Hanging On

I’m still hanging on here in my little corner of the world.  Things are quiet and busy and for the most part good.  Here’s a quick sampling of the latest and greatest goings on these days:

1.  I am running for the local Board of Education (again).  I’m so much more jaded and realistic about it this time.  I know it’s all just a shell game of name recognition and party affiliation.  Our town is a red town so running as a D is tough, but doable if you have enough name recognition.  I have done a lot in town so we’ll see what happens.

(Here is where I could lapse into a huge diatribe about how this whole government shutdown is keeping me up at nights and how party and politics is stupid and why can’t people do the right thing, but I digress).

2.  My daughter is busy, busy, busy and it’s getting hard to keep up with her.  It’s a good thing, a far cry from her awful days last fall when she struggled with friends and spent a great many days alone in her room after school.  I’m loving that she’s thriving in marching band, in soccer and landed a role in the middle school fall drama.

3.  My little guy is holding his own, but isn’t doing much for activities.  At this point we’re chalking it up to needing the down time after holding himself together all day at school.  We’ve had a few alarming meltdowns recently (one, two weekends ago, was a reminder of the bad old days, with an all out screaming fit that lasted over half an hour).  I’m not going to lie, I’m a little worried for him, but staying the course.

4.  Hubby is looking to potentially switch jobs.  This is big news but likely won’t mean too much of a change for us as a family.  He’s been putting feelers out with other companies and getting some results….we will see what the next few months bring.  After being with the same company for two moves and 13 years, it seems like a big jump.  Especially since this job was the one that brought us here to CT where we knew exactly one person when we moved here.  The new positions he is looking at mean no move but lots of travel for him.  It’s not a huge change for us, and will probably be a great thing for him.  We’ll see what happens.

5.  Worried about my son and daughter in law with all of this shut down business.  My son’s job is with a private company but a lot of their work comes via the EPA so this is all getting a bit much.  They have a baby on the way and I was already worried about how they will support themselves once he/she is born.  They don’t have the luxury of throwing away their savings right now on stupid party politics.  For the love of God, I hope these idiots in the House get their shit together today.

6.  Entered a weight loss challenge from now until Thanksgiving.  I’ve been trying to lose the same 15 pounds for…gulp….two years.  Enough is enough.  Hoping this will be the wakeup call/jump start I need to finally make better choices and feel better about my body.

7.  Speaking of losing weight, it would be perfect timing because I’m finally going to see my favoriate rock start again after four years.  A few girlfriends and I are going to see my pal Rick Springfield in NYC in November.  It’s a small, initiate, acoustic show at a winery.  I hope everyone enjoys it and I’m able to just lose myself in the moment without all the crap that used to be part of going to RS shows.  We’ll see.

That’s about it for now.  Deep thoughts are for later….it’s 6:15 am right now and time for me to start the day.

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Letting Go of Control

I am wrestling with my need for control over the last few weeks, and it’s really bothering me.

Rick Springfield jokingly signed one of my favorite treasures, a wooden box a fan had made for me with a photo of him and I on it:  “To my favorite control freak.”  It’s true.  When I’m in charge of something, I’m in my element because being a control freak is allowed.  Encouraged, even, to make sure an event or a group stays on task or runs smoothly.  It’s a role I like and have gotten much feedback from over the years.

But what about when I’m not in charge?   I ruin what might otherwise be great experiences because I am frustrated by things not being done the way I would do them.  I can’t get past my own sense of frustration and agitation at others and their lack of concern for this or that, or this person or that.

And I’m starting to wonder, what kind of life would I have if I could just learn to let go?   If I could just roll with the punches and enjoy the experiences that come my way, without feeling the need to craft those experiences or make them happen?  Would I even be where I am, living with the person I am, living the life I am?  Maybe not.

Because the thing that drives me most nuts about my partner is that I didn’t choose an opposite in that regard.  I chose someone who is exactly like me in his need to make sure things are a certain way.  In fact, he makes my touch of OCD look like a small affliction compared to his full fledged case of it.  Our most constant source of arguments and fights come when my need to have things go a certain way and his need for them to go a different way clash.  It’s often, all too often.  I’ve learned over the years what to stay firm on and what to let go.

But that letting go is hard for me.  It’s seriously hard.  And it’s not healthy.  I wish I were one of those people who just didn’t let things like that bother them.  I would enjoy life more and worry less.

Still, though, I would wonder what I was missing.  😦

March for Change

I remember writing in my high school journal about activism and how amazing it must have been to live in the 1960s where there were peace ins, and rallies, and marches, and sit ins to change our society.  My teacher that year, Mr. Vance, was a proud child of that era and had done plenty of those types of things when he had been the age I was back then.

I remember the envy I wrote about.  “How amazing it must have been to be a part of that change, to have some ownership of it, to be witness to it as it happened, to be one of those who helped make it happen.”

I glossed over the angry part of that era.  The divisiveness, the real anger and hatred that came from those who love their way of life so much, they’ll do anything to make sure it never changes.  The 1960s were a time of riots, shootings, assassinations in addition to a time of social change.  And as I idealized all of the wonder that made the 1960s such an amazing time, I never really gave much credence to the danger and fear that surrounded that era as well.

It feels a lot like that these days, here in Connecticut.

Last week I attended a rally in our state capital.  It was billed as The March For Change, and the premise of it was that we would be demanding safer gun laws.  It was a powerful thing to be a part of.  Over 5000 people came, with placards and signs with varying messages.  Some just wanted to show support for those who have lost family and friends to gun violence.  Others were much more clear:  they wanted stricter gun laws and more accountability to the ones we currently have.

I’ve always considered myself “pro gun control” although to be honest, I’ve never really had very strong emotions about it.  I’ve never really understood the need for guns.  I get that people like to hunt for sport, for food, and that’s fine with me.  I get that people feel the need to defend themselves.  But that second part of the equation always leads me to the same question:  if there weren’t so many damn guns around all over and everywhere, would you really need a gun for self defense?

There were lots of questions posed that day at the rally.  For one, how many people truly need an assault weapon to go hunting or for self defense?  The answer seems obvious to me:   a high speed gun will obliterate any meat you could get from any animal you’d kill with it.  And for self defense?  If you’re threatened, any old gun will probably do the trick.  Why do you need a military grade one?  I truly don’t get it.

Another question that just seemed like common sense to me was, why do we have loopholes in our background check system for gun purchases?  Why would it be a bad thing to have every single gun sale, whether private or at a gun show, subject to a background check?  Why is that bad?  Don’t we want to keep the guns out of the hands of the bad guys?  If you’re a good guy who wants to be a responsible gun owner, what’s the problem?  Wouldn’t you want it to be not incredibly easy to get access to a gun?  Especially for someone who might not be the most stable?

And these high capacity magazines?  So that people can fire up to thirty rounds without reloading?  Is that really necessary for hunting?  Or self defense?  The answer seems pretty clear to me.  There’s only one reason to have such capacity and it isn’t for either of those reasons.  Why do we need people to be able to shoot so many bullets in so little time?  Isn’t that just a recipe for disaster?

There was more, much more.  We train people to be safe while driving cars, a potentially deadly weapon when not used properly.  We give them months, sometimes years of training.  We license them.  We make them register and insure those very dangerous vehicles so we know that they are properly maintained, that a licensed, trained driver is using them and that if somehow an accident happens, there is the ability to pay for the damage that could ensue.  Heck, we make people register their boats, their snowmobiles.  You have to get a license and pass a test just to catch a fish.  I truly cannot see the logic as to why we take such a lackadaisical attitude when it comes to guns.  These aren’t just a potentially deadly weapon like a car or a snowmobile.  These are things that have one purpose only and that is to kill (or injure).  Wouldn’t we want people trained carefully with such a dangerous device so they can respect the power they have in their hands?

These are things that I feel, and feel strongly since attending the rally last week.  But honestly, I have hesitated to express them because I have seen the anger and divisiveness around this issue.  But I kept remembering the last speaker that day, Veronique Pozner, whose son died at Sandy Hook Elementary.  She said, “Was my son’s life so disposable that the answer to this tragedy is to do nothing?”

The answer is no.  We have to start the kind of societal, cultural shift that ended legal segregation in this country.  It may take decades.  But just because things are the way they are doesn’t mean they can’t change.  Because we can’t keep burying our children.  We just can’t take life and the ability to end it so lightly.

Blame Game

Blame.   I just want someone to blame, sometimes.  And the older I get, the more I realize that often there is no one to blame, nothing to do, no choices to be made.

So what do I do then?  I blame myself.

The latest round of blame game in my head comes home to roost in a familiar place.  My son’s non existent biological father.  Sure, I’ve beat myself up for the last 24 years about how I must have done something to keep him away all of this time.  It’s one thing to have it going on in my head, alone, with only me to witness my own personal level of crazy self talk.

It’s quite another when I see the pain evident in my son, as well.  That brings a whole new round of it.

My son’s fiancee talked with me a few weeks ago about Z’s biological father’s family and their wedding.  It was a conversation I’d had with him a few months ago, when he expressed the fact that he really wanted a representative of that family there.  He hasn’t mentioned it since.  I had advised him to do a lot of self examination before deciding whether or not to invite the one member of the family he has contact with.  I told him he needed to be OK with any of the possibilities of her responses, and to be honest with himself about the whole idea being a longshot.

What I didn’t put on his shoulders was how awful and awkward her presence would be for me, and for everyone else who has been a loving and supportive person in my son’s life throughout his life.  It isn’t his burden to bear, and frankly, I know that we would all swallow any amount of bile in our throats to give him what he wants on this one.  He wants a connection.  He wants to know that part of who he is.  The parts that aren’t me and can’t be explained any other way.  It hurts me greatly, even though I know it’s not his fault and not intentional in anyway, so I button that up and move on.  Or try to.

So he spoke to his fiancee about the whole situation to get her thoughts.  And she was so disturbed by how upset he was, that she came to me.  She asked me what I thought could be done, should be done.  How could we make his biological father choose to be a part of Z’s life.  Because it is making him doubt that important part of who he wants to be:  a father.  How can he be a good father if he knows it is in his DNA to walk away and never look back.

He’s 23 of course.  When I was 23, I still believed such things to be true.  I didn’t realize that a lifetime alongside a person can change who you are, make you different than maybe other circumstances might have formed you.  And, being 23 of course, he still believes in things like miracles and happy endings and neat, simple closures to messy situations by the end of the movie.  He doesn’t have the years of the world showing you different tucked neatly under his belt like I do at age 42.  Hell, at 42 I still don’t believe that his father has stayed away all of this time.  I still wonder if a hangup call is him trying to connect with us.  Even after all of this time, I hope that he’ll make things right.  And if I feel that way, I certainly can’t blame my kid for feeling that way.

Even though, as I told this young girl who will be my daughter in law soon, I know that he has already chosen.  Z’s father has chosen every single day of his life.  He has stayed away.  Even though I lived for the first ten years of Z’s life in the same place that Joe knew.  Even though when I did move away, there was the Internet, and with my work online I was always easily found.   Even though I made a point of attending my 20th high school reunion with the hopes of finding him there.   Even though now his own aunt maintains an email correspondence with Zach.  If Joe really wanted to know his son, be a part of his life, he would.  He has chosen, very clearly.  We just don’t like what he chose.

I’ve been in a funk the last little while about this, mulling over what, if anything, I should do here.   Because I could, if I really wanted to, pick up a phone right now and speak to Z’s biological father.  In a fit of obsessive Googling and sheer dumb luck, I found some contact information a few years back that I believe may be credible.   Should I reach out to him?  Appeal to his conscience?   Absolve him of his 24 absent years?  Talk of what a credit this amazing kid is would be to him?

I think back to all of the things I wish I’d done differently back when I discovered I was pregnant and the ensuing difficult months where we ended up splitting up.  All of the lost chances to make this right, to be the bigger person, to think of my son before myself.  So many mistakes I made.  Could this be the chance I have to fix all of that?

Or is it just simply time for me to grow up and realize that I did the best I could, under difficult circumstances?  That my self blame doesn’t take away the fact that at the end of the day, Joe left his pregnant girlfriend to raise his son alone.  Without any financial or emotional help.   That sometimes people just are really awful, and that they only have themselves to blame.

I just don’t know.  I just don’t know what to do here.   I don’t know who to blame.  I don’t know who to be mad at.  I don’t know how to make this better or right or make sense.

 

An Open Letter to Those Who Doubt Sandy Hook

There is a hard underbelly in the aftermath of the tragedy in Newtown that I’ve been wanting to address for a while now, but have scarcely wanted to acknowledge it for fear of perpetuating it. But my disgust and anger is so full and complete these days that I can hardly contain it.

At first, in the days after the tragedy, I found in some corners of the internet an outrage against the outrage.  That is, there was a small but vocal contingent indignant at the amount of emotion that was evoked by the Newtown tragedy.  How could one be so upset about these 26 (27?) lives being lost when lives are lost every day in Syria, the Congo, even the South Side of Chicago?  Why were these lives so much more worthy of people’s angst and attention than those lives?

Since the situation is so close to me, I figured that it was just me who found those arguments ridiculous.  Of course all senseless violence and loss of life is terrible.  These lives are indeed no more or less valuable than the other lives that may be lost in a similar way.  That doesn’t make it any less senseless or terrible.  It’s a false argument to me.  Just because other terrible things happen doesn’t make this terrible thing less terrible.  I brushed it off.

Then in the days that followed, new arguments came.  These were more judgmental, more spiteful:  that this type of thing would have never happened in a more conservative state, where folks routinely walk around with concealed weapons.  That frankly, we’re reaping what we’ve sown here with our more liberal leaning society up here in Connecticut.  There were even some crazy extrapolations of that, stating that this was simply God’s judgement call on a state that is full of wealthy folks, approves of gay marriage and continually sends more progressive type representatives to Washington.

Shocked at the callousness of such statements, the disregard of the real human pain and suffering that I was witnessing all around me, I fumed.  I saw these postings on Facebook, heard them whispered on news outlets in the comments sections, but couldn’t muster myself to respond to them.  These were surely intended to inflame, these types of statements.  Better to ignore and not draw attention to these types of outlandish comments; to acknowledge them would give them validity, I thought.

Instead, I tried to counteract the dark side (is there a light one?) of this tragedy by doing good works myself:  working as a volunteer to help at the school where the Sandy Hook children would later attend, and the warehouse where they myriad of donations were being sent; spreading word of the various things locals could do to help; donating money to the groups set up to handle such things.  I prayed, a lot, to my God, asking Him to help these angry people find peace in their hearts.  I tried to be kinder, gentler to my children, family and those around me.

But still, the darkness seems to be continuing to spread.

A friend clued me in via an email that there seems to be a small but growing contingent of people in our country who are questioning whether the tragedy at Sandy Hook even happened.  They are calling it a “Sandy Hoax”.  Their arguments ranged from the inaccuracies of initial news reports to the lack of tears shed by victims’ families to the dearth of updated information regarding the shootings to the lack of visual images publicly available of the bodies of victims.  The reason for the “hoax” as stated by those who are perpetuating this fallacy is that the whole scenario was elaborately planned and executed, with the help of a left leaning media, to force a conversation and action on gun control in our country.

I am astounded and absolutely disgusted by such arguments and the people who would make them.

In my way of thinking, you’d have to be one cold hearted bastard (I was going to type in “human being” but couldn’t bring myself to use the phrase here) to even imagine such a scenario.  Let me tell you, I am sure these 26 (27?) families that were directly impacted by the loss of life from this tragedy would love nothing better than to wake up today and find this all a dream, a story, a made up reality television show.

Let me be clear, because I live here.   I have spoken with people who saw the bodies at the funerals.  Because I’ve spoken with the grandfather of one of the victims.  Because I got caught in the traffic at one of the wakes.  Because my own children were put on lockdown for hours that day and came home shaken and scared.  Because there are still, to this day, policemen patrolling the schools in my town of Monroe, CT. Because while I didn’t know any of the victims personally, I know so many people who do, too many to even count.  And believe me, those children aren’t hiding somewhere and their parents aren’t helping perpetuate some vast conspiracy game.  Those kids and teacher sare dead.  They’re gone.  The loss is real and raw and  palpable. Just because they’re not showing that grief on camera doesn’t mean it isn’t.

The events of December 14th were, and continue to be  horrific, tragic and unspeakable.  What happened that day is still trying to be unraveled so that those affected can find some way to move forward.

What happened at Sandy Hook isn’t about gun control, or mental health, or some national agenda, or inner city vs. bucolic suburb.  It is about these victims who lost their lives in a senseless act that can’t possibly be explained or understood.   It is about those who loved them.  It is about the many, many who are trying to help everyone affected by these terrible events put some of the pieces back together in a puzzle that will always be missing 26 (27?) of its pieces.  It isn’t about you, or liberals and conservatives, red states versus blue ones, or God’s punishment.  It isn’t about who deserves media attention and who doesn’t, it isn’t about fighting over who gets to sit where at the table of healing, and it certainly isn’t about politics.

So stop.  I say to all of you perpetuating the type of hate that started all of this in the first place, just stop.  Stop claiming it didn’t happen, because it did.  Stop rationalizing your own agendas and trying to fit them into the puzzle of Sandy Hook.  Take a step back, pull yourself away from your anger and your vitriol.  Your time and energy would far better spent trying to be a part of a solution that helps prevent future such tragedies rather than contributing to them with anger and fear.

**Regarding my use of the numbers of victims.  Many talk of the 26 victims of violence that day at Sandy Hook.  I am not sure why the mother of the gunman is not always counted in the victim tally, and perhaps there is a reason that I am unaware of.  Hence my use of 26? 27? in questioning the true number of innocents who perished that day.

 

 

Yep. I Called That One.

Here is the text of the voicemail that landed on my phone while I was out running this morning:

“Hello.  I just wanted to call and thank you for ruining Christmas, that was very nice of you, I appreciate that.  We won’t be going to Florida this year because (my fiancee) won’t come anywhere near you.  She is too mad at you for trying to bully me into going to (your son’s) wedding.  So, talk to you later!”

No matter that my father shared with me yesterday that my brother had already contacted HIM to complain about my reaction to the news of him not attending my son’s wedding.  No, that’s completely fine.  But I am a completely terrible person (once again) for going to my father to seek advice on how to handle my brother and his absence at my kid’s wedding.  I didn’t ask him to speak to him (in fact, I expressly asked him NOT to, but he did anyway).  I didn’t even tell him anything he didn’t already know; my brother had already told him about not attending and my father is aware enough to know that this would hurt my son’s feelings.  He’d already been trying to convince him to change his mind, and my email yesterday just gave him another push.

Whatever.

Having my son’s affection is something that my brother no longer deserves.  That’s how I feel.  And I’m fine at this point with helping him through the disappointment of seeing my brother (yet again) let him down, rather than having this type of animosity ruin what should be a wonderful, incredible, important day for my kid.  If my brother feels it is “bullying” to want him present there, then I don’t want him there.  I don’t want him anywhere near me or my family.  Because he doesn’t deserve us in his life.  Not if this is truly how he feels.  I’m over it.

Again.

UPDATE:  While I was writing this blog post, the following email arrived in my box:

After much discussion with xxxx we’ve decided to cancel our trip to Florida.  We are not going to go down there and try to enjoy a holiday with all the tension you have caused over xxx’s wedding hanging over everything.  It would be uncomfortable and awkward for everyone and I’m not going to spend my Christmas under that dark cloud, let alone ask (my fiancee) to and force (my son) to.  Christmas is supposed to be a joyful holiday.  Unfortunately it has all been soured and I don’t see any way to salvage it.

As I told Dad, xxx announced his wedding one month after we accepted Dad’s offer to go to Florida.  We can’t afford to do both.  Now, because of your wailing and gnashing of teeth, we will probably do neither.  You have upset xxxx and I both and neither of us wants to spend any time anywhere in your vicinity.  At least with the money we won’t be spending we can get xxxx an awesome wedding gift.

Family and Frustration (Again)

So, in a very strange turn of events, my brother and my son are getting married in the same calendar year.  I have known this for a while now, as my brother asked his on again/off again (but mostly on lately) to marry him nearly a year ago.

Now, in case you haven’t followed my blog for long, you may not realize that this isn’t exactly a warm, fuzzy relationship I have going on with my brother.  Long story short:  my brother, who has since been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, reacted badly to my parents’ divorce when I was seven, and I spent several years being his punching bag (not figuratively, but literally his punching bag).  He was institutionalized several times before my father took custody of him when I was 15.   For much of our adult life, his focus on himself above all others has been a constant source of frustration and angst for me.  Click here for far too many posts about how my brother and I go constantly around in circles of either speaking or fighting or not speaking because we recently fought.

All that being said, it’s kind of a miracle that he is getting married, and I am glad that he’s finally found happiness.  The fact that they are still together after nearly a year of living together and being engaged is astounding, and I’d been looking forward to the wedding they planned for next November.

My brother called me a few weeks ago to ask for some addresses for the family for his wedding guest list.  I of course had them on hand from my Christmas card list and told him I’d send them along.  He lamented that his side of the aisle would be kind of light and asked for suggestions on who else he should invite to the affair.

I told him we would likely have the same problem, and that I fully expected that some people from the family would likely be forced to choose which of the two family weddings to attend this year.  I told him that I expected more of the people from great distances to choose his wedding over my son’s.

That’s when he dropped the bombshell.

That he was going to make that choice too.  That he wasn’t going to be present at my son’s wedding.

Now, this shouldn’t have surprised me.  My brother always has time and money for himself and what he finds important in his life.  But, he told me, he was busy saving for his own wedding, and couldn’t sacrifice the money that going to an out of town wedding would take away from his own special day.

If I agreed with him, if I truly felt that he couldn’t afford to do both, I would understand.  I would.  But my brother has a way of making sure he is able to go out for karoake and drinks with his friends once a week, buying the latest technology for himself, and smoking hundreds of dollars of cigarettes a month.  Tightening his belt is a foreign concept.  Why should he sacrifice his fun for a family affair peopled with people he hardly ever sees and doesn’t often get along with?  But he expects us at his own wedding.  He worries the crowd will be “thin” for him.

I think it’s the hypocrisy of it that really grinds my gears.  Well, that, and the fact that my son will be supremely disappointed in his uncle.  He has a firm grasp of the person my brother is, but I don’t think even he imagines that his uncle, who has always talked about how proud he is of my son, would not attend this most important day in his life.  I don’t think it has even entered his head.

So I don’t know what to do, here.  I know from past experience that I never win an argument with my brother.  Conflict is always my fault, always.  When he told me, in fact, I simply said that I was disappointed but would get off of the phone before we both said things we would regret later.  I don’t want to have my father (again) offer to pay for my brother to attend.  My feeling here is that my brother can afford it, if he chooses to make this event an priority.  But there is no way I can make him do that.

Yesterday, my brother sent me, my sister and my father his son’s Christmas list.  It was full of gifts that had a price tag of between $100-$200 each.  He plans on getting “several” of the items on the list himself for his kid.  It brought it all to the forefront to me again, this frustration that I have with him, that he is more important than any of the rest of us.  In a fit of frustration, I sent an email to my father about the situation.  I don’t want him to fix it, I don’t want him to pay for it, I just want some advice from someone who knows both my son and my brother; who they are and how to handle this situation in light of who they are.

I don’t know what he will say.  Probably, my brother will be angry with me for making him “look bad” to our father.  Maybe I’ve made a bad situation worse.  I don’t know.

I just don’t know.

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