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June 4, 1987, I had it ALL planned out, no vision boards necessary. The next ten years were all laid out in my head.  I would go to the College of Charleston, live with my best friend, become a child psychologist, find Mr. Right, get married, have 3 kids (all boys) and live happily ever after.  HAHAHA!  Oh, how much I knew at 18.  I did go to C of C and live with Amy Jo.  That’s about as far as I got in my 10-year plan.  During my Freshman year, I met and fell in love with who thought was my Mr. Right.  We were together for 4 years, then broke up the month I graduated.  During my Sophomore year, I decided I didn’t want to be a child psychologist.  I had always thought about teaching and law school.  So, obviously, the next step was to obtain a very useful English degree.  While I was doing that, I was also taking education classes so I could teach when I graduated, until I went to law school.  Changing my major and my overly active social life, plus working three jobs screwed up my credit hours, I ended up getting to the end of my financial aid eligibility and not finishing my student teaching.  I graduated.  I moved home.  I got a job in a law firm.  I got my paralegal certificate.

All that time, I was living with my grandmother.  Ultimately, we would live together until her death.  She could not financially take care of herself when she got too old to work, so I took over the bills.  I was glad to do it.  She had worked hard her entire life.  She deserved some time to lounge around and a little pocket money from her Social Security check.

Fast forward 20 years from my high school graduation.  My grandma passes away.  She had been ill and chose to no longer take her medications.  The event in my life that I am most proud of is allowing her the dignity of her death. She never wanted to be in a hospital, hooked up to machines.  My entire life she had always told us she wanted to die at home.  That was my last gift to her.  She died in her bed surrounded by her family and friends.  I will never regret that decision.

So, I still hadn’t found Mr. Right, had three sons but I was living pretty happily, aside from the normal grief that comes with life and death.  Ultimately, I did find and marry Mr. Right.  Unfortunately, it was rather late in life and I don’t know that we will have 1 child, much less three.  I can take some solace in knowing that I have had the joy of impacting the lives of hundreds of children.

Now, 30 years later, almost to the day, my senior class is celebrating and preparing for our reunion.  I am seeing lots of family and friends graduate or promote from kindergarten, middle school, high school and college.  I think about all of those high school and college graduates and their “plans”.  I can only offer advice that at 18 or 22 you’re probably not going to think is very realistic.

First, take chances.  Don’t sit and wait for anything to come to you.  It won’t.  Whether it’s a job opportunity or that special girl or guy, you have to go after it.  Time is not on your side.  In one blink, you are 30 then 40 then 30 again (haha).

Second, forgive.  Don’t hold grudges or hatred towards someone else, if you can avoid it.  It only makes you feel bad.  They usually don’t even know or care.  Forgiveness is more for you than for the other person.  It allows you to move on.

Third, don’t wait.  That’s similar to taking chances, but different.  Don’t wait for that ex-girlfriend to realize she wants you back.  Don’t wait until your 40 and then decide you want to go to law school, but realize you have too many adult responsibilities to justify another $100k for schooling.

Fourth, have fun!  There are so many amazing things you can do.  Travel alone, meet new people.  Take that class in class French cuisine or creative writing.  Plant flowers in the yard because you LIKE that, not because you want your yard to live up to the Joneses down the road.  Be silly.  It’s okay to laugh at yourself.  It’s pretty necessary actually to keep a sane mind

Fifth, let the people you love know it.  I have a friend whose parents never say they love each other or even tell this man or his sister that they love them.   I tell my husband multiple times a day that I love him.

Sixth, actions speak louder than words.  Sometimes idioms enter our culture because they are true.  Thought you may tell others you love them, SHOW them you love them. Clean up the cat barf because you know your wife doesn’t like to.  Call and make the dental appointment because you know your husband hates talking on the phone.  You can still be a snarky jackass and show kindness.  Just ask me, I do it every day.

Seventh, cut the people out who need to be cut out.  Sometimes, we have to “break up” with friends and even family because they are toxic to our lives.  We must watch out for ourselves sometimes.  It’s not easy, but sometimes it is necessary for your well-being.

Eighth, sometimes we don’t know everything.  Whether you’re new to a job or in a workplace, whether you are going through an illness or a divorce, SOMEONE has been there before and can give you reassurances, guidance and an empathic ear.

Ninth, step out of your comfort zone.  Try new things that scare you! Public speaking! Parachuting out of an airplane! Asking that person out! Getting out of your rut will invigorate you!

Tenth, finally, ignore all of this if you want, because ultimately, it’s your life to live and no one can judge you for your decisions and how you carve your path.  As long as your actions don’t inflict harm on others, trudge on.

I’m not writing this just for you nubile adults just graduating.  Sometimes we old folks need a reminder, too.

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Since I was a small girl, Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday.  When I was little, Gramma would pull up a chair for me to stand in and let me help her cook. I learned to make a lot of dishes that way, but Thanksgiving was special. After helping her “prepare” dinner, we would make place mates or name cards for the family coming to eat.   Soon, my aunt and uncle would show up with my cousins and we’d be ushered to the yard to play until dinner time if it wasn’t too cold.  If it was too cold, we would go play in our bedroom.  My sister and cousins and I would create all sorts of games and scenarios to keep us busy. Sometimes, we’d talk my uncle in to playing with us because he would rough house and toss us around.  My mom may or may not show up, but when I was little, most of the time she found her way home for holiday meals.

I always liked it when my gramma and her daughters (my mom and aunt) were together because they’d start telling stories about people they used to know and old memories.  It was one of the few times I would be still and quiet so they wouldn’t notice me, and I could eavesdrop on them.  We would eat so much that I always joked about wearing sweatpants on that day.  That night, sometimes Kelli’s friend would come over and we’d eat leftovers and goof off. Friday, we ALWAYS ate turkey clubs and chips, made the RIGHT way, according to her, with 3 slices of toast.

Gramma died right before the holidays and it was heart-wrenching for me.  She loved the holidays as much as I did. She loved cooking for everyone and having all of us at the house. The year before she died, she became obsessed with Thanksgiving dinner, the actual meal.  We had several turkeys in the freezer, and periodically throughout that year, she would want to cook a Thanksgiving feast, with all the fixings and trimmings, invite family over and be together.  It was exhausting, but she knew her time left with us was limited, and she wanted to make the most of it.  So I obliged her.  I got up at the crack of dawn (because Thanksgiving meals were ALWAYS at 1:00 p.m., as well as most holiday or Sunday dinners), get the turkey prepped and in the oven for her.  I only started with the really intensive help after she broke several glass pie plates and baking dishes getting a baking dish out for a casserole.  She would do the lighter stuff: peel potatoes, mash them after they were cooked, prepare the sweet potato casserole, etc. I handled the stuffing, the turkey, most of the other veggies, the bread and the actual being in the kitchen.  We got her an extra-long oxygen tube so she could get to the kitchen and still be able to breathe, but it was still exhausting for her.

I grumbled about it to friends and some family, but never to her.  I knew it was important to her.  Now, 7 years later, I am thankful that she and I had that time together and that I was able to make her happy.   Now, I am married and my husband and I got married a week after Thanksgiving.  We are starting our own family traditions and ways of doing things. I hope one day, if we’re blessed enough to have any children, that I can make holidays fun and memorable for them.  We are starting this year by taking our first holiday trip, a tradition I hope to continue one day.

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Known

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I was just looking at my cat, Gus, thinking, “I have known you all but 3 weeks of your little kitty cat life”.  That got me thinking, about who I have known all of their lives, from the minute they were born.  Then I started thinking about who has known me since I was born. At this point, the only person who has known me all the years I was alive during their life time was my gramma. We lived together the first 18 years; I went to college and came home to live with her for the next 18.  Even in college or when I was out of town, there wasn’t a full week that went by that we didn’t at least talk on the phone.  I can’t say that about anyone else.  I have known my niece and nephew since they were born, my cousins, my sister, but there have been gaps in the times I have been in communication with them. 

This isn’t the first time, that I have gotten teary-eyed thinking that the person I loved the most on the planet isn’t here.  The person who drove me crazy, made me laugh, encouraged me, scolded me is gone. The one person who was always there.  If you have a one person who is always there, don’t lose that.  My cousin can say that about her children.  She is always there for them.  She knows what’s going on in their lives.  She loves them unconditionally.

I know lots of people who are close to their parents and talk weekly, monthly, daily.  I know that my friends and others might think I “wasted” my youth living with Gramma, caring for her, dealing with her when others couldn’t and wouldn’t. I have never felt that way.  I have never regretted keeping her with me until literally the minute she died.  It is the thing I am proudest of, and not to toot my own horn, but I have plenty to be proud of, but this is it for me. 

She would have been 83 this year, and I wouldn’t change a thing. I do think about her daily.  More days than not it’s to laugh about something silly she did or said.  Sometimes, I see an older lady in a grocery store, drug store, restaurant, sitting at a bus stop, and I suck in my breath because they strike a resemblance or dig up a lost memory. I have gotten past the crying every time I talk about her stage of grieving, but holidays are still not as fun as they once were, and her birthday is no exception.  We always celebrated our birthdays big in my family.  For her 75th birthday, I called all over town to find a florist who would deliver 75 gladiolas to her.  Most just didn’t have that many, but one older woman was so touched by it, that she tracked down 75 for me and delivered them all.  When I got home, Gramma said, “Well, I guess I know what my funeral will be like”.  She loved them, but a morbid sense of humor is a family trait.

She loved cardinals as well.  Whenever I see one, I take that as a greeting from her, a little, “You’ll be fine”. So, tomorrow or any other day if you see a cardinal, just know that I’ll be fine. 

 

 

 

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– Tonight, I have a raging headache that I have been fighting for days. I am now drugged up on Benadryl and Dalmane, hoping for some sleep.

– I have had a roller coaster week, and right now I am on a down slope. I can see a little curve up ahead, but I don’t know if that’s going to take me back up or further down.  I’m not sad, so don’t be sending me all these little pity comments. I am just frustrated, confused, broke and ready for good things to happen on a regular basis.

– It has been a shitty year, and I am ready for the next six months to be awesome. The first six have sucked in a major way.   If there was just one area of my life that was AMAZING, the mediocre parts wouldn’t be as oppressive.

– Really, the problem is I am not used to failing at things I attempt.  (Except Algebra)  Somehow, a specific area of my life has proven time and again to be a failure. Please no homey epithets or clichés.  I am NOT a fatalist.  I am realistic and pragmatic.  I am also about ready to throw in the proverbial towel.

– I have always worried about meat going bad in the fridge, but after hours of watching Food Network, and watching them let meat sit in a marinade for 3 and 4 days, I am rethinking this.

– I was a late bloomer, and did not date a lot in high school.  I didn’t for a while, but this year I tried to be more proactive, but I have at least been going on dates pretty regularly this year. I pretty much hate it. I like being in a relationship, but I hate the dating process.  I hate all that wondering and doubting and insecurity.  This is why it’s just easier to be single.

– I am really baffled by people who still vote for bad politicians. I don’t mean bad as in “evil”, I mean they suck at their jobs.  I am not going to continue to vote for someone who is doing a shitty job just because they have a D beside their name.

– As a child and well into adulthood, I was obsessed with bubblegum and blowing bubbles. I have spent thousands of dollars on Bubble Yum, Hubba Bubba, Fortune gum, Bubblicious, Super Bubble.  Once, I start chewing it, it is almost physically impossible to stop myself.

– I need to find some duck fat and cook something in it. It is apparently the culinary shit.

– I also am beginning to think I need to move to a new state or city.   I don’t think I’m a suitable Southern Girl, which has resulted in my chronic singular status.  Although, on occasion I meet someone who makes me think, maybe…. I am looking at options for relocation within the year. Shhh, don’t tell my friends.

– Parents, you should go ahead and tell kids now that life is going to be hard and nothing will go according to plan.  Right now, my godmother is struggling financially, and I think she’s a bit lonely.  When I was younger money never seemed to strap her like it does now, but she was ill and had to quit working for a while. Now she’s trying to find work, but it’s not easy for a women in her 60s to obtain gainful employment, although she is VERY skilled. I am sure this is not how she planned her twilight years to be. I can guarantee that this is not the adulthood I thought I’d have.

– I wish bacon was low fat and healthy.  I’d be in tip top shape.

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So, my 25th high school reunion is next weekend.  I am going, though I was torn about it.  I feel like I have no accomplished the things I really wanted to accomplish.  I have three college degrees, including my Masters, and plan to start working on my PhD next year.  The first in my immediate family to graduate from HIGH SCHOOL much less college and grad school.

When I was younger, I used to daydream about my perfect wedding, who would be in it, what they would wear, where we would go on our honeymoon, how many kids we’d have, what their names would be, where we’d all go on vacations, etc.  NONE of that happened.  I have never been married, never even been asked.  A lot of my jaded, divorced friends tell me everyone else is envious of me, but the grass is always greener as the overused-saying goes.  I only sort of feel like I missed out on the husband, but I REALLY did miss out on the kids.  I always wanted to be a mom.  And not to toot my own horn, I’d have been an awesome mom. I see all these little teenagers, skanks, and Casey Anthony having kids they don’t deserve, and it stirs a little disappointment.  Yes, I know I can adopt or be a foster parent. Yes, I am close to my nieces and nephew, but it is not the same at all.

It is no one’s fault really.  I spent those years you use courting and breeding to take care of my grandmother, and have no regrets about that decision at all. I would do it the same way all over again.

So, next weekend, while everyone is talking about their families, I’ll just smile and get drunk.

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Stronger

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Don’t think that when you see me that you know me.  You don’t. I have secrets, fears and dreams that no one will ever know. I don’t even know some of them.  You’ll never know what words, images, thoughts will put a bitter knot in my throat and chest. You won’t mean to illicit that physical response, but you will.  You won’t imagine that your good news will chip away what little bit is left of a heart that has been superglued, stapled, trussed, duct tape to hold it together just a little longer.  You won’t imagine that i would love to have your problems – that I would change places in a heart beat.

You will know that I AM happy for your, even I am sad for me.  I will commiserate with you and help you plot revenge, solutions or just take part in a drunken night.  My heart is breakable, broken, irreparable in some parts, but my mask is in tact and flawless.

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