Friday, May 27, 2011

Rise Up, Gather 'Round

Girl has her promotion ceremony from junior to senior high this week. We've shopped for a dress and shoes, and she has plans to get a pedicure with several friends the day before her event. From my perspective, it seems like she's enjoyed her 7th and 8th grade school years. Sadly, some of my worst school memories took place when I was in junior high.

The 7th grade began with vivid memories of how awful PE was. Itchy polyester gym shorts and the embarrassing scoliosis screening made up the start of the school year, where all the girls lined up and took off their shirts. A late bloomer, I was still four years away from puberty and didn't own a bra or undershirt; I was the only girl standing there naked from the waist up. Thankfully, it was only girls but the PE teacher made me tie a sweatshirt across my chest for 'modesty' - which was almost worse than standing there without a shirt.

This was the same PE teacher that called me out during attendance for wearing a dirty sweatshirt by asking, "Is that a favorite, hon? Won't let Mom wash it?" The sleeves of my sweatshirt were grey with dirt, but I looked at her like she was insane. My sweatshirt was dirty because we didn't own a washer or dryer and I couldn't be bothered to wash it. Collecting enough coins, hauling all our clothes and losing a whole afternoon at Wash 'n Fun made the task seem insurmountable. The way I looked at it, I was lucky to wear clean underwear daily. A dirty sweatshirt was the least of my worries.

Although my grooming and hygiene were considerably better by the 8th grade, my judgement was not. I decided to take it upon myself to fight someone else's battle by slipping a threatening note in a girl's locker who was giving a friend a hard time. The letter described how I would 'kick her ass' and that she'd 'better watch out and leave so-and-so alone'. Although I was questioned about the letter, I denied that I had any involvement. This set in motion a chain of events that was only the beginning of the bad decisions I would make over the next three years.

By the time I was 16-years old, I was certain that I wouldn't live to see eighteen. The saddest part about that was that I didn't particularly care. My theme song was Def Leppard's Pyromania, "It's better to burn out, then fade away..."

Obviously, I survived my 18th birthday (and then some) in large part due to the amazing foresight of my sophomore health teacher. He'd invited a panel of speakers to talk about alcoholism and their recovery, and it was perfect timing. By that summer, I cleaned up and have been sober since.

A few summers ago, this same teacher was the guest of honor at a party where I celebrated 25-years of sobriety. If someone would have told me when I was sixteen that I'd one day become a stay-at-home parent, and sell Girl Scout cookies with my daughter in front of Ralph's on a Friday afternoon - my head would have burst into flames. All of this is to say that I feel gratitude for those tumultuous times because I appreciate the goodness in my life that much more. Schmaltzy, but true.

Congratulations, Girl. I am so very proud of you and all you've accomplished. Keep going and growing.

All my love,


Sunday, May 8, 2011

This One Is For My Mom

I am an only child from a single-parent household, and when I was growing up money was very tight. There were several years where my mom and I lived in a one bedroom apartment. My mom gave me the bedroom and slept on a fold-out couch in the living room. While it was just what we did at the time, I realize it came at the expense of my mom's own privacy. She told me that it was important that I had my own space.

Even though my mom loved cream in her coffee, she only used milk. At thirty cents more per ounce than regular milk, a pint was an extravagance we couldn't afford.

This was the beginning of an annual gift that lasted until I was in my teens. I would buy her a pint of half & half, wrap it in Christmas paper and keep her 'gift' in the refrigerator until it was time to open presents. It brought me great pleasure, and took several years for me to realize that once was a 'surprise' and any more than that was a tradition.

When I was old enough to realize how poor we actually were, I was embarrassed by how little we had. It took me many years to realize the gift in all of this. Despite not having enough money to justify spending a couple dollars on cream for coffee, we had all that we needed.

Thanks for being such a good sport, Mom. I love you always. Happy Mother's Day.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Super Power

One of my mom's former co-workers had a shoe fetish. She spent much money and time in support of this passion, and was teased for her extravagant collection of shoes.

During a visit to my mom's office, without looking at our feet she was able to recall exactly what style shoe each of us were wearing. Needless to say, I was impressed with this ability.

My own gift is a unique one: I can tell by looking at a person's hands if they've ever had warts (and only on their hands; my special clairvoyance works above the waist). It's nothing noteworthy like finding a cure for cancer or ending world hunger, but it's my strange little contribution to the world.

I admitted this superpower to a group of friends during a dinner party, and ended up being called out on this unusual ability. Everyone placed their hands on the table and I went around the circle and accurately identified the two people out of the group that had ever gotten a wart.

What's your superpower, Internet?