Wednesday, January 14, 2009

7 Things About Me

I'm going to do my best to keep this brief. You'll have to buy the book for the really juicy stuff.

  1. I am born. I'm one of the early Boomers born 2 years after the end of WWII. My Dad was barely old enough to join the Army before it was all over. He left college and re-joined after I was born to support the family. He then had the distinct pleasure of serving in the Korean War which, coupled with having grown up in a dysfunctional family during the Depression, pretty much warped him for life. From then until I was about 9, I was an Army brat living in Japan, PA, CA, and GA. At that time, he left the Army, and the family (now 3 kids) moved in with my grandmother and 3 unmarried aunts in Memphis so that he could go to UT Dental school. By the time he graduated, there were 4 kids and another on the way. I'm giving all this background about my Dad because he was such a huge influence on me. In fact, at age 27 I began 2 years of therapy to get over most of it. Anyway, in 1962, the 5th child was born, Daddy started his dental practice, and he was well on the path to alcoholism, smoking 4.5 packs a day, with a side order of compulsive gambling. When he died at age 59 of cirrhosis and lung cancer, he and my mother were broke. This is why I drink moderately, never smoked, only gamble small amounts when I can afford to lose it, and am very selective when it comes to supporting wars (Vietnam had something to do with that also). Thus endeth the first lesson.
  2. Self-esteem: I had none. Life is pretty good when you're the first child, niece, and grandchild. I was the princess and the world revolved around my behind until the birth of my first brother (or, as I refer to him, the heir to the throne) when I was 4. Even then, it was pretty good until, at age 6, I committed the cardinal sin for which there was no forgiveness: I got fat. I'm not going to go into all of that (remember the 2 years of therapy) except to lay down some rules for parents of children who struggle with this: (1) Don't expect a child to have will power. You cannot allow the whole family to have all that great stuff that everyone loves and expect a 7, 8, 9, 10-year-old kid to abstain while watching everyone else pig out. (2) Don't withhold activities from the child "until you lose weight." I wanted to take dancing. It was made clear to me that I would embarass my parents so I had to lose weight first. It never occurred to them that the dancing would actually help. Instead, I read books and watched tv while waiting for the weight to magically disappear. (3)Don't buy great clothes that are too small thinking that will be an incentive for a kid to lose weight. (4) Don't say, "If you'll lose weight I'll... (you fill in the blank).(5) Don't look at your child's straight A report card and say, "That's great. Now if you'd just lose weight...." (6)And finally, don't try to explain yourself by pointing to the kid's normal sized siblings and saying, "You see. A father wants to be able to show off his daughters and be proud of them." The result of all this was to marry at 19 the first guy who said he loved me. After 9 years, 2 kids, and the divorce, I spent 14 years looking for love in all the wrong places. I'm not going into details on any of that because it is way more information than some people will want (or need) to know. Happily, in 1990, I met a good man who puts me first. We've been married since 1991.
  3. Marriage #1: We were too young (19 & 22), but that's what people used to do. I think he wanted to bolt when he saw me coming down the aisle. I looked at him and tried to picture us growing old together; I couldn't do it. At 30, he decided he had missed out on life. He took off his tie, put on puka beads, and put his superior gardening skills to work growing pot in the garden. I was a teacher with a pre-schooler working on my master's degree. We lived parallel lives. He tried to boost his ego by ripping mine to shreds. As part of a seminar in Leadership that I was taking, we were given a personality and interest inventory. When I went for my 15-minute feedback session with the university counselor, I learned that my results showed my self-concept was in the toilet and I had suicidal tendencies. I stayed 2 hours that day and was back 2 days a week for the next 2 years. Even after I graduated he continued to see me, and it never cost me a dime. That man saved my life and my sanity. I lost about 50 lbs., got pregnant and thought my life was turned around. When my baby was 5 days old, hubby told me he was in love with another woman. I thank God for those 2 years of counseling. It took me over 20 years, but I finally, basically, forgave him (and the other woman) for screwing up my kids' lives. It was a truly liberating gesture for me.
  4. Marriage #2: We met when he was going through his divorce, and I was in a relationship that had gone stale. Neither one of us wanted a new serious relationship at that time. We dated though, and we liked each other. By this time I was a school principal with a Doctorate. He was a railroad engineer with a high school diploma who had served with the Navy in Vietnam in helicopter rescue. He was smart and fun and kind, and I knew instinctively that he was the kind of man I could depend on. He liked the fact that I wasn't "needy" or dependent (irony!) After 14 years of kissing frogs, I finally found a prince. Again, fate had great timing because my youngest was becoming more than I could handle alone. While this man knew better than to try to "parent" a defiant 14-year-old boy who had never had a father in the house, he gave me the emotional support that I needed to forge ahead with a lot of tough decisions. The downside is that, not being the biological parent, his patience wore out before mine did. Fortunately for me, his daughter is a bitch so I had something to counter with. Basically, those 2 members of our blended family have been our only real sore spots. He likes and respects my older son for being intelligent and self-sufficient, and he adores that son's daughter (our granddaughter) with no thought to biology. He's still a good man.
  5. Motherhood: I have been a very non-traditional mother in many ways. For most of their formative years, I was single, going to graduate school, pursuing career advancement, and leading a very active social life on the weekends when they were with their dad. While I am a perfectionist in many ways, I realized early on that something was going to have to suffer, and that something was housework. I had no energy left for it and even less for badgering the boys to do chores. In addition to my work and school, they both played sports or had other activities. Our time at home was limited, and I did not want to spend it arguing with them about cleaning their rooms, etc. I bought a two story house and put them upstairs. I never went up there, but sometimes I would lie in bed at night fantasizing about the horrors over my head. When I could afford it, I hired a lady to clean who became my personal angel. I rarely cooked. Both kids were picky eaters, and I didn't need extra food sitting around, so I just got whatever they'd eat: Pizza at least 3 nights a week, Captain Crunch and Lucky Charms, McDonald's, Subway, etc. There were a few things that I cooked that they liked, but those meals were the exception to the rule. On Friday nights I usually dropped them at Skateland where I knew they were safe (I knew the owners) with money to eat while I went to Happy Hour. Sometimes today I allow myself to slide into "Mommy Guilt", but, hell, I did the best I could under the circumstances. In spite of all that, though, I have always been completely fierce when it comes to protecting and supporting my kids. There was never any question of sending them to live with their Dad. He loved them and was a fine "Circus Daddy", but a PARENT he was not. For parenting, they had to deal with me which made me the bitch, of course. Like every parent that ever lived, I made a lot of mistakes (still make some), but the oldest is one of the finest men I know. I am very humbled and flattered when he asks for my opinion or advice. The youngest is getting there. I'm his mother...I am steadfast in my cautious optimism. By the way, as a grandmother, I am EXCELLENT! But that's another story.
  6. Civil Rights: Most of my formative years were spent in the segregated South raised by people who thought that was just fine. I remember one summer when I was about 8 the family was all ready to spend a day at the zoo when somebody remembered that Tuesday was "Colored Day", and we couldn't go. I was SO MAD at the injustice that it had to be THEIR day when we wanted to go. (Thursday was C.D. at the Fairgrounds.). I remember one time when we drove down Beale Street after dark just to see what it was like. We didn't even think about getting out of the car. I was with a friend visiting her mother who worked at a lunch counter when there was a sit-in, and they closed the counter down. In 1968, I was alone in a small car when people from one of the downtown riots poured down the street toward me. Right after Martin Luther King was assassinated, a car was fire bombed in our apt. parking lot right outside my door. I have a lot of black friends my age today who tell me they were just as scared and confused as I was. When I started teaching in 1969, all of the new black teachers were placed in white schools, and the new white teachers were sent to black schools. That's how they integrated faculties. They took a bunch of inexperienced kids and sent us to the front lines to change the world's social order. My fourth graders were grindingly poor, and most were reading on 2nd grade level. My principal said to me that some kids learn in spite of the teacher, but these kids really needed someone to teach them. That pushed all the buttons in the Peace Corps Mentality that JFK triggered in me, and 40 years later I am still working in poverty schools trying to make a difference. I went into education planning to teach on Indian Reservations in the Southwest. Fate placed me in a school in the projects instead. I decided that was where I was supposed to be.
  7. Politics: I have always been political. My parents were news and politics junkies, and I remember their watching the Republican and Democratic Conventions on black and white tv when I was about 5. We Liked Ike. My Dad was a staunch Indiana Republican, and I was raised that way. Nixon was the first Pres. I voted for: twice. The South was pretty well removed from Vietnam demonstrations and the hippy movement. Southerners are steeped in tradition, and, by God, if your country went to war you didn't question it. But most of the boys my age did everything they could to avoid getting drafted without actually refusing to go. Mostly, we went to classes and watched the demonstrations and San Francisco, and Woodstock on tv and wondered what the hell their problem was. But then I graduated and started working in poverty schools, and listening to other voices. I called myself Independent, but I never voted for another Republican for President. I did vote for a few for Governor, Senator, etc. Several years ago I decided that I might as well call myself a Democrat and became active in the local party. That was the best way to get disenchanted with it all that I know, but I still support most of the nominees. Most people get more conservative as they grow older; I've become more liberal. I was a 100% hard-nosed Hillary supporter who dropped my membership to the DNC after the primaries. However, I tried to keep an open mind and was glad to support Obama in November as did my 83 year-old mother who was always a closet progressive. She despised Sarah Palin. I raised my kids to be open-minded, unprejudiced, and never use ethnic slurs, etc. I'm happy to say that I was highly successful in that venture.

That's the end of my "brief" list. TBMims has already tapped everyone, so I am relieved of that duty. Is he also giving grades? I think I need a B for bored everyone to tears.


  1. One of the best 7 things I've read. You've truly lived on the front line!

  2. Becky, I had typed a rather long response then got waylayed with the box below requiring one of the types of accounts. So I signed on Google and found out I must have signed up at one time so had to wait for a reply for my password. IN the meantime my computer went all whacky and closed all the sites I had open and now I can't remember all that I had said.
    I do want to say that you are a remarkable woman and have come through a lot. You deserve to hold your head high and be proud. I basicly wanted to share with you that we have had some pretty bad childhood experiences that have left some scars but I am sure we are healing. I know that I still have my bouts of low to no self esteem. Not the same as no confidence at times. I blame my Mom for most of it. I will save that for another time, maybe I will blog it.
    I am glad you shared this with me. It tells me about you and a little about me too in a way. I hope we will continue the sharing. It is healing, I think.
    I have to go to bed now. My brain hurts from all the screwing around with facebook tattoo wall.
    I like writing. It somehow is cathartic. Don't you agree?

  3. Not boring at all. An absolutely candid snapshot of an absolutely fascinating life. Thank you for sharing this with all of us.