Happy Birthday, Nicholas!

Today, Monday, November 7, 2022 is my son Nicholas’ 47th birthday. I hope he has the best day ever. Celebrate the gift of you, my son.

(Written Saturday, November 5, for NaNoWriMo). 

I think communication issues are important to deal with, in everyday life, relationships, and business. We all could do a better job of telling others what we need, what we’re afraid of, what we will do to help someone else out once in a while. 

There is only so much we can do communicating with someone who doesn’t want to. It requires a desire to communicate, a willingness to listen, and to understand. If we do our part, and they don’t do theirs, the fault lies with them, not us. As long as we know we’ve done all we can to communicate, we were as clear as possible; we had a concise message, and were reasonable with our delivery, we cannot be responsible the breakdown. It’s always sad when we’re misunderstood with no hope of resolution. 

At that point in a relationship, where communication is nonexistent, something needs to be done. Staying is a decision, and often not the best one. You may think you’re doing it “for the kids,” but the dysfunction in the family dynamics will affect the children and lead to more dysfunctionality in future generations, if there is one. Many children decide they don’t want families, not realizing the breaking the chains is possible. I know because I’ve done it.

I do not mean this to bash my parents. They provided very well for all of us and did the best they could. People during that era not only worked where their fathers did, but lived their lives as their parents did I’m living proof that doesn’t have to be. 

I’m also living proof that making a break and questioning how it’s always been can be very lonely. When you do things differently, it causes unrest in the status quo. People may ask you why you won’t do things their way. The best answer is, you choose to do things differently. Dysfunctional people will often criticize your choice to not do what worked for them. They may gaslight you. 

A common response is another angry rant. “You think you’re so smart, you think you’re so much better than I am . . .” And so it goes. They don’t realize their absolute control is an illusion. They are used to steering outcomes to where they think there are fewer disturbances made. And here you go, making waves. How dare you?

In my experience, life is quiet. And quiet can be good if you’re used to being told what to do, how to feel, a steady litany of what you do wrong, and that you’ll never amount to anything. Slowly, you can invite people into your inner circle who will communicate with you, who will value you, who will encourage you to be your best, who you are to be. Stop hiding your light under a bushel basket. Share it with those who will appreciate it. Your chosen family can differ from your family of origin. It’s more common than you think. Just remember, you are not alone.

Have a great rest of the day, and I look forward to seeing 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!

Saturday Morning Thoughts

VFW Post 2503, where the Babe is Quartermaster, did something they’ve never done before last night. They held their first ever Friday Fish Fry! It was a huge success, given that many Churches in the Omaha cancelled their Fish Fry’s because of COVID. We took the plunge and had a great turnout. It was so nice to see a crowd, complying with mask-wearing mandate, coming together for a meal.

As I watched the people, it occurred to me all this virus has stolen from us. I saw families with teenagers, families with young children, and older couples. The Babe worked in the kitchen, and I didn’t see much of him all evening. I saw people who were guests of the Post, members of the Post and Auxiliary, and prospective new members. It was great.

The good thing is this 89 year old VFW Post is trying new ways to expand it’s membership. We are trying new events. We are remodeling the building, and it’s coming along nicely. The North Room, the larger of two event venues, has new flooring where the old tile was. The carpeting is too expensive to replace, so a super-thorough cleaning will be the finishing touch after painting is complete. We’ve ordered new wall sconce fixtures and installed them. We have ordered matching sconces for the South Room, also. Those will be installed during the last phase. Below are photos of the Fish Fry and some of the remodeling.

The Bar will be repainted and the ceiling tiles will be replaced as well. Carpet cleaning is in order for there, too. We’re going to lighter, neutral colors. Grey is the new beige, right? Sprucing the place up for our 90th birthday celebration next April will give the aging members a chance to see their traditions are being carried on for the next generations of Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Sometimes, an elderly lady recounts her experiences with the Post and Auxiliary. The place was packed every Friday night long ago. They sponsored a lot of dances, charitable events, fundraisers, Poker Runs, Raffles, and even purchased flagpoles in honor of a member who passed away. If you are near the flagpoles, there is a plaque in honor of Don Steiner, purchased by his wife, Sherri. It’s a place to go and remember. Sherri donated money for all the flagpoles.

There is also an area with Memorial Bricks, each purchased by members and friends. I purchased a group of them, honoring my Grandfather, Father, and two uncles, who were in WWI, WWII, and Korea. They are placed together and I am proud to see them. Two others I purchased for an Uncle (a Veteran and Omaha Police Officer), and one for the Babe, who served in Vietnam. All the bricks have memories attached to them, unseen to the naked eye. But the people they represent live on in our hearts.

Through the years we have met children of folks our ages. The now grown “kids” talk about the fun they had playing shuffleboard, bowling machine games, and cards. It would be nice for the Post to be a place like that again. The more good memories kids have, the better off they are. So are we. Make some good memories today. Do it every day, and it becomes a habit. Before you know it, your life is filled with joy.

Thank you for reading, I appreciate it so much. More tax work today – a nap won out yesterday! I look forward to our next visit tomorrow. Have a beautiful day. Be Safe out there!