Passing the Baton

Linda1Christmas this year was a two-day celebration of giggles, cries of surprise, gift-wrap flying and for me at least a bit of nostalgia, a sense of melancholy even. I am uncertain why it was so poignant this year, why I felt so off centered and incomplete, but this year was off for me. This year I felt slightly disconnected from those I love, from the celebrations, from well from all of it. For some reason this year, despite being in the middle of it all for two days I simply felt isolated.

I admit there have been things on my mind. There have been some additional stresses in my life lately that have been weighing heavily on me and causing me some anxiousness; usually this wouldn’t change the pleasure I take in my family, especially my children and grandchildren. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy them either, truly, I did, my grandchildren are a treat and though it is a bit overwhelming now and then, I am fortunate in the women my sons married and the extended families they brought with them. We are the true American family, extended and expanded through multiple marriages. What makes us a bit different I suspect, is we have managed to keep ex’s close and engaged, thus children continue to benefit. Yes, this sometimes makes it strange, but it works.

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But back to the strange sense of sitting above it all watching rather than participating this year. Maybe it was simply so many of the traditions I grew up with were absent and I finally noticed, finally really missed them. Perhaps, it was the rest of my family was missing; all of my siblings some of whom I haven’t seen since my father passed away five years ago, my wonderful heart mother having passed only ten months earlier. With their passing, something went out of us all I think and we set aside some of the traditions we had all made fun of but in truth had cherished. Certainly one thing we lost was our sense of family, our bond. Even while still mourning my beloved parents, I mourn that loss just as much I think.

My cousin / siblings, don’t blink your eyes so quickly I am after all from Texas we do things strangely down here. Yes, my father married his sister-in-law and no it isn’t incest (my brother asked). 65.justloveyouIt was a match of the heart, a true love match after they had both been single for many years, her after being widowed and him after divorcing my mother. They had known each other for more years than they had been married and divorced combined. We all cheered their marriage and they brought us together as adults and created a large and loving family, though perhaps a bit on the odd side sometimes. We were a loud, loving and rambunctious clan. My heart mother welcomed all of us, along with spouses, children, step-children, partners and friends to Hearts Home with open arms. But Christmas time was the best time of all.

Christmas Eve, where we all dressed up in our finery. The women in satin, velvet and lace with make-up and hair done and high-heeled shoes. The men in suits and ties, if you had to wear jeans they had to be your Sunday-go-to-Meeting best. Children were even put in nice clothing for the evening. The Christmas Eve meal of so damned much food and so many types of cookies and candies, all of them homemade with love. The most important parts of the evening, the Eggnog toast, where each of us made a toast that we spent days thinking about and some man in the family always toasted the women in the family and all the other men groaned because that was going to be their toast. The reading of the Christ Story by my heart mother and the youngest grandchild and finally the singing of the carols which always ended with Jingle Bells, always and we all had bells on ribbons which we rattled at appropriate times.

I should add here, most of my family could not sing a lick. The singing of the carols was like fingernails on a chalkboard to even the most untrained ear, but it was tradition and it was fun. We all groaned, we all whined, but we all did it and we all had fun.

Gift giving was a managed affair, of course, we spoiled slightly any children but we did not exchange gifts between adults. There was an assigned name; you bought one gift outside of your spouse or significant other. Your gift could not exceed $50. Then we had the White Elephant gift market, all children under 18 left the room and the ruthlessness of the adults came out. This was a terrible and hysterical part of the night. Draw a number, pick a gift and open it. Better hope you got a high number, or your spouse got a high number. The higher your number the better your chances of getting something you want out of the pile of gifts in the middle of the floor. During each round, each gift can only be exchanged one time, so once you open your gift look around the room at the other gifts that have been opened, want something else? Take it and give them what you have, they then look around to see what else has been opened; if they want something else (other than what you just took from them) they do the same. It is a ruthless game! There were always some really good gifts and some really stupid gifts. We had such fun.

At the end of the night, we played games. Usually board games until we were tired. Though sometimes we played billiards and sometimes cards. Adults in one part of the house and young ones in another.

My eldest playing pretty princess with his youngest cousin

My eldest playing pretty princess with his youngest cousin

Christmas day was more relaxed though we had the morning presents for the children under the tree and the big family dinner in the afternoon. It was always Christmas Eve that was special for me. It was always that night that set the tone. I loved Christmas day because we were all together, comfortable and talking, playing games and spending time. But it was Christmas Eve that held so many traditions, even before Hearts Home, even as a child some of these traditions were already part of how I thought of Christmas.

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I suppose as new generations take over the celebrations they create their own traditions. This year I think I just missed the old ones.

Oddities and Grandma’s Wisdom

LVal_2010The world is burning and Nero fiddles from the balcony and we, the peasants are dancing in the streets to a song we barely know and have long since forgotten the steps to. Now and then though something occurs to us, something leaps out and bites us on the ankle, perhaps a memory of days past when things were simple and life didn’t break our hearts. For me, despite some folks in my family were crazy as hell and honestly didn’t have the sense the Good Lord gave a gnat, some of that time was time spent with one of my grandmothers in South Texas.

Valentines Liquor Store 6903 - 3-69-45

My Granddad’s Liquor store

I didn’t see a great deal of her, didn’t spend much time with her because my father and grandfather didn’t see eye-to-eye, this is mildly put. My grandfather was a mean son-of-a-bitch, he was a bigot and a card-carrying member of Racist-R-Us, if he didn’t have white sheets hanging in his closet I would be shocked. Because of my olive skin, dark hair and dark eyes my grandfather regularly called me a spic, papoose and even nigger; frequently asked my father why they didn’t return me where they got me since I was obviously not White and they never should have adopted me. My grandfather gave me my first drink of whiskey and my first cigarette when I was eleven years old, said he could prove I was an ‘injun’ if I got crazy with firewater. He and my father got into a fistfight on that visit, though it wasn’t just over this it was part of it.

Back to my grandmother, she was mostly a good South Texas Lady. How she ever tolerated my lying, cheating polecat of a grandfather for more than fifty years is beyond me, but she did. When I was seventeen I spent two weeks with her while she was recovering from surgery, it was the most time I had ever spent at one time. During that time she imparted her lifetime of wisdom, she made me laugh hysterically and often, she made me question her and my own sanity. All of this while we sat at the dining room table over coffee and cigarettes, my grandmother by the way smoked like a chimney until the day she died in her 80’s.

Here is the wisdom of my very Southern Grandmother and some of my thoughts about that wisdom.

    1. Never go out without lipstick.
      1. I try to remember this one, sad to say though I carry at least two tubes I rarely remember to smear it on my lips.
    2. Never go out without your hair done properly and don’t ever leave the house with curlers in your hair.
      1. Well, yeah now that I am growing my hair out my stylist has taught me how to wield a blow dryer and a brush, I am getting pretty good at it actually. Five days out of seven I do in fact actually somewhat successfully do something with my hair. Previously not so much, but I think my grandmother would be proud. There was a time I followed her rules much more closely and was a good Texas girl with the mantra of ‘the bigger the hair the closer to God’.
    3. Always wear a hat, this protects you from the sun prevents freckles and in your case dear stops you from turning so damned dark.
      1. Yeah, well thankfully we have sunscreen for this now. I own hats and wear them now and then, but this is for show not to protect me from the sun.
    4. Don’t wear pants in public, unless you are gardening they simply aren’t attractive and those jeans the girls are wearing now are terrible. Wear skirts or dresses, women should look like women.
      1. Okay, I don’t know what to say to this one, does anyone? Pants are my go to wardrobe choice most days.
    5. Always wear foundations, honey you need to wear a bra.
      1. Is there anything sexy about the foundations she was talking about and still wearing when we had this conversation?
    6. Wear high-heels, your legs look better in high-heels.
      1. This is the one I entirely agree with, wear them, collect them, even sometimes salivate over them.

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    7. Wear stockings, only floozies go out bare legged.
      1. Come on, I live in Texas where it is sometimes +105 for days at a time. Suffering for beauty is one thing but this takes things just a little too far.
    8. Do not ever get drunk in public, it is fine to have a drink at home but never get drunk in public.
      1. This is one we should all agree with. Nothing more to add.
    9. Marry where you love. Don’t let other people stop you not even your Daddy.
      1. Great advice from a woman who married “down” and was disowned by her parents for her choice in spouse, I often wonder if she ever regretted it.
    10. Be kind to others, kindness will always get you further than ugly.
      1. I have always tried to follow this.
    11. Don’t move with the crowd, they will push you over the cliff when you get to the edge.
      1. Isn’t this the damned truth.
    12. Honey, don’t compete with men they don’t appreciate a woman that can beat them at their own games and don’t need their noses rubbed in it all the time.
      1. Well, this is the truth and yet sometimes there is no choice is there?
    13. Don’t raise your voice in anger. Speak softly, force them to listen to you.
      1. It took me years to understand this one.
    14. Stop marking your body up, those tattoos are for bad girls and sailors.
      1. My grandmother hated my tattoos. I wonder if she would have changed her mind. At the time she said this too me I had two small ones on my back, now I have eighteen and many are sizable.
    15. Don’t let your past hurts color your world, live. You are young and your life is ahead of you.
      1. I try to live by this one. I knew what she was telling me at the time and we had many long talks about forgiveness and letting go at that table over those two weeks. It took me a very long time to absorb this lesson. I am grateful to her for it.

Those were the truths of my grandmother. It has been a very long time since I have thought of her or those conversations. Someone who is special to me and brings me a great deal of happiness reminded me today of these conversations, of wearing skirts instead of pants, of girdles and oddly of what it means to be feminine without losing who I am as a woman. I am grateful for the reminders and for being able to step outside of the world for a minute.

I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of my grandmother and her wisdom, I surely enjoyed the memory.

Because we should all have memories that bring us back around this is dedicated to someone I love.

Most Fortunate with Two

the dads

Fathers are people too, I was both cursed and blessed with two Fathers through the course of my life. They would over time become touchstones, friends, guides, mentors and ultimately true fathers, dads and daddy.

I was always, from the day I was brought home from the hospital a ‘Daddy’s Girl’. At best I tolerated my mother, but my father, him I adored. The stories that were told of my bad sleep habits, bad eating habits, colic and overall bad temper; all these were cured immediately upon my Daddy walking into the room and picking me up. I slept on his chest, drank from the bottle he fed me and apparently any illness I managed to catch he could cure by a laying on of hands. I tracked him with eyes that did not yet focus, cooed happy sounds if he was in the room but screamed bloody murder at the approach of any other person. Mind you, I do not remember these things thus can only relay the stories I was told.

What I do know is my first memories are of my father, the smell of Fiberglass and sawdust.DAD&Me

I was adopted at birth and brought home from the hospital at three days old. My original birth certificate doesn’t have a name, it says ‘Baby Girl’ with my first mother listed and my first father listed as unknown. This last part wasn’t  true, my first father was known and had tried with the help of his parents to stop the adoption from proceeding, in 1957 though it was a different world and biological fathers were not afforded consideration regarding their children, born or otherwise.

My ‘Daddy’ and I had an imperfect relationship through most of my young life. In large part this problematic relationship had to do with his absence, not so much his physical absence as his emotional absence from our lives. I spent a very large part of my life trying to get his attention, even as a young adult what I wanted was my father to ‘see’ me. It wasn’t until my father remarried in later life that he and I finally learned how to talk, where secrets of my childhood were revealed and we finally repaired what was broken between us. Even with all that was broken though, I was a ‘Daddy’s Girl’, I loved my father he was my rock, the most dependable person in my world.

When I was 24 I had the opportunity to meet my first (biological) parents. It truly was unlooked for, not something I had planned but a gift. What I found, my first parents had married after I was born; married and gone on to have five (5) more children. It was an unusual circumstance, not something most adopted children find when the files get opened and their ‘birth’ names are revealed to them. By the time I met my First parents they had divorced, both were leading separate and different lives, my first father had remarried, had two step-daughters, a very pregnant wife not much older than me. The first time we met, it was a phone call. A short, stuttering phone call with each of us not certain what to say or how to react to this unlooked reemergence of me or him into each other live.

What is important to remember about my first parents, they and I, we are the same generation; all of us Baby Boomers though born at different ends of the generational curve we were still within the same generation, still had some of the same experiences and same expectations. My ‘grandparents’ biologically were the same age as my adoptive parents. It was a very strange dichotomy we created, when you added to this a sibling group, two sibling groups actually it was a great deal to wrap my head around.

LVD and dad

This takes me back to my fathers, two of them. The relationship with my adoptive or second mother was such, broken and toxic would be the kindest terms I could use that finding and meeting my first mother was something I considered a curative at the time. Something that would fill a hole in my heart, I believed since I hadn’t really had a mother – daughter relationship up to that point I would perhaps find what had been missing. The idea I had a father out there, one who was prepared, even eager to meet me had never crossed my mind up to this point and I didn’t know how I felt about it. In truth, I didn’t think I needed or wanted another father, despite truly not having mended all the broken bridges between my ‘Daddy’ and I.

What I found when I met my first father.

  • Someone I looked like in many ways, I am a blend of my first parents and you can certainly see me in them. When you line me and my siblings up there is no doubt we are related. I had never looked like anyone before, it was stunning and for months after meeting them I would stare at pictures.

o   Gee thanks Dad, love that ass you handed down to me

o   Yeah, and those hips gotta love those

o   But the cheekbones, I do appreciate them they give my face character

  • Someone with a similar sense of humor, until I met my father I hadn’t really ever met anyone who saw the world the way I did and laughed at it. Strangely my Dad had the same sense of the ridiculous, I never knew this was simply built in.
  • Someone with the same intellect. My Dad was truly a very smart man, I am fairly certain he didn’t always use it for good, but he did use it. I am so grateful  I inherited his intellect, his brain.

o   I am also grateful I was nurtured by my Daddy and gained my moral compass where I did, giving me a true sense of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ even if I did not always apply it to my own life until much later.

  • Someone who truly did love his children, all of them. He wasn’t always present, didn’t always do what was ‘right’, he did though love his children and from what I observed they knew it. In later years and with his youngest daughters he was their primary parent, present and very much part of their lives, he and I talked about this once, he called it redemptive.

When I met my first father I was most fortunate, I didn’t know it then and wouldn’t realize it for many years but I was most fortunate to have another piece of me returned. I was also most fortunate to have my Daddy encourage me to seek a relationship with my ‘other’ father. My Daddy was secure in his place with me and felt no jealous need to hold me back, instead pushing me out of the nest and into the arms of another ‘father’.

Both of my fathers are lost to me in this world, but not from my heart. I treasure their contributions to my life, to my mind, my heart, my compass through the world. I am most fortunate to have had them as a measure of what men should be.

Mother’s Blessings

With the babies all growed up

With the babies all growed up

Mother’s Day is a strange one for me, tangled relationships up and down generational lines. I always approach this day with trepidation, always have even as a child.

I have three mothers, two of them have passed away.

I have two sons, yet no children of my own body, I am forever grateful to their mother, my wife-in-law for the generosity of her heart in sharing them with me. They hold me firmly anchored in the future.

I have, somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty-four siblings and some of them are my cousins. Many of these relationships are troubled by the tangle of maternal relationships.

Reading those words, I suspect people wonder how all this came to pass and why I am not more psychotic then I am. I have written about my relationships with my three mothers before, all of the history is available under various series in this blog if your interested I am happy to provide links for you to explore in the comments section, just ask. For Mother’s Day though I want to take a different tact, a more positive one with regard to each of my mother’s and their contribution to who I am.


The Mom's & I

The mother who raised me, who I have always referred to as Mom or my Second Mother; who adopted me, perhaps unwillingly after suffering multiple miscarriages. We had a troubled, even sometimes violent relationship during my childhood and through my early teens. Our personalities were like sandpaper rubbing together, despite living in the same house from the time I was three days old we never found common ground, not even in our memories.

Mom and I, San Marco Square, Venice Italy 1965

Mom and I, San Marco Square, Venice Italy 1965

Truthfully we shared only two great loves, my father and my younger brother and these would act as wedges between us rather than bringing us together. It was a difficult relationship, for both of us to navigate even as we steered into our very separate adult lives. Ultimately I chose to limit my interactions with her and she seemed to be happy with this choice, as she made no attempts to mend what was shattered between us. My mom passed away this year at nearly 94 years of age. She suffered from acute Dementia and her body finally failed her, I was there in the end. Her passing has driven a wedge between my beloved younger brother and I, someday perhaps we will heal it. What my First Mother gave to me even through our troubled relationship was this:

  • A progressive and independent view of the world, one that she was outspoken about and frequently argued with my father about who shared many of her views but not all.
  • A love of books and reading, she gave me my first book and taught me to escape into the worlds of the written word. I have never lost my ability to lose myself in the pages of a book my first true love.
  • The love of travel and the appreciation of the antiquities of history. As a child we trekked Europe and its castles and museums. She bought every guidebook, every memento offered and saved them all for years.
  • Manners, I learned manners in her home. It wasn’t all from her, my Southern bred paternal Grandmother certainly influenced some of this, but much of what I learned were European manners and I learned them from her.

My First Mother, who gave birth to me and without ever seeing my face gave me up for adoption I owe much too, certainly my life. But, more than my life, there is much she has given me since I met her when I was twenty-five. My biological (First) mother and father married after I was born and went on to have five more children, thanks to this I have true siblings, people who I share DNA with, who look KrisLogar Weddinglike me and who in many ways I share common traits with. I grew up thinking I was alone in the world, there was no one like me, no one who would completely understand me. Certainly I did not look like my ‘family’, I did not think like my ‘family’ in many important ways. Suddenly at the age of twenty-five I faced not only a mother and father but siblings as well, all of whom I shared common DNA with, all of whom looked like me and in strange ways, acted like me despite sharing no common history. I don’t want to paint this reunion story as if it was hearts and flowers, as if it was easy. Certainly all of us had challenges to overcome as we tried to come together, to understand each other. Truthfully we were estranged for nearly ten years, only now in the past three beginning to re-discover balance and a loving acceptance of our mutual flaws. What my First Mother has given me that I am so grateful for:

  • First and forever, an understanding of where I come from at a very deep level. Having felt so isolated my entire life, never knowing what or who I was this was such a gift. Now, when I look in the mirror, I understand what contributes to what I see.
  • My resilience, my strength. After meeting my mother, listening to her life stories I believe we share a common spirit, something she passed to me to insure my survival even as she released me to a world she couldn’t protect me from through my life.
  • My siblings, all of them. Though I don’t have close relationships with all of them I am nonetheless grateful they are in the world. Perhaps someday we will see past egos and angst and make our way closer.

My Heart Mother (aka Step Mother, Aunt), the love of my Second Fathers’ life (aka Daddy) was perhaps one of the greatest blessings of my adult life. Certainly she was the greatest blessing of my Daddy’s life and I will forever and always be grateful to her. I have written about their marriage, the strange relationship and her end elsewhere, I won’t repeat it here, suffice to say she was a fabulous woman I still miss her. What she gave me in the years she was married to my father:

How I always see them Just Loving Perfectly

How I always see them
Just Loving Perfectly

  • She returned my Father to me, she reached across wide chasms of misunderstanding and hurt and taught us to talk to each other and listen. There could be no greater gift in the world.
  • She taught me hope, even when everything was horrible when I was willing to give up and just stop, when I hurt everywhere she sat with me and talked about how much I was loved, how much she loved me and she gave me hope, she was helplessly hopeful that I would walk, that I would go dancing, that I would live, that I would have the life I wanted, that I would love. She never gave up hope.
  • She taught me about beauty, when I felt fat and ugly and terrible about myself as I learned I might never do things I loved again, she told me the story of myself as a child when I thought I was an ugly duckling in a family of tall blonds. With her thick Texas drawl she stared me deep in the eyes and told my how all my cousins hated when I came to visit, how I was so ‘exotic’ and ‘beautiful’ I put them all to shame with their beanpole common looks, then she laughed and told me now I looked the way I was supposed to look, like a woman.
  • She taught me about unconditional love, as my father descended through Alzheimer’s, as his once brilliant mind disappeared she cared for him without wavering. She protected him and loved him with constant attention, even as her own health was failing. When an accident took her life, my father followed her a short eleven months later.

Each of my mother’s hold me tethered to a strange history but have also cut strings and released me to find my way. I am finally grateful for their sometimes-unwitting guidance and certainly grateful for their loving direction.


To all the Mothers out there today, Happy Mother’s Day. So we don’t forget until they are returned;


Spring Sprung Famdamily

Whatever or however you might celebrate today, Happy Day (Easter or otherwise). Me? Oh, I am just going to clean my house, do some laundry and go for a walk eventually, maybe to the lake. Perhaps I will take my camera and see if the recent rains have raised our water up at all. Maybe I will see if our Bluebonnets are out, who knows there might be something worth taking some shots of this time. I know I have some small buds on my Lavender out back and my fruit trees are starting to bloom also, it is a sure sign Spring might finally be here to stay.

Anyone who knows me knows I do not like being cold. Truly, it is simply not my favorite thing, I like heat all and any kind of heat. I want to be warm, always. The strange thing about this entire issue of being warm, I do not like heavy clothes. I want to be warm without layer upon layer of clothing. I suspect this is why I like living where it is hot most of the time and why when I vacation my favorite destinations also tend to be, well shall we say on the warm side. I am simply warm blooded; I even like food on the spicy side of the flavor wheel; if my eyes water and my ears burn a bit I am happy.

So all this being said, Spring it seems has Sprung and I couldn’t be more pleased. Hell I might even pull the shades and do a bit of a happy dance through the house. I will have to pick something to dance too though; I will put my pick at the end of this if you like you can dance along.

Well, all this being said I am really only sharing my joy and happiness at Spring Time possibly being here to share some fun times with you. I know I don’t often do this do I? Yesterday though I spent time with my sons and their families and my wonderful wife-in-law. We took a slow train ride from Grapevine to the Fort Worth Stockyards and then wandered the Stockyards followed by dinner. Not the day I might have planned for myself, but when you have small children, well it actually worked out well, for the most part.

Pictures from the train ride, strangers and famdamily.

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I must admit the stockyards are a people draw, a great place for people watching. What a strange collection. I wonder why it is people immediately feel the need to throw on their cowboy boots, even if they have never worn a pair in their lives before.

Pictures from the Fort Worth Stockyards, street scenes and famdamily.

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Finally, we all piled into our respective cars and made our way to Uncle Julio’s, a fabulous and popular local Tex-Mex restaurant with a great menu and spectacular Margaritas. We were all sufficiently starving by the time we arrived and so enjoyed great meal and those of us old enough, enjoyed a libation. During the day I discovered a new Tequila which I will be adding to my bar (Herradura Anjejo), it is a magnificent sipping Tequila for those of you who have a leaning in that direction.

Pictures from our night of waiting and dinning.

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Last but not least of all, my friend Christ Hanna of Posture Studios, did another spectacular job and I want to share with you some of the pictures he took of the newest addition to my family. I am so pleased with how these turned out, think my new grandson is so angelic (never mind if his parents aren’t getting sleep). I encourage you, if you are in the DFW area or are planning to be, give Christ a call; he is wonderful and continues to be my hero.

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Now to what I will be dancing about the house too, you can use your imagination as to what in and how.


Lexicon: Wife-in-Law

She and I were both married to and divorced from the same man. She is the mother of my sons. We share a common bond, we love our sons, want what is best for them. We have been part of each other’s lives for better than thirty years and are friends. There is no term for the relationship we have, this one fits.

Small Joys

The holidays are finally over; I can only say I am grateful.  I found myself tearful, often.  In fact, more often than not, I found myself stepping out of the room so I could have a good cry.  How badly does that simply suck?  I wrote a different post for today, I decided I would post it tomorrow, today are my holiday stories.

Small stories of things that didn’t suck.  Stories proving the world will continue to spin and I won’t fall off, there are good people in it.

My favorite store in the entire world (other than DSW and Neiman Marcus Outlet) is Central Market.  I drive nearly twenty miles out of my way to shop at Central Market because it makes me happy.  This day 686px-FlowerShop_ShangHaiStreet_HKsolidified my love forever.  It was the day after DB took flight and I was feeling battered, barely hanging by my fingernails and certainly not up for pleasant banter.  I wanted fresh flowers to brighten my dismal mood and my dull table.  Wandering aimlessly, I picked from the individual bins when a woman slightly younger than me asked if she could assist, apparently she didn’t notice the storm cloud over my head.  She persisted though, silly girl, asking again if she could help and suddenly out of my mouth came the stupidest thing, “No, you can’t help me.  My husband of fourteen years left yesterday without a word, without good-bye or fuck you and all I want is some stupid flowers because nobody else will ever buy them for me again!”  I stared at her dumbfounded by my inability to act in a socially acceptable manner; she stared at me likely for the same reason, really who does that?  I found myself crying in front of a perfect stranger in the middle of Central Market.  With compassion and kindness, Maryam squeezed my arm, helped me make a beautiful bouquet and talked to me.  When I was done, when I made my way to the checkout stand with my groceries and my flowers she walked over and told the checker, “The flowers are on Central Market today”.

So I cried twice.  I hugged her for her kindness and reminding me there are lovely and compassionate people in the world.  Two days later I wrote a letter to Central Market telling them how much her gesture, her kindness and her empathy meant to me.  Yesterday, I saw her again and told her in person while we made another beautiful bouquet.

Other things that don’t suck, my children and their partners, my Wife-in-Law, my grandchildren and the family of my daughter-in-law all of whom made this holiday season bearable and sometimes even joyful.  Friends who have reached out to me throughout this season with short notes and telephone calls, just to check in and see if I was okay, friends here in my virtual world leaving me their e-mail address and talking to me, letting me know I wasn’t as alone as I felt.  You all just can’t imagine how much that means; when I see your notes, my spirit is lifted.

Another story from the holiday season, because family stories are important.  I spent Christmas Eve and morning at the home of youngest son and his marvelous partner, they are truly perfectly matched, the love that fills their home, between them and her children is addictive.  My wife-in-law was also visiting from Seattle (I adore her) and so Christmas was a happy time, despite the bittersweet undertones; she

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is going through her own challenge with her marriage also falling apart around her head, her husband notifying her on the very same day as mine of his intention to end their 30 year partnership (assclown).  Needless to say, she and I were challenged in our joy, but she and I were with the sons we loved, were also with each other and oddly, both take great pleasure in our company.  So between Moscow Mules, a perfect Mexican feast cooked by our children, watching our grandson open presents and planning for a future without our husbands there was laughter to be had.  I suggested my much-loved WIF come live with me; I find I have a significant amount of room now.  For some reason our sons find this idea ‘strange’, their mothers living together; she and I laughed uproariously at their discomfort!

Christmas morning found me awake long before the rest of the household, the first pot of coffee long gone before anyone else stumbled out of bed.  Wrapped in flannel and love, awaiting the arrival of two little girls and one more round of gift-wrap madness we spent our morning quietly chatting over a superlative breakfast cooked by my son (who knew).

Christmas day found the WIF and me at the home of my eldest sons in-laws; this is something of a tradition for the big holidays.  I am so grateful for the invitation and how I have been embraced by this large and loving family, it is a gift.  Theirs is a blended family that has blurred the lines by love, it is spectacular to witness and each time I am invited to their home I am awestruck by the immensity of their love, compassion, humor and this time their empathy.  It never surprises me why my son loves his wife; she comes from a family that understands commitment and love.  It never surprises me why I use to tell him he needed to marry her or I was keeping her when I see her with her family.

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This time though, well it was a bit overwhelming and I was brought to tears.  This, this was what I had wanted for myself.  This love, this commitment; this is what I wanted for me.  This is what I failed to build and this failure tore at my heart.  At one point during the celebrations I found myself walking outside simply to cry, just a moment of pure alone tears but it wasn’t to be because these are kind and loving people.  One of them saw me walking away and followed, without a word just followed and with a touch; a simple hug let me know I wasn’t alone, then with a bit of humor pulled me out of  my black cloud and back into the loving embrace of family.  I am so grateful to her for her empathy.

So those are my Christmas stories 2013.

Letting go of Animosity

Last week I was in Seattle where both my mother’s live, what a strange twist of circumstance and fate that is. Originally my trip was planned so I could step into the role I have always played so well, the one I am so expert at, Bad and Evil Daughter to my second mother. The plan was for me to move my second mother from the apartment she had lived in for 28 years to Assisted Living, all in a single fell swoop.

The strategy was laid. The deposit was made on her new apartment in the Assisted Living place; it is literally two blocks from where she is now. It is a nice apartment, frankly nicer than where she is living today. The movers were arranged for and the time agreed. Her home care support was notified so they could start preparing her, reminding her she was moving. My second mother has dementia, her memory and cognitive skills on a scale of 1 to 5, five being the best, are approaching two now.

I was going to spend my Labor Day weekend moving my second mother into her new Assisted Living facility. It isn’t what I wanted to do and I approached this task with much trepidation, some resentment and frankly some fear. Anyone who has read Broken Chains knows the story of my relationship with my second mother, the time leading up to this weekend had been filled with a great deal of soul searching and angst. I landed in Seattle Thursday night though and made my way to the hotel with some peace in my heart. It would all be fine, my brother was convinced all the pieces were in place and everything would be fine.

Well, maybe not so fine. The movers, who were supposed to arrive at 9am on Friday morning, arrived at 7am instead. Was I confused? I am certain I wasn’t, in fact I had the move confirmation right there on my handy CrackBerry, right there in green and lime green, 9am. Nevertheless, let me rush across the bridge to and get things moving. When I arrived at my second mom’s apartment, no one was there but her and she was still in bed sound asleep. You cannot get a 92-year-old woman with dementia out of bed and tell her, “come on old woman it’s moving day!” This is simply not the way things work, hell this approach wouldn’t work for me and I am significantly younger. It took her nearly 20 minutes to realize who I was and that I was there, in her apartment.

We talked about her move. She was genuinely confused and resistant to any thought of moving. She doesn’t remember falling and has remained on the floor until her home aid comes the next day. She believes she can continue to live independently and that she is not a danger to herself. She doesn’t remember that she forgets to eat or that she has bouts of incontinence. We had the same conversation at least seven times in the space of an hour.

I called my brother in Korea, it was 3am there but I did not care because I was doing this for him. He didn’t want to be the Bad and Evil Son. We had gone through this with our father who had Alzheimer’s, my brother didn’t understand how bad it was, how horrific the failure was. My brother couldn’t face the failure of our fathers mind. Now we faced the same issue, he didn’t understand or couldn’t face the failure of our mother; she said ‘yes’ but did not retain the information.

I sent the movers away agreeing to pay for their time. I sat with my second mother and continued to talk about the move, about what she needed to make her comfortable with it. I wrote on her White Board, “You Are Moving to Ballard Manor”. I gave money to her favorite caregiver to buy moving boxes so she could start sorting some of her personal things when Veronica was with her, it helps her to feel in control.

I will never hear from my second mother the words I spent my entire life wishing to hear; never will I hear any of these;

Mom and I, San Marco Square, Venice Italy 1965

“I love you”

“I am sorry I hurt you”

“I understand”

Despite my original trepidation, anger and fear going out to Seattle to be the Bad and Evil Daughter, I am glad I went. Although I don’t think my mother knows this, we made peace. She is at the end of her life and I realized in sitting with her over the days I was there, despite it all she deserves my protection and care. For her humanity, for the fact that she was so greatly damaged as a child and was unable to heal throughout her long life she deserves my protection and care. I came away knowing I would always have a small hole, but it was one I could fill by preserving her dignity.

To the other side of this trip, the time I didn’t know I would have I filled in a way I hadn’t originally considered. Early this year I had reached out my first mother, we hadn’t spoken in several years and at the urging of one of my siblings I opened the communication door again. I wanted to repair old wounds and re-create a relationship with my first mother; we had a rocky start the first time. With this in mind, well I just picked up the phone and called asking if I could come to Vashon Island for to visit.

Ferry to Vashon Island

Why not? Surprise I am here!

One visit turned into two, they were both wonderful and peaceful. We were both I think changed in some fundamental ways by life and our experiences. We were both different and the same, but both ready for a different relationship with each other. For me, it was easier to internalize ‘this is my mother, blood and she did what was best.’ I had always pragmatically thought so, but my emotions had overruled my thinking and I wanted to lay at her feet so much of my pain, even when I didn’t realize I was doing this. I can’t speak for her, but at least on the surface she was softer though I worry for her health.

The bonus visit was with one of my siblings, a younger sister! I learned something on this trip, though in my head I have always known. I have this large extended family, some of whom I keep up with at least within the context of social media and some of whom I rarely talk to at all. I think we do ourselves such a grave and terrible disservice by losing sight of the bonds that tie us together. We don’t have to love one another, but at least for me given my status as an adopted child I want at least the chance to know who I love and whether I can love you before I let go entirely.

If you are confused by my references to mothers:

First Mother – my biological mother

Second Mother – my adopted mother

Family Threads

We just worshipped him, treated him like he was a little god.

I know there were days I wanted to beat the hell out of you for it.

Wondering whom this conversation was between and whom it was about? Well, last night I hosted a family dinner and that was just one of the short reminiscing I and my Wife-in-Law’ (WIF) had about our youngest son. Putting that conversation in context, I was the second voice the one that wanted to beat the hell of her, after I said it we both cackled while the son in question looked on bemused.

This is our blended family:

Family Threads Extended

I have known my WIF and her current husband for 28 years; I married her ex, when our shared sons were four and seven respectively. With only a few exceptions (barring blood relations), these are the longest standing relationships I have. I was legally married to our ex, the father of our shared sons for 14 years, from 1984 to 1998, I did not live with him that entire time and did not have what anyone would consider a traditional marriage, the one constant though, I adored my two stepsons, they owned me heart and soul. Every single time I considered leaving my marriage permanently, they were what kept me, they were what held me I could not bear to lose that connection.

In the early years of my marriage, it is safe to say my WIF and I were not the best of friends. I suspect we saw each other over the gulf that so often exists at the end of marriages. I know my ex remained enraged for years over what he believed was unfair treatment, as his wife I took his side. Overtime, the scales dropped from my eyes and it was easier to see that both sides had a story to tell. I don’t know when my WIF and I started to drop our animosity and find common ground; it was before her ex became my ex though.

I asked my WIF if I could write about her in my blog, as we were chatting she casually said, ‘you could call me the Baby Mama’.

My eldest, who is quite grown up at thirty-five, with a horrified look on his face replied for me, ‘you will not do that!’

These are my sons, who I adore.

They still have to do what I say

For 28 years they have held my heart, filled a hole I thought would remain empty forever. The first weekend they visited after I married their father, they confronted me with this epiphany;

We don’t have to do what you say, you aren’t our mother!

Spoken with true attitude and conviction by two children I was convinced were demon seed at that point in the weekend. My WIF had informed me she didn’t believe in spanking, it was obvious. To say we had different views on childrearing would have been an understatement!

There have over these many years been ups and downs, tears and laughter. There was a time when I thought I lost them and my heart would remain broken forever. We healed and here we are a family. The minister at our eldest son’s wedding several years ago tried to figure out who we are, specifically who we are to each other. When he had been introduced to us separately, it was as ‘My Mom’. Her husband was introduced by name, so clearly not ‘Dad’, my husband for obvious reasons, also not ‘Dad’. Finally the minister couldn’t stand it his curiosity got the best of him; he found us sitting together chatting and simply asked. Bless her, she said;

We’re the mom’s, we both divorced their Dad.

Family is a funny thing, how we ultimately form the bonds of love and hang on tight, sometimes without even realizing those bonds are wrapping themselves around us. We have added new marriages, grandchildren, new partners and perhaps soon new grandchildren. We are fortunate I think.

Baby Mama….Wife-in-Law

One is the name she gave herself last night to tweak our son. The other is the name we gave to each other because we couldn’t find another that described our family relationship properly and the bond we shared.

This is my Wife-in-Law and I, who I will always be grateful to for sharing her brilliant children with me and curing the hole in my heart.

The Two Moms

Mirror Images, Meet the Parents


My “Real” Mom, 1979

You have my face”. These were the first words I blurted out to my biological mother the day we met. It was shocking to finally meet her and thus meet someone who looked like me.It wasn’t I looked a little like her. I stared in stunned silence at my mirror image. Were it not for the fact I colored my hair and didn’t worship the sun, we would have passed for sisters.My mother and I are the same generation being only 16 years apart in age.

Meet the Parent!

You might have guessed I am adopted (Family Ties, Part II/), and I met my biological mother. What may come as a surprise is what else I found; my mother and father married after my birth and had five more children before divorcing. She dropped that bombshell at our first meeting. I felt like my head was going to explode or my heart would stop. I wasn’t  sure what to do with the information; it certainly wasn’t what I expected to hear. The only emotion I had for weeks, even months was, how surreal.

For months our relationship was comparable to the beginning of a new romance. Wanting to know about the other one, who they are and what they like. It was strange and oft times rocky, as romances are want to be. Neither of us was mature enough to understand our motives or emotions so our relationship floundered horribly. Both of us ended up wounded and disappointed in the other; unable to find the balance needed to sustain a healthy relationship we wounded each other and eventually drifted apart.

Our failures, looking back were mutual though unspoken. For my mother her need to re-parent me was dominant. I was in my early twenties, grown and angry parenting was the last thing I wanted from anyone. I had parents, they had failed me miserably, why would I want another parent, especially someone I didn’t know and who had fundamentally failed me once already. I was if nothing else terribly judgmental.

My mother carried a great deal of guilt for giving me up and she wanted forgiveness. Intellectually I understood the circumstances. I spoke the words more than once; even tried to make her understand I did not blame her. Nevertheless, looking back there was a thread of anger through our relationship  partly driven by her guilt and partly driven by my terrible hurt, they married and had more children!

Nature – v – Nurture

When I consider this question in light of my tangled roots I think we are an amalgamation

wikipedia image

of many things combined to create the whole person. My mother was told by a Channeler when she found me she would meet the daughter most like her. Boy was he wrong! I was most like her only in appearance, in all other aspects I was very dissimilar. I suspect this was a horrible disappointment. In one of our more acrimonious discussions I told her she had given up the right to parent me, I had parents and their values, mores and ethics had formed me Thank God. Yes, I said that, it was cruel and looking back it was also unnecessary.

Truthfully? I always saw bits of my mother in me, more than the mirror image. There were times when my mother would say or do something and I would think, that is where that comes from that is why I do that. Those times would stun me into silence.

There were days I wanted desperately to be like my mother so she would love me, so she would like me so she would embrace me and even nurture me. I found in the end I was to stubbornly formed already by what had gone before and could not shift my core to become who she needed. In seeking her I sought the mother I had not had, I know this now. In unconsciously rejecting her conditions I began to embrace who I would become but lost the opportunity to know her and for her to know me.

I haven’t seen or spoken to my biological mother in over ten years. I wouldn’t even know where to begin healing the rift.

My friend and fellow blogger recently wrote Nurture Strength which provides great insight into the Nature -v – Nurture argument. I hope you will read it.

More to come on the oddities of Nature –v- Nurture, Fathers, Brothers and Sisters oh my !

In-Laws, Outlaws and the Inbetween

For Better or Worse, that isn’t a question but rather part of the vows most of us blithely repeat during our wedding ceremonies. As the minister pronounces us married and we kiss our newly minted spouse, dreams of our future waltz across the polished dance floor. We turn from the minister to our newly minted family; all dressed in their Sunday-go-to-meeting best never realizing monsters lurk beneath the smiling faces sitting in the pews.

Don’t get me wrong, some of these lovely people don’t intend to ruin your life. Truthfully, some are well-meaning monsters who simply have no brought-upsie that is they were not beaten within an inch of their lives when they were children. Others, well they are simply Azzhats and your happiness annoys them. Then there are those who believe they are helping you and don’t comprehend how their help could possibly be seen as interference. These lovelies are not just on your spouse’s side of the family, oh no indeed they are all running rampant throughout and you both need to know how to spot them and take them down.

The Out-Laws

The Oblivious Out-Law – these poor dears are unaware of their jaunts into the land of offensive.  Saying and doing things that would cause most of us hesitation. The Out-Law of Rude generally fails to maintain connections between their brains and their mouths, it isn’t their fault though (I try to give the benefit of the doubt). Example from my own family annuals:

“I read recently that the only reason a younger man would date or marry an older woman is to use her for her money. No younger man would ever find an older woman sexually attractive.” Said by my sister during a family get together; uhmm, Sister Dear, husband and I have a nineteen year age gap and have been married a decade. Shocked silence all around as my sister smiles while attempting to remove foot from mouth, oh will it doesn’t apply to you; ya’ll are obviously different right?’

The Judgment Out-Law – this is one that believes no matter what one of you will never be good enough for the other. Usually one of the mothers, Heaven help you if it is both. This Out-Law will never release their hold and will spend a significant amount of energy pointing out the faults of the partner. If the Judgment Out-Law is also the family Matriarch you are in trouble before you get started, nipping the problem early is the only way to win this war or you will find the entire family against you before you have a chance to settle in. The only way to win this is your partner must be willing to stand up to his/her meddlesome parent, reminding them you are now the spouse and first.

The Helpful Out-Law – this one is always there willing to assist with anything and everything, for a price. Clean your house, mow your lawn, do your shopping, watch your dog anything you might need this Out Law is the one to call, actually they might be calling you. Problem is with this one they are also usually there watching your TV, eating your food and otherwise disrupting your privacy. They have no sense of boundaries, hell for the most part they have no sense. The Helpful Out-Law will sleep on your couch if you let them, borrow money and your car (to do your shopping) and when things go South they will tell the entire family all your secrets including those you don’t have. The only way to prevent this outlaw from taking over your life is not to let them in. Decline their assistance unless you have no choice, say you are in full traction for example. Only invite them over during family get-togethers’ when there is a buffer between you and them.

Those are just three of the Out-Laws you will without doubt find in your new family tree. The funny thing is, some of them will be hanging from the branches of your tree and you simply didn’t know they were there until the fateful day you married. Marriage changes everything!

More on In-Laws and Out-Laws from my own hysterical family later. Stay tuned.

Next Chapter: Compromise Isn’t Everything or What’s Love Have to Do with It?

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