And I Will Try To Fix You…

The biggest mistakes one can make before they decide to marry someone is that you think you can change them. There are warning signs that things aren’t quite right, awkward situations that make you uneasy; addictions to certain things, and yet, many choose to ignore these signs for one reason or another: they’re in love, their biological clock is ticking, or they think that they can change that person. They talk themselves into contuing with the engagement and make a decision to ignore these warning signs, and can assume they will be able to “fix them”.

The popular band Coldplay sings:“High up above or down below. When you’re too in love to let it go.If you never try you’ll never know Just what you’re worth. Lights will guide you home. And ignite your bones. And I will try to fix you”

Two days after my parent’s first wedding anniversary, I was born in a cold January evening in 1983 at Lenox Hill Hospital, on the upper east side of New York City.

158 miles North, in a small town of Rhode Island, an 11yr old boy was in his pajamas, probably watching Little House on the Prarie with his twin sister and younger sister by his side, getting ready for bed. Little did anyone know that this little boy and this newborn girl would grow up to fall madly in love and get married to that little boy. 

My husband and I were brought up very differently, with different backgrounds and different family lives, and at 11 years apart, we were brought up in different times. He is Generation X and I am Generation Y.

I grew up on the Upper East Side of NYC- one of the most weathly areas of NYC, if not THE most richest of the island of Manhattan.

Here’s my appartment- one of the tiny ones in the middle. Despite living in one of the most prominent sections of the city, we were essentially dirt poor. Our 400 sq ft alcove studio apartment was on rent control and my father had it from the late 70’s. It was perfect for a single guy.  What it wasn’t perfect was the growing family he and my mom created- by the time we moved to Rhode Island in 1995, there were six of us living in this tiny appartment. Despite living in this small space, I had a wonderful childhood. At age ten, I was taking the bus alone cross town to dance class- without a cell phone or any way to reach me, I’d be gone all day. This was normal. Kids grow up faster in the city. I learned to make my own spending money babysitting. I gained more independence sooner and was witness to all the good and bad that the city has to offer. I’ve been yelled at by mentally insane homeless people. I’ve been followed by and cat called by weird men… as early as the age of 8.  I learned to watch my back. It made me tough. It made me street smart. I don’t regret my interesting childhood one bit. 

By the time I moved to Rhode Island at the age of 12, my husband had lived an entire life of his own. He was finishing his first year being a RI State Trooper, he had completed four years of college and I assume he had experienced his first kiss, drink and heartache by this point.  I was still a kid, who had experienced none of this. 

Fast forward to 2007 which was the year I met my husband for the first time on a blind date.  Luckily with my husband, I didn’t have to try to talk myself into anything.  Unlike Coldplay, I didn’t feel like I needed to fix anything. I knew I wanted to be with him and there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that he was the one for me. No second guesses here. (At least on my end… you’ll have to ask him his thought process through out our engagement haha)

Yet, you really never stop trying to “fix” that other person, even if it’s subconscious.  I was 24 when I met my future husband. He was 36. I was a recent college graduate and he had already lived a longer and much more enriched life than I had… experiencing things I hadn’t had the chance to yet. There are times when he looks at me in pure astonishment and says “you really don’t know what that is?” No, dear husband,  I wasn’t even born yet. There are other times I will use current lingo and I can tell by the expression on his face that he has no idea what I’m talking about. I remember telling him a story that included me saying that someone got all “butthurt” over something and he looked at me like I was an alien. (If you’re interested in what it means, click the link). 

Everyone has baggage that they bring into a new relationship. He certainly wasn’t perfect, and neither was I. A lot had happened to both of us between 1995 and 2007. I knew he was the right person for me one night, early on in the relationship. We decided to be truthful and tell each other about our past experiences in life; both very different, yet pretty serious. We started off on the right foot: a clean slate, and we gave each other the chance to get out of there if one of us weren’t comfortable. 

We both chose to stay.

The crux of our relationship is that for better or worse, we’ve always been honest with each other about everything important. There are very few things that we give each other a break on and don’t press the issue. When he tells me he had one single beer at happy hour after work, I silently laugh inside, knowing this is probably not 100% true. But I don’t care. When I come home on a weekly basis with a new ding in my car, he doesn’t press the issue when I explain how exactly it happened. “Babe, all happened so fast, the details are confusing-  the car is still drivable and I’m ok… ” I can tell as he rolls his eyes he knows that we both know we are telling half truths, however, we know that the other one well enough to know we are ok accepting these answers.

As our wedding date approached, one piece of baggage I carried with me was the importance of him wearing his wedding ring. He works in construction now and I was ok with him taking it off for work for safety reasons. In my mind, that thing should be put inside his cup holder of his truck and immediately put back on after. My father never wore his ring and it seemed like a huge slap in the face to my mother. A sign of disrespect. I guess, in retrospect, this was clearly a “daddy issue” I need to deal with. He started off wearing it, but within weeks, it was off. It bothered me. It hurt me. Didn’t he care enough about me to show his loyalty to me to strangers while out that he had devoted himself to the love of his life? I tried to fix him. Badgering him to put it in, day in and day out.

Personally, I enjoy wearing my ring. For one, it’s gorgeous and I am absolutely in love with wearing thousands of dollars of sparkly diamonds on my hand. If you know me, I’m outgoing and a TALKER. I’ve also found it more comfortable talking to people of the opposite sex. I’d go to the bar, or most recently the gym, and have no issue striking up a conversation with a guy. The ring speaks for itself: I’m taken. This conversation is purely friendly and I’m not hitting on you. It’s a safety net for me.

It wasn’t until recently, four years until my marriage that I realized that I was never going to fix him. After multiple conversations, he explained he would rather get a tattoo on his ring finger than wear a ring. He is not a jewelry guy and doesn’t have any tattoos. He didn’t feel comfortable wearing it, and it just wasn’t who he is. He said this in the kindest way possible and it finally clicked with me. He wasn’t intentially being disrespectful- it just wasn’t who he was. It wasn’t safe for work and he didn’t want to lose it,and felt uncomfortable wearing it. He reminded me that he respected me and our marriage and  admitted that when he was out at Happy Hour, he mostly discussed our family with his friends. 

I finally got it. I trust him and finally stopped taking it so personaly. I stopped trying to fix him. I trust him and I realized that ring or no ring, we are a team… and we always will be.

And that’s enough for me. 

PS. 10yr Anniversary date at the tattoo parlor is set ūüėŹ

The Lies I Tell

My kids love hearing all about how “when they were babies”. ¬†They often ask at bedtime for me to tell them¬†the story of the day they were born. I snuggle up next to them and tell them each a beautiful story of how one day, after being in my tummy for a long time, they said “It’s time to come out!” and started kicking my belly. ¬†Mommy & daddy headed to the hospital¬†and the doctor took them out and we all were so happy! They both were pink round chunky little turkeys and they giggled as soon as we saw them. ¬†Then, they cuddled up next to us for the rest of the day and cooed and smiled as all of our family came to meet them for the first time. ¬† They were perfect and the cutest little things I had ever seen. ¬†I tell them¬†both that each day they were brought into this world were both¬†the best day of my life. ¬†The thing is, the only good thing that actually¬†happened¬†on either of those days for me was that we added them to our family. Each time I tell this story, I’m telling them a long, concocted LIE.¬† Truth be told, I love the fact that they were born, but I hate both of the days that they entered this world.

My youngest child turned three this week. At thirteen months apart, I’m now living with a full fledged three and four year old. They aren’t toddlers anymore, they aren’t babies. They’re preschoolers. I’m not sure how I feel about this.

Their birthdays are always a mix of emotions for me; happy to celebrate a milestone for them and yet both their births were both such terrifying experiences ¬†for me that I actually ended up having a panic attack the morning of my now three year old’s birthday. I started thinking what exactly was going on at this moment three years ago and as I then thought about my experience giving birth to my four year old (which was equally as chilling). I could feel my chest start to constrict and my body become clammy. ¬†My breathing became short little breaths and my eyes were getting blurry. Sobbing, I called my mother, who helped me calm down.

I’ve written about this before, but the long and short of it is that ¬†my first child was two weeks late. ¬†After 31 hours of labor, I ended up with a horrendous emergency c-section. ¬†My first act towards my¬†sweet newborn baby was to push him away¬†my because I was in the midst of the mother load of all panic attacks imaginable on the operating table. Instead of giving him a kiss, I literally pushed him away. ¬†My experience resulted in me being drugged up for the entire first day he was born. He ended up in the NICU 24 hours¬†later, due to irregular breathing. ¬†In retrospect, I was so drugged up that first day¬†that I realized I didn’t even attempt to feed him. ¬†I had no maternal instincts. I didn’t even want to hold him, out of fear I’d drop him. ¬†This fat¬†10¬†pound baby was probably starving, which caused him to hyperventilate. I failed him. ¬†I waived my right as a post- op patient and joined my first baby in the NICU; sleeping in a chair in his room while recovering from major surgery and an exhausting and harrowing few days.

My husband and I were inexperienced and it’s so easy now to say what we should have done. We should have asked the nurses to feed him some formula, we should have had me transported separately to the hospital where the NICU was so that I was being taken care of as well as he. We should have never let this happen. ¬†Hindsight is always 20/20.

With my second, the delivery went surprisingly well, but what followed did not. I couldn’t see over the sheet they put between mother and¬†baby, but I could see my husband’s ashen face. My child was blue, the color of the summer sky before a¬†torrential rainstorm begins. He was not healthy and he wasn’t crying. He wasn’t a chunky, pink fat baby. He was struggling to stay alive. ¬†Something was very, very wrong.

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He was later diagnosed with a genetic issue: Respiratory Distress Disorder. Simply, if you can imagine blowing up a balloon, it’s tough at first, but then gets easier the bigger the balloon gets. He was born without the¬†hormone that covers the lungs to help them expand. He was fighting to breathe, and we are lucky he didn’t end up with brain damage due to lack of oxygen. He was whisked out of the operating room¬†before I could see him. ¬†Meanwhile,¬†I was in the midst of massive hemorrhaging. I had five nurses attending to me in recovery and I didn’t care… all I could think about was my baby who I couldn’t see or even help.

I was questioned humiliating questions by the NICU rep for the hospital in front of my husband, mother and mother in law ( while still hemorrhaging and basically spread eagle in my hospital bed.

  • Did I engage in illicit drugs during my pregnancy?
  • Did I smoke cigarettes while pregnant?
  • Did I drink alcohol while pregnant?

The answers were all ¬†NO, but I could read between the lines : What did I do¬†to cause this? ¬†The weight of the guilt I felt was like holding up a 1,000lb rock above my head. ¬†I couldn’t help it. ¬† The first time I saw my sweet little baby, he was in a contraption that looked like a glass coffin to transfer him to the NICU. ¬†He was sedated and all I could do was reach my hand into a little hole in this glass coffin and tell him I loved him. ¬†It was four days before I was able to hold that precious peanut. These four days felt like four lifetimes.

Life is crazy. Life is hard. I am so thankful that they are both thriving, healthy children now, and I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I know people that may have had the perfect delivery but¬†ended up with a child much more seriously sick than mine. I know people who have watched a child of theirs¬†go through pediatric cancer treatments. In no way am I comparing my experience to anyone else’s, but mine is all I know. My story is all I can tell.

I selfishly can’t help but feel like I got handed the short stick both times. I was robbed of the first few weeks of my child’s life. I have no pictures of their first few moments. I have no happy pictures of us as a family on either day. ¬†I have very few happy memories of their birthdays. ¬†I wasn’t given the opportunity to create an immediate bond and connection with either child, and both experiences were so intense that four years later, I’m still suffering from PTSD. ¬†I’m angry because this has partly effected our plans for any future children. I’m angry that I missed out on so much. ¬†I’m angry that things were¬†so much harder than I had ever planned on them being. ¬†I’m angry over the amount of helplessness I felt in both situations. I’m angry with myself for feeling any of this at all.

I still Care

I’m hoping that one of these days, I’ll have told them each my fake version of the day they were born so many times that it will start to slowly sink into my brain; memories of the truth washed away, only to be replaced with my fairy tale that I have made up. ¬†I lie and tell myself time heals all wounds, and one day, this will all be a distant memory. ¬†I can only hope that this is true.

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30-40 Yr Old Women & Our Lonesome Lives- It’s Not Our Fault

When I was younger, people in their 30’s seemed ancient. Boring. Out of touch. Out of style and I don’t know… MOM LIKE. Maybe it was the 80’s, but if you were a mom then, no one seemed to bat an eye at the gallons of kool aid you were consuming, appeared to pay little attention to waxing their nether regions before hitting the beach, and they just seemed exhausted all the time.

All of a sudden, I’ve found myself the tornado scene in the Wizard of Oz, and instead of waking up in Oz, I woke up in my mid-thirties wondering what the hell happened because I had turned into one of those thirty something exhausted moms. Full disclaimer- I have a special bathing suit for those impromptu beach days where I can’t pack all the lunches, beach towels, drinks and bags and then take the time to tend to anything bellow. This bathing suit is nicknamed my “mom suit”. Full coverage. Super sexy.

This girl literally used to be me. Except I was probably double fisting two beers at the time.

Actually let’s be honest, I wouldn’t be hanging out with that dude to the right with the face paint and wig.  WAIT,- wait, I take that back. Wig guy may have been crucial to my beer supply at this point, purchasing cocktails for me, so this scenario is completely possible..but I digress.

{Word of advice to the boys I’m raising who will one day find themselves in this situation: don’t buy a girl a drink unless its a sure thing… 99% of the time, you’ll waste your money on cocktails like this clown shown here  only to be thanked with a handshake while the girl moves onto the guy she’s been eyeing across the bar for the past hour.} I’ve seen it done a million times, and as a poor college student, I confess to this using this stunt once or twice myself  as well. Don’t waste your money on dumb girls, no matter how hot they are. Use it for college text books.  You’ll thank me later in life when you have a lucrative career and a beautiful wife.}

I’ve danced on bar tops. My girlfriends and I have worn backless tee shirts and low-cut jeans and way too much make up with cheap boxed dyed hair.  We’ve gone out to bars with $3 in our pocket and all returned home with a full belly booze.  We were on a first name basis with the police officer at our local bar and would occasionally be able to grab a ride home from him from time to time to save our tired feet from walking the few blocks to our DC apartment, probably peppering him with ridiculous drunk inappropriate questions the entire time.  I’ve had my share of fun.

Truth be told, I actually once got pulled over in front of the most popular bar in college just at closing time for turning right on a red light near the Capitol. It was 3am and I was picking up my friends from the bar after a night of studying. I had no make up on and was literally wearing my pajamas. I completed and successfully passed a sobriety test directly in front of the bar, as every one of my entire college class drunkenly emptied the bar, laughing and pointing.

At this point, this is typically how I feel when I go out. I HAVE TURNED INTO A MOM.

And most nights, I’ve got one foot in the door to this scenario:

What happened to the “cool me”? It’s gotta be in there somewhere. Actually, I know it is.  The problem now, is that I have two adorable little munsters to take care of, and my social life has dwindled down to about the excitement Blanche Devereaux- actually who I am kidding. I’m more of a Dorothy Zbornak.

There’s an epidemic out there. This effects all women in their 30’s. & 40’s  The problem is two-fold.  For those who have children, there seems never to be a free night to escape for a “girls night” or “girls trip”.  On those rare occasions, I’m always worried about drinking too much, because everyone knows that being woken up at 6am by a fueled filled toddler demanding TV, breakfast and to construct a puzzle all before 6:30 am with a hangover is nobody’s party.

I’ve polled my fiends who do not have children, and while they may not be getting a 6am wake up call, they are surrounded by friends who used to be their go-to-gal, who are now consumed with their family and children responsibilities.  It’s a shock,  and leaves both parties feeling very lonely to be honest.  The women with kids feel locked inside their houses, and so do the non parent women, because they’ve lost their friends who they used to go out with.  As  a parent, unfortunately I have to decline a lot of invites simply because I don’t have a sitter, I’m exhausted from working full-time, breaking up toddler fights, dont have enough time to get ready, or may not want to participate in the proposed event.  Dancing at a club until 2am? Girl, first of all, I own 1763 pairs of yoga pants, have nothing to wear and your proposed depart time is typically my bedtime, please dont take it personally!  My financial situation has changed too between diapers, wipes, prescription medication for random “viruses” these kids get and daycare/pre-school tuition, even if I could go, I’d have to sneak my own flask in my purse because this mama cannot afford $12 cocktails.

It’s frustrating; and I can see if from both sides. 

Making new friends is not much easier. I feel like I am on some dating site. I recently messaged a mom I know from daycare and literally said “You seem cool…our kids get along… do you want to hang out sometime?”  Talk about awkward.  This is what my life has come to.

I recently had an old friend call me out of the blue to see what I was up to that evening. She doesn’t have kids, knew my husband had planed a night out and simply said “I’m coming over with a bottle of wine tonight after the kids go to sleep I know you can’t get out of the house but we are going to HANG OUT.”  She had no idea what this meant to me. It was so good catching up with her and having a nice “girl’s night” even if it was at home.

I’m going to start making an effort to make more plans, invite people over and actually DO SOMETHING.  My same girlfriend who came over with wine just talked to me about a weekend away… and I’m seriously considering it.  After years of sitting at home alone, I deserve some alone time WITH OTHER ADULTS.

(Gramma, Gigi, Dear Husband…. any weekend work for you for me to run away for the weekend???) I love my family and children more than anything, but mama needs a much deserved break!Mom Vacation

 

 

 

10 Life Lessons I Want My Children To Learn

PAY ATTENTION. The world has a lot of offer you. From the vast unknown out in the universe to right in your backyard. Your father has lived a very interesting and diverse life. He has so many talents to teach you if you pay attention. He’s an expert carpenter and handyman. He’s my modern-day McGyver and has a lot of tricks up his sleeve that will save you a lot of money down the line before you call a repair man. He will teach you how to install a Wood Stove, chop wood and save your future family thousands of dollars in heating bills down the line. He can fix that squeaking sound on your washing machine and even teach you how to build a deck or an entire house, if you want. He’s done it all. He also holds a degree in Business and History and can teach you in the importance of investing your money wisely, as well as how to learn from the world’s past mistakes so that we don’t repeat history. He has a vast knowledge in hunting, survival skills and raising animals on a farm. As a former police officer, he is an expert marksman and knows all the rules and regulations of the law. Ask him questions. Use him to learn, and pay attention.jeff-working

RESPECT & KINDNESS. Respect and kindness will get you farther in life than you may ever realize. Speak to authority with respect. When I got my license my father’s only advice was to be as respectful as possible to fellow drivers, and especially law enforcement. If you happen to ever get pulled over, you should always use the words “Yes Sir/Ma’am” when addressing a police officer. Same goes with teachers and anyone in an authority position, as well as  anyone are not on personal terms with, especially elders. You’ll be surprised where it gets you. 

Respect women. Always remember that “No” means “No”. Alternatively, don’t let anyone force into doing something you don’t want to do either. The first time you meet your girlfriend’s parents, make sure to offer a strong handshake, look them in the eye, and call them Sir, Ma’am or Mr. & Mrs. Wait until they correct you and invite you to call them by their personal name. Until then, stick with the formal Mr.& Mrs.  The first time I met your grandparents, they immediately stopped me in my tracks and said “Oh please, don’t be silly, call us Bev & Lou.”  Your father, on the other hand, is still calling my father Mr.Devaney, because even after ten years, he has never offered your father to call him by anything else. Life is funny. People are funny. You’ll figure out what makes people tick by using these respectful tricks, and in turn, gain their respect.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS. Even though you should be respectful to law enforcement, my father reminded me that it is your right to not give consent to let them to search your car. You have the right to refuse.  This may end you up in more trouble down the line, but you do have the right to refuse.  Your dad can help clarify this for you.  You also have the right to say no to anything at anytime to something that makes you feel uncomfortable. If you find a time where someone is doing something or speaking to you in a way that makes you feel weird, you can say NO. It’s OK. I make this promise to you…you will never get in trouble for saying no to something you don’t feel is right. Your father and I will have your back no matter what.  When you get older, and find yourself in a situation that suddenly becomes too much, I give you full authority to use me as a scapegoat. “No, I can’t smoke that pot with you… my mom will drug test me.” Make me the bad guy, I don’t care.  Then call me, and I’ll be happy to play whatever “mean mom” role you need me to play in front of your friends to get you out of that situation… I don’t care if it’s 3 in the afternoon or 2 in the morning.  I have your back. The teenage years are tough; this way you can save some face, get out of a bad situation and blame me.  (I have a secret to tell you… I don’t give a shit if your friends like me… especially any so-called friends trying to make you do something that you don’t want to do.)  While on this topic, Here is a tiny little tip… I was a teenager once as well… and my underage drug and alcohol detection skills are KILLER. Don’t believe me? Try me. Don’t forget this. Oh yea, and your dad was a cop… if you think my detection skills are on par… he is the King. I wouldn’t test us.

FAMILY LOYALTY. Your family should always be top priority; whether you are 10 years old or 56. Life goes by in the blink of an eye.  At the end, all you will have will be your family by your side. Treat them well, and they will treat you well. Stand up for your siblings. Protect your siblings. Watch out for each other in life, in school and later on in life. You will need each other at different times in life. Be there for each other, without question.  Visit family members in the hospital, send cards of encouragement and make an effort to call your parents and grandparents. One day, you will meet someone who you fall deeply in love with and decide to spend the rest of your life with. Treat them with respect and treat them kindly. They will be your best friend, your ally, and will most likely be there for you during the most difficult and elating moments of your life. Don’t spend more time working than with your family.  Your children won’t remember the times you weren’t home, but they will remember those bedtime stories you read to them, the snuggles, the hugs and the words of encouragement you offer them.  Genuinely apologize when you mess up; really mean it, and make an attempt not to do it again.  Be good to your family… even when it is hard to be. Disagreements will come and go, but the cornerstone of all relationships and family is LOVE. Always bring it back to love.

LOVE.  This is simple. Do what you love, find someone you love, act out of love, and love will come back to you. When you’re married one day, a simple act of love may be helping your spouse wash the dishes. It’s as easy as that.  I’m jumping the gun a little, and before I get away with myself , when the time comes, I’ll share some mama knowledge with you… the clich√© saying “Happy Wife, Happy Life” is true. Learn to cook. I will teach you. Learn to do your own laundry. I will teach you that too… ask your wife if she needs anything from time to time. THIS, my friends is the secret to a happy marriage. Appreciating each other and helping each other out with acts of love. Do this, and you’re golden.  You will thank me one day for these words of advice.

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SELF AWARENESS. Throughout your life, you are going to continually change. I am watching my little boys play with logos, dinosaurs and trucks right now.  In a few years, you will be onto new interests… then you’ll become a teenager and have an entirely new set of interests. I look at myself, and almost don’t recognize the person I was in college. (My wise cracking sarcastic attitude was and will always remain with me), but I have little interest in the life I lived then than I do now.  It’s alright to change.  Just make sure you stay true to yourself.  Deeply ingrained in you are a set of morals and values that will lead you in the right direction. Listen to those voices, deep down inside and make sure that regardless of what your interests may be at the time, you are always following the right path.

SAFETY. I don’t have much to say in this area. This topic is complex because you are so young now, but you are growing up so quickly.  For now, don’t run in parking lots without holding my hand. Cars can’t see your tiny chubby bum and I’d hate to see something bad happen.  As you get older, protect yourself. I’m going to leave most of the Birds and the Bees to your father later on… but I’ll be on the other side of the door to make sure to interject if I feel the need to. CAR SAFETY.  This is hilarious, seeing how I am quite possibly the worst driver in the world, but actually, none of my safety tips have to do when the car is even in motion.  Maybe it’s my city upbringing, maybe it’s the fact that I am a female and girls are told these things more often than boys, or maybe I’ve seen too may mob movies…. but here is the low down with the car.  When out at a mall or shopping place, I instinctively always try to park as close to the door as possible. Your father assumes this is because I am lazy. Contrary to what he thinks, it’s a ingrained defensive mechanism within me. When you return to your car, you don’t have to walk with a million bags in your hand, in a dark mall parking lot, distracted, trying to find your car.  Exit the store, look around for any shady characters and get to your car as soon as possible.  Don’t text, don’t get distracted and pay attention. Now here is where my city girl and female upbringing is really going to sound a bit crazy. Use your common sense. Before entering the car, check the back seats. Check under the car, get in, and lock the doors. Like I’ve said, I’ve seen too many mobster movies to NOT check the backseat of my car before getting in. (I’ve also been diagnosed with Anxiety and OCD, so this may have something to do with my car routine haha)- regardless… listen to your mama and just do it please.godfather-goodfellas-scarface-560

BE A LEADER. Don’t be a follower.Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself and speak your mind. This doesn’t mean to bully people into believing your ideas, but offer them.   Don’t feel pressured to the “coolest kid”… I’ve learned after many years in High School and College that many of the “cool kids” later in life end up to be deadbeat balding men. Be your own person, a good role model, try your hardest at everything you do, and I promise you will succeed.  Believe in yourself.

REMEMBER THAT MOM & DAD HAD A LIFE BEFORE YOU. You are without a doubt, the best thing that has ever happened to us, but we weren’t the boring old parents you see now. We were silly, crazy and always had a good time.unnamed

It’s important for us to spend time together…alone; to go on dates together and spend quality time with each other. The stronger our marriage is, the stronger our family will be. And remember….we always come home after a night out… and the first thing we do is go into your rooms and kiss you goodnight. We both love you from the bottom of our hearts.

DON’T EVER FORGET HOW MUCH WE LOVE YOU. We absolutely love you from here to the moon and the back…. and we always will.moon

 

Blood Makes You Related. Loyalty Makes You Family

A tiny 6lb 12oz baby girl was born on a clear and cold winter night in January of 1983 on the Upper East side of Manhattan.  She wasn’t named until 3 days later, and was simply “Baby Girl” for the first 72 hours of her life. When it was time to leave the hospital, her father arranged a limo to pick up his wife and first child, enjoying a drive through Central Park on the way home to their 400sq ft walk up apartment building. Eventually, the tiny baby was named Alyson, and thus… this was my entrance into the world.

158 miles North, at the same time, in a small town of Rhode Island;  an 11yr old boy was in his pajamas,  with his twin sister and younger sister by his side, probably getting ready for bed and to watch The A-Team babaracus

Little did anyone know that this little boy and this newborn girl would grow up, go on a blind date and eventually decide to spend the rest of their lives together. 

I don’t remember the limo ride home, or much of my first or second year of life; but by the time my younger sister was born 22 months later, there was no limo waiting outside the hospital to bring her home.  Our family’s financial situation was not the best, and my mother, who had just given birth; walked home from the hospital in the blustery November wind, with her second baby in her arms…. back into the tiny 400sq ft walk up apartment, most likely with a cranky toddler to greet her.

My younger brother was born three years later, only to be followed by my youngest sister in 1990. No limo was there to greet them either, and as our family grew, our apartment remained the same size, and our tiny bank account remained the same as well.  If our apartment could be considered small, our bank account was minuscule. There was a while where we didn’t even own a phone.  The stress seemed to weigh heavy on my father, but my mother kept us together, shielding us from any stress she bore from raising four children and an increasingly anxious and unhappy husband.  We were on on food stamps at one point, and my entire public elementary school meals were free thanks to low income breakfast & lunch programs.  None of the children seemed to notice any of this going on, and I think if you ask anyone one of us, we’d say that we had a fantastic childhood.  As I got older and could see things from a more mature vantage point, I realized how difficult this life must have been for my parents, and I vowed to myself that I was going to live very differently  once I grew up.

Despite that limo ride, I was never my father’s favorite child. This was apparent, if not to my siblings, it certainly was to me. My parent’s didn’t get along, and maybe he saw too much of my mother in me. Maybe he thought he was helping me by pushing me too hard. Maybe it was his upbringing.  I really don’t know why, but I was different. I remember being scolded by him at a young age because my sister was having difficultly reading. He angrily said “This is your fault. If you would let her watch more Sesame Street like you had the opportunity to, she would be farther ahead.”  I was probably six years old.  He was dead serious.  Another time, I brought home a test as the same time my sister did one day… mine was scored a 98%. He looked at it and eyed me with a look of disgust “Where did the other 2 points go?”  That was it.  My sister had a piece of homework with a 75% on it, and I vividly remember him praising her for working so hard and doing such a great job. This all seemed normal to me.

 I was one of three students on the “Distinguished Honor Roll” one semester senior year of high school.  One of the other recipients was Valedictorian of our class. I had stellar grades and was set up to get into any college I wanted. I was a very good student but most definitely not a math wiz.  Math is my demise. At the last minute, he demanded I use my Elective Class (which could have been art, gym or home economics) and take Pre-Calculus, or else he would refuse to pay for my college education. I failed it- for the first time in my educational career, I failed a class. I failed that entire semester. As I applied for colleges, I added in my state college, which of course was my back up, and coincidentally, the first school I heard back from… denied.  Turns out they don’t accept anyone who fails a class senior year, regardless of the class or my academic standing. In retrospect, I never understood him, and I guess I never will. 

I recently found a box with old letters and photos in my basement that I had saved.  As I went through it, I found quite a hilarious and yet sweet letter I had written my father when he was on a business trip one time. I had asked for a typewriter for my 10th birthday (I’m not sure what 10 year old asks for this, but maybe a bit of foreshadowing seeing as I am sitting here writing now). I also don’t know where my parents got the money to pay for it.  Either way, this letter showed me the innocent child I was at that time and it also shockingly reminded me of the great affection I had for my father during this time of my life.  I was always trying to impress him, to be better for him.  Being as this is dated a week after my birthday, I can assume this was my fist “formal letter” I wrote.letter

I wonder how that we went from where that letter was to where we are now.  20 years later, I ran into my dad at a bar a just few months ago.  I have seen just a handful of times in the past 15 years and talked to him about the same amount of times… and we live 10 miles apart.  I let him walk me down the aisle at my wedding, and he visited both of my babies in the hospital the day they were each born.  Since then, I have spent a few years in therapy and have seen him with one of the kids once of twice. He sees them so infrequently, he can’t even tell them apart and called my son the wrong name when we ran into him at the pharmacy one time.   He doesn’t call, he doesn’t ask to come see the children, and he isn’t interested in what is going on in my life. Have I done something wrong?  Am I not the child in this situation?? I am not going to beg someone to come see his grandchildren if they are not interested.

As I walked into the bar that evening, I immediately saw all 6’4′ of him, sitting at the bar with a cowboy hat on, sipping on a beer and talking to the bartender, who was coincidentally my brother. As soon as I saw him, I tried to turn around and leave but it was too late. He had already seen my friend and I. I said hello, sat down next to him and excused myself to go to the restroom. Upon my return he was finishing up a story which sounded like a run down of my siblings and what they were up to and how proud he was of them. I caught the end of one of my sister’s stories and he actually used the word “Impressed” and “Proud”.  Now that I was back at the bar, he stopped, chuckled and then started a sentence that began “And now we come to Alyson… let me tell you what her problem is….”  He went on for an hour.  How I had disappointed him, turned into someone else, was a bad mother and was leaving my children in care of strangers at daycare while I went to work and went on and on… and on.  I walked out of that bar that evening and vowed NEVER TO SPEAK TO HIM AGAIN.  I don’t need that sort of negativity in my life. My father is welcome to see my children anytime he wants. I would never stop him from creating a relationship with them.  The thing is, he’s never asked once.

WHAT IS FAMILY? I’ll tell you what family is.  Family doesn’t mean blood related.  You may be my father, but you aren’t my dad.  Family is your tribe.  Your friends and family, your spouse, those who treat you with the respect you deserve and raise you up instead of tearing you down.  I don’t have many friends, but those I do, I cherish. These are the people who will love you no matter what… and won’t throw your mistakes in your face later on.  I am grateful everyday to have married into such a wonderful, loving family.  Not everyone has that, and I feel privileged to know and be related to such wonderful people.  My mother has married a great guy who serves as a wonderful role model for my children as Grandfather.

I decided to drop all the drama a long time ago, to surround myself with only positive people and to stand up to anyone who is putting me down. I don’t owe anyone anything. I need to take care of ME.  I am my own best advocate. It’s taken me thirty years to figure it out…. but ask me now where those other two points went, and I’ll tell you exactly where you can put them.

No Mas, bitches.

allowed

 

Shame On Us: The Impossible Journey of a Working Mother

Let me tell you a story. A story that has me so angry on so many levels that I am not sure I’m going to be able to get this out without writing expletives on every other line, but I’ll try.

Meet Julia. Julia worked her ass off to put herself through business school. She took out a massive amount of student loans and commuted to Boston from her home, 60 miles south, in Rhode Island, every day for her first job.

Her first job was tough. She worked for a Hedge Fund company and the hours were long and the work was intense. She worked harder than she ever had before to prove herself and gave them her all. Her entire first year out of school was spent schlepping around the country for work. Practically living in airports, she was lucky she was dating a nice guy who understood her insane hours. Julia and Tom eventually got married and it took her two years before she realized that her current place of employment wasn’t jiving with her family plans. 

“You Can’t Have a Family” was practically written in their company handbook. Maybe not in ink, but it was made pretty clear by their expectations and the hours she was required to work. As she took a quick look around at the perpetually single and happily married but child-less co-workers who surrounded her, she knew that if she wanted to have children, she would need to change firms.

Julia moved onto greener pastures and found the perfect fit- a firm that was comprised of all women. It was everything she had been looking for: a place filled with strong working women, moms and wives who understood the daily struggle it is to be a woman in a man’s world. When she got pregnant shortly after starting there, they congratulated her and threw her an office baby shower. As her pregnancy progressed and her doctor appointments became more frequent, they understood; they too had been there at one time. She managed to fit her appointments in and made it through the calendar year without one sick day. Julia felt lucky to work in such a great working environment. She continued to pull her weight as a productive member of the team and earned the highest bonus in the company, while simultaneously preparing her home to welcome her much anticipated little bundle of joy. 

 She never slowed down and continued to work hard, even raking in one of the company’s biggest clients the week prior to her due date. Julia fully recognized that she was one of the lucky ones when she began her twelve week paid maternity leave when baby boy  arrived two days early.

Dylan was beautiful, even more perfect than Julia had imagined him being. Julia and Tom spent her maternity leave soaking up squishy baby cuddles and visiting local daycares. They enrolled Dylan in one of the top daycares in their area and Julia prepared to return to work. Twelve weeks flew by in a blink of an eye.

Julia had been back at work for two weeks before she had found herself in the same shoes as many other parents: exhausted from going back to work, continuously pumping and getting little to no sleep. Her immune system was down and she had caught a cold. She shipped Dylan off to her parents and told her boss that she would work from home. By Tuesday afternoon, she had spiked 102 fever and was diagnosed with strep throat and an upper respiratory infection. Julia was forced to take another sick day on Wednesday. She had been back at work for three weeks and had taken 2 sick days back to back , with one day working from home. 

Julia often worked from home prior to having the baby, but somehow, this time was different. Her phone didn’t ring once. No one from her office emailed her. Communication went dead. They were icing her out. Still sick as a dog Thursday morning, she knew something was up and she was going to have to go in to the office.

“We see that you are struggling Julia, and we want to help you out. We love you and we want to make you shine, but you are having a hard time and you are making yourself sick.” Julia’s boss explained, feigning a concerned tone. “We would like you to move to working as a consultant per diem. We have certain expectations of you now that you are mom, and simply put, you aren’t meeting them.”

“I wish someone did this for me, its sooo hard being a working mom. You know how much we love you, and we are doing this for you.” Some bitch, (obviously meant to be in the meeting as a witness) chirped. No one mentioned the fact that they had hired someone else while Julia was on maternity leave. “You will see this move as a gift, not as a punishment.”

“Yes,” Her boss interrupted, “I know this will be a big pay cut, but since you earned such a big raise last year, going per diem shouldn’t effect you so much. Think of all the money you will be saving on daycare now, too! We are doing you a favor.”

For Fuck’s Sake. Were these women for real? Had Julia had a streak of bad luck? Yes. She most certainly had, but she hadn’t even been back at work for 3 full weeks! Not only were they demoting her, but they were selling it to her like they were doing her a fucking favor. Shame on them. Julia sat there in silence, with a pounding headache and a sore throat, as she listened to these women feed her line after line of bullshit. 

Julia had a perfect record working in this company up until this point, and the fact that they escalated things so quickly after her coming back seems a little more than unfair. I have more issue with the fact that they pretended this was in her best interest than the actual fact that they demoted her. They planted the seed in her head that not only was she failing as a new mother, but also as a working mother. If she wasn’t able to handle one baby and work, how was she ever going to think about adding any additional children to her family? Her confidence immediately  plummeted the more they continued to talk. She left the meeting feeling emotionally exhausted, defeated, and like a piece of shit. Her self worth, both as a mother and a working woman had been attacked, and her psyche had been severely screwed with.

I’m all for gender equality, and I am all for having a solid work ethic and what is expected from employees in a professional setting.  All that being said, I question if this conversation would have occurred at all if Julia was a man. I severely doubt it. I have heard story after story of working women being considered a sub-par employee once they have children. I have seen it and lived it. I’ll admit it; It’s almost impossible to give 100% at work and at home. I spend the most time I can during work hours with clients, only to race to pick up my children from pre-school and daycare, make dinner, give baths, read books, cuddle and put them to bed.  Once I pickup the house after everyone has gone to bed, I pull out my lap top and get BACK to work. Ask any of my clients or co-workers. They’ve received an email or finalized documents at 12:35am in the morning from me.

The chips are stacked against us women. I’m not a man-hater, I’m just stating the facts. If Julia was a man, she wouldn’t have been on maternity leave in the first place. This is something that no one can control. Men are simply not equipped by nature to give birth, and therefore, this honor falls on our shoulders. 

 If Julia was a man, she would have not only been the target of such an attack, but I also firmly believe that if the bosses in this scenario were men, such personal issues wouldn’t have been brought into what should have been a business conversation in the first place. 

Fine, you don’t think I’m doing the job I should be? Demote me. Fire me, even. That’s fair. Don’t insult me by telling me you care about me and are doing me a favor. Why do women always feel the need to bring personal issues into business related material?

So, on some level, this story is made worse for me because her bosses are fucking women. They should know better. They should know that it takes some time for adjustment going back to work after having a baby, and getting sick is especially something that you cannot control. 

Julia is a perfect example of all that is wrong with the way the United States views new mothers and maternity leave. I have discussed the Glass Ceiling in previous posts, and this is a prime example of why it is virtually impossible for mothers to excel in the workplace. Working and managing a family, especially living with a newborn is not easy. Julia was set up to fail from the moment her FLMA leave time expired. 12 weeks is not enough time to spend at home with your new baby and adjust to your new “normal”. At 12 weeks old, Dylan had just started to wake up from his “newborn slumber” and was starting to become pretty fun as he became aware of the world around him. He was beginning to respond to Julia and Tom and his social smiles were more frequent now. Parenting had just begun to become more rewarding, and Julia watched as Dylan grew leaps and bounds both mentally and physically as each day went by.  Despite this exciting time, Julia was still exhausted; she was breast feeding and pumping every four hours and Dylan was still waking up three to four times a night. She hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in months. 

 At 12 weeks, your baby still needs you just as much as the day it was born and yet, some political genius out there thought that 12 short weeks all the time you needed to bond with your child before shipping them off into someone else’s care and heading back to the work force- not to mention that it’s not mandatory for your employer to pay you while you’re on maternity leave. I took the maximum 16 weeks I could when my second baby was born sick. I lost out on a quarter of my salary that year, not to mention the potential commission I lost because I work in sales and missed meeting with clients.

Unless you are blessed with available family, your child will spend their time with a stranger at a daycare, as you get a collective four hours of (non-consecutive) sleep a night and are expected to function like normal human being at work.

Shame on these women, shame on this broken system, and shame on us for allowing this sort of thing to continue in the United States. Turn the news on and all you will hear are politicians preaching about job reform, employment rates, and making sure that our economy grows. It’s never going to happen if we can’t address this glaring issue within our society. THINGS NEED TO CHANGE. We are living in 2017, not 1955. We are drastically behind on the times, and it’s embarrassing. Don’t kid yourself, this issue does not just effect women, it’s effecting everyone. 

Like mine, Julia’s  entire family’s income changed overnight, adding stress to her and her husband, and with the increased costs a child presents to their family, you can bet your bottom dollar they are going to be contributing less to the economy. The single guy working at the local restaurant that Julia and Tom frequent is now going to be out a few extra dollars since they won’t be in as often. The owner of that restaurant has lost two customers for the time being, and the person who supplies that restaurant’s produce has just received a slightly smaller order for this week. You may not think that this effects you, but it does. It trickles down to everyone. For being the most “powerful country in the world”, it’s deplorable that we haven’t figured out a better way to handle maternity leave and working mothers in a better way.

Let’s do something to change this. Start with Julia’s story and be inspired. Don’t let this happen to your family or someone you know, but the sad reality is that it probably already has.

And simply because I didn’t get to use enough profanity as I had hoped to in this point, let me close with offering those two ladies a big FUCK YOU on behalf of Julia and all the other working mothers and families out there.

A Woman To Remember

It’s funny how life works out. Sometimes something tragic can turn into the biggest blessing. Today marks the 15th Anniversary of my grandmother’s passing. Born in 1921, she would have been 96 today. She lived through the Great Depression and was in her twenties when brave soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. She witnessed the Atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagaski a year later. 

She raised four children: 3 boys and 1 girl;  as television sets entered American homes, JFK was shot, the first man landed on the moon, and Martin Luther King Jr was killed. She survived the 60’s with teenagers, and was either cool enough (or clueless enough) to let her 17 and 13 year old attend Woodstock. (Her 11yr old begged to go but she said he could go “next year”). 


Reverting back to how a tragic situation can sometimes turn into a blessing is that my Grandmother, Grace Strachan; a young girl in her twenties before all of this, was engaged to one of those brave boys who went to war to defend our country. She was broken hearted I’m sure, when he did not return. This young man, who I do not know by name, changed the course of my life. He gave up his, defending our country and led my grandmother onto a different path. Without this sad course of events, I would not be here. There would be no 4 children to raise, and no one to debate over concerts with in 1969.

My Grandmother graduated from Mt.Holyoke College in 1943. This single fact is amazing. At the time, 3.8% of the American women were college educated. Can you believe that?! Throughout her time in college, until the day she died; she served as Class President. She met and married a college educated Dentist (who had also served in WWII), a decent and sweet man, who swept her off her feet and gave her the new last name of Arnold. From then on, they were Johnnie & Gracie- inseparable.


Despite her college education, my grandmother was a proud housewife, who was happy to stay at home to raise her four children…. and discipline them when they needed it, as well. 

A favorite family story is that when my uncle John was in jr high and Uncle Bob was still in elementary school, they had walked to the Jr High to see a basketball game. On their way home, John & Bob, and a few friends started some mischief with grocery carts at the parking lot of the grocery store. When the cops came all the older boys got away and the little 5th grader Bob got his ass hauled to the Police Department. They called my grandmother, who went right down and without any explanation went right in and smacked the crap out of Bob. When the Chief tried to explain the situation, she asked to use the phone. She called my grandfather who was home with John, who had innocently just walked in the door. My badass grandmother told her husband to tell John to wait for her… and to take his glasses off. She meant business. She promptly went home and clobbered him for leaving his little brother on top of causing mischief. As a mother, she didn’t take any shit. 
We recently found a letter, dated midnight in the winter of 1966, written by my grandmother, after arriving home to a mess in the kitchen.

To the Waldorf! Good for her. As a New Jersey native, she knew where to go, and how to make a point. I’m pretty sure she didn’t find the kitchen in such disarray again.

She taught my mother to be a lady, yet to stand up for herself. My mother is a phenomenal cook and baker; trades she both learned from her parents. As the only girl, my mother had a special bond with my grandmother. I know that to this day, there isn’t a day that goes by that my mom doesn’t think about her, or want to share something with her. My mother is married to a wonderful man. An avid golfer (just like my grandparents), he treats my mother with the respect and affection that she deserves. He takes care of her and is a true gentleman. After a tough marriage with my father, I wish often that my grandparents could see how happy my mom is now. Then again, there is a part of me that knows that they know- cardinals frequent their yard and I have no doubt they are looking down, smiling at how happy my mother is right now.

I met my Grandmother in 1983, the year I was born. The first grandchild, she was over the moon. I think of how much technology has changed since then and now. My children Facetime my mother on a daily basis and we live 10mi apart. In the early 80’s, she was lucky if she got a photograph from time to time. 

As time went by, she watched her family grow, and was not only the mother of four, but grandmother of twelve. Every single one of us were the apple of her eye- even my two cousins who joined our family when we were little and not blood related to us. She adored  us all and we all loved her.

I was the first grandchild to meet my grandmother, and the last grandchild to see her before she passed. I was living in Washington DC in college at the time and she stopped by with my grandfather and uncle on their way to Florida. I could tell she wasn’t herself. She barely ate at lunch and seemed out of it. I recall calling my mother after our visit to tell her that I was worried.

They made their way to Florida, and as the story goes, for three nights in a row, while she and my grandfather laid in bed, she made a point to tell him that the past fifty years of her life (yes they had been married 50+ years) had been the best of her life and she loved him more than words would say. She repeated this each evening. She knew the end was coming. She passed on that fourth day, after my grandfather had taken her to get her hair done. It was the right time for her. She died looking fabulous and telling her husband she loved him. She was a gem; a diamond actually. SHE WAS THE BEST.

15 years have flown by, and yet I still feel her presence. She is out there, watching over us all. I know she’s waiting for us. Until then, Gramma, you will forever be in my heart.