Sunday, March 7, 2010

Little Blessings.

Last month was my youngest daughter's 5th birthday. I truly enjoy this child of mine. I have two other children, a son, almost 13, and an 11 year old daughter. They really force me to concede that my life would be truly empty without them.

I grew up as the fourth child with four brothers- five children within seven years. There were many times I wished for a sister, or wished to be an only child, but my brothers taught me many things. I learned how to handle the teasing - alot of teasing. I learned how to play practical jokes. I learned how to throw a punch properly. I learned how to play street hockey. I learned to abhor sports on tv after watching it non-stop as a child. I learned that putting your name on an item to insure it's there later rarely works. I learned to love The Who (after being locked in a bedroom with non-stop record playing for 8 hours). I knew all the words to Pink Floyd's The Wall (I was 11) when all my friends were singing Village People songs. I learned that my brothers were each completely different from the other. I learned how to squeeze myself into a car and expect no leg room. I learned that all my favorite foods would always be the first ones eaten by my brothers. I learned that if anyone picked on me, I would always have back-up. I learned that someone was willing to drive cross country with me. I learned that being the only girl did not save you from a father's punishment. I learned to only let guys come to the house that were worthy. I learned that my brother's friends always treated me with respect. I learned that Barbie could only be a nurse to GI Joe, and GI Joe was NEVER to be confused with Ken.

I learned that my brothers were willing to share with me - Major Matt Mason toys; a catcher's mitt with which I used to play outfield, as it was the only way I could hope to catch a ball; Romeo & Juliet school book I took from my ninth grade brother when I was in 6th grade, so I could read it first; time to teach me how to drive a car; homemade storybooks created to make me feel better when I was sick; donning pirate gear so I didn't feel bad when I wore a patch after eye surgery; tutoring in trigonometry when I was in 10th grade; cool music, not top 40 stuff; Edgar Allen Poe and Sherlock Holmes books.

I always knew I wanted children. Before I even met Rico Suavé, I had a collection of children's picture books, and Winnie-the-Pooh and Disney Princess movies.

When I met my dear husband we had many similar goals. We both wanted a couple children and for me to stay home with them. The hours I worked as a retail manager before children were varied and long- sometimes 6am-6pm, sometimes 11am-10pm. We both knew that we didn't want the children raised at a daycare center. We also knew after out second child, that we were done. I had had two c-sections. The doctor advised against further pregnancy as I had split my pubic bone. And we were content with one son and one daughter. I had always wanted the son to be oldest, in hopes that he would guide and teach and protect any younger sisters, just as my brothers had done for me.

When we moved from California to Virginia, my oldest was 3 and my daughter was 1 1/2 years old. We gave away all the extra baby stuff to help keep costs down for moving cross-country. We kept only a crib, changing table and a stroller.

Two months after I moved to Virginia I found out I was pregnant. I was shocked. I sank to my knees next to the wall in the dining room and cried for hours. We had no extra money, my husband had taken a pay cut with the move. We were still paying mortgage on a house in Cali that wasn't selling, while simultaneously paying rent in Virginia. I was afraid to tell my husband. When I did tell him that night he couldn't speak.

It took a few days for us to face reality, and we just decided it was something we had to deal with. We sold the house in Cali, bought one in Virginia, and settled in as best we could with what life gave us. At this time a best friend had suffered a miscarriage only months before, a sister-in-law had been trying for years to get pregnant, and I knew they would never understand my feelings.

At 9 weeks I started spotting and went to see my OB-GYN. I found that the fetus had stopped growing even though my body thought it was still pregnant, and she prescribed medicine to force the miscarriage to completion. The whole thing took a week, painful and messy, but done.

Everyone felt so bad for me. And I felt so guilty that I was elated and relieved. All I can remember really thinking was that now I didn't have to buy a mini-van to fit three car seats!

So life was relatively smooth and fun until the migraines hit. Several a week, these were punishing. I went off birth control and it took approximately 1-2 years to find all the triggers that caused them.

When I turned 34, I asked my husband if he wanted another child, because if so, I wanted it before I was 35. We both decided, no, 2 children were enough. Well life is never so easy as a simple decision. When I was 36 I got pregnant. As with the other two, I somehow knew immediately. Let me just say with conviction for anyone reading this-pulling out is not effective birth control!

Though there was shock with this discovery, there was also excitement and happiness and acceptance.

After the delivery of my second healthy little girl, following another separation of the pubic bone, and another c-section, I decided to have a tubal ligation. My doctor had recommended it after my second child, but I wasn't ready to do that. However, after the last baby, I knew my body could not handle another baby. Apparently those child bearing hips I had been cursed with really didn't really help me much.

So now we have the youngest who just turned 5. She is my special surprise gift. She makes me laugh everyday with her funny way of looking at life. I love how her older brother teases her mercilessly (even though I tell him to stop), and it warms my heart how her older sister nurtures her and plays with her.

I feel like I have come round full circle. My brother, three years older than me, says he sees our past childhood relationship when he watches my children interacting with each other. I am so glad I have been blessed with my children.

But how do I tell my husband that I really wish I could have had atleast one more?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Top 10 Things

Today's Top 10 list (in no particular order) is the things that create a moment of Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy.

1. When the baby wakes up first thing in the morning and yells out "mama" from the crib.

2. When I loan a book to a friend and my friend loves it just as much as I do.

3. Driving on a sunny day, realizing the beauty of it and give thanks that God had such a good imagination.

4. When my husband does the dishes or folds laundry without me having to ask for help.

5. Seeing a great musician play live, especially after waiting over 15 years to see him.

6. Watching Lost uninterrupted.

7. When my husband calls me from work each day just to say "hi".

8. When someone trusts me enough to come to me for advice or a shoulder to cry on.

9. Seeing a famous painting up close.

10. Daisies as a gift of flowers, instead of roses.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Melting pot: a concept not yet accepted.

I grew up in the 70's in a smaller central NY city of about 35,000 people. Our claim to fame was a maximum security prison in the middle of the city surrounded by concrete walls and armed guard towers. Near the prison was an industrial manufacturing area and about a 1.5 square mile area of people predominately of polish, ukrainian and russian descent. Three churches and several ethnic clubs for these eastern european immigrants and descendants were also within walking distance. The whole city is primarily blue collar, middle class with the normal smattering of lawyers, doctors and other professional types mixed in the the masses; the professionals lived on the other side of the railroad tracks.

What was interesting about our city was that it seemed to be divided by ethnicity rather than race. Back in the 70's the city was approximately 90% white, and 8% black. Most of the blacks lived within a specific area of the city, but there were really very few blacks in comparison to overall demographics. I never identified myself as white because my entire neighborhood was white when I was a child. Instead, we knew the ethnic background of every neighbor- polish, irish, ukrainian, german, italian, etc...

We didn't live in the "polish" section, however some of my extended family did. My Catholic school and Church and the heritage club we belonged to were in the "polish" end. I have very vivid memories of walking to my Babci's house after school and waiting for a ride home. My Babci spoke no english, but always had alot to say. As I could speak no polish outside of basic polite words and some prayers, I would just nod my head and laugh when she laughed. Most of my childhood friends belonged to the Polish Home or the Polish Falcons or the Sicz Club or the Ukrainian National Club, just as our parents did.

We always had plain food at home, polish or meat & potatoes with no special seasoning. We never had mexican, chinese, indian food, and in fact I can't even remember if there were any ethnic restaurants or deli's or bakeries that weren't eastern european or italian or german.

So our melting pot of a city didn't account for much variety. The most diverse population was most likely located within the prison walls. Despite this seemingly assimilated city, I certainly heard my fair share of degrading "polock" jokes from many people, some of whom even claimed to be friends. And though I cannot remember the specific jokes, I do remember being 10 years old and knowing that being a dumb polock was not a good thing.

But I never faced the cold derision of racism that is presented by ignorant fools with attitudes learned by ill-informed sources.

All through school, the small percentage of blacks or asians or even hispanics in our city faced some racism, as would seem typical of a small city America. Right or wrong, it existed. I grew up hearing things, seeing things, but I could never identify with the hatred. The differences between us had no value to me as a means of ridicule, but I know other people placed emphasis on the differences.

My move to Phoenix allowed me to meet my Rico Suavé, and with him a whole new world. Yet I found that bigotry extended far and wide, and the supposed maturation of times did not lessen it. My subsequent moves to Cali and finally back to the East Coast have matured me, but I am no less shocked at the closed minds of seemingly normal people.

I actually have a (former) friend that sent me an email a few years ago denouncing illegal immigrants and those of the hispanic descent. Yet she knew my Rico was a mix of mexican, native american, black, spanish and probably a couple other things. His family is not nor has ever been illegal. His great grandfather was in the Spanish Army. One branch of his family tree has been here for many more generations than mine has. My family wasn't here until the late 1880's and early 1900's, or there about. But some of Rico's friends were from families that were illegal. In fact, Rico worked on a farm picking grapes as a teenager, he said it was the most back-breaking job he ever had.

Rico grew up in a predominately latino neighborhood and remembers having to take the bus to the high school that was in the classier part of his city so the diversity mix met standards. And as a married couple, when we moved from Cali, we specifically looked for a metro market area that would be more open to seeing a latino in a professional position.

Now I live in a city of 434,000 people with a demographic of 70.8% white, 20.1% Black, 5.5% Asian, and 5.9% Hispanic. In fact, approximately 11,720 people report to the census to be of mixed race. I think I knew maybe 5 people when I was growing up that were considered Mulatto.

Our house is surrounded by blacks, brazilian, filipino, puerto rican, russian, asian and random european-descent white neighbors. I love living here. When we first moved here, Rico and I were excited that our children would have the opportunity to grow up in neighborhoods completely dissimilar to ours. We felt our children would have the chance to be friends with everyone without regard to color or ethnic background, or even class. Our children have made some great and diverse friends.

But the thing that shocks me is that in today's supposed enlightened age, I have met some people here, that are genuinely nice, and yet deep down bigots. Oh, they will tell you they are not bigots or that they are just joking, but I don't buy it. Some of the comments I hear are along the lines of "Jewing down" a price at the store, or that someone won't go to the oceanfront because it's "too dark" there, implying there are alot of black people.

I am sure this is indicative of alot of areas in the US, but I find it inexplicable and inexcusable that someone in 2010 can make statements such as these and others, and not have realized two things: they seriously hurt a segment of the population by reinforcing stereotypes, and their children hear and infer these comments to be valid.

While growing up, one of my favorite movies was The Point. A little boy named Oblio was born with a round head. Everything and everyone else in the world had points or pointed heads. At first, the parents tried to cover the round head with a pointed hat. Eventually, Oblio and his dog Arrow were banished to the Pointless Forest. Along his travels, he meets a rock man that tells him, "you don't always have to have a point, to have a point". Of course at the end, Oblio is welcomed back and is much loved.

Wouldn't it be nice if everyone could be loved not inspite of one's differences, but because each person's difference is just what makes one special?

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A little ray of hope for 2010.

I like to read other blogs daily, mostly political, and all are claiming what a horrible decade the past years have been. While I can't argue about the fact of the increasingly dark fears of the progressives, and the virulent hatred that is growing on the right,or the deterioration of the middle class: I'm finding it hard to keep a deep seeded anger over much of any of it. I am sure if I got into a heated discussion with someone, all my anger and disappointment would re-emerge full force, but what's the point. Politics is general and hard to change. On the other hand,individuals go through change whether they want to or not.

So, I am really hoping that this year bring good fortune to all of us. I have friends and family who have faced many challenges these past years: end of a marriage; loss of a child; overwhelming health care bills. Yet it seems no one has time to truly heal and find peace. Why? We are so worried about and struggling to get by day to day. Between stagnant wages or unemployment, jacked up credit card interest rates, expensive health insurance that offers no real coverage, gas prices, groceries, working longer hours to keep a job, or working additional jobs that keep one away from the home, daily life is stressful and overwhelming and a little disheartening.

I have a real problem with resolutions, only because I lack the discipline to keep them when facing daily surprises in life.

Instead I have hope. For myself, I hope I can lose 25 pounds that seemed to creep up on me ( I am sure typing at a computer 6-8 hours a day has nothing to do with it *snark*). I hope I can force myself to exercise each day so I have no need to use that pathetic health care coverage for which I pay. I hope my kids learn that they shouldn't expect, nor are they getting a laptop in 8th grade, or a new car at 16, or any other instant gratification item this generation seems to think is theirs just for the wishing. I hope my husband's salary becomes unfrozen for the first time in 4 years. I hope I can get by without a credit card this year, as we cancelled ours. I hope that my kids huge appetites really don't increase dramatically as they enter the teen years. I hope my being very truthful with my kids about politics, sex and life actually helps them to make wise desicions in their futures. I hope my tax return covers the cost of a new air conditioning system so we don't have to go through a third summer of 92° inside the house. I hope my 9 month old puppy stops nipping at us. I hope I can get rid of adult acne. I hope my husband sees the Doctor about his nightly need for maalox. I hope my kids keep their love of music and reading so they may always know beauty and adventure and a form of escapism.

For my family and friends (new and old), I sincerely hope you have the fortitude to keep trying, have the time to find peace, have the ability to find a little humor just when you need it most, and have the knowledge that you are not alone.

When I was little, and the clouds parted and the sunrays were clearly visible- my grandmother told me, it was God's love shining down. I hope everyone sees those rays of sunshine very soon. Have a happy new year.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Music makes the world go 'round.

Everybody knows someone who used to be in a band, but I have had the pleasure of knowing the coolest and some of the most talented guys ever! The Urge was a local band from Central NY, and these guys could play anything. Each one of these guys have a long history of music playing, high school jazz bands, marching bands, show choirs, jazz singers, chorale. And as adept and talented as their musical abilities, their talent for being a great friend surpasses their musical abilities.

In order from left to right: Chuck Riley, Billy Finizio, Dan Machold, Terry Quill, Mark Van Epps

Chuck Riley, lead guitarist, helped me pick out and purchase my very first Technics individual components stereo system. 20 years later and I still have the receiver and turntable. Chuck liked heavy metal, especially Stryper, and he could rock out any guitar solo like a badass. Chuck is Mark's cousin and if there was ever a guy that stood by his friends and did the right thing, it was Chuck.

Billy Finizio, drummer, was a true percussionist and had an amazing talent on several instruments. He played jazz and rock with gusto. Now a studio musician in NYC working on original stuff, his garage was converted into "The Studio" that we all hung out at(even if it was haunted!). Billy opened up his garage and home to a bunch of friends that had no where to practice, yet wanted to take their music skills to a new level. Billy was the one that hung out at the studio the least (in spite of it being his house) and yet had time to listen to anyone that needed to talk with him. I didn't date in high school, and when I asked him to take me to prom just so I could go, he did not even hesitate to say yes. Prom Night was before the studio existed, but the garage was haunted, as evidenced by four of us, when we stopped at his house after the dance. There were red glowing lights in the garage window.

The garage was detached and sat back from the house, with an upstairs window over what looks like a chicken coop door typical in barns. Two years later, the guys all got together to clear out the top half of the garage and build up the studio into a hangout. Unfortunately it was not the last time spooky things happened, even though a rosary was hanging over our heads on the cross beam (from when a prior owner hung himself, atleast that was the story). Can I just say, Halloween was a real fun time of year!

Dan Machold, the keyboardist, was and still is a very cool guy. He didn't bow to peer pressure at all, was his own person at all times, and also saw the ghost at the studio. Dan actually jumped out the chicken window to get away from the ghost! Dan is now at the forefront of the music scene in Austin. I was two years older than Dan, but he and I just clicked as friends. We liked the same music and that seemed to be the bonding force.

Terry Quill, the rhythm guitarist was probably one of the most talented players ever! He still plays and writes songs and is involved in several groups in Central NY. Terry has the largest music collection of anyone I know, and his musical influences reach from every genre of music. His talent is bounded only by his aspirations. Terry was and will always be one of my very best friends. As noted in a previous entry, Terry was my get-a-way car from an alcoholic household. Terry knew more about me than many of my girl friends.

Dan, Terry and I spent alot of time together outside the studio. Record shopping was a regular past time for us. We thought nothing of going to Syracuse or Rochester's House of Guitars and spending a whole day flipping through individual vinyl records looking for the one piece of music we couldn't live without. Dan and I got quite into an argument when there was only one copy of "Boylan Heights" by the Connells. (he won). Terry found me the original Love & Rockets "Seventh Dream of a Teenage Heaven" for my birthday. And the sense of jubilation of finding "Class Tramp" by the Rave-ups (the band from the movie Pretty in Pink), actually had me dancing in the store. Every other time I looked at a record store, I could only find Raven, until that magical day!

Our other friends could not believe we would spend HOURS looking at records, but music was that important to us. We saw tons of bands together: REM, twice, (Terry had to help me to his car after some kid knocked me down the stairs at the concert, but I insisted on standing on my chair to sing to Michael Stipe, by then my boot would not come off because my ankle had swollen so much), Smithereens, Squeeze, Psy Furs, Elvis Costello, Midnight Oil just to name a few. Dan was witness to me being punched across the face by a maniac at a show- of all things- Hunters and Collectors doing a cover of Elvis Costello's "What's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?"

Dan and I still talk about the music scene, though he knows much more than I do. Terry still plays and collaborates on writing music with others. I haven't seen either in atleast a few years, but I will never outlive the friendship. I love these guys dearly.

Mark Van Epps, the bassist was the stereotypical bass player. He lived for his music, made all the goofy faces while playing, was outstanding in his performances and was a perfectionist. Mark was the consumate big brother. Any guy I liked, he gave dirty looks. Any guy I brought to the studio, Mark sat between us. Mark and I worked at a record store together for a while as well. It was the most fun job I ever had. He and his brother Greg, were good ol' boys who partied hard, had intense feelings of friendship and were very protective. I felt very cared for when Mark got in his big brother mood. To this day, anytime I see some jazz or blues live, from David Sanborn to Robert Cray, I imagine it is Mark playing bass on that stage.

These guys and I share alot of moments and happy times: finding the musical moment in a song, buying string cheese, coke classic and Jax cheese curls in Wegman's at midnight, halloween parties that start at the studio and ended at the cemetery, County Line Road, Swamp Road, the Punk Rock at the park, struggling through music theory classes, jazz singers, show choir, playing at the Tannery at SUC Cortland, concerts, tacky house hunting...

They learned to play songs I requested like the Icicle Works, and even put music to some poems I wrote. I could never play well enough to be in a band (not much call for organs in rock bands, unless it is 1970), and had only a fair to good mezzo-soprano voice, yet they never treated me as a groupie, or a loser. I was just with them and that was it.

It was a second home at the Studio, but the home would not have been welcoming without the guys in The Urge. Many people look back at friends in the past with fondness, but I like to think these guys were and are truly special. The amount of people that have been to the studio is unbelievable and if I were to list some, then others might get upset I didn't list them, but here are some(excuse the mis-spellings): Al Noga (nyuh-nyuh-nyuh), John Becker, Marcia Brooks, Brian Gambrell, Steve Swartz, Tim Dacey, Thomi Long, Ellen Phillips, Gregg Namisniak, Bobby Ringwood, Marc Morfei, Karen Smith- and a bunch of others....

I don't look up all 500 people I graduated with in High school on facebook, I don't google names I knew from my past, I only keep in contact with a handful of friends since before college, but these guys are always in my heart. They are truly talented.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fashionista or not?

I am so jealous of ladies that can wear hats. I love hats, but sadly I cannot wear them. I don't know if it's the shape of my face, the type of hair I have or what, but hats, all hats look stupid on me. I wish I could wear a small hat with a slight tilt for a sexy look. I wish I could wear a hat with a wide brim to protect my sunburn prone skin. I wish I could wear a large Church style hat that is so snazzy and says I am so proud to be me. I wish I could wear a baseball cap when our family goes to games or a park. Heck, I wish I could wear a simple winter hat, but the static cling drives me crazy. So, what's a lady to do?

When I was in undergrad studies in Central New York in '87-'89, I went to a smaller SUNY school that was not very artsy. I think I was one of 5 people that were remotely punk. The most expensive thing I wore were Purple Docs that I bought at Trash & Vaudeveille in NYC. They were my favorite article of clothing. Everything else pretty much came from the antique and second hand shops.

Winters there were killers. Sure I was used to the snow, but hiking between buildings throughout the day tended to get one very chilled. So not only were the Docs a luxury, they were a necessity. With two pairs of socks, thermals, long wool skirts and my Dad's long overcoat, I could stay pretty warm. Well, except for my head.

At that time my hair was pretty much shaved except for a riot of curls from the top that hung down low enough to look normal (somewhat), but could be put up with toothpaste to look more punk. Either way my ears were exposed to the elements.

My earliest class was 8 AM German at the top of the hill. Unfortunately, I needed it to graduate. So let's see, 7:30 am, 0°F with a windchill of -20°F, hell, it was freakin' freezin'. My poor ears were so frostbite that they burned for days. My only salvation was a nifty thing my Babci used to wear- a babushka.

The babushka has been worn by Eastern European and Russian women for many years, and actually means Grandmother in Russian. Babushkas are scarves, not to be confused with the nesting dolls that are improperly called Babushkas, these are Matryoshka dolls. My Babci and most of the older Polish ladies of my childhood wore these to cover their hair from bad weather, or to cover wet hair or if their hair was not done. Typically bigger than a bandana, it's folded into a triangle and tied under the chin. Larger scarves can be wrapped around the neck. I prefer these as they have longer tails and can double as second protection around the neck under a coat.

Most any type scarf will do and can be found at most stores, although current fashion right now has the goofy long flimsy, skinny scarves that have no seeming practicality. There are many styles and colors to pick from and you should be able to find one for under $25. If you want to spend the big bucks for the "now" thing you could try a babushka from "Valeur from Tokyo", for a cool price of $129. Totally not necessary for a simple Polish girl.

So anyway, back in school, I wore two layers just to give my ears some comfort. To this day my ears are sensitive to any cold weather. And to this day, I wear babushkas. Rico Suavé gave me a beautiful pashmina shawl last year for Christmas that works wonderfully. I had finally found something I could wear on my head and I never gave them up, to my daughters' amusement and chagrin. They run away from me when I try to put one on them, but they have the Polish in them, and I know it is just a matter of years before they start wearing them!

I really don't care if babushkas are fashionable or not. As a cute Polish girl, I can identify with my heritage in this small way that makes me happy and comfortable.

Although I really do wish I could wear a hat, any hat, just once.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What is there to be thankful for?

And so begins another holiday season to get through. That used to be a recurring thought in my head every year while growing up. Don't misunderstand, I loved Thanksgiving, it was the rest of the holiday season I could live without.

As a child growing up in a household with an alcoholic, Christmas seemed to be an especially painful time of the year for my father. When the Miller lite ran out, my father turned to Black Velvet. Thanksgiving was the onset of 6 weeks of trying to dodge my father, which was pretty hard in a smaller ranch house, with 7 people, one living room, and only one bathroom.

The day would start out fine enough with my Mom making everybody's favorite side dishes and two turkeys to feed my four brothers and miscellaneous relatives. I loved the smell of turkey cooking and the warmth of the home. My brothers all joking around and watching whichever sports game or war movie was on one of the three television stations available. Dinner would be fun with lots of laughter and good natured ribbing, but as the day progressed, so too did my fathers imbibement. The downward spiral continued with the start of the Christmas Music marathon.

We used to have a stackable phonograph stereo. For those of you under 35, this thing was a piece of furniture and took up one whole wall. The cover lifted up on one side (sort of like a coffin), and inside was the turntable with record stacking capabilities. We were able to put 12 records on the spindle, and it would drop a new record automatically as the preceding record ended. We could change it from 78, 45 or 33 rpm if needed. So for all the Christmas music freaks out there, you could have up to 6 hours of listening torture before having to flip the stack of records over. We had everything from boy's choirs to Philharmonics to oldies but goodies singers. Heck, we even had Clancy Brothers and Bobby Vinton. It was too bad they didn't make the "A Very Special Christmas" records back then, it would have been nice to listen to something remotely modern. Even though it was the primarily the 70's, all the music in the house was show tunes or music atleast 20 years old.

But I digress, the point is as the music continued to play each day towards Christmas, my fathers drinking increased a tension in the household that was hard for children to rationalize. And if anyone has gone through a winter in central New York, one knows the weather tends to keep one isolated within the house. It got to the point that as a teenager, I would be on pins and needles until one of my friends could pick me up to get me out of the house- THANK YOU TERRY QUILL. I still loved Thanksgiving, but hated the day after. And then hated each day through to New Years. I would stay in my room as much as possible and read a book a day just to hide.

I never understood the demons that my father battled. I know he had a very troubling childhood and have heard some stories... his father died when he was 2; he was the youngest of 8 kids I think, (they were fairly older and some died before I was born); my Babci spoke only polish which created cultural issus in trying to be American; he had his legs broken twice by force as a child; he dropped out of school to join the Air Force in WWII, and when he got home, his mom threw away his military stuff; and until the day he married, every paycheck he earned was handed over to his mother for the family expenses. That's some of the stuff I know, I am sure there is much more I have never learned about. Some may say others have gone through worse, but this was enough to affect him for the entirety of his life.

It wasn't until I was a junior in college that we truly bonded. And as I learned to accept him as a person, my love for him as a father grew. I could never overcome the hurt of growing up through those Cristmas seasons. But I did learn to enjoy Christmas again. He died in 1994, and I am so glad we had six years together where we could actually talk to each other and spend time enjoying each other's company.

So this Thanksgiving, like every other, I am thankful for a myriad of things, like my children, my husband, health, a home, good friends, etc. But I am very thankful to have had an alcoholic father. It's not something I would wish on anyone, however, having my Dad in my life taught me compassion, patience, understanding and forgiveness. And with those lessons, I have learned to enjoy the whole holiday season, Christmas included.

My hope for all of you is that you each have something or someone to be thankful for. That you each have a reason to make it through the holiday season emotionally intact. And if you are still waiting for the reason to be thankful for something, I hope that this is the year that you find what you are looking for.