Hold My Tongue

There was a time in my life when I was too shy, too reserved and too fearful to stand up for myself or to make decisions for myself. I was two. In fact, my parents were in such a hurry for me to walk and to talk, but as soon as I was able to do that, they pretty much told me to sit down and shut up.

All kidding aside, I was raised at a time when girls were expected to be sweet, happy and quiet, mostly quiet. I was so indecisive and fearful, that I really couldn’t stand up for myself. I wouldn’t even send food back at a restaurant when it wasn’t prepared as ordered.

When I was twenty-four, and single, my mother was afraid I would be an old maid, and she told me I shouldn’t be so smart or so good at sports… that the boys don’t like that.  I had a hard time with that.  It was the late 70’s and early 80’s, and mom was kind of old school. I knew if I repressed who I really was, I would pay for it later. (I was already repressing a lot of things that had already happened to me, that eventually affected me in profound ways.)

Finally, I met a man who appreciated me for who I was (was being the operative word). Early on, we had a great marriage and were blessed with two wonderful, happy healthy children. As time passed, and we were left with an empty nest, we were also left with the task of getting to know each other again. The difficulty arose when we discovered that we were at opposite ends politically in 2016.  It has gotten exponentially worse, affecting our daily lives.  I can’t express an opinion without it turning into a fight. I can’t even make a comment about current events without it being turned into a political issue. All we have left is, “Did you talk to either of the kids today.”

Consequently, I have had to return to being the kind of person I was as a child and young girl, and it is most uncomfortable. I am expected to be happy and quiet, mostly quiet. This is to keep the peace.  I know it won’t last forever; in fact, I hope it will only last for another 18 months.

For now, I will hold my tongue.

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I Never Win Anything

I have entered, to my count, over seven thousand contests in my lifetime. I played the lottery (not including scratch tickets) over eighteen hundred times, and I’ve even entered some talent contests. My latest try was to enter a drawing for tickets to see Hamilton for ten dollars a ticket because Alexander Hamilton’s picture appears on the ten dollar bill.

No luck.

I did, once, win concert tickets to see James Taylor on a call in radio show. I had already seen him in concert seven times. That was fine, because at least I won something.

Stay with me here… Four weeks ago, I ran a Giveaway contest on Amazon. I couldn’t even get enough people to enter the contest to win the two prizes! All the entrants had to do was follow me on my Amazon Author page. I did gain over two hundred followers, but that wasn’t enough to give even one copy of my latest book, “Voices from the Ledge,” away. if you entered the contest in good faith, and you started following me on Amazon, then you should be seeing this post. If so, please send me a note at : judith@jtfisherauthor.com. The first three response I receive will still win a signed copy of the book. You win, I win, we all win together. All I ask is that you read the book and write a quick review.

Good luck.

Ready or Not, Here they Come! (reprint)

Well, we thought we had prepared our children for college.  When the time actually came, we found out that in several small but significant ways, we had failed.  More than once.

Their entire lives, we had stressed the importance of education, without stressing them out.  Our intent was to teach them to put their maximum effort in, and that would certainly be good enough, because as with most parents, we saw our children as brilliant.  They both took school seriously, excelling in Advanced Placement classes and scored quite well on college entrance exams.  They both were extremely active in extra-curricular activities, clubs and sports.  Their social lives were vibrant.

We had also spent a lot of time talking about college on a different level.  As important as academics were, it was equally important that they grow emotionally and socially, learning to make good decisions for themselves and learning to rely on themselves.

When my son was accepted to six out of eight colleges to which he applied, and wait-listed on one, he chose to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville.  We packed with great anticipation to take him there for the new student orientation.

After our arrival in Gainesville, we went our separate ways… he with the students and us with the parents.  He would learn the Gator Chomp and get a tour of the campus.  We would learn about academics and safety on campus.  We weren’t to connect again until dinner.  He was to settle into a dorm room for the two days and we checked in to a nearby hotel.  Midway through the afternoon, I got a text from him.  “Forgot to pack underwear.”

That was our first clue that he wasn’t ready.  I calmly stopped at a store, bought some underwear for him and discretely put it in the top of his overnight bag with a note that said, “This is the last time I’m covering your behind… Love, Ma.”  We delivered the bag to him at dinner without a word about his faux pas.

The next morning he was to meet his registration counselor at 9:00 AM.  We arrived at 8:30, grabbed a sorely needed cup of coffee, and began, anxiously, to wait.  I knew which direction he would be coming from, and he would be carrying a neon orange bag so I could spot him quickly.  (This is the “hard to let go” mothering instinct that was still obviously very strong.)  My husband sat and read the paper.  When he hadn’t shown up by 9:05, I was sure I had done a terrible job in preparing him to be on his own.  At that moment, he came bouncing out of the registrar’s office with a grin that lit up the entire west side of the campus.  He was already registered and raring to go.  Okay, so maybe he was ready.

The next step was stocking his pantry.  This was my final moment to shine.  We went up and down the aisles, and since he had very little idea of what he wanted much less what he would need, he pretty much left it up to me.  When I picked up a package of “Baggies,” he wanted to know in what aisle he might find the twist ties.  Okay, one step forward, two steps back.

We got him all set up in his dorm room, met his roommates and turned on our heels to leave.  (Ha… I bet you thought I was going to talk about long tearful goodbyes.)   Well, I made my mind up not to look back, as did he, but I was choking on my tears before we got out of the driveway.  Fifteen minutes down the highway, I said to my husband, “Why hasn’t he called yet.”

Two years later, we went through the same motions with my daughter.  Same University, same orientation and same text, “Forgot to pack underwear.”

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.

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.