Lessons I Learned from Successful Women

30 Nov

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I come from a long line of successful, strong women. When I say this, I am speaking of women who raised families, held on to their husbands and kept their marriages going through the best and worst of times when lesser women would have given up, gave birth to children in the most difficult of circumstances – my great-grandmother gave birth to her first child at home with not a bit of help from a doctor and that little girl weighed right at twelve pounds! She went on to have another child, my grandfather just two years later in the same manner, in the same bed and he weighed eleven pounds. My very own mother, a CN3-RN who was a supervisor at a large hospital went into labor with me after watching two women die from emergency C-Sections, so she herself refused to have the same procedure done even though I was coming Frank-breech (butt first) and upside down and the doctor begged her to allow them after thirty-six hours of hard labor to allow them to cut her open and relieve her pain. Out of fear for her life and mine, she instead insisted on a much more painful episiotomy that cut her two inches ABOVE her anus and left her unable to walk for ten days and me black with bruises from my legs up to my shoulders. But we were both alive, and she went on to have my brother 17 months later without complications. Honestly, I’d slap anyone who ever dared say my mother wasn’t a strong woman. She may have been terrified of having that C-section, but it took not only physical strength but determination that lasted more hours than any one of us can imagine to bring me into this world and I am forever grateful to her for it. So no matter how angry I ever get at her, no matter what she ever says or does, I will never forget the sacrifice she made for me before she ever knew me.

She wasn’t always a patient woman, but few women who are smart and strong and successful often are. She told me things growing up that I didn’t understand the reasons for until much later, and she would do crazy things that I thought at the time were completely ridiculous. Now, however that I am a wife and a mother, I know why she did those things, and what they all meant, and I passed them down to my daughter-she thought I was just as crazy I suppose but now that she is twenty-one I believe she is seeing that I’m not as foolish as she once believed. I know that there are many daughters who did not get those lessons from their mothers, not because their mothers did not love them, but perhaps because their mothers had forgotten them or just hadn’t been blessed to have the same crazy mothers from which we descended. That’s what this blog is about tonight. I’m going to share some of the lessons I learned about life, men, succeeding in this world, and maybe you can use it to your advantage and pass some of these lessons down to your daughters one day too.

1. My mother used to make me walk with a book on my head, just like in those old fashioned movies. I had to walk with a heavy book balanced on my head while walking the straight line of the kitchen linoleum, the hardwood floor, or a chalk line she drew outside on our carport. I had to do it in flats, heels, tennis shoes, and place one foot in front of the other and execute a graceful turn at the end of the room or line without dropping the book. I’d walk back and forth for what seemed like forever until she was satisfied. If I was standing and she saw me slouching, she would slap me HARD between my shoulder blades and tell me to stand up straight and that would be the signal to go get that damn book of Shakespeare’s Sonnets or the S out of the encyclopedias and start walking. Some days she would pick out a really high pair of heels, some days I’d get lucky and get a pair of low kitten heels, but I NEVER got to do it barefoot. Do you know what I learned from this? I bet you can guess! I have, to this very day, excellent posture! I can be ANYWHERE and if I feel myself starting to slouch from tiredness or boredom I very quickly straighten up and put my feet in a ladylike position, one heel to the instep of the other foot and stand like I should. Why is this important? I feel good when I stand straight, and people notice that I look professional and put together, no matter what I have on when I stand like a lady. I AM a lady, and I always want to look my best and unless I am sick I will always do my best to look like the lady my mother taught me to be! I taught my daughter this, and it has served her well in her school days, jobs, and whenever she is in public. This is not to say there haven’t been times when both of us have leaned, stumbled or even fell, but when we needed it, we knew how to stand and walk properly.

2. My mother corrected my grammar relentlessly from the time I was learning to speak. Yes, I am Southern, and I know how to speak ‘redneck’ with the best of them. I can speak with a country slang so thick that when I lived in Belgium I could mutter insults aloud with an accent that people swore I was NOT speaking English! I laughed and told them I was speaking ‘Redneck’ and it was a language all it’s own! But my mother made sure from the time I could speak that I knew to say ‘she and I’ and ‘her and me’ and when to use each and how to construct sentences in the proper form so that no one could ever say that I was uneducated, no matter where they were from or how many advantages they had been raised with! She encouraged my brother and me to increase our vocabulary daily, often challenging us to not only use new words but to spell them at the nightly dinner table. It was a game we played, and it challenged us to expand out minds and use our conversations to grow and become better at expressing ourselves so we didn’t have to resort to profanity to make ourselves understood. I became an autodidact, and greedily soaked up obscure language so as to impress my mother as well as my teachers. I did this as well with my daughter, and perhaps it is why she is such an excellent speaker and writer to this day!

3. Know your worth, my mother always told me. My grandmothers both said the same thing every time I saw them and until I grew past the awkward teenage years when self-doubt ruled me I truly had no idea what my real worth actually was or would ever be. I had to have my parents force me to not allow the boys I dated disrespect me, or I would never have had a chance to gain that knowledge and I thank them for making me feel embarrassed with all their rules. They never let me go out with a boy who would not come pick me up at the door and meet them. I had a couple of boys, my first husband was one of them, who pulled up in the drive and honked the horn for me to come out and go. My parents physically forced me to stay in the house until my dates walked up to the door and knocked, greeted my parents and asked if I was ready for our date. The boys, or young men, would then have to meet my parents and then tell them where we were going and what time we would be back. Mom and Dad were never rude, in fact they were polite and welcoming, but they made sure those fellows understood that I was WORTH treating with care, with manners and dignity, and that I was a lady. My first husband told me he had never had to walk up to a girl’s door to pick her up, and I remember telling him that evidently he had dated girls without good raising then! I was being sassy, but now looking back, perhaps that is why he saw me as a potential wife and not just some girl to treat any old way.

4. Girls do NOT pay for the date! The gentleman asks the lady out, he pays, he always opens doors, he walks her to her door after the date, if they are ordering dinner the lady orders first (or she tells him what she wants and he orders for them both), he holds her chair for her, he walks on the side nearest the street as protection, and he chooses the restaurant. OK, now when I was told all of this, I thought just as you probably are right now “OMG, we aren’t living in the DARK AGES!!!” but listen to the reasons that this works, even today. The man invites the woman out to show he is truly interested in her as a girlfriend, not a buddy, not a pal, not a friend. He selects the restaurant according to his budget, so he knows he can afford the meal, and when ordering for both he can control the cost-allow him to make suggestions so he doesn’t overrun his wallet!!! See? This makes much more sense, right? The gentleman opens doors, takes her coat, walks on the outside of the sidewalk closest to the street so he can be her protector, because men LIKE to be protective and strong when it comes to women. Even if you are a foot taller and can bench press fifty pounds more than he can, no man wants to be reminded of that on a romantic date! Let him be the man and you be the woman, it’s nice to be treated like a lady, and you’ll both feel much better when this happens. And if a man isn’t willing to even open a door for you, what does that say about him? It says he isn’t a candidate for a relationship. It’s a small matter to do such a small thing to show you respect and caring and if he can’t do that, do you think he is going to be generous down the line with his deeds, actions or affections when it counts? No! And what man wants a woman who won’t let him treat her like a lady, or who doesn’t understand that she is WORTHY of being treated like she is special? Not much. I say this from experience, I’ve been married three times, my first lasted six years and ended amicably, my second ended due to our lives heading in separate directions (and hidden drug use on his part) and I am happily married now. In between, I dated many men, good ones, bad ones, abusive ones, and had several engagements that I ended all amicably due to family needs and job moves. The men who treated me like a lady and did what I am telling you they should were the KEEPERS!!! The ones I let slide on the rules turned out to be worthless and not worth the time of day! When I forgot that I was WORTH being treated like a lady, when I forgot that I was not their buddy, or their hangout ‘bro’ or someone to ‘kick it with’, that is when I was miserable!! I have friends, I have girlfriends, I have gay guy friends, and I have straight guy friends, I don’t DATE them!!! I split the meals bills with THEM, I open my own doors with them, I buy my own drinks with them, and that is how it is. If you start out buying your own meal, opening your own doors, and not making it clear that you are the GIRL and you are in a DATE, don’t be surprised when you aren’t their girlfriend!!! And don’t be surprised when you hear that even though he might have slept with you a few times, he is in a relationship (maybe even a serious one) with someone he met either before or after YOU! Know your worth, know the rules, and don’t kid yourself about any of it!

5. Never underestimate the value of a career and a good education. If you want to be respected in this world, both by your friends, loved ones, and your enemies, you best get a good education and get a career. OK, it’s fine to work in a restaurant as a waitress while you’re in college, or as a side job while you’re saving money to buy into something else, or even as a second job to help pay the mortgage and pay off your student loans as you work your way up the corporate ladder. Just don’t think when you’re thirty-five and working as a cashier somewhere and you’ve never even taken a single college class or tried to get a better job people are going to take you seriously. OK, yes, the times are hard right now, but if you can’t find a job in your chosen field then start your own business, do something about making things happen for yourself, have some dreams and set about making them come true! It is better to work for peanuts as a musician on the weekends playing music because you have talent and toil in a factory all week to pay the bills than to JUST GIVE UP!!! Life is much too short to not figure out what it is you love to do, what you’re good at and pursue it! Everyone has something that they do better than anyone else, you just have to figure out what that is and DO IT!! Michael Jordan played basketball on a dirt court in his backyard from the time he was a child, he has no idea that one day he would become one of the greatest basketball players in the world-he just loved putting the ball through the hoop. What if no one had ever handed him a ball? What if Tiger Woods had never been handed a golf club and a ball? What if Leonardo DaVinci had never had a pencil and a piece of paper? There are people out here, millions of them, that are in college right now, taking all different classes just trying to figure out what the hell they are meant to be doing with their lives. That’s ok! My advice is to do the same thing! Even if it is just one class at a time, you can only better yourself by having taken that class, you can only come closer to your dreams, and you can only increase your worth by increasing your mental prowess. Do it for YOU, no one else. You’ll be happy you did.

6. Love yourself, no matter who you are, where you come from, what you look like, how smart you are, or what you have. This world is made up not of a single path, it is full of paths and some are marked and others are covered with weeds and look totally deserted and abandoned. There will be times when the clear ones are the right ones, and then times when those are the ones you need to avoid. My point is, you have to use your own judgment, the lessons you’ve learned, your strengths and knowledge of what is right for you and those you love to know which way to go. I’ve seen people make some really stupid choices just because they didn’t take the time to stop and look at the landscape. Look at the people you know or have heard of who are in jail. Every singe one of them is there because of BAD decisions. They didn’t stop and take the time to do the right thing, take the right path. Most of them took what they thought was a shortcut, or made a hasty decision, or simply didn’t even look where they were going. There isn’t a SINGLE unwanted pregnancy in this world that happened because of a thoughtful, carefully made decision. No, someone acted without thinking, they didn’t plan ahead or wait until they could take the right steps. There isn’t a crime committed that didn’t involve a wrong decision. So my point is, you are in control of your own destiny. Take your time, think about the paths you want to walk upon and make sure that you always choose carefully because once you’re walking, you can’t turn around and go in a different direction when you realize you’ve screwed up. The best you can do is forage around until you find the correct way to go, and that’s a helluva lot harder than simply taking the right one in the first place. You’re going to make mistakes, but don’t beat yourself up. Love yourself enough to take care of YOU. Don’t let someone else put you last. You are too precious for that. It’s your walk, no one else, and while they may be along for the ride you have to feel the pain if things go wrong.

7. Know who your friends are, and know when to say goodbye. We have many people who come into our lives, and many we will call friends. Some will be so close they will be like brothers and sisters to us, and we will think they will always be there. Some will be friends that we grow very close to and the friendship is intense for a short time but ends soon. Some will be gentle friends that we know for a while but fade away, leaving us with smiles and great memories. Some friends will be false, and use us for what we give them and when we are dried up and no longer fueling them they will leave us for the next. Don’t be afraid to make friends, to love people, but guard your heart until you know what kind of a person you are sharing your friendship with. Know your worth as a friend, and be a good friend to all-but don’t allow yourself to be taken advantage of or used if you can help it. I’ve had friends that I would have sworn loved me like they were my family break my heart and treat me like trash under their feet for no reason. When I looked back on my friendship with them, I realized too late that I was blind to what everyone else saw…I was a sucker being used for my time, my love, my money, and my support. Be a good, honest person in all you do, be a good friend to those you meet, but don’t give your heart wholeheartedly to anyone not willing to do the same for you. True friendship is as hard to find and as precious as true love, never forget that. Don’t be a cynic, but don’t be a fool.

8. This pertains to the way we dress, ladies. Men reading this will agree with me, I am sure, for all my friends who are men have told me this time and again, and it is hard for women to get it through their heads at times, but I must say it.

If you dress like a lady, you will be treated like one. If you dress like a whore, you will be treated as such. I’m not saying you have to wear a skirt to your ankles and up to your neck, but if you are out and about with no bra on, in a skirt that shows your legs all the way up to your butt, platform heels, and cleavage that shows everything but your nipples, you look like trash asking to get picked up…and you don’t look like anyone a man wants to take home to meet his mother or be a mother to his children. What you DO look like is a convenient hole for him to stick it in. Now, that may sound harsh, but I’ve owned several businesses, and I’ve had to send women home who seemed to have forgotten that bras are necessary undergarments at the workplace, that skirts at work should never be shorter than an inch or two above the knee and YES, you should wear hosiery-and not with bats or crazy patterns all over them! Save that for the club later! The office (Unless you work at a fashion magazine that allows it specifically) is not  circus, and we are there to do business, not distract one another. I admit, I am a lover of fashion, and I was working in a conservative office in my twenties and wore a leather skirt (knee length) with a beautiful silk blouse and black stockings and heels, and I got FIRED!!! Now, my outfit was completely modest, nothing showing, the skirt just happened to be made of beautiful kid leather. I was hired back the next day after I filed a complaint, but I quit soon after because that incident ruined the rapport I had with the other office staff. You see, I simply forgot that I was working in an office where women were used to wearing jeans skirts and sweatshirts, not fashionable attire like I was used to when I lived in the city and I stuck out like a sore thumb. I learned my lesson and began to invest in beautifully cut black suits, some with long skirts, shorter skirts that came just to the knee, others with slacks, but all conservative and with tailored jackets of various styles. I made my suits ‘me’ with various blouses, scarves, brooches-antique, real diamond, some pearl, all kinds, and I splurged on gorgeous shoes to match. I was a shoe freak long before Carrie Bradshaw’s name was ever known. But the point of this is that I dressed appropriately for not only the job I had, but the jobs I WANTED. I knew if I came in wearing clothing that was flashy or too sexy, I would never get ahead in the businesses I worked within, so I found a way to accommodate them and still be myself. I see young women in their early twenties getting ready to enter the job market and I see how they are dressed and I cringe. Ladies, New York is one city in this big country, and what they wear there is not what they wear in most of the rest of the country. If you want to be taken seriously in the business world, I suggest you invest in some good quality, well tailored and lined dress suits, blouses, hosiery, Spanx (the type that go ALL the way down to cover your entire legs) and some nice heels you can walk in (forget Louboutin, try some 3 inch Nine West black pumps to begin) and NEVER ever take your shoes off during the work day!!!! There is nothing tackier than a woman taking her shoes off and walking around in bare feet in the office!!!

9. Now that you look like a lady, sound like one! Clean up your language, even if you don’t think anyone important is listening! Do not involve yourself in gossip at the workplace-it will come back to haunt you. Don’t use foul language at all, get in a habit of not EVER dropping the F-bomb, and don’t use any of the other ones either. If you get the reputation of being the woman with the sailor-mouth, it will follow you forever. It’s simply for the best if you class yourself up and sound like a lady since you know deep down you ARE a lady. I guarantee when you sound like a lady, look like a lady, and do an excellent job as well, you will be a greater success!!! Your paycheck will reflect it as well!

10. Last but not least, no office romances-EVER EVER EVER!!!!!! Remember how in high school everyone knew who was sleeping with whom, almost as soon as it happened, and how everyone talked about it continually? Well, the office is worse. Don’t date clients, either, you’ll be labelled a whore trying to get business the ‘easy way’. Don’t even engage in the ‘what if’ conversations that go on when boredom hits the other girls in the afternoon or on breaks. That’s a very dangerous game, too. And don’t share tales of your own love life, no details about your dates from the previous weekends, don’t allow coworkers on your FaceBook, and if at all possible don’t put anything on FB that you don’t want your employers to read, such as how drunk you were on Saturday, or God Forbid any drug use or sexual escapades!! You want no one at your job to know ANY sordid details about your life, remember that these are NOT your friends, these are people who would throw you under a bus in a heartbeat if it meant a raise for them!!! Listen quietly to their tales if you want, smile and nod as they complain about husbands, diapers, soccer practices, but don’t say jack about your life out side of the office!!! You don’t need to ever air grievances about your job either, you don’t want them to have anything to tell your supervisor or boss, nothing!!!! As far as everyone you work with should know, you ADORE your job, LOVE IT, and would work late seven days a week if you could!!!

Now, I hope that some of these many words of wisdom have sunk in, I do realize they are long and varied, but I swear they are all true and if you keep them in mind you will do well!!!!! Keep the faith and never forget how valuable you are!!!!!

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Another Holiday with Family Ends

26 Nov

It is Thanksgiving yet again, and with it comes so many memories- the wonderful ones when I was just a child and my parents would dress my brother and me in beautiful holiday outfits and load us into the station wagon to go first to my father’s parents’ home for the traditional Southern Thanksgiving fare, complete with homemade pickles and my favorite of all my Aunt Munsey’s pickled pears and peaches. She was my favorite aunt, the spinster aunt who had helped raise my father and uncle and aunt, and was truly another grandmother to me that made no secret of me being her favorite of all the grandchildren. She would hold me on her lap and teach me songs, help my tiny hands hold a needle to quilt my first sampler, show me how to crochet, knit and even the old-fashioned way to make lace with thread called ‘tatting’. Thanksgiving at my paternal grandparents back then involved the entire family, with the exception of my father’s sister and her family because they were a military family and lived in the Philippines, Turkey, and other exotic places we could only imagine.

Visiting and eating there was comfortable and relaxed for me, because I was oblivious to the adults and their various tensions. I never noticed the tense tones in my mother and father’s voices as they carried on polite conversation with my uncle and his wife (who was not only my aunt but my mother’s first cousin as well). I didn’t pay attention to how my Papaw would make comments here and there that made my mother’s mouth go tense and my father’s hands wring with tension and barely contained anger. I didn’t pay attention to my aunt and uncle chain smoking to keep from saying too much or offending the hosts and sometimes acerbic Aunt Munsey and my granny. I wish I could turn back time and go back to those days and do something to change the course of my family’s dynamic so it would be possible once again to have my family in one room without someone storming out in anger or threatening to do damage to one another…but it’s not possible. My parents and my aunts and uncles are too old to change or forget the various insults and events that have made them literally despise one another. My grandmother is still alive, ninety-three years young, my Aunt Munsey and my Papaw long laid to rest, but the manipulations of my Papaw still haunt his offspring so viciously that they cannot and will not even consider the possibility of being in a room together, much less sharing a family meal. My father and mother get along with his sister and her husband, but they have their three children for their own holiday gathering and we are not invited. As a psychology major, I don’t have any more ways or means of trying to mend that part of my family, and I feel helpless.

Stepping back again to my childhood holiday memories, and the second part of every Thanksgiving would mean a trip over Sugar Grove Mountain and to the beautiful home of my mother’s family. I loved being there just as much as being at my father’s parents’, but for different reasons. While my paternal grandparents lived on a working dairy farm, with a home that had been built so long ago that it was constructed with slave labor and thick solid wooden walls in the style of the 1800’s, my mother’s family home was a huge ranch style brick and stone home, complete with a fireplace made of grey slate that had come from the quarry thirty miles away. While my dad’s family home had a warm, but serviceable interior with few knick-knacks and displays, my mother’s family home was the complete opposite. Everywhere you looked, there were beautiful antiques, lavish furniture, and style that bespoke of my Dee Dee’s beautiful taste and wealth. My Grampsie was a hard working man who had come from a large family with barely enough to eat and a home with too many children and not enough heat to keep them warm. He was smart, though, and knew that if he was to make my Dee Dee happy for a lifetime he was going to have to become a successful man in this world, and with her happiness in mind he went to school and became a plumber and electrician. He owned his own business, and by the time I was born he had bought every house on one entire street in their town. He was an alcoholic, but I didn’t even know it until I was a teenager. I only knew that the smell of bourbon and Old Spice made me think of him and he was the most loving man a young girl could ever want for a grandfather. He spoiled the women in his life, I think that gave him his greatest joy. He covered my Dee Dee in furs and beautiful clothing that eclipsed every other woman in that side of the state. My grandmother- my Dee Dee, was a breathtakingly beautiful woman, and wore clothes better than any model of her day. She had even been photographed by a traveling Life photographer when she was 17 and had been put in the magazine as an example of ‘Southern Beauty’. She was not a humble woman, she knew she was smart (she was an accountant for several successful businesses) and she knew exactly how to get what she wanted! She is the only woman I have ever known that could get strangers to do her bidding, whether it was to go get her a drink while she watched her bingo cards or teaching her Sunday school class. She simply was one to obey, and she made you WANT to please her!

I looked up to her and wanted to grow up to be just like her. Both my mother and her sister were in constant competition to be her ‘favorite’, and it is to my mother’s credit that she won that contest hands down! My mother was an RN, and ran the hospital in the county where we lived. She was always introduced as ‘Our daughter, the nurse’, just as I was always introduced as ‘Our only granddaughter’. My aunt had committed the grievous sin of dropping out of college just after marrying my uncle, breaking her promise to my grandparents, and it irked her to no end when my mother would be introduced so grandly and then she was introduced simply by her name. In later years I would hear her bitterly say ‘And this is Anne, the nothing’. She was married to an industrial engineer, and while she may have never had a career, she did manage to give my Grampsie the son he never had, my cousin Brent. My brother could never hold a candle to our cousin, for my brother was fat, only interested in watching television or hanging onto my mother’s leg. He was called a ‘momma’s boy’ by both sets of grandparents, much to my father’s irritation.

I remember how after we ate our second holiday meal, my father and Grampsie would retire to the den to watch sports on television, and my brother was made to sit on the couch and not move. I felt a bit sorry for him sometimes because if he got up to use the bathroom, my Dee Dee would holler at him the entire time telling him he better not mess anything up and to hurry up and get back in the den. He did have a habit of wandering through the many bedrooms and picking up carefully placed glassware, or rearranging pillows while playing roughly with antique dolls out of boredom, but my Dee Dee was harsh with him and very particular about her ‘not-made-for-children’ home. He was completely miserable every time we were there.

I, however, loved spending time in that beautiful home, not only because it was so lavish but because I was ‘special’ there. Unlike at home, where my brother was the very obvious favorite of my mother, at The best Dee Dee and Grampsie’s house I was the favorite, the talented only granddaughter who could do no wrong! I was allowed to play the antique piano, showing off my burgeoning musical talents, I was asked to sing often, and many holidays I was asked to show what I had learned in my many dance classes or other artistic lessons. My Dee Dee constantly told me how pretty I was, and what a smart girl I was, and how completely special I was in this family of amazing women! My grandmother was like a queen and I felt that every time she spoke to me she was handing down her secrets, her woman-power, and I loved it and her!! My Grampsie would hold me on his lap and tell me every visit how much he loved me, and say ‘you’re our only granddaughter’ as if that meant I was next in line to the family throne. If ever a girl was made to feel like a princess, they did that for me! I was bought beautiful clothes, always the best designer dresses to wear, and even a fur coat for my ninth birthday!

The best part of those holiday visits was when the dishes were cleared, the leftovers put away, and the two sisters and their mother gathered around the kitchen table to gossip about family. It was like getting to peek into the world of the grownups, and I sat on a green stool at the bar beside the kitchen table and absorbed their language, their mannerisms and their entitlement through a blue haze of cigarette smoke. I have to laugh now at how today no one would dare to have a child in the middle of their smoking and gossiping sessions, but they did! I remember the few times I complained about the smoke coming directly toward my face, and how almost in unison the three would say ‘Smoke follows beauty!’ and they would tell me that it meant I was gong to grow into a beautiful woman and not complain. I would do my best not to cough, and think about how truly beautiful those three women were sitting at that table in their best attire and praying that one day I would look just like them.

When I say that my Dee Dee and my mother and my aunt were beautiful, it is not in any way an exaggeration. My grandmother had flawless skin, beautifully shaded naturally, and she didn’t have wrinkles even up til her death at age 83! The nurses who attended her when she would be in the hospital near the end of her life were constantly commenting on her skin, and then on mine. She gave that genetic gift to both her daughters as well as me, and even though my mother and aunt tanned themselves lightly during the 70’s and 80’s as was the fashion, to this day they have gorgeous skin and don’t look anywhere near their ages. Yes, I worshiped at the throne of beauty, pride in abundance, and feminine power from the time I was born. Holidays brought those three women together, and I desperately wanted them to be proud of me and include me in their activities.

Now, sadly, my Grampsie and Dee Dee are gone. My mother and her sister allowed their rivalry for their parent’s affection and their competition with one another to eat away at the bond that should have held them together even after their parents were dead and buried. The two split their inheritance with a jealous and angry vengeance, and rarely speak to one another now through random emails forwarding a joke or a quick meeting when my aunt happens to return to the mountains of Virginia to visit other relatives. There will never be another holiday with them sitting at a table telling stories, exchanging memories, and both have given up smoking in their health-conscientious years. There is no  love between them anymore, only random mentions when my mother hears from her sister. I miss the family that could and should have been. I wish the bond of sisterhood could be mended so my cousin would bring his new wife and two sons to meet us all…or at least invite us to visit them sometime. But once again, I have no power within me to fix what is completely severed, and I resign myself to it.

With both sides of my family broken and torn, you would think that my parents and brother and I would take comfort in our own family, his two daughters and my daughter together along with his wife to celebrate at my parents home. But my brother learned the lesson of hate from the transgressions of our ancestors and decided that he wanted nothing to do with me, my husband, and refuses to be in the same house with me for any reason. He refused to attend my wedding, even though his daughters were to be my flower girls and I bought beautiful matching pink dresses for them…custom made so they would look like the little angels they are as they strew petals before me down the aisle. I admit, I am hurt by this, angry because it is unnecessary and evil to separate what is left of my family for no reason. I have written him numerous times, asking him what it is he is so angry about, apologizing for whatever he feels I have done to offend him so, but he only says that he wants nothing to do with me, we are too different, and he wants no contact with me ever. I can accept that he doesn’t want to see me or be a brother to me, but it breaks my heart that I have two adorable nieces that I never get to see, never get to spoil as an aunt should, and that worst of all every holiday celebration is his, his family’s, and my parents and daughter attend but I am forbidden to join. My husband and I have had long discussions about it, and I’ve cried many tears and had many angry rants at his treatment of me, but it does no good. For the life of me I tried to remember what could have possibly made him feel this way toward me, but I can think of nothing. My family tells me to forget about him, quit letting it bother me, but it never stops stinging that he is deliberately doing this not just to me but to my parents and my nieces and my husband.

I was informed today while visiting my parents that he will be coming to their house to celebrate Christmas a few days after the actual date. Along with that, I was told that he made it clear to my parents that if I showed up he would immediately take his family and leave. Both my parents swore they tried to talk to him, to make him soften and allow us to have a complete Christmas, but he adamantly refused.

Have the sins of my parents come to roost in their son? Has their example taught my brother that family means nothing and he has not only the power but complete lack of feeling to tear our family in two? Perhaps. I hear from others that he is an unhappy person, tense and unable to go without smoking pot or using drugs to make it through their holiday gathering last Thursday. I’m certainly not perfect, but I know I’m not a bad person, I’m a good daughter who remembers birthdays and anniversaries, calls to check on my parents when they have a cold or just call to see how they are getting along. I’ve spent untold amounts of money in years past on my nieces, carefully selecting fun toys and always buying each a good, grownup piece of jewelry for them to wear and keep all their lives. I have never done anything to hurt my brother, I have never been deliberately mean or cruel to him since we were perhaps small children, and I’ve apologized a thousand times for those hurts. But no more prostrating myself to a forty-year old man who feels the need to gain attention by insulting and hurting his only sister in every possible way. I’ll not cry another tear over this, and I’ll not try to mend this broken bond any more. He can have his solitude, he can live with himself and see where it gets him in the long run. One day, his children will be old enough to ask about me, and my daughter will be there to tell them the truth if no one else will.

I am lucky that my husband has a wonderful family that treats me not like a daughter-in-law, but as a true daughter. I am more grateful than words can say at the blessing they and my husband are in my life. My daughter loves me, accepts me, and I simply adore her and am proud of the woman she is becoming. This will be enough for me, I will make it be enough. My parents can see me as they choose, whether they want to come to my home or invite me to theirs, I will be happy to go for I love them. But my brother has gotten his wish, he has no sister. Perhaps when he is older and wiser he will realize what he’s lost in behaving as he has, but somehow I doubt it. Some people just need to hurt others to make themselves feel better, and I believe that is what he is doing with all of this. I can choose to let it eat me up with anger or sorrow, but I think I won’t. I think I’ll be happy instead.