Tag Archives: girlhood

So mothers be good to your daughters too

D0CB0C7D-372C-4FFF-A072-2C34D5F64266-1258-0000011A65462537When I was a child I often heard about my Oma with whom my mother had a strained relationship. The complaint my mother frequently made was that Oma treated her sons and daughters very differently. Sons were useful and contributed to the family’s existence and thus were to be indulged, while daughters were primarily useful only for assistance in taking care of the boys. Even though this was one of my mother’s greatest criticisms of her own childhood, you’re probably not surprised to hear that she herself was guilty of repeating the same behavior. Habits are hard to break.

I met some family members on my trip with whom I had never before crossed paths. It’s an odd thing meeting someone you’re related to after living five decades on this planet without ever encountering them. What’s even odder is when you realize how many remarkably similar experiences you share despite not having ever known each other.

Did you know that the word “cousin” is the same in both English and German? That fact makes me smile.

My cousin and I sat across the table from one another and told the stories of our lives, our relationships, our health and our mothers. At times the thread of our conversation was so personal and intimate that it was impossible to believe we hadn’t before met. There’s never been a time when I felt so firmly that someone understood exactly what I was talking about when I shared some moments from my own mother-daughter highlight reel. Why? Because she had experienced the same sort of unhealthy situations.

Our mothers, sisters that they are, had not really grown up together since my mother is more than a decade older and had left home when she was in her early teens. Despite the lack of time the two of them shared, what they did share was their own mother and that left a mark on each of them which they in turn, left upon their own daughters.

Neither my cousin nor I ever knew our fathers. When we were sick or injured as children, often we had to seek care on our own because our mothers were unavailable to us. We each have witnessed the astonishing deception of our parent in the way they conduct themselves with other adults and children while neglecting the very children they delivered. It is uncanny.

My cousin and I responded to our mothers’ disregard for us by growing into strong and capable women. We became educated and learned to understand that our mothers are frustrated, narcissists who will never perceive our own success as anything but an affront to their own unsatisfying lives. We severed our ties to these women not to hurt them, but to protect ourselves, and we’ve struggled with allowing others into our hearts and souls after suffering the disappointment and pain of what should have been a primary relationship in our lives.

I learned that my cousin has a physical condition very much like my own – we both have extremely low heart rates and a genuine need for vigorous exercise. She runs, too. Maybe that’s how we have learned to keep our blood flowing and our hearts alive. I don’t know for sure, but I do know that meeting her has changed me. Something good has come from something less than positive. I think my ability to recognize that is what makes me fundamentally different from my mother – and like my cousin.

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Filed under Europe, family, Germany, girlhood, moms, musings, relationships, secrets, Uncategorized

49 and hotter than ever!

If by “hot” you mean experiencing hot flashes, that is. Holy perimenopause!

Male readers, be warned. This may not be the blog post for you. Unless, of course, you’re trying to develop your understanding and empathy for the universe’s women. In which case, read on.

The move to what I’m considering my third stage of life, is starting to amp up a bit. The night sweats are more frequent and now even appear during waking hours. The lines on my face are a bit more assertive and the flesh under my biceps seems a bit softer. My cycle is no longer a cycle as much as it is a random moment in time. Things are changing and I’m trying to pay attention without obsessing. Wish me luck with that, ok?

When I attempt to look back on when I transitioned from biological girl to woman, very few memories remain. I remember becoming aware of my need for deodorant and being relieved to find Tickle roll on atop my dresser. I was kind of oblivious about other changes in my physical appearance, you know, the new hair and curves appearing, but I felt males looking at me with different eyes than to which I was accustomed.

I recall receiving a box of maxi pads and a pamphlet from my mother, but it came without discussion. My period started and I used the feminine products without telling my mother. When the box was empty, I requested tampons and that was the extent of our conversation about menstruation and puberty. I wonder how it might have been different if I had a daughter of my own.

Soon, my reproductive system will cease to function as it has for more than 35 years. As my inner feminine systems go out in a blaze of heat and sweat, I appreciate how well I’ve been served by this womanly body of mine. Three healthy children have been conceived and grown within its confines, a miracle by any measure.  I’ve enjoyed an easy monthly cycle, never experiencing the discomfort from cramps and extreme mood swings that many women experience, but, I’m ready to close the door on fertility.  I’m seriously hoping that this internal furnace of mine directs its attention to something external that is productive –  and I’m not just talking about intense perspiration either.

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Filed under aging, girlhood, moms, musings, Observations, Uncategorized

I didn’t know

IMG_4854 The first time I remember wanting to be a runner I was about 12 or 13. It seemed like such a cool thing to do – put your sneakers on and a pair of nylon, fluorescent colored shorts (it was the 80s) and just GO. I was infatuated with the idea, but, as I’ve come to learn about romantic infatuations, the reality didn’t measure up to the fantasy.

It was early fall and dark in the morning when I left my house to run down the dirt road we lived on. The air was fresh, but my gasping made my lungs feel tight not wonderfully expanded as I had imagined. The distance I attempted, perhaps a third of a mile, felt endless and I found myself walking, not running. I gave up. Obviously, running was not going to be my sport.

35 years later, I’m registered to run a trail half marathon this weekend. How did that happen?

  • I learned that sometimes small steps, be it at a walking stride or a running pace, are the way to make progress.
  • I realized that running is a challenge that I find satisfying. It feels good to push myself.
  • I’ve accepted that there are some runs that turn into walks and that that’s ok. Life isn’t a race and I am committed to enjoying the journey.
  • I have a posse of running friends who inspire and encourage me.
  • I now know that for every step which feels difficult, there are 10 steps that feel amazing. I’m no mathematical genius, but that adds up for me in a positive way.
  • Most importantly, while I didn’t initially know how hard running was going to be, I also had no idea how incredibly happy a good run would make me feel.
  • I know now. I’m a runner.

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Filed under aging, beauty, Exercise, friends, girlhood, musings, Observations, road trips, running, Uncategorized, upstate New York

The beautiful awkwardness of middle school

image: notalonemom.files.wordpress.com

One of my responsibilities at school is morning hall duty. I generally bring a book to my post at the end of corridor, but often I don’t read more than a sentence or two because I am so captivated by the students making their way to their home rooms. They are so incredibly compelling in their not-still-children, not-quite-teenagers way that I find myself content to merely witness their passage – through both the hallway and through the critical years of their middle school experience.

Do you remember your own middle school years? If so, is it with fondness or discomfort? In my hometown, Greenwood Lake, N.Y., the configuration of the middle school was kind of unique – grades 4th-8th attended a single building with a two-storied wing for academics and a wing shared by the grades for specials and the cafeteria. I loved that school and my class of 60 students or so. It felt like a safe, comfortable space and I thrived in that environment.

Despite the level of familiar comfort I felt among my friends and with my teachers, I can still recall the sometimes painful moments of being a pre-teen. Am I the only person in the world who was too embarrassed to blow my nose in class? Or who had some unfortunate results while experimenting with hairstyles or trying on different personas?

When I see the parade of kids heading towards me in the hallway, I am utterly charmed by the wide range of physical variations – there are boys and girls far smaller than my 10 year-old as well as students who I have to crane my neck upwards in order to make eye contact. The array of fashions, from sweatpants and leggings (always black) to skinny jeans to pants of a length that my middle school peers would have dubbed “flood waters,” never fails to make me smile.

The fresh-faced girls with a tasteful dab of lip gloss and the lightest coating of mascara are perfectly matched by the boys who have discovered hair gel and their father’s cologne. These kids usually travel the halls in a pack, which maximizes their impact on the less sophisticated students who sport t-shirts featuring non-ironic cartoon characters and hair ribbons and bows. I am equally in awe of those who attempt to appear older and the ones who are adorably oblivious to the accouterments of adulthood.  They’re all beautiful.

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Filed under aging, girlhood, Schools, Uncategorized

A tale of two abortions

imageMany, many years ago an older friend shared with me the story of her illegal abortion. It involved a large amount of money, cash only, of course, a bus ride out of the city and into the “everything looks the same” suburbs, and an extracted promise to never tell anyone where she had been (as if she could remember) and what she had done (as if she could forget).

I remember being riveted by her story, trying to imagine the emotions my friend must have experienced on that scary afternoon. How nervous she must have been that something, anything, could go wrong – what if she missed her connection at the bus station or if the “abortionist” was really a scam artist intent upon robbing her? Would there be post-procedure complications? Might her decision to terminate her pregnancy in an unregulated “clinic” threaten her future fertility? What choice(s) did she truly have?

When I became pregnant as a teenager the only question I had to ask myself was this: Am I prepared to be responsible for another’s life? Recognizing that my present situation was but one indication of my own lack of personal responsibility,* I knew I needed to terminate my pregnancy. I called Planned Parenthood.

When I arrived for my appointment, jar of first morning’s urine in my school bag, I was treated like a human being. My options, choices, were explained and I was offered an array of services, including abortion. My questions were answered and I was provided with a referral to the facility where I would ultimately end my pregnancy and begin my new life as a much more responsible, sexually active, young woman.

I had no concerns about the legitimacy of the medical care I received or the competence of the practitioner. I understood the potential for complications or long term problems resulting from my abortion and accepted the small risk, knowing that actually having a child would be far more perilous.

In the years since my abortion, I’ve often wondered who that child, my child, would have grown to be. I’ve thought about how old (s)he would be and tried to imagine the life I would have known if I had become a teenaged mom. Ultimately, I can only conclude that the three children I do have most certainly benefitted from the services made available to me at Planned Parenthood and I have no regrets for the choice I made. I stand with Planned Parenthood.

*I’m NOT suggesting that all unintended pregnancies are the result of a lack of personal responsibility. This was MY situation.

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Filed under girlhood, medical, News, Observations, politics, Uncategorized

Comfortable in my own skin

imageI wish I knew when my body began to be more enemy than friend. I have distinct memories of admiring the strength of my body while still a girl in elementary school. My legs! I could push things with them! I could walk and run and play for hours without an iota of complaint from them.  God, it was so simple.

imageThe change in how I felt about my physical self probably came when I experienced “the change” from girlhood to womanhood. As my body shifted into a woman’s shape, the power of my body also shifted. Power came now not from physical strength, but from a nubile sexuality. Strong for sure, but definitely not the same as the internal force previously known which had not been reliant upon the response of another.

imageFor 30 years I struggled to recover a fundamental sense of respect for my physical self. There have been moments of tremendous gain – birthing a baby, beating back a cancer, running or riding in a race, but there have also been setbacks. Those pesky pounds that refuse to leave my abdomen, my post-breastfeeding boobs that seem deflated after nearly 4 combined years of producing milk, my flat butt…there was never a shortage of parts to criticize.

imageBut I did something this weekend which left me with feeling a peaceful comfort with my body. I spent a few hours Labor Day weekend solo at a friend’s pool wearing nothing but my skin, soaking in the sun, diving into the water, au naturale.  The sensation of the most basic elements; “fire,” water and air, somehow mentally transported me to a simple state of being.  Naked. Bare. Completely comfortable in my own skin.

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Filed under beauty, musings, Summer

Glory Days – Greenwood Lake Middle School’s Class of 1980

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It probably wasn’t coincidence that I heard that Springsteen song not once, but twice, on my way to the 35th reunion of my 8th grade class, right? There probably isn’t a song more appropriate for getting together with classmates and reminiscing about shared childhoods than that nugget that made its debut the same year I graduated from high school.

I’ve been to school reunions before,  4 of them actually. But this, the first middle school reunion planned and executed, was different. After a couple of days reflecting about it, I finally recognized what made this reunion so very novel. From the first M-W reunion in 1984, which I attended in a white crepe number I referred to as my Ginger Grant dress, I went with the intention of showing people who I had become, how I had grown and changed. Going to a reunion of my 8th grade classmates couldn’t have been more dissimilar.

Attending a reunion, in my actual hometown, with other members of the Class of 1980 wasn’t an exercise in validating who I am now. Instead it was a warm embrace from the friends who have always known exactly who I am. From the former teacher who remembered me as being “so smart” to the women who made a point of telling me that I had given them something intangible  that they had never forgotten, those that were present on Saturday night demonstrated that the value I held for them was completely unrelated to anything I may have achieved in my life.  It was simply because of who I am, and who I’ve always been,  in an absolutely organic way.

Getting together with those who shared critical, right of passage events – field trips to NYC, hitchhiking adventures, explorations with gateway substances, first kisses, was positively fantastic.  The hard work of classmates to make this event happen was greatly appreciated by all who attended and I truly believe every one there had a special and memorable night. For those who weren’t there, by choice or circumstance, you were missed.  Pencil this event in for 2020.  It’ll be epic.

 

 

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Filed under aging, Education, Events, favorites, friends, girlhood, Schools, Summer, Uncategorized, upstate New York