Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Do your kids make you a little nuts?

Can anyone tell me if teenage girls actually have floors in their rooms?
Has anyone ever notice that sweet, fruity,vanilla-y smell emanating from their room?
Why are their beds never made?
I thought the clothes were supposed to hang by the rod up top.
I had no idea that clothes were a lot like ivy climbing up a wall.
Do your teenage girls leave what looks to be melted people in lots of piles all over their room? Seriously, they just drop everything right where they are standing. Sometimes, they even leave their shoes in the middle of it.

I have one nice bottle of perfume in my bathroom. I get a new one every year. Because they are so expensive.
Why do my daughters have multiple bottles of this very expensive perfume in their room?

They have better phones than I do first. Then, I wait a year to catch up and have a nice one of my own. Only to find out I bought last year's model...

Why do they spend ten minutes arguing over something it would take either one of them 30 seconds to do? And then complain that her sister doesn't want to help her later?

Why is it okay for teenage daughters to fill up her gas tank with your gas card every Monday, drive her friends everywhere all week, and complain that she doesn't have enough money to get gas to run an errand for you?

Why do teenage girls complain and act completely ungrateful toward us, and then get so upset and angry when their step-siblings act ungrateful toward them?

Sometimes my girls babysit. They come home frustrated and complaining about the rude and disrespectful way one of the little ones spoke to them. Then then they complain when they have to repeatedly tell the little ones not to do something, and the little ones keep on doing it.

Is it wrong that I think that their frustration is hilarious, and hope someday their own kids make them as crazy as they've made me???

Monday, July 20, 2009


I've mentioned before that my maternal grandparents raised me. My grandfather was someone I enjoyed being around to the exclusion of nearly anyone else during my early years. Pap and I spent lots of time together. He was born in 1922. His father was a teacher and together with his wife, they also owned a small general store. Pap was the youngest of eight children, of which seven survived infancy. His family was large and they all loved music. Pap loved music. He never learned how to read music, but he could play "by ear", which basically means he listens to the notes, finds it on his instrument, and then continues on with the song. (Coincidentally, my father is a musician and plays his guitar the same way) Pap taught himself to play the piano at the age of four. His brother was playing a simple song (and I'm so upset that I seem to have forgotten the name of the song) and he sat down, at the age of four, and played it himself. His love of music continued throughout his life. When I was a little girl, the Lawrence Welk show would come on Friday nights, when Pap had gone with his band, and because Lawrence Welk played the accordion, I thought he must be Pap. As for his day job, he was an airplane instrument mechanic, he would leave for work around four or five a.m. and would come in my room to kiss my forehead before he left for work. He was not a physically affectionate person. Those times were the only times I ever remember him initiating affection. His way of showing love and affection was to talk to you about everything that he felt was important for you to know. I remember his lessons on fiscal responsibility, the importance of being on time, and on having a good work ethic.

My grandparents weren't "in love" with one another. Their story is one of the least romantic stories I've ever heard. Pap was almost fourteen years older than my grandmother (Nonnie). They married because, well they had to, in March of 1953. My oldest uncle was born in July of 1953..... After five children together, and the added burden of raising their grandchild, their marriage was one of taking care of the business at hand. So, my grandfather opted to spend lots of time away from the house on weekends. When he wasn't "playing" (what we called his music gigs) he would drive to the local donut shop to sip coffee, make new friends, usually taking me with him. I loved those times.

The first major change I experienced was in the winter of 1984. Pap's best friend, Johnny, lost his mother and we were on our way home from her funeral. Pap was driving, I was in the backseat with Nonnie. The car started to weave and I remember someone asking if he was okay. He said he was fine, (he was never one to complain) and he continued on. After a while Johnny became concerned by the lack of control Pap had over the car. He asked him to pull over and Johnny offered to drive. I will never forget the moment Pap stepped out of the car. He lost his balance and nearly fell. My reaction was one that would haunt me for years.... I started to laugh at him. We didn't know it at the time, but he was having a stroke. I laughed. Granted, I was only nine years old, but when I think about that I am so ashamed.The stroke was very hard for him. Pap was a proud man, and to not be able to do the most basic things for himself was excruciating. (As I said earlier, he and my grandmother did not have a loving marriage. My grandmother was an alcoholic, albeit a very functional one, and she smoked like a chimney. Pap did not smoke) Nonnie suddenly was the caretaker of not only me, but of Pap as well. The original prognosis for Pap was that he would never be able to walk again. They didn't think he would be able to speak clearly again. He certainly would never again play his beloved accordion. During this very trying time, I saw a man who did not ever give up. Not once. When we discovered that his wheelchair didn't work in our home, he decided to get a little rolling garden cart. He was not going to stay cooped up in his room. He was getting out. He bought a stimulation unit, to help him regain the use of his right side. For those of you who don't know what that is, it is basically a portable (mild) shock therapy device. He regained the use of his voice, practiced walking until he could do it without a cane, and after about a year, was able to drive again. He joined the city recreation center and started aquatic exercises. One of Pap's friends, and a fellow musician, bought him a keyboard. Pap, who thought music of his own making was gone forever, was able to once again teach himself how to play the keyboard. With one hand. He was able to play the cords and the melody. With one hand.

I used to wonder where this stubborn streak that I have came from. I will usually do something someone has told me I'm not capable of, just to prove them wrong. Looking back, I see that Pap is probably the primary source of that strength. At arguably the lowest point in his life, the showed a tremendous amount of strength and fortitude. He did not give up on himself. He didn't want to lay there while life beat him up. He was a fighter, and he wasn't ashamed of his disability. In fact, one of the stories he liked to tell was one that happened a couple of years before he died.Working as a musician in restaurants, he would of course be there from five or so until the restaurant closed. With his stroke, he was given a handicapped license plate. He would park in the handicap spot long enough to unload his equipment, then he would move his car to a regular spot. He didn't want to take up one of the few handicap spots all evening. On one particularly busy night, all of the regular spots were full (Pap's car being in one of them) while all the handicapped spots were open. Pap goes to his car to pack up and notices a small note under his windshield wiper. This gem of a person left him a note asking him why he was taking one of the regular spots, therefore depriving this person of a place to park, when the handicap spots were available!!! Here my precious Pap, trying to be considerate of others who may be worse off than he, was the recipient of a nasty gram. The nerve!!

Pap left us in September, 1996. He developed congestive heart failure, had a quadruple bypass surgery, and had several small strokes. That ultimately caused the complete loss of his voice. One week before he died, I was with him in his hospital room. None of us were sure if he knew what was going on, and no one knew for sure how to get him to respond so that we would know for sure. I remembered that when I was a little girl, he tried to teach me sign language. Just how to sign individual letters. So I leaned down, and whispered, "Pap do you know who I am?" He nodded his head. I said, "tell me then. Who am I?" He lifted his left hand and started spelling my name. I burst into tears hugging him. I was so glad to know he knew me, but I was crushed to know that he was fully aware of how completely his body had failed him.

On the morning of his death, he reminded us all of his determination. He refused to enter a nursing home when he was still able to communicate clearly and decidedly with us. Pap was now at the point where the hospital could do no more for him. Nonnie couldn't take care of him at home. It was time for a nursing home. In the hospital room Nonnie, my Aunt June, and the nurse made the final decision to place Pap in a nursing home. Nonnie sent June out to start filling out the necessary paperwork. After 43 years of marriage, Nonnie and Pap were not in love with each other, but there was love between them. Before the paperwork had been completed, my wonderful Pap passed away.

He made his decision, and he stood by it. He never did get to that nursing home.... he was too damn stubborn to go.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


My mother was the fifth (and last) child born to my grandparents, and the only girl. My grandfather (Pap) adored her. She was coddled, loved and spoiled rotten. In the early 1960's, when my mother was around three years old, her family moved in to our family home. They moved from the mountains and away from Pap's family to live here, near the ocean and closer to my grandmother's (Nonnie) family. The day they moved into their new home, my mother met the girl across the street. Her name was Sharon Mitchell. They sat on the curb, each little girl on her own side of the street, and stared at one another. After awhile, they got tired of simply staring at each other, so they begged their mothers to let them play together. Although the two girls didn't get to play that first day, they eventually went on to become the best of friends.

The two families proved to be quite different. During that time, Nonnie was a twenty-eight year old mother of five, whose husband worked for the government during the day and was a musician on the weekends. She was completely overwhelmed with the children and had a tendency to drink a little too much. She was a functioning alcoholic. She cleaned the house and cooked the meals, but she never befriended any other wives in the neighborhood. (I once asked her why she never had female friends, and her response to the question was "women are bitches." I was stunned, to say the least!) Nonnie and Pap's marriage was strained at best. Pap was a good man. He worked hard and tried to help control the boys, but he and Nonnie fought over the way she disciplined (or didn't discipline) the children.

Sharon's family couldn't have been any more different from ours. Her mother and father were very much in love when they married and in the years they have been married that love has only grown stronger. They always backed each other up in front of the children, and to this day, I have never heard one speak ill of the other. Sharon's father was a tough disciplinarian, and though her mother was very soft spoken, she was tough as nails when it came to her children minding their manners and behaving themselves. Needless to say, the Mitchell children did not misbehave often.

Relationships, whether they are friendship or romantic, are most successful when the people involved in those relationships have similar values. As Sharon and Mom headed toward the teen years, the differences in the values of the two families became more apparent. While Sharon was required to attend church on Sundays, be home by curfew, speak respectfully to her parents and behave herself around boys - Mom was given all the freedom she wanted. She had a curfew, although she wasn't obliged to actually be home on time. By the summer of 1974, Mom was pregnant with me. She was fourteen years old.

Sharon was shocked at the pregnancy. Sex was not something she had ever considered. Sex was for marriage. Values. Sharon also expected that Mom would be busy caring for her new baby. She also thought that she would be a part of that. Sharon would become my "Aunt" Sharon. Sharon was only half right. She would be a part of my life. Mom would not be taking care of me. That was left up to Nonnie, Pap and Aunt Sharon.

Having a child didn't alter the course of Mom's plans to do what she wanted, when she wanted. If it was convenient for her to have a baby, she would take me with her, if it wasn't convenient, she'd leave me home. I have so many stories I could tell you about my early childhood. Maybe I will sometime, but for now, lets just say that Mom wasn't the most nurturing mother. It didn't take long before Sharon started to lose patience with Mom for leaving me all the time. Mom had lots of parties to go to. She had a string of boyfriends to entertain. She ended up marrying one of those boyfriends just weeks before her eighteenth birthday. She was already pregnant with my brother. After she married my first step-father, Steve, they moved to a neighboring city. My brother was born six months later, and another brother followed eighteen months later. Steve was a very nice man. Sober. When he was drunk, however, he was evil personified. Their marriage lasted four years. My mother, 22 years old, was once again single. She decided she couldn't handle raising two boys on her own, so she gave custody to her husbands parents.

As I grew older, I would hear other people talk about Mom's irresponsibility. Throughout my childhood and teen years I didn't blame her at all. I loved her. I rationalized that Mom was only fourteen when she had me. Of course she had no idea how to care for and nurture a child. When I thought of her giving my brothers away, I excused her because that marriage had been brutal, and she'd done what she thought was best. In one part of my mind, I thought she was pretty and very cool. I secretly enjoyed the look of surprise on the faces of my friends when I told them how young my Mom was. I liked to show her off. I thought it was neat that my Mom had "boyfriends" instead of a husband. In the other part of my mind, I longed for a real family, with a mother, brothers and sisters. One like Aunt Sharon's family. It was buried deep within me. It pushed me to think about the direction I wanted my life to take.

If Mom's bad decisions had stopped there, maybe I could have forgiven her for everything. After her divorce, she moved from one relationship to the next. I was maybe six or seven years old when she met a man named Larry. I'm not sure what Larry really did for a living, but it apparently required a lot of travel. Mom went with him. I didn't see her for a long time. She did write letters and send presents. In one letter, the only one I remember, she asked for a recent picture. The only reason I remember that one is because I had to ask what "recent" meant. Eventually, that relationship ended and there were more men. I don't remember much about any of them, but I did meet a few of them. In 1984, Mom got lucky. She met a wonderful man named Lou. Lou was the father of four. His oldest son was the same age as me, but lived with his mother. He was the single father of two other boys and a little girl, who was less than a year old. (Her name was Kensi, too) The younger three children had been abandoned by their mother. Lou and Mom started dating. Lou had a very nice family. (When I say "nice family" I really mean they were a functional family.) Eventually they married, and Mom became step-mom to Lou's three children. My mom was the only mom Little Kensi knew.

Life settled down for nearly a decade. Lou and Mom bought a house, my youngest brother came to live with them. When I was fifteen, and still idolized Mom, I moved in with them. Pap was a little hurt, I think, but he understood. Mom and I spent a lot of time talking about our family and the issues we had. We talked about Nonnie's alcoholism and how Mom never felt like her mother cared where she was or what she was doing. It was true that Nonnie was much too permissive. Mom also let me know that she felt like she stopped existing as her mother's daughter the day I was born. She told me that it was like Nonnie transferred any love she had for her to me. We talked about the need to break the cycle and become better parents. Mom told me how important it was the mothers and daughters become close to each other and lean on each other. Some of the lessons she had to share with me were good ones. In some ways, she did help me become the mother I have become. She said all the right things, but she wasn't able to follow through herself. ...

I realize this is a long post, so I'm going to stop here for now. I will post the next part soon...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


I have three teenage girls living in my house. They drive me insane, they make me laugh and there are times they make me want to move far, far away. Goldie is my oldest biological child, but technically the fourth in our family of five children. Goldie can keep our family in stitches. She will burst out in song and dance that can rival any one of American Idol's early rejects. She can tell the tallest tales with a perfectly straight face and act totally offended when you don't believe her. It is hilarious. Goldie has her issues. I worry that she doesn't worry about tomorrow, or next week and certainly not next year. I am worried that Goldie is in no way prepared for life outside of our home,despite my best efforts. Goldie also has seizure disorder. Most days, she is the funny, crazy kid who makes us all laugh. Some days, she's asking the question most of us ask every once in a while, "Why me?" On those days she is reminded that her lot in life could be a whole lot worse. For her to have one seizure a year was normal until earlier this year. She has had three seizures this spring. This hasn't happened in years. I am terrified sometimes that I am going to lose her. I'm sure that I'm just paranoid, and my Goldie will be just fine.

Although I don't consider her seizure disorder a disability, it does cause her some difficulty. The medication makes her move a little slower and she can't always concentrate. I don't want her to think of herself as disabled because for the most part, she's not. I try very hard to treat her the same as our other kids, but I do make excuses for her from time to time. I know I shouldn't. Don't misunderstand, I hold my children to a very high standard. I demand respect and a positive outlook. At times, though, I've found myself excusing her from finishing the kitchen, or overlooking the pile of laundry that is creeping half-way up her bedroom wall. Why? Beats me.

All I know is that she is my firstborn. My beautiful, crazy girl. There isn't a thing I wouldn't do for her. And I love her...