Little Miss Anxiety

Next Sunday on my 42nd birthday it will be exactly 14.5 years that I lost my mother unexpectedly at the ripe ole age of 50.  Janice left this earth on my “half birthday” February 20th 2003.   I was 27 and she was ONLY FIFTY. I was her oldest child and she was my ONLY Mother.  In recent weeks I have been struggling with my on again off again friend Miss. Anxiety.  Do you know her?  She is really not nice of a person more like a destructive and hurtful bitch that exhibits queen-bee like behavior and likes to invade my mind every so often.  You know mental health issues are still stigmatized, so it can be awkward to open up about them.  I don’t find anything awkward in talking about it.  I find that sometimes talking about anxiety can help or it can give me even more anxiety. Next thing you know the evil partners of overthinking and anxiety become my BFF’s.  My anxious brain is hypervigilant and if these situations burned calories, I’d be a skinny bitch or almost dead.

YES I know most of the things going on in my head are irrational!  Yes, I am intellectually aware that I probably won’t die if my kids don’t know what’s for dinner tomorrow or that someone may come into my house and find dirty laundry on the bathroom floor.  If my kid had a fight with his friend I know it’s really not my problem but I take it to heart and examine it to death! Yet that awareness doesn’t change the fact that there are things outside of my control which make it nearly impossible not to have an emotional (and physical) reaction to stupid crap (and sometimes not so stupid crap).  The not so stupid crap these days seem to be all about Janice.  I lost my Mother so young, so beautiful so full of life.  And when dates approach, Miss. Anxiety shows her ugly face.  I suppose turning 42 next week reminds me that Janice had only 8 years left.  EIGHT years left…. In EIGHT plus years I want to be preparing for retirement.  I want to be watching my children graduate College and meet their spouses.  Dance at my sons weddings, join AARP and receive a senior discount at the local pizzeria.  I want to be a grandmother and celebrate my 50th wedding anniversary with the love of my life.  I want to travel and visit each baseball stadium in the USA a dream we talked about doing together.  All things she missed, all things that were ripped from her.  Will I make it past 50? Until I lost her I never considered limitations, only possibilities.

When a parent of an adult dies, there is an almost unspoken expectation that it will not hit you head on.  Question, is 27 years old an adult?  It sure did not feel like it at the time.  I think we are expected to understand as an adult that death is an expected part of life and we should handle these situations in an appropriate manor.  What the hell is appropriate?  What does that even mean?  That you should not be sad?  That you should be grateful they didn’t die when you were younger?  This loss does not diminish because you are this so called adult.  Society places such pressure for you to get over this loss and to get over the grief “in time.”  What the hell is a good time?  How long is it ok to grieve the loss of someone whom gave your life and took care of you for 27 years?  For me this loss happened in a 6 second phone call ~ Come quick Mommy can’t breathe and we just called 911 ~ it happened in a moment but the aftermath is still there 14.5 years later.  I doesn’t matter how old we are.

After Janice passed I was forced to take another look at her life and impact on my life.  I realized, perhaps for the first time, all she did for me as a child.  My Johnny was 11 months old when my Mother passed and I was able to appreciate the challenges she may have had with her own children.  Just the other day my potty training nephew Nicholas needed his Mothers help in the bathroom.  While my sister in law Suzanne was cleaning him she looked at my youngest son Christian and said “remember this when your mean to your Mommy, she did this for you a day not too long ago.”   I gained a new perspective on her life and her effect on mine.

My mom (and I) always attracted humans with unteachable charisma, in the days after her death, the gravity of her death was unexplainable. The house overflowed with people asking to ease the pain, mostly through our stomachs, cooking enough food to feed a moderately sized petting zoo.   Food is my family’s religion, and our kitchens are our sacred temples.  There are too many memories from that time in my life. Many of them are slipping from me. Others are so faint that only the rarest combination of triggers—snow, French onion soup (the last meal she cooked with my sister), a kitchen with baked goods everywhere—bring the embers back to life.

So as Miss. Anxiety is still here visiting my brain like a bad houseguest.   I am beginning to stand up straight after this latest spin as I call it.  Standing up because I now can see what started this spin in the first place.  Realizing that the love we shared and the relationship we had will not die.  That depth of love, that depth of caring, is everlasting.

Now if that bitch Miss. Anxiety would kick the bucket all will be right in the world.  My world.

 

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Cools ~ The Boop ~ Joe Fatz

Recently my father Joe has learned how to use FaceBook.  You know him he is the guy THAT WRITES IN ALL CAPS-POP.  He is enjoying catching up with the day to day Alexander Adventures as well as catching up with old friends.  He recently found his old friend John Swift on FaceBook and a few weeks ago John found me through a thread my father had started on motorcycles.

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Me and my Aunt Annie Marvullo-Himmler 1982 ish.

John writes on the thread “Hey Cools” and I was instantly transported to 8 Maple Street in Glenwood Landing.  Cools that was my name my father gave me as a little girl.  Mostly because I apparently enjoyed running around in my diaper or with nothing on and my “coolie” was hanging out.  I have no idea how he could have even remembered that but boy did it bring a smile to my face.  John or “Jackie” as I remember was the son Mr. and Mrs. Swift who lived a few houses away.  He would be often found at my house visiting on his motorcycle and chatting with Mom and Dad while they were outside doing yard work.  After I closed my computer for the night after hearing from Jackie I began to tell the boys stories of my child hood at 8 Maple and the great times that we had with our neighbors and friends.

The boys asked me more about why my name was Cools and I explained to them how we all got names from Dad.  Dad and I were best buds for years, I was his fishing buddy, his gardening buddy, his lets watched a baseball game buddy and lets go to the store for a pack of cigarettes and drink a six pack at the beach parking lot buddy.  Laura was the most girly of girls “The Boop” she was nicknamed after the sassy Betty Boop.  I can just see little Laura running around all dressed up in Mom’s heals flipping her hair all around and putting on Moms makeup.  She was always a girly girl and me not so much.   Then came the Prince, the apple of my Fathers and Mothers eye Joseph Christian.  Well Joey was dubbed  “Joe Fatz” cause till this day the kid is so filled with hot air and gas.  He stunk up a room then and can clear a room now.

Some of my favorite memories of 8 Maple was summers doing yard work as a family.  The front of our home had a brick wall at street level.  We lived on a very steep hill and our home was just at the top of the hill.  Boy that hill killed me and my friend Kelli so many times as we ran after baseballs down the hill scratched up our knees and went home bleeding from playing stickball.  The wall in front was a great place to hang out with your friends and share a homemade tupper wear ice pop made by Janice.  Dad had perfectly trimmed bushes along that wall and our job as kids would be to pick up all the trimmings when he would cut them several times a year.  We had a beautiful half wrap around porch on our home with beautiful old style spindles that Mom would paint what seemed like every year.  In front of the porch was a large patch of pachysandra a low growing groundcover plant that seemed to cover a large portion of the yard. The back yard was just beautiful, plant after plant filled the parameter of the rear yard.  Dad built a shed next to his garden but this was no normal shed.  Dad had running water in there, a telephone and cable TV.  He wanted his man cave to be a escape location from us crazy kids.  Dad built a railroad tie box next to his shed it had to be twenty feet long and fifteen feet wide for his beloved garden.  Summers were simply awesome with the fresh Roma, beefsteak  and cherry tomato’s, green beans, peppers (sweet and hot), basil, zucchini, eggplant, lettuce and the list goes on and on.  Mom would go out and pick fresh veggies for dinner every night.  In August all the neighbors were happy because there was simply too much and Mom was giving away what she could not freeze.  August was my favorite time also because with all the veggies Mom would make ciambotta an Italian vegetable stew, I can sill see the pot steaming and smell the garlic roasting.  Dad had a huge compost pile that we would bring the veggie scraps, coffee grinds, egg shells and newspaper too.  Dad would turn it every few days and he made the most amazing soil for his plants.  The plant’s that he began to grow in the winter in the basement under the lights in ice cube trays.

Mom and Dad made a good team, well at least most of the time they did.  Funny how I see DJ and I working together in the yard just like they did.  I have my little Town of North Hempstead composter and my little corner next to my Home Depot shed where today I grow a pretty good Roma and some killer cherry tomatoes.

Thanks Mr. Jackie Swift for remembering Cools, The Boop and Joe Fatz…. The memories will live in my heart forever.

 

6 to 40

August 20, 2005 my 30th birthday.  I can recall being VERY pregnant with Chrissy Mac and on complete bed rest.  DJ and Laura and the family had planned a super sized 30th surprise in my Father’s Glenwood home.  All to be cancelled because my feet resembled two large tree trunks. My blood pressure was off the charts and i was running after a 3.5 year old Johnny and a 15 month old Danny Boy.  As I spend my days these days with MJ I often wonder how the hell we did it.  Life was most hectic with three kids under 3.5 years of age.  However me and the old man we really liked each other back then and kept reproducing.

February 20, 2003 my half birthday i was 27.5 years old.   The day we lost my precious Mother Janice.  Suddenly and with out warning just a few weeks after her 50th birthday she was gone.  This past September I went the my friend Matt’s 50th birthday.  A lovely house party thrown by his wife Donna.  As we all stood and sang to him as he blew out his candles and hugged his three beautiful girls I began to sob.  Hysterical at one point I had to leave the house and sit outside and a friend came to me and asked what was wrong I was unable to speak.  I cleared my face of the tears and went back to the party.  On the way home I said to Donald 50 – THAT is what 50 looks like ????  Matt is 50 and that is the face of a FIFTY year old ??? My mother was so young and had missed out on so much life had ahead for her.

I can clearly remember Mom turning 40.  She and some friends were going to see Tom Jones at Westbury Music Fair.  She was all dressed and excited to go see one of her favorite heart throbs.       All I could remember was how dumb is that going to see some old guy sing.  Now I find myself bursting with excitement every time I have 64 year old Billy Joel tickets in my hands.  They would have a little house party a few days later Dad invited the neighbors and some friends to come celebrate.  They would dance around to disco music, drink beer and wine and laugh all night long.  Everyone smoked and the house was filled with the odor of Mom’s Virginia Slim Regulars.  There was a game of poker or some kind of card game in the dining room and a bunch of woman giggling in the living room.   What a silly way I thought to spend your birthday.  Just last week I celebrated my friends 40th at her house where we all had a glass of wine in hand giggling as we danced to disco music till 4am.  Wow who knew.

Now approaching my 40th I can’t help but think back to those 10 years ago as I was turning 30.  Fearful of what middle age would bring.  Well middle age has brought me three amazing boys, an outstanding marriage and quite a few grey hairs.  Middle age has brought me two beautiful Nieces and a completely perfect Nephew with one on the way.  It has taught me to love deeply as tomorrow is never promised.  Middle age has brought me to know the meaning of true friend ship and the deep love and respect I have for those relationships.  Most specifically for my best friend Shannon who constantly reminds me that no matter the distance, the hectic life, the kids, the husbands whatever she loves me and always will.  She has walked though life always by my side.

Statistically I have lived half my life.  With 6 months to go till I am 40 I am looking forward not backwards.  My Mother only had 10 years left at this point I am determined to make the most of the years ahead.

 

Janice

So as I begin to set off on this new journey I must first like to thank my family.  Joseph, Janice, Laura and Joey.  For they are my first family.  But most specifically Janice the beautiful woman who gave me life and to whom passed away at the age of 50 in 2003.  Only 12 years older then I am now.

Back then I did not have my  Xanax prescription so I needed to find humor in all that I did and all that was happening around me.   Spending each day with my mother– whose favorite activity is counting the calories I consumed,  drinking cawfee, smoking Virginia slims and of course screaming.  Screaming was the normal “talk” in my house.  Dinners were loud and if you talked the loudest maybe you were heard.  Dinner – lets talk about dinners.  My Mother was the worlds worst cook.  She made a mean meatball but other than that  – I thought all meat was grey and all vegetables tasted like butter and they came from a can.  Ham steaks were a weekly regular on the menu and let us never forget the pan fried hamburger on wonder bread with ketchup.  I can still see the blood from the hamburger running through that white bread that was just defrosted from the freezer cause god forbid you ever waste a loaf of bread before it turns green you gotta freeze it.  Mashed potatoes, they were always OK.   But while on my plate they formed the barrier between the blue/grey steak and the buttered  green beans.  Hunger would always win and I had to eat.

House cleaning was an expertise of my mothers.  My Friend Kelli would always say “come to Christina’s house drink a glass of iced tea and Janice will clean the glass and put it away before you were even done.”  Clearly I did not get this trait from my mother.  Today I found a sock stuck under Danny’s dresser to the floor with some gum.  I have three sons  that have trouble figuring out the relationship between socks and sock drawers and my youngest who has a habit of dragging miscellaneous crap underneath the couch and his dresser leaving it there to collect dust. The work of managing a household while caring for three kids a husband and a dog is next to impossible.  My kids are  tidiness-challenged and I know Janice would never have let that happen.

Work- Janice did not work in the outside world till my little brother Joey was in I believe 1st grade.  Her job was to take care of us kids and my Father.  Thinking just the other day when I got an E-vite to my Godson’s  birthday party.  My mother had to call each kid to come to my birthday parties… No Face Book, no texting, no emails.  She had to sit on the phone and call all 47 first cousins, my Aunts and Uncles etc.  No wonder she had no job…. being a housewife was a job back then.  So I’m trying to come to terms with it, I will never be the house wife she was.  I try and come to terms with in the same way that I have been trying to come to terms with my muffin top.  I have that and she did not.

Good House wife – Bad cook.

My mother was a good mother and I was a good daughter.