Category Archives: Childhood Traumas

An Actual Fun Office Christmas Party Idea — REALLY!

Damn it.  (No, that’s not the Christmas party idea.)  I meant to post this earlier.  Like in November.  But I forgot. Because in spite of not being terribly fond of Christmas any more, this is a great idea.

Thanks to Doobster for his post The Office Christmas PartyIt reminded me that I forgot.  Or something.

So embedded in this story is the great office Christmas Party idea.  Whoever comments on it first gets to give me his or her favorite stuffed animal.

A Different Toy Story

Nobody suspects I would have done anything of the sort.  I’ve fooled them all.  Well, at least I’ve fooled the folks I work with.  And that will do.

You see, we have a terrific Christmas tradition at my office.  We have a party, yes, and it’s actually fun because we like each other.  And the highlight of the party is a gift exchange.   About two weeks prior to the party, we choose the name of a co-worker, and bring a gift for that person as if he or she were 7 years old.  We open the gifts and have a great time guessing who gave it to us.  Then the toys are collected and given to a local charity.

We have a blast, it’s for a good cause, and everybody tells their funny childhood remembrances of what we would have done with a toy like they got.

But it was awkward for me this year, because I got a doll.

She was a beautiful, blue-eyed doll with rosy cheeks and curly blond hair just like mine.  Any girl would love her and gently care for her.  Any girl would treasure that pretty doll.  Any girl would have given that beautiful doll to her own daughter to love, too.

Google Image from Etsy

Google Image from Etsy

Link to doll

Any girl but me.

Because for the most part, I hated dolls.  And for most of my childhood, I did anything to avoid playing with them.  Except when I was about 7.

Well, I guess I answered honestly when I said that, uhhh, yeah, I would have played with the delicate dolly.   And, yeah, I would have played with it when I was about 7 years old.  So yeah, the gift, umm, fit me.  I didn’t elaborate, though.

I didn’t, for example, tell anyone that the dolly would not have been happy with the situation.

I blame my parents, they bought that particular house.  I blame my brother. Me, I was innocent.  I was led astray.  I was forced to do it.  The fact that it was hilarious and became one of my favorite memories is completely irrelevant.

You see, the house I grew up in was next to the railroad tracks.  And naturally, because it was strictly forbidden, my brother Fred and I used to spend lots of time playing on the tracks.  We’d put our ears to the rail to listen for trains, and, once we were sure none were coming, we’d run across the tracks.

That was fun for part of the first summer we lived there, but hey we were 6 and 9.  We needed growth opportunities.

We flattened pennies until we had enough to lay track from New York to New Haven made entirely of smushed Lincoln faces.  For a while we would wait for a train to come and then hop across the tracks, trying not to trip and die.  Fortunately we both succeeded and outgrew our interest in that particular challenge.  We tried to flip the track switch so that the train would jump the track and go down our driveway instead of on towards New Haven.  But for some reason, someone had locked the switch, and no matter what we did, we could not get the train to go down our driveway.  It was probably just as well.

One day, I got home from a friend’s house to find that my favorite stuffed animal, an orange poodle won for me by my dad, was missing.  Naturally, I accused my brother of hiding it.

“I didn’t hide it, Lease,” he said.  “I played with it.  It was just sitting on your bed,” he said in that brotherly tone that indicates I was stupid for questioning him.

He walked into my room, grabbed another stuffed toy, my stuffed Pebbles doll with the plastic head, and said. “Come on.  This is really neat.”

Out we went, down to the tracks.  We waited and waited, putting an occasional ear to the rail.  Finally, Fred placed Pebbles on the tracks.  Like Pauline, Pebbles looked skyward.  Like Pauline, as the train approached, her feet wiggled.  Unlike Pauline, however, there was no rescue.

 

We would have let Pauline go, though. Really.

The train whizzed by sending the most delightful plume of stuffing up and out, way over the top of the train.  It was a hit.  We rushed back for additional victims.  All my stuffed toys and each and every doll met a sorry end.

As it turned out, today at the party, my boss had picked my name, and the doll was from her.  “Would you have played with a doll like her?” she asked, no doubt envisioning me dressing her up and playing with her like other girls.

“Absolutely,” I said, weighing the doll and imagining just how high up this particular doll’s stuffing would go.

*     *     *

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Filed under Adult Traumas, Awards, Bat-shit crazy, Childhood Traumas, Christmas Stories, Family, History, Holidays, Huh?, Humor, Stupidity

Healing

Before I started blogging, I hadn’t done much personal writing.  I’m a medical writer at work, so I’ve been working with words for decades.  But they weren’t for me.  They weren’t about me.  And they didn’t help me get beyond my share of those things that landed on my shoulders and my heart and pushed down.  Tried to drag me under.  Things that succeeded sometimes, I’m sorry to say.

For years I’d grieved.  I couldn’t get beyond the loss of much loved family members.  Until I wrote this post.  Now, I think and write my stories with more smiles and fewer tears.  Through the humor I found writing it, I got myself back.  And them, too.  It was a win-win.  By writing it, I was able to heal.

I had forgotten that really, the only thing as powerful as words is being able to laugh.  When I first posted Both Sides Now three years ago, my bloggin’ buddies didn’t quite know whether it was OK to laugh.  It is.  I did.  I do.

My long-time bloggin’ buddies may remember this post.  I’m posting it again mostly for myself and for my newer friends.

*     *     *

Both Sides Now

“The Season” makes me crabby.  Grumpy.  Irritable.  I’ve come to hate it.  Everything about it.  I hate the music, the crowded stores, the decorations.  I especially hate the decorations.

Last year a friend stopped by our house in the middle of December.  “God, it’s December 15th,” I said to her, “and the only decoration I have up is the wreath on the door!”

“I don’t think that counts, Lease,” responded my husband John. “You didn’t take that down from last year.”

“Oh, yeah.”

Tonight, I’m looking around at my undecorated house thinking, “uggggh,” not “Ho ho ho!”

It wasn’t always true, though.  I used to be one of them.  I was a veritable Christmas Elf.  I baked, I decorated.  I embroidered Christmas stockings for the whole family.  My son Jacob and I built gingerbread houses that did not come from a mix or a box and were actually made of gingerbread stuck together in the shape of a house!  My friends got a bottle of homemade Irish Cream liqueur.  Some used it to get their kids to bed on Christmas Eve.

But mostly, I sang.  The records, tapes and CDs came out on Thanksgiving.  From the moment I woke up the day after Thanksgiving, until New Years, I would trill away.  “White Christmas,” “Do You Hear What I Hear?” “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”  I belted “Mele Kalikimaka” when I had an established escape route to avoid people trying to punch me.  I know the words to all 18,423 verses of Frosty the Snowman.  I would start singing in the shower and keep going until John tackled me and put duct tape across my mouth, usually at about 8:30 a.m.  Regardless, I’d start up again the next morning.

If the current, Crabby Christmas Me got a hold of the old Merry Christmas Me, I would slap myself silly.

So you see, I do understand the Christmas-sy part of Christmas.  The love, the joy, the traditions.

But now I see the other side.  And it’s that “tradition” part that is to blame.

You see, my family’s always been fairly competitive.  My mother and her sister Ruth were particularly so.  They’d argue at each shared Sunday dinner over a million things:  whose gravy was better (my mother’s), who cracked the best one-liner (always Aunt Ruth – she was a hoot), and most traumatically for me, whose young daughter was taller. (Duh, Maureen was almost a year older than me – of course she won every time.  But you’re not taller now, are you?  And you’re still older, Maur.  You’re still older.  How do you like it??)  Darn, I wish I’d missed the competitive gene.

When I was a kid, Aunt Ruth was high on the list of my favorite relatives.  Now she’s tops on an altogether different list.  And it ain’t Santa’s list, neither.

Because Aunt Ruth started a family tradition.  A competition.  But it’s not a family tradition I recommend, especially during the Christmas season.  In fact, it should have a warning, although I’m not sure where you’d put it:  Don’t try this at home.

You see, Aunt Ruth started the tradition of kicking the bucket on a major holiday.  What fun!  Great idea!  Not many families do that!  Hey, we are DIFFERENT!

Knowing Aunt Ruth, I’m sure her last thought was “Doris, you’ll never top this one!  I’m dying on Thanksgiving!!!!”   She was no doubt a bit miffed when my mother joined her a couple of years later.

Because, not to be outdone, Mom arrived in the afterlife on Easter Sunday.

Their party really got going when we reached Y2K, and my sister Judy died unexpectedly on my birthday in January.  Now, you might argue that my birthday is not, technically speaking, a holiday.  Not a paid day off for most folks.  But hey, in my book, this qualifies.  So there.

As time went on, there were fewer and fewer holidays I could celebrate.  The only big one left was Christmas.

Guess what happened on Christmas, 2000!

Yup, Dad reclaimed his spot at the head of the table with Mom, Judy and Aunt Ruth. Dad trumped them all.  Or because it was Christmas, perhaps he trumpeted them all.  Maybe both.

I must say I am rather ticked off about it all.  Sort of changes the tone of the Holidays, you see.  I plan to have words with all four of them, next time I see them.  And I will not be nice.

In the meantime, celebrating holidays, well, it just seems so odd to me.  Especially Christmas, because Christmas is so stuff-oriented, and most of my Christmas stuff is from them.  It takes a bit of the fun out of decorating.

For a while, I considered joining the Eastern Orthodox Church.  That way I could celebrate the same holidays, just on different days.  I could keep all my Christmas crap!  I could decorate!  I could bake!  I could sing!  But then I realized that the change would just give us all additional high priority target dates, and I don’t have enough family members left to meet the challenge.  So Eastern Orthodox is out.

At the same time, I also realized that, when Dad hit the Holiday Lottery, the whole tradition had to stop.  Because I’m pretty sure that biting the dust on, say, Columbus Day, just wouldn’t cut it.  So why bother?

Nevertheless, this whole thing has made me decidedly anti-holiday.

There is one holiday I still look forward to, though.  Groundhog Day.  I just can’t figure out what sort of decorations to put up.

Photo courtesy of Google Images

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That Look

The disgusting man got “The Mom look,” after he did it right next to me.  Seriously grossed me out.

I was standing in front of the gas station late this afternoon watching the sun set, while my car was getting its safety inspection. The sky above the bank across the street was aflame — the colors rivaled some of the tropical sunsets I’ve seen.  You never know where you’ll see something beautiful.  Or not.

A pickup truck pulled up and stopped just to my left. The driver got out, crossed in front of his truck, walking towards the station’s office.  That’s when he did it.

“Hhhaaackkkkkkkkkk-plew…”

There are few things more disgusting than some guy who needs to spit a germmy, phlegmmy glop of goo on the sidewalk.   This delightful gent spat out a huge louie right in front of the door to the gas station.  Right where anybody who needs to go inside must step.  Thanks, pal.

I did not hide my disgust.  “Uck — that’s gross!” I commented as I gave him The Mom Look.   The look that says “You are the grossest human on the planet.”  It is not nice to be on the receiving end of it, let me tell you.

In real life, I only saw it once. But that was plenty.  I still feel rotten about it.  Mostly.  Although, like watching the guy who will get smacked by the ladder, or slip on the banana peel, I still have to laugh when I think of it.  I just can’t help it.

As I may have mentioned a zillion times, my mother was an incredibly sweet woman.   One of those people who made everybody feel like they were special. One who rarely had an unkind word for anybody.

Except probably that day, although I don’t remember any.   All I remember was that that was the day The Mom Look was born.

The house I grew up in had a mirror in the front hall. Mom was a bit vain – with good reason – she did a fair amount of primping in front of that mirror.  My brother Fred and I liked to hang out at the top of the stairs just over Mom, and pretend to drop stuff on her head.  I was six or seven.  Fred was a more mature nine or ten.

Like all of our games, the allure of dropping a ball only to catch it before it could hit Mom quickly lost its allure. And so we started dropping things on either side of her.

Mom not only had 5 kids and so was not easily ruffled, but she was a really good sport. She would stay at the mirror, letting us bomb her with stuff while she fixed her hair, pretending not to notice the ever-increasing pile of toys that suddenly landed to her right. To her left. Behind her.  She’d dawdle there and let us have our fun.

“Now who left these toys here,” she’d say, confiscating them as part of our unspoken game.

Then Fred had an idea.  It had to have been Fred’s idea. I’m sure of it. All our most evil plans came from his diabolical mind. I was merely the faithful sidekick. And it was definitely his recipe – he’s a guy.  Guys instinctively know how to do this.

We were at the top of the stairs, when Fred cleared his throat. Brought up some phlegm. Mixed it with spit. A “Louie.”

He leaned over the railing, looking down at the top of Mom’s head.

He let his louie out of his mouth about an inch. Downwards, towards Mom’s innocent, unsuspecting head, twelve feet below before sucking Louie back up into his mouth.

Fred did it again, letting it go lower, before snapping it back and swallowing it.  Wow — he was good! It was hilariously daring and dangerous and there was no way we could get in trouble.

It was possibly the funniest thing either of us had ever done.  We wiped tears away and rubbed our bellies we’d laughed so hard.

“What are you two giggling about?” Mom said cheerfully from below.

For a bit, I was content to watch Fred. He’d clear his throat, combine just the right ratio of phlegm and spit and down it would go. Dangerously far away from his mouth.

But Fred was a master. He snapped it back up each time, just as it looked about to fall.  He made it look so easy!

Naturally, I insisted that I get a turn.  It’s the trap that all faithful sidekicks fall into sooner or later.   OK, I fell into it all the time.  I’m pretty sure that’s why Fred let me hang around with him so much.

I was not a louie master.

In fact, my first try led to the Mom Look. Because I apparently did not get the ratio of phlegm/spit quite right. It didn’t have the elasticity that Fred’s had had.  Or I didn’t have the suck-up action down quite right.

I can still see it happen as all bad memories do, in slow motion. Me leaning over the railing with Fred next to me. Both of us watched in horror as the inevitable happened.

Uh, Mom? Meet Louie.  Louie, Meet Mom’s head.

At first she assumed dropped a toy on her head. But when I said “I’m sorry Mom” with eyes velvet-painting-sized with guilt, well, somehow Mom Knew.

Moms always know.

That was when she gave me The Mom Look, just that one time.

I have never forgotten it. That poor, sweet woman with a humongous wad of my spit and phlegm on top of her lovely curls. I’m pretty sure I have never felt so bad about doing anything to anybody as I did for spitting on my mother’s head from the upstairs hall.

*     *     *

So guys (and faithful sidekicks), don’t spit in public or you, like the guy at the gas station today, will get The Mom Look. Spitting is just sooooooo gross.

I considered posting a video, but decided against it.  You’re welcome.

 

*     *     *

Oh no.  This is my 400th post.  I’m pretty sure Mom is laughing uproariously at the subject matter.  And she probably has The Mom Look on, just for good measure.

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Filed under Adult Traumas, Bat-shit crazy, Childhood Traumas, Criminal Activity, Disgustology, Family, History, Huh?, Humor, Mom, Stupidity, Wild Beasts

It’s a Jungle Out There

Since the video I posted about the wrong mascot for the GOP was such a hit, I figured I needed to post another animal piece.

This one represents thankfulness for healthcare.

 

It says it happened in “Columbia,” but I’m quite sure they mean in the “District of Columbia.”  Positive.

(My thanks to Father Kane of The Last of the Millennials who posted this video with far less snark than I.)

 

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Not One More

Maybe you’ve seen this before.  Maybe you haven’t.  But it is worth watching.  It is worth seeing again.

 

We do everything we can to protect our kids from possible dangers.  Except when it comes to guns.  Really.  How can we as a country, we as thinking rational people, we as parents continue to let the NRA decide.

Get rid of politicians who won’t stand up to the NRA.  Get rid of politicians who think that it is just dandy that anybody can get a gun.  Or collect enough of them to maintain an arsenal.

Protect your family.  Vote these folks out of Dodge.

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A Sunny September Day

“It is September 24! You’ll catch your death.” Mom declared. “You may not go swimming with your friends.”

“Moooommmmmmm.”

I couldn’t believe it. I’d finally, finally, finally been invited to the cool kids beach by Cathy, a seriously cool girl. And Mom was telling me that I couldn’t go. Or that I couldn’t go swimming, which was what people do at the beach.

We compromised. I got to go to the beach with a promise not to swim. A promise I was planning to break just as soon as it was out of my mouth. Mom wouldn’t be there – she’d never know. And she didn’t until much later.

Mom was being ridiculous, I thought – it was a warm September day, in the 80s. A perfect, last beach day of the year.

In spite of growing up on the beach, I was (and am) a rotten swimmer. I never really learned to get very far or very fast. I splash around in the water in something a half notch above a dog paddle.

But I love the water.

Early on I learned to back float forever. When I tire after my first 10 strokes, I turn over, point my head in the direction I want to go, and meander through the water. I watch the gulls overhead, see pictures in the clouds, daydream. It’s wonderful. Relaxing. Peaceful.  Not at all tiring.

In elementary school, Burying Hill Beach was where the cool kids went in the summer. It wasn’t my beach.  I was not generally invited there. But when school started that September, Cathy took a liking to me, and invited me to meet her and some other friends there.

In fact, there were tons of people at the beach that day. It was likely to be the last sunny, warm day for swimming at the beach. Everybody in 7th grade was there. Everybody in our class and all the other classes. The beach was packed.

For some reason I don’t recall, Cathy wanted to swim in the causeway that runs between Burying Hill and Sherwood Island State Park. All the cool kids did it. At least when the life guard wasn’t looking, they did. In fact, it was probably what the lifeguards spent most of their time doing all summer long – chasing people off the jetty and away from the causeway. Of course it was late September; there was no lifeguard. We were free to swim wherever we pleased.   As we stood there considering the other side, we heard half-hearted warnings from behind us, which, naturally, we ignored. We’d crossed to Sherwood Island earlier in the day. What was their problem?

Google Image, Natch.

Google Image, Natch.

“Race you across!” said Cathy. And in she went.

Ingrid and I looked at each other, shrugged, and dove in after Cathy, who quickly outpaced us. Soon, I was left far behind even mediocre swimmer Ingrid.

It had been really easy to swim the causeway just an hour or two ago. Even I managed it.  But of course, the tide had ebbed, and was now going out. And while the water looked completely placid, the tidal current was heading straight out. Fast.  And it took me with it, out towards Long Island, 30 wet miles away.

But don’t worry. Remember, I am a champion floater. Possibly the best back floater ever.  Olympic-quality floating.  (Hey, synchronized swimming is an event.  Don’t judge.)

I wasn’t scared in the least. I turned over on my back, pointed my head towards shore (I had long since passed the end of the jetty) and started kicking my feet and flapping my arms. I was making good progress, getting out of the strong part of the current. I was heading to Long Island a little more slowly. And besides, it was a beautiful day, the water was warm, the sky was blue. It was delightful. And I knew I’d make it back to shore. I only hoped I’d make it before dinner. I was supposed to be home by then.  If I didn’t make it, my mother’d kill me.

I don’t know how long I was floating, enjoying myself, when I was rudely interrupted. Some man just swam up to me and started shouting stuff to me.  At me.

“Put your arms around my neck,” he ordered. “And don’t be afraid. I’ve got you now.”

“Afraid of what?” I asked. “What does this guy want?” I wondered. Fortunately, I kept that thought to myself.

But I did as I was told for the first time that day, and held onto his neck. I must admit, that it was easier to see the crowd that had formed on the shore while my head was above the water.  What’s everybody looking at?

So the man towed me in, chatting all the while.

“You’re very calm. Some people panic,” he said.

Frankly, I was more panicked about having my arms around a strange man, to tell you the truth. That’s why people panic, I thought. It was quite humiliating, in fact.

As soon as we got in, somebody else immediately wrapped me up in a towel and started rubbing my arms and back as if I was suffering from hypothermia.

“I’m OK!” I kept saying over and over again. Why is everybody making such a fuss? I wondered.  What’s the big deal?  I would have made it.

I imagine I thanked him. I’m sure I did. Positive. I mean, I do have manners. I just can’t remember thanking him or anybody else.  I thought they’d overreacted.  (They hadn’t.)

It seemed that Cathy had made it to the other side. Ingrid, like me, had gotten back to dry land on some other unknown man’s back. I vowed to become a better swimmer, because it really is embarrassing to be hauled out of the water like a flounder.

I learned not long afterwards that Jenny L’s father had been the guy who fished me out.

Each of us went home, vowing never to tell our parents the story of that day. Nobody told.  Strangely, nobody else let our parents know, either.  Life was better when nobody was a tattle-tale.

But just like the promise I broke to my mother that day, I broke my pledge of silence.

I told Mom in 1982 when she was staying with me after my operation.

“What?!?!” she shouted. “Somebody saved your life and I didn’t even get to thank him?” She was mortified. Laughing, but mortified.

“You would have killed me yourself if you’d known at the time.”

“You are in such trouble for going swimming when I told you not to.”

“Mom, this happened in 1968.”

“… wait until I tell your Dad.”

 

*     *     *

 

In a couple of weeks I’ll be going to my 40th High School Reunion. I sure hope that Jenny’s there, and that her Dad is still alive. I hope that I can at last pass on my parents’ deepest thanks, and my own, for his unheralded rescue.

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Monsters’ Throwdown — A Blogger Book!

As a person with Crohn’s Disease, I have seen my fair share of toilets, and my experiences there have been memorable.  And sometimes life threatening (especially if Goliath was involved).

And while I fully expect to die on a toilet, I was not born in one.

The same cannot be said of Eleanor Tomczyk, who writes a terrific blog called How the hell did i end up here?  If you don’t already know Eleanor, go on over.  She always brings a smile, makes you think, makes you laugh.

The story of her life is written up in her memoir, Monsters’ Throwdown — from her disastrous beginnings being born in a toilet, through her triumphs.  Eleanor always managed, somehow, to keep her head above water.

Monsters’ Throwdown will make you cry, make you laugh, make you thank your lucky stars that you didn’t have to go through what Eleanor did to just survive.  But Eleanor did much more than that — she thrived.  And we are all the better for it.

Monster's Throwdown

Available at Amazon — which, coincidentally, is where I got this image.

In today’s world, where racism has become, once again, less hidden, Monsters’ Throwdown is a book worth reading, and its lessons of survival, people helping people, love and triumph leave me very hopeful.

The book is available in paperback and on kindle through Amazon at this link.

Well, what are you waiting for???????

 

 

 

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