Personalizing

One of the books I read a while back, that really hit home with me and I felt the need to recently re-visit was “My Parents’ Keeper: Adult Children of the Emotionally Disturbed (Paperback)”.  I bought it shortly before I started this blog back in 2006…   and before that point, I never heard of an ACMIP (Adult Child of a Mentally Ill Parent).

Up until that point, I hadn’t really taken the time to look Read the rest of this entry »

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“sex is the most awful, filthy thing on Earth, and you should save it for someone you love”

So, I was doing some much overdue blog surfing… and went to one of my favorite blogs – http://parentingbeyondbelief.com/blog/, and I happened to see a post called: “sex and the balls of the evangelical”, and the following quote at the top of the page really cracked me up.

Life in Lubbock, Texas taught me two things: One is that God loves you and you’re going to burn in hell. The other is that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on Earth, and you should save it for someone you love.“ –Butch Hancock, country singer/songwriter

Now, I don’t really know Butch Hancock’s work – but, this quote alone was enough to make me want to run out and buy his CD.  LOL

The rest of the blog post there was also verrrry interesting…  Read the rest of this entry »

Positive Recollections – (a book tag…)

I’m it!  Here’s a fun little “tag” from Kate at “One More Thing“…

The game goes like this:
“Find the nearest book, turn to page 123, start at the fifth sentence and type out the next three sentences.”

Sounds easy enough….

I’m at my desk… in my little home office.. directly to my right, is a book shelf… full of old and new books of mine… ranging from “Calvin and Hobbes” to “Mark Twain collection” to gawd only knows what.  Nearest  at hand, though, is a book I read not too long ago… Read the rest of this entry »

To me… when I was 13…

Whelp… I’ve been tagged… by Rebecca from her “Fictional Reality” blog.   The idea is to write a letter to yourself when you were 13.  This was her post – “Tag! You’re it!, and is a good read that leaves one wondering… “what exactly happened at her cousin’s wedding anyway??”.  =)

It is funny that not too long ago, I wound up writing a post called “If I could go back in time… “.  In that post, I wound up writing about what I would tell myself if I could go back 6 years ago… when I was pregnant with my 2nd son, had a 5 year old son, and was taking care of my dieing father.

I didn’t plan to write it… it just rolled off…  and the really weird thing is that only a couple days later, I wound up face to face with a pregnant woman – pregnant with her 2nd son, and she has a 4 year old son, and she had just lost her mother.  I wound up in a deep conversation with her, even though we hardly knew each other… and, saying many of the same things to her that I had just written about.

Anyway – now, I’m faced with writing to my 13 year old self… Read the rest of this entry »

Is Disney evil??

A friend of mine emailed me today regarding being worried that her brother in law has gone over the deep end with religion.  This is interesting, since this friend is a fairly new convert to Christianity herself.  Yet, even she see’s there’s something not right here… She said that she came back from a visit with her family for the holidays.  And, that her brother in law is becoming more and more religious.  She said she couldn’t help to think about all the stories I had told her  Read the rest of this entry »

Forgiving Mom…

Linda Athis stumbled in here recently and commented on my blog… which led me to her blog called “Forgiving Mom” (http://forgivingmom.wordpress.com/).  I was amazed and intrigued by the many similarities she and I seem to have.  But, the one glaring difference, is that she has lost her mom… and she’s feeling the pain of that.  Still, she talks of coming to terms with things and forgiving her Mom before she died.  It made me wonder how I will feel when my mom is gone some day?  But, I still didn’t know if I felt the same “forgiveness and understanding” she wrote of…  

 But, between reading her blog… and all the soul searching  and reminiscing I’ve been doing this past year…  and talking to my good friend til the wee hours of the morning the other weekend…  and the post I wrote recently about Christmas and how BOTH my parents made sure we had good ones..  I realized something….

 I need to forgive my mom. 

I have said that I did, because I believe she is/was sick, so I could…  but… did I really?  I don’t think so. 

I know I have a lot of resentment bottled up in me towards her… I fight it all the time… She makes me angry… crazy…. hurt.  It’s hard to squeeze forgiveness in there. 

But… I think… I finally do.  I think I finally can. 

All this researching… reflecting… has taught me a lot.  Not only about myself… but also about my Mom.

 For years…  I’ve tried to make excuses for her… and tried to forgive her and love her in spite of so many things about her that still made me upset.   I wanted to but, I don’t think I really could.. or did.   

But, now… I see things differently for the first time.  I still think I had a right to feel the way I did towards her… but, I finally feel like I can start to let those angry and bitter feelings go. 

For years, I saw my father as the “good parent”… and the “martyr”.  I still see that… but, for the first time… I am really seeing that my mom not only TRIED her best to be a good parent too… but, that all in all… she really was a good mom.  It took two to make our family work at all… and my mother.. was also a “good parent” and “martyr”. 

She had her battles too.  When I think about just how much she was dealing with that I can probably never understand… and I think about my childhood and how she was… and still is with my brothers and our children…. I realize…  I was actually pretty damn lucky.  Some of the stories I’ve read about mentally ill parents were much MUCH worse than anything I had to deal with.  However, I bet my mother could relate to some of the worse case scenarios because of HER mother that was in and out of institutions her whole life.  What a rotten childhood SHE must have had.  I never really understood that as much as I do now. 

So, yeah… she was a religious nut and is a bit whacky at times.  But, you know what? She really did love me.  She really DOES love me.  And she tries her best to show it.  Looking back, I see that she really did everything she could to try to be a good mom and be there for us.  And she was.  Even with her illness and the religious BS… she was probably a better mother than a lot of women out there.  Losing touch with reality a little… and dealing with her past…. ??  That had to be hard for her.  No wonder she was/is a religious nut.  Maybe that was/is her saving grace?  Maybe without it, she’d be in much worse shape and need meds and hospitals too?  So, she didn’t always measure up.  So what?  Who does?  Ya know what?  I finally realize that she did damn good. 

Yes, I still look back at some things… and think, “that wasn’t right!”… “that shouldn’t have happened to me!”.   I still believe that.  I think I NEEDED to validate those feelings… and grieve a bit for myself…  but, I think more importantly I need to learn and deal with those feelings.  I feel like I finally can do that. 

When my parents fought (which they did a lot)… my dad always use to say he was only staying with her because of us kids.  She use to say she was only staying with him because her relgion didn’t believe in divorce.  Hearing this, use to make me wince and again think my Dad was doing something great for US…  but not her.  She was only there for religion….  

 But, looking back… I think I had this wrong.  Regardless of what she screamed at him…  she HAD to have stayed all those years for a number of reasons probably (as did he probably!)… and myself and my brothers just HAd to be one of her main reasons too.  I think, deep down, she knew my dad was a good father.  Maybe she didn’t want to admit it… because it was confusing to her since he was an atheist and all.  But she also didn’t want to deprive us of that.  I think she did want us to grow up with both parents… and that she DID have our best interests in mind.  Regardless of if she ever said it. 

Using “religion” as her excuse – was just that.  An excuse she could rationalize out and readily admit.   I mean, let’s face it… she has used religion for an excuse to support anything that she ever really did… or didn’t want to do.  I think, that had she REALLY wanted to get divorced and leave him… you can bet your bottem dollar that the Holy Spirit or God would have appeared to her and told her it was okay…. and that she SHOULD.  This never happened until we were all grown.  Why?  Because she didn’t really want to leave him!  Why am I just NOW figuring all this out?!

I am just now… at 41 years of age.. realizing that she also sacrificed for us kids… she also was a martyr for us… she also not only TRIED to be a good mom… but, WAS.  All things considered… she did pretty damn good by me…

And I’ve been a mean daughter…  Resentful.  Angry.  

I am so glad I am discovering these feelings before she’s dead and gone.  I am finally realizing how lucky I was/am to have her in my life.  I am finally realizing I need to let go of my anger and resentment towards her.  I am finally seeing her for the couragious person and loving mother she was/is…  

I need to tell her these things…  that she was a good mom.  I don’t think I’ve ever really told her that and meant it.  I really mean it now.  I need to tell her.

The “True” Meaning of Christmas

The other day, I heard a Christian get very upset about people who say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”.  He actually went into a bit of a rant about it, and how he is sure to tell folks back, “No, Merry CHRISTmas!” (in a very sarcastic sneer of a voice), when this happens.  After all, that’s what Christmas is about, right?  Pissing people off and getting pissed off, that is, right?  ?!?   Come on!  Makes ya afraid to wish people well…  they might get themselves in a tizzy over it.  Sheesh… 

Ya know?  Like most kids I  loved Christmas as a child. I have fond memories of moments with both my mother and my father – both individually and as a family. We weren’t the model family by any means… but, I only have good memories of Christmas.

My mom, of course, was all about the “real” meaning of Christmas. To her, it was all about celebrating the birth of Jesus and the greatest gift of all that God gave to mankind – his son. We went to church a lot. I loved church at Christmas-time when I was a kid. The music… the plays… it was… beautiful. Moving. Magical. 

If it were up to my Mom, we would have probably went to church on Christmas day too… but, that was where my Dad would put his foot down and insist we spend the Christmas day as a family… not half of us at church… and half at home (since he and my oldest brother didn’t go to church). I don’t recall my mom ever arguing about that…  just wistfully wishing he would “see the light” and that we could all spend the day together as a family – at church.   She dreamed that dream for many years… and prayed and prayed for it.     Me?  I was happy to spend the whole Christmas day at home with whatever new presents we got that morning… and/or going to my aunts house later so see cousins, grandparents, etc. 

I remember my mom stressing to me over and over that Christmas was Jesus’ birthday. Not to lose sight of that.  Santa and presents – those were just thrown in there.  She warned that we shouldn’t get wrapped up with that part (as enticing as they were).   I completely was okay with this.   We would sing Jesus happy birthday along with all the other Christmas songs.

My mother, one brother, and I were often coming or going to church… and I remember we’d drive different routes (usually on the way home when we were no longer in a rush to get anywhere) just to see all the different decorations and lights people would put up. I think, my mom got us lost several times… but, we didn’t care.  She always got us home eventually.  LOL  We’d sing songs the whole way… and stop and look at some of the really cool houses.  We especially looked for religious type decorations… manger scenes… but, we loved them all.  My mom told me that each light, on each house, on each tree – was a birthday candle to Jesus. I thought that was so cool… (and that Jesus must be reeeeeally old! LOL). 

And, the music…   I always loved Christmas music.  I was always involved with the music. Always in the chorus at school, and choir at church.. in plays… and often signing a solo or duet or something too at church. 

I still love Christmas music… it is one of the few things I miss about church. I still sing the songs to my children… have CD’s.  Just because I don’t believe all the bible stories anymore or in a in a lot of religious things – doesn’t mean I don’t still like the Christmas story itself.  It’s a beautiful story, and beautiful music. It just is.

Last year my family (my husband and I, and our 2 sons) attended a church for the first time in ages to hear a couple of my friends sing in their church choir for their first time ever. I went to support them… and out of curiosity (because I know my one friend can’t sing! LOL), and I also thought it would be nice to show my kids what the inside of a church looked like for a change.  I thought I’d let them hear “the true meaning of Christmas” from the church perspective and see how they liked it. Both my boys love music and my 10 year old is in his school orchestra for the 3rd year.

My boys did like seeing the Church… and they liked the music… but, they acted like they were going to die when the preacher kept talking and talking. My 10 year old son looked up at me in desperation and whispered, “I THOUGHT you said there was going to be MUSIC?!?”. LOL.   I sssshhhed him, and told him there WAS music… and there’d be more at the end.  He rolled his eyes… fidgeted in his seat and acted as if he was going to die.  

I almost died laughing when, the offering plate was passed around, and he looked up at me in surprise and whispered, “You have to PAY to come here?!?!?”.  I shook my head “nooooo”… but thought to myself “Only if you want to go to heaven!”… LOL… Of course, I didn’t say it out loud.   Yeah.. so, anyway… I don’t think they are too eager to attend church again…. But, I may take them to hear the Christmas choir again this year anyway.

Anyway – back to my childhood…

My Dad, on the other hand, loved the pretending and make-believe stories of Santa. He had us all fooled alright. At least for a while. He was such the story teller and prankster anyway. It was often hard to tell when he was kidding or not. But, I could usually tell.. he’d get that gleam in his eye and often crack himself up (eventually) when he was joking. He really loved to play up the Santa stories. I was the youngest.. and I think, my brothers probably told me it was all pretend before my Dad wanted me to know. Still, I believed anyway… because, I wanted to. It was fun.

Yeah… my Dad liked to play a good joke. And, he liked to make us kids happy. To him, Christmas was all about the kids. All about family. However, he told us it was all about giving in general, and not about getting. He took us all shopping, and made us think long and hard about what to get our grandparents, etc. Dad was big into cards. He’d rather get a mushy card than a thoughtless gift. He’d spend long whiles in the card isle… picking out the right sentimental card for each person. Something I now do as well…

My Dad liked to sing too.  He knew tons of silly songs.  And, at Christmas time, he and I would sing Christmas songs together, one after another –  from “Here comes Santa Claus”, to “Away in a Manger”. One of his favorites was “The First Noel”.   Even he, an atheist, liked those songs.  I remember I liked to turn the lights out, except for the tree lights, and snuggle up with my Dad on the couch… singing songs while we gazed at our beautiful Christmas tree. I liked to look at all the ornaments… and talk about them. And, he use to always tell me to squint my eyes a little when we looked at the colored lights… to make them turn into big, fuzzy, colored stars.

I don’t ever recall the horror that some folks tell tale of when they first found out there was no Santa. I don’t really recall the moment I knew for sure. I remember wondering… doubting… for a long time… but, still wanting to believe. (sounds familiar?)  I wasn’t taking any chances. I figured, if believing got me presents? I was in! LOL Eventually, I just admitted I knew… but, my Dad still joked and would say, “I think I hear sleigh bells!”. That was enough to make my brothers and I run for bed. After all – Santa couldn’t come if we weren’t in bed, right?

I remember listening to my parents wrapping presents and setting things up. And thinking – “ah ha! They are putting the presents under the tree!”. I was always nosey. I liked to peek. I don’t remember being upset by it, though. I was just as anxious and excited as ever and couldn’t wait until Christmas morning.  We really didn’t have much money… or get tons of expensive presents… but, we did all right… more than all right.  We felt like the luckiest kids in the world on Christmas morning!  

It’s funny. My mom and dad reeeeeeally did NOT get along.  And, I know they didn’t see eye to eye on hardly ANYTHING. I know my mom didn’t like “Santa” stories… she didn’t encourage us to believe in Santa… Yet – she never tried to spoil it for us either.  She may have rolled her eyes a bit… and done her best to bring up what SHE thought was important – but, she never flat out told us that our Dad was “fooling” us.  She knew we enjoyed it. Even she couldn’t deny that.  And, so, she let us. Besides, she was under the impression that the father was the head of the household and what he sent went. So, maybe, she thought she was doing her wifely duties by letting my Dad do the Santa thing.  Deep down, I think she liked the fun of “Santa” too. 

And, my Dad… the atheist… obviously he didn’t buy into the whole birth of Christ story himself. But, I don’t ever remember him scoffing at the idea to us at Christmas-time or rolling his eyes.  He never told us is was BS.  Matter of fact, he LIKED all the Christmas songs too. He came to see my plays and specials at church. And, at home, he read me stories… Santa and baby Jesus ones alike.

And the moral of this long drawn out babbling post of a story?  Well… I guess it’s this: 

If MY mother and father could be as opposite as they were… and yet still succeed in making Christmas time a special, enjoyable, magical, and memorable time for my brothers and I ?? – then, why is it so hard for people to let Santa and Jesus (and Hanukkah and Ramadan or anything else for that matter) co-exist?

As a kid – I never cared who believed in Santa… or who told me “Merry Christmas” vs “Happy Holidays”.  I guess the “bah humbugs” must come with age… and bills… commercials, and political and religious opinions….  Not to mention five hundred thousand corny Christmas movie reruns (which, actually, I’m embarrassed to admit that I secretly enjoy watching LOL).  

I’m not sure how I managed to stay joyous myself all these years.  Maybe I wasn’t born with the “God gene”…..  but surely was blessed with a double dose of the “Peace, Joy, & Love” gene.  😉  Or maybe…  just maybe…  my “atheist father” and “religious nut of a mother” were better parents than many parents.  Between the two of them, maybe they did a few things REALLY right.  Like teaching their children to be loving… tolerant… considerate… happy… and about what IS really important.  

I don’t get it when people get upset about all kinds of irrelevant things around the holidays.   So,  I don’t care if people tell me “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Holidays”, Happy Hanukkah”, “Here comes Santa” or anything else! As long as they bring me presents, I’m happy. =) (That was a joke, yes!.)  Seriously, in any case – they are wishing you well, right?   Isn’t it all just “Good will towards men”, regardless of how you phrase it?

If people would channel their beliefs, likes, and dislikes into actually doing some good deeds, good works and helping charities  – maybe we could get someplace.  Actually, when people aren’t busy stressing about money and how to greet one another  – there is something about this time of year makes people want to help… and to give.  Regardless of their beliefs – if people want to give, and spread joy, help and love one another… that works for me.  And, yeah… if I get a cool present or two out of the deal, I won’t complain. 😉

 So, I’m gonna try real hard not to get stressed out… caught up in the hustle and bustle, and to remember the TRUE meaning of Christmas that I knew my whole childhood… even with an atheist for a Dad and a religious nut for a mom… and that is………  LOVE. 

Peace on earth… Good will towards men… and all that jazz…
=)
~smj