I Am A Slave

Though never held in chains and leg irons, I was a slave.  Isn’t every woman with a husband and young children?  My orders were cook, clean, wash, iron, drive to this class, root on the sidelines, coach softball, host a party, yada, yada, yada. Eventually, my kids grew up, and my husband chose the proverbial other side of the septic tank.

Granted, I was alone.  But I no longer had shackles; I was free!  I could do as I pleased, on my terms, when I wanted to do whatever.  Certainly, I still had responsibilities to all of my dogs, my house work, the pool, the garden,  etc., but it was now solely up to me.  No orders. No timeline.

Then, this free woman did an incredibly stupid thing.  I asked for a Fit Bit for Christmas, and my adorable daughters delivered.  At first, I found it amusing.  I easily viewed emails and incoming phone calls while searching for my cell phone in the depths of my purse.  However, Fanny Fit Bit soon became annoying.

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“Sue, I’m here solely to get you up and moving.  You haven’t reached your step goal today.  Your pulse is “X,” your fat burn is “X,” your stair climb is “X.”

“Frankly, Fanny, I don’t care.”

With that Fanny morphed into the witch monitor from hell.  She wakes me at dawn:  “Give me 250 steps.”

“I haven’t had a cup of coffee yet.  Leave me alone.”  I close my eyes; my wrist vibrates.

“Time to get up and get moving.”

Damn.  She’s right; I do need to go to bathroom again–probably, for the sixth time since I initially went to bed hours ago.  One of the perils of aging.  Hopefully, I have another few years before I clip coupons for Depends!

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In the meantime, when Fanny demands, “Fifty pushups now,” she will find herself at the deep end of my swimming pool. RIP.  (Unfortunately, shortly after I wrote the last sentence, my cell phone landed in the deep end.  Karma?)

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Cabana Boy=Eye Candy

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Several years ago, I was antsy to do something worthwhile; I decided to redo my decimated guest quarters.  Prior to her illness, my youngest and her dogs lived there, and eventually her one whacked-out dog destroyed it.

After all the carpet was removed, I had the concrete floors sanded.  I painted the walls and worked for over a week staining the concrete floors.  Certainly, I didn’t do a magnificent job, acceptable and a huge improvement.  I decorated and used left over furniture, bought new appliances, a new air conditioner/furnace etc.  In short, it was cute.  Someone suggested I rent it.  Me?  Do I look like Ethel Mertz?  Do I want to be a landlady?  Absolutely, never!

“Mom, I have a friend who’s moving here from San Diego and needs a place to stay for a month.  He got a job here, and he wants to check everything out before he rents an apartment.  I told him he could stay here until he finds something.  Hope that’s ok.”

“Do I know this guy?”

“No.  I went to school with him in Colorado for one year.”

“And now, five years later, you’re moving him in to the guest quarters?”

“It’ll be fine, Mom.  It’s just for a month.”

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A month became almost a year.  Joe was delightful, and I soon found myself doing his laundry, packing his lunches, cooking his dinners, and advising him on the random girls who frequented my swimming pool. My friends dubbed him my “cabana boy,” given his bi-ceps were larger than my thighs, his good looks, and his adeptness as a bartender.  He took out the trash cans to the the road, he easily opened jars, and he dog sat when I was away.

Joe came in one night for dinner and announced, “I’ve landed a new job back in California.”

“Great!  When does it start?”

“Next week.”

With Joe’s announcement came a line of young men wanting to take his place.  My kid’s high school friend, Bob moved in a month later with his dog.  I’ve known Bob since he was in the 8th grade, so the transition was easy.  He’s just finished his junior year at the university with 3 semesters remaining till he graduates in elementary education.  Unlike Joe, I don’t cook for him, but I do his laundry and have recently taken to charging him “rent.” (Translation:  You give me money, and I’ll keep it until you want it back.  Dr. Suze banking system of forced savings.). Of course, he has bi-ceps and abs on which I gaze.  My friends are a tad jealous of the scenery in my swimming pool.  Yet, every older woman needs a cabana boy to tend to her dogs when she’s gone.  Agree?

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Honor Thy Mother? Why?

 

As a quasi-historian, I find myself obsessed with why questions to things I’ve just routinely accepted.  As an elementary-school-aged child, my teachers made us make a Mother’s Day gift and a card.  In Sunday school we did the same, including giving our moms a carnation.  I just did it; I never asked why.  I was programmed to do.  Thanks to my dad, I did it well until I went off to college and forgot one year to send my mom a card.  Obvi, not one of my best moments, for which I carried the proverbial Catholic guilt.

So today, as I stood at the card display, I wondered.  Why am I choosing one for my mom?   Hallmark holiday? Why are my own kids carrying on this tradition?  Hallmark holiday? Why do I keep all of the cards and knick-knack gifts my kids made me through their formative years?  Why?

Based on my research, Mother’s Day origin can be traced to the Ancient Greeks and Romans–a practice continued for centuries.  In America, women’s peace groups proposed a “Mother’s Friendship Day,” for the purpose of uniting families divided by the Civil War.  Mrs. Ann Jarvis spearheaded the movement.  Other women’s groups followed, including Julia Ward Howe’s, who led a “Mother’s Day for Peace” anti-war observance.  Yet, it was Anna Jarvis who campaigned for an official Mother’s Day in 1908 in remembrance of her mother, Ann.  She chose the carnation because it was her mother’s favorite flower.

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In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May,  officially Mother’s Day.  However, Jarvis’ euphoria in her accomplishment lasted only 9 years.  She became overtly concerned with the commercialism of Mother’s Day.  In fact, she spent the rest of her life protesting against what she deemed the abuse of her holiday.  Spending all of her inheritance and being arrested for disturbing the peace against the commercialization in 1948, she opposed the buying of cards, instead of writing personal notes.  Florists jacked up the price of carnations.  “I wish I would have never started the day; it’s out of control.”

Since it’s inception, Mother’s Day has become the most popular day to dine out and over a $5 billion dollar industry for florists, jewelers, and greeting card shops.  Anna, you’re right; it’s a commercialized holiday.  But in reality, my 92-year-old mom not only carried me in utero, put up with my shenanigans for 68 years, disciplined me, loved me when I didn’t love myself, and picked me up when I was down,  but she still advises me in my darkest hours.

So I bought a card.  I brought it home.  I wrote a brief note and stuffed into the envelope a gift card from her favorite store.  Just as I was about to seal the envelope, I looked at the card again.

Damn, Sue!  Why didn’t you have your glasses on when you bought this card?  From Your Son?  Mom would think I’d lost it!  I went back to the card store, selected another, wrote message, and posted it today.  Sorry Anna Jarvis.  I spent double my allowance on a greeting card.  Yet, I’m so grateful to still have a mom with whom to talk and visit occasionally.  And Anna, I really don’t care how much carnations cost–it’s my pleasure to buy them to honor my mother.  Priceless.

 

 

 

 

 

You Saved My Life. No, You Saved Mine

 

 

14041809-Three-arrow-road-signs-with-the-words-Win-Lose-and-Tie-to-represent-results-of-a-game-or-competition-Stock-Photo.jpgWhile in my early 20’s, I took a graduate school course in educational philosophy and discovered I was an existentialist–make every decision as if it is your last decision.  I embraced that idea, and thus, I never looked back with “would have, could have, or should have.”  Further, I don’t suffer from “buyer’s remorse.”  Once I make a reasoned decision, I don’t dwell on it.  It’s the proverbial water over the dam, regardless of the outcome.

In 1983, I made the biggest decision of my life to date.  I gave up my dream job, I forsook my rising political career, I left my family, and I followed my spouse to his fledgling company 2,500 miles across country.  Now, my decision was not painless; I found myself far away from friends and my career.  Admittedly, for a while, I suffered from depression.  I had no job and no friends; my spouse worked 10-12 hours a day.  I had no reason to get out of bed until noon.  I didn’t shower for days at a time.  My dog didn’t care I smelled in our tiny condo, and my spouse was too tired to care.

I slipped further into the depression abyss and wild thoughts danced through my mind.  My local Ohio celebrity status was reduced to zero.  No one in Scottsdale, Arizona, knew my name.  Until….

I ventured to the condo complex pool.  A much younger woman than I sat alone among the snowbird, winter visitors.  We conversed; Julie, too, had moved from a small town in North Dakota to follow her spouse.  She, too, had no friends, nor family.  She, too, was a nobody like me.

Julie and I became fast friends; we shared secrets; we shared advice.  She nannied for me when my eldest was born.  When she and her family moved back to North Dakota 26 years ago,  I missed her.  I’d often wished we could at least chat about her sub zero weather as I picked lemons.

Last week, Julie and her husband came to Phoenix.  When they arrived at my front door, she and I hugged and cried, “Sue, you saved my life.”

“No, Julie, you saved mine.”

Tie game.

 

 

 

 

Spider in my Ear

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While this comes as no surprise to those who know me well, I’ve proudly raised two very articulate daughters.  Oranges don’t fall far from the proverbial orange tree.  As an older mother, I had no tolerance for baby talk.  Yes, I put up with “Dada,” and “Mama,” but when I spoke to each of them it wasn’t in baby talk.  My kids went to the restroom, not the potty.  I expected them to rise to some semblance of my vocabulary, not me drop down to theirs.

Of course, as they matured and their vocabulary grew, so did their argumentative skills.  Yes, on many occasions, I rued I’d taught them to be so forthright.  But my most devastating moment occurred when my youngest was sixteen months old.  She had had a very sleepless night, ran a low grade fever, and was so lethargic she didn’t even want to watch Sesame Street.  As she laid in my lap, she rubbed her ear.  “Does your ear hurt, princess?”

“No.  I want juice.”

Juice, it was.  But juice didn’t solve the ear problem, as she rubbed her lobe.  Stupid Sue.  Get up off the sofa and call the pediatrician.  She’s running a fever; she has an ear infection.

Thankfully, the office wasn’t jammed with sick kiddos, and we were quickly ushered into an exam room.  The group practice doc that day was the “Patch Adams” of the pediatrician group.  He danced around the room, swinging his stethoscope, and took my kid’s temperature–a shade past 100 degrees.  “I need to look in your ears with my fancy light, cutie pie.”

“No!”

“Cutie pie, this won’t hurt; I promise.  What’s wrong with your ear?”

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Emphatic, loud, clear answer:  “‘Pider in my ear.”

I was horrified.  The doc looked at me like I was an unfit mother.  My dreams of winning the Mother of the Year award waltzed away.  The diagnosis–ear infection.  Cured with an antibiotic.  Yet, twenty-six years later, I still don’t know what prompted her response.  Suggestions?

 

Swimming with Spiders

Phoenix summers are not for the faint-hearted.  The stifling heat, skin-burning pavement, fiery hot winds are brutal to visitors.  As they exit the jetway at Sky Harbor, they quickly realize they’ve arrived in a place Satan vacates in July.

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When my eldest, Annie, was also my only child, I established a summer routine.  We’d don our swim suits around 11:00 AM, play in the backyard pool for an hour, change into dry clothes, eat lunch, watch a video, and then she’d toddle off to nap time, while I worked on my dissertation.

Unlike high humidity states, wet towels and swim wear were draped on patio chairs; they dried instantly and were easily accessible for the next pool frolic.  On Tuesday morning, I gathered up the swim suits from the patio, pulled up Annie’s suit, and put on my two-piece.  (Yes, I realize I never did/have/will cause men to ogle at my body in a two-piece.  I simply prefer them to those tight one-piecers that hurt in all the wrong places.) And just like every other morning, we frolicked in the pool.

Fortunately, the bathroom had an outside door from the pool.  I helped Annie strip off her wet suit and pull on her shorts and t-shirt.  She ran off to find a Barbie doll as I began my disrobe routine.

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When I tossed my wet bra on the floor, I saw it.  Right there.  In the bra cup.  A big bug.  On closer examination, not an insect…a spider.  And not just any spider.  A FEMALE BLACK WIDOW!

 

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OMG!  It appeared to be alive.  I swished my bra in the toilet and flushed the arachnid away.  Oh, sweet baby Jesus, did I just spend an hour in chlorinated water with a spider on my chest?  Am I like the princess and the pea?

Thankfully, I just laughed off this encounter and didn’t bother to research said spider species.  Had I knew then, what I know now, I would have died from my own imagination.

Female Black Widows, unlike males or juveniles, have a red hourglass shape on the underside of their abdomens.  Unlike males or offspring young, female venom is 15 times more toxic than venom of a prairie rattlesnake!  (Be still my heart.)  While death from a Black Widow bite is extremely rare, human victims are nauseated, experience  muscle aches, and may have difficulty breathing.

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In retrospect, I will never know why Wilhelmina, the Widow, didn’t bite me.  Perhaps, she took pity on my flat chest; she saw first-hand I needed to make up with cotton what God had forgotten.  Perhaps, she was weary of sweating in the relentless sun, spinning a web, and yearning for a splash in the pool.  Or perhaps, she had mated with Wesley the Widow, ate him for breakfast, and wanted to chill.

Regardless of your motivation or lack thereof, I want to belatedly thank you, Wilhelmina,  for sparing me of poison, vomit, pain, and gasps.

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Coming next week:  Spider in my ear….

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Suze Is an Immigrant

 

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In the past two weeks, I’ve experienced what it is like to be the proverbial stranger in a foreign land.  My heart aches for the numerous children that sailed into Ellis Island over a hundred years ago and encountered a new language, culture, and social mores.  My heart aches for the numerous children who fled from poverty and Mexican drug cartels.  My heart aches for the current refugee children fleeing their homelands in search of safety and security.  Most of these children came to American public schools where they not only encountered a new language, but often the feeling of intellectual inadequacy.

I feel their pain.  First, it took me a while to learn teenage slang.  My daughters were continually using words like rad, meh, and tight, which in my mind were meaningless in context.  Then I was forced to learn text talk.  I vividly remember receiving a text from one of them–FOFL.  What does that mean?  And now there’s texting for seniors!  Just yesterday, I texted one of my high school friends and asked, “How are you?”

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His reply, “LOL.”  Hmm.  Why was he laughing out loud?  He wasn’t.  He was Living On Lipitor!  I inquired, “Where are you?”

His reply, “BFF.” Another strange answer, which meant Best Friend’s Funeral in senior speak. 

By now, I was crazy and responded, “WTF?”  I literally meant what the f@#k!

His reply, “Sue, really?  You wet the furniture?”

So as I struggle to learn a new computer and a new printer, I’ve been forced to learn another new language.  Bear with me.  Someday I may understand what an iCloud is.

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