Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Blackmailing My Teacher, Cheating And Other Fond Memories Of High School

My daughter is beginning her junior year of high school this week. I'm overcome with all the feels because how in the world did she get to be this old and oh my gosh, I hope she likes her junior year better than I liked my upper class years. I remember specific details from high school and I think some of it has shaped me to be the person I am today. Depending on who you ask, this is both good and bad. 

I am so grateful for restoration and I'm thankful my daughter has better opportunities than I did at her age. Granted, high school was a lifetime ago but some of the same issues kids deal with have stuck around and I find that unfortunate. On the other hand, so much growth has occurred and many kids are going to do (and already ARE doing) amazing things for their generation.

My daughter is excited about returning to school. She is looking forward to taking classes like Criminology and Honors English. 
She is a person who will stroll into class wearing  AC/DC shirts and ripped jeans one day and a homemade skirt featuring teddy bears and pumpkins the next. She knows Bible verses by heart and quotes Lewis Carroll. She's teaching herself guitar riffs from Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" and the theme music to the movie, "Pulp Fiction." 

 She bakes bread and watches Mr. Rogers. She listens to crime Podcasts.  Her musical tastes are all over the place. She loves everything from the Les Miserable soundtrack to the obscure Primus song.

 Her friends are all ages with diverse backgrounds, orientations and ethnicities. She's introverted and doesn't want me posting photos of her on the internet. One of her most favorite things to do is hanging out with family.

The thing is, she is learning not to care what people think about her and that's what makes her so damn amazing. She is everything I wanted to be at her age.
She likes who she is becoming and it gives me so much hope because I was the complete opposite. I hated myself. I battled low self esteem and couldn't make decisions for fear of making the wrong one. I kept quiet and didn't stand up for anything. I just wanted to be liked and accepted.
 
I started my high school career at a Christian private school in California where graduation requirements included a semester of Old Testament, a class on Cults (which basically included steps how to handle a Mormon or Jehovah's Witness at your doorstep) and in my case, church choir because I needed elective credits and my parents believed that singing Christian songs would rid me of the evils that might have snuck in at school.

As far as music I only knew a couple songs from Duran Duran and The Thompson Twins but could quote every lyric of Amy Grant.

My books were mainly the Sweet Valley High Series, Janette Oak's prairie novels gifted to me from my grandma and the entire series of Nancy Drew and Anne of Green Gables. I read the entire Flowers In The Attic series and kept the books hidden under my bed because those books 'were from the devil.'

My parents made me wear skirts to school three times a week. I would bring jeans and change when I got to school because who the heck makes a rule as stupid as that one?

All this to say, the legalism was taking its toll on me. I think my parents were trying to carve me into a person that played by exacts, rules and laws but it only made me want freedom because I felt so confined.

Later on, high school landed me in a tiny rural high school in Oregon where everyone had known each other since they were little. I felt alone and completely out of my element in my turtlenecks, long skirts and penny loafers.

Speaking of turtlenecks, I'll always remember when the principal called me out one day in the hall, in front of other students and accused me of hiding hickeys on my neck since I wore them all the time. I was horribly embarrassed and hated him for making me look like an ass.

Where my Christian school had the Old Testament Bible classes and anti heavy metal propaganda, my rural country school offered wood shop as an enviable elective and Future Farmers of America groups. Kids would arrive late to school during hunting season and haul hay during the summers. A fun Friday night was considered drinking beers down at the river.

In both of those settings, I had no idea where I fit in. Neither looked promising to me. I wasn't sure who I was. I missed more school than I attended and was in a general state of confusion about which direction I would take. 

In the beginning of my junior year the only friend I made (initially) was the new history teacher. Not in a weird way. My parents let him use our river property on the weekends where he could fish, smoke his pot, use our boat and drink beers undisturbed. I made a deal with him because I was the one who caught him on our property smoking pot in the first place. I wouldn't report him to the school administration if he would agree to give me A's in his classes all year. So in a way, we were pretty much best buds (pun intended).

I cheated my way through my other classes, as well. Occasionally I would help out a friend on her biology exams by passing her the answers to the questions I knew ( she was having a secret affair with her 30 year old Driver's Ed instructor and didn't have time to study) but mostly it was me writing cryptic test answers on my palm for a Bible exam (oh the irony), copying answer sheets and positioning myself so I was sitting next to the future valedictorian on test day.

People assumed I was sheltered and while my reading, clothing and music choices leaned in that direction, they were terribly mistaken. Inside I was a girl raging to be let out and bloom into the person I was meant to be. Even though I didn't know who that was quite yet, I wanted the opportunity to find out. I wanted to believe I was more than penny loafers, a test cheater or Amy Grant cassette tapes.

Time has a way of dimming our memories and those four years of high school have melded into a blur of bad hair, stupid choices and Whitesnake's, popular ballad, "Here I Go Again." What I did as a high schooler makes me cringe now that I'm an adult. We all had our moments, its all part of being a teenager but I still have regrets.

 I wish I had stood up for myself during my high school years.

 I wish I had studied instead of relying on cheating to get by. I wish when I said, "No" to that guy pressuring me for sex, it had meant something. I wish I had told the girl who regarded me with judgment over my bad outfits that her shirt was on backwards. I wish I could go back to the teacher that said I would never be anything and show him my degree and I wish I had stood up to that stupid principal by calling him out on his unprofessional behavior.

I share this not only as a reminder to myself but as a testament for my daughter. I want her to know she can do hard things. I want her to be true to herself, not someone we as her parents think she should be. I want her to say, "Nope" to anyone who pushes her to do something she isn't comfortable with and be respected for it. I want her to speak up for the person being harassed. I want her to be a friend, even when it isn't convenient. I want her to run from legalism and think for herself. I want her music choices and reading material to be based on her interests, not mine. I want her to encourage the turtleneck wearing girl because even though she seems quiet, she is really cool and is just trying to figure out who she is.

My daughter is proving that my past carries lessons for her, not only for today, but also for her future.

But the best advice I can give her right now? Please don't attempt blackmailing a teacher. Its just never a good idea.












Monday, August 20, 2018

How Blackberry Pie Saved Me



Part of my teen years were spent living in a rural area of Oregon. I was fresh off the boat from California and clueless about what it meant to live in the country. My mom and step dad had purchased a 55 acre neglected piece of property. It was 7 miles from the nearest town which had a population of around 100.  My folks were intent on turning the property back into the farm it once was. Even though they knew nothing about developing property from the literal ground up, they felt hard work and commitment would be enough. 

It was a particularly dark time in my life and the years spent in that area are full of more bad memories than good. We moved the summer prior to my junior year of high school and that August in 1987 was really hot. In between clearing brush, we would take refuge from the heat down in our creek and river frontage we owned along the Umpqua River. It was shady and cool and provided a much needed respite from the penetrating sun.

It was during that time we discovered how prolific blackberries are in Oregon. Our bushes were laden with ripe, purple fruit and the sweet smell of them lingered long after the sun set for the evening.Up until that time I had never even tried a blackberry but our property was full of them and my parents were all about free food so we starting picking them by the bucketful. I ended up eating way more than I picked, my hands and nails stained purple from all the juice.


While developing the property to becoming somewhat livable, we rented a small dumpy house in a neighboring farm town. One evening after we finished working on the property I decided to use some of the berries I had picked and try making my first pie.

Turns out we only had Crisco and wheat flour for the crust and I forgot about any sort of thickener for the berries. It was so horrific it made the enchiladas from the high school cafeteria actually look legit.


 After I turned the oven on and slid the pie in, I noticed a plagues' worth of unidentified bugs racing out from underneath the oven. Upon further investigation also known as screaming, jumping and pointing, it was determined they were cockroaches. Not only were they were under the oven, they were in it as well. I opened the oven door only to be greeted by very toasty cockroaches crawling across the most ugliest pie ever made.

I took a long hiatus from any baking after that.


Only when we had a new oven and a new place to live did I try my hand at baking again. It was a slow process and resulted in many disastrous outcomes before I finally mastered fruit pies. In the midst of living with an abusive step father, baking blackberry pies became my therapy. The simple act of picking the fruit, stirring in the sugar, rolling out the crust and crimping the dough edges revived me and brought me back to life. Only when I was baking did I experience true peace.


I was living with a rage filled, volatile person but for some reason, my step dad would leave me alone when I baked. By the end of it all, I lost count of how many pies I made. 





I know I'm giving way too much credit to a blackberry but I like to believe it was God's way of allowing me to create something good during the bad.

Yesterday I went out to the country. In the middle of nowhere. To a place 7 miles from the nearest town. To a piece of property long forgotten in my mind. This time with my husband. We picked warm sun ripened blackberries, their scent heavy in the late summer heat. Our dogs played in the river. We picked them by the bucketful and once again, I ate more than I picked. This time I laughed at my purple stained hands and nails. I looked at the former home site where I used to bake away my fear and felt a spirit of thanks for my life. I couldn't wait to get home. I had a blackberry pie to make.






Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Apparently I Have A Lot To Say...




These past months have sped by but wanted to check in and say "Hi" to my nonexistent readers and share what has been brewing in my head...

On Writing:

 Recently I downloaded an app to check my grammar. Apparently my grammar is so bad they want to charge me 139.00 for a subscription in order to fix it. Obviously they don't want me to write well, otherwise they would have comped the charge.

All this to say, some need a live in nanny. I need a live in editor.

The reason I downloaded the grammar app... I'm attempting to write a piece that is becoming increasingly difficult to compose because the comparison game is real and I'm the queen of self sabotage. Other's success makes my stomach clench with jealousy which in turn paralyzes my mind from forming sentences. I'm also finding it difficult to translate my deep emotion about my subject matter into a document worth reading.

On Recent Revelations:

 I've discovered the hard way the amount of time I'm wasting on Instagram and other social media outlets. Its amazing what one can accomplish when the bill doesn't get paid and the WiFi goes out.... BUT I STILL CAN'T STOP TAKING PHOTOS OF FOOD!

Seriously though, I'm living vicariously through the experiences of others. In turn, I'm denying myself new adventures because I'm wasting time watching everybody else's! 

On Antidepressants:

Ever since I had my son 14 years ago I've been on one form or another of antidepressants. I believe they have helped me navigate through some tough seasons. I'm doing OK but I'm terrified to stop taking them. Less than a year ago, my doctor made a switch to a more effective med and lucky for me it came with the side effect of weight gain. Its really fun especially when it comes to putting my underwear on and I fall over. I know you're jealous. Ideally, I want to have natural remedies instead of drugs but yoga isn't quite cutting it. In addition, the meds are helping me deal with my anger issues in a proactive manner when it comes to subjects such as separation of families, misogynistic men and bad films.


On My Anger Issues:

See above


On Veganism:

For the 'most' part I've been a vegan for the past year and a half. It has been really hard for me because I'm all about cheese and butter. I call myself 'veganish' because I struggle with the cravings and give in to the occasional laminated dough perfection that is a chocolate croissant. My reason for trying to be a vegan is based on ethics only. Yeah, I get it. A plant based diet is a lot healthier than a carnivorous one but I hate the abuse so many living creatures endure so that we can have a BBQ. Also, I apologize for the judgmental vegans. They're a tough bunch but it doesn't represent all of us. I've had to kick my husband under the table a few times when he starts getting a bit overzealous with meat eaters.


On Raising Humans

At 47 I am keenly aware that time moves quickly. My kids are both in high school now. I have two summers left with my daughter before she ventures out on her own, most likely in a van traveling to see the biggest ball of yarn. And yes, in case you're wondering, she wants to see it.

My boy is testing his wings, surrounding himself with friends more than his mom. Answers to my questions come in the form of grunts. If he asks for anything its for cash, potato chips or hair product. He seems to think he is going to live in our basement when he's an adult. Thankfully we don't have a basement.

I want to absorb every minute of my daughter's mood swings, my son's opposition to facial cleanser, their messy bedrooms, overflowing laundry bins and empty cookie packages in the pantry because trust me, this time is almost over. Parents of younger kids, I implore you to hold on to every single minute of this parenting gig. From stepping on a Lego with bare feet to cleaning a flooded bathroom from the kid who clogged the toilet with an action figure, you will miss all of it when they're gone. Well, maybe not the clogged toilet.
 And while your house will finally be quiet, it will also be empty (and really, really clean).

I love my kids with a ferocity, it hurts me to the core. I worry for their futures. We've done a piss poor job of preserving a healthy planet for them to exist in and I feel like I owe my kids an apology. As parents we can only do so much. We can be examples. We can point them in the right direction. We can encourage and support them but ultimately they will decide their path. Right now they have an opportunity to see a generation taking action, working tirelessly to create lasting change. I pray my kids will find a cause they feel passionate about and join in the work.

On Reading Books And Watching Netflix

This summer I've been trying to put the phone down and pick up a book. These have been some recent favorites.

Books:

Memoirs Written By Women:
Jamie Wright "The World's Worst Missionary"
Roxanne Gay "Hunger"
Janelle Hanchett "I'm Just Happy To Be Here"

Fiction:

Kristin Hannah "The Great Alone"
Jill Santopolo "The Love We Lost"
Aimee Molloy "The Perfect Mother"

Netflix

Hannah Gadsby - Nanette
(My words can't do it justice so just watch it)

Arrested Development
(if you need a break from living on planet earth)


Apparently I needed to get a lot out so thanks for listening to my word diarrhea!!







Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Actually, I Can.

Since my childhood I've battled self worth issues. I'm told I'm my own worst enemy and if I could really see what I've overcome in my life, I would be much kinder to myself.

Admittedly, I find myself addicted to social media which in my case, only heightens my symptoms. Comparisons plague me. I'm caught in the hamster wheel. She's thinner. She's more beautiful. She does it all. She has it all. She's so creative. She earns a better income. She has more influence. She's funnier and so on....

I could blame it on my weird, dysfunctional upbringing or perhaps negative comments as I got older. It doesn't matter because I have the ultimate say in how I feel about myself.  Yet at times I feel overpowered by it.

My favorite mantra of "Actually, I can." quickly turns into "Who am I kidding?"

Now I'm 46 and I have a daughter who battles the same ailment. I know I am largely responsible for this because all her life she has seen how cruel I treat myself in terms of  comments about my appearance, failures and shortcomings.

About a year ago she decided to delete her social media accounts because she was tired of the comparison game she was finding herself caught up in. It was exactly what I was (and am) battling. However, she did something about it. She changed the narrative and took control over something that was affecting her mental health. I respect this about her in a mighty way.

Recently my step daughter got married and it was a lovely wedding. But rather than celebrating a beautiful event when the photos came back,  I immediately started criticizing myself.  Keep in mind,  my daughter was standing beside me, watching as I raked my appearance over the coals.

"Oh my gosh, my hair looks horrible. My boobs are practically hanging down at my waist. I'm so fat. Look how pale I am. What was I thinking when I chose that dress?"

Soon she chimed in about her OWN appearance which echoed much of what I had just said. Thankfully she left out the boob portion.

My daughter watches. She observes. She contemplates. She considers. She's taking everything in and when she sees my negativity about my body, I am in essence telling her that it's OK to be negative about hers.

But then she went and got all 'adulty' and offered a challenge. Any time I put myself down, she gets to put HERSELF down.

Challenge accepted. No way would I let her get away with it. I can put myself down all day but my daughter? I won't have it. Funny how that works.

Quicker than NBC announcing Matt Laurer was fired, I failed the challenge.

It's been one of my hardest yet. How do I reset my thinking when my past 40 years are filled with self deprecation? There aren't enough juice cleanses in the world to get rid of that toxic BS.

I hate living in the present. I hate positive self talk. I hate trying to maintain a prayer life, I hate revamping my thought processes. Its hard and it requires something of me because I'm lazy when it comes to self care. But, this is what I'm finding necessary in order to protect myself from burrowing further into my cocoon of worthlessness.  I'm struggling but I am trying to engage my filter before I speak negatively and I'm learning to treat myself with a little more compassion.

Maybe it will take another 40 years to peel away the layers of ugly self worth, but who cares? Every layer peeled means I'm closer to revealing who I was meant to be.






Thursday, June 1, 2017

Letting Go Of Curly's Tail

When I was a teenager my parents decided to move from the bustle of the San Francisco Bay Area to a tiny rural town in Oregon. Having no previous traditional farming experience, my step dad thought it would be cool to lay down cash for 55 acres of undeveloped land.

This all occurred over the course of a weekend.

It was awesome.

No, it wasn't.

And because my step dad didn't want to hire out the work to develop it, the majority of the labor fell to himself, my mother and yours truly.

I was expected to have the strength of Serena Williams and because of that I grew very stubborn. I wanted to prove my ability. I wanted favor in the sight of my step father and the only way I could achieve that was to work my butt off.  Sometimes that still wasn't enough.

Eventually he bought some cows to help as a tax write off and keep the fields grazed. In reality, there were just pets which of course, I loved.

We had a young heifer named Curly and she decided it would be cool to try and break through a weak spot in the fencing. The idea of this terrified me because I was worried she would never come back. As she headed towards imminent fence breakage, I grabbed her tail in an effort to catch her.  She was undeterred. She took off even faster and in my stubbornness, I refused to let go. What followed was perfect fodder for a YouTube video as I was drug across the pasture on my stomach by this wayward cow.

Even in the midst of my field sledding I felt if the cow got out, I would be responsible for it and therefore guilt was already sinking its claws into my vulnerable soul.

By the time it was all over I was seriously beaten up. And while she didn't get out, I had only made the situation worse by not letting go. Because let's face it, who really likes having their tail grabbed?

My stubbornness has continued to get me in trouble over the years because I still feel guilt if I don't see something through, even if it is making me miserable in the process. I have intense fear of disappointing others.

And while I admire my tenacity at times, is it really worth it? Is it really worth to make myself and those around me miserable?

Its been 27 years since my cow incident and I still can't seem to let go of Curly's tail.

So I'm taking a leap of faith and replacing "I have to" with "I'm choosing to".

Its scary for me because of the unknowns and fear of making a mistake but sometimes the scariest risks ends up being the best.








Thursday, April 27, 2017

Telephones And Greeting Cards

Almost 4 weeks ago my mom had a total knee replacement and as I've mentioned in my previous post, her recovery has been long and arduous.

I basically moved in for 2 weeks, interspersed with quick visits home, in order to care for her.

Mom lives in a remote area, her home sits atop a hill surrounded by grass seed fields. I can't convince her to move closer because she lives where she wants to live, end of story.

Life is different in the country and after living in Portland proper for a few years now, I've grown accustomed to convenience and a busy lifestyle. Essentially it has become a life with less focus on relationship and more on the rat race.

When I settled into mom's, I felt a sense of restlessness and nervousness. I felt distracted. I felt isolated and alone. The quiet was unnerving.

My mom doesn't have WiFi, she doesn't have Netflix, she doesn't own a dishwasher or modern conveniences. She uses her woodstove as her main source of heat. She has a telephone that cuts out on the regular due to sketchy phone lines. She doesn't own an IPhone and her water comes from a well.


It turned out I had a thing or two to learn once I settled in at mom's, one of which was telephone etiquette. Apparently you answer the phone when you live in the country. But instead when her land line rang, I just ignored it  because we all know that's what text messaging is for.

Finally mom called from her bedroom, "Aren't you going to answer that?"

"Of course not. Why would I answer a phone, especially one without caller ID?"

But because I try to be a good daughter, I finally picked up the 'receiver' only to hear a concerned voice on the other end. They even knew my name."

It was freaky.

The caller turned out to be one of my mom's good friends calling to check on her and offer any help that might be needed.

It didn't stop there. Phone calls started coming in on the regular and the more I answered, the more agitated I got.

Finally I asked my mom, "Why in the world aren't these people sending text messages instead of using something so archaic as a land line?"

"We do things different up here and besides, we don't have IPLUGS", she told me.

"They're called IPHONES" I yelled, as I stomped off to answer yet again, another phone call.

When I got her mail, I discovered her mailbox was full. I started rifling through all these brightly colored envelopes, similar in size. All were written in cursive, adorned with pretty stickers, addressed to my mother.


They were Get Well cards. Obviously my mom's friends had way too much time on their hands because each passing day brought more cards, more phone calls and hand delivered flower arrangements.

It was quickly becoming a part time job, being her 'secretary'.


But after a week of this nonsense, I found myself answering her phone on the first ring and looking forward to what was in the mailbox that day.

It was then I found the source of my original restlessness.

I was in the process of detoxing.

I was coming down off of city life, of dishwashers and water dispensers on the front of fridges, of Starbucks, of WiFi, of social media, of Target, of noise and distraction, of close neighbors and commuting.

My mind was beginning to still. I found stress dissolving. I found joy in scattering bird seed for all of my mom's mourning doves and building fires in her woodstove, in reading a book and washing dishes by hand.

With each passing day, my agitation began to ease. My mom commented that I appeared less distracted and more present.

Then I took things a step further. I felt inspired to be creative so I took out a stack of greeting cards from my mom's coffer of stationery and started writing cards to family and friends, in cursive.

I addressed all my mom's Easter cards from her handwritten address book.

I sat at her roll top desk and watched the deer out her windows. I brewed tea in the afternoon and swept her porch. I watched nature shows on PBS.

My mom lives in the land of greeting cards and telephones, of neighbor's impromptu visits, of mid day pie and tea with her friends and after church luncheons. I'm a little jealous now that I've seen first hand what it means to live with intention.

It didn't take me long to revert back to my old ways when I left mom's and headed back to my life.
Sadly, the allure of the convenient becomes the norm when really, it shouldn't.

Even though I'm not at the point of making phone calls or dropping by friend's houses without warning, I just might send out some random greeting cards to friends. Of course, only AFTER I text them for their address.

Baby steps.






Thursday, April 20, 2017

My Life Is Starting To Sound Like A Country Music Ballad

I have reached the conclusion that my life is morphing into a typical country music song. Don't get me wrong, I love Rascal Flatts but this is just plain old school country right here...cue Merle Haggard.

Because of this, my usual cheery optimism is stuck inside one of those nasty Starbucks Unicorn Frappucinos.  I pile all my negativity on random strangers and unsuspecting co workers in an effort to get free therapy.

Back in November our offer on a house was accepted and with that came both happiness and fear. Fear of starting over in a new community and leaving my familiar bubble of security and routine. Transitioning into a different house, town, school and commute is harder than it sounds and frankly, it has rocked me. I comfort myself in the familiar and so instead of dealing with change, I'm binging on episodes of Shameless because let's face it, an evening with the Gallagher family will remind you that your life is awesome.

Soon after the news came that we would be moving, our dear Greyhound was hit by a car. It was so completely horrific that for days I could barely get out of bed. The loss of her rocked me and my family to the core and we are still grieving.

My children's amazing grandfather on their father's side passed away in February. I always considered him a father because he was a man that stood out from amongst the rest. He was a tremendous human who possessed a spirit of love and kindness. I first met him in 1992 and decided right then that I would love him forever.

A few weeks ago, my step father suddenly died as a result of a massive heart attack. He died on my daughter's birthday and while we weren't in contact, the loss was shocking.

My mom just went through her third knee replacement surgery which is weird because she only has 2 knees. But anyway...this one has been the worst in terms of recovery. After 2.5 weeks of leave from my job, my mom still needs plenty of assistance. I've felt her struggle keenly as I see on the daily her pain and attempts at therapy. This has been her 7th surgery in 6 years and each one becomes a little more difficult, with good reason. I worry for her well being and see the days approaching where she will need me full time.

I don't mean to share my woes to depress or solicit sympathy. I think we can all agree we are living in trying times and 2017 has been a butt.

I guess what I'm trying to say is now more than ever, we need each other. We need community. We need relationship.

But I'm not pursuing any of that.

Instead, I'm pulling away more and more into my own little cocoon of reflection and quietness.

When I finally did share this with a medical professional I came away with a bit of
bit of encouragement. Whether its a move or poor health or a death or a change in a job, it all comes with a sense of loss or grief. How we deal with it can manifest itself in a variety of ways.

What's important to remember is these seasons are temporary and its OK because seasons change.

I have forgotten what it means to treat myself with compassion and kindness and to allow myself the time to grieve is a gift I can give myself.

Right now I'm where I need to be. I'm not going to lie though, I'm ready for this country music song to turn into a Justin Timberlake jam.