Monthly Archives: October 2016

All Figured Out?

When I went off to college I thought I was pretty sophisticated, after all I went into Washington DC on numerous occasions with friends, I knew how to navigate New York City, and I had spent the previous summer in Europe. My parents thought they were sending off a confident, secure young woman. The truth was that I was just a child playing grownup.

My parents allowed my boyfriend to take me to school in the mountains of southwest Virginia. His school was fifty miles west so it made sense. The only means of connection back in the day was a pay phone on the dorm wall. I felt lost pretty quickly, I didn’t have anything in common with my roommate ad my boyfriend didn’t call. There was a “Ladies Tea” for all the freshmen women on the first Sunday afternoon we were there and that is where we were give the women’s handbook with the “rules”. The “rules” were new to all of us and if I had known about them ahead of time, I would have run the other way. There were to be no dates with off campus men unless there was approval by a parent, all dates for the first six weeks had to be double dates. Curfew was early, strict and enforced. Punishment was meted out according to the severity of the “crime.” Punishment was called a “campus” and the least of the punishment was that a girl was not allowed to speak to a boy. Absolutely unbelievable. I had wanted so desperately to get away from home and now all I wanted was to go back.

What happened next was not my parents fault, although I blamed them for along time. I really hadn’t wanted to go to college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I just wanted to be loved and accepted for who I really was and that didn’t translate to college. I did agree to try it for one year.

It was a Saturday about three weeks into the semester and I had just hung up the phone from trying to call my boyfriend one more time. I hadn’t spoken to him since he dropped me off and I was hurt and angry. One of the girls in the dorm came around the corner and asked me if I would be willing to go on a double date so that she could see her boyfriend that night. At that point I didn’t think I had anything to lose so I agreed.

We went out to a movie and it turned out that Paul, the boy I was with, was in my biology lab. He had an eye for me and he began to court me like I had never been courted. We began to spend all our free time together and he took me to meet his parents who also lived in southwest Virginia. Before too long he wanted me to marry him. It seemed like a good idea at the time, we got along well or so I thought. I couldn’t see the red flags through my rose colored glasses. In hindsight I realize how naïve I really was.

Paul went home with me at Thanksgiving. I could see right away that my parents were not impressed but they wisely did not say anything. They thought they would have time over Christmas break to talk me out of it.
Paul was going to spend Christmas with his family and then drive up to Springfield to take me back to school. One evening my father made his move by telling me that my parents had decided that if my grades were not good at the end of the semester they would bring me home. I knew my grades would not be good but they could never have expected what happened next, we eloped on the way back to school. This crushed my parents but they forgave me.

That was the beginning of the most misery and the quickest growing up ever. Paul was not the person he had been able to fool me into thinking he was. About six weeks into this marriage he told me that he had to “pet me along to get me to marry him but now he was going to show me who’s boss.” I was stunned. I had made such a huge mistake but my pride wouldn’t allow me to say how wrong I had bee. I was determined to make it work somehow.

Fifteen years and three sons later I finally saw my way out. My dad had supported me through this whole mess and he had also taken over paying for Paul’s college education when his parent’s were no longer able to do it. I think the only reason we stayed together as long as we did was because Paul was never home. He went to school at night to study for the C.P.A. exam and after that he started teaching at night so we hardly ever saw him. The boys and I suffered abuse from him when he was around and he drank heavily. Luckily for him his job at the time was never in jeopardy because he was well respected. He even began to move in political circles.

Paul didn’t want a divorce and I was so certain that that is where I was headed I would have left with the clothes on my back if I had to. Finally he agreed to leave and I thought maybe the boys and I could get our lives turned around but Paul was given an ultimatum where his job was concerned. He had taken on some outside real estate activities and his company told him either real estate or his job and he chose the real estate. That is when our world crashed.

I ended up in a huge financial mess because of Paul’s questionable dealings that I had known nothing about. I had to take bankruptcy and we lost our home because the title could not be cleared. My sons have all become successful adults but have some emotional difficulties to this day.

All of this unhappiness because I couldn’t figure it out.

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The Building of Me – Part 3

My parents, little brother and I moved to Springfield the summer I turned nine. Springfield is a suburb of Washington, DC, only twelve miles away, but at that time, we were totally out in the country. Now it is home to the “Mixing Bowl”.

The happy/sad house in Springfield as it looks today

It seemed like we were all happy at first, my brother and I had lots of friends to play with and we even played together some. I remember one day, at the Sunday dinner table, he said “I am going to follow you everywhere you go forever”! I was practically in tears, ” No, no, you can’t! Mom, tell him he can’t”. He loved teasing me and I always rose to the bait. But maybe that day his words were providential. 

My parents entertained a lot and they had friends in the neighborhood and I got volunteered a lot to babysit. Maybe it was good practice because the spring before I turned twelve my mother had another baby boy.

I  always loved animals and I  dragged home every stray I  could find from the time I was old enough to catch them. When I was eleven I was finally allowed to have a dog but it was a dog my mother picked out at the shelter, not the one I wanted. However, I was thrilled to finally have a dog and I faithfully walked her and fed her. Lady was her name but she was no lady, and, in fact, not a very nice dog at all. She bit both of my brothers and she had to be kept away from little kids.

I’m not sure exactly sure when things started to break down. My dad progressed in his career at the Veterans Administration and was a member of the board of appeals. He was on a panel with two other lawyers and a psychiatrist, who he seemed to have no respect for, and this panel was the final review for a veteran’s benefits. The job became very stressful and when my father came home in the evening, he and my mother would sit in the kitchen and drink martinis while she fixed supper. Supper would get later and later if he had a bad day. My parents demanded that we eat supper as a family and I can remember my dad sitting at the table just staring at his food and twirling the martini glass with his fingers. 

I was going through puberty and becoming somewhat rebellious and argumentative. If I  said anything to annoy my father after he had a few martinis in him, he would slap me hard, right in my face, or he would try to turn me over his knee and I was too old for that and I would fight back. My mother never lifted a finger or said anything to help me. It was drilled into all of us, “what happens in this house stays in this house”. I couldn’t wait to be old enough to leave home.

I loved my dad so much when I was little. He sang songs to me, taught me to read and ride a bike, and he also taught me to drive a car with a stick shift without losing his patience. It was much later I realized that he always had my back.

My mother on the other hand, not so much. When I was an adult, after my father had died, she told me that when I was about six weeks old she found out that my father had wanted a boy. I had never felt that from him, only from her. She had a stillborn daughter when I was two and somehow I  felt responsible for the child’s death. She would say things like, ” this would have been your sister’s birthday”. Of course, I would feel guilty. My mother always favored my brothers.  I  couldn’t wait to get away.

Finally I was old enough to go away to college and I thought I was finished being built and was ready to join the world. Oh how wrong I was.
 

 
 
 

 
 

 

 

 

How I Got Built – Part 2

When I was about six months old we moved to an  apartment in Arlington, VA. My dad wanted to resume his career with the federal government where he had worked prior to joining the Navy. He worked for the Veterans Administration until his retirement in 1975. 

We lived in the apartment for about a year until my parents bought a house not too far away.

Our first house as it looks today.

A few years ago Gerry and I  were at a conference in Arlington and we decided to drive by this house. My heart was pounding because I didn’t even know if the house was still there. Well, it was there and I thought it was beautiful because it was so well maintained and it had been enlarged. I still had memories of some of the things about it that had not been changed. It was bittersweet  to see the house for the first time in many years and yet there is no one alive except for me who had even been in the house when we lived there. 

The house was small with two bedrooms and an adjoining bath so after my brother was born my parents began looking for a larger home.

Our second house in Arlington as it looks today.

I haven’t driven by this house and I don’t really remember much about our time there. One thing I do remember is the large pink dogwood tree in the back yard. I had a casement window and when I rolled it open in the spring before the screens were up, the dogwood branch would come right in my window. I loved letting the branch in when it was blooming. A very happy memory.

This house was on a corner lot and the driveway entered the street right at the corner and my brother liked to play at the foot of the driveway. My mother was just sure he would get killed by a car coming around the corner, so instead of keeping him away from the driveway, the search began for house number three.

The Dictionary (A Christmas Story)

The year was 1987, long before the start of the
digital age when everything was at our fingertips. My father decided everyone
O in the family needed a dictionary so he went out and bought a nice desk dictionary for everyone for Christmas, including one for himself.  This was a true act of love because my father did not go Christmas shopping ordinarily.

My youngest son, Jeff, was a senior in high school that year and he was pleased to get this big book. He put it in his backpack and carried it everywhere. As time went on, he was even happier with it. He could have chosen a smaller paperback version but he wanted the big heavy dictionary.

When he began college the following year, the dictionary became even more important to him. One day he told me he had to write a paper for his English class about a gift he had received that at the time it didn’t seem like much but that had become very valuable. He decided to write about his dictionary.

Education was very important to my father, he came from a long line of teachers. We told him about Jeff’s paper and he was so happy. My father was quite ill by this time and 1988 was to be his last Christmas. Every visitor who came to the house got to hear him proudly tell his Christmas Story about the dictionary. The story was even part of his eulogy several months later.

Following my father’s death my mother gave his dictionary to the minister who had given the eulogy who was also a personal friend. Several years later that minister was assigned to our congregation and he performed the marriage ceremony for Jeff and Mary, his high school sweetheart.

A few years later that same minister baptized Jeff and Mary’s first child, Collin. Following the service, the minister presented my father’s dictionary to Jeff to be given to Collin when he got older.  The circle of life and love.

How I Got Built

I guess thee only place to start is at the beginning. My dad was from South Carolina and he grew up on a tobacco farm. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma and got his law degree from George Washington Law school in DC.  My mother was from New Jersey and grew up in East Orange, not far from NYC. She graduated from Lebanon Valley College in Annville, PA. Following college, she attended business school. Both of my parents joined the Navy as officers during WWII and met in NYC. 

When my mother found out she was pregnant with me, she left the Navy and moved back to East Orange until the war was over and my dad could come home. I was born in East Orange and spent the first six months of my life there. So I guess I really am a Jersey Girl.

My grandparent’s house as it is today.

Inspiration 

Oh inspiration where have you gone?

I thought I had plenty and now I have none.

Have you flown away? When will you return?

I want to say something, it’s words that I yearn.

I was filled to the brim with so much to say,

But all of a sudden my words went away.

Please come back inspiration, come back and stay,

I must get it out – you didn’t lead me astray.

I felt you there, deep in my soul, you gave me words, 

And something to say.

I have discovered that when I travel long distances I only need three things, a good audio mystery, great music and snacks. Also helpful are gas stations with clean restrooms. After my eleven hour trip home on Monday, I was still high from the wonderful weekend in Cambridge, NY where I attended Creative Workshops nd the Bedlam Farm Open House. I met some great new friends and reconnected with old friends, learned a few things and laughed more than I have in a long time.

When I arrived home, I discovered I had velcro pets. Usually our animals are pretty independent but I must have been missed a lot. The dogs would not let me out of their sight, the cats surrounded me in bed, and the uncaged parrots followed me around, landing on my shoulder or head. Gerry has started wearing an old hat around the house for painless head landings and I may have to do the same.

One of our parrots, Merlin, is a Military Macaw. We rehomed him last February when we found out through the vet that his owner had to move quickly. He is absolutely gorgeous but, for some reason, he doesn’t fly. His wings appear to be okay and I don’t have the backstory. Anyway, Merlin has a cage but Opus, the African Grey, lets him out whenever we forget to wrap the cage with bungee cords. Merlin slowly waddles into the kitchen, the cats know to steer clear, and there he wreaks his havoc. He is like a two year old with a can opener on his face. He climbs onto the counters, tears open packages of food, throws things on the floor and tries to incite the dogs. He especially loves me and yesterday he even followed me up the stairs. We have to be careful not to step on him.

With all of the chaos, one might wonder why we have these animals. I would agree that it isn’t always easy but they provide a lot of pleasure. The cats are all rescues and most have special needs, at least half of the parrots are rescues, and the dogs are our special companions. Since we are retired now we can spend time with them and use them for special endeavors. Tug is a therapy dog who works with kids and loves his job. Mackay is on a tricks team along with his obedience training and will attend community events.

I hope I am able to tap into my creativity and keep the flow going, I would like to reach the point that I need to write something almost every day and that I will begin to feel that what I do is worth writing about. I have had some awesome coaching, now let the blogging begin….