November 23, 2009

It Was The Worst Of Times, Now It's The Best of Times posted by Leann Sweeney Holiday season is upon us, a time of year I have had plenty of difficulty with. Ever since my children moved away and married, I seem to have dwelled on the the worst that holidays brought me when I was growing up, thanks to my very alcoholic mother and all the drama she brought to each and every day between November through the end of January. January was when she usually sobered up. As I raised my own family, I made sure that every Thanksgiving (and Christmas) was exactly as I wanted it to be--filled with food, laughter and love. And when the first Thanksgiving came that we weren't all together, I wasn't "all together" either. I cried a lot. I remembered too much about the past. I felt very sorry for myself. Way back when I was a kid, we didn't get a huge Thanksgiving break--just Thursday through Sunday. And I remember getting off the school bus on that Wednesday before Thanksgiving hoping I'd find a sober mom. And I usually did because she was preparing food that day, although sometimes she started drinking Wednesday night. And then Thursday morning her coffee was pretty heavily spiked. By dinner time she was wasted and embarrassing all us kids with her slurred speech, inappropriate jokes and unsteady gait. Oh. And usually something she'd prepared was left to burn in the oven. We could always count on that. Yup, holidays were the worst and I know there's a lot of folks out there who can relate, who know all about "holidays" and what they meant to children of alcoholics. It's called hell. But now that my father has passed, now that he and my mother's generation are all gone, now that I have a granddaughter, I find myself remembering that despite the chaos, uncertainty and shame I felt during those holidays, there were some very fun times, too. My father's side of the family always did have a wicked sense of humor and my cousins offered up a lot of laughs. While the adults were getting drunk, we were playing cards. We knew every kind of card game you can imagine. And if there was snow and ice, we'd be out ice skating on the rink my mother always managed to make in the front lawn no matter how drunk she was. Guess making layers of ice doesn't require your reflexes to be all that good. And the food. Now if there was one thing my mother was really good at, it was cooking. My grandfather was a chef and she learned at the hand of the master. Everyone wanted her cooking at Thanksgiving and that's one thing I brought to my own family. I cook a mean, massive, and scrumptious Thanksgiving. I guess that's why I didn't want to give up having the family always come here to Texas so I could be in control of the kitchen. And even when we did go elsewhere, I always did a big part of the cooking. Until we went to my father and stepmother's one year. We ate at the country club they belonged to. For me, that was blasphemous. I hated it. But last year and this, I seem to recalling many more of the pleasant memories--the spicy and rich smells, the Jell-o my grandmother always had to make, even if we had five different pies--and more importantly that real whipped cream she made to go with the lime Jell-o. The excitement of visiting my aunt's house where everything was so absolutely NON-chaotic. Today, I have given up the control. My brother-in-law cooked Thanksgiving last year and it was awesome. I didn't have to lift a finger, even to do the dishes. And this year my son and daughter-in-law are doing the cooking. And it will be fantastic. The reasons I had to do absolutely everything aren't important anymore. What's important is to let go of the control adult children of alcoholics so desperately cling to. Two years in row for me now! Yahoo. Maybe I should be counting and marking the anniversary just like alcoholics who get sober do. I've found there's so much more power in my new attitude: I can cook, and it will be delicious. Or someone else can work their butt off and it will be delicious. And that feels so right. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
The woman with the invisible hands Posted by Lorraine Bartlett, also known as Lorna Barrett Every couple of months I'll wake up with a finger missing. Sometimes it's a whole hand--sometimes (but not often) it's BOTH hands. I call them my invisible hands. That's not exactly correct. I can still see them, but they just don't work really well. They're too busy tingling. I have carpal tunnel syndrome. Not that I've actually gone to the trouble of having a real diagnosis. It was the lady at the apothecary who sold me my first pair of wrist splints some twenty or so years ago who did the actual diagnosis. I said something like, "my hands tingle when I wake up. Do I need wrist splints?" She said, "Yup," and then proceeded to fit me. Was it the constant rewriting of manuscripts (this was back in the days of typewriters) that did it or one too many cross stitch projects? I'll never know. But I had to give something up, and as I wanted to be a writer, it was the cross stitch. (And, as I discovered a couple of years ago when I decided to make a scarf--I had to give up knitting, too.) The splints aren't a cure, but they're pretty good at making the tingling go away. I wear them for about a week and then I'm good again for three or four months, which works for me, especially as I've known several people who've had surgery for the ailment and have not reported good results. That's why I'm perfectly okay with having invisible fingers now and then. I recently shot the wad and bought myself two BRAND NEW wrist splits. (Hey, I had to spend those fabulous $9 and $1.78 royalty checks on something, right?) Oh how glamorous I feel when I don one (or both) before retiring for the night. NOT! But they work and I'm not complaining. (BTW, these aren't pictures of my hands, but my right splint really is black and the left is beige.) How about you, do you sometimes have invisible hands, too?

Lorraine Bartlett

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