It’s Not All Sunshine & Unicorns

Yes, we’ve all told each other we had a great Christmas, whether we did or not. It’s the polite thing to do.

How we normally respond is socially acceptable. I remember the years of hard Christmases, especially the year our Grandpa died on Christmas Eve. The home movies of us opening gifts looked somber and just sad. People who have losses of loved ones aren’t having a great time, either. My dad died December 7, 1988. Christmas was terrible.

It isn’t just the people who experience losses who have a bad/hard Christmas. Dysfunctional families really have an unbelievable Christmas for sure. I experienced some of that this year, but not on Christmas. It was the day after. I shared some of our fabulous beef tenderloin, spinach/sweet potato salad, and 2 desserts with a person I’ve known for a long time. Long story, short story. It did not turn out like I planned. I was happy to deliver some food, a gift of love, but was met with lots of discontent and misunderstanding. Yelling ensued, which I don’t do well with. I don’t yell in response, I am quiet. This time, it ended up differently.

What did I do? What I wish I’d learned years ago. I was horribly uncomfortable. I simply turned around and said, “I have to leave.” First time in my 70 years of life I’ve done that. I avoided a verbal assault, having to defend my intentions, etc., and left the guilt, the feeling bad, the feelings of rejection at the door of the person I tried to do something nice for. I didn’t bring it home with me.

I am grateful I’ve finally learned it’s not my fault. I didn’t cause the problem. It’s them, not me. It’s one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. And the Babe is the person who has told & taught me to be stronger. Don’t let people do that to me. I’m grateful for the Babe; the gift who keeps on giving. And did I tell you, 25 years ago Christmas Eve, he asked me to marry him? Years ago, I told his sweet Mom, “Every day is Christmas with the Babe.” She laughed. Loved that lady.

I want to encourage anyone who needs to hear it; often, it’s not your problem. It’s their problem, you didn’t cause it. 2023 will be the start of helping others in a way I haven’t before. You need to claim what is your fault; what is their fault is what they need to claim.

Life is a two-way street and the yield signs are not all on your side. — Kathy Raabe, 2022

Self-care includes sticking up for yourself. Learn it, practice it, before it’s too late. Be safe out there and see you tomorrow!

What’s the Worst That Can Happen?

Living a life in which you never change. You always eat meatloaf on Tuesday. You work for the same company for more than 30 years and you hate your job, but you’re scared to leave the company. You withdraw from any new person, idea, way of doing things. You criticize anyone who does things differently than you do, even if they achieve the same result. Why is change so crippling to some people?

More of the same produces more of the same. What is keeping us from trying something different, especially if we’re not happy with how things are going in our lives. The more we practice something, the deeper it’s ingrained in us. The deeper the roots, the more difficult change can be. That said, it’s not impossible to change. It takes an awareness at what may be causing a problem. If it’s behavior related, we can investigate which changes we would consider making.

Why do we do the things we do in the way we do them? Are we critical of others? We probably learned that growing up. We can stop that. It takes a different mindset.

Do we have a quick temper at little things? Did we observe this growing up? Holding your temper can take some time, we need to change attitudes toward these minor inconveniences before we can control our temper. Mom used to get very angry at little things. A glass of milk spilled at dinner just sent her into a tailspin. We had a real wood kitchen table which she always covered with a tablecloth. Every night (nearly) one of my little brothers spilled their milk. Mom would go beserk. It’s not like he did it on purpose. Mom lectured while insisting the wet tablecloth be removed immediately. It was stripped off, all the plates, silverware, and other glasses were moved frantically to get the tablecloth removed before the wood was ruined.

Looking back, I seriously doubt the wood table would have been ruined if the milk soaked tablecloth was left while we finished eating. She waxed the heck out of it frequently. Wouldn’t the wax offer some protection? I often wished we had a table made of some other material. Needless to say, mealtime was not happy in our house. Dad didn’t like us talking (arguing, goofing around, etc.) while eating, as he would go to work immediately after dinner. Mealtime conversation has been difficult for me to master, and I’m still working on it. I definitely know it was stressful as kids. Dad didn’t say anything, but often, he would stab at his food, and that meant we needed to immediately zip it, knock it off, cease and desist.

Mealtime wasn’t happy while I was married the first time. Kids don’t eat everything you set before them. Sometimes they do, but mosty not. My kid’s father would eat his food, then start eating the food off the kid’s plates. They were nowhere finished, as kids eat slowly. At times, they would cry and ask Dad to “Stop!” I would get mad. His take was he was right to do what he was doing, since they wouldn’t eat everything and he wanted to eat it while it was still hot. Remember, there were few microwaves before 1982. We did not have one.

Mealtime became peaceful once their dad left. Peace at last. It took guts on my part to end that marriage. I’m so glad I did it, unpopular as my decision was. I never looked back. My kids eventually understood. Best scary thing I ever did. There were plenty more scary decisions, made with much thought and risk. It worked. The change was a great one, I’m happier than I ever could have been. God gave me everything I needed to be strong and learn what I needed to.

What about you? Was there something in your childhood that was a pattern of behavior where you were afraid or upset about? Whatever caused that behavior, make sure it doesn’t happen in your home, under your watch. You can change it. You have the power to do it. I support you and your effort. Take the chance, make your life happier.

Tomorrow starts a busy week. The Honor Guard always has six funerals booked through the VFW. It amazes me how many people are affected by these deaths, and the vast number of Veterans who are buried at the Omaha National Cemetery. The grounds are beautiful and hallowed. I appreciate the Honor Guard and it’s important work. I have some emails that need to go out to my new artist and events to update on the Post website. I’m going to add some pages to my website as well. What good work will you do this week? Thanks for reading and we’ll see you tomorrow!

Put the Fun in Dysfunction!

I hope you’re laughing at this title. That’s the purpose of it. Poking fun at stuff that doesn’t work is a step in overcoming that stuff. After poking fun, I dissect it like the Science Class Frog to see who, what, when, why, and how. For a very long time, I pored over psychology books. I still prefer those some days. By now, I can pick out the crack-pots and can pooh-pooh the quackery. As I learned more about why people behave the way they do, I learned things about our families which amazed me.

Yes, I believe some men weren’t good fathers; when they didn’t have a good example shown them (many men had absent fathers, especially during the Depression), how can they know how to parent a child? Sixty years ago, the man was considered the provider, the breadwinner, the one who paid the bills. Women were the “heart” of the home, took solo care of the children, and had someone to take care of them. Most couples lived like this. Growing up, I only knew two kids whose parents were divorced. How brave they were! My best friend for several years lost her dad to heart disease when she was still in elementary school. I always felt badly for her.

Moms? Where do we start. Our grandmas were polar opposites. Mom’s mom worked outside the home, Dad’s mom took in ironing and worked at Grandpa’s Drugstore. She knew every kid in South Omaha. She was the kindest person. I want to be her! Hope I live 97 years to work on it, as she did. She was 97 when she died; she was 95 when my dad died at 64. I’ll never forget hearing her say, “This is the worst shock of my life!” Feeling helpless was all we could do. Every visit for the next two years, she’d ask, “Do you think my Tommy went to heaven?” Of course he did, Grandma. He’s waiting for you. Can you imagine that reunion?

Dad had a deep respect for women. He was a quintessential gentleman. I saw him flick his lighter and offer a lady a light for her cigarette. As a kid, you’d see that in a movie, and I thought it was pretty cool to see. He’d tip his hat (he wore a fedora, I loved it!), hold doors open, rise from his chair when a woman entered the room. He learned well, as did his two brothers. I miss that sense of genteel-ness in society. Now, genteel as I use it is strictly about good manners. Now it has been defined as something negative; a false sense and show of wealth, upper class living; or as Mom used to say, “Champagne taste on a beer budget.” Grandma Bobell had high hopes of being “high society.” Nope. Blue collar class all the way.

Our dad’s grandmother, Hannah Fitzgibbons Hurley came from Ireland. She was a countess or contessa I believe; a portrait of her showed her wearing a beautiful white (probably linen) dress, and wearing a headpiece with a feather. I believe that indicated her social class. I’ve heard she gave up her status upon marrying the commoner, Mr. Hurley. He, sadly, was an alcoholic (a mean one at that), and died young. Hannah had a houseful of children, and took a job scrubbing the marble floors in the Douglas County Courthouse, where she listened and learned about politics. She and Father Flanagan were friends, and I believe she cared for one wayward boy for him. Isn’t that a great story?

She was very strict, from what Dad said, and told stories of banshees that knocked their socks off. Gosh, I wish I could talk to him about that! She tended Dad and his siblings while Grandma Jewell worked the drugstore. She died in the late 1940s, I believe. None of her grandsons could attend the funeral as they were all away serving their country.

Mom’s side of the family had some interesting men as Great Grandfathers. Both men either left their families or died. I don’t know the real story. Grandma Riss took a job as a seamstress at Clarkson College of Nursing. She sewed nurses uniforms to earn money to feed her five children. She was a quiet little old lady who never said much. At least, that’s how I remember her. Grandma Bobell had only one son, Louis. I see her in our mom now. She lived a long life, but I don’t know that much about her. Grandma and Grandpa Bobell lived in a very small house and had 4 daughters. Grandma was a bookie, and loved to play the ponies. She was also a seamstress and a manipulator. She’d goad Grandpa and arguments would follow. Very dysfunctional.

I learned about Mom’s family and upbringing from my aunts. I’m glad to have this knowledge. It helps explain a lot to me about how they were raised. It helped me find my truth. It helped me identify as the one who is not passing the family traditions down. Other cousins have bravely stepped up, too. I can see it in each family. I’m proud of them for following what was in their hearts, too. I know it’s lonely to be the one who questions the status quo. But it’s ok. Better than following the herd when you’ve been gifted with the special understanding of how wrong it is to continue the madness.

This, my friends, is a Readers Digest version of the story of being uncomfortable with the status quo. It’s brief and is bourne out of love and empathy for the difficult lives those in our families had before us. The times of the Dust Bowl, the Depression, the migrant workers, and families torn apart by poverty and circumstance. People got by however they could. The wealth they had was in the love they gave and received if they could. Unhealthy coping was dominant. It’s hard being in this spot with this story to tell.

My characters are a patchwork of many different people, personalities, and problems. They’re not real people. They’re some of a writer’s imaginary friends. I’m planning their stories as we speak, and will share them with you in “The Saving of Katie Fitzgibbons.” Off to do some more plotting and planning. Have a beautiful day! See you tomorrow!