Mothers Day

Thank you, Mom_edited-2On May 20, 1977 my only child, a son, was born. This event changed me and my life forever in ways I had no way of knowing when I first held him in my arms and looked down into his little face. After that day I always thought of time as “before Zac was born” and “after Zac was born”.

My son was a challenge from the beginning – I was in labor for 22 hours and he weighed a very healthy 10lbs. 2oz. at birth! He was a happy baby and toddler, with a bright and curious mind but as he grew older he exhibited a single minded will that often bordered on stubbornness. Once he set his mind on something it was near impossible to deter him! When he was four his father and I divorced so he didn’t have the childhood I had envisioned for him. I know the divorce and his relationship with his long distance and neglectful father had a long lasting effect on him. His feelings of anger and disappointment were eventually all directed at me and, by the time he reached his teen years, we were constantly at odds with each other. His attitude and behavior worsened to the point where I had no control over him. Unfortunately, when I think of those years all I can remember is me yelling and him being totally disrespectful in every way possible. I hope he can remember at least some good times with me!

 

Meanwhile, I plodded on. When my marriage ended I was a 31 year old college drop out with no real marketable skills. I was scared and had no idea how I was going to support myself and my son. I got the only job available to me – retail sales.  Between the failed marriage and the crappy, low paying job I felt like the biggest loser on the planet! My self-esteem was at an all time low. I was starved for approval and affection, which naturally led me into an unhealthy relationship. Fortunately, I had enough inner strength to work my way up into a management position, get a loan to build a small house, change to a career in social services and finish my college degree. Every time I accomplished a milestone I felt a little better about myself.

24 years ago I moved to Florida and forced my then 16 year old son, who had insisted on dropping out of high school, to go with me. I desperately wanted to get him away from some very negative influences and I thought a big change was needed in both our lives. He only stayed for 6 months but, they were productive months for him and our relationship also improved – before I moved I had thrown him out of the house and we were barely speaking so, almost anything was an improvement! He got a full time job, finished his GED, got a drivers license and a car. He shared an apartment with a friend who had moved to Florida with him. He was only 17 when he moved back to New Jersey but he had experienced so much more of life than his former high school classmates. I didn’t want him to leave but, as usual, he already had his mind set.

The following years had many ups and downs for each of us and for our relationship with each other but, thankfully, we both came out okay. I was able to build another house, in which I still live. It was one of the best decisions I ever made and has been my sanctuary. I was hired as a social services director in local government, from which I retired after 16 years. When my father retired, my parents moved from NJ to a house right down the street so I’ve been blessed to have them close by for many years. I still haven’t been blessed with a good man to share my life but, I’m happier with myself and with my life than ever before and that in itself is a great blessing.

My son earned a degree in audio/video management and worked for 10 years in that field but, throughout his 20’s he drove me crazy with worry over all his impulsive decisions. I bailed him out of so many financial crises that I still feel the effects to this day! He lived in several places over the years and finally decided three years ago that northeast NJ is where he “feels at home”. While living in Boston he completed a second BS, in Web Design and Internet Technology – Dean’s List every semester and National Honor Society! – and has been employed as a web developer for the past 2-1/2 years. He recently got married and his first child, a boy, is due on August 1. He & his new wife are in the process of buying a house. It was a long and difficult road but, it does my heart good to know that he has finally grown up and put all the pieces of his life together.

When I look back on my experiences as a mother I see all the mistakes I made and all the things I could have done differently but, I no longer have the heavy burden of guilt that I carried for so many years. I also don’t compare him anymore to the “good” sons of people I know and wonder where I went “wrong”. I just accept him for the unique person he is and appreciate his good qualities – after all, some of them come from me! I know I did the best I could for my son and, no matter what, I always loved him. I think he knows that. So, on this Mothers Day, forgive your mother for whatever wrong you think she did and, even more importantly, forgive yourself.

Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~Elizabeth Stone

Cherokee Lake Park Thomasville GA 4-16

Love is everything

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

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Long distance

How are things on your endI know that most people have some long distance relationships but I feel like they have been a central theme in my life. Some of them were caused by moves I made and some were caused by moves other people made but, it all began when my parents immigrated from England when I was 5. For the rest of my life I was 3,000 miles away from my father’s side of the family. Many times I’ve been restless and felt as if I didn’t belong anywhere and I’ve wondered if that is where those feelings started.

When I got married we moved 600 miles away from our family and friends. My marriage itself was a long distance relationship because my husband was a truck driver – he was away for 4 months of our second year of marriage and, for many years, was only home on weekends. We were married for 9 years and, in hindsight, I think the marriage would probably have ended sooner if not for all the time apart! Sometimes distance is a good thing!

After my marriage ended I moved back to my home state of NJ but, to a different area about 90 miles from where my parents lived. Believe me, that’s a long way when you have to drive on the Garden State Parkway to visit – especially on summer weekends! One of my reasons for moving back was because my ex-husband had moved back and I wanted my son to be closer to him and the rest of our family. Unfortunately, my ex-husband decided to move again just a couple of months later, which created a permanent long distance relationship between him and his son.

My next serious relationship was with a man who lived about 100 miles away so, we only saw each other on weekends. I’m sure this didn’t help to strengthen what was already a troubled relationship. After being back in my home state for 12 years I moved to FL, which, of course, placed me 1,000+ miles away from family and friends. My son was 16 and heading down a very bad path in his life. The move pulled him away from bad influences and forced him to make some changes for the better. At the time, I was in a relationship with a man who spent part of every month in FL and part in NJ – another relationship negatively affected by distance!

Thankfully, my parents decided to move to FL about 4 years after me – they built a house right down the street – so we’ve been able to make up for the years we lived far apart. My father enjoyed 9 years of living here before he passed away and I’m grateful that we were able to share so many good times together.

My son decided that he wanted to go back to NJ after 6 months in FL, which created a long distance relationship between us that has lasted, with the exception of a couple of brief periods, for many years. Over the years he has lived in Denver, then NJ again, then Boston and, for the past 3 years he’s been back in NJ where he’ll probably stay. He has an erratic work schedule and sometimes works long hours to meet project deadlines so I usually leave it up to him to call me. Unfortunately, he is not good at keeping in touch so the phone calls are infrequent and the visits even more so.

Seven years ago my best friend moved 1,000 miles away to be closer to her family. This left a big void in my life, but we both put effort into keeping in touch and she manages to visit two or three times a year, which helps a lot. The good news is that she wants to move back to FL and is hoping to do that sometime this year! I’ve been blessed with good friends who live nearby but, sadly, some of the people who are closest to my heart are the ones who are furthest away.

Now I’m about to begin the most difficult long distance relationship of my life. My son’s girlfriend is pregnant and they are getting married. Although it wasn’t planned, they’ve been together more than a year and seem to have a good relationship so, in many ways this is good news – he’s almost 40 and I was beginning to think it might never happen! I always hoped I’d be a grandmother someday but, the reality is that distance will prevent me from having the type of relationship I’d like to have with my grandchild and that makes me sad. Between the physical distance and my son’s poor communication skills this is going to be a real challenge but, I know people who are in the same situation so I’m going to learn from them and do my best to be a good Nanna. I don’t like Skype, talking on the phone or flying but I’m willing to do all those things just to be part of my grandson’s life!

Absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small, it inflames the great. ~Roger de Bussy-Rabutin

August 2014

Liberty’s always ready to hit the road!

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

 

When dogs meet

img011Have you ever noticed when dogs meet they seem to know within a few seconds whether they like each other or not? When Liberty spots a dog, which is usually when it is about 1/4 mile away, she starts getting excited. As we get closer, she begins to pull on her leash and I have to rein her in until I can determine if the approaching dog is friendly and also if the owner wants our dogs to meet. Once that is established we each loosen up on the leashes and allow our dogs to meet. They sniff each others faces and butts. Sometimes that only takes a couple of seconds and sometimes several lingering re-sniffs are necessary in order to make a complete assessment. I have never seen Liberty growl at or act aggressively toward another dog but I have seen her do what I call the “sniff and dismiss” move – she’s just not interested. She’s ready to move on but, she’ll stand politely if I’m chatting with the owner. Strangely, the other dog usually has the same type of reaction to her. Most of the time the dogs seem to send a cue to each other and it’s either “Let’s play!” or “You’re not my type”.  If it’s “Let’s play!” the dogs, oblivious to everything except their own happiness, leap at and try to chase each other. They sometimes even roll around on the grass together. The owners laugh as leashes get tangled and wrapped around their legs. If this goes on long enough, the dogs will usually get tired and flop down near each other in the grass, tongues lolling with big “smiles” on their faces. If it’s “You’re not my type”, they look away, sniff the grass and wait politely to walk on.

My instincts when I meet a new person are certainly not as accurate and finely tuned as Liberty’s. I usually know pretty quickly if I like or don’t like them, but sometimes I’m wrong about how they feel about me. I really envy Liberty’s instincts – it would be so nice to meet someone and each of you are able to know within a few seconds if you want to get to know each other better or not. No, I don’t want to sniff anyone’s face or butt and I don’t want to roll around in the grass with them – at least not right away – but I would like to have some way to know the essence of another person. Maybe children have it because I can remember saying to someone, as a child, “Do you want to be my friend?” and others saying that to me. No filter, just following instinct. We adult humans have layers of social behaviors to deal with, in addition to our individual inhibitions. We’re concerned about making a good impression, we’re afraid of rejection or looking foolish. We’re afraid of getting hurt. I tend to be socially awkward and not interested in small talk, which is why I don’t usually enjoy parties and I’m always uncomfortable on a first date. I enjoy real conversations during which I can get to know someone at a deeper level but, relationships between humans usually develop at glacier speed – or so it seems to an impatient person like me. We’re afraid to be too honest or trust each other too soon and the complexities of human nature and the society in which we live have forced us to be that way. Still, isn’t it sweet when you get that rare feeling that you have met a person with whom you really connect – someone who just might become a friend – and it turns out your instincts were right?

I dreamed that I was walking with Liberty and she saw a dog she wanted to meet, who was walking with his owner. I don’t remember what the man looked like but I remember that his dog was a big, friendly yellow Lab/Golden Retriever mix. The two dogs touched noses and sniffed and it was obvious they liked each other. At the same time, I felt a very nice connection with the man. That was the whole dream – just a nice, warm feeling. Maybe Liberty’s instincts will lead me to the man of my dreams. Woof!

What a beautiful world it would be if people had hearts like dogs.  ~Anonymous

 

Stick with me ... you never know what might happen

Stick with me … you never know what might happen

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

Home is where the dog is

Congratulations on adopting a dogHome is where the heart is. I like the concept that phrase brings to mind. It is on one of my favorite T-shirts. My problem is that I’m not sure where my heart is so, I don’t really know where my home is. I like the town in which I live and I like my house – I’ve been here for 20 years, which is the longest I have lived anywhere, including the home in which I spent most of my childhood – and yet, I always have the sense that I could easily leave and like another town and another house just as much. In fact, the reasons I have lived here so long have less to do with choice than with responsibility and practicality. I don’t feel like I have deep roots here, but I don’t have them anywhere else either. Still, I know I’m blessed in many ways so I work through feelings of restlessness by practicing the “bloom where you are planted” philosophy. Appreciate what you have and don’t dwell on what you don’t have.

So, where does my mysterious heart reside? If we’re talking about love, which is typically synonymous with the heart, I love my mother, my son and my best friend. I’m working on loving God. I have deep affection for a few other people. I love my dog, Liberty, almost as much as (and in some ways more!) than any of these humans. She is my constant companion, four-legged best friend and excellent travel buddy. I start every morning with a smile because the first thing I see is her face peeking up over the side of the bed, tail wagging madly in anticipation of an exciting new day. I like to take her with me wherever I go, as much as possible. She isn’t boring, doesn’t annoy me, and is always happy just to BE with me. I like to see her happy little face in my rear view mirror.

In the two years since I adopted Liberty, we have become volunteers with Haven Hospice and PAWS to Read and today she passed the first part of a 3 part test to be registered with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs but, more important than that, she is MY therapy dog. She reminds me to appreciate the moment and enjoy simple pleasures. She takes me out of my shell and encourages me to be more open to people; to offer comfort and kindness to people I don’t even know. When I look at things through her eyes, the ordinary becomes special and new again. It kind of reminds me of when my son was a baby and I felt like I was seeing the world, through his eyes, for the very first time.

If you have never loved a dog or, if you don’t even like them, you probably think I’m nuts or that I have an unhealthy attachment to Liberty or some other psycho-babble. If so, I probably wouldn’t like you and I would definitely find it difficult to trust you. I do have room in my heart and life for a kind and decent man (if I should ever meet one) but, he must love my dog! Love me; love my dog 🙂

I have always loved dogs – they were my faithful friends through childhood and early adulthood and, although for a long time I only had cats as pets (don’t worry cat lovers, they were very special to me, too), I returned to the “dog life” in 2009 when I adopted Stella. She was a senior with many health problems but her sweet, quiet companionship and friendly, easy going nature were the perfect reintroduction into “dog life” for me. Now I can’t imagine living without a canine companion and I hope I never have to.

Crazy as it may sound, in writing this I have come to the conclusion that maybe my heart resides in the heart of a dog so, I guess as long as I have my dog with me I’m home.

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went. ~Will Rogers

Fun in the ocean 10-15-15

Pure joy!

You can see more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

Expectations

HopeI’ve been working on the problem of having expectations for a long time – especially unrealistic expectations – but, I’m still not quite where I want to be. Expectations of myself, of the outcomes of situations, of other people, and expectations that others have of me. Expectations I have had of myself have led me down some dark pathways of romantic idealism, failed perfectionism (alas, all perfectionism fails), self-criticism and doubt. Expectations regarding the outcome of situations have often led to disappointment and unhappiness. Expectations of people have led to feelings of betrayal, disillusionment and sadness. I’ve made a lot of progress on everything except my expectations of other people – maybe the answer is to have very low expectations!.

I just finished a book by author, lecturer, and radio host Dennis Prager titled “Happiness is a Serious Problem”. He devotes an entire chapter to expectations so, I guess I’m not the only person who wrestles with this issue. He states that “in general, expectations lead to unhappiness” and I tend to agree. He defines expectations as “taking for granted that something will happen or regarding something as virtually inevitable”, therefore, with rare exceptions, where we do not have complete control we should not have expectations. And in just how many situations in your life do you have complete control? I don’t know about you, but I realized some time ago that the only things I have any control over are my thoughts and actions – and even that can be a huge challenge at times!

Still, as logical as all that sounds … does it mean we can never have any expectations of other people and our relationships with them? When we marry someone and take vows with them before God, should we not expect them to keep those vows? Should close friends not expect honesty, trustworthiness and loyalty? It is in the area of close relationships that I have the most difficulty in letting go of expectations. I’m not talking about forgiving honest mistakes or tolerating human flaws because I know that no one is perfect, certainly not me, and I always hope (or do I expect?) to receive forgiveness and tolerance from those who are closest to me. We all disappoint each other at times without meaning to, but I’m thinking of much more serious injuries like lying, cheating, betrayal, and other forms of disloyalty. Loyalty and honesty are very important to me. That is what you can expect from me if I’m a friend of yours and it is what I expect in return from you. Needless to say, I’ve had some crushing disappointments but, was it because I expected a certain type of behavior or was it because I trusted someone? Where is the line between trusting and expecting in relationships? Doesn’t a person’s character invite you to expect a certain type of behavior from them?

Another long-held expectation I had was regarding my relationship with my son. I always thought that once he was an adult he would honor and respect me. I didn’t invent this idea – remember the fifth commandment “Honor your father and your mother”? – and yet, this concept seems to be foreign to him. Perhaps I bear some responsibility for not instilling it in him at an early age but, whatever the reason, I recently had to re-evaluate my thinking and begin to let go of my expectation that someday we would have a warm, comfortable and friendly adult relationship. I would love to be able to just enjoy relaxed conversations with him without feeling like I’m walking blindfolded through a mine field. Recent events have forced me to admit that this may never happen and I need to stop waiting for something of which he may not be emotionally capable. I think I need to learn the difference between hope and expectation.

If you align expectations with reality, you will never be disappointed. ~Terrell Owens

Liberty has Great Expectations!

Liberty has Great Expectations!

I fully expect that you will check out my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions