Tag Archives: differences

Once in a Lifetime Friend


Our Jim

My friend Jim was a swell guy. I know he thought of himself as grumpy or prickly but I didn’t see that. He was funny and loving and very wise. And patient. It’s funny  how we view ourselves compared to how the rest of society views us. Sometimes the negative things others tell us we are sticks and we go about life believing we really are those negative things even if we don’t present those traits to the world.

I’ll never forget the first time I met Jim. My dad pulled up as I was coming out of the house. There in the passenger seat was Jim, looking like I was going to slap him. Dad introduced us and I shook his hand, smiling. He tentatively smiled back as if he couldn’t believe I was being pleasant and nice to him. I was a bit baffled by his reaction to meeting me, but Dad looked really happy and that was all that mattered.

Jim  became a part of my dad’s life and as I got to know him, I began to understand why he assumed that I wouldn’t like him or accept him. That had been his life experience up to that point. His family wasn’t supportive of his lifestyle and he had come to expect intolerance and hate and anger. When I brought the kids over it was as if they had always been a part of his life. They loved him immediately. Again, they didn’t see of feel any grumpiness from him….I wonder who convinced him he was  a grumpy guy…

Not too long after Jim became a part of my father’s life, my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer. That put their relationship into fast forward. Jim moved in with dad to help care for him and to spend as much time together as possible. Dad’s diagnoses was pretty bad. Almost 50 years of smoking had finally caught up with him.

As sad as the circumstances were that landed Jim at dad’s it was actually heaven-sent. Jim was the perfect complement to my dad and like I said the kids and I loved him. We became family. Looking back, I can’t imagine not loving anyone who my father loved. But Jim and I had an extra special bond. I could feel it but I didn’t really get what it was.

Come to find out Jim was well versed in the 12 step program. Finally!!! My dad found himself a program person!!! I knew I loved Jim!! We had a language we could share and that language became invaluable in the coming year as we took care of my father as he died. We laughed and we cried and we totally understood each other. It gave dad great comfort that Jim and I were as tight as any family of choice is.

We held each other up when the man we loved died. He died with us there, knowing that we would be there for each other in this time of grief. In the years that followed, Jim was my rock. He was one of my closest friends. He was the one I called when the crisis crashed and when the insanity became too intense. Not only did he fix things around my house, like lights and lawn mowers and windows, but he also did a fabulous job decorating my livingroom.

Jim was my family. He came trick or treating with us. He was here on Christmas morning to watch the kids open presents from Santa, he got along better with my mother than my father did…

And then, one spring day, he dropped by just to say hello and talk about what we needed to do to my house to get it ready for summer. He had lunch with the youngest kid and myself. He winterized the snow blower and played a round of Uno with us and as he was leaving he hugged me tight and told me he loved me.

Later that night I got a call from the state police that he was no longer with us. He had left me a note.

I was sad, very mad and I went through the ‘why me’. But all of that passed. I respected Jim, I respected his choice. I respected that he felt that he could no longer continue in this life. The anger didn’t dissipate right away though. It took a very long time. Whenever I had to take down a storm window, or winterize the lawn mower or choose a paint color for the family room, I cursed Jim. And he knows it. I loved him unconditionally but man, I was pissed that he checked out and left me all alone to fight my battles.

Today, I am no longer angry. I know he is in a better place (although I know he didn’t believe he’d go anywhere special or that there was anywhere special to go) and I talk to him regularly. Both him and dad. I hear his very rational advice, I hear him calling me out on being a nutjob, I hear his laugh…I feel his honesty and I feel his love. He is gone but I am so grateful to have had him in my life in such an important way.

We squeezed so much life into such a short period of time. There will never be another man like him in my life. I am very lucky that we were able to share the world. He was my ally and advocate and I was his biggest fan.

And whenever I dust, I remember his very sage advice : NEVER clean hardwood floors with Pledge.

Lead a snot into temptation but deliever us from weasles


does not repell little sister vampires

Every Sunday I get they urge to expound on my spiritual beliefs. But I get over it and move on to Monday and the minutia of my everyday life. Yesterday, my oldest was confirmed in the same faith that my great-grandmother, grandmother, mother and myself were confirmed into. She joined the church, reaffirming her baptism, committing to become an adult member of the church, all her own decision.

When I had her baptized in this faith, I was ambivalent. I was doing it mainly out of a sense of tradition and superstition…I wasn’t positive I believed in God, but what if I was wrong. I sure didn’t want my precious little baby to suffer because I wasn’t sure. So, just to be on the safe side, she was baptized. As she grew, so did my faith. My spirituality grew more outside of my religion. I was consistent in getting her to sunday school. I knew I wanted her to have the security that having a religion gives. But I wasn’t attending church. I was following a different spiritual path. I was exactly where I needed to be.

And then we had a series of deaths in the family which shook my faith and eventually destroyed it completely. In an effort to regain inner peace, I started attending what I lovingly called The Bible Banger Church. I was searching for answers and assurance. The religion of my upbringing was very structured and I felt so chaotic I couldn’t find sanctuary in the sweetness of the sameness. So, to the Bible Banger Church we went. I did find comfort there, in the early days. I enjoyed the rawness, the unabashed displays of joy and the message that no matter what Jesus loved us…with conditions….wait…what? Maybe I misunderstood. So, I kept going. The kids enjoyed the sunday school program. They always got candy and they had friends there. The youth group was always doing cool stuff like having dances and going on trips. No doubt there was lots of love there.

But the exclusion-ness of the message didn’t jive with the way I was brought up or what I believed. And my children were being taught a sort of elitist-ness that I could not honestly agree with. After two years of listening and learning, I was done with the Bible Banger Church. I was so very grateful for the experience and the love that I felt there. But the religion I was raised in was all inclusive, excluding no one regardless of sexual orientation, race, or current or former religion. I grew up secure in the idea that all people go to heaven. No matter what they believe. Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, even the Catholics!! everyone goes to heaven. Because God loves all people, even sinners, even people who don’t believe. Everyone goes into the afterlife, into a better place. There is no hell except that which we create for ourselves.

The God I know loves me unconditionally, loves all unconditionally. God is within me and everyone. I need look no further than myself to commune with God. The darkest days of my life were the days when I was certain there was no power greater than myself. When I had no God to speak with. When I was convinced that there was nothing more than me here, alone, with no  help, no great savior to step in and alter the course of life. I brought my pain to the groups where I learned a personal spirituality which is different from my religion. One very kind man told me after I shared on the death of my faith that I could borrow his faith until my own returned. And so I did. He also reminded me that God wants us to question, wants us to test because it gives God the opportunity to show us miracles and help us to believe. He told me that the faith that would return to me would be greater than it ever was before.

That man was correct. My faith has returned and it is not the same old faith I had before. It is greater, more powerful, and much more practical. I believe what I have always believed in regard to God, but now I know what I believe to be true. I guess I could name off the ways regaining faith has changed me, but I doubt it’s important for anyone else to hear. I bet you all have stories of faith lost and regained or have reasons that faith in a higher power is not what you believe. It takes all of us with our views and opinions and our love to make the world turn.

I tried to be a Bible Banger, I tried to be an Episcopalian, I tried to be a woman with no religion and none of it worked for me. I disagreed with the Bible Bangers, I wasn’t wealthy enough for the Episcopalians and I was too needy to not have a religion. So, here we are back to being what we have always been and content. I love the hymns and the organ, I love the structure and tradition and predictability, I love the message that God loves everyone and everyone is accepted, just as they are, believers or not. My God speaks to me through people, not just through my pastor or the bible. God is within everyone I see, everyone I hear and the most powerful messages I have ever received have been out of the mouths of the most unlikely sources.

My prayer for my daughter is that she continues to explore other religions and finds what she believes, what give her peace and fills her with faith. I was given that great gift by my mother to explore, unrestricted, any and all other religions, and I eventually came back to my church, with a wider view of life and a beautiful knowledge of why I personally chose to be a part of an organized religion. Let go and Let God….

Now that is not to say that when she opened her gift of a steel cross from the church I didn’t say “That’s to keep the vampires away.” and she replied with “Oh I thought we accepted vampires in our religion!” And then she  flashed at it at her little sister (whose dream currently is to become a Cullen) and said “I guess it doesn’t work.” Being funny is her other religion….

What is Wrong with the Youts Today?


80's day at school...doing her best impression as me as a teen...she actually DOES those silly school days activities...weird

When I was pregnant with my first child, I remember being worried that I was going to give birth to a cheerleader. Not literally, I went to lamaze class, I sawthe videos of what babies looked like when they popped out. They were naked, not dressed up in clothes to give us parents an idea of who they would be come. But wouldn’t that be nice? If our babies came with a clue as to the kind of kid they would become? I was not a cheerleader as a kid. I was a freak, an “alternative”, a crazy punk. I was deep, I was an activist, my concerns were far bigger than the football team and if I had latest the Benetton sweatshirt.

So, if I gave birth to a kid who didn’t share my view of the world, a kid who was only concerned with how she looked or whose only “cause” was to campagne for universal boob jobs, what was I going to do? I knew that I would have some influence on the type of kid my kid would become. But I also knew that some of who she was destined to be was already programmed as soon as she was conceived. My mother was a normal teen. She had normal friends, her biggest “FTW” (contrary to popular belief that does not stand for For The Whales…) moment was when she and her friends hid a bottle of vodka in the toilet tank on her class trip to Washington DC. No, they didn’t get caught, no they didn’t get so drunk they almost died. But boy oh boy, did they believe they were totally bad ass for that one!

Me, on the other hand, well, let’s just say that I didn’t go on any stinkin class trip and I never hid my vodka. I went to marches on the President’s front lawn for animal rights, I protested wars, I hung out with skin heads (although I didn’t agree with their philosophies). I had ANGST. I listened to the Sex Pistols and the Descendents and the Ramones. You could find me  in seedy places just to hear bands. My life, as a teen, was about as different from my mother’s as it could be. So, different that she didn’t know where to begin when it came to setting limits or punishments. I think I confused her. If I had been a marching band kid, or involved in school government she would have probably been able to raise me with her eyes shut and one arm tied behind her back.

Now, back to my kid. She is beautiful, smart, funny, and kind. She is also 15 years old which means she is  a total teen sometimes. She watches Keeping Up With The Kardasians….seriously. She went through a stage where she was obsessed with Paris Hilton. She spray tanned herself orange in an effort to look more like a “star”. The people she aspires to are slackers who have billions to spend on being slackers. She is not a cheerleader, although sometimes I wish that she was. At least cheerleaders are cheering for SOMETHING!!! My kid seems to have all of my FTW attitude with none of the “Save the world” spirit. This is our biggest bone of contention.

How did I raise a kid who doesn’t know (or seem to care) what she believes in? Who doesn’t use her “cause” to get under my skin? How did I raise a kid who listens to rap (when she wants to piss me off)? Where did I go wrong? I have tried so very hard to give her my values and views on all things worldly and spiritual. Quite honestly, it wouldn’t even bother me if she had gone in the extreme opposite direction of what I have taught her. ANYTHING would be better than this lack of caring. What she does care about is  who won Next Top Model or who has the newest Abercrombie jeans. What did I do wrong?

When I went through confirmation class at church I argued and disagreed with what I was being taught. I went though confirmation because my mother said if I wanted to stop going to church, I had to be confirmed so that I was making a well-educated decision on exactly what I was rejecting. That sounded pretty fair to me. I did it. And promptly stopped going to church. I rejected my religion and began exploring “alternative” religions and concepts of faith. Partly to piss my mother off,  happy Lutheran church lady that she was, and partly because I was interested. I wasn’t one to be spoon fed anything and just believe it was right. I was one to test and re-test everything I was presented with and then decide if it was right for ME.  

My kid will be confirmed soon. She has to write a statement of faith. We worked on that yesterday. Or rather, I told her to write it, she claimed a case of the I-Don’t-Knows and that ended with me so frustrated I think my head spun around. I mean, come ON!! She’s a TEENAGER!!! She HAS to have an opinion, a view, an idea about what she believes? Nope. Why not? you might ask? Because she is MY teen. And the surest way to push my buttons is to act as if you just don’t care. She knows this. She installed my buttons so she knows exactly how to push them. And, after all, isn’t that her job as a teen, as MY kid? Is she not just carrying on the tradition of “pissing off your mother by being something she isn’t”?

She gets my sense of humor, she will support my causes, she loves much of what I love and she values much of what I value. But she is her own person. She is not a mini me and her path is not the same one I traveled. She has lived through just as much tragedy as I ever did and she is a pretty centered kid. I guess I have done something right. They say that the way your kid behaves as a toddler is a great indicator of how they will behave as a teen. And sure enough, she is using all the same stubborn tactics she used when she was 2. It is just way more frustrating now that she is 15.

She laughs at me when I yell at the Glenn Beck and Michael Savage on the radio. She really listens when I explain why I believe the things I believe. I know she is hearing me, I know somewhere inside of her is a person full of ideas to change the world. Just like my mother knew that someday I would be taking my own kids to confirmation class. I hate it when my mother  is right.

So, no, I didn’t get a cheerleader, I didn’t get a crazy punk, I got a kid who is brilliant in her own right and who knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt exactly how to make me go insane. After all, isn’t that what I wished for? No namby pamby mamma’s kid for me! A kid with an independence and attitude! Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it!