Archive for the ‘Growing Up’ Category

When I became pregnant with our second child I was so thrilled. Just as thrilled as I was with the first.

Hard to believe it was twenty years ago.

While pregnancy brings about many things the first on my list was prenatal visits. So an appointment was made with the ob/gyn group down the road from our home.

On one of the first prenatal visits I checked in at front desk. Soon I was escorted to an examining room in the back. I am handed a disposable paper covering for the bottom half of my body. You have to know when it comes to me disrobing in an exam room I take it very seriously. It’s like a game of twenty questions. The nurse normally gets pelted with my inquiries.

Usually goes something like this.

“All of my clothes? Just the top? Bra? Panties? Socks? Headband? Watch? Earrings? Wait! Does a paper gown open to the front or back?? Flimsy disposable paper sheet covering the lap?”

I quickly followed the instructions. Took off clothes and placed the neatly folded clothes on the chair. No one dilly dallies around in those exam rooms. Because anyone could open the door at any moment and catch you partially clad. Or exposed. Doesn’t matter that the doctor and/or nurse is going to soon see every little bit of you.

While waiting for the doctor I sit on the table and get caught up with the celebrity news in the latest “People” magazine. I am making a lot of noise because every time I move an inch the paper liner on the examining table crinkles up, rustles and makes a racket.

I soon realize that I cannot concentrate on the magazine. Or anything else. Because the heater must have been broken. It was absolutely freezing in the room.

The doctor poked his head in and saw that I was turning blue. Okay, that’s an exaggeration but he did get that I was cold. He appeared upset at this.

Said, “Hold on a minute.”

He leaves the room. Two seconds later he returns with his jacket. It was waist length and black leather. He takes it and wraps it around my shoulders.

So, there I am. Sitting on the examining table with nothing on except a black leather biker jacket.

Feeling uncomfortable and awkward. Like I was about to star in a S&M photo shoot.

I honestly didn’t know that to think. Was it kind? Unprofessional? Creepy? Chivalrous? Inappropriate?

I was surprised and didn’t know how to react. This was not in the rule book I learned over the years or in my memory bank. I left feeling confused.

See, him inserting his gloved fingers into my vagina for a pelvic exam was okay and appropriate. I knew that would happen and signed up for that. But putting that black leather jacket on my body was not in the pre-approved script.

Did not go home and tell my husband. Or my friends.

Just filed it away in the old gray matter under the indexed tab, “Confused.”

I wouldn’t be the first to file that. Women can experience all sorts of confusion. We are taught to be nice. Think the best of folks. So we question is the boy/man being kind or pushing a boundary? Manipulating or thoughtful? Purposeful touch or an accidental brushing? Surely, he didn’t mean that? Did I somehow lead him to this? Allow this? And on and on.

I did eventually share this anecdote at a party with a couple of lady friends. Not in the vein of my being wounded, scarred or anything. Just adding to a conversation topic that might have included “Bizarre behavior” or “You can’t make this stuff up!” Or maybe even, “Wait, get this! I have an even better one for you!”  Maybe even, “Proceed with caution.”

My husband hears me recounting the experience and looks at me like I have more stories than Walt Disney and says, “What??? That never happened.”

I replied, “Oh, yes, it most definitely happened. I was there.”

The reason I never shared this with him was because, in my mind, it sounded crazy and embarrassing.

I didn’t do anything wrong. Yet I couldn’t rightly say that the doctor did anything wrong either.

I would also later share with my ladies’ bookclub. Again, using it as fodder for interesting, bizarro conversation. Certainly not portraying me as a victimized woman.

It’s not something I really shared with anyone else.

I was a grown woman nearing her thirty-fourth year. Not physically hurt in ANY way. Just want that to be crystal clear. Yet, I still walked out of that office feeling like it was a bit surreal. Embarrassed and confused. Not feeling quite as clean as I was when I arrived. Thinking how on earth did that weird scenario happen. Could I have prevented the cow hide from being draped over my shoulders? Who’d believe that story?

Imagine then how a young girl might feel if someone abused power and violated a different boundary. Hurt her. Who would believe her? Against the word of a possibly upstanding young man? What would she be put through if she actually told her story? Character assassination? Shame? Embarrassment? Confusion? Guilt?

63.3% of sexual assault cases are not reported in the United States. Think about that for a minute. That’s something to really ponder. We don’t even need to wonder why. We know why. And since the thinking caps are on consider this also. One in three girls/women will experience some type of sexual violence in their lifetime. In the United States of America. So take a good look around your neighborhood, classroom, place of employment and home. Then count to three.

My last couple of postings have a recurring theme (girls and women) with some type of vulnerability as the common denominator.

The mindset of our society needs to change. The old, abhorrent way is no longer acceptable.

We certainly don’t need to worry about boys/men and possible false reporting. The boys (if they are white) will be just fine. The percentage of that happening is quite low. Something like 2%.

While actual sexual violence perpetrated against women is disgustingly high. 

Wait. Tell me again. Who do we need to worry about?

How’s this novel idea, though? Instead of worrying about our girls why don’t we focus on properly educating our boys. About boundaries, respect, language and objectification. It will be a struggle since every outlet we (men and women) are exposed to these days seems to support the objectification of women.

Maybe we could make America great again.

My original intention was to keep this short and sweet but it morphed into something else.

I’m glad it did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I was recently talking to one of my daughters who is away at university. She mentioned an upcoming party.

So, of course, I don’t stop being a Mom just because she’s away. Feeling like I have to get all of my last minute warnings in- just in case I should expire in the next few hours and the opportunity is lost.

I say, “I know you don’t party but if you did… you remember the rule, right?”

The guessing game begins. Because there are about a million rules we teach our girls. I’ve been doing it for years. Hammering these points home. Over and over again. We do it because we want to protect them. We want them to protect themselves.

She says, “Stay in a group?”

“No, not that one. But yes, please, stay in a group.”

“Watch my drink? Always keep it with me?”, she asks.

I respond, “No, that’s not it. Yes, yes, of course! Watch your drink and keep it with you always!”

It’s not just me. Parents are giving these same warnings to their daughters all over the U.S. I remember reading an article years ago about Christie Brinkley (former wife of Billy Joel) telling her daughter Alexa Ray (who was at or beginning university) to watch her drink so no one puts anything in it. 

My daughter questions, “Don’t walk home at night by myself?”

“Not that! But yes, please do not walk home at night by yourself!”

I just can’t help myself. 

Finally, we “I” get to the point.

“If you drink do not get behind the wheel. Call an Uber.”

She’s like, “Of course, Mom.”

Those are just a few examples of what I have actually shared with my daughters. Over and over again. There are a ton more. As we are all well aware.

The interesting thing is that we only share these warnings with our girls. There is no need to tell these things to our boys.

Why is that?

Okay, maybe just the one, “If you drink do not get behind the wheel. Call an Uber.”

So sad.

I am hoping for change.

 

 

 

 

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I was a young girl. Not a toddler and not yet a teen. Maybe nine or ten years old. Old enough to be out and about with friends. We were always playing outside. No one wanted to be in the house.

On this particular day, I was with a pal named Paula and her sister Kerri. Hanging on the swings at the local park. I suppose it was where everyone in our neighborhood eventually spent some time. There was also a football stadium, tennis courts and basketball court. So in good weather there was always activity. The wind was always blowing around the distant voices of kids you knew.  It was a middle class neighborhood. Usually not a lot of extra coin but not poor. Everyone pretty much felt safe. We all knew each other.

It eventually became time to leave the park. The girls and I were about to cross the parking lot to head home. A car slowly rolls up in the corner of the big parking lot. One male occupant in a Dodge Dart. Don’t ask me the color. It was probably forty-four years ago.

I do, however, remember what color he was. He was white and looked like the mustached and afroed Gabe Kaplan, who starred as Mr. Kotter on “Welcome back, Kotter.” A U.S. television program from the 1970s.

This man starts talking to us and asking us questions. Then the guy pulls out this thing. No, not that thing!

It was a hand grip strengthener. Back then I wouldn’t have known what to call it. This is an exercise tool that one uses to strengthen their grip. You can search google images to see what it looks like.

Continued to ask us questions -like an important survey. I do not remember any of that long ago conversation but the one thing I can still recall is he wanted each of us girls to try the hand gripper. And we did. No harm in that, right? We weren’t afraid. Just a trio of friendly and super helpful kids.

Anyhow, we continue on our way back home. I say goodbye to the girls and then I head toward my house one block away from theirs. Never thinking about anything except it was a very nice time at the park with my friends.

Well, one of the girls mentioned the guy in the car to their mom. Warning signals must have gone off in her head (as they should have in any adult’s head) so she called my mom and the police. We soon got a visit from the police asking me numerous questions about this guy. A description of him and his vehicle.

That was that.

Looking back, I don’t know what this man’s intentions were and one could almost shudder with the thought. After the police interviewed us we came to realize that it was wrong in some way. But we didn’t even know how or why.

We knew he was a stranger. He wasn’t from our neighborhood and yet we still talked to this nice adult. As innocent children might. Even with all the warnings we received about bad guys and strangers.

I guess that was the introduction to our vulnerability. We didn’t even know it.

“You need to be careful.”

 

 

 

 

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I loved the parables of Jesus when I was a little kid. Whether it was the nuns sharing with us or curled up with the glossy covered kid’s books reading on our own time.

My husband also heard parables or stories when he was a child but they were not about Jesus. They were about the Prophet Mohammad.

Same appeal.

He loved the childhood stories just as much as I did.

There was one he told me that I enjoyed.

The moral of the story, in my husband’s telling, is very important.

Each day a Jewish neighbor deposited trash on Mohammad’s doorstep. And every day Mohammad would pick it up and bring it to the dump.

Every single day.

Then one day Mohammad found that there was no trash on his doorstep.

Wait. What?

No trash?

Should be a good thing.

But it was unusual for this neighbor not to leave trash on the doorstep.

Mohammad went to check on the neighbor and found that he was ill.

This is a very important story. Religion, in my opinion, doesn’t have anything to do with it. That was just my jumping point. This is about the human connection.

Everyone in the neighborhood where I grew up knew everyone else’s business.

Knew when people pulled up their shades in the morning. The school and work schedules. Meal times. When someone had company. Which Mass families attended. When vacations took place. And when the shades went down at night. Usually after the late news or a bit of  The Late Show.

People know these things without realizing. It was just the usual daily routine.

When one of those things didn’t happen, according to the norm, it was a cause for concern. Something just wasn’t right. People checked on each other.

We all live in different neighborhoods and types of communities. Everyone has neighbors. I always say that one doesn’t need to be best friends with their neighbors (that’s a bonus) but we should care about each other.

Each person has a role in building up a strong community. Knowing your neighbors and caring about them can be the very first step.

 

 

 

 

 

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“A cousin is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.”

I’ve read that quote more than once and I believe this to be the absolute truth. You all know how I feel about family. If we share the same blood/family we are members of a very special club. Ain’t nobody getting kicked out of it. Even if we no longer see each other very often.

I have more than twenty-five first cousins. But when I was a kid most lived in Ireland and some in England.

So, sadly, I didn’t share a childhood with all of my cousins. But that was just reality.

The ones who I did share my childhood with consisted of three families who lived in the U.S. like me.

They were my Dad’s sister, Rose Marie and her family in New York. In Rhode Island we had the families of Mom’s sister, Patsy and her brother, Jimmy.

Summer holidays and other times during the year were spent with the New York cousins.

Christmas, Easter, cookouts and regular Sunday visits to the grandparents were spent with the Rhode Island cousins.

Oh, what fun we had when we were young.

There were the older cousins in our (my brothers and me) age range and then a few younger ones came along in the 1970s. That was pretty exciting for us. Everyone liked babies and they were just absorbed. Welcomed into the fold.

That’s the funny thing about babies. They are not like the future in-laws who take awhile to break into the family. To be a part of the club and inner circle. Going through the initiation and all.

But a baby? Born into the family? The bouncer just lets that little bundle of joy right into the club! Like a celebrity with status. No stopping at the door, stamping its hand or questioning their right to be there. They’re totally in!

One of my baby cousins died on March 18th. John was just shy of his forty-seventh birthday. He will be interred tomorrow with his beloved mother.

I last saw him when he made the trip to Rhode Island for my Dad’s funeral three years ago. Even though it was a sad time I was really happy to see him and so many family members. These days everyone lives in different places and reunions are not always easy or frequent. So weddings and funerals are the “go to” places for the big catch ups.

John was a beautiful child. An adorable kid with a mop of curly red hair. He was intelligent and good humored. He was a nice and decent boy who grew up to be a nice and decent man.

He died young. Too young.

For the record, I think all deaths under the age of eighty are sort of tragic.

Today is no different.

John died because he was a human being. Lest we forget -we are all afflicted with that title.

A death reminds us that we are all human. Some might dodge the bullets of life. Others aren’t so fortunate and get hit head on. But we all know, really, that sometimes we just have no say or control. Our expiration date, like a milk carton, might (I say might) have been printed long ago. Even if we argue or beg that it could have been/should have been different.

It’s still tragic. It’s heartbreaking and sad.

One of the benefits of being in the cousins’ club is that there is only love. No jealousy or judgement. We’re family and are grateful for the shared and special memories. We take joy in the success and happiness of each other. We are sympathetic when one is experiencing family problems, job loss, illness and other maladies of life.

There is profound and utter sadness when we lose one of our gang.

When John was a baby I was sleeping at his house one weekend. Poor little thing couldn’t pronounce my name (Mary Beth) but he tried. In the morning I heard a little voice coming from the crib, “Maybell?”

Since then it’s been “ours” and we didn’t ever let it go.

So every year on our birthdays and other Facebook messages we used Maybell instead of my real name. Now, I’m wondering if he actually ever knew what my real name was.

Anyway, it was like we were little kids. He in his forties and me in my fifties. In a way, a simple word brought us back in time and kept us young. Even if it was for a minute. It was a shared memory.

See, because a cousin is a little piece of childhood that can never be lost.

John will always and forever be a part of my childhood that can never be lost.

We will miss you, John. Rest in peace. Like one of your sisters said, “Rest is not so easy right now on this side of Heaven.”

The club will no longer be the same, little cousin.

With all my love,

Maybell

 

 

In memory of John J. Kelly

1971-2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A friend and I were recently discussing a guy who grew up in our neighborhood.

When Kyle left to serve his country in Vietnam I would have been about five years old. He was eighteen or nineteen. Same age as my youngest daughter who is now in her first year of university.

Kyle was not the only young boy from the neighborhood who went to Southeast Asia during that time.

Of course, I don’t remember when they left. I was too young.

I do have memories of when the American boys came back. Watched the grainy news footage on television with my family. Of planes on the runway depositing our men. No longer youthful.

I remember the POW bracelets that people bought and promised to wear until the service people captured or missing came home. I heard all of the scary stories. I remember that it was a time of protest. I remember who served in Vietnam.

War is horrific and I cannot wrap my head around it. But some wars are worse than others. The Vietnam War would be one of those filed under “worse than others.”

The “lucky” ones came back.

My next door neighbor, Dick, came back home. With a terribly scarred face and a black eye patch covering the socket.

Pretty frightening to see when you are a kid.

Wait, he was only a kid when his life was in such peril. So how freaking frightened was he?

Kyle also made it back home.

But some scars are visible and some are not.

Kyle was a cousin of our friends and he lived across the street on the corner. I would see him around but actually only met him in my teen years. The age difference and all. I didn’t know him well but he seemed like a nice guy. Good humored. Cute in a long, shaggy hair, five o’clock shadow way. Remember a bunch of us at a party and having some good laughs. He was in college and studying theater then. A group of us attended a Shakespeare performance of his at Rhode Island College.

Kyle died, one year ago, at the age of sixty-six. The cause of his death was the Vietnam War. He was exposed to deadly chemicals during his time there. Everyone has heard of Agent Orange. For Kyle, chronic illness and an early death were the results of his exposure to it. I’d say he died from friendly fire.

Just like using a jug of Round-Up. Spray and kill. These chemical weapons (that is what they were) would be dumped on vast areas from planes and defoliation took place. Benefits were two fold. 1) No bad guys can hide in the jungles or forests without the cover of green canopy. 2) Kill all the crops so the bad guys will starve and die.

Obviously, Agent Orange was just one piece of the huge horror show called Vietnam. But its harm continues to reverberate to this day.

The spraying didn’t help. It only hurt. The destroyed crops led to widespread famine and innocent civilians starved to death. The environment was damaged. Our boys came home and began to get sick. Every spray inflicted harm. Illness, genetic damage and death were all a part of its ripple effect. The U.S., Vietnam and other countries who were exposed during the war all suffer the effects.

This could be viewed as old news. But it’s not. It’s continuing news. Because people are still dying. Kyle did.

We sent our fresh faced boys into a jungle war that they had no chance of winning. No one came out of it unscathed. Those who did make it home were changed and scarred, one way or another, for the rest of their lives.

That is our history and our responsibility.

I suppose, in a way, this is a posthumous thank you to Kyle for his sacrifices. Tinged with sorrow for his suffering. It shouldn’t have ended like that. Terribly unfair.

A thank you to all the young boys who left our neighborhoods. Those who made it back home and those who didn’t. Bless them all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Here is one more story about social media. And using it responsibly.

Maybe it’s more about responsible parenting.

I saw a posting/link on Facebook that someone shared.

About a father in Virginia teaching his ten-year-old son a lesson. The kid was kicked off the bus for bullying others.

Dad made his son run the mile to school each morning. Even in the rain. He filmed the kid’s punishment from the car.

It went viral.

His message to other parents?

Don’t be a friend. Be a parent. That’s what kids need these days.

He felt like filming his son’s punishment and sharing it with millions of strangers was a good parenting move. And I suppose some type of public service announcement for the world.

The father received a lot of positive feedback.

“Good for you!”

“Great parenting!”

“Yay!”

No one wants their kid to be a bully. I’m on the same page and I certainly appreciate his “no bullying” stance.

I don’t agree with anything else.

Good God, I hope he doesn’t run for elected office. Laugh out loud. You all know how crazy stuff can go down. Like a locomotive picking up steam.

I’m not into family shaming. At all.

Why on earth would I publicly shame my own kids? Or even my dog, Thumper?

I didn’t name any of them Hester Prynne.

They trust me. As their parent.

I’m not sure that kid is ever going to trust his old man. Any time that guy whips out a camera everyone is going to stop, drop and roll.

It’s our job, as parents, to determine why a child is bullying others or behaving inappropriately. What is the root cause?

Sure, punish the kid. Even make them walk everywhere because they lost the privilege of riding the bus.

But film it? And share it?

Sounds like something a bully might do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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