I Dare You

My cousin’s wife, who by the way, shares my maiden name, once gave me a very valuable piece of parenting advice. She told me that the true goal of parenting was this:  you don’t want to embarrass your children… you want to thoroughly appall them.  Originally, I found that to be funny, yet useful.  I thought that I would have the upper hand. I soon learned otherwise.

My earliest memory of embarrassing my kids was when they would have friends over and I would attack them with a water pistol or sing or deliver their clean underwear to their rooms while they were entertaining guests.  These were simple.  They were effective.  But soon, both my son and my daughter learned how to get around them.

I would pull practical jokes on them, but when they attempted, futilely I might add, I merely told them that I had taught them everything they know, but not everything I know.

We always sat down to dinner together as a family.  It was really the only time we could be together considering work, school, club and team schedules.  Having extra kids at my dinner table was a regular occurrence.  This naturally provided another opportunity for me to achieve my goal.  All we had to do was reminisce and tell baby stories.

By the time they were teenagers, I came up with a way to humiliate them in public when I would drop them off at school.  When they had gotten far enough away from the car, I would shout, “Do me a favor, while you’re here… learn something.”  The first time I did it, they both turned around with knowing smirks on their faces.  The next few times, they groaned.  Finally, they learned to jump out of the car and run.

Later on, my creativity began to wane.  I then would ask them if they dare me to… jump in a puddle…  or tell the waitress I have an imaginary friend…  or  sit down at someone else’s table at a restaurant and ask to eat off of their plates.   There were times when they would dare me, and I would do it, much to their chagrin.

My daughter finally grew weary of this game, and said to me, “Mom, I dare you to behave.”  So, my endeavors to thoroughly appall both my kids came to a screeching halt. She finally informed me, having reached her early twenties, that “Mom, you’re not embarrassing us, you’re embarrassing yourself.”

They are both now married, and I imagine they will soon start families of their own.  It is then they will know the true joy of driving their kids crazy.  It becomes, if you will, a quid pro quo, and they will appreciate the value in it, but I imagine, too, that they will do it with love, as I always have.

And always will.

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Look Both Ways

As I stepped down off the curb to cross the parking lot to return to my car, carrying a bag of bananas, I found myself laughing to myself. While the bananas are important to the story, I’ll explain later. Having paused to look both ways, not that there was any traffic at 7:30 in the morning at Publix on a Wednesday morning, I continued across. What I found amusing was that the mandates placed in my head by my parents some sixty years ago were still strong and in place. I learned, when I was small, to look both ways before crossing the street.

I learned ideas and concepts by my parents that I have carried with me throughout my life which have served me well through the sixty-one years I’ve been alive. Don’t talk to strangers. Respect your elders. Be honest—Let your conscience be your guide. Be kind to everyone. Don’t eat yellow snow. Wear lipstick.

Nobody told me that my father’s voice would stay in my head for twenty years after he passed away, reminding me to give myself positive affirmations. I had no idea I was going to remember some wonderful lessons, about the harshness of life and the beauty of same, would revisit me at the most unlikely times, as well as when I needed to hear them most.

When I was young, he told me not to be impulsive, to think before I speak or act. I can’t say I’ve always heeded that advice, and true to his word, it has always gotten me in trouble when I have acted on impulse. That didn’t mean I should abandon spontaneity. Words matter, nuance has value.

During those formative years, our parents instill morals and values in us while we don’t even know they are doing it. They also shape our personalities and how we see ourselves. I believe our senses of self-worth and self-value are structured then as well.

The good news is that when our kids leave for college or go off on their own, somehow, we stay with them, even if we stay behind and suffer from empty nest syndrome. We may miss them, but somehow, we know they will be okay. We were.

And about the bananas? I smile inside because the reason I stopped at Publix to buy bananas is because my 88-year-old mother was at home waiting to have her breakfast of Rice Krispies and banana. You see, I am blessed, at 61, to still have my mother putting those mandates in my head, even today. (Although I didn’t wear lipstick to Publix!)

Marriage is Not a Joke, But…

Since time began, or for as long as I can remember, comedians have been making careers out of joking about marriage, about husbands and wives, (more often about wives) and about their challenges. As far back as comedian Henny Youngman, who said, “Take my wife… please,” the bride has been the butt of a lot of jokes.

Now, my husband will tell you that men are personified as dolts in television sitcoms and commercials, giving women the upper hand. But I have, in no uncertain terms, set him straight.

It has been a long time since we;ve seen a husband and wife comedy team, too. There was George Burns and Gracie Allen in the 30s and 40s, and we had Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara as recent as the 80s and 90s. Some may add Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz to the list in the 50s and 60s, although I don’t know if they ever performed stand-up.

I will tell you that my husband and I have been married for almost thirty-seven years. We have faced myriad challenges to our marriage, including financial issues, health problems, and other typical problems couples may face over the years. Through it all, we have determined that a strong emotion keeps us together— spite. While another comedian said this first, we stayed together for the kids. Neither one of us wanted them.

Now the nest is empty, We had spent twenty years focused on raising the kids that we didn’t notice each other, and we didn’t know each other. We’ve noticed that we belong to two different political parties, went to two rival universities, and like totally different types of entertainment. He likes his meat well done, I like mine rare. He sleeps on his stomach, i on my back. Oh wait, that might work.

As we continued to find our differences, we began to fight. Even the dog wouldn’t stay in the same room. We decided to seek professional help and went to a marriage counselor. At first, the sessions were painful and serious, but when we discovered the one thing that we had in common other than the kids, we decided to work on the marriage rather than walk away.

What we found was that we both love to laugh. We both love a good joke. We have set out on a new adventure and are working on our first stand up routine, one in which I can sit down. I am in my sixties, after all.

Life is short, but work to make your marriage last. Remember why you got married in the first place, and remember to laugh.

Don’t Sit On It

We live in stressful times, but sorry, Fonz… the advice wasn’t good in the 50’s, nor was it good in the 70’s when Happy Days was first aired on television.  And it sure isn’t good now. The saying that a burden shared is halved has more value in today’s world than it ever did.

Big girls don’t cry.

Never let them see you sweat.

Suck it up…

Men were never allowed to show emotion, as it was a sign of weakness. Women were told to be subservient in order to “get” a man, as if they needed their protection. The antiquated mores are so ingrained in our psyche, that to resist them is contraindicated by our own culture.  Anthropologists would tell you that it is part of our DNA to behave this way.

It does not necessarily have to be. Exactly when are we, as human beings, permitted to experience the human condition authentically? (I mean, without repercussion?)  We’ve seen the beginnings of it in the past two or three years with the #MeToo movement, with backlash for bad behavior, with a crusade on behalf of our better angels.

But what happens if you’re pockets aren’t lined with gold? What happens if you’re not a Gold Medalist in Olympic Gymnastics? What happens if the person who tried to rape you wasn’t a Supreme Court Nominee? What happens if you haven’t won an Oscar for a movie you made?

Then you are more like me and most women, who have had life happen to them but who have had neither the big stage nor the big name to fight your battles with or for you.  And like me, many women have snuffed out memories of some of these horrendous experiences and tried to live normal lives without making any waves.

Guess what? Big girls do cry. They sweat, too.  And after a while, they can’t suck it up nor hold it in any longer.  If you’ve ever held a spring down long enough, eventually it has to bounce back.  The energy amassed from holding down can be explosive.  Some of us handle it well, some don’t.

I didn’t.  Somebody had to tell me that a burden shared was halved.  Somebody had to stop me from blaming myself and being angry with myself and being unkind to myself.  You know, when you bang your head against the wall long enough, it feels good when you stop.

I stopped. I stopped, and then I started writing about it.  To date, I’ve written three fictional novels about some of the demons women deal with in life. “A Life, Well… Lived!”, “Okay, So I Lied!”, and “Voices from the Ledge” all deal with topics that women find it hard to talk about. (Sexual abuse/assault, sexual identity issues, addiction/alcoholism, suicidal ideation, etc.). All have been written in light fiction, approachable fashion so readers can identify with the heroines.

In essence, I’ve shared my burdens through fictional characters, in hopes that women like me will find solace in the fact that they are not alone. There is always hope.  So PLEASE, don’t sit on it…

Not So Easy Street

And three years later, it isn’t any easier. Situations change but the bumps are still there.

Judith T Fisher's Original Blog

Nobody said life was easy.  In fact, nothing about it has been actually EASY.  Even the things I thought I at which I would be good, and the things I would love… those too have proven to be challenges at one time or another.  Nothing goes smoothly.

A prime example of this was the smack in the face I received when I became a parent.  I never had any real career aspirations.  I only wanted to be a mom, because I thought I would be really good at it, and I knew I would love it.  Within the first sleep-deprived, spit-up filled, post-partum week, I found myself asking myself (sometimes out loud), “Is this somebody’s idea of a bad joke?”  I can say, 28 years later, that most of the ride has been absolutely wonderful, with only a few minor glitches along the way.

Parenting is a major example.  Something…

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A Letter to God

Dear God,

I usually use that expression when something is extremely upsetting or unbelievable.  In this case, however, I’m using it as a salutation in a letter.  A business letter, in fact, because I’m ready to get down to business.  I’ve been on this earth for sixty-one years now, and I have been preached to, told that, prevailed upon and flat out smacked down to believe that everything that happens in this life is God’s will.

So, let me start this letter again.

Dear God,

How’s it hanging? I know you’ve had your hands full lately. There have been hurricanes and fires, wars and mysterious murders.  There have been shady elections and strange bedfellows.  There have been floods and pestilence, riots and treason.  My goodness, you would think that you would have come a bit closer to perfecting the human race by now.  Or is that not your goal?

Although I’ve been told that ours is not to question why, is it okay if I ask you a few other questions? Like, for instance, what is your goal? Quite frankly, God, I can’t understand how a loving god can let some of this crap go down?

A few more questions, please? When will Mueller’s investigation be over?  Are Daytime Soaps ever going to come to an end? For that matter, is there a reason the three-minute story lines are cast over a period of three weeks? Do you really have to wait thirty minutes after eating before you swim? Did Trump collude?

I digress. My real question is this:  What’s the real reason I’m here? Let me tell you a bit about me, although you’re God, so you apparently already know.

As I mentioned, I’m a sixty-one-year-old woman.  I grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, with both parents and three older brothers. I’m blessed to still have my mother with me. I was thirty-nine years in the workforce, most of which was spent in the not-for-profit world, working on behalf of those less fortunate than me. I earned a degree in journalism and wielded my skills writing speeches, PR releases, and marketing pieces all at the behest of others, while raising money and consciousness of various causes, mostly geared toward the elderly.

All during this career, I was and remain married to a man, and raised two children. We had a united front in raising our kids. My philosophy had been that of my father’s: to throw them in the pool, and their survival instinct will teach them to swim in their own way. I won’t let them get drowned, because I will be there to support them all the way, but they will learn to make their own way in this world. In other words, we were NOT helicopter parents, yet we did instill a strong sense of morals and values in them. As a result, we raised two relatively well-adjusted, free-thinking adults.  Also, as a result, they forged their own paths that have taken them far away from home.

Almost three years ago, I was forced to retire early, as my employers were unwilling to work with me with regard to either telecommuting or keeping me on as a consultant.  The drive time to that last job took, without exaggeration, three or four hours round trip, depending on traffic, and I had taken on the responsibility of caring for my mother in my home. I could no longer be away ten to twelve hours every single day.

I use the time at home well, I think, as I have taken to using my writing skills in a way in which I have always dreamed of doing. I have written and published three short novels, all of which contain subtle messaging for women who have dealt with some of the same issues I have.  Although the stories are all fictional, the vignettes and the messages are true and strong, and they are all things about which a lot of women find it hard to talk. It has been a release for me, and a lot of fun. I only hope they help someone, any, if only one woman, somewhere.

The problem, God, is that I am a sixty-one-year-old woman with absolutely no idea what I’m supposed to do now.  I have no job, my kids are gone, my mom rests most of the time and my books aren’t selling much.

Since we did such a good job parenting and my children are out there doing good deeds and both in professions that help others, we (my husband of 36 years) and I no longer have anything in common.  During the time we were concentrating on raising the kids, they were our focus.  Everything else about us was at opposite ends of the spectrum. We used to laugh about the fact that opposites attract; about things like the fact that he was a Miami Hurricane and I was a Florida Gator; he liked his meat well-done and I liked mine rare; he was raised as an Orthodox Jew and I, Reformed.  But now, it isn’t so funny that he is a Conservative Republican and I’m a Democrat. (notice I didn’t say Liberal, because in fact, I’m closer to center than most). I wonder if I can sue Donald Trump for being the root cause of our divorce?

I’ve lived an honest, righteous life. I’ve never cheated on my taxes. I’ve never been in jail. I’ve looked to the stars for answers. I’ve talked to pictures of my father who left us way too early, at age 69, in 1999, but he didn’t answer back. I spent most of my career doing noble work for little pay. One of my employers used to call it “the Lord’s work.”  Don’t take that personally, God. I mean I could have said your work, but that wouldn’t have been a direct quote.

I imagine I could have simplified this whole thing by asking one question. What the hell is your will for me? Sorry, I didn’t mean to use profanity. But really man, what am I supposed to do? I have to confess, although you probably already know this, I’ve been extremely depressed lately. I almost took my will back from you and came to see you earlier than I think you intended.  That was last month. I think you were busy with the midterms, or the fires or something.

Yesterday I got a mouthful of sass from my daughter, undeservedly. It made me weepy when it shouldn’t have. I had yet another misunderstanding with my husband because we just can’t seem to communicate well. My physical well-being is teetering. So, I’m feeling kind of like taking charge again. Unless God, of course, you can send me some kind of sign, by return mail, by a text or some kind of sign…

With warmest regards,

Judy