Monday, December 31, 2012

12 Lessons of 2012

So I did this last year (11 Lessons of 2011) and it was interesting and fun. I wasn't sure I could do it again and honestly won't know until I get started. So, here goes nothing.

12. I don't do the "balance" thing very well: I've known this for a while but it tops my list because I'm in the throws of it right now. I'm either in overdrive or laying in bed. I don't have a good grip on how to balance work, family, friends and me. I tend to push myself until my body can't go anymore and then beat myself up for not listening to all of the warning signs along the way. I lounged around all summer and felt like a slug for not prepping my classes. Then I spent the last 5 months going nonstop until I nearly cracked at the end. And the last week or so, I've just covered myself in a million covers, slept and read feeling really rundown.

11. 34 teenagers can bring you to your knees: Part of my overdrive mode of the last 5 months was teaching a college level Psychology class to a group of teenagers. Let's just say my intuition that I was not made to interact with large groups of teenagers at 7:15am was confirmed. I will say a few bad apples can ruin a bunch. And a single, thoughtful teenage boy who says thank you can make you cry.

10. If you can't laugh at the really shitty things, then your problems are way worse than mine. In all of my morose moments, I can still laugh. In fact, the more ridiculously sad or angry I am, the more I can somehow spin it in a way that I end up cracking myself up. And that, my friends, is a gift.

9. The glass can be simultaneously half full and half empty: I am a notorious cynic and at times can be incredibly pessimistic. But over the past few years, I've softened and found myself finding positive things in places I never thought possible. I guess you can call that evolution.

8. I do not like New Years Eve: Never have. Never will. I think it's dumb.

7. I love bacon : I have come to acknowledge my deep love affair with bacon. And I will tell you, the precooked microwaved kind isn't nearly as fatty as the real stuff.

6. Yes, I love my family: I'm talking about my family of origin here. We "enjoy" a complicated relationship but my mother laid the groundwork for deep love even when we want to rip each other's heads off. We often misunderstand each other, have learned that if you can't be honest with the people you've known your whole life, you will never be honest with anyone else and that we owe something (although I'm not always sure what it is) to each other. It's been hard to figure all of this out without my mother's proverbial smack in the back of the head, but it still holds true (at least for me...the rest of them can think whatever they want because my mother always said that was ok).

5. Max continues to amaze me everyday: I'm not sure that ever stops and I hope it doesn't. He keeps things in perspective, puts up with my shit, lets me yell and apologize without any long term psychological damage and just plain old cracks me up.

4. My friends mean the world to me: This is relatively new, to be brutally honest. I think for many years I was tied up in family drama, personal drama, figuring out how to be a mom, figuring out how to be a grown up. And then, I realized who stuck around, who showed up and didn't leave and who would put up with my shit. And it's a beautiful thing.

3. I love teaching: Despite my frustration outlined in #11, I absolutely love teaching. Sometimes, it totally feels like I'm faking it. Why are all of these people listening to me? But, honestly, it's because I'm quite entertaining. And I know what I'm talking about. For the most part.

2. I'm liking the 40's: Yes, they started off rough but after my 30's, I am still happy to have moved on into my 40's. There is something really freeing about your 40's (at least for me). I am way more who I am supposed to be then I ever was.

1. Yep - I still like my life: I was surprised at the end of my 2011 list to find that this is how I ended but it still rings true today. I'll be honest, my particular mood today doesn't necessarily reflect this sentiment but all in all, I am one lucky woman.

Monday, December 17, 2012

At her request....Shining a Spotlight on....Crissy

Sisters annoy, interfere, criticize.  Indulge in monumental sulks, in huffs, in snide remarks.  Borrow.  Break.  Monopolize the bathroom.  Are always underfoot.  But if catastrophe should strike, sisters are there.  Defending you against all comers.  ~Pam Brown

For the first time ever, someone has actually requested I blog about them. Of course, it is my sister, Crissy. To be more specific (and much to her dismay), my little sister. You see, I've dedicated quite a few blogs to the impact my friends have had on me, especially over the past few difficult years. But never my siblings specifically. Because, quite honestly....siblings are hard.

I say siblings are hard because I live in the real world. I lay it all out there (have you read my other blogs) for all to see. So, I recognize and embrace the complexity of my relationships with my siblings. I throw it out into the universe and let it be what it will be. This is most often met with fury from them but, oh well. We were all raised by the same woman and man, and inherited the same honest tongue. Some of us just use it more often than others.

The six of us span 16 years oldest to youngest and Crissy and I are almost 3 years apart in age. In some respects, we grew up as little sub families; Joanie and Ralph, Michael and Patti and then me and Crissy rounded it off. Our subfamilies were largely defined by our ages at the time of the death of our father (Crissy and I were 8 & 11) and our experiences as children reflected that. So, while the older kids had experienced my father's fury directly on some level, Crissy and I were more like observers at a really bad show. We saw it, knew the chaos well but we're lucky enough to never have it directed at us. Honestly, we lucked out.

I think we both thought we dodged a bullet when it came to my father but that is the beauty of youth. You can spend a large amount of time in denial before you get slapped in the face. My slap came quite a few years ahead of Crissy. I tended to be more in tune with those sorts of things at a much younger age. But, eventually we both figured it out.

So, anyway....Crissy and I spent the large majority of our youth fatherless. No need for the "awww" or "that's so sad". It was what it was. It was our reality. And you can spin it either way; a blessing or a curse. But what made our experience distinctly different than our older siblings was our mother. As dysfunctional as our parent's marriage was, our siblings enjoyed some level of an intact family that Crissy and I were not afforded. After my father died, my mother shut down. And Crissy and I were kind of on our own.

Here's where I put the HUGE disclaimer mother was amazing. Anyone who has read this blog knows that. My siblings and I were blessed with a mother's mother; a woman who was truly born to mother children. And she did it well. Better than well; as I said, she was amazing. I was blessed enough to have many, many conversations with my mother over the years and prior to her death in which she was able to give me an incredible amount of insight into what she valued most in being a parent. Loyalty was demanded, respect was commanded and guilt did not exist. At least not on her part...she could give me a look and in an instant I was spilling my guts of all the lies I was trying pull over on her. My mother always said she did the best she could with the information she had at the time. And that was true.

But back to Crissy and her "spotlight". While my mother demanded loyalty, she did not demand we get along. She accepted the reality of our individual dynamics and Crissy and I enjoyed a volatile one. As small children, we simultaneously played together and beat the shit out of each other. More specifically, Crissy beat the shit out of me. Because, believe it or not, I was quite docile in my youth. Especially when facing a small child otherwise known as "Cookie Monster" or  "Gunkaberti" depending on who you talked to. I mean this is the girl who cussed my father out at age 3. No one cussed my father out. Except Gunk.
Our teen years proved to be even more volatile. Short story was we hated each other. Crissy was out of control in my humble opinion. I was probably out of control but just hid it a little bit better. She wore my clothes without permission to the point of me actually cutting a shirt off of her body (really I only had to cut the sleeve to make my point). She stole my car and went joyriding with her friends before she ever had a license. And she got a dog and then didn't take care of it. I have a distinct memory of tax day, a dog who had tore up her tax returns and Crissy walking out and getting in her car and driving away. While her tax return blew all over the front lawn.

It wasn't until we both got pregnant (unmarried pregnant girls....but its okay because we were like 27 and 31) that we started to relate to one another. I don't remember us even having much of a relationship between 21 and 31. But the dueling babies gave us a commonality we had never experienced before and we actually started interacting. Yes, we still fought but we started leaning on each other for the first time ever. Crissy became a mother 8 months before me. This actually worked out for the best because she is way more organized than me so she had worked out some of the kinks of the "how to's" by the time Max came along. An interesting thing about the day Max was born- my mother had recently undergone gall bladder surgery and was recovering at home. Because she couldn't drive and the doctors had told me my labor would be long (after being induced), she stayed home waiting to hear from me. I sent Stephen to work expecting not to need him until at least the next day. And then I spent the day alone, in labor. I have no idea why I didn't call anyone but I didn't. I know everyone knew I was in labor but I'm the type who's a real bitch if I'm not feeling well so maybe they subconsciously stayed away. 18 hours later I gave birth to a 9 1/2 pound baby boy via C-section. While Stephen was there, it was Crissy who walked in the room within minutes of me giving birth. It was Crissy who took me out for my first solo (meaning without Stephen) ride with Max. Crissy was the one I called day and night to make sure I was doing it right.  Crissy was the one who made me feel sane in the insanity of infancy. Our mother (you know...the mother's mother) thought we were both insane; insisting we take the crying babies out of the car seats to comfort while driving, give them rice cereal at 3 weeks and even suggested I start smoking again to lighten up!!!! On a side note, God bless those who mothered in a fearless world!

As the kids got older, Crissy and I enjoyed the reality of our relationship; a combination of arguments and understanding. We fought a lot but ultimately were there for each other. Remember...loyalty bound us in our mother's expectations. So, we honored it. Always.

Over the last 10 years, Crissy and I have enjoyed (if that's the right description) a close relationship. Mothering 3 kids born within 13 months of each other at the very least, forced it. But the cruel reality of losing our brother and mother over the last 3 1/2 years reinforced the relationship. This illuminated the unique disposition of our place in the family constellation. We were the littlest of the little sisters of our larger than life brother. We were the youngest of my mother's children and in some ways were cheated out of our mother's wisdom in how to do this parenting thing. We are orphaned parents not quite ready to parent on our own. So we look to each other to figure it out together. And argue it out along the way. It's a bit like the blind leading the blind.

The last thing I will say is this. At one point Crissy told my mother that the difference between she and I is that she values being nice over all things. And its true. She has probably raised the 2 most polite, kind kids I have ever met in my life. But my mother answered Crissy back in a way only a mother's mother can. She said "And while you value nice over all things, Carol values honesty." And that is true too. I cannot chose nice over being honest in matters of the heart. And Crissy has learned the hard way that, sometimes honesty does have to take precedence over nice. As the littlest of the little, Crissy has had to grow up in the last few years. And she has shocked and surprised all of us. And secretly made me proud.

So there, Crissy. There's your blog.