The Reconnect

I have been visiting with My Former Life these last few days.  Going back through my stories of various people and places, wrapping them about myself like a warm blanket to keep me company.  It is comforting to me to reconnect with people who were so incredibly significant in my life at a certain moment in time.  In some cases, it is the only place possible to do so.

In other cases, this blog has motivated me to reconnect with people from my past.  I’ve done so most recently with one of my former high school teachers.  Mr. V.  He was probably my most significant influence during my senior year of high school.  A year so full of torment and drama that I actually attempted suicide a week before Christmas that year.

To be honest, if it weren’t for Mr. V, things could have gone very differently for me during my final year of high school.

His class was a favorite of pretty much every student in it.  To earn his praise was the highest form of compliment, and earned you respect from every student in it:  even those who didn’t care much about school cared what Mr. V thought.  He pushed us.  He was tough, had high standards.

But he also cared.  You knew he cared.  You knew he was paying attention.

He was one of the first adults in my life outside of my family to truly believe in me.  I take that back, there were probably a great many that did.  There was something about his method, his way of letting me know that:  through quiet comments in my papers or my journal, through conversations after school, through his lessons that not only taught us about prepositions and sentence structure but about life.  His affirmation, his respect, when everyone around us respected him so highly, was huge.  It made a difference.  It put me on a different path.  He helped me finally start sowing the seeds of my own self confidence and belief.

Someone had mentioned him in passing on my Facebook page and I thought about him again.  I did a quick internet search and it wasn’t long before I found his Facebook profile, full of the same passion and energy about world events and life that he gave to us in class.  I thought about it for about twelve hours and then in a fit of reckless abandon, I sent a Friend Request.

I immediately regretted it, but somehow couldn’t pull it back.  I didn’t see any mutual friends in his friends listing, so I worried.  He probably didn’t accept former students into his circle.  Was it weird to think that he would remember me?  That he wondered where my life had taken me?  What if he didn’t accept it?

Days passed by and my fears seemed to be coming to fruition.  Nothing.  No acceptance.  I resigned myself to understanding that I wasn’t that different from every other student.  He might have been a standout for me, but after thirty years of teaching it was foolish for me to think I’d been a standout to him, who had taught thousands of kids, all with struggles and challenges of their own.  I wasn’t that different.  I wasn’t special.

And then, four days later, the notice came.  He’d accepted my request.

Just like that, reconnected.  With someone who made such a difference in my life whom I have always wondered about in the twenty six years since.  Reconnected.  Knowing all of the unknowns.  Knowing that he did remember me, that I made a difference, somehow to him too, all those years ago.

I’ve been enjoying my walk backwards these last few days.  Back through time.  It’ll pass, as it always does, but for now?  Having that one more piece of my lost puzzle of my former life back in place?  It’s priceless.

600 Posts

I started this blog nearly five years ago, in January 2010.  I was approaching my 40th birthday and I felt adrift.   How did I end up here, I often thought.  Who am I and how did I become this person?  I would find myself talking to myself in the mirror, having the conversations that I couldn’t have with another single soul on earth.

Then I started this blog.  This blog helped me.  Helped me figure out, if not the answers to those questions, at least find some peace in the journey I’ve been on.  When I look back on the way I felt then, the sadness that often permeated my days, the insecurity I felt, it is nearly embarrassing.  I’m not that person anymore.  I’m not the person who needs others for validation, for them to like her.  Who needs to always know everyone’s opinion of her and change it if it is negative.

Some of that is age, but some of that is the introspection this space has allowed me.

I journeyed through time here, taking the time to sort through the stories of my past.  For most of my life, I’ve felt like a victim of the tragedies that have befallen me, the rotten luck I’ve had or the lack of closure I’ve felt.  I don’t feel like a victim anymore.  I feel strong.  I feel like a fighter.  I feel like someone who has taken the blows and come back swinging.

I was able to meet again the characters that lived in my past, in my head, in the stories I told myself late at night.  And in some cases, upon reexamining those long ago events, I discovered that I wasn’t, in fact, blameless for the mishaps that befell me.  It wasn’t always my dumb luck or the world out to get me.  Sometimes it was me, and my own actions that brought about this thing or that.  Not an easy pill to swallow.

It’s been years since I finished writing my life story, one memory at a time.  I still keep this blog, to write in sometimes.  But mostly it is like a warm blanket I can wrap myself in when I need it.  If I want to go back in time, all I need to do is click a few times and suddenly there I am, in a room with my son’s father again.  I can give myself permission to love him again, to think about the funny way he used to smile or the way he would visit me at the drive through window when I worked at Burger King, his car spewing oil smoke so thick my coworkers would shoo him away.  It is 1988 again, and I haven’t made all the mistakes yet.  I’m in love, and I’m happy, and the world is my oyster.

Or it is 1992, and I’m in a hospital room with my mother.  I can allow myself to remember not only the beauty of caring for her while she was ill, but also the hard parts, the angry parts, the parts where we argued.  It’s OK for me to remember that it was a hard thing to do, to care for her alone in addition to my 2 year old son.  I’m there again, remembering the nights we cried together before she died.

Or it is 1999 all over again, and I’m standing backstage at a Rick Springfield concert.  He is telling me that he wants me to work for him.  I’m scared and excited and sweaty and not sure how I will be able to do this, and I’m also trying to quiet the thirteen year old girl screaming inside my head.  It hasn’t gone south yet.  It’s still fun.  It’s still amazing.  He still looks at me like I’m the best thing for his career that he is trying to reignite.

Or it is 2004 and my beautiful blond boy, my silent, stormy, sweet boy hasn’t been diagnosed yet.  There’s still hope, there is still the idea that maybe we are just like everyone else.  Even though I know we’re not.  Even though I am already hoping someone will tell me what to do with this child to fix him.  Because for every problem, I think, there is a solution.  There’s a problem, and you fix it.  That’s how life is.  Right?

Going back through my blog here allows me, even just for a moment, to imagine.  To dream.  To allow myself the fantasy of the paths that I didn’t end up traveling.  But it also gives me the thing that I wanted, always.  It gives me peace.  It lets me know that I made these choices.  I wasn’t a victim.  I was an active participant.  For each thing that happened to me, I reacted.  I chose.  I forged a path.  I decided what came next.

It hasn’t been an easy journey.  But it has been my journey.  And all in all, even with all of the pain and the heartache and anger and sadness, there has also been joy.  And truth.  And discovery.  I know who I am now.  I used to need someone else to tell me, to validate me, to let me know that I was good, smart, strong.  I don’t need anyone else to tell me those things now.

Because I know.  600 posts later, I know who I am.

Why I Felt Robin Williams’ Loss So Deeply

A lot of my friends are talking about Robin Williams today.  They’re all talking about the sadness, the loss,the iconic man that he was, a man who made others happy but couldn’t do so for himself.  Many of us are commenting on how this celebrity passing is touching us in a way others haven’t.  Sure, Michael Jackson was a major influence that we all grew up with too; but there’s something about Robin Williams, the depth and breadth of his work and talent that has made us all feel like we’ve lost a family member. 

I feel it too, though quite likely for reasons that very few of my friends would understand, and one that I don’t really ever talk about.  Sure, Dead Poets’ Society is one of my favorite movies, a huge reason why I ended up becoming a teacher (the idea that I could change one, even just one students’ life in the way Mr. Keating did….).  But it wasn’t that movie in Robin Williams’ filmography that made the most impact on me and my life.  It wasn’t Good Will Hunting or Patch Adams or Good Morning Vietnam, although I loved all of those movies. 

It was The Birdcage.

I know, right?  How could that be the most impactful of his entire body of work?  The hilarious comedy about a gay couple and their son and the frantic antics they engage in to pull off the son’s marriage into a conservative family. 

I’ll tell you why.  Because I’m the child of a gay man. 

That’s right.  I don’t say it out loud that much.  It’s not that I am ashamed of it.  It is just that we never, ever really talked about it when I was growing up.  My parents got divorced in 1977.  I was seven.  I found out later it was because my mother, who had long suspected my father was having an affair, had her suspicions confirmed.  He was indeed sleeping with someone else.  Only it wasn’t another woman.  It was a man. 

The world was very, very different in 1977.  My parents never told us that my father was gay.  When my father moved in with another man we were told it was because they were going to be roommates.  They maintained separate bedrooms.  I actually found out about my father from my sister, who let it slip one day while she was talking to a girlfriend within my earshot.  I think I was 12. 

There were no gay people on TV then.  People weren’t talking about gay pride back then (at least not that I knew about).  Gay people were stigmatized.  My father and his partner maintained separate bedrooms all throughout my teens, and while it eventually became clear to my father that we all knew about him and Steve, it was something we simply did not discuss.  They were not “obvious” and Steve hardly ever came to any family functions.  They were both firmly in the closet at their respective jobs.  I didn’t tell anyone but my very closest friends about my father.  It was like a shameful secret.

The Birdcage came out in 1996, the same year I got married.   And in it, for the first time, I saw so much of my life depicted.  The awkwardness of having to explain your father and his “friend”.  The impulse to lie because it just is easier.  The anger and frustration that you feel when you realize people can really just be jerks.  That being a kid of a gay person does not mean you are destined to be gay yourself.  And the slow realization that these two people, these are just people in love just like anyone else.  My father and his partner are more married than many heterosexual couples I know, even though they are not legally allowed to marry. 

The Birdcage took all of the crazy stereotypes that people have about gay couples and truly just turned them on their ears.  Through Robin Williams wit and comedy, that movie made even truly conservative people stop and think about their prejudices about gay people.  By going to the most crazy level of stereotypes about gays and transgenders, he showed that in the end, there are a lot more similarities than differences.  That moment when Calista Flockheart says in a choked voice, “I really would have loved to have been part of your family.”  Because gay or straight, at the end of the day, that three person unit was just that.  A family.   Something to be proud of, not ashamed of.

And now, nearly 20 years later, the world is a very different place.  In 1996, my father’s partner wouldn’t attend my wedding, no matter how much I begged, because he didn’t want to be a spectacle.  Last year, he attended my son’s wedding and my father proudly introduced him as his partner.  The world is changing, for the better.  We still have a long way to go.  But we’re headed in the right direction. 

So when I think of Robin Williams and his direct influence on my life, I think of the Birdcage.  And I thank him for finally showing me and the world that being the child of a gay person isn’t something to keep a secret.  My family may look different than yours, but that doesn’t make it wrong.  It just makes it different.  And if someone can’t accept that? 

To quote Armand Coleman:  Yes, I wear foundation. Yes, I live with a man. Yes, I’m a middle- aged fag. But I know who I am, Val. It took me twenty years to get here, and I’m not gonna let some idiot senator destroy that. Fuck the senator, I don’t give a damn what he thinks.”

Rest In Peace Robin Williams.  I hope you find some measure of the peace you were able to give me through your gifts. 

Currently…

I am having so much trouble finding things to write about in this space.  I think the problem is because I started this blog telling stories about big events, that I look at it in that vein.  There just aren’t a lot of big things (except for my impending grandmotherhood, which is still impending and not here yet) going on day to day for me these days.  I still haven’t gotten the knack of transitioning this space into a stream of consciousness, write about daily life, whatever strikes my fancy type of place.

But in my fitness blogging, I came across a blogger who had put some writing prompts out.  Maybe that’s what I’ll try for now, until I get my footing of writing about my current days, even when nothing seems like a big enough deal to write about.

So, thanks to Running with Spoons for this blog prompt. 🙂

Current book:  None.  I’ve been so terrible about reading anymore.  I am in a book club, of sorts, but we hardly ever choose books to read and we get together, if we’re lucky, twice a year.  The real readers who were the impetus behind the group forming have all moved away, and now it’s really just a social thing.  I don’t have a lot of time to read these days either, so most of what I am reading amounts to blogs on the internet.  And reading is one of the things I love!  OY!  Must find a book and time to read it.

Current music: I just downloaded a few new tunes for my race playlist:  Peace by OAR, Glowing by The Script, Classic by MKTO and Ain’t it Fun by Paramore.  I’m actually paying more attention to current music because of my bootcamp classes.  Before I was filling my playlist with slow, angsty music that really didn’t do much to get me moving.

Current guilty pleasure:  Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.  I liked me my OC girls and my NYC ones but never got into the truly over the top BH ladies until this season.  Now I’m freakin’ hooked.  Dammit.

Current nail color:  clear and chipping.  With the amount of work I do on the computer my nails never really can get very long; they’re right on the edge at this point.  I go in phases with the nails.  I bite, they get short, I get a manicure, I like the way they look and feel, they grow.  Rinse, repeat.

Current drink:  fruit flavored tea.  I’m back on the weight loss train and trying to fill my belly in the afternoons with something other than plain water.  Also helps with the bone chilling cold here in the northeast.  Peach is really my favorite right now. 🙂

Current food:  my newest favorite thing that I’m eating is tortilla pizza for lunch.  It’s easy, you can put anything on it, and it’s healthy.  Feels somehow more filling than a salad, but that could be my salad bias.  Somehow salads just make me mentally go blech.  I eat them but they are never my first choice.

Current obsession:  started my half marathon training today.  Yes, you read that right.  Me, who has never been athletic in her life, has signed up for a half marathon after two and a half years of dragging my slow self through 5Ks and 10Ks.  It’s the next logical step for me.  I know I’ll never be a fast runner, but for me it’s about completion.  Not many people run, and even fewer complete much more than 5 miles on a regular basis, so I really want to reach this milestone.  I am sure the next three months will be spent researching, talking about it, reading about it, and generally annoying the crap out of everyone about it.

Current wish:  that my grandbaby would get here!  My daughter in law is due on Friday and the waiting is killing me!  I’d like to travel to be there if at all possible, and the logistics of that get dicier every day with having my two younger kids involved in all sorts of activities.  So I’m hoping for a safe, healthy delivery sooner rather than later.

Current triumph:  seriously cutting back on my wine habit.  I was drinking 2+ glasses a night, more on the weekends.  I managed last week to drink only 2 glasses on two days out of the seven.  That was a big deal!

Current bane of my existence:  teenage girl drama.  My daughter is truly testing my patience.  I want to love her and share things with her and she is truly unpleasant to be around these days.  It’s so hard to figure out how you can love someone so much and still dislike their behavior so intensely.

Current indulgence:  new iPhone.  Best Buy was having a deal where you basically turned in your 4s and they gave you a 5s for free.  I wasn’t sure I needed one but now I’m very glad to have a spiffy new phone. 🙂

Current procrastination:  finalizing sponsors for the 5K I plan.  We have to close them out asap and I haaaaaaaate approaching people for money.  Hate it.  But it’s so necessary to making the race successful.  I have two more to deal with and six days to do it.  Must not put off any longer.

Current blessing:  work!  I have more and more website jobs which i am truly excited about.  I love the work and I’m learning something new with each project.  Also, money.

Current excitement:  grandbaby!!!!!  Can’t wait to know if it is a boy or a girl, what its name is, what he/she looks like, and hold the baby!  I can’t wait!

Current mood:  content.  Other than the teenage girl drama, things are going well right now for us.

Current link:  MyFitnessPal.  With me trying to lose weight again, this is my most used link these days.

So that’s where I am currently. 🙂

Baby Watch

Well, it’s finally time.  Well not quite time, but close to time.  Close enough that it’s getting all very real in my head:  I will be a grandmother in a few days, a few weeks at the most.  Could be two days, could be twelve, but it’s not going to be likely too much longer than that.  I still can’t quite wrap my head around it, but it doesn’t matter, because regardless of where my headspace is at, this is happening.

At first, when “the kids” announced my daughter in law’s pregnancy to me, I was hesitant for them.  They should have waited, they needed more time.  More time to be young, to be a married couple, to enjoy life.  I suppose this was in some ways practical, but in other ways totally reactionary:  I became a mother at age 18.  I know first hand how much that altered my course, how difficult some things became.

But they’re not 18.  They’re 24 and 25.  They aren’t in school, they’re well beyond college and working.  They’re not living at home with a parent, they’re married and on their own.

As the months have progressed and I’ve watched my son’s baby become a visible presence, I’ve kind of marveled at how mature he is.  How much he’s grown up, while still retaining his youth and fun and whimsy.  He’s a kid at heart, but he’s also a 24 year old adult, and he’s acting like one.  He’s saved, scrimped and prepared for this moment.  They have planned and set up their life to be ready for this baby.  Everything is in place.  They have read, they have researched and they have done everything they can do ahead of having the child to be prepared.  They’re ready.

Even if I’m not quite all there yet, they most definitely are.  And I’m kind of awed and amazed by it.

So this morning, my daughter in law sends me a text.  I knew she was going to the doctor today  and they would “check” her to see if she was moving along.  Last week they’d reported she’s been having contractions although she can’t feel them, so this week was the telling moment:  would we be waiting three weeks or more or not?

The text said:  “3 CM!!!!”

I know you can walk around for weeks at 3 centimeters dilated.  I’ve never personally experienced 3 cm anywhere but in a hospital, but I have heard it happens.  So it’s happening.  Could be this weekend.  Could be next week (please don’t let it happen on Monday when we’re predicted to get quite a nasty storm….and so are they).  But it doesn’t seem likely that it will be much beyond then at this rate.

My grandbaby is coming.  I (finally) can’t wait.

The End of Another Year

It’s the last day of 2013.

I haven’t chronicled much of my life in this space this year.  Having started this blog nearly four years ago with the purpose of telling my life story, bit by bit, in short remembered pieces gave it a purpose that at one point kept me blogging one post a day for months at a time.

It took me nearly two years to do it, to write down the memories that shaped who I am.  It was a crazy thing to do, and once it was over, I wasn’t sure what to do with it.  I wrote about births, deaths, illnesses, boyfriends, lovers, marriage, abuse, rape, adultery.  I wrote about my hopes and dreams, my crushes and my losses.  When I look back and read some of those posts now, it’s like revisiting that time in my life, like visiting an old friend, or an old wound.

I’m glad I did it.  I’m glad I took that journey.  Some day I’ll admit to those I know and love that I have done this, and share it.  Some day.

This year was a big and small year.  A year of big events and small steps.

In January we were still reeling from the shootings at Sandy Hook here.  When I think of that month, it still seemed so dark and raw.  The kids from Sandy Hook came to school in our town; the media were everywhere.  So was kindness and love.  A highlight was that I ran a 10K in Central Park, spending time with my husband’s cousins from Spain.

In February I quietly “celebrated” the twenty years it has been since I lost my mother.  I still am shocked that it has been so long.  Most of my friends still have their mothers, even now, twenty years later, although some friends are starting to go through that loss of losing parents now that we’re older.  I miss her still but somehow this year managed to realize I look back more with love and longing than sadness and loss.

In March my daughter took center stage.  She celebrated her 13th birthday and performed in our local school’s production of Little Women.

In April my son was married.  It was a hugely emotional event, with family and friends from near and far in attendance.  He married a woman who is as deeply religious and traditional as he is.  I wonder sometimes if his tendency towards that conservative family model is because, while he was raised most of his life in a two parent household, he knows and can never forget that he has never met his biological father.  It still is a raw wound of sadness in the back of both of our minds, but his wedding was beautiful and perfect in every way.

In May we were busy with my preparations for the race I was putting together and the kids’ school.

In June my 5K happened, the culmination of 6 months of work.  It went off without a hitch and it raised $11,000 for local charities.  It also marked the beginning of my partnership with one of the Sandy Hook family foundations.  My kids also closed out another school year and we entered into summer mode.

In July my daughter attended theater camp, winning the role of Young Fiona in a local theater company’s production of Shrek. My young son and I did summer school work at home and visited the town pool while she went to her camp.  My husband continued to travel for work.

In August my daughter had her big performance.  The day she was done our entire family joined my husband’s parents and sister for a family trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico.  It was a hot week at the beach there, and his Spanish speaking family loved it.  I felt a little lost frankly, but consoled myself with the sun and the sand.  After we returned, we visited my son and his wife in the DC area, having a nice time learning more about her family.

In September I ran in Central Park again, meeting up with my father for the weekend in the city.  The next weekend I went to visit my 90+ year old grandparents in Delaware.  My son and his wife came too and shared the news that they were expecting my first grandchild.

In October my husband traveled a great deal, being gone nearly every week.  I campaigned for a spot on our local board of education by eschewing signs and using social media only.

In November I won the BOE seat.  My daughter performed in another school drama production, “Usher”.  I continued my freelance website work that I have done all year in fits and starts.

In December we returned to Florida for our annual trip at Christmas.  We have gone in 1996, 1997, 1998, 2003, 2005-2013.  That’s pretty much our tradition now.  My son and his pretty pregnant wife also were there, as were my husband’s parents.  It was a lovely time of relaxing, reflecting and looking forward to what’s ahead.  My husband worked less than he ever has on the trip, which was a lovely surprise.  We all talked about next year there being a baby with us.  We counted our blessings and enjoyed each other’s company.

2014 will be another year of sameness coupled with some big events.  My day to day world will feel the same but much will change.  Each year I get a little more able to really appreciate all that I have and be content rather than worry about what others have that I don’t.  I’m not there yet, but I have made a lot of progress towards it.

I hope that everyone out there has something to celebrate tonight, and something to look forward to next year.  Happy New Year!

One Year

When I lay in bed this morning, in the dark quiet before the dawn, the first thing that came into my head was the song, “Seasons of Love.”

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

It’s been one year today since the awful tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.  I can still remember the day so vividly, and so many of the days afterwards.  The terror, the fear, the tragedy, right here in my own backyard.

In the past year I’ve become increasingly involved with one of the families affected by that terrible day.  I’ve gotten to to know them and am now working with them on the foundation they’ve set up to raise funds in their child’s memory.  Their spirit and ability to move forward has just astounded me.  Today, this family quietly marks the day in a tropical location far away, away from the sadness and the madness that they hoped wouldn’t happen here.  I’ve seen how this family has been able to find their son in a million tiny moments every single day.  I’ve seen how they’ve been able to truly take this tragedy and create from it a life filled with passion and love and hope for the future of others.  How they’ve surrounded themselves with energy and light instead of darkness.

The bracelets they had made for their foundation, coincidentally, have imprinted on them:  “Measure your life in love.”  As I look back on the last year, I am proud to say that I have taken that oath and brought more love, more laughter, more gratitude into my own life.  I’ve done that by working with this family, working with others, donating my time and energy.  And it has come back to me in so many ways.

Today, five thousand twenty five hundred six hundred minutes later, I am praying for all of those who measured this past year in those excruciating increments as they moved forward from unspeakable tragedy. I am hoping that everyone affected by the awful events that happened one year ago today are able to measure their lives in the love that surrounds them today, and every day. We are here for you, thinking of you, and hold you in our hearts.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, a year in the life?

How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love

Seasons of love
Seasons of love

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand journeys to plan
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?

In truths that she learned
Or in times that he cried
In bridges he burned
Or the way that she died

It’s time now, to sing out
Though the story never ends
Let’s celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends

Remember the love
(Oh, you got to, you got to remember the love)
Remember the love
(You know that love is a gift from up above)
Remember the love
(Share love, give love, spread love)
Measure in love
(Measure, measure your life in love)

Seasons of love
Seasons of love
(Measure your life, measure your life in love)

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