“You Can’t Go Home Again”

I’m not sure who originated that quote, but it is certainly true. You can’t go home again.

I have wonderful memories of growing up in our old farmhouse near Dunlap, Illinois. Surrounded by corn fields on three sides of our farmyard, our only exit to the rest of the world was our very long lane. I felt safe and secure, not because of the protection from the corn fields, but because my mother was there.

When I was in high school, we moved nearer to the end of that lane when my father had a house built. It was part stone and part brick, a modern ranch style house. It was a much nicer-looking house than that old farmhouse, but I felt less comfortable in it. Perhaps that was because I had been a child in the farmhouse, and now I was a teenager in the new house. I had left my childhood and sense of security back in the farmhouse.

My mother was still with us then and she much preferred the new modern house. It was much easier to take care of being only one level while the farmhouse had been two stories. My mother used to wash the upstairs windows of the farmhouse by hanging out of them to clean the outside. I’m not sure why my father didn’t do that for her and why they wouldn’t have used a ladder to be safer.

Of course, my mother preferred a house on one level. The new house also had a full basement, part of which was a recreation room with a second kitchen. The basement of our farmhouse looked like the inside of a cave; not all of the ceiling was level, and you had to duck your head to go from one side of the basement to the other.

After we moved to the new house, my grandfather and uncle lived in the old farmhouse for awhile. My parents had left my old piano there because it was an upright that may not have survived the move; I can only guess that was the reason. When I wanted to practice my piano, I had to walk up the lane to the old farmhouse. My grandfather spent most of his time in the little room, which my father had used for an office, next to the dining room. My piano was in that dining room. I made the journey to my piano only twice. The second time, while I was playing it, my grandfather shouted out to me that I was making too much noice. I never returned to the farmhouse again. Those were the only words that I can remember my grandfather ever saying to me.

I could not go home again to my dear old farmhouse. Many years later my husband and I drove out to see my former home. The farmyard used to have a circle drive. The farmer who took over most of the land had cut into that drive so it was then only a half circle and very difficult to navigate getting in and out of the farmyard. The farmhouse had been altered as part of it had been taken down. People still lived in it but we did not go inside because no one was home. I’m glad that I did not go inside because I would have been even sadder. You can’t go home when it is no longer your home and the person who made you feel safe in it is no longer there.

A person can not live in the past. Whether you have good memories or sad ones of your childhood, dwelling on the circumstances of your past is not healthy. We have only today. Yesterday is gone, and we are not guaranteed tomorrow. Let’s live today. Today is where our home has to be.

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Trophy Wife

No, I was not a trophy wife. Anyone who has seen me in person can certainly testify to that fact. My title is referring to a new TV situation comedy beginning this fall.

The previews have certainly put me off from wanting to watch this show about a young cute blonde marrying an older guy who already has two ex-wives and several children.

A review of this show seems to say that this will be more of a show about female relationships rather than a dirty old man who keeps trading in his wife for a younger model every few years. We will see if that plays out on screen.

How can these two ex-wives have a good relationship with the newest blonde trophy wife of their ex-husband? Wife #1 and wife #2 are apparently mature intelligent independent women who don’t need a husband to take care of them. Then why did they marry this idiot in the first place?

How does one become a smart independent woman who doesn’t need a man to take care of her? Education, the right college degree, a good attitude about herself? I know several women with all of these requirements and yet they still think that they need that man in their lives to be happy.

I would suggest that an older man who keeps trading his wife in for a newer model is doing so to boost his own ego. This might play out as a situation comedy on TV but it is certainly not a laughing matter in real life.

Joe

Joe and I were both past 30 when we met.  We were married less than two months later.  When you are already in your 30’s, you don’t want to waste time.

Emotion plays a huge part in your decision-making process when you are lonely and just want to be happy.  Common sense usually flys out the window.

Joe is basically a good man but very independent and stubborn.  At the age of 34, he was already set in his ways, much more so than I was at 30.  Yet we were strangers to each other.

Before we married, he bragged about buying things on installment payments.  He enjoyed having these sometimes costly items before they were fully paid for.  I did not pay much attention to these details as I was not really interested in his financial adventures.  I just wanted a husband who would love me.  (Mistake #1)

Joe was living in his mother’s house, did not own a working vehicle, and was receiving unemployment compensation at the time of our first meeting.  None of these facts worried me.  (Mistake #2)

His mother had purchased 80 acres in Michigan; 40 acres went to Joe and 40 acres went to Joe’s sister.  They were supposed to pay her back for these properties over time.  Joe told me later that, if he had not met me, he would have gone to his Michigan property that spring and camped out there until the snow started falling.  There was no house or electricity on the 40 acres at that time. 

Joe’s work decisions mainly derived from his being in the Union.  Because he was a skilled tradesman, he thought that he should always receive Union wages.  He refused to work for less than the present Union hourly wage.  Growing up on a farm, I knew nothing about Unions. 

A worker can follow his convictions of working only for Union wages if he is single and does not have to support anyone else.  However, after we married, Joe still refused to work for anything lower than Union wages.

After our marriage, we moved immediately to within a couple miles of the 40 acres in Michigan.  Joe had purchased a small trailer down the road from his property.  Since he had not worked for any Union in Michigan previously, he had a very difficult time finding any Union work.  Therefore, his high school graduate wife was given the privilege of getting a job to support both of us.  I found temporary work through Manpower but only for a few weeks and then I discovered that I was pregnant.  I told Joe that it was time for him to find a job.

I may finish this timeline at a later date.  I mainly wanted to point out the fact that Joe has always had his way of “working” since he was in his 20’s.  He was not physically handicapped in any way.  He was capable of working full time at his chosen profession.  When he did work eventually, he could put in ten and twelve hour days with no problem.  The problem was that Joe would only work if paid his required Union wages.

Meditation in the Woods

I spent some time today walking in some beautiful Michigan woods.  The woods belonged to my husband, and then to both of us, and now do not belong to either of us.  But that is a complicated story for another day.

Walking through woods sounds as if it would be rather tiring, especially to someone like myself who is still wearing a small back support belt, since fracturing several spinal vertebrae last year.  It did take some effort but my time in the woods was very relaxing.

I saw no other human being for awhile which may have contributed greatly to the relaxation.  My only glimpse of wildlife was a very small frog for a couple seconds before it hopped under a log.

The weather was perfect:  warm sun with temperatures in the 70’s, no humidity, and deliciously cool in the shade.  Mother Nature can be very comforting and soothing.  I forgot most of my worldly concerns during my communion with Her.

Coming out of the woods, however, onto the nearby gravel road, I was brought out of my reverie abruptly with the sight of a baby chipmunk, which was then road kill.  Some human being with the need for speed, while driving through this stretch of nature’s beauty, probably ended the life of that small creature. 

People need to slow down and consider that other creatures inhabit this earth.  Other drivers, who venture along these country roads, use property as dumping grounds.  An empty pizza box was along the gravel road.  Why would anyone get pleasure from throwing garbage out of their window onto someone else’s private property?

My meditation was sweet but short-lived.  Back to the city to eat out at a restaurant where the young couple in the next booth was talking and laughing very loudly; several very obese people were taking advantage of “all you can eat”; drivers were racing through parking lots, not careful of pedestrians. 

Give me back the peace and quiet of the woods.  Oh, that’s right, I don’t live there anymore.  There is no house for me to stay in. 

What is Mental Illness?

Being only a high school graduate, I have no professional expertise to diagnosis mental illness.  Some people, however, exhibit obvious symptoms of this disease.  And I do believe mental illness is a disease just as much as any physical illness.  Therefore, wouldn’t diagnosing and treating this disease at its beginning be as important as diagnosing and treating cancer at the appearance of its first symptom?

Why is there a wide spread stigma against a person with mental illness?  The obvious answer is that people can be afraid of what that person will do, especially when their disease is not recognized and treated.

The headline news today is the “suicide” of the Monster of Cleveland, Ariel Castro, who held young women captive in his home for a decade.  In the privacy of his home, Castro was able to perform any horrible act imaginable against these women without interference or judgment from society.  He was finally sentenced to life in prison but was found hanging in his jail cell today.

With what little research and news that I have found, this man had suffered his own abuse as a child.  That, of course, does not give him permission to act out an irrational revenge against others.  It does, however, possibly give us some insight into what may have triggered a mental illness and/or perversion within this man.

Authorities were hoping to study him to find the cause of his actions which may have shed some light on his type of mental illness.  I would suggest investigating his background and getting answers from his mother (who is still living) and possibly his ex-wife and grown children (also alive).  These people probably would not cooperate by answering any inquiries, especially if they have something to hide which may have contributed to this man’s eventual psychotic break.

Parents may or may not realize how important their words and deeds are as they are raising their children.  Abuse can take many forms, not just physical.  A parent, who is too busy to interact with their young child or take the time to listen to their child’s problems or questions, is unknowingly the cause of emotional abuse.  Mental and emotional abuse can be just as damaging to the child as physical abuse.  If a child grows up believing that a parent never really loved or even cared much about them, that grown adult could be as capable of an irrational act as any physically abused child.

If that was the case with Ariel Castro, his abuse as a child is not an excuse to behave as he did as an adult.  However, he should have been diagnosed much earlier and treated in some way that all of the horrific acts could have been prevented.  Apparently, no one in his life ever cared enough about him to help him.  Thus, the headline news of today.

 

 

 

AWWW… Relationships

Almost every little girl dreams of having a home of her own some day with a handsome husband and her own children. We start to look at the boys in our class with different eyes as early as the second or third grade. Unfortunately, most of the boys don’t start looking back at us until at least the sixth or seventh grade.

We read the fairy tales of being rescued by the handsome prince and sing, “Some day my Prince will come”, usually only to ourselves when we’re sure no one is listening. Those fairy tales should be banned. That is not real life. That is why it is called a “fairy tale”.

Some girls have older brothers; those brothers make friends. It is a really good chance that the young girl will have her first crush on her brother’s best friend. Usually that first attraction will fade with time to be replaced by a mutual love with another man. Sometimes that crush lasts forever even though it is unrequited.

In my case I had the older brother who became close friends with a boy when they were in high school together. I don’t believe Leonard and Robin became buddies until their sophomore or junior years. Robin had a wonderful tenor singing voice and sang in the choir. Leonard was tone deaf. They did both play basketball although neither of them were on the high school team.

I met my brother’s best friend the summer before I started high school as he came to our house to visit Leonard. They played basketball in our driveway and played board or card games in our dining room. We had a ping pong table in our basement which they also took advantage of. I was asked to join them in a few card or board games. I could hardly contain my joy when doing so as I was next to my object of affection.

One day Robin came to our house before my brother came home so I invited him to play ping pong in the basement until Leonard got there. Following me down the basement stairs, Robin slipped on the last couple of steps and fell but didn’t hurt himself. I will always think of that as he “fell for me”, jokingly.

Leonard and Robin were seniors that next year in high school when I was a lowly freshman. I saw Robin a few times in the hallway between classes but usually did not see him except for choir as both of us were singers. Choir practice was naturally the highlight of my school day. I was very naive in boy-girl relationships at that age so did not know how to make my feelings known. I don’t believe Robin ever suspected how his best friend’s little sister felt about him.

Even though I still think of him today, Robin was not my first crush. Another farm family in the Dunlap area had a girl and boy near our ages. Allan was a year younger than Leonard. Karen was a year older than I was. Altogether the four of us were stairsteps in age with Leonard being the oldest and me on the bottom step, being the youngest. We visited their home many times over the years when we were in grade school.

One day my mother had to leave me at their house while she had an appointment somewhere in Peoria. I was only about four years old and Karen was five. It was summer so we played outside and got very dirty. Karen’s mother insisted that we take a bath while she cleaned my dirty clothes. Being only four and five, we didn’t care that we were in the same tub together. The only thing that I disliked was when Karen splashed water in my face. Today I still have no great love for being in or near the water.

When we were done with our bath, I had to wrap myself in a large towel because my clothes were not yet dry. While I was sitting in the dining room, which was right outside their bathroom, Allan came into the room. We looked at each other for a spit second after which Allan hurried into the bathroom. Even though I was still so young, I felt embarrassed because Allan saw me in only a towel. I went to find Karen, who had disappeared earlier for some reason. I was greatly relieved when her mother brought me my clean clothes

We stairsteps played many games together: board games in the winter and croquet in the summer. When I was nine or ten, I developed this embarrasing laugh which I could not control. It was a nervous laugh which ended in a squeak. While we were playing a game, Karen would make fun of me whenever this laugh erupted out of me. After a few times, Allan told his sister to stop making fun of me because I couldn’t help making that sound. With those words, my crush began. He was my “prince”, coming to my rescue.

I would bet that most people do not marry the first person with whom they fell in love. Perhaps that is a good thing; perhaps that is a sad life-changing thing. Some lucky couples marry their first loves and those marriages last a lifetime. Many, however, divorce after being together for decades. That is always a shock to their friends and relatives. It is probably never much of a shock, however, to the couple themselves.

Only 300 Miles

Only 300 miles separate me from the place where I was born.  But many decades separate me from the past.  The world on August 24, 1946, was a drastically different place than the world in which I find myself today in 2013.

I sit here in my two-room apartment in a suburb of Grand Rapids, Michigan, by my open window.  From the third floor, I can occasionally hear my neighbors who include an Asian couple, several African-Americans, a Mexican family, and a few other White people in my building.

This is a drastic change from my early environment, growing up on a farm in central Illinois.  I was leading a very sheltered life until I was in high school.  Only white students attended our schools.  My first encounter of actually speaking to a person of another race was not until I was sixteen years old when I visited a high school in Peoria, Illinois, on a Career Day.  The black student seemed very friendly to me.

Watching black and white television as a kid, I saw only “white”.  I don’t remember seeing any black people on television, and certainly did not see any Mexicans.

I don’t know when one can become prejudiced.  If you grow up around only people who are your same race and creed, you are certainly not familiar with other races and creeds.  You naturally are hesitant to interact with those people who seem so different than yourself.  You might even be afraid of some other races if the people are acting menacing toward you.  The answer may or may not be to immerse young children within a diverse racial situation at an early stage of their life’s experience.  Of course, I can not be a part of that experiment because of my limited childhood experiences with other races.

I would be accused of racial prejudice by my husband’s niece after she had given birth to three mixed-race babies by three different African-American fathers, none of whom married her.  In my mind I was not being racially prejudiced by my criticism of her life style; I was just prejudiced against her lifestyle.  I would have been upset regardless of the race of the babies’ fathers.  She gave birth to her first baby before she graduated from high school.  The major blame for this negative activity would have to be placed on the girl’s parents, who were my husband’s sister and brother-in-law.

 

My brother, Leonard, and I grew up on a small farm near Dunlap, Illinois.  All twelve of our public school years were spent in Dunlap schools.  My brother would go on to college in Peoria, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree.  I would become a secretary right out of high school.  After a few years of working my heart out for employers who did not believe in paying me what I was worth to them, I thought that I might have made a mistake in not going to college.  I mentioned this idea to my mother who must have taken this into consideration when she decided to go back to full time.  My father had retired at sixty-five but my mother was only fifty-three years old so she decided to get a job, possibly to help me pay for college.  That was a mistake.

After only a week on the job, my mother developed a horrific headache at work and was taken to the hospital.  She passed away the next day from a cerebral hemorrhage due to a stroke caused by extremely high blood pressure.  Many years later, I wonder if part of her early death was my fault.  If I had not mentioned the possibility of going to college, my mother may not have decided to go back to work.

I now live 300 miles away from my parents’ final resting places, next to each other in a small cemetery in Tremont, Illinois.  Tremont is a tiny town, mostly a rural atmosphere, but that area holds many memories for me.  Unfortunately, most of those memories still haunt me today.