went on, “But Mommy you never drink so I figured  — you can’t.   And you never have alcohol in the house.  What grown up never has alcohol in the house?”

Well damn.   The kid has it all figured out.  Her sisters chimed in and agreed.  “Oh yeah, I thought that, too,” said one.  “Me too,” said another.  The one I call “The Quirky One” just smiled.

But I’m not an alcoholic!” I protested.

Recovering alcoholic, mom,”  she corrected me.

Crap.

Sooo.  My kids think I’m an alcoholic because I don’t drink.  Yup,  It’s very difficult to prove that you are not a recovering alcoholic if someone thinks you are.

Am I going to have to throw a few back at the dinner table just to show my kids I’m not a drunk? Bring a six-pack to the High School Football game maybe?  Down a Bloody Mary at breakfast?

Damn kids don’t know my life.

The truth is, except for the college years I’ve never been much of a drinker.   My ex-husband was absolutely and totally against drinking, see My High School Self and The Night I Became Cinderella.   I didn’t make my own decisions about it,  Instead, I followed his lead since he had very strong opinions that theoretically made sense.  He had come from a family that had been plagued by substance abuse.  Most of his siblings have had issues, serious issues.  Even his mother, her first  and second husbands, and his estranged father reportedly had bouts with addiction.    He’d seen some bad things caused by alcohol or drugs and feared the propensity for addiction might be hereditary.  I’d seen the effects on his family and vowed never to expose my own children to that lifestyle.   So he and I were going to be different.   I didn’t drink, except at college where I drank behind his back with my college friends whom he never really liked.    After we were married we only kept alcohol in the house for holidays.  Bottles of hard alcohol collected dust on top of the cabinets until they were wiped clean and set out at Christmas.   We were definitely  not a “wine with dinner” family.  My husband and I  shared a few drinks over the years, but by and large I completely missed the  typical partying or bar hopping of  youth and the happy hours of the young professionals.  Then came the pregnancy and breastfeeding years where I had to abstain anyway  —  so it’s been years since I’ve been any kind of drinker.

No matter,  after double-digit years of marriage and five children my husband left me.   I  could do whatever I damn well pleased.

Unfortunately, at the time that meant taking anti-depressants.

Fact: You’re not supposed to drink when taking anti-depressants.   So, I didn’t.   I follow directions, you see.  I’m  obedient like that.  No drinks for me while I was on the meds.

No matter, after a very difficult “discontinuation period”  (aka “withdrawal”),  I’m off the anti-depressants. Technically, or should I say, medically,  I can drink now.  Hooray, hooray!

But I still don’t drink.

First, I’m a complete lightweight.    After not drinking for years, I can’t hold my liquor.   Half a drink and I’m  tipsy, and not in a good way.

Second, since I roll solo most of the time, I’m always my own designated driver so . . . can’t drink.

Third,  now is not the time to start having alcohol at home, not with a house full of teenagers.

And fourth,  I’m the custodial parent of five children.  I’ve got responsibilities, I can’t sit at the local bar with friends every night.  That ship has sailed.   I missed it.  Damn it.

The gang hanging out at Mclaren's on "How I Met Your Mother"

The gang hanging out at Mclaren’s on “How I Met Your Mother”

So yeah, I’m free to do what I want now — except that I’m not, not exactly, not really.   Story of my life . . .  but I digress . . .

But this is what kills me — my formerly anti-social, teetotaler, judgmental ex-husband is now the life of the party.    After years of telling me that  drinking was wrong, that he was afraid of addiction, that he didn’t think kids should be exposed to alcohol — now  he drinks and to our kids, he’s the normal one  . . .   but me? Me?

Hello, I’m Mommy and I’m  an alcoholic.

Just Me With . . . a drink in my hand.   It’s coffee. 

It begs the question:  If my girls think that because they’ve never seen me drink I must be an alcoholic, what do they think about the fact that they’ve never seen me date?   I mean, their Dad has found love and remarried.  I, on the other hand, have not.  I abstain, or so it may seem.  The girls probably think I don’t occasionally enjoy the company of a man (or keep one in the house)  because I’m either:  (1) still heartbroken about their Dad,  or (2)  have herpes.

Humph.  Offensive, either way.

Related:  Getting Off The Meds

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“I Am Here! I Am Here! I Am Here!” said the Nanny

Wall Street

Wall Street

A couple of weeks ago, I was in receipt of what I now refer to as “Nanny Texts” — when my ex-husband gives me instructions on the preparation of the kids for an event he’s taking them to.

— Have the kids wear clothes, shoes.

— Make sure they shower.

— No t-shirts or shorts.

— Have them ready by 3pm, this should give you plenty of time.

By the by, all of the kids are teens, and pick-up time is technically at 10am, though often the kids have activities that prohibit early pick up. On this day, however, they did not and the Ex had been informed of this.

As to the directive, “Have the kids wear clothes,” obviously  he’d forgotten the word “nice”  — he wanted them to wear “nice” clothes.   But still it was funny.   Sometimes I just read or show or forward the Nanny Texts to the kids to minimize my work as  the middle man, so there is no mistake as to what he  is requiring, and that it’s coming from him, not me.   This time I simply showed the text to the kids, missing word and all.

One girl quipped,  “Well, I always manage to wear clothes.”

Another girl said, “Yeah, I was planning to go naked.”

Jerry Seinfeld

Jerry Seinfeld

My Ex-husband was taking them to a graduation party of his oldest friend, let’s call him Jerry.  Jerry  is much older than we are and was actually my ex’s teacher in Middle School at one point.  They became friends later as adults.   Jerry had been a man approaching middle-age, single, and impossibly neat.  People who did not know him well  thought he was gay — “not that there’s anything wrong with that” —   but folks in the inner circle knew that Jerry was very much like the Jerry Seinfeld character  — not quite marriage material, string of women, classic commitment issues.

Jerry had been the Best Man at our wedding  and years later when Jerry, a long-time bachelor,  suddenly married a woman he’d met on a blind date, my then husband gave the toast.    My husband was even (temporarily) named as Godfather to their first-born, and we both visited and held the hours-old baby in the hospital.  Jerry’s second child is only seven weeks younger than our first and we have the cutest pictures of the two baby boys together.   We were always at all of Jerry’s big family gatherings– kid’s birthdays, baptisms, Super Bowl parties, and when my husband and I started having kids and birthday parties and such, Jerry and his wife and kids were always in attendance.  Jerry only came around  on special occasions, though, my husband didn’t want him at our house to just hang out because he didn’t think our house was nice enough.

Back when my husband announced his plans to leave me, I suggested that he talk to Jerry about it because maybe he needed to talk to someone other than the two women who had his ear:   me and his girlfriend.   I thought that the opposing dueling arguments from the two women who have a huge stake in the matter were just canceling  each other out.

Well, actually, no, the girlfriend clearly won those rounds, but I digress . . . .   My husband refused to confide in Jerry, though,  saying that he knew Jerry  would just try to talk him out of it and tell him it was wrong.

Alrighty then.  Anyhoo . . . 

Apart from his club activities, my husband had few friends,  Jerry was the only one, really.   So it was expected and appropriate that when the marriage ended Jerry and his family would remain friends with him, and not me.   I’ve not seen or heard from Jerry or his wife since my husband moved out many years ago.

I actually don’t know whether they socialize regularly now.  My Ex-Husband has reinvented himself in many ways.

However, my now Ex-husband was going to attend the Jerry’ s first-born’s graduation party.   He  would attend with his new wife, their children  and our children, who had been directed to wear . . . clothes.

After the teen drama at home about finding the proper clothes, the  complaints about why they had to go to this thing, that they don’t really know these people, blah blah blah . . . they managed to get themselves (with my prompting) ready only slightly after the 3pm deadline.  But  no matter,  the Ex didn’t show up until 4:15pm.  While they waited, one girl said,  “I hate it when he does this,” and her twin, who didn’t even start to get ready until 2:50pm, said, “I told you I’d have plenty of time.”  In true Ninja Ex fashion I escaped before he arrived, going to a different graduation party alone.  See I Almost Crossed One Of “My Bucket List of Men To Do” 

And off they went.

The Nanny Texts piss me off, but I’m used to it now and I know how ridiculous they sound.  But later I realized something that did feel weird, though —  that my ex-husband and our kids  were attending this party with his new family, among  people who knew us when our kids were babies and when I was visually present.

Now I certainly didn’t want to go to the party.  God no, I didn’t want to go.   Nor did I expect to be invited, of course.   It just felt a little strange that my (appropriately dressed) children were going to be there  (paraded)  with the Ex-husband and his new family celebrating with people with whom my ex-husband and I  had shared many major life events.    It was hard to believe that that hours old baby I had held (and I think it was the first time I’d ever held an “hours old” baby) was graduating high school.

I don’t know, it felt kind of like I’d been photo-shopped out and new people photo-shopped in and that no one would or could acknowledge it, despite all that we shared in the early years.

Just kind of weird.

When the kids returned, though, one of them said,

“Mom, some lady told me to tell you hello.”

I’m not sure who it was. It didn’t matter.  It made me smile.

At least someone remembered that I am here . . . or was here  . . . or had, at one time, been there . . . or . . . whatever.

"Horton Hears A Who" by Dr. Seuss

“Horton Hears A Who” by Dr. Seuss

Just Me With . . .  The Nanny Texts

If anyone is wondering why I did not simply curse my Ex out for the Nanny Texts, my failure to engage with him can be explained in blogs like:

I Won’t Take It

Divorcing a Narcissist,

and Perils of Divorced Pauline.

The short answer  is that it wouldn’t help. I pick and choose my battles.

See also, I Was The Nanny When My Ex-Husband Got Married  and My Very Own Personal Olympic Games

Can’t Concentrate Enough to Meditate

I generally don’t do well with meditation.  I’ve had my problems with medication.

Wow, that sounds like a song.   Don’t steal it, okay? . . .  but I digress . . .

I just can’t seem to quiet my mind.  It’s an ongoing problem.  I’m better at researching issues and attempting suggested solutions from a list.  Those have been my biggest breakthroughs in dealing with my crap.    But lately I’ve been feeling almost new-age-like — until the books talk about meditation, intoning aspirations and such.   I believe it does work for some people but I  have trouble.  I know it takes practice.   The books say so.

It reminds me of the time my sister was  on a girl scout  camping trip.  All of the girls were looking into the  night sky at the stars and trying to identify the constellations.  My sister and her friend were not impressed and a little bored.  They realized that since everyone was focused and looking up to the sky they could just walk away  —  unnoticed.  And they did.

That’s what my mind does.   It just walks away.   I almost actually walked away at a group therapy meditation session, but the therapist gave me a dirty look.   I just closed my eyes. Whatever.

Anywho . . .

What was I talking about?

Oh yeah, meditation.

I’ve tried it and fallen asleep, I’ve tried it and gotten very angry that THESE PEOPLE ARE MAKING ME SIT HERE!!!!  And, truth be told, I haven’t tried it very diligently.    I did try  massage once.   I could not relax.   Waste of money.

So it’s really weird that I’m walking around with my Feng Shui books and compass looking for my creativity and wealth corner.

Whatever.

Just Me With . . . random thoughts.

I’m tempted to preempt the trolls who will tell me to shut the f**k up and stop whining and go out and do something productive.   Tell ya what, I’ll meditate on that, m’kay?

But seriously, I may write a song.  Maybe that’s more of my meditation style.

Somewhat related:   Getting Off The Meds

 

Laughter Is The Best Medicine

One Day At A Time


RIP Bonnie Franklin

I’m just trying to make it “One Day At A Time” like divorced TV mom Annie Romano, except that I have two Barbaras and two Julies, and a boy.

Damn kids.

Let me set the scene. As per usual I was unsuccessful in getting certain tasks completed before the kids came back from a visit with their dad. As per usual none of the kids gave the requested heads up text to let me know they were on their way before they came. (I didn’t know what time they were coming home, only that they’d be home earlier than the required drop off time because one of the kids had a rehearsal.)

So the kids walked in to me in the middle of various projects — hanging a shelf, bagging their clothes they refused to wash, my private journal open on the kitchen table and Sex and The City blaring on all three TVs. (It’s one of my secret single behaviors to turn on all the TVs while cleaning so as I’m walking around the house I can still hear and glance at whatever is on. Don’t judge.) I was startled and felt like I got caught doing something wrong.

Turns out, I apparently had done something wrong.

My cleaning and organizing efforts were rewarded with a fit of rage from the Anxious child. Her twin, the Angry child was — guess what? Angry. As per usual, she did not enjoy her visit with her dad and brought her frustration home to me. The other kids just breezed in, dropped their stuff where they felt like it and perched various places in the house to eat the fast food their dad sent them home with. Someone got the Angry child’s order wrong and she was angry about that, too, no surprise. Somehow this anger was directed toward me.

It is always stressful when the kids get home. They’d only been gone for twenty-eight hours but the whole visitation process: getting them ready and out of the door when they’d rather not go, their behavior when they return, my guilt over how I choose spend my time when they are gone (not getting enough done, not having any fun) is always difficult. See Weekends Off.

After the tirade from the Anxious and Angry twins and my frustrated response, I still had to drive the oldest to rehearsal and get some dinner for myself.

During the drive I tried some relaxation techniques I’ve been reading about. I took deep breaths. I sat in my car for a bit to calm down. And, in an uncharacteristic move, when I returned I decided to sit down and watch something funny. Normally I would hide from my ill-tempered children or launch into a series of chores and attempt to get them to do the same. But instead I loaded the DVD player with my new favorite guilty pleasure, Pitch Perfect. Don’t judge. Okay, go ahead and judge. And yes, we own it.

Pitch Perfect

The girls joined me. When he returned from his rehearsal, the Arrogant one — the boy, retired to his boudoir as per usual. To his credit, he was doing a massive amount of homework that he saved for when he got back from the visit. His choice, his stress.

What people say about humor and music is true. Watching Pitch Perfect made me feel better. Miraculously, both the Anxious child and her twin, the Angry child, calmed down.

But when I got up to go into the kitchen to get a drink, however, I was met with a surprise.

Someone had opened every single cabinet and drawer in the kitchen.

It’s not just a matter of neatness, leaving cabinets open has scared the bejesus out of me way back to The Sixth Sense!

Do you remember the abused ghost wife and the open cabinets in The Sixth Sense?

The Sixth Sense Cabinets

I stopped dead in my tracks. I was already emotionally fragile.

I WAS TRYING TO CALM DOWN!!!!!

But those people I made, those people I grew in my belly like mold, those people know that having all the cabinets and drawers open frightens me!

It probably goes back to Poltergeist as well.

Poltergeist Cleared Tables

In Poltergeist someone or something cleared the table and pulled out the chairs.

Then someone or something stacked the chairs.

Then someone or something stacked the chairs.

I just don’t do well with kitchen surprises. I’m okay with bugs, I’ve dealt with some nasty stuff, see Piss, Puke and Porn, but open cabinets — scare me.

I froze in my steps, mouth agape. When I could finally move I gingerly walked the five steps back into the family room and cried to my four female spawn,

“WHO DID THAT? You know that scares me!”

Then I collapsed on the floor and laughed so hard I cried. I didn’t go back in my kitchen until I got a confession out of the Quirky one and ordered her to go in there and close everything up.

Oh, those people I made all had a good laugh about it. Great big belly laughs. I was a hysterical mess on the floor, but unlike some of my past days, it was in a good way.

Damn kids.

I guess the experts are right that laughter helps with depression and anxiety.

But does it have to be at my expense? Does it?

I just looked at my girl, the Quirky one — the Offender, and said,

“You used to be one of the ones that I liked.”

Just Me With . . . a weird phobia, an unexpectedly devious Quirky child and a good laugh — on the floor.

Given my mood, it was a bold move on the Quirky One’s part. I have to respect her risk-taking.

The mother throws holy water on her offending child in Hairspray.

The mother throws holy water on her offending child in Hairspray.

Shout out to Merbear who inspired me to write something positive about my girls. Well, I don’t know if it was positive, damn kids.

Other Kitchen Surprises:

A Rat In My House and Toilet or Kitchen Sink — Who Can Tell?

Sixteen Candles, Give or Take — My Birthday

From the film, "Sixteen Candles" when everyone forgot a girl's birthday

From the film, “Sixteen Candles”

I had a birthday recently.   I’ve always disliked birthdays,  since my teen years.  My parents always made my birthday special as a child, not with lavish parties and gifts, but with special birthday dinners, cake and small gifts, except for the year I got a new piano.  That was the best day ever, but I digress . . .

There's nothing better than seeing a piano moving truck pull up to your house.  Wait, it that Just Me ?

There’s nothing better than seeing a piano moving truck pull up to your house. Wait, is that Just Me ?

The bad birthdays started in my teen years when came down with Scarlet Fever on my birthday.  I know it sounds very Victorian, but I assure you I’m not that old.

I didn't have The Spanish Flu, like Downton Abbey's Lady Mary, but Scarlet Fever was no joke.

I didn’t have The Spanish Flu, like Downton Abbey’s Her Ladyship, but Scarlet Fever was no joke.

In later years my boyfriend (later husband, now ex-husband) forgot my birthday completely, more than once.  I’ve never had the party with the girlfriends kind of birthdays either, for a lot a reasons, beyond the scope of this post.  And then there was the first birthday right after the wedding, the separation and some bad ones since then.

This year I decided to pretty much ignore my birthday.  I couldn’t really do anything because it coincided with one of my kid’s big events . . . so I just let it go.

But the people who have come in and out of my life over the years, many of whom I have written about here, remembered.

1.  My best friend and her husband stopped by with a musical card (hours of fun), a little cake, and a big gift card for me.   They didn’t stay very long, but I appreciated the thought and the gifts more than they know.

See my tribute to her on “To My Best Friend on Mother’s Day”

2.   One of my married male friends sent me a text, hoping he got the date right.  (He didn’t, but that didn’t matter.) He wished me well and told me I don’t look my age.  This guy has done things for me like shown up with an air conditioner and installed it when my house was making us melt and he repaired a pane of glass after my daughter decided to play ball in the family room.  And most importantly, he checks in on me just to see how I’m doing.

He’s one of the men I was thinking of in “Friends Without Benefits — Married Men.”

3.  My Admirer sent me a Happy Birthday text, and when I thanked him for remembering he replied,  “You are a smart and beautiful woman whose inner beauty radiates so brightly.  I won’t forget you.”

It made me smile.  I haven’t seen or talked to this man in years.

For my posts about him see,   “I Have An Admirer” and “Another Text From My Admirer.”

4.  An old friend, who defies any  type of categorization, wished me Happy Birthday via voice mail; I was at my kid’s event and couldn’t answer my phone.  I saved the message.

I’ve referenced him in, “We Thought You Were Dead, Mommy.”

5.  I even got a birthday text from my Stalker.  I did not respond.

See, “If I’d Married My Stalker.”

It feels good to be remembered, thought of.

Well, the Stalker text is a little disconcerting, but still  . . .

Just Me With . . . people. 

And even though I’m all grown up, my parents called and sang to me (a family tradition) and my Mom gave me a card with money in it.

. . . and the quirky child gave me a card and a CD.

Not bad.

Technology Has Created The One Handed Child

iPhone

I admit.  I’m on my phone a lot.  All the time.

But I didn’t grow up on my phone all the time.  I grew up — using both hands!

The other day my daughter and I went to the neighbors’ house to walk their dog.  I wanted to make sure she could do it by herself.  Accordingly, I instructed her to open the door by herself using the key.  She dutifully inserted the key in the lock with her right hand and turned.  The door did not pop open, of course.  She turned the key again with her right hand.  It did not open.  Her left hand hung at her side.

She was bewildered, perplexed, really.

She turned the key again with her right hand.  Her empty left hand still hung at her side, useless.

Before my head exploded, I had to speak up — slowly:

“Turn the key with one hand, use the other hand to turn the knob and push.”

She’s  a teen, not a toddler.  Yet it had not occurred to her to use both hands.

I blame Apple.  Usually this kid has a phone and/or iPod in hand.  She is so used to holding a  device  that it has rendered one hand useless, even when it’s empty.

This scenario has happened often with my kids.   They only use one hand for most things, even cooking.  Oh, I admit they’ve become quite adept at using one hand, but it’s not efficient.  Not at all.

And it looks ridiculous.

When my children were babies and toddlers they always scored so well on those tests for large and small motor skills.  They could manipulate small toys and they could climb on anything.

Now they forget that they have two hands.

I think someone should conduct a study on the long-term effects of the use of personal digital devices on the (arrested) development of manual dexterity in teens — because I think this is a problem.

Seriously.  Have you ever watched a person do laundry with one hand?  It’s ridiculous.

Just Me With . . . both hands.

She Asked For My Help — With An Unwanted Pregnancy

Dunkin’ Donuts

If you’ve read My Love Affair with Dunkin Donuts’ Bathroom, you know that I spent some time without running water during the renovation of my house.

It was during this period where I spent some extra time at a Dunkin’ Donuts, getting coffee, donuts, sandwiches, using the bathroom, washing my face, brushing my teeth, etc.     I continued to go to Dunkin’ twice a day even after I got a working bathroom because  I still didn’t have a kitchen, Bathroom or Kitchen Sink, Who Can Tell?, and anyway, it  became part of my routine to go there, still is.

During my frequent Dunkin’ visits I was befriended by a Pakistani worker there, I’ll call her Sajida.  True to being the stereotypical “Ugly American” I  never felt like I properly pronounced her name, though I loved the way she said mine.

Sajida was there every night when I went in for the evening visit. She was very sweet.   As soon as she saw my car drive up she fixed my coffee just the way I like it and filled a bag with free donuts. It was usually pretty empty at night, which allowed us to chat. Her English wasn’t very good; still, she asked me a lot of questions about myself and when I didn’t understand she made hand gestures to help me out.  She met all of my children and asked if I had a husband.   I told her “not anymore.” She told me I should get a new man.  She  always had a smile for me and usually a compliment, wondering how I stayed so skinny after having all the kids.  See Confessions of a Skinny Mom.   Still, she noticed when I looked particularly tired (it was a rough time) and would ask if I was “okay.”

“You tired?  You look tired.”    She’d say sometimes.

Other times she’d talk about herself, saying, “I’m so fat.  I want to be skinny like you.”  She wasn’t “fat,” by the way, she was shapely, and healthy looking.  She was quite pretty.

I learned that she was 28-years-old and had two children back home in Pakistan who were living with her mother.  She sent money to them.  She lived here alone in a little apartment which she said she enjoyed because it was so clean and quiet, not like back home.    She said she had been married to her first cousin, who wasn’t nice to her.   “It wasn’t good,” she said, solemnly.  Her children were both disabled, with birth defects, one was blind and I’m not sure what the other child’s challenges were, but she said they both needed medical  attention.  I couldn’t help but wonder whether being so closely related to her husband could have been the cause.

One day after getting my coffee I  turned to leave and Sajida called me back.  My children were not with me.

The men in the store were working in the back and largely ignored us.

She told me, “I’m pregnant.”

“Oh,” I said.  I didn’t know what else to say.  She hadn’t made this announcement as happy news.

She said, “I need help.  I need pill.”

“Pill?” I thought it was a little late for birth control, but maybe I had misunderstood . . .

“Pill, I don’t want to be pregnant.  Where can I get pill.  Will you help me?  Will you buy Pill for me?”

“Oh,” I said, again.  Now I understood.

I haven’t had to think about pregnancy  in years.  My tubes have been tied since I last gave birth.   “The Abortion Pill” or “The Morning After Pill” were not around in my unmarried youth.  The only pills I had experience with were birth control pills.  Still, my limited knowledge  about  these other pills was that they were something taken immediately after unprotected sex and/or at the very least, there is a small window of  opportunity where such “pills”  could prevent pregnancy or the continuation of a pregnancy.

I pondered what to say.  There was a language barrier.   I didn’t want to be responsible for or influence her decision, I didn’t want to misunderstand her intent.

I just wanted coffee . . . and some small talk.  Truth is, I looked forward to seeing her every day.  Though I didn’t really know and sometimes couldn’t understand her, I thought of  Sajida as my friend.  It was during a time where I had little interaction with other adults.  My family refused to come to my home, as our living conditions were so bad.  The friends and former neighbors — “angels” —  who had helped me initially,  had finished the first round of work, and I was waiting for the professionals to take over while I organized and cleaned.    The children were tiring of the conditions, and I had to pretend that everything was okay.   But Sajida smiled when she saw me.  I needed that, truly.

Still, as I stood at the Dunkin’ Donuts counter, I wasn’t prepared for this.

Sajida added, “I asked another lady but she wouldn’t help me.”

That almost broke my heart.  The thought of this sweet woman asking random Dunkin’ Donuts customers for help with an unwanted pregnancy —  and that she had been refused?

Shit, I thought.  I don’t want to be that lady, the kind of woman who would refuse to help another woman in trouble, someone reaching out for assistance.

“No one will help me,”  Sajida continued, gesturing to her co-workers, also Pakistani, but male.  “I don’t want to go to my people.   I can’t have another baby.  My children are too much.  I’m afraid there will be something wrong.”

Here she was in a strange country, her challenged children far away, and pregnant when she didn’t want to be.

I decided I would help her.

At the very least I could get her to a doctor so she can know all of her options.  Maybe she’s not even pregnant, I hoped; Maybe she’s too far along,  I feared.  I mean I didn’t know any of the details for sure.

I asked her, “Are you sure you’re pregnant?”

She said, “Yes,”  explained that missed her period, and  made the throwing up gesture.   “Just like before I’m sick like before.  Will you help?  I have money.  I can pay you,”  she added.

Pay me?   “No, don’t worry about that.   Let’s get you to a doctor,”  I said.

My mind was reeling. What if she’d asked someone who would have actually taken her money?  And throwing up?  God, I thought, how far along is she?  No pill is going to help her now.

“Okay,” I said, “Just let me get some information.  Please don’t take anything.  I don’t think you can do that now. Just wait, okay?”

I left in disbelief, muttering to myself. Why, I thought, why do people feel comfortable telling me such private things?    I couldn’t believe that I’d gone for coffee and was presented with a request for assistance in ending an unwanted pregnancy.  But I guess I hadn’t just gone for coffee, I’d gone for company.

And I thought I had problems.  I was broke, my house I shared with five children was barely livable and I was going through a nasty divorce.  But at least I wasn’t pregnant.

This much I understood:  It was clear that Sajida was not going to have this baby.  The only question was how she was going to end her pregnancy and whether she would do it safely.

I’d told her I’d  come back tomorrow.  That night I called my best friend, who happens to be a gynecologist, and explained the situation.   She confirmed what I already knew, that this woman needs to see a doctor immediately and will likely have to have an abortion to end the pregnancy, if that’s her intent.  The next day I called Planned Parenthood and found out where she could go to see a doctor, confirm the pregnancy and talk about options, whether they might have a translator, and how that whole waiting period thing works.

Planned Parenthood

It had been years, but I am no stranger to Planned Parenthood.  I’d gone to Planned Parenthood to get on the pill before I lost my virginity.   When I couldn’t go to my parents, Planned Parenthood was there.  I had continued to use Planned Parenthood until well after I was married — until I eventually got my own private insurance.  I felt comfortable sending Sajida there.  I would have sent her  there for affordable prenatal care if she’d planned on having the baby.

The next day I went to Dunkin’ Donuts and gave  Sajida a telephone number and address,  explained where she should go, and when, and that after she was seen by a doctor she would have to go back another day for the procedure.  She was familiar with the location and said she could get there easily.  She planned to take a bus to the clinic on her next available day off at the end of the week.

She thanked me profusely.

In the next couple of days I saw her  again.  She looked horrible,  said she wasn’t feeling well and was  still throwing up.   She wasn’t as chatty as she had been on previous visits.

Days passed.   The next time I saw her, I simply asked, “How are you?”

“Good,” she said,  “Not pregnant.  There was blood. ”  She gestured to her lower regions, “There was blood, a lot of blood. I’m not pregnant anymore.”

“Oh, you miscarried?   You — you — lost the baby?”

“Yes,” she smiled.

“And you don’t have to  — do anything? “

“No, not pregnant anymore. I woke up, there was blood.”  She seemed relieved.

“Still,” I said, “You should go to the doctor anyway, because you have to make sure you’re okay.  Sometimes they have to — do stuff after you lose a baby.   And you should go on the pill or get some birth control.”

Though the abortion talk had made me uncomfortable, I have no problem whatsoever telling a woman to get some birth control.

“Yes, yes,” she promised.

“Okay, you’re okay?”  I asked.

“Yes, yes.”

I was relieved, for a lot of reasons.

We didn’t talk about it again.  She did ask me for assistance later,  this time in programming her cell phone.  I was happy to help with that.

Over the months that followed Sajida’s English improved greatly.  Almost a year later Sajida told me she was engaged and would be traveling back to Pakistan to marry.    I must have looked shocked because she quickly explained, “No, it’s good.  He’s nice.”

She added, “Someday you’ll meet someone, too.”  She’d always encouraged me to date, one of the few who did.

I never saw her again.  I think of her often, though.

Just the other day as I was leaving Dunkin’ Donuts,  a very cute young Indian man who had waited on me called me back to ask me a question.

I was a little afraid.

Turns out he just wanted to know how much I pay for medical insurance since Dunkin’ Donuts does not provide it, even for full-time workers.    For most people it may have seemed like an overly personal question.  For me?  Well, I was just relieved it was a question with an easy answer.
Just Me With . . . coffee, donuts and some information.

I’m a sensitive sort. I’ve delayed writing and publishing this post for fear of the criticism for assisting a woman who wished to  terminate her pregnancy.   Some might argue that I should have tried to talk her out of it,  that I should have pointed her to an organization that would have tried to talk her out of it, or that I should have simply refused, like the “other lady” had.  But the bottom line was,  she was an adult woman in a strange country,  already a mother of special needs children and her decision had been made — without me.   She merely asked for my help.

Was I relieved that nature took its course?   Yes, yes, I was, I admit that.   But if it hadn’t, at least Sajida would have  received medical care and not simply  paid a customer to provide her with  random medications to end her pregnancy  — and/or perhaps injure herself  in the process.

Where ever Sajida is I hope she’s found happiness and that her new husband is nice to her.

Keeping it Simple at Christmas

Miracle on 34th Street

I was listening to some radio show where they asked a  little girl what she wanted for Christmas.  She said, “A stuffed animal.” She said Santa could choose what kind.  When asked if she wanted anything else, she added, “Chapstick.”

With all the ads and shopping frenzy it occurred to me that it’s easy to ignore the actual requests of children  — and adults.   Despite the elaborate Barbie houses and race car sets and “i” everything and “e” readers and bright lights and touch screens, sometimes it’s the simple things that matter.  Now I’m not perfect.  There have been times when I’ve over indulged my children and there have been times when my children were sorely disappointed, but here’s a list of some of the simple  things that brought joy:

1.  Goggles.  One year when my daughter was little all she asked for was goggles.  I guess Santa went to Home Depot, because a $2 pair of plastic work goggles appeared on Christmas morning and the girl was ecstatic.

Safety First, Safety Last, Safety Goggles for Christmas

2.  Stuffed Animal.  My kid was just like the girl on the radio, except she was older,  maybe eleven years old, right on the edge of the electronic appetite.  But she has always loved to cuddle with soft stuffed things.  Still does, even in her advancing teen years.  The stuffed bunny she received that year “lives”  in her room and she takes it with her on sleepovers and visits with her dad.

The stuffed animal, a classic.

3.  Nothing.   Babies are simple creatures.  They like to look at bright lights.  When they are older they play with boxes.  Except for maybe purchasing something they may have needed anyway (a new teether or sleepers), babies don’t need anything for Christmas except someone to show them the pretty lights and sing to them.  Sometimes I would ball up pieces of wrapping paper and toss it to the babies (under supervision of course, can’t let the little angels eat paper) and the babies would be occupied trying to pick up the strange, shiny ball.

4.  Etch-a-Sketch.   Low-tech.  Gender-neutral.  Hours of fun.  Needs no insurance.  When it breaks (and it will) it will have served its purpose and you can replace it, or not.

Etch A Sketch

5. Coupon for Playing a Video Game with My Son.  Okay, so this one hurt a bit.  But it cost me nothing, except for maybe a couple of Tylenol.  I’m not a gamer.  I do a lot of activities with my kids, but gaming, at least the warfare type, has never been my cup of tea.   But one Christmas I gave him a coupon promising an hour of video game time with me.  I broke it up in two segments.  It was horrible.  I’m horrible.  I tried to do my best, but I shot at the ground, repeatedly.   He took great joy in this.   But bonus?   He doesn’t ask me to play anymore.  On occasion I’ll him ask if I can play and I get the response,

“No, Mom, no.”

I am not a gamer.

6.  A lock box.  This wasn’t for my kids, it was for another relative.  He was twenty something and had mentioned in passing that he always wanted a safe.  I think he was recently out of college at the time and literally had nothing of value to protect, but I guess he had some personal items, because when he opened that fireproof lockbox safe ($19.99) he  laughed broadly and exclaimed,

“I always wanted one of these!”   At six feet five inches tall, he was like a big little kid.

“Thank you!”   He continued to smile as he examined his box with the same look of joy and amazement he used to have when opening a new Lego set.

I don’t want to know what he keeps in that box.

Lock Box

Just Me With . . . thoughts on keeping it simple.

There have been others, but I’m trying to keep this simple, and short.

Other holiday related posts:

Blowing Off the Holidays — Just say no.

Time Management,  Procrastination, Holiday Shopping and Moving — Some things will take exactly as much time as you allot to them.

The Annual Christmas Party — At Least I Wasn’t Insulted This Year —  Unfortunate comment.

All I Want for Christmas is My Kids — Splitting the babies after divorce.

A Good Neighbor, An Accidental Friend, and a Christmas Surprise —  You never know the impact people have on each other.

My First Grown Up Thanksgiving — Kind Of  — Thanksgiving my my house, without my kids.

Craigslist Angels — One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure  — Giving Away Christmas Decorations Can Be A Very Good Thing.

Time Management, Procrastination, Holiday Shopping and Moving

I have a theory.  Some tasks will take as much or as little time as you put aside to do them.  I apply this theory to two things:  packing for a move and Holiday shopping.

Packing for a Move

When Carrie Was Preparing to Move, Sex and The City

The Early Packer: 

If a person is planning a move, he or she can start packing six months before.    When the move date arrives, packing will be almost complete, boxes will be labeled and stacked and moving will commence.  You’ll get out on the date you are supposed to, you’ll move in on the date you’re allowed to.

The Last Minute Move:

Dealing with the same move out date, a person can start three weeks,  2 weeks or days before and the move will be the same.  You’ll get out, you’ll get in.  It might not be as pretty, might add serious stress, but if you have to get out by a certain date, you have to get out by a certain date. Stuff will get thrown on a truck, in your car, in the trash, on the curb, but you’ll be out.  And when you arrive at the new digs you get to open boxes and bags and see what you actually brought with you.

In either scenario,  there are always things that you simply cannot pack too early — the everyday items you need to function.  Consequently, some last-minute packing is inevitable.   Yes, plan and organize.  Throw stuff out so you have less to pack and move, but don’t force a six month packing plan, unless you actually enjoy packing and want to pack for six months.  If not, it’ll get done, because it has to.  You won’t have the luxury of making agonizing decisions about what to keep, what to move.  You won’t live with boxes before you move and after you move.  You won’t have time to purchase endless containers and organizing materials.  You’ll probably have a lot less to organize and you may take less crap with you.  Of course, you may also discover that you threw a bunch of trash into a box and moved it, but you will have still moved.

Holiday Shopping

The Early Shopper:

We all know someone who gets all their shopping done by Thanksgiving and they seem so smug and relaxed.  Often, we see or hear of that same person shopping in December, catching a sale, exchanging one gift for another for a better deal or because the recipient bought it for him/herself before Christmas.   My point is that starting early doesn’t necessarily mean you are done.

Starting early does mean you’ll likely shop longer.    If you start in August, you will shop from August to December 24th.  Even if you think you’re finished, there will be a sale, or you’ll find something perfect for someone or you’ll remember someone you should buy a gift for, or you’ll shop for yourself, etc.  So you’ll still be shopping one way or another until December 24th.   It that’s your thing, go for it.  But the retail establishments know that the sooner you start, the more you buy, this is why Black Friday sales now start before Thanksgiving and stores open at midnight.  Cha-Ching!!

The “Last Minute” Shopper:

If you start the second week of December, it’ll still be done by December 24th.  It has to, so why stretch it out? Sales and mark downs?   Guess what, except for the ridiculous black Friday sale items you may have trouble finding and may not need, the “Holiday” sales go on right up to and often after Christmas day.  If you are indeed looking for that perfect gift that you think may be gone if you wait too long?  Well go buy  it, but don’t spend six months shopping for it, unless that’s your thing.

Christmas will come, whether you are ready or not. 

So why spend months spending? 

Why not just get what you got?

Am I preaching procrastination?

Maybe.  I’ll get back to you later, heh heh heh.  I’m not a procrastinator by nature on other things.  I was never the type of student to pull an all-nighter, I believe in daily preparedness.  However, I don’t want to pack for six months the next time I move or travel.   I don’t want to shop for six months.

It’s not so much as waiting until the last minute; rather, it’s choosing the best time to start and establishing a limited time frame in which to accomplish the tasks at hand.  (That sounds better, no?)

This is where I think all those Hoarders and Clean House type shows have it together.   They give people three days to get it all done.  What do you think would happen if you gave those people six months to clean their houses?    The clean up crew would come back every day for six months waiting for the home owner to decide whether the plastic flowers she received as a gift in 1981 have a place in her home.   No, sometimes things just have to get done.  Make a decision.  Done.

Starting early isn’t always the answer.

I probably won’t begin Christmas shopping until December 1st.   In the meantime I can do some preliminary planning,  make lists, budget, and I’ll figure out the last day I can order something online for it to arrive on time without paying extra shipping.

Then I will shop.  No, I will buy.  I won’t have the luxury to shop.  I’m traveling for Christmas so I’ll have to be finished by December 21st anyway.  It’s like a move out date.

It’ll get done.  It has to.

I’m okay with that.

Just Me With . . .  a strategy deeply rooted in procrastination and efficiency.  

Caveat:   Do not apply this theory to academics or work or personal life.  It could result in  — bad things.

Phew!  I actually started this in 2011 but I got busy with the holidays and never finished.  Ha!

Other holiday related posts:

Blowing Off the Holidays — Just say no.

Keeping It Simple At Christmas — People don’t always need the bells and whistles.

The Annual Christmas Party — At Least I Wasn’t Insulted This Year —  Unfortunate comment.

All I Want for Christmas is My Kids — Splitting the babies after divorce.

A Good Neighbor, An Accidental Friend, and a Christmas Surprise —  You never know the impact people have on each other.

Craigslist Angels — One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure  — Giving Away Christmas Decorations Can Be A Very Good Thing.

My First Grown Up Thanksgiving — Kind Of  — Thanksgiving at my house, without my kids.

 

Good Fortune and The Dreaded Question, Part II

I’ve written previously about an encounter with  Marla, the deli clerk, who had asked me point-blank why I got divorced.   “Why Did You Get Divorced? The Dreaded Question. 

I saw Marla again over the weekend.  I was alone, the store wasn’t busy, so we had time to talk.

Marla, an older woman, is petite  in stature, slim in girth.  She manages to look quite stylish in her grocery store uniform, which is a brightly colored tee-shirt, smock and visor.  Her hair is curly, worn pulled back  as required, but she always has wavy tendrils hanging down and framing her face, and she sports side bangs.   I’ve never seen her without  full make-up on her olive skin, including heavy eyeliner and blue eye shadow,  and she wears big dangly or hoop earrings.

I felt differently about chatting with Marla this time, because this time she didn’t ask about the divorce.  She asked about me.

She wondered what I do for myself, asking whether I’ve been getting out, having any fun, doing something other than taking care of all the children.

Again she launched into a series of compliments, saying that I’m so beautiful and have a great smile and I’m so nice, that I work so hard for all my kids.  She commented on how difficult parenting is, queried whether my ex-husband gives me a break, noted that men don’t want independent women like us, etc.   She said, not to worry, all things come around.

Then Marla said, pointedly — really, she actually pointed at me with a crooked finger,

“You’re gonna have it all.  Mark my words.  This Gypsy Lady says you’re gonna have it all!”

Whoa, she’s a Gypsy?

Now that’s a whole different take on things.

Just Me with some good fortune coming my way, because the Gypsy Lady told me so.