When a frenemy is disguised as a friend

I’ve written quite a bit about my husband, mom and my sister being my best friends. And it’s true. I’ve never really had a “lifelong bestie” that so many people talk about. I was in my twenties when I thought I had finally found my BFF. Boy, was I wrong about that. But, in order to tell you that painful betrayal, I need to explain why making and keeping friends wasn’t easy for me as a kid. Buckle up, this is a long one. It will probably be a 3 or 4 parter.

Growing up the child of a career Marine meant moving. A lot. And moving meant new friends. I never had any problems making friends. I was excessively chatty as a kid, so I’d just barge right in full steam ahead. I know now that my talkativeness was really just anxiety. I had to fill in the silence. I couldn’t just be. So, my problem wasn’t making friends, it was keeping them. Moving away from childhood friends nowadays doesn’t mean that you can’t stay in touch. Thanks to the email, cell phones and social media, you can keep up with every person you’ve ever met and their friends too. But, it wasn’t that easy in the olden days. Well, I’m not THAT old. Just a little middle aged.

Anyway, the point is, I was not good at staying in touch. I’d have a best friend, or a group of best friends and we would swear that we would call and write each other. Then, I’d get to the new school, make new friends, have new activities and before I knew it, it’d been a month since I had talked to my old best friends. Remember, long distant phone calls used to cost money and as much as I love to write, my good intentions of writing letters just never actually happened. So I went through childhood making, and then saying goodbye, to my best friends. I’m not complaining. I loved being a military brat. My parents made sure that we got to see and do things that the majority of kids never did. But, I’ll admit to a twinge of jealousy when my husband talks about friends that he’s had since preschool. That’s such a foreign idea to me.

We moved to Texas in 1981 when my dad retired. It was a whole different world. We moved to a tiny rural town, where, to steal a line from a Nora Roberts book, the people knew each other from birth to earth. Seriously. New students were a novelty. It was 100 percent different from going to school on base. It was hard. I was going into 10th grade. My sister was a senior….imagine that! I made some friends, but not really “lifelong” friends. I never felt like I fit in. I did meet my first husband in that high school though. We got married at 17. No, I wasn’t pregnant. I was in a hurry to grow up, move away and become an adult. Part of me wishes I could slap that young Susie. But, I actually wouldn’t change a thing. Because if I didn’t travel the exact road that I did, I wouldn’t have my kids, grands or my husband now.

Anyway, back to friendship. I made quite a few “couple friends” when I was married to Ronnie. Most, or really all, were other young parents. We got married in August of 83. I had Johnnie in February of 85. Jennie came along in December of 87. We were a cozy little family of 4. Susie and Ronnie and Jennie and Johnnie. Our friends were parents of our kids’ friends. Really, everyone we hung out with was involved in a peewee football association. Remember, I live in Texas where football is treated like a religion, even for 1st graders! Ronnie coached, Johnnie played, Jennie was a cheerleader and I was on the board of directors. Our weeknights revolved around practices, quick dinners and homework. Our weekends were all about games, working concessions or gates and the Saturday night parties. Those parties involved the kids playing outside and the parents relaxing and rehashing the games. There was also a LOT of alcohol consumed.

Remember that Ronnie and I got married at 17? We grew up together. And we didn’t really like each other all that much. We divorced in 1998. And, anytime a couple divorces, custody of certain friendships inevitably goes to one spouse or the other. Very seldom both.

To be continued…….

Father Time, you’re a bitch

My mom came over yesterday. We had planned to go shopping and get our hair cut. But you know what they say about best laid plans…. I woke up with a hitch in my lower back Tuesday. It just got worse as the day progressed. Today it really hurts. Also, our air conditioning bit the big one a little before midnight. I’m trying to be grateful that it only got to 90 degrees today. I’m not doing a very good job being grateful.

So, I canceled our shopping day and rescheduled my hair appointment. Mom stopped by before her appointment to drop some things off. Only, she got the appointment time wrong, so she missed it altogether. I could tell that she was frustrated with herself. I seem to forget everything nowadays, so I know how she feels. It got me thinking about time.

Sometimes I play this game in my head about the past. I’ll think of a memory and try to remember when it happened. I usually fail at that, unless one of the kids or grands is in the memory. Then I can usually put a year to the memory. It’s so infuriating. I used to remember EVERYTHING. Age, anxiety, pain, medication…. I guess that’s the perfect cocktail to erase a large portion of both minor and major details.

Today, after my mom left, I thought of all the times that she showed up just when I needed her. I know that I talk about my fear of driving. I very seldom do it anymore. But, my mom is absolutely fearless when it comes to being behind the wheel. She always has been. She has no qualms about going on a solo road trip. I think it comes from being a Marine’s wife. She doesn’t get upset if she gets lost in an area completely foreign to her. She just drives until she’s back in familiar territory. I do believe that she’s probably driven on just about every highway in the continental U.S.

I thought of the times she would come to me and the kids when things got bad with my first husband. There were no cell phones then, yet I always remember how I could call on her landline and she always came. Or, how she would pick me up and take me shopping for groceries. We’ve walked down grocery store aisles way too many times to count. Remember her coming to the kids’ games. She would sit in the bleachers just watching, or she’d work the concessions, entry gate, just wherever she was needed at the time.

Hospital visits after surgery? She was usually there when I woke up. If she wasn’t, she’d be there soon after. Recovery time at home after surgeries? She (and often Daddy too) would come over with fountain drinks, sweets, adult coloring books, magazines, whatever. The point is, she’d be there.

All of this rambling is to say that seeing her upset about forgetting her appointment time was jarring. I see my kids getting older. I realize how old I am when I see my oldest GRANDDAUGHTER driving😱. But, I never think that my mom is getting older. I guess I just tend to think that she’s always going to be there. But, she’s going to be 76 this year. She’s the youngest 75 year old person that I’ve ever known. Yet the reality is she’s not immortal. She is getting older. I don’t like that thought. I want to stomp my feet, shake my fists in the air and rail at the heavens. I want to insist that she stay young and healthy forever. But, I know that’s impossible.

I don’t like these thoughts. Not one bit. I don’t ever want to imagine a life without her. I’m pouting. Maybe it’s because I’m really hot and I really hurt. But, honestly? I think it’s because my heart doesn’t want to think of a world with no Pat/Mom/Mimi in it.

Words are my comfort food

My husband calls me a word hog. He says it’s because when I start a new book, he can plan on cooking his own dinner or watching tv by himself. I don’t read in little time blocks. I devour books whole until they are finished.

Sometimes I wish that I read in a different way. Especially if a book is really, really good. I’ll wish that I could have “rationed it out”. I’ll even get jealous when anyone tells me that they’re reading a book that I loved. Oh, to feel that “pull” again!

I’ve always been “that” person. You know, the one who says she’d prefer books to shows. I hear people talking about how good this show or that is. How they’ve binge watched the whole season. I never understood what they meant. Until now.

I need to first tell you that we live in the woods. We are not in city limits. We can’t get trash pick up. Or cable. Or internet. We’ve tried broadband internet. It didn’t work worth a crap. We’ve tried the wireless hub from ATT. It worked a little better, but wasn’t consistent. So, we’ve just always used our cellular service to get on the web. It works fine for YouTube, WordPress, Facebook, etc.

I’ve definitely heard people talking about streaming services. I just never tried it. Then, one day, I did. Oh. My. God. I get it now! We were fans of the History Channel’s show “Vikings”. My husband found the Netflix show “The Last Kingdom. He watched a couple of episodes on his iPad. He was hooked and swore that I would love it too. I was skeptical, but we had nothing but time on our hands due to the CV. I didn’t want to watch a show on an iPad. So, I found the first 3 seasons on DVD from Amazon. I ordered them and they arrived the next week. We sat down after dinner one night. I had a book at the ready, because I was sure that I’d end up in the book and not in the show.

I was wrong. I can honestly say that this is the very first show that I watched empty handed. Meaning, I didn’t have a book to hold. I didn’t want a book to hold. I fell into this show like I normally only fell into books. I was mesmerized. We watched all 3 seasons in a week or so. During that week, Netflix released season 4. But…. but, we don’t have WiFi. And the dvd is not out yet.

I was frantic. I wanted, no, I craved, this show. I started googling how I could watch it. Guess what? I discovered that with a HDMI cord and splitter, I could use my iPad with the TV. Mind Blown. Adrian stopped at Walmart on his way home the next day. He was so excited to find it that he texted me a picture! Yes, we’re easy to please. He bought it and we both decided to wait until after dinner to try it. We were like 2 five year olds on Christmas Eve.

So… as soon as we cleaned up after dinner, we tried hooking it up. And….. it worked! We could watch Netflix on our TV. It didn’t look great, but it sufficed. We watched the entire 4th season in two days. I am officially a binge watcher. I now understand the phrase, “Netflix and chill”. When we had watched every episode of this show, I felt just like I did after a great book. Kind of lost and missing the story. Like a good friend had been visiting and had gone back home.

I picked my Kindle back up. Started looking for a new story to fall into. I’m still a word hog. But now, I realize that I can get my fill with either books or shows. I get it. I’ve always been slow to follow the trends. But, I get there eventually.

The icing on the cake? The Last Kingdom is based on a series of 12 books by Bernard Cornwall. TWELVE books!! So, excuse me while I bury myself in a story. Dinner tonight?? How about a bowl of Lucky Charms?!

Seeing the forest through the trees. Finally

I’ve spent the last 12 months or so looking very hard and deep at, well, me. And I really didn’t like some of what I had seen. I’m not talking about my physical self. I’m talking about my behavior. My mind. My heart. Chronic pain and anxiety almost stole my joy. They tried to make me bitter. Damn near succeeded too.

I used to live my life like the world revolved around me. Not so much narcissistic as solipsistic. I only really paid attention to something when it was about me or someone I loved. I just kind of skimmed over everything else. Then, once the pain got worse, everything became about my pain. I let that chronic physical pain grow to the point that it overtook EVERYTHING. The physical pain turned into mental pain. My anxiety became so magnified that it threatened to swallow me whole. After my emergency spine surgery in December of 2017, I had had enough. I was done being an empty, useless mess. That surgery saved me in more ways than one.

I was able to walk upright again after surgery. I still dealt with the physical pain, but, I realized that life hurts. Getting older is not for sissies. I figured that I would hurt no matter what, so I might as well try to actually LIVE as opposed to simply existing. It’s been one of the very hardest, yet most rewarding, things that I’ve ever done. Sometimes I feel as if I’m really moving forward at a great speed only to promptly fall on my ass. The difference of the current me and the me of the last 10 years? I get back up. I might be slower than most, but, by God, I do it.

I still have my pity parties. But nowadays they’re shorter than before. More of a dinner party length and less of a rave. My sister, DeeDee, said it best. “I’ll hold your big girl panties for awhile, but then you have to take them back”. She, my mom, Adrian and my kids will all hold them for me, but expect me to take them back. And I do! I’m celebrating that fact. I’ve earned it!!

I’m still a work in progress. I still have days where I hurt so much that I’m in tears. But, I deal with it. It no longer controls me. The hardest part hasn’t been the physical pain. It’s been finding my joy again. Learning to embrace people. The one gift I’ve received from all of this? Freedom. The freedom to be me without worrying about how I look or being seen as weird or different. I am different! I’m me and I’m happy about that. I’m thankful for that.

I feel much more in tune with the world. Sound cheesy? Maybe so, but it’s the truth. I feel my bitterness peeling away like onion layers. I feel like I’ve had cataracts removed and I can see clearly again. This dark journey started in late 2010. It slowly but surely chipped away at my body and mind until Dec 26, 2017. I’m starting the first year of this decade by walking in baby steps. Not crawling, but WALKING. And, although they’re baby steps, they’re forward moving baby steps. So, go me! And, if you’re walking in baby steps too, go you!!

The Human Team

I’ve had to put myself on a strict diet. For my physical and mental health. No, I’m not talking about food. I’m talking about NEWS. I was like a starving person and information about Covid19 was my craving. So, I’d go straight to my local newspaper site first thing every morning. Then I’d hit both main papers in the D/FW area. I should have been full by then, right? Nope, I’d continue to stuff myself with Yahoo news, The Skimm, articles in my email feed and any random tidbit that showed up on my Google page. I’d also read the comments on each article. After about an hour and a half of binging on everything that I could find, I’d be sick. Sick with fear. Sick with anxiety. Sick with shame over the behavior of both strangers and friends. Sick with shame over my own indignation.

It’s hard enough to deal with a virus that’s not only killing people, making whole communities sick, isolating us from our loved ones and causing a huge, “never before seen in our time”, economic blow, but it’s absolutely gut wrenching what it’s done to our humanity. Instead of uniting and fighting this virus as one, we’ve taken to fighting EACH OTHER. Social media and news reports are full of stories of fighting, name calling, bullying and just plain ugliness. Why? When did an illness become political? When did we decide that a differing opinion gives us the right to forgo basic courtesy? What happened to kindness? To the golden rule that we learned before we ever started school?

I may not agree with everything that you believe. You may not agree with all that I believe. Does that mean that we have to spew horrible things at each other? We’re all dealing with something. It’s not a contest over who has it worse. It’s not a reason to discard decency and shame a person just because their thoughts don’t align with yours. I’m not looking through rose colored glasses. I’m not trying to be a pollyanna. I’m just afraid that if we don’t stop, check our entitlement and our anger, getting through this pandemic may be the least of our worries.

This week, and maybe next, you can find me feeding my soul a little positivity. And, in order to accomplish that, I’ll continue with my “diet” for awhile longer. Stay safe and remember that no matter your beliefs, we really are all on the same team. The HUMAN team.

Itchy Palms and Sticky Fingers

Something pops in my brain the second I’m told not to do something. Say a server brings me a plate in a restaurant and tells me to be careful because the plate is hot. I promptly touch the plate, burn my finger and scream. Everyone proceeds to look at me like I’m an idiot. Well…..that could be a valid argument.

I’ve had way too many medical tests, procedures and surgeries in the past 8 years. Most of them require that I didn’t eat or drink after midnight the night before. I swear, within 10 minutes of midnight, I’m choking, feeling like mouth is stuffed with cotton and just generally being incredibly dramatic. If I was allowed to have water, I guarantee that I wouldn’t have been thirsty at all. Is it the rebel in me? 🤷🏼‍♀️

The past couple of weeks have been hell. Not because I’ve been sick. It’s not due to lack of groceries or toilet paper. Believe me, I’ve been shoveling the food in just fine. And, I’m able to go to the bathroom just fine too, thank you. But, I cannot keep my hands off of my damn face! I never realized just how much I like my face. As soon as I enter a grocery store or anywhere, I feel like I HAVE to touch my face. I know I can’t. I shouldn’t. I won’t. Two minutes later as I’m putting Lucky Charms in my basket, I realize that I am scratching my chin. In the next aisle, as I’m looking at Nutty Buddy bars and thinking that 6 in the box should last a week (ha!) I realize that I’m rubbing my temple. By the time my basket is full of the necessities (including 3 boxes of Blue Bell Fudge bars), I’ve come to the conclusion that I am, indeed, an idiot. I’m an idiot that not only has put 2,375,983 calories in my cart, but I’ve also tugged my earlobe, scratched my eyebrow, tapped my forehead, twisted my hair, picked my nose and chewed my fingernail. I realize that a stocker is looking at me like I’m an idiot. At least I have hand sanitizer in my car. That’s a positive, right?

We leave the grocery store and head by the hospital because I need to have my blood drawn. They take my name and hand me a mask when I walk in. There’s a wait, so I play with my phone while thinking that I need to sanitize said phone. They call my name and wave me over to registration. I give them all information and grab a pen to sign my life away. She hands me 10 or so pages and tells me to sign or initial. I take the packet, sign the first page and……… I MOVE THE MASK TO THE SIDE AND PROCEED TO LICK MY FINGER SO I CAN TURN THE PAGE. What. The. Hell. I am not stupid. I KNOW I don’t want to catch this ‘Rona bitch. Why do my hands work before my brain catches up? I look up and the clerk is looking at me like I’m an idiot.

Now do you see why I hate to leave my house. My mind automatically does this horrible anxiety dance and my hands just do whatever the hell they want. I’m going home where my dogs know that I may be an idiot, but they love me and my spastic hands anyway.

Just Toddling Along

I’ve mentioned before that I live with anxiety. I think I might also suffer from depression, but I’ve only been diagnosed with “an anxiety state”. I blamed this anxiety on my chronic pain. But, if I’m honest with myself (I’m trying hard to be so), I think I’ve probably always dealt with anxiety. I used to be so fearful of getting sick. Yep, I’ve always had a touch of hypochondria. I have made myself physically ill before by worrying that something was going to happen to someone I love. Back in high school, I worried about forgetting what I studied. More often than not, I dealt with my anxiety by simply staying in bed. I just shut down. It didn’t matter if it was school or a job. I had a horrible attendance record in both my past education and employment history. I’m trying to not only be truthful to myself, but to also face my faults.

I believe that a person can only truly change if he/she accepts his or her own flaws. You can’t grow in a different direction if you don’t face your faults head on. I want to face them, dissect them and move on. I look back at all of the things that made me anxious. Some as silly as this; I love magazines, but, I HAD to every article on every page. Seriously, if I skipped an article because it didn’t interest me, I couldn’t focus at all. So, I’d go back an read the skipped page or pages. That’s not a huge thing, but it bothered me enough that I read every magazine cover to cover. Sometimes it was something big that caused my anxiety to spike so much that I literally couldn’t get out of bed. Like driving. I’ve always had crazy nerves when I knew I was going to be behind the wheel. I’d go over my intended route hundreds of times in my head. I wouldn’t venture out of the right hand lane unless it was absolutely critical. And making any kind of unprotected left hand turn? Oh, hell no. I’ve gotten past the magazine thing. Now I only read what truly interests me. But, I still have to finish any book that I start, even if I don’t like it. Baby steps, people.

As for the driving? Nope. It’s actually gotten worse. Because of chronic pain, nerve damage and lots of surgeries on my back, it’s incredibly uncomfortable to drive. So I don’t. But, the longer I go without driving, the harder it is for me to even THINK about getting back behind the wheel. My goal is to drive once a week. I usually find that it’s never actually as bad as my mind thought it would be.

I’ll be writing more about my anxieties, my goals and facing my faults. I think it’s best done in little nibbles rather than huge bites. That way I don’t choke on them.

Susie’s Mom Has Got It Going On

My mom just had her knee replaced. She walked 2 miles yesterday. I’m constantly amazed by the things she does. She’s never met a stranger, will give you her last dollar and got a tattoo when she was 65. Basically, she’s everything that I want to be when I grow up. She has a computer, iPad, iPod, iPhone and any other technical gadget that you can think of. She is the master of all of them. I don’t think that I’ve ever gone a full week without talking to her, nor do I want to.

Growing up, my dad was gone a lot for his job. Sometimes for months at a time. Mom was the ultimate Marine Corps wife. She held down the fort while Daddy was gone. She made sure we were not only fed, schooled and clothed, but she also took made sure that all four of us, (me, my sister and two brothers) got to do plenty of extracurricular activities. I twirled a baton, did gymnastics and cheered. My sister played all sports (she even played on a boys Little League team once, which was very rare back then), my brothers played football, baseball, wrestled, etc. You get the picture. We all got to do our own things. From youth activities to high school, she was there for all of it. Not just as a driver, either. She watched all games and cheered us on for everything. We knew that she believed in us.

To say that my mom is an avid reader is a major understatement. Books are a huge part of her life. That tattoo she got? It’s of a book. And a cat; she loves cats…(achoo). She fostered that same love of books in her kids, her grands and her great grands. She can tell you a fact or two about most authors. I can’t remember a time when she didn’t have a book in her hand. It doesn’t matter what she’s doing, she has a book or her Kindle with her so she can read if she gets spare moment or two. If you ask her a question and she doesn’t know the answer, she goes straight to Google. And, just like me, that quick trip to Google often leads her down a wormhole where she learns way more than just the answer to the original question. She’s 75, but her personality and energy makes you think she’s at least 15 years younger.

I could write thousands of words about her and I still wouldn’t be able to impress upon you just how cool she truly is. So, I’m going to go with bullet points.

• She makes the best sugar cookies. And ham salad. Deviled Eggs. Potato salad.• She likes Diet Coke as much as she likes books. • She loves to laugh. She snorts when she laughs. Sometimes she laughs until tears run down her legs. Then she laughs harder. • If anyone needs her, she’s there immediately. Usually with food for that person. • She’s a loyal friend. • She is this short, sweet looking 75 year old lady with a mouth like a sailor. • She hates the word elderly. • I only used the word elderly in the previous sentence to irritate her. • She speaks fluent sarcasm. • She will laugh if you fall. But if you’re hurt, she’ll quit. Maybe. • She is a true Mama Bear if you mess with her kids. • She loves music and always has. It makes me smile and think of her when I hear The Statler Brothers or Donna Fargo. • She has seen every episode of NCIS multiple times, but will still stop to watch it. • If anybody in the family tells her they like something, or collect something, she’ll hunt it down for them. • She’s the best gift giver that I’ve ever known • Thanksgiving is her favorite holiday, but she also loves Christmas Music. • She’s always up to go shopping. • She loves the slot machines at the casinos. • She truly treats her children in laws the same as her children. • She can make every one of her kids, grandkids and great grandkids feel like they’re her favorite • She loves and collects earrings • She loves tshirts with sayings on them • It’s A Wonderful World is her favorite song

If I haven’t convinced you that my mom is the coolest mom EVER, then, well, you’re just wrong. I don’t know what else to say🤷🏼‍♀️ In a lot of the fiction books I read, there is a mother character who is this strong, sassy, funny and loving person. I swear, my mom was the model or real life inspiration for this type of character. Honest.

Seriously though, she is truly the best. I’m grateful for her every single day. I don’t always tell her and sometimes I find myself bossing her around when I worry that she’s doing too much. I just can’t imagine a life without her in it.

I LOVE her. But, even more than that? I really, really LIKE her.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom. I Love You More

Panic during Pandemic

I haven’t been here for quite some time. I’ve sat down to write about 25 times since all this craziness started. But, I just couldn’t find my words. This past week though, they’ve been swarming in my mind like a hive of African Killer Bees. So, I’m just popping in to say that I’m still here. I’ll be back very soon. I have so many posts in my head…here are a few topics I’m planning on addressing:

*Dealing with quarantine as an introvert
*Procrastination and public meltdowns
*Anxiety and fears about our parents as well as our children.
*Obsessive reading of news
*Remembering when we were nice to each other
*Breaking up is hard to do-when ending a friendship is harder than ending a marriage
*Finding my inner courage
*Goals and lists don’t matter if you never complete them

These are just a few of the many posts that I’ve started writing. I hope, that if anyone is actually reading this, you’re doing ok through all of this chaos.

Susie