Have I ever really loved myself?

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Isn’t that a sad question?  Sad for anyone to wonder that about themselves.  What brought that to mind was my daily writing on 750words.com, saying that I want to treat myself like I deserve to be treated.  Then it hit me, maybe that’s always what  I’d been doing…treating myself like I thought I deserved to be treated.  That not doing good things for myself, eating trash, isolating myself from friends and family, not being nice to myself…that this was how I thought I deserved to be treated.  What a kick in the teeth to finally understand that I’d been treating myself  like dirt because that was all I thought I deserved.  Would I ever think that was how anyone else deserved to be treated?  Absolutely not.  So why would I think that was how I deserved to be treated?  Because what?  I’m different from everyone else, that no one else deserves to be disrespected, but I do?  But that’s exactly how I was treating myself, I was being disrespectful to myself.

Why?  Oh gee, I suppose most kids get wrapped up in how their parents love them…or how they don’t love them.  Yes, my mother absolutely loved me, of that I have no doubts.  And I’m thankful that I had her in my life.  My father, on the other hand, who knows?  I suppose he may have loved me in his way, but that way wasn’t good enough, it wasn’t what I needed.  It was not the unconditional love I craved.  It was full of doubt, insecurity, and abandonment.  One of his first comments, after not talking to me for nearly 20 years, was, “Are you still fat?” Seriously?  What kind of father says that to his daughter?  I guess the answer to that would be, the kind of father I got stuck with. 

Have you ever noticed that girls seem to base so much of their self-worth on how their fathers treat them?  That doesn’t speak well for our future when you stop to think about how many fathers are absent in the lives of their kids these days.  I’ve never had good self-esteem.  Now, as an adult, trying to figure things out, trying to make things better, I realize a lot of that has to do with the fact that I felt unlovable simply because I truly believed my father didn’t love me enough to be a part of my life.  Intellectually, I understand that it had everything to do with him and his demons and nothing at all to do with me, but how in the world do you take that understanding and transform it into changed beliefs and behavior?  Simply having the insight into the whys of your behavior isn’t enough to change that behavior…where do I go from here?

Right now, today, I don’t have the answers to that question.  All I know is that I want to reach a place in my life where I can answer the question,
“Have I ever really loved myself?” with a resounding “YES!!”

Your smallest actions can bring joy to others

toddler learning to walk

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Sometimes the very simplest things we do can bring great joy to others.  I think it’s often unintentional on our part, but that makes it all the more special.  I checked my emails this morning and had a Facebook message from my step sister about the father’s day blog I had written about her dad (my step dad).  Here’s what she said:

 

 
Kathy 5:28pm Aug 2
just wanted you to know that dad asked me to punch holes in the printout of your blog about Father’s day so he could keep it in a book. Is there any way you could copy and paste it to my email address so I can enlarge it? I left the copy at his house and he told me that he had read it again……said it took him forever, but that’s how much he enjoyed it!!……it’s almost impossible for him to read anything. Thanks again for all your kind words.
 
 

I was so touched by this.  My simple little blog brought joy to this very special man…a man who has brought so much joy to all of those who love him.  All I was trying to do was express my love and gratitude for all that Herald had done for us.  He managed to turn that around and bring joy to me with his simple request.  Funny how life works that way, isn’t it?

My friend deserved a better dad

Broken Heart symbol

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I’ve got one more father’s day blog in me…I didn’t even intend to write this one, but I was doing my morning writing on http://750words.com/ and this came pouring out of me.  One of my best friends, from junior high on, was shortchanged in the dad department.  Really cheated.  No one was deserving of the dad she had.  He  molested his daughters from the time they were tiny little girls…and continued this until they moved away as adults.  There aren’t too many people in this world that I can honestly say I’ve hated, but this man is one of them.  He took my friend’s innocence and caused her to have so many emotional and psychological issues.  And she was never able to overcome this.

What kind of dad does this to his children, the children he has a responsibility to protect?  What possible excuse could he come up with, in his own mind, that made this okay?  Sure, who knows what happened to him as a child?  But he was the adult, the father…and he chose his despicable behavior toward his own daughters.  As cruel as it may sound, I don’t really care what happened to him…whatever it was, it doesn’t excuse what he did as an adult to those little girls.

I couldn’t even stand to be around him.  I know I was rude to him, but that was nothing close to what he deserved.  When my mom first found out who my friend’s father was, she told me to never be alone with him (I hadn’t told her what he’d done to his daughters).  Come to find out, he and my mom had gone to school together in a different southern Indiana town and he’d attempted some type of sexual behavior toward her on the school bus.  One time, I was at the grocery store, and someone came up behind me and grabbed me around the shoulders.  When I turned around and saw who it was, I told him to never touch me again.  My guess is, he probably knew from that moment on, that I knew about him.  Whatever….he never touched me again and had very little to say to me from that time on…fine with me.

As unfair as this may sound, I almost blame my friend’s mother as much as her father.  This woman knew what was happening to her precious little girls and didn’t do anything to stop it!  What kind of mother allows this kind of behavior to go on in her own home and doesn’t do everything possible to put an end to it?  Seriously, if she wasn’t brave enough to force him to stop (through whatever means necessary, and I do mean through WHATEVER means…take that how you will), she could have at least removed her children from the home.  Granted, back in those days, these types of situations weren’t talked about openly, there weren’t all the programs available then that there are now, but still…those were her babies and she allowed this monster she was married to to ruin their lives.

My friend was never able to overcome this.  I tried to get her to see a therapist, but she refused.  I tried repeatedly to get her to go for help in dealing with all that had happened to her, but I was never successful in this.  That’s a regret I’ll live with for the rest of my life.  What could I have done or said that would have made the difference?  I ask myself this question every year on her birthday, but I’ve yet to come up with an answer.  My friend died at the age of 37…weighing over 500 pounds, plagued by an assortment of health issues, depressed…I think she gave up…I think she couldn’t see a brighter future, couldn’t escape the chains her parents had bound her in, decided that dying was preferrable to living the life she’d been dealt.  And as awful as it sounds, that makes me angry with her.  I know I can’t come close to imagining the pain she endured on a daily basis, but, perhaps selfishly, I wanted her to fight it.  I wanted her to win that battle.  I wanted her to be able to shake her fists at her parents and shout at them, “I won!  You no longer control who I am or the life I lead!”  I wanted us to be able to become feisty, little old ladies together, and she gave up.  And that makes me both angry and sad…my friend deserved a better dad than the one she was given…

Happy Father’s Day to the real dads

Fathers Day Card

Yesterday I wrote about my biological father…he was my father, but he wasn’t much of a dad.  Today I want to recognize and express my gratitude to the man who was more of a dad to me than my father ever was.  My mom married Herald when I was maybe 19 years old.  He was, and is, such a good man…honest, reliable, compassionate, giving, fun to be around, wise and most of all, he loved my mom in a way in which she’d never been loved before.  For that alone, I’d be forever grateful to him.

Herald and Mom had so much fun together…they traveled all over the country square dancing (I know, it sounds boring but they thoroughly enjoyed themselves), they’d go out on the motorcycle, work together in the yard and garden, took up wood working together, took trips that I know my mom never imagined she’d be able to take (Hawaii, I think, was probably her favorite).  They brought so much joy into one another’s lives, it was such a good marriage for both of them.

Our families blended seamlessly…we had cook outs and holiday get togethers, we all got along and enjoyed spending time together.  All of the grandchildren were loved by both of their grandparents.  All the grandkids were treated the same by both Mom and Herald, loved equally.  And I know the grandkids loved both of them too.

Herald taught me to drive a car with a stick shift…and he didn’t get mad when I killed it a million times.  He helped me find a car when I needed a new one, taught me some of the basics of car care and house repair and upkeep.  He didn’t have to do those things for me, but I’m so thankful that he did.  He may not realize it, but he also taught me about honesty and committment.  When my mom got so sick, he was there with her the entire time.  He could have easily walked out, but that wasn’t the kind of man he was.  I learned more about what constitutes a good man, a decent human being, by observing Herald than I ever could have learned from my own father. 

When my mom died, Herald was the one who told each of us about it.  Even in his grief, he had the compassion to offer us comfort.  He told me that he had promised my mom he’d be there for us, and he was.  Sometimes step-dad has a negative connotation, but I don’t see it that way at all.  I feel privileged to be able to call Herald my step-dad.  Happy Father’s Day, Herald.  I love you.

Why Father’s Day always made me sad

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I’ve read quite a few blogs over the past few days about dads.  Most of them concern happy memories of men who took fatherhood seriously, men who gladly accepted the responsibility (and joy) of being a real dad.  I guess, not having that when I was a little girl, is why Father’s Day is a holiday that’s always been surrounded by sadness for me. 

I adored my father when I was a little girl, he was everything to me.  Unfortunately, he didn’t reciprocate those feelings.  He was in and out of the home.  I never knew, when I went off to school in the morning, if he’d be there that night.  He would just run off with no notice and no explanation.  Then, one day, he’d just show up, acting like nothing had happened.  This went on for years until my parents were divorced when I was nine years old.

After the divorce, my father didn’t pay child support (this was back in the day before that was considered a crime), very rarely visited us, never remembered birthdays.  Of the few times he arranged to come visit us, he often simply wouldn’t show up…no explanations, no excuses.  There were a few times when we’d visit with him, one time I was able to bring my best friend with me.  I don’t remember much about the visit with my father, but I do remember having a good time with my friend.

In addition to being an irresponsible dad, my father was also an alcoholic and had a violent temper.  Not a particularly joyous home in which to grow up.  I was incredibly shy and insecure.  Now, as an adult, I totally understand why that was so.  Through the years, I’ve managed to overcome that paralyzing shyness, but still struggle with the insecurity on occasion.  I often don’t fully trust people and don’t really believe it when someone tells me they’ll do something.

I didn’t see my father at all, didn’t hear from him, after I turned 13.  Until I was around 30, that is.  My mom had died a few months earlier when I received a phone call from my father.  Silly me, my first thought was that he was sorry for the type of father he’d been, that we could now develop a caring relationship.  Well, not quite.  One of the first questions he asked me was if I was still fat…seriously?  After all these years that’s the best you can do?  Then he told me he never really loved my mom…you know, my mom who was the only parent who had always been there for me and who had so recently died…but that he’d always loved only me.  I told him that was fine because Mom had married a guy who loved her and treated her well, who had shown her so much of the world that she’d never had the opportunity to see.  That they had formed a blended family with my brothers and myself and his daughter and son, that we got together and did all those family things that normal people do.  He then began whining for me not to be that way, that he loved me.  Then he told me he was in a tough spot and asked if I could send him some money.  I couldn’t believe his nerve.  Here was a guy who never paid child support, who subjected his kids to a childhood of poverty, and he was asking me to send him money.  Of course, I told him I wouldn’t do it.  It didn’t take him long to end the conversation after that.

That last phone call was unbelievably painful for me.  I guess, until then, I’d always had this childish dream that my dad would come back into my life and be the dad that he should have always been.  That call put that dream to rest and caused me to grow up and take care of myself, stop waiting for my father to come back and fix things.  In that regard, perhaps he did me a favor, but it sure didn’t feel like that at the time.

I sincerely believe that every little girl (and little boy) deserves a caring, loving, responsible dad…a dad who understands what it means to be a father, who embraces that willingly no matter how difficult it may be at times.  Unfortunately there are men who, for whatever reason, are unable or unwilling to be a good dad.  It’s unfair to the child, depriving her of the love and security she deserves.  My wish for children every where is that their fathers whole heartedly embrace fatherhood, and all that it entails, and live up to their responsibilities.  Every child deserves that.

These are (still) the days of our lives

Days of our Lives

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Talk about a walk down memory lane…I just watched Days of Our Lives.  This is a show I watched many, many years ago with my mother.  I was never able to watch it every day, but that didn’t really matter because it takes forever for the story line to play out.  Missing a day (or two…or ten) didn’t mean you couldn’t keep up on the story.  Mom really enjoyed the show (soap opera, if you will) and we’d talk about what had happened if I had to miss it.  Good times…

I’m totally amazed at how many of the same characters, portrayed by the same actors, are still on the show.  Maybe they were smart enough to know they had a good gig…Mom would have enjoyed seeing that Bo and Hope are still in Salem.  But whatever happened to Marlena and John?  Does anyone out there know?  Oh no…am I falling back into the addiction of Days???

A letter to my mom

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Dear Mom,

Well, it’s another Mothers Day and I find myself missing you more than ever.  It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since you left us, but that really is how long it’s been.  Holidays are always the hardest days to get through, remembering how we all would get together and simply enjoy one another’s company, have cookouts in your back yard, or gather in your family room.  It’s all so different now, like you were the glue that held us all together.  Very rarely do we get together any more.  Everyone is always too busy, myself included.  You made those family get togethers important enough that we all made the time.  Now, everyone is scattered all across the country and we communicate by email and facebook.  It’s definitely not the same.

I have a lot of memories that I cherish, and the most precious ones are of the simple things we did.  Like going out to Spring Mill and walking around the lake, feeding the ducks and getting chased by the geese.  Those geese always were greedy, mean birds.  But we laughed about it and always brought enough bread to feed them all.

Or the time you, Kathy and I were at the Bedford Mall. You were driving and commented about how much you hated that parking lot because the cars were always darting in and out and causing near collisions.  When we looked around, there wasn’t a single car moving except ours and we all laughed and laughed, we just couldn’t stop laughing.  And you were laughing as loudly as we were.

I still smile when I think about us playing Yahtzee when Brian, Phillip and I were kids.  We couldn’t afford to buy those fancy pads with all the possible scoring possibilities already printed on them, but we’d played the game so often that we all could just write out our own papers.  You would get so excited when you’d get a yahtzee, you’d just shout out “yahtzee!” and laugh.  I’m not sure, but I think you won most of the time.

I also fondly remember you driving us wherever when we were kids, all of us singing hymns…Shall We Gather At The River, Leaning on Jesus…we always liked the ones that had us all singing our own parts.  Where we lived, the radio reception was spotty, but we didn’t care.  We could make our own music.

And the grandkids, oh, how you loved spending time with them.  Little Brian was the first and you’d get him every chance you had.  You were Mamaw Wink and it didn’t matter to you if those kids were related by blood or by marriage…you loved them all equally.  I wish you were here now to see the beautiful adults they’ve all become, how proud you would be of each of them and how you would adore the new little babies being born into the family now.  It breaks my heart to know that none of these babies will really know you.  All they’ll know of you will be the stories we tell them, and that’s so sad.

Mom, this is all so bittersweet.  I cherish the memories I have of you, but I wish with all my heart, that you were still here with us.  You were taken from us much too soon.  But know that I’ve always loved you.  You are my hero and my inspiration.  Happy Mothers Day, Mom.

Love always,

Mom trying to get me to pet the big doggie

Mom, Jennifer, and Jessica  1989

Those darn teachers

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Had I only known how good teachers have it, I’d have joined their ranks years ago.  Little did I know I, too, could have become part of the privileged elite.  I’m slapping myself for not seeing this sooner…how could I have been so dumb?

I could have worked from, oh I don’t know, 7:50 am to, what?, 2:45 pm?  What a great gig!  Weekends off…every holiday off…all summer off….  So what if I would have had to deal with kids who haven’t been taught to respect anyone, or who have had no discipline in their lives, kids who come to school hungry, sick, sleepy or dirty.  Anyone can deal with those minor issues for a few hours a day, five days a week, right?

And if I’d been stripped of all authority, had to deal with parents who wanted me to do my job as well as theirs, had to deal with a school board run as a political institution and had to face increasingly ridiculous standardized testing processes designed by politicians to “fix” the problems that they’d created…well…so what?  At least I would have made a ton of money, would have had benefits comparable to the Wall Street elite and would have been able to retire to my mansion somewhere in the tropics.

And so what if I’d had to work into the night at home grading the work of other people’s children instead of helping my own child with her homework?  My kid would have  felt privileged to be the offspring of someone who was a member of the elite class.  All other parents had to struggle to make ends meet whereas I, as a teacher, would have  had it made in the shade…no struggles for the teaching elite!  I could have been laughing at all those gullible taxpayers as I cashed my enormous checks and watched my pension grow astronomically!

Oh wait…I’ve become a little confused…teachers? Privileged elite? Enormous paychecks?  To die for benefits?  Oh heck, the entire time I was talking about teachers, I really meant politicians…privileged, selfish, egotistical, cheating scum of the earth politicians…my mistake…so sorry!

And for all you teachers out there (or anyone who knows and loves a teacher), keep up the good fight.  You have a thankless job, but I want to express my gratitude for all that you do day in and day out!  Teachers rock!

Everyone has a story to tell

Hot chocolate, Café Zéphyr, Paris

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It was a crazy day at work today.  We had to go outside and unload a truck in the near zero degree temperatures…miserable is all I can say about that.  After we finished unloading, I was in the breakroom trying to warm up with a cup of hot cocoa.  Some of the kids (well…kids to me, most of them are in their early to mid twenties…so, yeah, kids) were talking about the things that kids talk about.  That’s when it dawned on me that we all have a story (or multiple stories) to tell.

 I overheard one of the girls talking about music.  Come to find out she’s quite an accomplished musician, has been in two bands over the years and just about made it on MTV!  She plays the flute and guitar.   All things I didn’t know about her before.  One of the boys is here in our town doing mission work.  This kid has so many talents and so much knowledge about a variety of things.  It’s so fun listening to the younger folks talking.  They have so much enthusiasm  and the whole world is open to them.  I hope they hold on to that throughout their lives.

And really, it’s not just the kids…we have a woman who raises sheep and spins the wool, a man who is a very talented musician (I’ve seen him on YouTube!), a young woman who has tremendous artistic talent, a man who has had some really crummy things happen to him but still maintains the most upbeat attitude, and it just goes on and on.  I think this realization will influence how I see these people, as well as other people, from now on.

Then, of course, I began thinking about the story I have to tell.  Where to begin?  The little girl whose father was in and out of her life until she was nine and her parents got divorced?  The girl who grew up on a farm with her mother, two brothers and grandparents?  The girl who had dreams of being a singer (ahh…if only that girl could actually carry a tune)? The girl who breezed through high school, went to college and then ended up quitting?  The young woman who owned her own business for 13 years?  The woman who enjoyed the blended family when her mother and step father married?  The woman who lost her mother to cancer?   The woman who struggled with weight, body image and self esteem her entire life?  The woman who decided to make positive changes in her life, who dared to dream big and reach for those dreams?  The woman who realized she had a story to tell and a life to live?

I’m not sure how this will play out…which stories I’ll decide to tell or which ones I’ll keep to myself.  The story about weight loss will most definitely be told…both the ups and the downs.  The others?  Ahh…you’ll just have to come back to find out if, or when, those stories will be told.