Archive | June 2014

38 Longs

I’ve always heard that your 40s are the best years of your life.  Supposedly, people are financially stable, have some wisdom, have learned from their mistakes, blah blah blah.  I can’t say from experience that it’s true.  One thing I’ve learned from being in my 40s is that your body turns into a hot mess, and it ain’t pretty.  It’s really a cruel trick of that fickle old bitch, Mother Nature.  I thought we women were supposed to be on the same team and build each other up.  Clearly, Mother Nature didn’t get the memo.  “They” say that 50 is the new 30, which means I should be in my new 20s, but 20 sure didn’t look like this.  There is really no part of my body that hasn’t been affected by the cruel advance of time.

Let me start by saying that once you’re past the age of 18, zits should be a thing of the past.  They slyly disappeared for a couple of decades, lying in wait for their eventual reappearance. Once I hit my forties, they reared their ugly red, white blistered heads once again…and not just on my face.  Nothing says pretty like putting your gray speckled hair up in a clip only to have Mount Vesuvius staring at everyone like a third eye on the back of your neck.  What the hell is up with that?  I know I’m not the only one.  I have friends in their forties who also wonder why they suddenly have a pizza neck, or scalp, for that matter.  Don’t get me wrong, my face is not immune to such hideous eruptions.  It’s not enough that the wrinkles start making an appearance, but then to be flanked by a melon sized, oozing pustule is just beyond reasonable.  Don’t even get me started on groin zits.

Let’s move away from the face because nothing is as much a slap in the face as what happens to breasts at this glorious age.  Really.  They sag enough that they could slap me in the face if I moved at just the right angle.  They used to be so cute and perky, and almost the right size.  In my 20s they were a 34B.  Twenty years and three breast fed kids later, they are 38 longs.  When I bend over to turn on the shower faucet, they look like tube socks with a few inches of sand at the bottom.  They dip in the water at the bottom of the tub.  I could tuck them into my waist band.  They are too big and that makes it hard to find decent shirts that will contain them.  I used to wish for bigger boobs.  My wish was granted but at a time in my life that they are more of an eyesore than an asset.

Sagging in general is the suckiest thing about aging.  Apparently, someone came along one night while I was sleeping and replaced my tight little birthday suit, with one that looks a few sizes too big.  It’s also clear that it hasn’t been ironed in years and someone left it sitting in the drier for way too long.  It’s all out of shape, so apparently nobody let it dry flat either.  It also has a roadmap of veins on its legs that could lead me on a road to deep depression if it wasn’t for those lifesaving capris and long dresses that are popular now.  I have to say that as much as I love summer, I am thrilled when it’s time to get out the fall and winter clothes again.

Needless to say, this decade of my life isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Things sag, erupt, crack, groan, get stiff, and make involuntary noises.  It’s not enough that I notice it, but my darling children love to point out body parts of mine that are swaying in the wind or lying flaccid next to me.  They are a charming bunch.  I happily inform them that someday they will go through the same nonsense, and that if there is any justice in the world, their kids will make them feel like crap, too.  I just hope that I will be able to witness the payback from my rocking chair as the drool slides down my cratered, pock marked, droopy face.  The least Mother Nature can do is let me get there.  We moms have to stick together.

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The Noose

In November of 2007, I returned to the workforce after staying home with my three kids for ten years.  My youngest child was in Kindergarten, and I needed something beyond the mommy and household stuff.  I also wanted to start contributing financially.  We had decided to sacrifice lots of things, especially money and the “extras” it can buy, so I could be home with our kids.  It was extremely important to us.  Two weeks after I returned to work, my husband’s tumor was discovered.  In addition to the toll on my husband’s health and the incredible stress it placed on the family emotionally, it began to destroy any hopes we had of financial freedom.  Over the past almost 7 years, any hope of financial freedom is gone, and has been replaced with the dream of just being able to be comfortable every month.  By comfortable, I mean that the mortgage and monthly bills are paid, we have enough food on the table, and perhaps we can do a few fun things during the month.  Our hopes of providing college educations to our children, or going on great vacations, or giving our daughters big, beautiful weddings are gone.  I don’t know if I will ever be able to retire.

We are in survival mode and have been every single month since my husband stopped working in October of 2009.  It’s a way of life for us.  It is possibly the absolute most stressful part of my life.  It’s like constantly dangling from a noose, trying to hold yourself up so you don’t suffocate. In addition to raising three kids, managing a household, and dealing with an ill husband, I work to try to make ends meet.  Medical retirement and disability payments barely cover the mortgage and food.  There have been times we considered shopping at the food bank.  We get energy assistance so our electricity doesn’t get shut off in the winter.  Our kids qualify for free or reduced lunch.  We didn’t pay our mortgage for 6 months, and still could barely make it.  We get free stuff for our household from the dump.  When we have a little extra, we do something fun so our kids don’t have to miss out all the time.  We do our best to give them things, and as a result we sacrifice what we want, or live with that much more stress.  They only get one childhood, and I refuse to make them feel “poor,” or let them feel as if they are missing out.

My husband and I have both worked since we were about 12 years old.  We both have a good work ethic, and we do what we need to do to provide for our family.  We always paid our bills, and were responsible with our money.  Then the illness took it all away.  I have sat around dinner tables where people talked about how “irresponsible” people are who “live beyond their means” or don’t “keep up with their mortgage.”  They criticize people who need help with mortgage programs, or who “live off the government.”   Comments are made by people who have no idea what it’s like to be in that situation.  People judge with no regard to the facts.  They judge people who would do anything to be healthy and provide for their family.  Living this way isn’t laziness or irresponsibility.

We commonly hear comments from friends or family members who complain about how they struggle or how upset they are over some financial stress they are having.  These same people are hiring people to clean their houses, or are taking their kids out to eat or to some fun event several times a week.  They are planning multiple vacations every year, and buying new cars.  I even had one person tell me they were a little upset that they are now making so much money that they are in a new tax bracket and no longer qualify for the child tax credit.  Their tax refund was going to be less this year.  I sat there like an asshole and gave sympathy, when what I really wanted to say was that I would literally give one of my arms to be in the next tax bracket, rather than struggling every damn day of my life.  I had just told her that we qualified for a new child tax credit because we are low income.  These same people know how hard it is for us.  Sort of.

 

There is a shame that goes along with the way we are living.  I don’t know why.  Shame implies that we have done something wrong.  We haven’t.  We’ve tried to do everything right for ourselves and for our children.  I never, ever share our true financial story with anyone.  We pretend it isn’t as bad as it is. People have some idea, but they don’t know what it’s really like.  It’s exhausting and hopeless and depressing and frustrating.  The stress leaves me teetering at the edge sometimes.  Yet, somehow, we always make it through.  We are lucky to have some family and friends who have been Godsends at times.  There are times we wouldn’t have made it without them.  The struggle is never ending, and sometimes people get tired of helping.  We don’t know if we will ever be able to repay people for what they’ve done to help us.  There is no end in sight to the struggle.  We try to pay it forward and help other people when we can.

People talk openly about the physical, emotional and psychological effects of chronic illness on themselves and their families.  But when it comes to money, people keep it to themselves.  Yet, I suspect it’s one of the most detrimental aspects of living with chronic illness for everyone involved.  It is by far the most stressful part of my life and affects my mood, stress level, health and outlook on life every single day.  The nonchalant comments from other people make it even worse.  I don’t know what the solution is, but putting it out there without shame is a good start.

Call Me Crazy

I’m about to do the unthinkable.   I never thought this day would come, to be honest.  I had to think about it for a couple of months, weigh the pros and cons, and seriously consider the fact that I just might be certifiably insane.  What would I be missing?  Would my life be over?  What the hell will I do with myself?  How will I survive?  Then it struck me like a lightning bolt.  These thoughts are precisely why I need to do this.  I need to shut down my Facebook page.  That’s right.  I said it.  I’m shutting it down.  Not permanently…I’m not that loony.  The plan is to shut it down for the summer.

For the most part, I have enjoyed Facebook over the past few years.  I’ve gotten to know people better, and I like that I can see what’s going on, and share in people’s life events.  But over the past year or so, I’ve found myself more and more irritated with the nonsense and insignificant dreariness that people feel the need to share with the world.  I’m confident that I can make it through my day without knowing where people ate dinner the night before, what cashier is out sick at the local Walmart, and whose kid saved the world from some imminent disaster.  I can manage to drink my morning coffee without seeing someone’s 137,868th  selfie or picture taken by their bff.  Here’s a newsflash:  We all know what you look like…you haven’t changed since yesterday.   I’m also confident that I can survive, and so too will other people survive, if I don’t share the crap I share, too.  Facebook is ultimately a crapfest of who did more, who did it better, who looks better, who went more places, who has a better imaginary life, who has a smarter kid, not to mention those awesome vague posts that are simply an attention-getting tactic.  I need a break.  I spend more time being irritated than I do enjoying.

As I thought about doing this, I realized I need a plan.  I can’t just go cold turkey without figuring out a way to spend my time sans FB.  At first, I was almost in a panic and came very close to ditching the whole idea.  Then I thought, what did we all do before the internet and social media?  We all managed to have a life before Facebook was invented.  So, I made a plan.  This summer, I am going to do the many things I’ve claimed I didn’t have time for over the past several years.  I am going to read as many books as I can.  I am going to go to the gym several times a week.  My family joined the YMCA, and my kids are just as eager to go exercise as I am.  We are also doing a major nutritional overhaul in our house…no more junk food or processed food.  Well, occasional junk food.  Let’s be realistic.  I used to draw and do artistic things.  I want to start drawing again.  I find it incredibly relaxing and enjoyable.  I lose hours at a time, just by creating a drawing.  I also want to get my house in order so it’s not an embarrassment when people drop by.  I HATE cleaning, so if I get it cleared out and have a plan to keep it up, it will free up time to do the things I enjoy.  I want to get back to nature by going to the beach, going on hikes, or just sitting outside and reading.  I want to spend more time with my kids and give them my full attention.  I want to write.

I’m sharing this all through my blog for two reasons.  One, it’ll keep me honest.  If you all know I’m ditching facebook, then you will also know if I sneak back on.  I don’t have the self-control to do this on my own.  I need to be able to tell myself that I’ll look like a spineless moron if I don’t do it.  It’s the embarrassment factor, which is always a good way for me to not do something.   The second reason is that this is all part of an experiment that I will be writing a blog post on in September.  The experiment is just to see if I can do it, and what I can accomplish by getting rid of a serious time suck in my life.  If I can do it, other people can, too.  Life is too short to waste time reading about what other people are doing.  Life is about going out and doing.  If I die tomorrow, I will be much more satisfied that I spent today sitting on the beach, reading a book, talking to my kids, and enjoying all of OUR moments.