The Muzzled Voice

Archive for the ‘Journal’ Category

My best friend, Pennie, turned 46 on Tuesday. I joked with her that she only had a few more years before she turned the big 5-0. Although we got a good laugh out of it, she reminded me that I was 40, and I’d probably be 100 years old by the time Tavin graduated. It was an exaggeration, of course, but I couldn’t help but think about how my life, at 40, is literally starting all over again.

 

How many people do we know in a lifetime who get a real second chance at life; an opportunity to truly start all over again? Not many. And I never thought that I would be one of those people.

 

I always saw my life as one way, and not the other. I thought that my past would always dictate my future; that it would hold me back from the things in life I had always hoped for. I was blessed, and lucky, to have found love at my age, especially after all I had gone through in my life. Pennie, on the other hand, has given up hope. It’s not easy. And I know it’s a cliché to say, “If it can happen to me, it can happen to you,” but I can’t help but believe that, knowing what I know.

 

At 40, I’m feeling young at heart again, because life is starting over. I’m in love for the first time in my life. I may have loved others before, but it wasn’t “this.” It was always such destructive love that it never made any sense to me. But now I have this relationship that feels good, and is better than most people could hope for in a lifetime. And although I’ve been jaded, and the thought of marriage carries many bad memories for me, I am, again, getting married. But this time it feels like the first time, because it’s for all the right reasons.

 

And at 40, I’m having my second child. I never thought… I usually steered clear of men who were looking to have a family, because I just didn’t want anymore children. I had Josh, and that was good enough for me. I had done my child rearing. I had gone through it all, and I was so young when I did it that it was “my time” to live my life. I just wanted to go through life pretty much on my own, my way.

 

Jared changed all that. We were both against having children for many, many reasons. But there was a moment last summer when we were given a special gift. We were allowed to see that although having a child would ultimately change our lives, it could change it for the better, and it didn’t have to change who we are. And our child didn’t have to be a child of the world, but a child of our love and guidance. A product of the love that we shared, that needed to be shared with someone special. And that day, right there, we decided, with hundreds of people watching, that we would change our lives to know that special someone. 

 

I’ve had so many experiences in life when I found myself looking back at my life and wondering, “How did I get here?” Sometimes it was good, other times it was bad. And then there are moments when I look back and realize that my life ended at one point, and began again at another. There are periods in my life when I just glided through, not really paying attention, but just trying to survive, trying to find my way, any way I could.

 

Finding Jared was like tripping over something and landing in someone’s lap. I’m not entirely sure it was supposed to happen, but I’m glad that it did.

 

This morning I woke up at 5:30 and couldn’t fight the urge to think back on how this all started. How weird and awkward it was at first, just making the initial date. I remember getting angry with Jared when he first called to set up the date. It wasn’t what I had hoped for, and I got really frustrated and disappointed. I wasn’t too excited about our first date, and nearly cancelled. But I knew Jared was a nice guy, and despite my lack of “romantic feelings” for him, I just wanted to go and spend time with a nice guy, and I had no expectations whatsoever!

 

And that’s how it happens. When you least expect it. When you give someone a chance even when it doesn’t “seem” like something you’d ever choose for yourself. You have all these “ideas” about the right person or the right job or the perfect life, and then someone, out of nowhere, pops up and changes everything! And mostly for the better. Because Someone Else knows us better, and if we trust that Someone Else, and take chances that seem out of the ordinary to us, we just never know what might happen. But if we get all caught up in our own ideas about how things are supposed to look, or be, we’ll never discover what’s truly in store for us.

 

It was that first date. Although awkward at times, we both knew at one point during the date that we HAD to know this person more. There may have even been a moment when we both knew that we had finally found our other half. And I had ample opportunity to run like hell after that. But I didn’t…I couldn’t. Thank God.

 

Sometimes I wake up, roll over and see Jared lying next to me, and all I can do is smile. I can’t help…but smile. And then I close my eyes again, and I thank God for bringing Jared into my life.

 

And then I feel a flutter. A kick. And I realize that I have a life inside of me. A piece of our love growing, becoming more real everyday. And I love Jared more. And I love Tavin more. And I wonder…am I dreaming? Because I never thought, in a million years, that this would be my life. That I—of all people—would know this, and know what it means to start all over again.

 

So what? I’m 40! My life is half over…but it’s just beginning. Who could ask for anything more?

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Politics aside…

So this morning I woke up to a snow covered existence outside, stretched, yawned, grabbed my robe and took a nice warm shower. Afterwards, I plopped myself at the computer and began working. I started getting hungry, since my last meal was at 5 PM last night. I didn’t want a big breakfast; I didn’t even want a slice of toast like I usually do. Instead, I wanted a bowl of dry cereal to have with my glass of milk. So I got up, waddled to the kitchen and opened the cabinet door. Out of all the boxes of cereal we had, I chose the Jewel brand of “Crunchy Corn Squares”, the generic version of Corn Chex. What I saw on the back of the box STUNNED me! I was utterly appalled!!

“Family UNPLUGGED” it read, in fun, retro letters. “Imagine all the things you could do instead of watching television! Unplug the tube and grab your family,” the box informed. So…what can you do if you turn off the TV and spend time with your family? Well, it went on:

“You could…volunteer your time at a soup kitchen. Work on a jigsaw puzzle. Try a new recipe. Go for a walk. Play catch. Arrange photos into a family scrapbook. Plan a day trip. Research your family tree. Play board games. Or…clean out your closets and hold a family yard sale. Ride bikes. Fly kites. Plant some flowers. Go for a drive. Play cards. Go on a picnic. Play charades. Catch fireflies. Go bowling. Roller blade. Ice skate.”

So I take the box out to the living room and scream, “Can you believe this?” to Jared and his mother. They both look at me, surprised by my outburst. And I read the box to them out loud. They look at me blankly. Jared’s not surprised, nor is he outraged. Timi, Jared’s mother, finally gets it after I explain what this box means.

The ideas on the box sound great, right? So why am I so outraged by this box? (First of all, let me first state, KUDOS to Jewel for putting something so brave and yet so ordinary on the back of their box.) I’m not upset with Jewel and the box, per say, what I’m angered about is the mere fact that ANYONE has to tell us–on a cereal box of all things–how to “be” a family! And who is the audience of the Back of the Box? It’s our children. It’s kids who don’t KNOW what a family is. It’s geared to teach CHILDREN what a family SHOULD be doing. But this is what we’ve become. Complacent. Lazy. Numb.

To me, all of these things listed on the Back of the Box were GIVENS! It just makes sense. And I wasn’t concerned that someone else was telling me how to be a family, because I already knew these things. I had already done these very things with Josh when he was growing up, and we still do some of these things! I plan on doing ALL of these things with Tavin and Jared. In fact, I can’t wait!!

What I don’t understand is a family who DOESN’T do these things. What I don’t get is the fact that a cereal company has to spell it out for 80% of society today. As I continued to hold the box up to Jared and Timi, ranting on and on about this injustice, I played a scenario out for them: “Hey dad, look at the Back of the Box. It says we should do…” And the dad literally pushes the child out of the view of the TV and says, “Not now, Bobby, I’m watching the game. We’ll do all those things some other time when daddy’s not so busy.”

Now Jared wasn’t outraged for one reason: When we see what we see out in the world today, and we encounter children and families out in public, we can literally SEE that the family unit is broken! We can see the children vying for their parents attention and affection. It’s everywhere. It’s overwhelming. It’s a shame! Granted we all see it, day in and day out, but the Back of the Box really confirmed my suspicions about what’s happening in the world.

The Back of the Box is politely and attractively telling us to get off our lazy butts and pay attention to our children! And what about the poor child who reads the Back of the Box and desperately wants to do these things with a parent who is unwilling to take the time to do them? What really disturbs me is that the child who sees this list and thinks, “This would be so much fun,” but has no idea what it truly means to be a family who does things together, or worse yet, realizes that even if he were to show the Back of the Box to his parents, it may not ever happen that way. 

Why does the outside world have to explain the very basics of life to us? Why isn’t it common sense anymore? Why are people having children in the first place, if they don’t take the time to BE a family? The world is breaking down because the family is broken. There’s no true sense of the word anymore.

I recently started volunteering at a food shelter called Angel Food Ministries (http://www.angelfoodministries.com/). It’s a nationwide, non-profit organization offering wide varieties of monthly food menus to low income families at a very low cost…but it’s also available to ANYONE! There are no limitations or requirements.

I got involved for one reason: to be an example to Tavin. To show him that in order to make a real difference in the world, you need to be the kind of person who is willing to do what it takes to actually make a difference. Talking about it isn’t enough. Explaining to our children that it’s important to help the needy, while walking away from a homeless person who is cold and hungry, isn’t setting the right example. But by DOING it–by caring with our actions–we are teaching our children the real values, the real ethics, of humanity and compassion.

Angel Food Ministries isn’t my only outlet. I’ve volunteered my name to become a board member for Angel Food Ministries and to further help the cause of the homeless. I’m also going to reorganize the Kenosha County Republican Women’s Group, and although it’s a political group, the example I will be setting for Tavin is to stand up for what he believes in, and take an active role to have his voice heard. He may not grow up to be a Republican, and that’ll be just fine with me. As long as he’s not just a Talker, but a real Doer, in what he believes as his core foundation…that’s all that will truly matter to me.

Being a parent does take time. But that’s something we should all realize before we even make the “choice” to BE a parent! No longer does your career/job take first place, nor does your spouse/significant other. That child is now your first and foremost priority in life! YOU need to be the example. YOU need to be the love–all the love in the world–that he/she needs. YOU need to be the person to teach them right and wrong, not the school system, not the church, and NOT the outside world, like the Back of the Box. It is up to YOU to BE the family your child so desperately needs to become a good person in this dark, cruel world–to help BE a light in the world. Show your children. Don’t just talk about it. Be a family. Be a strong family unit that the world just can’t touch!