A Hairy Situation & Making Lemonade

If you could, what parts of yourself would you throw out?

I wish I could be all blasé and “woman-power” and act like I am perfectly comfortable in my middle-aged body. Smiling at myself in the mirror upon awakening every single morning in wonder at the transformation that seems to take place every night while I sleep.

I so want to be that graceful, all-knowing woman, who welcomes the aging process taking hold all over her body, as she books a yoga class or weekend retreat to some coastal spa, where she will consume nothing but raw kale and green tea, sitting in a cross-legged pose, and listening to nothing but the sound of birds, or waves or Enya.

I want to be her so badly that I can picture her in my mind and I know she has a name like Caryline, or Kathryn, or Jayne with the random “Y” just carelessly tossed into the mix- but it seems so far away from my reality.


I have been a pretty a good sport about this aging shit – I really, really have.

I have accepted my new stomach, and the loss of my once rounded bottom.

I woke up one morning and realized to my horror when I accidently glanced in the bathroom mirror while stepping into the shower that they had somehow decided to switch places! The fullness of my bum had sneakily moved around my waist somehow and placed itself in the front of my body at some point during my sleeping hours! And no matter how much celery I ate or how many squats I reluctantly did, while watching Sister Wives, and yelling at the t.v. ” you should ALL grab a few brother-husbands and fix his little red wagon but good!”, I have never been able to coax those body parts back to their original home stations. So, I reluctantly made lemonade with the lemons and moved on. I started eyeballing tunics and leggings online and laughed until I cried at the “shapers” that had built-in bums in them.

Side note: Shapers my ASS! Call it a girdle, girl – our mothers certainly did and who are we to think we are somehow better than that generation at the aging game, anyway? I can still recall the first time I walked in on my Mom fighting to get into one, and the combination of my squeal of utter shock and her efforts to get the damn thing up over her hips made us both erupt into giggles that left us gasping for breath afterwards. Me from giggling, and her, I’m sure, due to the combination of laughter and the oxygen restriction she was enduring due to the vice-grip that girdle had on her abdomen.

The lemonade I have made out of the sad state of my 60’s era National Geographic cover-worthy boobs, is that on cold winter days, while I am sitting in my house and feel the chill, they provide bonus warmth to my new stomach, and have actually become pretty good friends, as a result! They almost seem to suffer separation anxiety on the rare occasions when I need to strap on one of my industrial strength bras, with the steel reinforcements, and the 23 clips required in order to constrain all that matronly sexiness that just wants to ooze out at the most inopportune times in public. I’ll be totally honest here – sometimes just getting the thing on winds me – similar to the days I need to swap comforters out of the duvet covers.

Life’s a struggle and we all have our hills to conquer, but we carry on, don’t we ladies?

The hardest thing to make lemonade out of for me regarding the aging process has been the hair situation occurring in the last few years. This unforgiving trauma I endure on a daily basis has been one of the stealthiest missions of my life as a woman, and my secret shame.

In my youth, I had eyebrows like Brooke Shields. I actually had what some affectionately refer to as a “unibrow”, in fact. I was not allowed to pluck my eyebrows or shave any body part OR paint nails until I reached the age of 14 (some of my mother’s rules were absolutely wack- just pick an age out of your ass and make it law? Regardless of circumstance or evidence to the contrary??)

My Grade 7 School Picture

But I digress – the minute I hit 14, I went off in a frenzy of hair removal and nail painting. I spent more time pulling hair out of my body than I did eating, or sleeping or exercising, or cutting the David Cassidy pictures out of Teen Beat. Any pictures of me from that summer show my sleek, tanned, bare legs with cute polish on the toes and my brassy Sun-In’d tresses blowing in the breeze. Two razor-thin lines where my eyebrows used to be – one cocked up in what I thought made me look quizzical, and mature. Oh- and my boobs where they belonged- their original placement, their designated lane.

I have barely any eyebrows now. A few wispy strands here and there. And the majority of them a glaring white that makes me squint if I look too close. It can sometimes make my head ache so bad from the glare that I need a vodka cocktail vitamins to make the pain go away. So, I sit there, with my cocktail vitamins and stare into the abyss mirror deciding which method I should deploy on that day to draw some on. I have pencils, and brow powders, and fancy brushes designed specifically to create eyebrows. Every shade from auburn to gray. Because the white hairs hurt my self esteem eyes, I usually pluck them all out, leaving myself with a larger canvas to work on. Most days, I just style my hair so that my bangs are hanging down past them, and call it a job well done!

Pat myself on the back for my exquisite time management skills.

The lemonade I cannot make and refuse to swallow involves my eyelashes. Somehow, maybe during that period of time that my ass went AWOL, my eyelashes started one by one dragging themselves down my face towards my chinny-chin-chin. I couldn’t swear in a court of law that the little hairs ARE my missing eyelashes, but I suspect that is what happened. So, now there is the extra work of removing them from my chin and then because life is so brutally unfair that it HAS to be a man, I cannot simply move them back where they belong – I have to decide whether I am going to use 56 coatings of mascara, glue a set of fake ones on ( glue= kryptonite), or just say screw it, and let my bangs grow even longer until they are completely covering my eyes. The mascara option is the one I most frequently choose, as it doesn’t involve the potential for blindness that the eyelash glue does and has frequently in the past.

The only downside to the mascara is that even with the application of the $40 primer to my eyelids, I end my days looking in a mirror to the sight of the menopause spiders© above my eyes. I assume it is because my temperature these days fluctuates from arctic deep freeze all the way to tropical rainforest, sometimes within a 5 minute span of time, but I am starting to take it personally, and that always means more vitamins.

Menopause Spiders ©

The plus side to all of this aging bullshit, and disappearing body parts, and the sketchy hair realignment process, is that once you are my age, nobody really looks at you anymore anyway!

You are past the age of child-bearing, out tripping through the world blindly due to your long bangs, and the fact that your melting pool of mascara has temporarily blinded you. You are light-headed from the constriction of your bra and shape wear, hot-flashing like a mutha, sleep deprived and quite possibly in search of anyone to be mad at due to your raging hormones and the fact your face is slowly morphing into Doc’s from Back to the Future.

And you know what the answer to all of that is, don’t you?

MORE vitamins!

Vitamin V ©

Brothers and Other Addicts

kidsThe Early Years

When I’m thinking rationally with my adult hat on, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that my brother fell “victim” to the family “disease”.

That, of course, removes any blame from his otherwise pretty broad and fearless shoulders.

It also removes me quite nicely from the guilt of not catching it.

From my mother’s account, he was difficult right from the damn start. She was married for the second time and had produced a (gasp) daughter the first time at age 32, so had to basically take one more for the team and try one more time for the heir apparent at the age of 34.

After suffering through nine months of hell, losing weight and puking her guts and stomach lining out daily ( according to her), my brother, Mark, came sliding into the world. Weakly, thin, blue, and in most desperate need of an immediate blood transfusion. He was given new blood and a shit ton of drugs to just keep him with the living.

I have read enough to understand that the statistics regarding traumatic births and the need for resuscitation and desperate measures immediately following a birth can lead to addiction in later life. ( See? Adult hat appearing once again).

But I can tell you right now, that I believe in my heart that a whole lot of other things conspired within my brother’s universe to lead to his addiction and eventual death at the age of 47.

He was dealt a shitty hand, I think, and I am just now realizing with survivor-like guilt, that there was really never going to be a “happily ever after” in his lifetime.

I got the Aces and he got the 2’s, so to speak.

Strike 1: Our Dad was a drunk. A lovely guy, really…but a drunk. Back in the sixties, when we were born, boys and girls modelled themselves by their gender-alike parent. Lucky him.

Strike 2: Our Mother was already up to the eyeballs trying to be the responsible one, keeping a roof over our heads, food in our bellies and teaching us morals, all while trying to keep control of a stealthy drunken hubby. She was angry 99% of the time, slap-happy, and tired. But never too tired to slap and swing a belt at us, as she desperately tried to raise us into “good people”. Guess which parent we chose to spend the most time with? The predictable one – two moods…drunk(happy)…and…sober(quiet/staying out of my Mother’s way).

Strike 3: Everyone was just too busy trying to keep their OWN heads above water to pay much attention to what my curious little brother was up to. Sorry. Not sorry. I had my own shit to deal with and quicksand to manoeuvre!

So, fucked he was, right from the start.

And though I make light of it here, I am profoundly saddened to the core that all of us let him down in the ways we did.

Towards the end of his life,he once looked at me with an unbearable sadness in his eyes, and joked that we grew up in the same foxhole. We were survivors of the insanity that our home life was. He would sometimes be pissy and say that I “got a pass” from most of our Mom’s verbal and physical abuse. I just learned really early on that keeping your mouth shut and flying under the radar was the easy route through the blitzkrieg.

He never learned those lessons. Ever.

And yet he was her favourite;her baby: him with the loud, look-at-me voice so much like hers; him with the natural affinity for physical affection, so much like her. I guess he gave her the cuddles as a child and the love and affection as a boy and man that she never accepted from dear old fall down drunk Pops.

I have a couple vivid memories from my brother’s youth. One was him being mauled by a neighbour’s dog when he was around 4. I had once again been forced to take him with me (goddamnit!) out to play and headed right over my friend’s place to play with her dog. I swear, that little dog chased its own tail around, let us all play around with it for about a half an hour, and then just randomly snapped and went right at my brother’s face. Fifteen kids at least standing in a yard, and the dog zeros in on my brother’s face.

I remember the skin and the blood and the screaming…and I remember my brother running blindly away,trying to find his way down the block back home, blood streaming down his face..skin hanging…and me running even faster…AWAY from him and his pain and fear. A lesson for him on that day, and a reminder for me of how damaged we both were already at those tender ages.

That’s a little something called fright or flight instinct and I was obviously already well versed in that by the  age of 5 1/2.

The shit had hit the fan and I was getting the hell out of there before the hammer fell. I was supposed to be watching him. Keeping him safe. And I had failed. Abysmally.

He ended up with stitches all over his face. Came pretty close to losing an eye and most of his bottom lip, but he used it to his advantage for the rest of his life by telling people when asked about the scars ” You should see the other guy!” That instinct to turn tragedies into humor is something we both learned by osmosis.

A coping skill that served us both well.

The second memory digging at me today involves a harmless prank he and his gang of buddies pulled off when they were about nine. They had all stolen laundry soap from their homes and came up with the idea of pouring it into the fountain outside the hospital entrance in our fairly small town.

Looking back now, having raised two boys of my own, that is a pretty creatively, awesome prank. One I could have almost got on board with AS a Mom!

Unfortunately for my brother, our mother saw things much, much differently.

Being a small town, they got fingered and I.D.’d before they even arrived back home.

My mother met him, at the door, with a broom. She was swinging like Mickey Mantle before he was even all the way inside of the house. The shame he had brought on our family. The atrocious horror of the neighbours all knowing one of her kids had done such a reprehensible thing!

She actually broke the broom hitting him with it. I tried to stop her, first grabbing at the broom, then attempting to grab her swinging arm. Nothing stopped her, and my interfering actually ramped her up even more. She started jabbing at him with the broken end, practically using it like a spear. I caught a bit of that spear action to my side, just as she said in no uncertain terms that if I didn’t get the hell out of the way, I was gonna get some too.

Shots fired.

I retreated.

Left him to it.

Listened as he begged her to stop.

He wouldn’t cry.

I have so much respect for him today for not crying. I got accidentally speared once, not even a direct hit, and I was already bawling like a baby and can feel the hot tears sliding down my cheeks now,  just in the remembering.

Afterwards, we sat on the floor of my room, and listened to some music, keeping both it and our voices down, so as to not start her up again. I remember washing him up the best I could, and telling him he should have known the natural outcome of a stupid prank like that. Telling him he had to learn to not piss her off. Telling him it wasn’t really her fault… she was just worried/tired/mad/overwhelmed/broke…whatever she was in that moment where she lost her mind so totally and completely that she would beat and stab at a nine year old boy with a piece of broken wood.

Looking back,I think that was the moment in time that we made the mutual decision/pact to keep each other as safe and out of harm’s way as we possible could.

The love we couldn’t express verbally, would be shown in loyalty to each other.

Like brothers in arms.

Foxhole, indeed.

Transformation Tuesday

IMG_20150815_102031I am going to begin by clarifying that my feelings and thoughts will change by the minute at this time in my life.

I will be learning as I go along and hopefully will be able to make some sense of a life that has been up till now, pretty unstructured, mostly unplanned and most certainly random; filled with the types of characters that one meets in a book or movie.

I have been the one to slip easily from one group to another, adjusting my masks and views according to my peer groups. I thought this was a great talent, until a shrink told me it really wasn’t. Much more a coping and control mechanism, and not to be bragged about to even a slightly educated audience. My bad.

I think I have had a pretty colourful life up to this point, and if I had any discipline at all, I would be planning to write a book in the next few years.

Some of the topics I could write about:

  1. Death/Loss – I have lost A LOT of people I love…not a few..and not distant…my entire family of origin is gone, as well as my first born son.
  2. Trauma – I survived a pretty significant MVA with a freight train a few years back, but not without scars and some PTSD. Trust me, the mental healing is WAY harder than the physical.
  3. Growing up in an alcoholic house – pretty self explanatory and it actually took until this very year while going through a significant relationship falling apart, that I even began to look at what the fuck I was doing wrong when it comes to picking life mates…perhaps there was something “I” was doing wrong?? How could that BE???
  4. Motherhood – They thrived, they survived, but I have a shit ton of funny, lovely stories I would like to get written down before I forget them all with the passage of time. Also see # 2- my memory is not great.
  5. My Brother – He was my only sibling and quite the fuckadoodle at times. Drug addicted, witty, live-by-the-seat-of your -pants charmer and SO many awesome stories that are book-worthy on their own! I miss him so much and am just now, 2.5 years later, coming to terms with living my life without him.