Happy Middle Child Day…it isn’t much but it’s what we’ll have to settle for

Middle childLast week I got an email from the Corpus Christi Hooks announcing that August 12 is Middle Child Day and that they were discounting tickets to the game by $1.  It’s probably not enough to compensate for the pain suffered by those of us caught in the middle.

I heard about Middle Child Day last year on August 14.  Of course, nobody had publicized it so nobody acknowledged it.  Nothing new about that.  Why would anyone care?  We middles aren’t as clever and poised as our older sibling or as cute and funny as our younger one.  We’re just there. The schwa of the family.

That’s me with the curly blonde hair wearing my older sister’s dress that Mother shortened and widened for me.

If you ask my older sister, she will say that I had it easy coming after her.  Our parents had waited years before her arrival.  Years of accumulated expectations cascaded on her from birth.  By the time I came along:   meh.  I got side notes in my older sister’s baby book.  The parents didn’t even use a different colored ink.

When my younger sister was born, my older sister got me instead of a Chatty Cathy doll.  She was not amused.

There are charts and books written about birth order and how it affects us.  If you ask either end of our sibling triad, they think their lot in life is worse.  But that’s just like them.  Grabbing all the credit.

Giant Eyeore sigh.

353b3826dfa17ecda92670bf28449bf0The truth is that I wouldn’t trade my place in the birth order if I could.  I am in the middle of 3 sisters so I’ve been blessed with relationships with both of them.  My older sister is incredibly smart and defied every rule.  Openly.  She made it easy for me to break all the rules under the radar.  She was a high achiever so our parents had already gotten the recognition they deserved for great parenting.  When I came along, they certainly weren’t looking for lightning to strike twice in the same uterus.

Were they disappointed?  Possibly.  That’s why we middles are flexible, secretive, easy-going, and generous.  If we can’t con our way into your heart, we buy our way in. Best of all, there were few barriers for me.  If my older sister got to do it, I did too.  I know because, being the family schwa, I am a great observer.   Life might be unfair, but I have scapegoats on either side of me to shift the blame to.  keep-calm-deal-with-your-middle-child-syndrome

 

 

Posted in Family, Humor, Middle child, Relationships, Sisters | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Walk to End Alzheimer’s 2014

Origin of the term Alzheimer's disease dates back to 1906 when Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German physician, presented a case history before a medical meeting of a 51-year-old woman who suffered from a rare brain disorder. A brain autopsy identified the plaques and tangles that today characterize Alzheimer's disease. (WW II Dave)

Origin of the term Alzheimer’s disease dates back to 1906 when Dr. Alois Alzheimer, a German physician, presented a case history before a medical meeting of a 51-year-old woman who suffered from a rare brain disorder. A brain autopsy identified the plaques and tangles that today characterize Alzheimer’s disease. (WW II Dave)

We have two good parents who were about as opposite as you can get.  They were older when we were born;  Daddy was in his 40’s when they had my older sister and almost 50 when my younger sister was born.  Both of our parents were smart and treasured education with great expectations for our academic careers.

Mother was precise and viewed us with a critical eye.  If she praised us, we’d done something remarkable. Our dad, on the other hand, thought that we three girls were the most amazing creatures that had ever drawn a breath of life.  Mother said things like, “If you have 2 good friends in your life, you are lucky.”  Daddy thought everyone was his friend.

When they retired, they moved up to the wilds of Montell, Texas.  It wasn’t long before Mother started complaining about Daddy being confused and forgetful.  In my arrogance, I thought Mother was just being Mother.  Nothing else to distract her and scrupulous to a fault, she had become hyper focused on Daddy.  I would listen patiently to her and think, “She just needs to complain.”  It was after she had a breakdown and I temporarily took over care of our dad that we realized things had to change.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain's nerve cells, or neurons, resulting in loss of memory, thinking and language skills, and behavioral changes.  (Principal Dave)

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain’s nerve cells, or neurons, resulting in loss of memory, thinking and language skills, and behavioral changes. (Principal Dave)

In the early 80’s, Alzheimer’s disease wasn’t as well-known as it is today.  That was Daddy’s diagnosis along with its terrible prognosis.   We grieved as he descended deeper into the sickness.  Nearly 30 years ago, on May 8, 1986, death freed him  from the disease’s bondage.

It took me years to stopping wincing when I thought about him.  I blamed him for getting sick, for passing that legacy to us.  Daddy’s few years of sickness overshadowed a lifetime of his humor and patience, kindness and compassion.

It was when I put his name on a resentment list as I worked the 12 steps that I realized it wasn’t him I resented.  It was that dang disease.  Over the years, I’ve contributed to the Alzheimer’s Association and intended to, one of these days, participate in a Walk to End Alzheimer’s fundraising event. My intentions are always good; my follow through isn’t.

ry=400

Team Dave’s Girls (missing Alizon!)

This year I decided to participate.  I checked dates for walks in south Texas and found one in Austin on my birthday, October 12.  It’s a 70% chance that I’ll be with GE in Austin anyway on my b’day. I text-invited my sisters, nieces, and daughter to join me.

After I got a few “I’ll walk with you,”  I registered our team:  Dave’s Girls.  I started sending out “formal” invitations yesterday and got our first team member, my older sister.

It isn’t a long walk, only 2 miles, but I can’t think of a better way to celebrate our dad than with his girls being together.

To donate to our team, go to http://act.alz.org/site/TR/Walk2014/TX-CapitalofTexas?px=5535143&pg=personal&fr_id=5433

10450927_10152306397074355_3046813850674158380_n

The causes of Alzheimer’s disease are still unknown. Current research indicates that Alzheimer’s disease may be triggered by a multitude of factors, including age, genetic makeup, oxidative damage to neurons from the overproduction of toxic free radicals, serious head injuries, brain inflammation, and environmental factors.

 

Posted in Aging, Family, Grief, Relationships, Texas | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Days for Girls

The title makes me think about spring days playing with my daughter and granddaughter at the park.  It does not remind me of “the curse” or “that time of the month” or “periyuks.”  Menstrual periods.

Poster at Las Colchas quilt store

Poster at Las Colchas quilt store

I had a chance to hang out at Las Colchas quilt store in San Antonio last week.  While I waited for a turn at the material cutting table, I saw a sign:  “Days for Girls:  What if not having access to feminine supplies kept you isolated during menstruation every month?”

I thought it was a joke at first.  Some kind of silly PMS humor. In my mind, EVERYONE has sanitary napkins and tampons.  I googled http://www.daysforgirls.org, the website shown on the poster.  What I found is that every female does not have access to clean feminine supplies.

The “Days” in the title refers to days lost from school or work, days spent in isolation by women and girls in more than 60 countries across 6 continents.  Women in these countries lose income, education, and dignity, unable to leave home and forced to use whatever they can find to stay somewhat clean.  According to their website: It turns out this issue is a surprising but instrumental key to social change for women all over the world. The poverty cycle can be broken when girls stay in school.”

 Girls who have sanitary hygiene are​ more confident in school and more ​likely to graduate.​​     For every year of education a girl receives, her future income increases.     ​When a girl has 7 or more years of education, she marries 4 years later and pass on her knowledge and strength.​​     She will speak up for herself & others​ and contribute to her community.

Girls who have sanitary hygiene are​ more confident in school and more ​likely to graduate.​​ When a girl has 7 or more years of education, she marries 4 years later and can pass on her knowledge and strength.​​

Days for Girls was founded in 2008 when a woman working with Kenyan orphanages asked the assistant director of an orphanage what the girls did about feminine hygiene.  The answer was: “Nothing. They wait in their rooms.”

 The conditions were cramped, unsanitary, and would leave girls without food and water for days unless someone brought it to them.  This sparked awareness of how vulnerable millions of women and girls are every month simply because of this basic biological function. These women and girls suffer in silence, due to cultural ideas and taboos surrounding this issue.

The Days for Girls organization proposes to provide sustainable feminine hygiene kits to these women and girls by partnering with nonprofits, groups, and organizations. Las Colchas, the quilt store we visited in San Antonio, has a once a week meeting with local sewists to make these kits.  A kit consists of a drawstring bag which holds soft flannel tri-fold pads, PUL liners, travel sized soap, a wash cloth, and Ziploc bag.

thankyouIt is humbling  to think that scraps of materials can provide independence and that these kits are so valued that girls use them for up to 3 years.  Three years gains 180 days of education, health, safety, and dignity for these women.  It is definitely worth a few hours visiting and sewing with friends to assemble something so simple that has such an impact.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Days for Girls, Sewing, volunteerism, Women's issues | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Lead foot

I’m not much of a criminal. It isn’t because I have a strict moral code.  Although I have a conscience, my moral behavior is fenced in with a fear of consequences.  I don’t want to be caught and I certainly don’t want to go to jail.  My thinking leads me to the edge where my fear snatches my hand and jerks me away.

2014 marked the beginning of the Crosby St. crime spree.  The year started out hectic.  Although my work gets busy when I’m bidding a job or doing billings, most of my 40 hour work week is low key.  Just before a bid and at the end of the month when I’m doing billings, I am nose down at my desk.  Otherwise, I can answer a text or a call with impunity.

We started this year with work and with opportunities for more work.  Some days I get into the office, start the coffee, get a call from the field with a hair on fire problem, look wistfully at the pot of coffee, lock up the office, and leave to see what’s up on the job.  Before I get to one job site, there’s something happening on one of the other sites.  I find myself driving like a demon, jaw and bum cheeks clenched, mind darting from project to project to project.

Go Speed RacerI was in that crazed mindset as I dashed to our Portland job and noticed a DPS trooper slowly arc around and turn on his lights.  76 in a 60.  The trooper was nice, of course, explaining that I needed to make contact with the JP and that I could take defensive driving so the ticket wouldn’t impact my car insurance rates.

Should I tell Bob about this ticket? Fifteen years of single life weigh in:  Why bother  him about the ticket?  You’ll be taking defensive driving and it won’t show up.  Pay for it out of your personal account.  He doesn’t need to know.  He’ll just get upset and yell at you.

Bob yells at me about my driving all the time.  It sounds like this, Baby.  I was following you back from the meeting and you just slowed down at the 4 way stop signI worry about you when you drive so fast.  Please be careful.  I don’t want anything to happen to you.

I didn’t say anything to Bob and made plans to take the course.

Ten days later on the way to a project, lead foot kicked in as I tried to make up 20 minutes in 10.  It was the flashing lights in my rear view mirror that made me glance at the speedometer and wince.  78 in a 65.  I was too demoralized to try to talk my way out of the ticket.  I told my boss, Max, about the tickets in a rehearsal speech for Bob.  If Bob yelled at me like Max, I’d never tell him anything.  Woman!  What is the matter with you?  Are you trying to kill yourself?  You didn’t tell Bob?  Dios mio!  Are you stupid?  He won’t stay married to you if you lie to him.  Not telling is the same as LYING.  Mentirosa!

Really, Bob wasn’t that upset.  It might have helped that I started out with “I have something terrible to tell you.  I’ve done something just awful and haven’t told you the truth.”  He looked relieved that it was only two speeding tickets.

Posted in Corpus Christi, Driving, Jobs, Relationships, Sober Life, Texas, Travel | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Primarily Texas

Our parents thought that one of the most important things they could do as citizens of Texas and the U.S.A. was to vote.  That’s a little unusual since our ancestors on both sides of the aisle immigrated in the 18th century or before.  Such patriotic fervor usually belongs to naturalized citizens;  long time citizens seem to take voting as irrelevant.

“Every election is determined by the people who show up.”
― Larry J. Sabato, Pendulum Swing
(Only 12% of Texans showed up to vote in the 2012 primary election.)

I’m not sure what our parents’ party affiliations were.  The privacy of the ballot box was strictly adhered to although I think that was because they had at least one blabby daughter.  I have long ago learned to say “NO!” when asked if I can keep something a secret.  I suspect like most Texans in the 60’s and 70’s, our parents were southern Democrat which would roughly equal moderate Republicans today.

I am a bleeding heart liberal Democrat.  That isn’t a point of argument or discussion.  I am liberal Democrat like I am left-handed and consider cold fried fish the breakfast of champions.  I listen to other folks’ POV with tolerance, often thinking how dumb they are if they don’t agree with me.  I avoid exhorting too strenuously since I doubt I can change their minds any more than they will change mine.  My friend Glenda observed, “Have you ever said, OhmyGod!  I have voted wrong for the past 40 years!  Thank you for setting me straight.   

"Win or lose, we go shopping after the election."  Imelda Marcos.  IOr we go to Dairy Queen.)

“Win or lose, we go shopping after the election.” Imelda Marcos. (Or we go to Dairy Queen.)

I like voting. I don’t subscribe to the feeling that it doesn’t matter whether I vote or not.  Living in a small city, I can see the difference my vote makes in the school board and city elections.  It’s probably less of a difference as we move to statewide and national elections, but I’m not going to take a chance.  My son Jack’s first election was the presidential election in 2008.  We had glare contests through the primary elections since he was an Obama supporter and I backed Clinton.  I watched him caper up to the voting booth to vote in his first national election.  He woke me the morning after with the front page of the paper as he exclaimed, “We won, Mom!  We won!!!”

My granddaughter Savanna texted me that she’d registered to vote when she got her new driver’s license.  She was so excited that I had to smile.  The Texas primary election was Tuesday, 3/4.  Savanna looked up her precinct so I could take her to vote after school.  I live in a different county so I voted earlier in the day.  I promised to take a friend who is a resident at an assisted living center to vote.  When I went to get her, she had 2 friends with her.   I joked that I’d only give them a ride if they were voting my way, but it was only a joke. I’m a Democrat and democratic.

The ladies and I had to make 2 precinct stops and then got DQ blizzards before I took them home.  Savanna and I went to a CCISD elementary so she could cast her ballot.  She found out how voting machines when she tried to select language preference and started poking “English” harder and harder.  Nothing happened.  The election monitor startled her when he touched her shoulder and whispered, “They’re not touch screen.”

“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”
― Abraham Lincoln

Posted in Bleeding heart liberal politics, Corpus Christi, Family, Philosophy, Texas | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Goodbye, good neighbor

Last week, there were 2 Portland police cars, a Guardian ambulance, and a fire truck parked in front of my house.  I didn’t see a fire and wondered which of our older neighbors was sick.  Mostly, I choked back a rising sense of deja vu since the same arrangement of emergency responders parked in front of the house 5 years before when Jack was dying.

Not wanting to get in the EMT team’s way, I got in my car and drove away thinking, “I’ll call Mark and find out what happened.”   A few hours later Whitney, Mark’s stepdaughter, called to tell me Mark had suffered a massive heart attack and was dead.

Mark lived across the street with his wife, Jeannette; he was curious as a cat.  There was little that happened on Crosby Street that Mark didn’t see.  He’d early retired and supplemented his income by doing home repairs and renovations.  And making sure that the street stayed secure.

He was the first person I met when we were working on my little house so it would pass the loan company’s inspection.  The previous owner had been a cat lady.  And a dog lady.  Dog and cat fur covered the house, it smelled like a litter box, and had last been renovated in the mid-80’s.  It looked like that was also the last time it was cleaned, too.

GE, Jack, Claire, and I brought in borrowed and bought loads of tools and supplies to strip wallpaper off the living room walls, repaint, and sanitize the house.  “Howdy, neighbors!” Mark called through one of the open windows.  After watching our feeble attempts at foil wallpaper removal, he excused himself and returned with his wife, Jeannette, and a bucket of tools.  The two of them had just finished removing wallpaper and repainting walls at an Ingleside apartment complex.  What they didn’t know about stripping wallpaper wasn’t worth knowing.

My hired workers were residents at the Good Sam Rescue Mission.  The first day I lined them out; that evening I came home to see that they’d done something completely different.  Seething because MY instructions weren’t followed , I approached them and asked through thin lips, “What happened?  I thought I asked you to start painting.”   (That fellow across the street said we needed to take off the rotten wood before we painted.  He brought over this lumber, nails, and hammers.)  When I asked Mark what I owed him, he said it was all scrap.  Just bring back the tools and anything leftover.

Nobody on the street started a project without Mark walking across to check the work and offer suggestions.  They were always good ones; Mark was quick to offer advice and tools.  He remodelled several of our neighbors’ houses and knew construction materials used, plumbing and electrical weaknesses, and probable slab construction.  When it came time to repaint my  house, he agreed to do the work.  It wasn’t the doing the work part that was a problem.  It was convincing him that he needed to take money for it.  Jeannette joked that Mark would do work for the neighbors for free to keep from finishing work at their home.

If Mark noticed a delivery left on the front porch, he’d pick it and text me that he had it at their house for safe keeping.  (I’ve seen some weird looking people walking down the street and don’t want one of them to decide they want your package.)  A few days before Bob and I got married, their granddaughter, Beetle, brought over a beautiful Christmas wreath that Jeannette made.  The day before my family arrived for the wedding, I came home to a fresh mown lawn.  (I figure you and Bob have too much to worry about.  This is one thing I could help you with.)

The best portion of a good man's life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.  William Wordsworth

The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love. William Wordsworth

At the memorial service on Saturday, friends told their stories of how many times Mark had been the emergency locksmith, ladder carrier, tool loaner, repairman, and installer for our neighborhood.  Jeannette said with a wistful smile, “Mark was a stubborn, feisty butt.  And he wasn’t sarcastic.  Noooo.  Not Mark.”   We all laughed.  For all his goodness, Mark was human.

Mark started January 16 in the usual way, waking at 4 a.m. to finish a pot of coffee before making fresh.  His last actions were to take Jeannette a cup, give her a good morning kiss, and tell her he loved her.  It was a beautiful way to end a life and a sad way to be left behind.

Posted in Corpus Christi, Family, Grief, Relationships, Sober Life | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

In one day

In one dayIn one day?  There are times when life can only be endured from moment to moment to moment if truth be told.   January 15 will be the 5th anniversary of my son Jack’s death.  It all happened in one day, 1826 days ago.

How strange that I could fall asleep worrying about him and his future, mildly annoyed with him, and wake up, sucked into a black hole of loss.  In one day.

I think “black hole” is apt, too.   A black hole absorbs all light, the end point of a star.  Objects falling into a black hole can’t come back. Never.

After Jack’s death, I heard phrases like “God has a plan” and “He’s in a better place.”  Behind my nod and murmur of thanks was a big old “Go to hell!”  I don’t believe God plans for any of us to lose our children.  I refuse to believe that.  I believe the free will of others can crush us, though.  And as far as the “better place?”  The jury’s still out about whether there’s any place after we leave this one.  Somehow, heaven seems to me like an eat your vegetables and THEN you can have dessert kind of proposition.  I like the idea; I just can’t hold out and endure in hopes for a magical better place.

Do you know how very often a shy child will come to you if you just sit quietly and wait?  That’s the way God was with this heartsick hurt mother.  Waited and gave me time to turn back.  I had plenty of God’s people to listen to me and hold my hand and tell me I wasn’t alone.  Meanwhile, God withheld lightning strikes when I screamed into the night, “You filthy bastard God!”  God just waited until I was quiet and surrounded my heart with peace, muffled the voices in my head that shrieked blame and regrets. Time takes time and nothing happens in one day when it comes to grief.

One of the things people said that I dearly hated was that I’d have to learn a “new normal.”  Really?  I think you get a new normal if your company closes down or you retire or get a divorce.  Losing your child?  That’s abnormal.  And it never gets a texture that feels like normal.  In the first few years, I hated being asked how many children I have.  What should I say?  And if I say a daughter near Austin and a son in heaven, will I have to  endure “What happened?  I mean, if you don’t mind talking about it”?   I want to say that I was a normal mom thinking I had problems with my son and then my son died.  That’s what happened.  No, normal goes out the window and abnormal flies in.

In one day.  Everything changes.  Anything can happen.

A few weeks ago my friend called to say her husband suffered a cerebral hemorrhage after taking her mother back home.  She’d just enjoyed a breakfast and was relaxing when the earthquake hit.  Instead of doing chores, making time pass until her husband got back, looking forward to an evening with her love, fear and decisions smacked her.  Life turns on a dime, not in a day.

“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.” ― Edna St. Vincent Millay

“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.”
― Edna St. Vincent Millay

On this 1,826th day after Jack the Crazy Head, my silly son, moved on, I don’t know what will happen.  That’s the way grief is for me.  I am as powerless over this loss as I am alcohol.   Will I have flashbacks to that day when I drive to work?  Relive the race behind a speeding ambulance carrying my dying son?  Will the doctor’s cruel words echo in  my head when I sit at my desk?  Who knows?

I endure the grey noise of sorrow, but joy seeps into my life.  Jack’s unremitting YES personality makes it hard to summon a memory that doesn’t end in a smile.

Posted in Family, God, Grief, Relationships, Sober Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment