Good to See You Pops

I’ve found it difficult to even talk about it. My mom’s true love, through thick and thin, good and bad times, good and bad decisions.

Pops made a visit this afternoon. The house phone rang and I answered it. I asked where he was and if he was okay. He said, “I’m around, and I’m doin good baby.”

He told me he was calling mom because he misses her and he wants her to know that he’s okay. Shortly after, I woke up. I would tell mom but she’s still managing the aftermath and trying to sort out her/their finances.  Would tell sis but she gets creeped out by this stuff. That leaves baby bro. I guess next time I talk to him I’ll let him know.

I’ll have another post to focus on honoring Pops and how to maintain his legacy.

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My mom lost her sweetheart today

I’d just spoken to my mom. I’ve done and undone tens of superstitious things that must come from some deep-rooted spiritual practice or childhood ideas.

When I packed my bag for this trip to Philly, I packed a dark suit-jacket and skirt. Packed and unpacked it, then at the last minute, I unpacked that suit. I reasoned that when my pops died, the Browns would wear Brown anyway. And I shouldn’t assume that he was close to dying. I shouldn’t try to predict his timeline for this earth.

Though Pop was unresponsive the past few days, when I talked to mom today, I told her to tell him that I love him and I’m on my way. She did and then told me to say it again I didn’t know until I got to Philly sitting at my parents’ dining room table that she had the phone to his ear. After I said that, he started coughing in the background, that turned into a fit of coughing. The experts say that often hearing is usually fine even if your loved one is unresponsive. My mom was in a flurry of what needs to be done next and funeral this and obituary that and people will need to see his body at the VA Because once he leaves they will cremate him.

I asked, “are you in the room with him” my stupid superstition. Talking about this within his earshot I reasoned, would make him think it was okay to move on, that somehow he was already dead to us. He wasn’t for me. I was stuck in PHX airport, gate C17, holding my breath as I’d done over the past week, wanting to arrive as I had the last time I saw him, so even if he couldn’t SAY it this time, he’d know, “I’m good now. My guardian angel is here.”

I wanted to be that one more time. She told him, “Dis you hear that Dave? That’s Marcy on the phone. She’s at the airport. She said she loves you and she’s on her way. “ loud coughing, RATTLING. It made me thing of times I’d heard him laugh so hard he coughed-he laughed often. “Is his head elevated?” She said yes, and they gave him something to help the fluid at the back of his throat drain, that it was probably time to shift him again.

We talked about my sibs, each coping in their own ways. Once when my sister babysat my kids they told me that she told them, “I’M the mommy while your mommy is away.” She stepped up and into the role of Big Sis, of Sweeties Jr. something she called me as my mom was Sweeties – a name pop had only for her. My brothers, withdrawn, afraid, had at least made it to his bedside before he died. Now I would say that I’ve missed a bedside goodbye twice, for both of my stepparents – both succumbing to the ravages of cancer.

Mom hung up and I stood conflicted. Do I send a meditation to my pop telling him it’s okay to let go? I opted to follow what my mom said-let people know he’s getting close.

I changed my Facebook profile photo to our last family photo together, posted asking for prayers for him and the family. Posted to his page that I was on my way, and my phone rang. It was my mom-shit. Pops was gone. The man who seemed like a giant when I met him. I can see that day in North Philly when I met him.

“Dave” was in a powder blue Datsun 280zx, the sun was in his eyes and he had a serious look. I thought he was Marvin Gaye. Through her tears mom said she just wanted to call and let me know.

I’m sitting on the most uncomfortable updated aircraft after hearing about 17 people say “Happy Valentines Day!” And a Southwest flight crew sing a rebooted “For once in my life” about the beauty of Southwest, and a flight saying welcome to flight (what’s my flight?) “we’re going to Jamaica!” Outbursts from the passengers claps and laughter. I wonder when mom and pop thought to themselves, “for once in my life…”

I sit remembering all the time I’ve spent with this man who wasn’t my father, but who really was my dad, and I know that until I can see him, and I hope I can see him-this larger than life man who had few mean bones in his body but so many comedic ones – my heart may not accept what my mind knows to be true. I feel like for the second time in my life in nearly four years, the world lost a bit of its luster . And as I lost my peanut on my birthday, my mom lost her truest love, her Valentine on Valentine’s Day-an observance she revealed in, posting pictures of jewelry, flowers, treats over the years since she joined social media and confessing her eternal love for the man who made her laugh.

He was there for her in her darkest time, and she was there, vigilant, pushing him to do, remember, laugh, love. She didn’t leave his side.

She told me last week that he told her several times he was tired. I told my cousin who’s lost her mother to cancer, we know what that’s code for.

Can I beat myself up for delaying my flight three weeks? I could. But one of the last conversations I had with my dad following an episode of pain and unresponsive ness for two days, he told me that he thinks he came back to let us know that he’s going to be okay, that we don’t need to worry about him and that he’s worried about us. I wanted to break down when he said that. I may have broken down at least a bit. He told me he was ready for what’s next. He also though confided to my mother after that time that he was afraid. Someone quite profoundly said that true fear grips you when you are facing death but still have hope. That hope is why my parents didn’t want timelines.

In our lives, things happen in a flash. I am struggling to think that the man that said, “Hi baby” won’t be there when I touch down. I wonder if it will be too late to say a meditation for him that he can hear. I know that all these selfish ideas are not his concern now.

One superstition I’ve held since she did it is my mom changing her profile picture to a picture of pops with my grandson. It was putting it out in the universe that he would be joining him-this beautiful boy who was neglected by his parents and just shy of his third birthday was murdered by his father.

Now, maybe, that picture is a bit comforting. I don’t believe in a heaven or hell. Well maybe as Albert Camus surmised, hell is others, hell is this life, I don’t know. But if heaven existed for me, I’d imagine Tristan being at the crossroads recognizing my dad and running up to him saying Pop POP pop and they would recreate that picture because he’d jump into dad’s arms and hug him. That is the most comforting thought for me right now.

Pt2 on its way…

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United flight UA 1706, 1/19/2018 – Do not offer service to Hawai’i without understanding and using the Principles of Aloha

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We made a complex trip during the month of December, 2017 which took us to LAX to visit our kids for Christmas, and from LA, a United flight to Hilo, Hawaii on December 29, 2017. All was fine and when it was time to leave on January 19th, we checked in online, boarded flight UA 1706, and all boarding was completed around the estimated time of 9:45pm. We sat at the gate for some time, got in our take off position, then were told there was an electrical problem and we were going back to the gate. Everything that occurred on the plane happened as it should – appropriate periodic updates from the captain, and updates on the united app. Around 11:30pm passengers were told they could deplane to stretch which some did. We declined, hoping that once the plane was serviced, remaining in our seats would facilitate the takeoff process. The next departure estimate was 12:30am. Then at about 12:20am we were notified via app and the pilot that the plane would not be ready for takeoff until 5:30pm the next day. All normal, to be expected. Once we deplaned however, mayhem ensued – much of it preventable by UA staff who were more annoyed at their own inconvenience than that of their passengers. are my based on this experience

Communication broke down after we deplaned:
We were ushered into a line to be rebooked-that part is fine and appropriate, but soon we realized that in order to get a hotel voucher there was another line to manage because a gate agent started walking with a small group of people behind her and I suggested my husband investigate. Luckily we’ve traveled as a pair so split up the two lines. When he returned, he said hotels were booked, they’re offering vouchers for hotels/BNBs and taxis. Great except there are no hotels available and no BNB is going to accept a guest at 1am.

Instead of making a general announcement (we were the only passengers in the otherwise CLOSED airport), staff allowed people to remain in long lines, rumoring about what would be available. An announcement probably wouldn’t have shut up the two very ridiculous women on the phone with reservations acting like they alone will bring down United with their social media accounts and complaints about poor service agents doing what they can with their limited resources, but knowledge is power, and as the time ticked away, options narrowing, and ramp and other staff coming up and having conversations with gate staff who should have been focused on helping passengers.

No one offered the travelers bill of rights or contract for carriage so passengers were updated on what they were and were not entitled to. We’d literally been in the airport since 9pm and on a plane for nearly three hours, if nothing else, it would have been entertainment to read what the airline will and won’t do for you when enexpected things happen.

It might be easier to frame my observations and suggestions from this point on in easier Dos and Don’ts:

Don’t tell people to call customer service when customer services says they can do even less for you, and you should talk to the gate agent. No one likes the runaround, especially at 1:30 in the morning (2:30am California time)

Don’t offer hotel vouchers when there are no hotels available. United agents booked crew FIRST, then 5 passengers/families in the very limited local and regional accommodations available but never bothered communicating that. So people waited in line. They told passengers to call hotels.com or get a BNB. At 2am at this point, what BNB is open? Worse, more than three hours later, staff offered cookies and blankets to passengers – passengers who were still in line trying to figure out what the airline could do for them and where they would sleep – some were traveling with elderly parents.

DON’T blame the passenger. United customer service told me to check with the gate agent to get my rebooked second leg from LAX to SJC on Southwest reimbursed. The United manager on duty actually told me it was my choice (aka FAULT) to book Southwest, and that United has nothing to do with that so won’t cover the extra charge I had to pay to change my flight-the flight I had to rebook at a higher rate because of a United plane mechanical failure.

Don’t allow nonessential/helpful personnel to congregate in the gate area with gate agents when a flight is delayed unless they can help rebook passengers or help in other meaningful ways. There were about 9. United Staff, and only two were actively working on passenger issues. One person traveling as a ‘non-rev staffer’ got onto his laptop to try and help out. The others stood around laughing, joking, agitating an already anxious group of displaced passengers.

Do communicate early and often-the pilot communicated per United’s resolution to provide an update every thirty minutes, even if there was no update, that was communicated. Gate agents didn’t communicate a general message to passengers even ONCE from 12:20am until 2:45am via PA system while we were stranded and trying to seek accommodations.

Do realize that Hilo is a ‘small kine’ airport. If the last flight out is delayed more than an hour, waste the paper and preprint vouchers for passengers before they deplane. Consider making general announcements before passengers deplane so they know what service to expect from gate staff. Although gate staff made announcements, they were not helpful or accurate, contributing to passenger confusion and anxiety. Call passengers to the podium by seat number so there is order to the service process and passengers can be as comfortable as possible instead of waiting in line.

When hotels aren’t available, travelers should receive a cash equivalent resolution. Only 5 passengers were provided with hotels. (Actually 6-one woman arrived at the Hilton before we did and took a cancellation). The rest of us were stranded overnight, TWICE-Friday and Saturday night with meal vouchers only good for the Hilo airport food store which was closed, and taxi vouchers then told the ‘some’ hotels and taxis may not take the vouchers. Not helpful at 2:45am.

As I edit this manifesto, I am sitting in Hilo airport and we are essentially making ridiculous food purchases with less than ten minutes before we board our consolation flight home to the San Francisco Bay Area simply because it is our first opportunity also our last to use them.

DO offer a cash (check) refund/resolution (NOT a travel voucher)to all passengers affected when a backup flight cannot be booked within 24 hours. Empower your station manager to make exceptions when all passengers do not receive the same benefit. I understand that a mechanical error may not normally warrant travel credit/voucher or cash resolution, but when you cannot offer a flight within 24 hours of the originally scheduled flight, exceptions should be made. (And keep in mind our original flight was supposed to leave Friday night. It’s Sunday and fingers crossed, we are headed home today.

Do make an arrangement with Kens House of Pancakes to accept ITO airline meal vouchers, or even better, put those ramp staff to work – have them take an order and bring hot food to people who are stranded overnight.

Do negotiate an agreement with Hawaiian Air to use their Premier Club so passengers can charge their phones, use restrooms, get snacks and wait comfortably. My phone was almost completely dead between calling United customer service, southwest customer service, and hotels to find availability. Extra accommodation is usually appreciated when options are limited. Also, the airport was closed so this wouldn’t have affected premier club members.

Do offer complimentary snack and beverage service every hour on the hour during delays. Boarding was completed on time at 9:45pm and passengers were on the plan until about 12:30. Passengers were offered water twice and a small bag of pretzels on the plane. At 2:40am, it was finally our time to be helped, someone came by and offered blankets and other snacks. At that point, United should’ve offered breakfast or something better than nutter butter and Oreos.

Do designate space in the airport for emergency overnight accommodation -invest in a small number of air beds, particularly for elderly passengers who may have mobility issues, and real blankets for people stranded in the airport.

Do reach out to AirBnB and try to establish emergency housing for irregular ops at ITO. United can champion this and look responsive to its passengers in a real, tangible way. Airbnb would likely be able to help broker those partnerships so they work with the United voucher system. Hosts would receive a message that a flight has been delayed and would need to confirm that they can host an emergency overnight. Taxi vouchers would still work for transportation to the Airbnb host home.

Do escalate complaints when there are more than ten passengers posing something that they feel would be reasonable. Someone with the ability to authorize non-standard accommodations real time should be available within 24 hours of irregular operations to address passenger concerns. It is frustrating to ask UA staff how to escalate an issue and no one seems to understand how or want to share their organizational hierarchy.

It is my hope that other passengers from this fiasco chime in with their solutions and suggestions. I heard many and none of the United folks wanted to contact a decision making authority to strategize solutions. By handling the irregular operations at the station level, United, through its employees showed passengers that it wasn’t willing to offer any creative solutions. THAT, along with appropriate customer service will be the reason that most people who had this experience will not want to fly United again. We typically travel Hawaiian, this was an exception, and the last time we plan to fly United.

Lastly (but lengthy still, it is a manifesto) as a carrier with routes between the islands. Here are some of the principles of Aloha that United needs to make part of its culture if it will successfully compete with other carriers:

Aloha-practice the spirit of loving kindness to everyone and unconditionally. This goes much further than defensiveness and blaming the passenger.
ʻImi ola- “seek the best life” and best outcome for passengers inconvenienced by irregular operations or simply flying your airline-suggestions provided.
Hoʻomau-persevere, persist, don’t give up- escalate issues, even if you can’t do so in the moment so managers and executive leadership see you are working to make your airline the absolute best.
Hoʻokipa-exercise The hospitality of complete giving by treating passengers as guests in the spirit of aloha and ʻohana. No blaming or shutting down passengers who are upset-acknowledge their right to be upset as normal and expected. Be willing to compromise in how you accommodate passengers who have limited options.
Lō kahi-working together to achieve more-examples are working with the other ITO carriers to make irregular operation less stressful for passengers.
Kākou-speak the language of ‘we’ as in all of us. Be collaborative and work to unify,not alienate passengers.
Kuleana and haʻahaʻa taking personal responsibility with humility and respect for passengers. As your organization’s ambassador, assuming responsibility on behalf of your organization is important for good will, especially if you interact with the general public.
Hoʻohanohano honors the dignity of others, and exercising loving kindness especially when customers and passengers are vulnerable.
Alakaʻi, mālama, and pono-serving as a guide for others by channeling leadership and championing their concerns, living in thankfulness for the reciprocal relationship with passengers as revenue generators who need to travel but who contribute to the livelihood of your organization; and finally, integrity, rightness, and balance. Acting in an honorable way for customers, new and longstanding who make your livelihood and that of your organization possible. These principles of Aloha are interpreted based on
my liberal interpretation of these Hawaiian concepts as presented in the Principles of Aloha.

I offer United these suggestions in detail, with the willingness to discuss in further detail these suggestions and my justification. A final comment regarding choice: United execs may read this and decide that the rant of one passenger is not worth investigating, challenging, or changing a practice. But in the spirit of hoʻopono, I hope a deep sense of justice and what is right and fair will guide their decision.

Me ka pono,
Marcella Anthony

 

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+/-

The past year and some change has challenged me in ways that I never would have imagined myself capable, and tonight, I have to wonder if indeed, I am capable. I don’t know where I inherited the terrible trait of finding, despite successes, the one area that can be improved. I would like to think it is out of love and the true desire for others to be their best.

Prior to my grandmother’s funeral – my father’s mother – the family had gathered to plan the ceremony. in the Black Southern Baptist tradition, it was really something – at least in an early twenty something’s eyes. My mother’s mother died in my senior year of high school – I graduated at 17. I wasn’t involved in the planning. Later, it was revealed that a family member borrowed money from a loan shark to finance part of the funeral. Much later, it was revealed that my grandmother was literally laid to rest against her wishes – she wanted to be cremated, but I remember walking past her body – the fourth that stood out to me -a stuffed, somewhat skewed version of the woman I’d remembered after seeing her brother laid out earlier in the same way, his wife, my step-grandfather who was the only pop-pop I’d known, and a cousin who’d died much too young for no good reason – a strange precursor of things to come for young Black men all over the United States.

But when my father’s mother died, I had just entered my twenties. I was so young, thinking I could defeat anything. I was prepared to deliver a poem my favorite aunt wrote to her mother. It seemed harmless, and also seemed that as the planning for this funeral went, because I had contributed to the funeral costs from a small collection that my work colleagues thoughtfully donated, I also had the very grown-up opportunity to be involved in the planning. It was decided, without my consolation that the money would go to flowers. I boldly asked the florist to include two black roses, separate from everything that adorned the outside of the coffin. The family made a face. They likely attributed it to my punk and not yet referenced as gothic – gothic tendencies. The florist, I’m sure, eager to make a buck explained exactly, and somewhat intuitively what I felt. Black was the color of sadness and mourning, they explained. But they neglected that Black, like our family, was also the color, the symbol of strength. I wanted my grandmother to have a message from her granddaughter and great granddaughter  (my toddler and I) that she would be missed, I would mourn her loss, but I honored the strength that she demonstrated throughout the years. That strength has carried me through so much, and is not complete in its job, not yet…

I digress…

The poem for my grandmother…I can’t remember when I received it, but I thought I could do it, until something clicked, the words, the meaning, the intimacy between mother and daughter. The child in me sought a way out looking at my aunt and asking, “do YOU want to do it?” I knew the answer, but I couldn’t bear reading on – it was like listening to someone’s private conversation. A church member came up and read the poem. I didn’t feel that I’d failed, I had the maturity to understand the words, to relate them to how I’d feel if I were speaking to my OWN mother being laid to rest, but I didn’t have the strength considering the possibility that one day, I might be saying similar words for my mother. I didn’t know that my father’s family secretly, then publicly held me in contempt for that. Not until it became apparent when my best, I mean, VERY best cousin’s mother died. This is, I suppose the difference between one side of my family and the other. Or maybe, like becoming a mother myself, it marked the transition from childhood to adulthood. My favorite aunt again, asking around the table – would no one read the obituary for her sister? I’d failed her once, an elder self reasoned, I would not fail her again.

A MUCH older Marcy volunteered, not really to make up for what I couldn’t do for my aunt as a somewhat sheltered 22 year-old, but because no one else, of all of her many siblings even tried to step forward to offer to read this summary of my aunt’s life.

As we neared the funeral date, so many things were different. I had one toddler when my grandmother died. I had three children – my final brood count when my aunt died, ranging from 16 to 10. I hadn’t given much thought to this at the funeral, but after – the pastor made a point just before my reading the obituary, that we were going to keep things moving, and not be melodramatic, or something to that effect. That everyone had a job to do, and we were here to honor the deceased (essentially) not get overly emotional and (essentially) stall the funeral with our feelings and inability to do what we agreed to do.

Here is where it fell apart for me: This death of my aunt, more than a decade following the death of her mother; the pettiness of my family to whine to the clergy about the response of a person who was essentially a young adult dealing with the third major family death she’d experienced, and rather than having that talk aside, deciding to publicly announce, rather than privately counsel someone who is also grieving, about how to muster the strength to persist, and perhaps through tears, continue to say the words, whether poem or obituary, to honor their family member.

I mention this, because some petty family, perhaps in their grief commented on my inability to read the poem to my grandmother. But in all the planning for my aunt’s funeral wouldn’t be polite or caring enough to say to me personally, “are you sure you can do this?”

The part of me that loves my family says – they wanted me to be my best and deliver a proper tribute to my aunt. The part that knows cattiness knows that this was another way to criticize with the impression of wanting to ‘help’ and I hope I am above that, that when I provide feedback or comment, that even though it focuses on the things that are not so polished, it is in an effort to help others polish those things, so they feel confident, and proud, supported and loved. I don’t know that I’ve always been successful in conveying that intent. Perhaps it is the same for my family. But I’ve also not watched someone potentially making poor decisions and not tried to intervene, then criticized their decisions after the fact.

I guess there really is no punchline or ultimate lesson to share in this post. I can only say that in my criticism lingers that feeling of being an outsider in my extended family at times. That drives me to brutal honesty when I interact with the people I truly love and care for. My perspective is that I can always heal hurt feelings, but I can’t always heal what others do that go beyond hurt feelings because that person didn’t behave in a certain way. That one area that can be improved, well, it’s subjective. It’s my my standard, but I’ve watch the world and people a lot. I can say that I’m RARELY (but surely at times) wrong. My goal in my mature life has been to provide that feedback from a place of empathy, caring, and humility so others don’t feel as I felt – shunned by the people that I believed would love me and guide me.

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A Year Ago Today

A year ago today, we gathered in our special place where we’d played like big and small friends,  I went through all the motions convinced I’d see your little face again;

The new year began those who love you saying a sad goodbye, today we’re still left wondering, ‘who, what, when, where, why?’

I couldn’t let that affect our plans, we needed to see each other  through, to celebrate your life and share the love we felt and feel for you;

A year ago I had to be as strong as my heart allowed thinking only of our bond, recalling the memories and smiles and phrases of which we’d become so fond;

I know the day that you we born and that I’ll never forget, it hurts never having said goodbye nor knowing when you left.

A year ago I craved revenge, justice yet tried to remember to care, and send you my love so wherever you were, because my heart was also there. 

On today, a year ago we gathered to celebrate you, trying to make sense of the tragedy, as those who remain usually do.

Today there is no celebration, no merry-go-round ride in Pullen Park, just sad acceptance that now and forever you’ll only live in my heart. 

Today I’ll look at pictures and videos like I occasionally do, this day now and forever will be my angelversary for you. 

Gone but never forgotten Tristan Matthew.

Love always, Gigi.

  

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A year of sadness

It’s been so long, too long, but I just haven’t had the time, the energy to find my words. A year ago yesterday, my world was upside down with one phone call. The events that followed and saw me to the end of 2014 were terrible, traumatic, and beyond anything I would have imagined in my life and in the lives of those closest to me.

Tonight, I still don’t have the words. I’m immersed in everything – as much as I can, too much – to forget. No, not to forget, to not have to dwell on it painstakingly, to not relive what I’ve been reliving for nearly a year’s time. The months between November and March have always been joyous, but I tell you, if I could, I would be tempted to just fast forward. I don’t know if I am ready for the pain. It’s almost as terrible as being cryptic. Saying but not saying what’s been tormenting me. In the end, two things remain true no matter what I say or don’t, what I do or don’t. I wish life were different. But this is my life. Just when I think it’s just too much, I learn that my daughter’s friend from middle and high school was brutally murdered by her ex boyfriend, and someone who means nothing to me – Criss Angel, learned that his ONE YEAR OLD son has leukemia. All this week, I’ve asked myself, “What does it mean?” For me? It means that life is chance, and luck, and karma that is not readily apparent. How else can you explain the murder of a baby boy not even three years old by his own father, or a baby not old enough to pronounce leukemia having the disease? This is what maturity is, this is where the fight  ends and where the hope dies. It’s not desperate or nihilistic. It just is. We do because as human beings with the memory, the knowledge, we try to create meaning, and we do. But there is more than that. We have inherent good that we want to believe trumps all, we believe that this good can influence these karmic debts, happenstance occurrences, senseless acts and actions. We want to believe we can change the world, change our worlds.

All I can say is that I’m still here. I haven’t given up. My life wouldn’t make a good movie because it’s so unbelievable that people wouldn’t believe it to be true. This is hilariously true even when I present ‘fun facts’ about myself (and there are many). But then, there are odd, sad, true facts that you’d never know by meeting me. People are often stunned to hear even a fraction.

I suppose all I have tonight is: If you are feeling like life has set you up for a big doozy and you don’t know what to make of it or how to see yourself to normalcy, calm, and renewed purpose, believe me, you can. You can learn to relish the small things, and prolong your happiness. You can surround yourself with people (likely a small few) who understand, respect, and support you, even if they don’t always agree with you. If you feel all alone tonight, like no one can possibly understand your pain, please know that many not only understand it, but are experiencing it. If our ‘insides” aka feelings were as visible as our hair or eyelashes, we’d have a very different impression of people whom we’ve come to believe ‘have it together.”

Tonight, I need to tell you – you’re not alone. Talk to someone.

I believe that is all.

Moe

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From Addams Family to ‘Whoa’

I love eccentrics. I can embrace the strange and unusual because I myself can be a bit strange and unusual (Beetlejuice reference). When I first became a mom, I was a free spirit who embraced child-led parenting. Societal and mostly familial pressure changed that. I needed to get ahold of my child. I became strict, but fair. But somewhere in there was still that free spirit who felt proud when my eldest entered her Goth stage. One of the family members who criticized my parenting (lax and without proper discipline) asked ‘did your mom tell you she used to dress like that?’

Having three girls – one of them a stepdaughter to my husband meant that I was the disciplinarian, at least in my mind. I am the strong voice in the house and often the last word, the final say. But I still promoted creativity, exploration, and self-expression within the parameters of respect. My partner and I took turns homeschooling the girls. The Philadelphia public education system didn’t appreciate exceptional, only obedient mediocrity.

I watched the girls become fully themselves as people, learners, and interpreters for what they saw and experienced in life and the world. The arts, scholarly pursuits, athletic endeavors, social activities were all at their disposal. If a four year old wanted to wear her princess gown then of course she could-and the shoes, and the jewels, tiara and scepter!

And when her sister later on took a major role in the high school musical, Pippin, as the flamboyant Lead Player, it suit the character she’d become in life-someone comfortable in her skin, moving comfortably among her cast mates, larger than life and able to change the energy in a room when she wanted. I’ve grown accustomed to this kid who was a shy child, growing up and in many, not all settings, being that flamboyant Lead Player, not afraid to dress in ways that made her happy mixing colors and styles, challenging social norms with mismatched footwear, socks, etc., infusing her own style into her appearance. One year, we hosted a student from China for two weeks.  When seeing my daughter in the mall parking lot, skipping and high-fiving tree leaves, the student asked me “What is she doing?” to which I responded, “oh, she’s just being herself.”

Extravagant, eccentric, flamboyant. I can do those. But extravagant, eccentric, flamboyant all shifted last week. First with an idea about a Nigerian casting process that would make her and our family rich. Then with an idea that I quit my job to become her personal assistant to help her organize her projects. I’ve tried to support my kids’ ideas and challenge them to develop a plan that can be critiqued and modified to meet their goals. She promised the plan via FaceTime on Wednesday night from a friend’s house, but the plan never came. Tuesday, November 25th was the last day I saw my daughter as I’ve known her for all of her 18 and 11/12 years.

She ran a race with co-workers on Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving will for the near future always remind me of the day my baby girl began her dance with mental illness.  We typically spend the day together. I made this year’s meal special, and while there were some make ahead items, we had nothing that needed to cook all day meaning a much earlier dinner (MY tradition is to do most of my cooking the day of, and a normal dinner at 6/7pm usually follows. This year’s menu was complicated – five courses and some items needed to be cooked as we were eating. First course was ready at 5 on the dot.  My daughter, who always makes at least one dish with her sister, slept over at a friend’s house the night before for a Thanksgiving Day 10k and was supposed to come home. She did, but she arrived late. Late, and at one point prior to arrival said she ‘might’ be coming home. This isn’t acceptable normally, however, we are megacommuters, and traveling from our bedroom community to work/school is about 80 miles each way, each day. I didn’t want her traveling on Turkey day at all.

Well, our day of family became a day of frenzied conversation, tears, accusations, confusion and a question: “are you on drugs?” (have you seen Transformers? not that discreet). This might sound like the usual dysfunctional family Thanksgiving, but we are not that kind of dysfunctional. Our holidays are marked with foolishness. We say, shenanigans. We enjoy our time together, tears have only been tears of joy, happiness. We don’t ‘do’ drama.

The dinner conversation was circular, with strange looks between some of us and our chatty, jet-speed daughter rushing through ideas like a volcanic eruption. It was dizzying. Finally, I stopped her and asked how much sleep she’s had over the past four days – about 12 hours. 12 HOURS! (insert nuclear alarm sound here) I told her that her brain was working in overdrive, she needed to eat and she needed to sleep. In a rush, she said, she was going back out, and the hubby and I both said “NO.” She would stay the night at home. She and her sister were headed to the other side on Black Friday to see friends. She could go back then, but not that night.  At dinner, she proceeds to tell us in detail about her business idea and we’re going to make a lot of money, that she’s going to make sure I retire not at fifty as she promised, but earlier. How early? February. February 2015.

Here’s the point when I should say, my spidey senses are making all of my hair stand up. As we tried to steer the conversation back to the plan she promised, she became agitated. She spent the 10k interviewing people asking how they are spending their Thanksgiving. She showed us videos of conversations with people along the route. She made a dedication to me her mom. I was her inspiration. She welled up. I welled up. Then back to her frenzy -she’s been networking and she found so many people that are going to grow her business. Then shifted to why didn’t anyone help me cool dinner, what were hub and sis doing all day and she did more for me than they did and she wasn’t even home. When I told her to ‘reel it in’ a bit, she got pissed, at them, and me, at how I didn’t know everything she was doing for me over the past few days. She ate, spent some time with us and went to bed. The next morning, I awoke at 9 or somewhere near then to a 4am text that she’d taken my car and was heading over to the other side to get a head start on traffic. Now, I was up until about 12:30am which was maybe around the time she went to bed. So, she was operating on little sleep.  She had plans with her sister to meet with friends for brunch, then she was heading to work. She never made it to brunch, went to work where her sister switched their car for mine and eventually came home.

I decided when my daughter got home, we would take a poll. A brief series of questions from the inter webs to see if without naming the behavior I was seeing, we would be in agreement about what we were seeing. My daughter said, “I already know what my answers are based on her behavior and she needs an evaluation.” I told her that we still needed to do it because her dad – man of a thousand words (not really) appeared concerned, but didn’t appear to sense that there was something other than erratic behavior and poor choices happening with our baby girl.

Daughter in question was staying at a friend’s house and I expected her home on Saturday. She didn’t come home, and sometime around noon, she called her dad supposedly because she couldn’t reach me. She decided she was going to purchase gently used clothes at a thrift store and sell them at a flea market. Sound like a great idea? Check out the next post for what happens next…

 

 

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Goodbye already 2014

Twice this year I’ve had my heart broken, and today, well last night, a bit of my heart broke and a bit of my spirit died. There’s no blame to throw around, at least I don’t think so, I can only think that life has just sent the pendulum in the opposite direction. The opposite to that song ‘it can’t rain all the time is that the sun does shine forever either. We’ve had so much sunshine in our lives that it’s tough to remember that someone else has probably had an equal run with rain. Is that my Buddhist mumbo jumbo? Maybe. But with things feeling completely chaotic, that one thought, that one idea is the thread that keeps me tethered where I need to be right now – in the moment.

Even still, against all reason the new year brings hope so I need a quick farewell to 2014 with the hope that blue skies follow.

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Nearing the end of the year

It seems like all of my life was difficult this quarter – from work and school, to relationships, family and friendships. School has cranked into high gear, and I’ll need to reduce my course load to one per quarter, particularly if I continue running a Saturday academy, advising those among my several hundred premed family who need support, and continue being a megacommuter, traveling anywhere from 5 – 8 hours roundtrip up to six days per week for work and work-related events, activities, and programs. Week 9 of 10 begins tomorrow, and I am looking forward to ending the quarter and hopefully taking my standard three week break from work. Of course, if our grant isn’t renewed (and it looks as though it won’t be) I may be on a longer break than three weeks, but three major challenges at a time. I will deal with that in the new year along with being an empty nester in August. The holidays are my next hurdle.

I understand now what my mother meant a few years back when she said she wasn’t celebrating the holidays (insert pouty face). After I talked to my eldest following not hearing from her or my grandson for nearly a month (I try to FaceTime/hangout once per week usually on the weekends when I’m not working or in class) to learn that she doesn’t want to come to California this holiday for a myriad of reasons, I promptly announced to my California family that “Christmas is cancelled.” Mind you, we are a house of many spiritual perspectives: Buddhist, Taoist, Agnostic and maybe eclectic, so Christmas is not a big deal, except it is because my birthday is December 25th.

I’ve never felt cheated and as a child or adult.  I thought it was all about me – one Christmas present and one birthday present, and my mom made sure I had cupcakes the last day of school before Christmas break so I had a party with my friends. How special was it that everyone got presents on my birthday, wasn’t I a nice ‘sharer’? Having been a child of divorced parents, this holiday has always been split between mom’s house and immediate family, then dad’s. Once I became a mom, that split continued because there were four sets of grandparents and other family on the visit list. I think our kids always saw it as an adventure. Traveling through rain, snow, and freezing temperatures to see family.  That sense of holiday was great, but I wondered, when would my time come when the holiday would mean that my family unit was the center of attention. Over the past couple of years, we’ve been so fortunate. Moving to California helped because I didn’t have to split households. Our eldest came to visit with the grand baby, even my baby brother came out, and I finally got to experience the joy of being at home, planning a holiday dinner, and uninterrupted ‘shenanigans’ as two youngest daughters describe our holiday time together.

Once I cried over my little peanut not coming to visit, and the girls and my partner declared that Christmas is wherever we are, I recanted. Christmas would not be cancelled. All the funny games I had planned would stand, and the four of us continued our ridiculous plans from music videos and game night challenges, to making luminaries with the neighbors.

Before we end the holiday, we usually discuss our hopes and plans for the new year. I already have a few plans and ideas which include wishing my peanut a happy third birthday in person if I can, but I won’t commit them to paper, to memory, to plan this early. Not before we revisit all of our holiday traditions, watch our favorite movies and enjoy each other’s company.

How are you preparing for the end of the year?

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Parenting and Grand-parenting

Being a parent is a lot of hit and miss, especially the first time around. I once heard someone say every eldest child should get free therapy because no matter who the parent, they have screwed up the kid in some way or another (did I mention that I’m an eldest child?). Being a grandparent however, is about lessons learned, few responsibilities and a multitude of fun, giggles, hugs, and kisses. That is what I live for every chance I get. Two years and eight months into being a grandparent, I can’t get enough of our little peanut.

It’s hard to get fired from the post of grandparent, because experience prevails and patience is abundant. Looking at that little person you also remember how hung up you were in becoming, building your career, trying to make a better life for their parent when they were that age and decide that you will spend more time being there for them.  I was born to be a Gigi. Crafty, traveling, nature walks and messy art projects are part of me.

Being a long distance grandparent is torture. My kid is busy becoming, building her career, trying to make a better life for her kid and that means Gigi has little time with this little person who is sure to grow up in a half of a blink of an eye, since his mother grew up in one blink.

Though none of us will likely be able to ‘retire’ I am certainly looking at having a second home on the East Coast just to be able to see the grandkid more frequently. While I’m up and should be working, I am thinking of long-distance grand-parenting support groups for those of us who don’t have the benefit of a grandchild within reasonable driving distance. Intense? So is my love for that cute face that now says “Hiii Gigi” when he sees me on Google Hangouts.

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