Tag Archives: Me only smaller

Damaged Goods

I just finished reading Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide by Linda Gray Sexton. Linda is the oldest daughter of Poet Anne Sexton who suffered from chronic undiagnosed mental illness and attempted suicide many times throughout Linda’s childhood. She finally succeeded and killed herself when Linda was 21 and a senior at Harvard. Linda’s lifelong struggle with depression, alcoholism, medications and 2 serious suicide attempts is vividly retold in the book. Despite being continually abandoned emotionally and physically by her mother, Linda is slowly drawn into repeating the very same behavior with her own children and family. While she knows first hand the pain that suicide leaves with those left behind she cannot resist the desire to reconnect with her mother even if it means her own destruction. The book opens with Linda’s first serious suicide attempt 6 months before she would turn 45. This is significant because her mother’s suicide was only 1 month before her 45th birthday. This can’t help but make me reflect on my upcoming 45th birthday this year and my brother Mike’s suicide less than 1 month before his 46th birthday. In a little over 1 year’s time I will be older than my big brother and time will continue on like that for the rest of my life. Linda’s detailed descriptions of her life at her lowest points also resonated strongly with me. Any reader will recognize the personal human pain she feels and lays out so unselfconsciously whether they are dealing with a depressed loved one or if they’ve traveled a similar path themselves. The book gives an eloquent voice to those who most need to be heard but because of their situations cannot get the words out.

Now I find myself wondering what kind of emotional legacy my brother and I received from our own mother. When my daughter was born my dad compulsively evaluated and criticized every single choice we made with her. I knew enough to ignore his advice even if it meant arguing over every single one. I now realize that he probably did the very same thing with my mother when my brother was born. As a new mother in a relatively new country I’m sure she had all the normal insecurities in her ability to care for her infant son. I have no doubt that my father was unable to let her find her way on her own. I can see him trying to control every single thing she did with the baby from the very start. She must’ve felt so inadequate when comparing herself to her professional Psychologist husband. Surely he knew what he was talking about! I can imagine how defenseless and alone she would have felt. Eventually my mom withdrew from the family and let my dad cast her as the enemy.  I was quite young when my dad started to tell us that it wouldn’t take much for my mother to become an alcoholic. I guess that this was to undermine our trust in her and scare me especially into wanting to be on his side. It was very important in my family to take sides. I was very aware that it was my father and I versus my brother and my mother in a lot of ways. How did this dynamic play out as we got older and my brother started getting into trouble all the time? My parents always fought about my brother. My dad would rage and blame my mother for Mike’s every fault. She loved Mike through it all but of course just having her love wasn’t enough for him in the end. It was damaged goods.

I guess the question now is not what emotional legacy will I pass onto my own daughter but whose?


Thank you to award-winning author Linda Gray Sexton for sponsoring this series, which is inspired by her memoir Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide.

I was selected for this sponsorship by Clever Girls Collective which endorses Blog With Integrity.

To learn more about Linda Gray Sexton and her writing, please visit her website.

Half in Love Relationships and Depression Series

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We journeyed to Skylandia this past weekend to belatedly celebrate the holiday and my daughter’s birthday with my parents. Thankfully my in-laws were able to come as well. I think my mother had a good time. She stayed up late everynight enjoying the company. I did all the cooking and planning. I have been talking and thinking about this pot roast I wanted to make for weeks now. We finally get there on Thursday and I pull my 4lb roast out of the cooler and my dad turns to me and says, “oh, she’s not allowed to eat meat.” We later clarified that she is supposed to eat only lean meats and fish but it is not like she can’t have a little bit on a special occasion. I wish that he had told me earlier. I would have obviously made other plans but it was way too late to change it and she ate it (and enjoyed it) anyway.

Grandpa was in fine form for our visit. He is constantly underfoot in the kitchen. It’s like how I used to describe my dog Dylan. She was like a VISA card, she’s everywhere you want to be. He thinks that he is helping you but when someone tries to clean everything as soon as you set it down it is just annoying. I don’t know how my mother has done it all these years. He was pissing me off and I was obviously pissing him off. I could hear him complaining to my mother in the middle of the night on Saturday. I couldn’t hear exactly what he was saying on the other side of the wall but I could recognize the tone and the anger in his voice. It’s exactly what he used to sound like when he would talk about my brother.

The highpoint of the weekend is when he told my mother-in-law that Piper is beautiful except when she smiles because her front teeth are too big. I remember him telling me not too smile in pictures because of my teeth when I was a child. I didn’t say anything to him because I didn’t want her to overhear any of it. I’m not sure what to do because he’s bound to tell her sometime. He just can’t keep those little bon mots to himself. You can’t unring that bell.

In the immortal words of Mr Awesome, what a douchebag.

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Dear Mike,

So this is Xmas, and what have you done?

I keep hearing John Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War is Over) playing everwhere. I remember sitting on the floor in your room on Skank Ave. I’m infront of your stereo listening to that song. You’re probably playing it to show me how much better it is than Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmastime. You’d always get sentimental during the holidays and you’d pull out your old singles and the Beatles’ Blue and Red albums and play them for me. This year is the 30th anniversary of Lennon’s death and it is hard for me to believe that it has been that long. I also can’t believe that someday it will be 30 (or even 10) years since you died. I don’t want the time between when you were alive and when you were not to ever stretch that far apart but I cannot make it stop. I was listening to NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast the other day and they were talking about It’s a Wonderful Life. Linda Holmes said that she really loved that movie not only because it’s about a noble person who makes sacrifices and how those choices enrich all the people in their life. She loves it because it shows how those sacrifices come at a price to the person. Making hard choices is hard and life sucks a lot of the time.

I made Glenn wake me up in the middle of the night on Monday so we could go outside and look at the lunar eclipse. It wasn’t as big as I hoped it would be but it was very cool looking. I thought it looked kind of like a smooth orangey cookie. Or maybe that was the oven talking. We just got our new oven installed on Monday and I started baking as soon as I got home from work. I had you partly in mind when I asked Glenn to get me up. I don’t know if you had ever seen an eclipse or not so I’m saving that memory for you Mike. I know that there will be more “things” I’ll be saving for you along the way. I don’t know if I’ll ever get to give them to you but maybe I already have.

Merry Christmas.



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Sea Monkeys and Other Disappointments

My daughter told me about a brine shrimp ecosystem she had seen on a shopping trip with Mr Awesome and it got me thinking about Sea Monkeys. I told her how I saw the Sea Monkey ads in the back of comic books and begged my mother to let me send away for them. Once they arrived I was very disappointed to see that they weren’t even remotely like the happy little creatures in the Sea Monkeys ads. They couldn’t “appear” to do tricks. The only way they’d dance to the beat of music is if you put their milk glass on top of the speaker and turned the dial all the way up. They didn’t have faces or even arms and legs. They were just brine shrimp or Artemia. They weren’t adorable, in fact they looked like swimming bugs. I just noticed the line of fine print at the bottom of the page “Caricatures shown not intended to depict Artemia”. Well, what were they supposed to be depicting then? I never saw that before. Maybe it was there all the time and I just blocked it out. I told her that these kinds of ads wouldn’t be allowed these days. But don’t worry kids today learn their cynicism in other ways. She and I laughed reading the ad copy. I hope that you enjoy it as well. Here is a link to a lot more ads if you’re feeling nostalgic.

While looking up the Sea Monkeys ad we also found the one for the “Gag Gifts”. I love how the Disguise Kit is described as “A Riot of Fun for Everyone!” I think my favorite is the “Radio Time ‘Bomb’. Looks like a transistor radio but can be set from 10 seconds to 10 minutes to explode – harmlessly, but really shocks and surprises. Plant and watch the fun.”

Wow, where can I get one?

I hope that this holiday season brings you everything you hope for!


The Compass

My sister-in-law sent me a box of my brother’s things. She included his watch, his camera and his compass. He kept in its original box including the instruction booklet. The compass was from his back packing days. At the beginning of High School he started to get very into hiking and rock climbing and went on a lot of Wilderness Expeditions with Outward Bound. These were long trips to faraway places. One summer he even climbed a glacier. Like any young person he enjoyed getting out of our apartment and being away from the family. It seemed like he was never home after that and always traveling somewhere. He followed the Dead for a while and then after High School came college starts and stops and then he was a punk and used to go into NYC for the music and the drugs. As the younger sibling stuck at home I always felt that he was leaving me behind. He was. After getting a taste of the bigger world he never really wanted to be at home again and spent the rest of his life trying to escape Skank Ave.

My sister-in-law told me that she was sending me a box but I totally forgot about it. I was very puzzled when I got the note at home to pick up an insured package at the post office. When the clerk brought the box out and I saw the handwriting on it I knew what it was. It’s strange but her handwriting looks so similar to my brother’s. When I see it I have to remember that it is not from Mike. I found myself hugging the little box on the way back to the car and bursting into tears as I was buckling my seat belt. She’s been talking about sending me this stuff for a while but now that I have it I can’t help but feel sad. I’m not going to be receiving anything else from my brother again.

He took the compass with him wherever he went, whenever he traveled. It’s funny that someone who really needed a compass in life, had a good compass yet still got so very lost.

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3 for 16

If you could go back in time and meet your 16-year-old self, what three things would you tell yourself?

  1. Don’t let your brother Mike slip out of your life. He’s going to steal from you in a couple of years and it’s going to hurt. You’re going to be angry. When you’re angry with someone it is easy to let your heart harden towards them. The anger will subside in time as it always does. Just don’t forget to reopen your heart again. Don’t miss your chance to truly forgive him.
  2. You are just starting to really get into theater and performing now. I should probably tell you to pay a little more attention to your schoolwork, especially math and science. You won’t listen to me so I’m not even going to try. You are finding out where your happiness lies and no one is going to steer you away from that, even old you, I mean me.  Let me make just one little suggestion to you 16, get a teaching degree.
  3. You will meet the love of your life in about 15 years so you’ve just got to relax and hold on until then. I’m not sure what else to tell you 16. I’m not feeling especially filled with wisdom right now. I will tell you what I always tell my daughter (yes, you have a daughter and she’s a STAR), treat people the way you’d like to be treated and that life sometime means you have to do things you don’t want to do. You are beautiful, be kind to yourself. Learn everything you can and don’t postpone joy. Oh and buy Apple stock in a couple of years and hold onto it.

Good luck and take care of yourself.

Love always,


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When I grow up

I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I used to have a better idea but that was a long time ago. When I was little I wanted to be a cliche a veterinarian. I told you a story about that here. Strangely, my summer experience at the Animal Hospital didn’t dissuade me from that career path at all. That came much later down the road when I realized that I really sucked at math and any science that required math. I was dissuaded from one thing that summer at the Animal Hospital. I would never get a perm again. I really wanted wavy hair in the worst way and begged my mother to get me a perm. She took me to the salon where we always went and the stylist (a very nice eastern european guy with a mustache and gold chains) permed my hair and then for some wacked reason proceeded to chop it off. I thought I looked like Little Orphan Annie. I remember being glad it was summer and I didn’t have to go to school like that. I crammed my huge hair into a bandanna for a couple of weeks. I was lucky by the time school started the perm finally relaxed and settled into something like this. Beautiful!

I’m going to try to do Nablopomo this month. Wish me luck!! Any and all writing prompts are greatly appreciated. See you tomorrow.

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I almost missed it

I found myself feeling kind of lonely this holiday weekend. I didn’t think ahead and had no plans outside of hanging with my family, going to the Flea Market with them on Saturday and barbecuing for them on Sunday. It was the most gorgeous Memorial Day Weekend I can think of in a long time. We had a beautiful day on the Monday last year but this year it was nice on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The weather outside just made me feel a little worse about not having anything really “special” to do. As I find myself getting more into my blogging and Twitter and Facebook I find that I’m craving some analog friend time. I’ve had issues with loneliness throughout my life. It’s always been hard for me to make friends and as I get older it doesn’t get any easier. I think it just gets harder. When I am out in social situations these days, especially ones that don’t involve my daughter, I feel like I’m always just the friend of a friend. I wish I were a more social person so that I could model that type of life for my daughter. I had a shy mom and I was a shy kid. My daughter can be shy and has a hard time with change. I just want her to have the skill set that helps her when her friends change around. I had a really hard time transitioning from 6th grade in elementary school to 7th grade in Junior High. Most of my friends met new friends and formed new groups and I was stuck wanting everything to be the way that it was before. It wasn’t until I started doing theater in 8th grade that I found a new way to make friends. I want things to be easier for her. Anyway all these lonely feelings came down on me early on Sunday morning. I was loading the laundry into the washer and just got so sad. I told Glenn about it and he hugged me and made me feel a little better. Later on he was going out for a bike ride and he had set up a lawn chair for me to watch Piper from as she played in the sprinkler. She asked me if I wanted to go in the sprinkler too. I really didn’t. The thought of finding a bathing suit that I was happy with and then putting it on to run around my side yard in full view of the street frankly did not thrill me. Who in their right mind would want to put on a bathing suit when their gut protrudes further than their bust? But she really wanted me to do it and so I did. We had an absolute blast playing and dancing in the water. I had a really fun time. We ran through it and played limbo in it and challenged each other to get as wet as possible and then to keep as dry as possible. We even prepared a little skit to do for Glenn when he got back from his ride. After rehearsing it a couple of times we decided to give the water a rest and dry off on the towels on the grass a little bit. We watched the clouds in the sky and tried to see what we could see. Then she turned to me and said, “Aren’t you glad you didn’t miss this Mommy?” And I was, I was very glad that I didn’t miss it.

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Camper Marisa

We took a little trip to the Stormville Flea Market today. It was really fun. We almost didn’t make it. The traffic was so bad on the way there that it seemed like we’d never get there. We persevered and problem solved and found another route that put us seconds from the entrance. It was a good lesson for us all I think. Piper did the most shopping at the flea market. She got some doll house stuff and some other little things. Her biggest find was this little doll: Camper Marisa! I told her that when I was little I couldn’t find anything with my name printed on it. NOTHING. Of course the name Marissa is very popular now but you almost always see it spelled with one S. Not correct! Sometime after we bought Camper Marisa I saw a tent that had a sign above it that said, “Marisa’s Collectables”. I had to go in and see if that Marisa was really a Marisa or a Marissa pretender. I walked in the back and saw a woman putting things in bags. I asked, “are you Marisa?” She said that she was. I said well I’m a Marisa too and I showed her the doll. I knew that she’d appreciate it and she did. I told her that I couldn’t believe that I had just seen two public Marisa’s in one day. What are the odds of that?

The actress Marisa Tomei guest starred on Seinfeld once. She pronounces her name Marissa. Throughout the episode they said her name about a thousand times, especially George. I remember watching and thinking that if she pronounced it like I do it would have freaked me out. I can’t imagine hearing my name publicly chanted like that. Seriously, my brain might have exploded from the Marisa overload.

I also wanted to share this picture. I’ve decided that in the future when we all have Jet Packs and can go into space at will, I definitely want to party with this guy!

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Herman Munster, Cherry Sodas and other thoughts

Herman MunsterI have a confession to make internets. Herman Munster gives me the creeps. I’ve always hated him. His character just bugs. I’m not really charmed by the whole idea of a “lovable buffoon”. To me, buffoons are just annoying. Herman was always surprised and sad when “normal” people were afraid of him and when he broke mirrors just by looking at them. I felt very embarrassed for Herman, he was totally clueless as to how clearly repulsive he was. I would feel a tiny bit of sympathy for poor pathetic ugly Herman but my nice feeling would disappear as soon as he started throwing a fit when he didn’t get his way. Herman was supposed to be the head of the family but acted more like an oversized baby.

I was also enormously distracted by Herman’s makeup. The dark lipstick and heavy pancake on his face made it impossible for me to see anything else. Let’s not even talk about the neck bolts. Fred Gywnne was famously unhappy playing Herman Munster and maybe I was picking up on his discomfort. To this day I can’t stand the sight of black nail polish. it doesn’t matter who is wearing it, Adam Lambert, Elvira or Kate Winslet I see black nail polish and my mind screams “HERMAN”!

I’m not really sure why I find myself mulling over Herman lately. The Munsters was one in a long line of shows that were on TV after school when I was a kid. My brother and I watched them all. We were latch key kids. Him more than me because I was physically unable to open the door to the apartment by myself for a long time. I may have had a key but that didn’t mean that I could open the door. The lock was too tricky for me to figure out. I would get off the bus and then have to wait for him to get home to let me in. I’d go up to our apartment on the 2nd floor and sit on the fake grass doormat with the plastic daisy waiting for Mike until my butt went numb. I really don’t remember having any homework though I know that I did. It is all a big mish-mash in my brain now. I do remember that my parents always had a big bottle of red wine in the house. On family dinner nights my Dad would mix a little red wine with ginger ale and give it to me. We called it “Cherry Soda”. I guess he felt like he was doing the European thing and letting his 10, 11, 12 year old (?? see what I mean, brain mish-mash, Herman Munster-mash) have a little wine was his way of teaching me to be responsible with it. Except I remember being a little irresponsible with it and mixing my own Cherry Sodas when I was home alone after school. I made my own in a much bigger glass too. I don’t really think that I was consciously trying to get drunk, I liked the taste and the fuzzy way that they made me feel. I did that for a while and I don’t really remember why I stopped or when. I don’t think my parents noticed that the wine was missing from the big bottle in the fridge but if they did they probably blamed my brother for it.

I definitely watched too much TV as a kid and probably watch too much now. We had very little choice of what to watch and it taught me to watch stupid stuff that I didn’t really like, i.e. Herman Munster. During college and immediately afterwards when I was feeling very depressed, which was very often back then, I would binge on TV. I remember one day during my senior year of college where I spent the entire 12 hour day watching my little television alone in my room. It made me feel so guilty and stupid but I couldn’t stop myself. I can’t even think of what I was watching in 1988 or what was even on?? I’m much better with it now. I still watch stupid stuff on TV but only if I actually like it.

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