Taming of the Shrew

Birthdays, being the increasingly LESS important as we get older, are somewhat of a non-event for me mostly.  Apparently my mother thinks so too.

As I awoke this morning, wondering if indeed ANYONE would even remember, I meandered around for a bit.  Admittedly I was a bit bummed.  I mean 47 feels OLD.  (And I FEEL old!)  Suddenly, at some point over the past decade, I have become old.  My kids are young… my husband, younger than me by 11 years.  I am out-testosteroned in this household by 3 to 1;  4 to 1 if you include the cat.

Brush teeth, find clothes, consider breakfast and lunch for the kids before they are off to school and….  Aww.  A heart warming rendition of “Happy Birthday” from my little ones! (hopefully no one will turn them in for copyright infringement!  Such a glorious age we live in.)  It is Oh SO nice to be remembered, especially by my angels.  (HEAVY sarcasm – albeit nostalgic – with the term ANGELS in reference to my boys.)  Really, they are so sweet at times.. I was very touched indeed.  They might be challenging in many ways, but they are my little princes.

I continued my morning while rambling on in the general direction of the children, and soon the text arrives:  HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!  I miss you!  My estranged husband.  Well, OK… not exactly estranged.  He is living in Florida for another weekend in training at his new job, so I’m harassing him a bit with my commentary.  (Imagine that?!)  He remembered!  So often he is out on the road or completely out of the country even, flying around and it can be difficult for him to make the time to communicate at times.  Today he is in class for ETOPS, and he has a very FULL and long day in front of him.  Nice that he thinks of me!

All in all, this morning was turning out wonderfully.  In the past I have had my special day totally seem like an afterthought, where the only one wishing me a happy birthday is the cat.  (Could it have been that on past birthdays he was simply meowing for food?  Certainly not!  Wishing me a happy birthday he was, damn it!)  As a special needs mom and aviation widow (another affectionate euphemism) I don’t have too many splendid mornings, or days I would call ME-CENTRIC, to say nothing of relaxing.  There is no quiet;  No calm.  It is hustle, bustled, and get your ass in gear!  But this morning was pretty amazing, by all accounts!

Then it came:  The familiar buzzing of my cell phone.  My parents were calling, no doubt for the obligatory annual Happy Birthday wishes.  I picked it up and said, “Well hello!”  I was in a great mood and trending skyward.  The voice on the other end seemed falsely jovial.  “Well… Happy Birthday.”  It was my mother, and though her voice was pleasant enough, she seemed pained to be bothering with the wish and, as typical for our conversations, it seemed awkward.  I began to wish that my Dad had made the call so I could speak with someone who was sincere.  After all, he is the one who personally selects, signs, addresses and mails cards to me anyway.

My mother continued, “How old are you today?  46?”

“I’m 47 Mom,” I correct.

“Forty-seven!  Well.. let’s face it;  You might as well say 50!”  My mother and I have never really gotten along.

“Gee, thanks… just what I want to hear,” I retorted.  “I believe you said the same thing last year.”

She redirected for a moment and then came back to the idea of calling me 50, at which point, I said goodbye and hung up the phone.

Reflecting upon the short conversation, and wondering why I had to be raised by someone who obviously is more competitive than loving and is a proven narcissist with an ugly track record, I slumped from happy to depressed.  Why me?  Doesn’t every woman deserve a sincere wish for a happy birthday from, of all people, her own mother?

It used to be that I would be quietly angry over the early but misfortunate turn of our mother-daughter relationship.  It seemed that as soon as I had an opinion of my own and wishes to express my feelings, she began to shut me down.  This began in my high school days, and has continued since.  I have screamed and ranted and raved over this women – about her, to her, and in spite of her.  I have excommunicated her from my life on several occasions, and quite honestly, not sure that I would be talking to her today… IF it wasn’t for my children.  You see, when a woman has kids of her own, she craves that mom-daughter bond.  A voice to console and an ear to listen and understand the trials and tribulations of parenthood.  I never received that.  The last time I shut her out was in the first months of my oldest son’s life, when she ruthlessly attacked my spirit and calm by hurling insult after insult at my sleep-deprived self while I was defenseless and vulnerable to her moods.  I recall that she went through menopause in her 40s, and it seems like she never has improved since.

I have been running away from the pain inflicted by this woman for decades.  Any happiness I’ve ever had in life has been stolen by this woman.  She spoils it with petty retalliations – for what, I’m not exactly sure.  It always seemed she was upset over the amount of attention my father gave to me as a child, and even still she acts territorial.  I was adopted as a baby, and always told how badly I was wanted, but her behavior seems in direct opposition to any of those sentiments.  It always seemed to me that she had kids not to have any sort of enjoyable relationship, but rather to have a doll to dress up for her amusement, show off to her friends, and then stuff me away on the shelf once she was bored with me or had better things to do.

I have gone all these years without any published complaint — perhaps I should’ve left it that way.  But electronic journaling, as it were, seems to bring this out — forcing the feelings to the surface (despite my feelings of guilt for being angry and hurt over her years of emotional assault and battery) and defying my attempts to calm and quiet them.  Despite my fears of judgement and ostracizing.

My husband, civilized soul that he is, thought I was mental when I initially explained my relationship with my mother, I just know he did.  He said, “Well, I’m sure if you sat down and tried a little harder, you could work it out…”  Sigh.  Alright, well.. he would just have to see for himself, I told myself.  And he did!  After getting to know my parents, he confided that he had never met a more tenaciously hateful and vile woman in his life, especially the way she is with her daughter.   When I announced that we were to have a baby, she glared at my husband (then boyfriend) and said, “Well that’s what happens when you don’t wear anything!!!”  Never mind the pleasantries, I guess.  No “Congratulations!”  No feigning of joy or excitement.  Nope, not my mother!  To listen to the story, you are probably assuming I must’ve been a very young woman, hence her strange behavior.  Alas, but no.  I was divorced and 35!  Granted, the situation was not ideal – but a baby!  I had tried before to conceive and was heartbroken that we couldn’t.  After miscarrying, my marriage fell apart.  In retrospect that was the initial root cause, though I was not to fully understand that for years to come.  Obviously, with things not working in the marriage, we discontinued attempts to have children, and we finally separated a few years later.  Imagine my surprise when for all of those years of effort and difficulty, I suddenly wound up pregnant!  It was surely a gift straight from the heavens.

My mother arrived for Thanksgiving this year bearing nothing.  She had no contribution toward the dinner nor did she appreciate the meal.  If she said thanks at all, it was in passing as she left.  My father on the other hand has always shown graciousness and appreciation for any kindness.  She, on the other hand, is a beastly guest, by all accounts.  The coup de gras was at dinner time on the following day, where my husband had laid out our plates with the leftovers and begun to  plate food for the kids, who were waiting patiently.  (We generally serve the kids first, as they are usually quite hungry by dinnertime and I would prefer they finish soon enough to let their food settle before bedtime.)  Mom saw the food, got up from her throne (we call her Queen Bee) and proceeded to barge in front of my husband, yank the plated food and finish dishing up the leftovers onto her hijacked plate.  She then sat and ate, without even a smile or explanation.

Indeed, the only reason I am still in touch with my mother at all is because my kids have established a decent relationship with her and love her.  I did not originally begin this post to destroy my mother’s credibility or air any dirty laundry.  It is a heavy topic for this blog… although, in thinking more on it, I did state that it was about LIFE and this roller coaster that leads us through all of its ups and downs.  Sometimes we are battered and bruised, while other more joyous occasions, while wonderful, seem less interesting topics to blog.  I guess that’s kind of where I am today.  And despite my mother and her embittered defiance of motherhood, I am still here… and I refuse to give in, to be assimilated into her way of thinking, no matter how much pressure she places upon me.  She has tried and failed every time.  She has drug me through hell and back in the process.  I do not have to be like her, or think like her, or even be angry with her.  She may still be able to hurt me at times, but I am the master of my own destiny, and I will no longer allow her to usurp my happiness;  my success;  my dreams.  “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you cant walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Luckily, there is always a silver lining to every cloud.  My silver today is beheld in my friends.  (Who, I might add, have zero credibility as far as my mother is concerned, as she has always chastised me for having friends in the first place.)  in all of their insight and thoughtfulness, they have truly made my day – offering a myriad of wishes for an extraordinarily happy birthday and generally complimentary.  Some are friends of years gone by, some merely acquaintances;  Some I grew up with and some, internet friends that I have yet to meet.  From the bottom of my heart today, I wanted to wish them a heartfelt THANK YOU for thinking of and remembering me on my special day.  I don’t mean to make it all about me, and in fact my birthday is normally not a huge deal anymore.  It does change your feelings however, when you are forgotten and left to manage life alone while recalling how you USED to celebrate and be celebrated.  I never expect people to send cards or anything for my birthday, but it sure is nice to know that people you care for have a special thought about you and who you are.  When you feel worn down and dowdy, overworked, underpaid (or not paid at all!) being called beautiful by a friend you love is the best medicine in the world.  I am truly feeling the love and wanted to share that sentiment.. and the backstory as to why it is such a blessing to me.

For all of you who care, and took the time to bother, thank you most sincerely.  I cannot express with words how much gratitude and appreciation I have for you all.  And whether or not you said a peep, I appreciate you all.  Things may not be perfect, but I am so very blessed!

War, Loss & French Alliances

Yesterday I learned that I have lost a friend.  A fellow aviator, Lionel was a character and a true Warrior spirit.  He never backed down and never gave up.  He stood his ground, and like the true leader that he was, never even disclosed that he was ill.  He and I would often discuss politics and war, although the most meaningful moments to me were in hearing about his life in Guadeloupe.  Born in Le Havre, France he was well acquainted with the US-steeped history and was also not one bit hesitant to point out how the US has benefitted from France, as well.  Many here in America have various pre-conceived notions about the French;  Most of them are true!  However, understanding the complexities around those facts and myths is to understand French culture and indeed, European culture as a whole.  I am about as patriotic as they come, however — as a lifelong student of French, I have gained a perspective into that culture that I perhaps would not have otherwise enjoyed.  The French are passionate people, and though some may say rude, in my travels to Paris I encountered exactly ONE (1) person who I would consider rude.  The rest?  Eager to take a young American woman and her companion under their wing (despite said companion’s obvious lack of finesse with the language – but that’s another story!)  I found that there was a fantastic appreciation for a foreigner who shows even the slightest interest in their culture, or even attempting to communicate in their language.  In fact, according to my old French tutor, I had very little American accent.  This made communicating that much more difficult, as some locals spoke to me in rapid reply and I was hopelessly lost, murmuring a French “thank you” just the same.  Ah, those were the days!

Lionel made me promise a while back that I would come to visit him in Guadeloupe one day.  I understand now that he extended that invitation to several of his friends here in the States.  He was a generous man who loved America and was especially fond of the American brethren in arms.  He would often post on his Facebook page a tribute to a fallen comrade, and just as often it seemed, a fallen American soldier.  He had nothing but wonderful things to say about his American brothers in arms.  Often the topic of US-French history would come up.  Having an appreciation for the French allies and their role in supporting us during the Revolution as well as our allied partners through WWII and a number of conflicts since, it was a mutual admiration society.  As a former Captain and helicopter pilot for the French Air Force he had a great perspective on these alliances and conflicts.  I will always respect him and recall fondly our conversations over the years.  I also will fondly recall his great dislike of the English, and how frequently and fervently he admonished them in so many different ways.  (It couldn’t possibly be that little bit – well, ok, HUGE bit – of Scotch-Irish blood that makes me laugh at this verbal hazing?)  FROGS!  He was always full of himself, as any real Frenchman!  And I make this statement with the utmost of endeared admiration for him.   He was so fun to listen to when on a rant, that I confess, I would often throw in bait and watch him tear around it like a starved dog in the middle of Winter.  Once he calmed down again, I would just laugh!  He laughed too after the realization that I had been toying with him to some extent.  He had a great sense of humor.  (But not that much.  lol)

We also enjoyed conversations about animals, which he deeply loved.  He had cats and a dog of his own and would often send pictures of them, or other cute finds – videos, memes, etc. – from the internet.  We shared quips and I could tell, even from miles away, that he lit up with joy talking about them.

He would also send pictures of his beautiful island Guadeloupe, and we would discuss my trip to visit someday.  Yes, the feeling of loss is there.  It dampens my mood, but strengthens my spirit as only the influence of a warrior could.  I will have that drink in his honor one day on Guadeloupe, as promises.

Lionel was a man of integrity and chauvinistic elegance.  And I mean that as the highest form of compliment.  He is probably sitting at the right hand of God as we speak, pouring wine dutifully, yet all the while, insisting that it be served “a la baguette!”  And of course, a fine French cheese!  (How else?!)  When Jesus said he was going to prepare a place for us, I had no idea he meant a table with French wine and cheese – but I’m sure not complaining!  At this point, I fully expect a welcome to Valhalla upon my arrival someday.  If Lionel is at once unavailable, perhaps St. Michael shall escort me in his place?  Until that day arrives, I will have fond recollections of conversations past – and honor him the way in which he deserves.

As for the rest of our mutual friends, they are all amazing in their own ways.  I would hazard a guess that they realize little of what they mean to me, but be that as it may.  Never the less, we are aviators.  We are warriors.  In particular?  I’m a glorious, beautiful mess.

I am off to enjoy the Christmas music now, a soulful and warm purring in the background at our home tonight as I prepare for the holiday with my husband ~ We will raise a glass in your honor this week Captain, for I am truly thankful to have had your warm and playful friendship, your intelligent conversation, and a true confidante.

[My French is truly awful since I rarely use it anymore, however I will leave this tribute, my best effort, in his honor]:

Repose en paix Lionel.  Un grand guerrier et bien-aimé frère d’armes. Vous allez nous manquer. Ce ne est pas au revoir, mais plutôt .. jusqu’à ce que nous nous reverrons, mon ami.  Tu vas me manquer mon frère d’armes.  Salute.  A bientôt.

Lovingly and admiringly yours,


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OK, where to begin.  How does one under-slept, over caffeinated and always interrupted mom begin to blog intelligently and cultivate a thoughtful discussion and attentive audience?  I mean, really — my musings are just that.  Random thoughts popping in and out of my head, and out again via slightly dulled wits. (Thanks, kids!)  Where does one start?

I could reminisce of course, that’s always full of richness, humor and… no no, I don’t have time for that.  Nor do I have the inclination to move in that direction.  Blogging is, after all, more of an adventure… more of an introspection.  For me, it’s about where I go from where I’ve already been.  I *know* where I’ve been, but the future is still undetermined to some extent.  Life is always surprising, isn’t it?

Alright then.

I think getting to know who I am will help frame some of my future posts.  (Bored yet?  It gets worse!  Imagine being me. hah!)  One of the things that I love more than anything is music.  I grew up with music in a variety of ways.  As a child I sang in the church choir.  (Yes, I know.  Some will find this extremely difficult to believe.)  During that time I often played the Autoharp – a very simple, easy instrument.  I also played the piano and clarinet in my younger years, though really I never did like the clarinet.  It was at my grouchy, 4th grade band director’s insistence that I “selected” this instrument instead of what I REALLY wanted to play, the flute.  I did wind up playing the flute as well, years later.  (no jokes!)  Anyway, my latest foray into music is trying to learn the guitar.  Do you know that it’s possible to play the guitar with solar nails?  (You know, Solar Nails – the descendant of acrylics.)  Well it is.  Sort of.  You can probably deduce that I’m not nearly as dedicated to this endeavor (despite my  enthusiasm for the instrument and its warm, cozy, melodious hum) as I should be to achieve any real results.  Perhaps…. it. is. the. constant. interruptions.  Yes, my family (including the cat!) is constantly requiring my attention.  I mean I love them, but really?  Just an hour or two to myself?  Is that too much to ask??  Just saying!

So now that I have predictably lost my train of thought (yes, you guessed it – interrupted!) I am moving on to cooking.  Last night we made a fabulous pot of Texas Red, a variety of chili famous in Texas.  It has NO beans, so before you even ask, do NOT try making Texas Red with any sort of bean, or you may not live to tell the tale if a Texan hears about it.  They take their chili VERY seriously!

This was a lot of fun to create.  We perused recipes and then elected to make one up of our own.  It turned out amazing if I say so myself, especially considering I’ve never even tried it before!  I had some dried chills that needed to be used – pasilla, California & guajillo.  I’m having some right now over a thin bed of rice and eggs.  I love the weekends.IMG_0484

The Dream Is Always The Same.

Remember that line?  (T. Cruise | Risky Business, c. 1984)  Not really a fan of his any more, but I always loved that opening monologue.

It’s so true though.  The dream is ALWAYS the same.  Variations?  Absolutely.  But I always wind up in the same place at the end.  “LIVING THE DREAM.”  That was to be the blog title originally.  However, I thought it to be a bit ordinary and, frankly, boring.  Yet that is indeed what this blog is about.  It’s about life;  in all of it’s silly, lovely, sordid, mixed-up random, wild and amazing glory.  Ups and downs (and hell, sideways even — I mean, I’m INTERESTING, damn it!) on this roller coaster we love to hate.

Waves of effervescence, experienced while living the dream…  I hope you like it.