Friday, April 29, 2011

The Long Goodbye is Over.

Our hearts go out to our lovely co-worker and Editor, Sheilah Zimpel on the loss of her mother, Margaret Frances Buckley Barton, to the long goodbye of Alzheimer's.

In Sheilah's own words:

"There is so much to be grateful for. I remain a humble servant, and humbled more by the day. There is so little we can do, but we can hold each other's hand. We are not alone in this."

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Springtime of my Discontent

I won a golden head award at work for best headline of the week last year. It was a sports columnist’s column about the Carolina Panthers that made it to the front page: “The losing season of our discontent.” It speaks for itself.

I’m feeling the springtime of my discontent lately, and of course it’s related to Mom’s declining health. She’s in the very last stages of Alzheimer’s. She’s now a complete invalid in a semi-awake and unable to talk state, confined to her hospital bed at home. When I asked for a week off work to help Dad care for her, a friend at work caught me after deadline that night and got me crying. It’s easy to do at 11:30 p.m. She said, “You must be so angry.” Huh. Of all the things I’d been feeling, I hadn’t thought about anger yet. The luxury of anger I can’t afford to feel. Grief must contain the whole gamut of human emotion, but anger is one I didn’t want to entertain for very long. Once she said it, I was there.

No wonder I’m so easily ticked off by my son’s baseball coach who won’t move him up in the lineup, the AIG teacher who said he didn’t make the cut for next year, lousy drivers. I’m on a short fuse and need to throw the dynamite far from me lest we all blow up. I’m mad at friends who mention lunch with their Moms, or Moms who babysit, or old but healthy people who complain, or people who say they’re too busy. I’m mad at the “sandwich generation” columnist at my paper who has a 17 year old and a Mom in a “memory care facility” she occasionally visits. “But you don’t care for your mother. She’s in a home. And your daughter is a teenager. You have no issues,” is what I wrote on the proof. Ugh. Of course I threw that one in the trash. Mad at a 20something who says she’s paid her dues (by working 1 year), so how dare they lay her off last year, when those with 30 years were, and continue to be, laid off too, and I’m working contract hours at half pay. I’m just mad.

It always leads to self-pity, poor me, my pain is worse, with me. I get dismissive and self-righteous. It’s ugly in here. Changing your mother’s soiled diapers is ugly. Holding her hand as she stares right through you, sitting by her side as she’s dying is unbearable.… I don’t have the words for it.

I listen to Mumford & Sons CD in the car and cry along to “You are not alone in this. As brothers we will stand and hold your hand. You are not alone in this.” Mom is not alone. But I feel like I am. Grief is very self-centered. It wants all of me.

Anger, self-pity, selfish dismissiveness of others’ pain and problems—not what I want to learn from adversity. Grace, mercy, love and especially compassion for what every human being must suffer—this I need to embrace. The good stuff, the stuff that makes me a better human being, not a selfish bitch.

The baseball coach volunteers her time. The AIG teacher has a difficult job, and is facing layoffs. The young girl at work has or will suffer her own losses. They all have pain--this we are guaranteed to share as members of the same human family. You can’t measure pain on a scale, or say mine is worse than yours or yours is worse than mine. Pain pales in comparisons. It’s very humbling, and the ultimate leveler.

A happy coincidence came in that I heard a speaker talk about gratitude the other night, which initially made me mad. It’s so easy to count what’s wrong, but to count what’s right—it’s a sure cure for my anger. There is so much to be grateful for. I remain a humble servant, and humbled more by the day. There is so little we can do, but we can hold each other’s hand. We are not alone in this.

Friday, April 22, 2011

We Need To Help......

Last Saturday was the first time I have experienced the effects of extreme weather. Coming from the UK, the worst I can ever remember occurring was back in 1987. Winds tore with unusual ferocitiy, throughout the land, bringing down six of the seven ancient oak trees in a town called Sevenoaks and closing a major bridge between England and Wales. Thousands of homes were without power but nothing, and I mean nothing, could have prepared this Brit for last weekend in North Carolina. I can honestly say that I was scared to my bones.

Somewhere deep inside this maternal core, whilst watching a movie with my children, an alarm bell went off. My concentration had been disrupted by the wind outside. It seemed to come in waves, blowing powerfully one minute, and eerily quiet the next. Much to the dismay of my kids, I told them to turn to the local weather station, and there before me was the news. One huge tornado had ripped through Raleigh and another was aiming for Smithfield as we watched. We were like sitting ducks. Our town, Clayton, was literally in the middle of the two paths. I quickly moved blankets, torches and chips (yes chips and don’t ask me why because I don’t know) into the internal bathroom, scooped up my temporarily wheelchair bound daughter from the sofa and pushed my son head first into the room. It was panic; I was new to this tornado preparation stuff. We sat waiting but nothing happened, luckily we were safe, but my heart is still heavy. Many people lost their lives and loved ones that day, homes were destroyed, and possessions chewed up like pieces of candy. Amazing stories of survival are all around. Today, for instance, I listened to a news broadcast about a group of people who were stuck in a church after celebrating a child’s first birthday. They had remained to clear up and did not realize what was about to happen. Miraculously, the only part of the church left untouched was the corridor in which they were huddled. Now to me that is divine intervention!  

The question remains though, what can we do to help? It seems only a few weeks ago I was writing about the earthquake in Japan, asking for your prayers and aid where possible. Ironically, here I am this time in North Carolina, again asking you to do the same. I know many people who have volunteered to go and help with the clean up, but the people need so much more. I urge you to go onto the local news channels and seek out ways to donate and help. There are families out there that have lost everything, including loved ones; they need to know the community is behind them. On Sunday, whilst we celebrate Easter, please don’t forget to say a prayer for the victims of this local disaster, I know I will be.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Hitchhikers Guide To Child Rearing

I need a parenting handbook, badly. I am not talking about textbooks explaining the ins and outs of diaper changing or milestones they should achieve. I am talking about a full blown, down and dirty, guide to help us turn these little things into wonderful people, whilst still holding onto my sanity in the process. Who knew that this whole parenting chapter of our lives could be so fraught with anguish. In the book (if it exists, because I don’t think it does), I would like to see a chapter on mythical fairies and magical people. For years, fourteen in fact, I have been the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny and Father Christmas (although I have to say my husband suited the latter role better), and I loved it. Unfortunately, there comes a time when we know we have to admit to our children the whole scam. My son, at the tender age of ten, took my husband and me aside one day and gave us a scolding. He reminded us that being deceitful is wrong and that he had worked out our deceit. There was something in me that wanted to defend myself  like a ten year old and jump up saying “smarty pants”, but I couldn’t. He was technically right. Not wanting a repeat of our first experience and given the fact that our daughter will be twelve in four weeks we decided it was time. We thought she knew, after all her Christmas list last year consisted of items that  added up to approximately $4,000 and when asked to think carefully about the items she simply said that Father Christmas doesn’t have to worry about money as he makes everything. There was our first clue, or so we thought. She had been talking about the Easter Bunny all last week, even to her friends, who all gave her the knowing look, so we decided to tell her. After all being the last to know is always painful.


Our fabulous, fun loving daughter collapsed, crying uncontrollably. Heartbroken by the knowledge the Easter Bunny does not exist. There wasn’t anything we could do. The words were out, and life as she knew it would never be the same. Trying hard not to cry myself, I hugged her and tried my best to comfort her distress, but no amount of consoling worked. What had we done? Had we taken away her dreams and given her the first harsh lesson of reality? She is one of life’s innocents, a super sweet genuine girl and I pray I haven’t destroyed that. Obviously, my husband and I are crushed by the outcome of our decision, beating ourselves up every day since. We feel like the worst parents in the world, but we truly thought we were doing the best by helping her to avoid the harsh tongues of other children. I hope that one day she will understand our thinking and forgive us. Until then, if anyone knows of a handbook as I described above, please let me know.

Friday, April 15, 2011

My Royal Indulgence

By Mary Alford-Carman

The closest I ever came to Royalty was in my Mother's womb. When she was expecting me, my Mama and Daddy were in Canada at the opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway. (I'm not mentioning the year; you can Google it at your own risk!) They stayed at the same hotel where Queen Elizabeth II was and Mama was lucky enough to be in the lobby when The Queen entered. I used to love hearing that story. The Queen stopped when she saw my Mama (huge with me) and gave Mama time to snap a photo. I figure I come by my love of all things English honestly, having been so influenced in the womb. With that, I have to admit, "My name is Mary and I am an Anglophile."

With the wedding of Will and Kate coming up this month, I'm beside myself with happy anticipation of the event. I have the morning planned. I'll be up before the crack of dawn with the TV. Not only will I be watching the event, but while I'm watching I'll be recording it. Knowing my girlfriend Evelyn like I do, we'll both be on and off the phone with each other during the ceremony and after, loving every moment of it.

My book collection has a large section of all things English. The Six Wives of Henry the Eighth, A History of the Monarchs of England, and then the lite reads like The Other Boleyn Sister, along with every magazine that had Diana on the cover, just to name a few. I watched Princess Anne's wedding, Charles and Diana's, Fergie and Andrews, Prince Edward's and what little was shown of Charles and Camilla's. These types of events are the ultimate escape from Mommydom and the recession. During the depression, the golden set of Hollywood and the outrageous gilded movies were the ultimate, elevating the dreariness of the day to day grind and in many cases despair. While I'm lucky to have a roof over my head and all of the things our family needs, it's still been a penny-pinching time, especially with the rising price of gas. Why not enjoy the wedding? I know it's frivolous. I know it will never be my reality, but for a little while I can pretend to be a guest at the most fabulous of weddings before I have to go and clip more coupons. In my mind, what's not to like?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Motherhood is Ageless

By Mary Alford-Carman

So, exactly how old is too old to have a baby? In "Selfishly Enjoying the Ride", in our April Issue of, I wrote about the indignities that occur when women over a certain age have children, while men can happily have them at any age and no one blinks. To have a relative stranger come up to you and ask why you had a baby at a certain age just blows my mind. Why are they so concerned? Are they going to take care of the baby, do they have to pay for their college fund, walk the floors with them at night, cuddle them when they're sick or help them with calculus in high school?

Khalil Gibran wrote, "Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself." I've always loved that quote; it reminds me that our children will be with us only a little while, that life is short, and that we all long for more. Having a baby at any age is such a personal decision and when others who are not involved in that decision flap their gums spewing negativity, it's hurtful and unkind. At 48 I was stunned and happily blessed to have a son. Why do some feel it necessary to criticize the birth a child into a loving home based solely on the age of the mother? Goodness sakes, hardly anyone raised an eyebrow when Senator/Actor Fred Thompson had two children in his sixties; they were more upset over the younger wife!

Call me sensitive, call me what you will, just don't call me too old to have, and love, a baby. Life is just too dang precious, and right now I have a four-year-old's soccer game to prepare for!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Government Shutdown...Do You Really Wanna See My Granny's Frying Pan?

                  Update - So obviously the government managed to come together in time. But I still think they need a Southern granny 'cause they sure do take an awful lot of time to do their chores.

               So the US government is in danger of shutting down, huh? And yet, I mailed those pesky estimated tax payments just this morning. Because while the government may be able to have “issues”, us dang taxpayers, well, we just keep paying or else. Anybody besides me find the whole thing so irritating that it makes your family seem sainted in comparison? I mean, c’mon, there are thousands of families out there who have managed to work on their “issues” without dragging the innocent into it. Maybe what the gubmint needs is a doggone Southern granny dragging y’all by the ear and tellin’ y’all to work it out or she’ll take the frying pan to your noggins!
                    I’m also wondering if this separation means when you come back to us, you’ll have worked on your “issues” and be ready to do your share of the housework? See just about every one of us has some story about you, and most of them would embarrass your grannies.
                    Let me share one that is particularly pertinent at tax season. We realized that Daddy was declining mentally when we got a notice from the IRS. It seems that Daddy had done his taxes incorrectly that year. The IRS in its good graces had redone them. Only problem was that they made it worse. I sat down and redid his taxes, filling out all the correct paperwork and notifying them in the required timely manner that we were disputing. That’s when the government threatened a lien on my elderly parents for the god awful amount of $77 that they were so sure my parents owed. Another flurry of phone calls, and they paused the process, bless their hearts. Finally we receive a check – for the $1800 that the government really owed my parents. Never did get an apology or an oopsies from them.
                    So if you shut down, how about attending therapy while we are separated? You can work on your “issues” and learn certain kindergarten rules like sharing and playing well together. Just don’t bill me for the therapy…because I can guarandamtee you that I will dispute it…or bring my frying pan to DC.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Older Moms Unite...We're Groovy

When the four of us who make up came together as friends, we also realized that we were comrades in arms. We're moms, but we also remember disco (some of us more fondly than others of us, though I would love to fit into those satin pants one more time...just ain't gonna happen). So we're a little older (sometimes a lot older) than the moms of our children's friends. It's made motherhood an interesting journey and we hope our journey may help and interest others along the way. Mary's column this month addresses some of what she has faced (Selfishly Enjoying the Ride) and we found another comrade in arms in our fellow writer, Angel La Liberte. Angel is launching a wonderful new site, A Child After 40,  which promises to be so exciting for all of us who are looking for a community of friends and fellowship. We invite you to join us in making this a success and a wonderful addition to our community. Let's get our groove on!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall...

By: Mary Alford-Carman

Weight came up in a discussion this week and as usual, I wanted to change the subject to anything other than that. Did I really need to be reminded that bathing suit season is just around the corner? For the past twenty-five years I have struggled with my weight. I was never tiny, but much of the time I was healthy. I look back on some photos and wonder where I ever got the idea that I was overweight. I'd give anything to weigh now what I weighed in quite a few photos I tucked away. I was active; I walked everywhere and rode my bike. I had a waist and when I looked down I could see my toes. I've tried every diet known to man and I have enough sizes in my closet to open a small boutique. Weight is an ugly word.

That said; I'm worried. I know how it feels to have a poor self-image and to constantly feel like the outer shell must be perfect for someone to get close enough to like the "real you." Now my thirteen-year-old daughter looks in the mirror and worries about her thighs, which are the size of small twigs. What's wrong with this picture? On TV you have trainers shouting at adults who are overweight and cutting into the core of their souls in the interest of ratings and "making them better." How does screaming at someone help them be better? How is this a good thing? Sure, sure, if the end result is that they lose the weight, then everything is hunky dory, right? No, nope, nada, zip.

Trying to be healthy is a grand thing, trying to fit a preset image is another. American Idol wants the entire package, fantastic looks and a voice combined and if you don't fit both…bye-bye. Where would we be if American Idol looked at Carol King, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Mumford and Sons, Amy Winehouse, or for that matter, Steven Tyler? The combined talent of these individuals could fuel a rocket to space and back times infinity, but that's not what the media, magazines and TV shows exemplify today.

I want my daughter to know it takes more than a pretty face, a carved body, and a size zero wardrobe to be a whole person, that youth and beauty fade, but the mind and soul quicken, bloom and enrich, that when you hold up the mirror of life, all those who look back at you with love and respect are what matter. Beauty is as beauty does…oh when will we learn? In the meantime I'll keep plucking away for a healthier me, and if I'm lucky, maybe I'll get around to cleaning out my closet.