Saturday, March 27, 2010

My 22-year-old son is moving back home ...

My son is moving back home. He'll be 22 in a few weeks. I know you're wondering how I feel about this. After all, I've been an empty-nester for more than a year.

I am glad he's coming home. Ecstatic, actually.

We get along very well. Thank God he's not 17 anymore. 17 was a bad year. To use his own words, he had a lot of hormones he didn't know what to do with. And no, we're not talking about fixating on girls ... not those kind of hormones. The raging, I mean raging ones. He was ├╝ber rebellious, defiant, and disrespectful. He is none of that now. He is thoughtful, loving, respectful. He is now five years older and wiser. And so am I.

He doesn't "cramp our style." The three of us still will live our lives pretty much the same, as far as having our own schedules, coming and going as we pretty much please.

So what will change? A lot. Unable to sleep until I know he's safely at home. No matter how old he is, I will always worry about him. He delivers pizzas for a living, is constantly on the road, and regularly pulls the closing shift. Yes, I will worry. And I will wait.

The noise. Ohhhh the noise. :) Loud music booming from downstairs. Loud TV coming from downstairs. Bedroom and bathroom doors and cabinet doors and refrigerator doors and microwave oven doors, all shutting loudly.

Cabinet doors left open. My bedroom door left open during the day (subjecting my belongings to the cat and dog). Lights left on. Lights shining in my bedroom from the hallway at 3 a.m. (I do not like to have my bedroom door closed at night.)

Higher electric, water, and food bills. Oh, and of course, we MUST upgrade to AT&T's U-verse so he can have the latest in HDTV fiber-optics, all the premium channels, and faster internet. Old fogey speed and no high-def just doesn't cut it.

Do I sound like I'm complaining? I'm not. :)

Our washer and dryer will return to getting a daily workout. Clothes will be left strewn around the bathroom, the living room, the kitchen. There will be stumbling over size 14 boats shoes left in the hallway. Dishes and empty bottles and cans will be scattered around his room.

Yes, all signs that my boy is home. :) 

Ever since he moved out, this house has seemed empty. Silent. And there's a constant, impending sense of unfulfilled anticipation. I've thought about converting his large bedroom with gigantic walk-in closet and french doors leading to the fenced-in yard. A work-out room would be nice. Another office (since the one upstairs has been completely overtaken by hub's pack-rat "stuff"). A den. But, instead, it has remained just the way he left it. Including his full-size fridge, still uncleaned. (Hey, it's his kitchen! I have my own to clean up here!) But we won't go there; I'll spare you the details.

And there are lots of ways this arrangement will be beneficial to all three of us. He will be paying the difference in cost to get U-verse, yet we will all benefit. In fact, we get a huge credit to bundle, so he's upgrading to a 4G I-Phone and giving me his 3G I-Phone, woo-hoo! He will help with cleaning the litter box and taking out the trash. He'll help carry in the groceries and will be able to lift heavy things for me and reach tall things and change light bulbs (he's 6'3" and doesn't need a ladder). He can cook ... very well! He'll empty the dishwasher (when I ask and he has enough time). I can holler downstairs, "Corey, will you put the clothes in the dryer, please?" and save myself a trip up and down the stairs. I know by now that, "Sure, Mom!" means "remind me again in 10 minutes."

Yes, my adult son is moving home. And continuing college. And working (nearly) full-time. Sacrifices will have to be made ... by all of us. But I couldn't be happier. My boy is HOME. MY boy is home. :)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Blogging ... Or a Lack Thereof

I knew blogging wouldn't be easy. Putting your thoughts and feelings out there -- for the whole world to see. Will they judge you ... your thoughts and feelings? Your writing skills, your wit, your sanity (or lack thereof)? Will your ramblings be a waste of their time?

Because my mind goes a mile a minute, and I'm always multi-tasking, the one thing I never considered to be a roadblock in my blogging was thinking of something to write about. People who know me would agree: Susan never is at a loss for words! Except, it appears, when it comes to blogging. What do I write about??!!  What a conundrum.

If I were a young mother of several children ... what fodder for blogging that would be! If I were a worldly traveler ... what experiences I could share! If I had interesting hobbies ... If, if, if.

Write about that which you know. That is the advice of writing coaches, of those in the publishing world.

Hmmm ... what do I know?? I will think on that, and get back to ya. In the meantime, I suppose that today I'm blogging about not blogging.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Random things I know to be true ...

Random things I know to be true ...

1. Family is the most important gift you will ever be given. Treasure your family. If deeds or words separate you, make amends ... BEFORE it's too late. Otherwise, you WILL have regrets.

2. You can get by on charm for about 10 minutes, but after that, you had better know something.

3. It's not what happens to people that's important. It is what they do about it. You can choose to be victim or a conqueror. Either you control your attitude or it controls you. Our background and circumstances may have influence on who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.

4. Free will is the most crucial characteristic God created in us; it can be either a blessing or a curse, and ultimately will determine our eternal course. We must use it wisely.

5. Money and material possessions are a lousy way of:
a) keeping score,
b) determining one’s true value, and
c) validating cause for respect and admiration.

6. The easiest way to grow as a person is to surround yourself with people smarter than you are, and to read good books.

7. Keep your words both soft and tender, because tomorrow you may have to eat them.

8. Everything happens for a reason. We may not see it right away, but in time we will come to realize that it was for the best. Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers. The course of our lives is like a huge tapestry. But we can only see with our human eyes the back side, with its gnarled threads and knots and mish-mash of patterns and colors. In heaven, God will turn over our life’s tapestry and it will be a beautiful work of art, and then we will understand … from “the other side.”

9. Know when to be serious, but remember to have fun, too.

10. Life, happiness, and love is all about balance. Good things, as well as bad, can often be double-edged swords.

11. Life and attitude is all about perspective. Everything is relevant. When you think you’ve got it rough, think about visiting a children’s trauma unit … or staying in a third world country for awhile.
Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses. ~Alphonse Karr

12. Never forget where you came from. Your family, friends, and teachers helped get you where you are now. Take the time to let them know how.

13. Don't care too much what other people think of you. Try not to compare yourself to others – most of ‘em are more screwed up than you think.

14. The only way to experience every emotion capable of a human being is to raise a child.

15. Take time to be in touch with your inner child. Stomp in a puddle, build a sand castle, jump into a pile of leaves, and make a snowman.

16. If you can find during the course of your lifetime five people who love you unconditionally AND like you, too … then you are a very blessed person.

"The Help" ... and Me and My Maimee

The Help,” by Kathryn Stockett, recently number one on the NY Times Best Seller List (49 weeks on the Best Seller List), is an absolutely incredible book about race relations in the South during the Civil Rights Era. Although a book of fiction, it draws from the author's own experiences of being raised by a black nanny in Mississippi.

I decided to read the book because my sister-in-law, Donna, raved about it. She wanted to read it because Kathryn Stockett is a fellow Phi Mu sorority sister, and was featured a couple of issues back in our national magazine, “The Aglaia.”

I’ll tell you a bit about the book (hopefully enough to compel you to read it without revealing too much) then I’ll share my own experiences growing up with a black nanny.

The book features a complicated theme of blacks and whites living in a segregated South. Even a century after the Emancipation Proclamation, black maids raised white children and ran households but were paid poorly, and often had to use separate toilets from the family. They even suffered to watch the children they cared for, and loved as their own, grow up to commit bigotry. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, “The Help” is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

These women of color were suffocating within the lines that defined their town and their times. But sometimes lines are made to be crossed. Led by the Stockettesque character Miss Skeeter, they bravely came together for a clandestine project that put them all at risk. Their determination to start a movement of their own forever changed a town, and the way women —mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends — viewed one another.

“The Help” is addictively, compulsively readable. Stockett’s debut is well-written, and it is abundantly apparent that she truly understands Southern life and has made great efforts to understand what life was like for black women who served white families. She presents sad, even shocking, stories that leave a great glimmer of hope. And though she examines our differences and our mistakes, she also reveals our commonalites, highlighting our humanity to wonderful effect. And while this is a serious book, it also has wonderfully lighthearted moments, humorous moments, and strikingly funny insights into women and their behavior.

Reading this book, I realize that these themes helped me shape my own values and opinions:

• Racism is not inherent; it is learned. Until a certain age, children may wonder why another child’s skin is a different color, or why their culture or physical appearances are not the same, but there is no regard for inferiority or prejudice until someone puts the idea in their heads or dictates that standard. Usually that “someone” is a person of authority, someone they respect, or fear.

• A person’s character is greatly shaped by the times in which they live. That is evident by the stories shared in “The Help.” It is demonstrated in Miss Skeeter’s own personal struggles against the lines drawn by the culture and times in which she lived. I rallied around her, as a reader, in her personal convictions, which totally defied the expectations and boundries she was supposed to live within as a white woman.

• I believe vestiges of racism still remain in relationships where people of color work for people who are white. However, racism has also become a double-edged sword. As “equal rights” have marched across time and history, prejudices against all colors have also evolved. Many of us, despite the color of our skin, have experienced (while an oxymoron) “reverse discrimination.” It makes me see how awry the purpose for equal rights has become. Generations of men and women worked so hard to bring about racial justice that was long overdue and well deserved, but which has at times since been distorted. Equal does not mean “fair.” I have deep respect for, and advocate, equal rights for everyone no matter their color, gender, culture, religion, etc. Everyone deserves equal opportunity in the work place as well as in society. But equal rights don’t translate to “better rights.” But that is where our society has evolved.

• The book caused me to examine myself, and question my own discriminations and intolerances in the past and present.

As I mentioned above, I had a black nanny growing up. That may come as a shock to some of my northern and overseas friends. But it was commonplace during the early ‘60s in the South. Though I was very young, I have a few beloved memories of Maimee. My overall impression of the experience was that I deeply respected and was very fond of Maimee. She made me feel very loved. Maimee came to live with us when my mother went back to work as a school teacher, a few months after my brother was born. She was big and round, with a hearty laugh, and looked like Aunt Jemima without the do-rag. She seemed a content woman and smiled a lot and I remember how very white her teeth looked against her pitch black skin. She stayed with us during the week, sleeping on the couch in our small house because we didn’t have an extra bedroom, and Mom would take her home on Friday nights and pick her up Monday mornings. She spent the weekends with her husband in their home. She was unable to have children, and loved my brother and me as if we were her own.

Maimee sometimes let us do things that my parents wouldn’t allow … like making mud pies. I remember one time while making mud pies, I smeared mud all over my face and gleefully squealed “Look, Maimee! Now I look like YOU!” She just slapped her knee and laughed and laughed and said, “Yes, sugah, you sho’ law do!” Not long after that, she gave me a doll. A "black mammy" homemade cloth doll. I remember it well. But I don't remember it making its way with me to the new house. I hadn't thought about that doll for years ...

At the tender age of five, I could recognize the difference in the color of our skin, but it never dawned on me that Maimee’s skin color, or that her vocation, was cause for anyone to look at her in a negative light (bullet two above). I loved Maimee and she loved us and she loved taking care of us. I remember one night, when my brother took a nose dive into the lower bunk bed and his eyebrow made vicious impact with the window sill, Maimee held me against her ample bosom, assuring me that John wasn’t going to die, despite all the blood his wound yielded. She made me warm milk and cuddled me the entire time my parents were in the emergency room with him. He came home sporting stitches, but he hadn’t died. Thank you, Maimee, for your reassurance.
I remember one time while making mud pies, I smeared mud all over my face and gleefully squealed, 'Look, Maimee! Now I look like YOU!' She just slapped her knee and laughed and laughed and said, 'Yes, sugah, you sho’ law do!'
Mom told me that sometimes Maimee would bring her teenage niece to work with her, and that she remembered not approving of that “wild rock and roll music by black singers” that she played, and didn’t like her showing off her “suggestive dancing” ("dirty dancing"). She was afraid Maimee's niece was a bad influence on us kids. I chuckled when she told me this recently. I don’t think it had anything to do with the niece being black; it was a youth revolution. That generation was rebelling and creating a new culture, black and white alike. The times, they were a-changin’! Right, Dylan?

Mom treated Maimee with utmost respect. She asked her to do things, never told her to. She said please and thank you, and showed her sincere appreciation for all Maimee did. This was rarely the case in Stockett's book, set deeper south down in Mississippi, and that was startling to me ... that so many maids and nannies were treated so disrespectfully, even inhumanely. I don't think I ever have witnessed that.

I know Maimee didn’t work for a white woman, taking care of her children, cooking for her family, and cleaning her home, to get rich. And it wasn’t for prestige. It was the early ‘60s in the South, and that’s what black women did. It was hard for an uneducated black woman in that era to get a job doing little else. And for that, I am remorseful. But I also hope it was because Maimee loved us and wanted to help mold us into children who had a bit of herself in them. I’d like to believe that was true.

I regret that Maimee moved on, and we moved to another area of town after my sister was born, and that we lost touch with her. I doubt that she's even still alive, but I sure would like to be able contact her today. I'd love to hear in her own words what it was like to be a nanny to white children. Of the horrific segregation rules she had to abide by ... how it made her feel.  I'd like to hear the stories of triumph when, for the first time, blacks were allowed to sit at the same counter as whites at Buntings Drug Store and eat hot dogs together. Of how it felt to not to have to ride in the back of the bus, or to be able to use a "white" bathroom or water fountain, or be able to shop in the "white folks grocery stores" without having to wear your white uniform. And, ultimately, what it means to her to see a black man be elected as President of the United States. Did she ever fathom that it could happen in her lifetime?

But most of all I'd like to be able to tell her, "thank you.” Thank you for your sacrifices and your love. Thank you for being my Maimee.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Renaissance Women

Renaissance women ...
 ... find silent strength within themselves.
... self-composed yet burn beneath the surface with fiery passion.
... intelligent and intuitive, knowing wisdom and truth will always prevail.
... know the power their charms wield, yet do not abuse it.
... the utter essence of sensuality, femininity, beauty and grace.
... self-assured, confident and assertive, possessing strength of conviction.
... modestly creative and talented, knowing these are gifts, not suitable for prideful boasting.

Renaissance Women ... worthy of being treasured.
      They will intrigue you ... and, if they let you in ...
                they will haunt you forever ....

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A prescription to blog ....

Some people are grinders; I’m a clencher. A nocturnal clencher. I clench my jaws when I sleep. HARD. So much so that my tongue clings to the roof of my mouth, sucking every drop of saliva, and my jaws (and head!) ache the next day. I bare down hard like a tenacious dog with a bone. Oh, I’ve tried those expensive night guards (a fancy word for mouth guards that football players wear but they mark ‘em up 2,000% and sell em to suckers/clenchers/grinders like me). Alas, I have not found them effective. The last one fell out of my mouth in the middle of my sleep and my dog, who sleeps with us of course, thought it was a new chew toy. $129 down the drain.

Doctors and dentists alike have told me that my “clenching syndrome” is due to stress. How the heck do they know? They don’t know my stressors, or how much or little stress I have in my life. Eliminate the stress and it will stop, they say. Right. This has been going on for about seven years. And it ain't gettin' better -- the stress OR the developing clusomuscular and occlusodentition problems. (Don’t be impressed with my vocabulary. I googled it. Yes, I’m a chronic googler.)

So, last week, my doctor tells me to journal. Puh-leeze. I have a degree in journalism and have, for the most part, been writing professionally since I was 16. That means I can write for those who pay me. But it's always been difficult to write for my own enjoyment. I’ve never kept a diary or blogged or journaled. (Hmmm, spell check tells me there’s no such word as journaled. Or texted, or googled, for that matter. They need to get with the 21st century and update their action verbs.) But Doc advises me to. He claims journaling will help reduce stress, and that writing about what bothers me might just keep the TMJ at bay.

Sooo … here I am, with a prescription to blog. If you happen to stumble upon this, bear with me and be kind. I can’t guarantee that anything I write will be interesting, let alone enlightening, inspirational, or witty (like my friends Joyce and Donna). But, I’ll give it a try.

Welcome to Susan’s Sea of Dreams!