Category Archives: parenting

Positive self-messaging helps! Who’d have thought that?


Okay, it’s November 21 and I am way behind in my Nanowrimo word count and I have yet to meet my goal of finishing my novel and etc, so I have a lot of work to do. Of course, being a writer, this leads to crashes of depression about my choice to pursue this course, about writing as a general focus, about the overall better suitability of me as a door stop.

So I turn on my computer and as I waste time wandering through my email, I find the reference to this study, which recommends treatment for depression that includes mainly reviewing past experiences and instead of focusing on them as they happened, working out how you might have made things different. For some reason this seems to have a better effect than just laying about relaxing (which I have practised quite regularly) or digging for reasons behind the source of anxiety (check) in dealing with depression.

So it’s a bit like what I used to tell my kids about nightmares. Go back to sleep, I’d tell them, but this time, how would you beat the monster? Then, once they’d figured that out, they could go to sleep and sleep unthreatened by that monster.


In depression’s case, I guess it helps to say to yourself (or myself, in this case), Well, if you wrote 200 words a day even, you’d be way ahead of where you are now and feeling better. Or if you’d actually stuck to organizing your novel into Scrivener instead of being distracted by contests and shiny objects, you’d be good to go.

I’m not sure this is helping. Maybe there’s a special process to go through. Right now, I just sound like my mother…”if only you’d applied yourself…”

Sigh.

Here’s the study:

Training in ‘Concrete Thinking’ Can Be Self-Help Treatment for Depression, Study Suggests

Excerpt:

The CNT (concrete thinking therapy) involved the participants undertaking a daily exercise in which they focused on a recent event that they had found mildly to moderately upsetting. They did this initially with a therapist and then alone using an audio CD that provided guided instructions. They worked through standardised steps and a series of exercises to focus on the specific details of that event and to identify how they might have influenced the outcome.

CNT significantly reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, on average reducing symptoms from severe depression to mild depression during the first two months and maintaining this effect over the following three and six months. On average, those individuals who simply continued with their usual treatment remained severely depressed.

Although concreteness training and relaxation training both significantly reduced depression and anxiety, only concreteness training reduced the negative thinking typically found in depression. Moreover, for those participants who practised it enough to ensure it became a habit, CNT reduced symptoms of depression more than relaxation training.

I’ve arrived! Or, Why calling people Hitler is so wrong…


Ooh, I’m so proud. Just in time for Movember, I’ve been equated with that most well-known of mustache wearers, Hitler. I feel honoured. After all, Obama and almost every social democrat existing has been equated (for some reason) with Hitler and fascism and communism and all that stuff, so I feel I’m in a good crowd. And, Like Mark Twain, I’ve always viewed myself as much more likely to be happy in hell than in heaven, so it’s all good.

So who equated me with Hitler? Ah, that’s the best thing. That would be my daughter, a professional psychic damage claimer, who has argued for years that she saw something scary in the woodshed that has somehow to do with me (to others, as she refuses to say anything to me, though she assured me some time ago that it wasn’t anything I did)(though obviously she has changed this view – I can only blame my occasional emails to her, which read: “Hi, how are you? Miss you and love you.” – so obviously offensive, you know?) She is, of course, vegan, and trendy and ever so wise. My favourite thing is how she tells her dad that her degree cannot be used as that would be reinforcing the lines of privilege. How helpful. I’m so glad we set aside money from my parent’s estate and saved for her to pay many thousands of dollars for her to reach this realization. I expect payback, daughter, if you deign to read this. You owe me about $30,000 in today’s money, and I could use it. If you truly abhor privilege, send it to me. And you owe some to your grandfather, too.

So, she recently equated me with Hitler. I do not see the comparison. Yes, I have a mustache, but I’m getting electrolysis. I have never sent thousands to their death, I am not vegetarian, and I don’t speak German well enough to lead a mass of acolytes. The whole thing makes me want to go out and eat veal and foie gras. And learn Russian. Maybe fight for socialism even more. Adopt homeless children.

But, although I am furious today about the “casual” remark she made to my ex, that’s not my point today.

Remembrance Day is coming up this week. And everywhere we turn we hear people being called Hitler. Does no one remember what he was? He was NOT a joke. He wasn’t a minor player. Because of him, thousands and thousands of people died, in the camps, in the trenches, in the air, on the sea. Calling people Hitler minimizes what he did, what his damage was. It is so very wrong. I’d like to ban that name from the language, like the Christians resist calling out the name of Satan.

And, scariest of all, he wasn’t unique. There are many like him, many who also cause death and disruption and hatred and genocide and bizarre battles that confound our sentient minds. Stalin, Gaddafi, warlords in Afghanistan, Africa, and South America, violent racists, misled religious leaders, conservatives trying to send women to their deaths in back street abortion clinics…evil abounds. And it should not, must not, be minimized.

Joking or name-calling is inappropriate in this time when the line between evil and despair is so thin. It’s so easy to be cynical and take the world with a sideways glance, doing nothing to improve things, relying on meaningless rants to vent fury, not voting, accusing all politicians of being invalid, vanishing from public service of any sort. Why not be creative and bring some solutions to the table? Why not take the education or knowledge or experience you have and ACT? Not destructively, not angrily, but positively?

Why not follow the philosophy of the Improv Games, which I adore? When offered an idea that you don’t agree with, instead of saying no, say “Yes, and…”

So, I’m going to respond to my miscreant daughter, and say, So, I’m like Hitler? Yes, and you have some of his tendencies, too. What shall we do about our tendencies to categorize and hate? How shall we work to prevent the dark side of ourselves from winning? We must take on ourselves and wrestle ourselves into goodness.

And daughter, I love you, and miss you. But that’s enough. Grow up.

Fatwa the parrot and other post-death torments


I’m reading a totally thought-provoking mystery by Henning Mankell, called “the  Troubled Man”. In it, Wallender spends a lot of time thinking about mortality and getting older. What with that and my own sudden need for a walker to get around dependably, I’ve been revisiting the whole end of life thing. I already have wills written for end of life decisions – my sister has the right to pull the plug on me (a bit dangerous, since from all accounts, she owes me for the years of big sister torment I wreaked on her), and I did have my ex as my financial executor (changing that…).

I’ve thought of having DNR tattooed on my chest, in case anyone gets a crazy idea to resuscitate me. I used to work in a rehab hospital where I looked after the failed ressussees – brain-damaged, etc. Not my bag. Still can’t get the face of one poor man out of my head, 30 years later. He was so confused – he just looked eternally startled. I’ve planned to donate my body to science since NO ONE apparently wants any part of it for transplants, thanks to my MS – egad.  Talk about feeling unwanted.  Even my corneas are suspect. On the good side, this means I won’t end up on some medical student’s dissection table, melting gently while they comment about how short I am and how it makes it so easy to see the whole body at once. They might take my brain for MS research. Which of course leads me to think about all those 60’s horror science movies, where the brain is still ALIVE. In those upside down bell jars. Ooh.

I had a fiendish plan to offer post-death torture to my kids. (What? Doesn’t everyone?) I was going to get an African Grey Parrot and teach it to say things like: “Are you wearing clean underwear?”, “Have you flossed your teeth?” “Don’t do that!”, and “You could do better!” (my personal favourite, as I’ve heard that about every boy I’ve ever dated.) Since parrots live for about 80 years, it would certainly outlive me, and maybe even my kids. I would leave it to my least favoured child, with their inheritance tied to the health of the bird. Bird dies, money goes to parrot rescue. Bird lives, they get the cash.

Strangely, the kids were oddly attracted to this idea and thought I should name the parrot Fatwa. Of course, then it was only a theory. And I did worry about the life of the bird.  Seemed mean to treat a sentient being that way.  Besides, all that training seemed like too much work. Dora, my sweet parrotlet, bullies me, and she’s only 4 inches long. Can’t imagine what a big parrot would do to me.  I’d probably spend my last years curled in a closet, throwing crackers out through a slit in the door, begging for mercy. The parrot would end up only saying “Help!”, imitating sobbing, and then laughing like a maniac.

So, I’ve reconsidered.  After all, I like my children, most of the time. Now my fiendish plan is to leave a separate fund in my will for dispersal of my ashes. This would give each kid enough money to take my ashes to places all over the world I’d have loved to have seen and they really should. Like, say, Burma. Or Antarctica. Or Australia. Or Iceland. They could split my ashes into three piles and then each go to a place to drop them. It would be like a final gift – a trip for each of them to take.

Of course, they could just ignore my wishes, flush my ashes, and spend the money in wild partying. Maybe the parrot is a better idea after all.

HAVE you flossed your teeth today?

Messages of fear


I’ve been watching the growth and development of my daughter from afar, of necessity because she still avoids me for some unknown reason. At one point, when we were still talking, she told me that “all my messages were ones of fear”.  This always struck me as unfair. I have always walked openly into the jaws of the dragon, I thought – following my ex hither and yon, heading to Canada for school when I was a kid, travelling single, changing careers, trying new things, bravely handling all that life threw at me.

But in a way, she was right.  I have always lived my life in fear of other’s opinion of me. I am a quintessential “people pleaser”, given to smiling instead of taking offence, tolerating things I don’t like instead of making a scene, choosing the safe roads as vs hitchhiking through the backwoods of life. It’s served me well in some ways, less well in others. And when I take a stand and people start disliking me because of it (a firm stand means some people will take against you), I often retreat into beige, letting the colours slip from myself and not be bold with the reds and oranges. I joke about myself, making it seem that I didn’t really mean what I said, letting my power slip away. And, when I feel I have to make a stand and can’t change, I don’t know how to do it smoothly. People don’t expect it of me and so they are totally thrown off, take offence, are hurt.

So as I skulk along, picking up the messages about my daughter’s life, hearing what she is doing, I know that if I hadn’t been afraid back then, my life would have been so much more like hers, or my sons’, as versus the very conservative life I did live (though I hasten to add I was considered the “bad” kid by a lot of my family). I find myself chuckling at how very alike we are, she and I, despite our separation. Despite being far away, I feel closer to her than ever before.

I can’t help but feel proud – of all of my kids. They are themselves. Loudly. It hasn’t been easy – they’ve been individuals with strong opinions since they arrived.  Perhaps there are parts of each of them that aren’t quite perfect for prime time – but that is their strength showing. And why SHOULD they be ready for “prime time” anyway? They should be who they are, as long as they remain willing to learn from the world, and open to other’s experiences.

I’m a  bit jealous of my kids’ bravado – their willingness to really throw themselves into life, each in their own way. I’ve always held one foot on safe ground when I dip my foot into the sea of experience. Maybe it is time to copy my kids for a change, and jump right in.

Don’t do what you want. Do what you don’t want. Do what you’re trained not to want. Do the things that scare you the most.Chuck PalahniukInvisible Monsters, 1999
US writer (1962 – )

Walking in my smurf shoes


It’s raining again in NS – have to admit to a secret liking for it today as the sun makes me feel I MUST be outside and saps my energy – this cool breeze and gentle rain is more to my taste in many ways, at least today.

So I have to take the dog out.  He is in serious need of unbouncing after two hot days of us lolling about sipping cool drinks. I put on his useless raincoat for a trial – it does exactly what I suspected it would – annoys him, lets the rain through, and clashes with my outfit. It’s red, you see, and I am dressed like Smurfette. Blue shirt, blue pants, pink raincoat, and these blue shoes, grabbed for $9 at a local Canadian Tire.

They replace my pink mock Crocs, which had an unfortunate conflict with lots of paint when I wore them to paint my garage in Westport, with the help of my wonderful friend, Bob. Gruesome job.  We ended up completely covered with paint, the lawn was covered, too, and we were exhausted, but the garage looked like it would stand for a bit longer when we were done, held together with latex.

I had pale pink mock Crocs cos I was too thrifty to buy the real kind in a decent colour.  On their little dial, instead of a crocodile, there was some other creature, as yet unidentified. I bought them for gardening and walking the dog in wet grass.

Which is why I bought these – plus the idea of going to the beach in them.

I was in Canuck Pneu looking for other things and idly wandered over to the sandal area. The dog has eaten my sandals, you see. And I needed a pair I could actually walk a ways in, rather than show off my feet in. And I’m tired of my little LL Bean lookalike rubber shoes.  They are hot.  And I need to wear socks with them. And the dog has chewed them, too.

There was one pair of these left – the right size. I heard a voice in my head – my dad’s voice. “Remember, children, your father is cheap.”  He used to say this whenever we’d head, en masse, into a restaurant.  I remember him offering a prize to the kid who cost the least. My sister always won, but then she LIKED the prize, a “song sung especially to her”. Personally I would have rather eaten well. Which explains a lot, actually.

So I avoided the pricier sandals and grabbed these ones. They fit, and  they meet the requirements. Can be worn to the beach, or out to walk the dog in the rain. But they are definitely cringeworthy.

Mind you, I find them a bit endearing, for all that. I think Crocs are ugly, too, just more expensively so.

They even have little sad faces on them!  And worried foreheads. Like they know they could never be Crocs, but heck, they are trying to be acceptable. But, like me, they don’t take themselves seriously. And with every step, I can hear my dad laughing.

 

Watching young love


I had the privilege to be present at the wedding of a lass I’d seen grow up and her sweetie this past weekend. It was different from watching a peer or a daughter get married.  Here, all I felt was tremendous hope for the success of young love, love for all involved, and concern that all would go well.  Weddings are so challenging that way.  There are so many expectations – from the dress to the family behaviour to the food to the service to even the weather.  Since the wedding of Mr. Ex and myself, which was an unmitigated disaster, blessed only by the fact that we did in fact get married and no one *at the wedding* was killed, I’m kind of suspicious of the wedding scene. I spend half the time waiting for something to fall over, the rest of it hoping against hope that it will be the beautiful day the bride and groom hope for.

The wedding I survived myself involved strangers, missing family members (my aunt died just prior to the wedding, my uncle the priest fell and was healing from broken ribs), my dad was taken off to the hospital, it HAILED, oh, it was just awful.  Now I’m like those women who tell you their awful baby birthing stories when they see you are pregnant. “Elope!” I tell people. “Just run away.  It’s be safer for everyone!” And yet, in the photographs, I look like I am happier than I’ve ever been. It looks as if we are all having a good time. As my ex said, when I asked him how he could be brave enough to marry again, “The triumph of hope over experience, I guess!” My mother actually told me we shouldn’t renew our vows, as we didn’t have enough relatives still living to lose any more.

The wedding this weekend was somewhat fraught with the usual minor disasters associated with a wedding – unexpected things going wrong, family stressors, missed appointments and just life. But in the end, the joy of the participants carried through. I knew everybody was going to be all right when the bride and groom joined their friends in the folk choir and burst into spontaneous song – and everyone down below in the church sang along. It reminded me of the Whos down in Whoville, and when they join hands and sing around the space where the Christmas tree used to be, the sun rises among them to the sky.  I could feel that warmth and joy and sunshine rising from the crowd gathered, and I thought what a blessing these young people have, to have such a supportive group around them.

I have to admit to a small frisson of jealousy. My mum managed our wedding, and I really had no idea who half the guests were. We did everything “propah”, from the engraved invitations to the live band (live being a relative term, as anyone who was there would tell you), to the roast breast of capon dinner (What’s with the breast of capon thing? It’s a castrated pigeon.  What’s the subliminal message there, eh?). I felt like a guest. (Part of my otherworldly feeling was no doubt due to the infected wisdom tooth I was sporting). I still regret not moving the whole thing to my dad’s bedroom when it turned out he couldn’t get out of bed – but that wouldn’t have been the right thing to do – so I went along. It’s taken me years to get over doing the “propah” thing just because. Okay, I’m still doing it.  But I’m getting better.

There’s nothing wrong with proper.  It’s just that it isn’t the sort of format that leads to the unmitigated joy and soul sharing as I witnessed on Sunday. It’s good to be able to do things a little different, to take what you want out of the framework and add your own spice.  Or in this case, candy.

I feel so happy for this young couple. Yep, life won’t be all puppy dogs and sunshine, as the song goes, but they have started it with joy, and that’s gotta count for something.

Dear Dad….


I don’t have many photos of my dad. He was always the one behind the camera, capturing out smiles and foolishness and big events and small ones. But I can see him in my mind’s eye, alas, all that I have left, since he’s been gone  25 years now and for some reason it still feels fresh. So, I thought, in honour of Father’s Day, I’d write him a wee note. He only wrote me one letter, but I still have it.  I hope wherever he is, he gets this one.

 

Dear Dad –

Thanks.

Thanks for teaching me that it’s okay to be silly, like all those times you’d hide behind bushes with one finger held out, trying to tempt a bird to alight. Or walk new pants around the store on their hangers to see how they walked. Or drink peppermint schnapps with me to help us get through another party.

Thanks for teaching me that Goethe’s belief that whatever you can dream you should just start isn’t just words. You taught me, us, so much – things you also taught to yourself.  Photography, pottery, canoeing, painting, gardening, drawing, birdwatching, building model boats, creating pendulums (pendulii?), making pyramids, playing the piano and guitar and recorder and clarinet, designing the AWACS systems.  You would think about something, and then make it so. I tried to follow, but your skills outflanked mine so that I’d become discouraged – but the lesson remained.  Now I throw myself into things that I think about and try them, not afraid.  Sometimes they work out better than other times, but at least I don’t hang back. You taught me that, and I love you for it. I’m still recovering from your confident sailing trip, though.  Won’t see me in a sailboat on Lake Washington anytime soon, especially in a gale.

Thanks for teaching me that a sense of humour is a must. From endless punning sessions to jokes around the dinner table or in front of unamused laughing gulls, you made me laugh. I remember short-sheeting your bed as a joke when you and the family came back from camping.  I didn’t know my sister had dropped the camper on your toe and broken it…. After the shouting when you pushed your toe against the folded sheet, you laughed – we laughed together. (I got you a bunch of times. I remember putting the “Sexy Senior Citizen” license plate on the front of the car, replacing the one with crossed Canadian and US flags. You didn’t figure it out til you were bragging about your classy license plate to colleagues and they were singularly unimpressed. )(you got me, too.)

You’d come home with tales of woe, told in sorrowful tones, specifically so we could laugh together. You honed my wit. You made me funny and quick and thoughtful.

Thank you for not dying that first time you almost did. I still need you now, but then, we would all have been shattered even more. You fought, though, taking on doses of chemotherapy that would have “killed a lesser man”.  You were brave beyond imagining. I still will never forgive you for blaming me for driving you and your collapsing spine deliberately over potholes – but I probably deserved it for all the other times I teased you.

Thank you too, for always getting my sister the things I wanted for Christmas. Yes, seems cruel. But by doing that, you taught me to take pleasure in the things that life did give me, to find pleasures and gifts in the everyday, and to be grateful that you knew me well enough to know what I truly needed and wanted. And you made me tough, so that when I didn’t get what I wanted out of life sometimes, I could grin and bear it. And I still get a chuckle at the look on my brother’s face when he realized his present would only work if he gave away something to his younger siblings in trade for something they unwrapped. Ah, Christmas. I’m still in therapy.

I am your daughter, dad. Strangely, though I felt you always liked my siblings best, you became a part of me. Yeah, I’d make myself scarce when you wanted to show me how to fix a toaster – and I still regret that, 14 toasters later! – but I was watching and learning.  As my kids will tell you, some things I learned almost too well. They’re coping.  But we don’t discuss marshmallows much. Don’t ask. I have at least 10 minutes in hell for that one.

Every Father’s Day, I wish I’d had longer with you.  Then I go try something new or paint something or laugh, and I realize you are here always. And that’s the best gift you could give me.  Best thing of all? You gave it to all we kids, each in our own way.  No fighting. Well, not much, anyway.

Love always,

DA

 

 

“She’s her mother, but I birthed her…”


One day, while sitting in a greasy spoon somewhere, I was treated to this shouted explanation of a child’s presence.  The child in question sat between two huge-bosomed women in tight T-shirts.  Their greasy dirty-blonde hair matched their greasy skin.  The child, a smallish, grey-coloured girl, looked unsurprised by this comment. It took me a while to work it out in my  head, and ever since then, when I introduce my children, I have to restrain myself from saying, “well, I birthed ’em”…

There’s more truth in what the women said than it initially appears, for all of we mothers. We give birth to these marvellous creatures and we help them through their first steps and before the blink of an eye, they are out in the wide world, and from then on, we share them with other mothers and fathers.  These friends and stand-in mothers and teachers and bosses and others all take a part in raising these things we’ve birthed, for good or ill.  Luckily, it’s often for good. Mothers like me, who are quickly tired, enjoy sharing their kids with others to help parent. Not that I had much chance to do that, mind you – my kids’ dad was away a lot, and the kids viewed most babysitters as the enemy and a puzzle to be solved – as in “how can we ensure they NEVER want to babysit us again?” I foolishly let them read Calvin and Hobbes, and they used this information to tie up one babysitter because she smoked. SHE didn’t come back. So I didn’t get to share them much.

The influence of others grows as the children grow and as we gently let the tethers out. I used to visualize a virtual umbilical cord between me and my kids – I could sense how they were through vibrations in that virtual cord.  I even had the dog on it. The cord is too stretched now for easy contact – they’ve broken off entirely, and instead I am treated to the occasional invitation into their lives and, rarely, the real treat of them asking my opinion. I like this phase. They are grown up, independent, and I like the relationship we have with each other, for the most part. It only gets irritating when they advise me.  I haven’t quite become senile yet, and think that maybe I can still manage my life. No doubt they think they can manage theirs.  So we’ve made a pact not to tell each other what to do.  Mostly, we abide by it.

They are still a big part of my brain and heart, though. I think of them daily, I send them my love, I hope their new families of friends and advisors are good to them.

Twenty five years ago today, on another Friday the 13th, I started this parental journey with my dear daughter Chris. She’s off tree-planting or something wild today, but she’s also here, in my heart. I’m sending her my love, eternal and unchanging, though she probably won’t accept it. But maybe if I send a happy birthday hum down that so-stretched virtual chord, she’ll know I wish her well. Happy Birthday, dearest daughter. Love you.

Wow. I have GOT to stop eating Marmite before bedtime, or Happy Mother’s Day!


Had one of those wonderful sleeps where I dreamt of being sucked up in a tornado, of having the medical clinic where I worked taken over by a Chinese food company, and last but not least, of a flood where I lost my husband and pulled him bodily out of the water – but I also lost my son, who was bitten by a poisonous snake and, of course, died. I’m exhausted, but primarily because I spent the rest of the night screaming NOOOOOOOOO at the top of my lungs. I do hope it wasn’t out loud, as my neighbors will be wondering. Although my dog did wake me up with those nervous, are you okay, type kisses….

I blame the combo of a sip of Glenmorangie and some toast and Marmite as my nighttime snack, totally undeserved as I had enjoyed a lovely church supper earlier in the evening. Or the darn groaning pigeons flapping about on the balcony overhead.

In any case, it reminded me that this is Mother’s Day, and how I feel for mothers anywhere who have lost their children, how gut wrenching that is. Heck, my daughter is just away, not gone, and I know I grieve that every day. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose a child for real. What I felt in that dream was an animal, deep, unreasoning upwelling of grief. And suddenly I understand the howling mobs of mothers whose children are lost in war, whose daughters vanish and are never found, whose sons are shot in violence they can only begin to understand, machismo gangs or drug confusion or foolishness, whose children die of unexpected illness well before their time.

I was telling my friend yesterday that I felt a certain sympathy for the Virgin Mary – the life she led was a tough one, according to the stories, and I have to admit I wouldn’t enjoy it. I envision her somewhat like my mom, head in hands, moaning, “where did I go wrong?”, as that cheeky Son of hers started telling everyone what He knew, as she awaited the results of His actions.

We mothers love our ratbag children, even though on some level we know they don’t necessarily do much to deserve it, and we recognize that we don’t own them and must give them freedom to be who they are. Even if that means we risk losing them, forever.

It’s not easy, though. In such a visceral way, they are a part of us.  They WERE part of us, for at least a few months. Which accounts for the howling anguish when one is lost.

So today, mothers and children all, take a moment to think of these mothers, who lost their children. Send them a thought, a mental hug of sisterhood, as you delight in your hand-made cards and breakfasts in bed and treats. It is tough to lose a mother – I know. But to lose a child…

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you who mother, whether it be your own child or someone else’s. And thoughts to all of you who have lost, mother or child.

the ins and outs of the post-modern Christmas


Well, I can’t tell you just exactly how much I am looking forward to this next week. Back when I was a kidlet, Christmas was so fun – I knew I’d get more than I received, I could laze about and be provided yummy food, and I was pretty well guaranteed I could curl up with a good book for hours.  Then there was church, which was both banal and beautiful – I love singing the carols, and usually found the sermon tiresomely boring, but sympathized with your average minister who must try and find something clever each year for the same holiday. And everyone wore perfume, which clashed with the incense and was both irritating and entrancing, as the different perfumes passed by.

But that was in the past, along with those Christmases with young kids whose eyes sparkled wide open at their stockings and such stuff and who made the whole day worthwhile. We had real Christmas trees that smelled lovely, as versus my current “tree of broken hopes” as my son calls it – an artificial $15 WalMart special made of asbestos and lead exported from China.

Now it’s just me, and my post-modern holiday, which involves a fairly deadly combo of driving, teenage sons (who I adore but who always have to argue in loud voices over the state of the world), a daughter who is missed but still isn’t speaking to me, and a wonderful family of ex-in-laws who insist that I’m still a member of the family and invite me along to share their gaity and song and dance (and really excellent meals) with them and with my ex and his new wife. Well, not so new, as they’ve been married for some months now. So I guess you could call her a slightly used wife. But probably shouldn’t.

It wouldn’t be so bad save for the fact that I have a true Sagittarian mouth, given to saying things out of turn and that don’t come out quite the way I want them to.  Add to my MS brain (a convenient excuse, I agree) and some wine, and the things that come out of my mouth – egad. Dear Mrs. Ex is quite civilized and all, but we originate on two completely different planets and we don’t speak the same language and when I try to speak to her my voice comes out either very sharp (a.k.a. bitch goddess) or in a tone of salt-dry sarcasm.

I try to be friendly but it doesn’t read true even to me.  I mean, let’s be reasonable.  How friendly am I supposed to be with my replacement? How am I to respond to tales of them reading in bed together and doing cooking classes together and all those things he would never have been seen doing with me?  I’m glad he has improved his relationship skills and all, and I’m so happy for Mrs. E that she got the new, trained up version of my ex, but I can’t help feel a bit miffed as they detail the delights of their lives together – the delights that were not offered to me.

But be that as it may, I’ve gotta buck up and smile girl smile because I want to encourage the kids to be pleasant to their dad’s new sweetie, just as I expect them to be so to mine. Life does move on, and there’s no reason why we should live alone for the rest of our lives. It’s nice to love and be loved in return – in fact, it is really the only thing that matters.

But in the midst of the turkey and the wine and the gravy and the wine and the wine, I may forget my resolution to try and be sweet. I’ve never been good at resolutions. Or in being sweet.  And my kids have never really been that sweet to ME, so I’m not sure how I’d feel if they fell in love with Mrs. Ex and started wanting to spend more time with her than with me.

On the other side, my sweetie has an ex who is probably feeling much the same way as I do.  And, like that old shampoo commercial said, “and so on and so on and so on”. As our marriages break up we recombine in uncomfortable new relationships that have prickles. The poor kids have to tumble along the best they can as new people stumble into their family.  Of course, we have to as well, as the kids meet new loves. But that seems easier, somehow.

So, mum’s the word as I go a holidaying. Perhaps I will develop a convenient laryngitis and just refuse to talk at all. Nah – I’d only end up making hand motions, and those?  Those could be much worse.

Ho ho ho and best wishes to all as we wander through holidays, po-mo style.