I’m An Adult Child – part 1

Living life from a basis of fear

Comparing myself to others

Never thinking it was safe to play

Surrounded by people who didn’t respect me or treat me well

Afraid of authority figures and tending to isolate myself

Frightened by angry people and any personal criticism

Feeling overly responsible for others as a way to avoid looking at my own faults

Being my own Harsh, Harsher, and Harshest judge and critic

Feeling tremendously guilty when I stand up for myself instead of giving in to others

Addicted to excitement in its myriad forms

Stuffing feelings, and not even able to remember or feel what they are now

Continuing to live with sick people who were never there emotionally for me in order not to be abandoned.

Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes. I recognize myself when I read the Laundry List –  14 Traits of an Adult Child. And when I introduce myself at an ACA meeting, ‘Hi, I’m Robin, an adult child,” I’m embracing a reality I have always lived and struggled to hide and accept.

The Red Book has 648 pages, so it can’t be summed up in a paragraph here. What I’d like to do is offer a few bits and pieces as I work through them. Right now I’m working on reparenting myself: learning to be sensitive to my needs and my background experience. For me, I need a lot of validation – that my feelings make sense given my family history.

I encourage myself in many ways. For example, I remind myself when I start to slip into that spiral of self-doubt and condemnation that I’m actually doing a pretty good job; that I am not a bad person; that I have something valuable to share with the world. I repeat Lady Gaga’s words to my hurting hating Self, “You’re on the right track, baby! God makes no mistakes.”

I also tell myself that growth doesn’t happen in the blink of an eye. Patience, my dear! I sing songs with empowering messages, take time at the water’s edge, and share my experiences with trusted friends both in and out of the program.

And like Joe Walsh, I’m taking it One Day at a Time.

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The New York Summer Collection

I’ve been preparing a long time for the internship in New York City this summer, and it’s been intellectually and emotionally challenging: writing and re-writing the lengthy application to sum up my life and spiritual development, lining up people who know me well enough to write recommendations, going through the intense interview process, sitting on pins and needles waiting to hear back, getting the ridiculous but required background medical check and uploading all the paperwork, not to mention forking out way too much dough. It’s been a long haul, but I’m almost there. Start date is June 1st. New York is waiting for me, and yes, I’m excited!

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Now, the last big job is at hand ~ putting together the wardrobe. I was looking for these specifics:

1) Lightweight for the high heat of a New York City summer, but with a little throw of some sort for the air-conditioned workplace;

2) Beautiful, flattering, and colorful, to inspire the people I work with ((no looking like a minister, please!)

3) Comfortable and care-free ~ I don’t do ironing^^

4) Professional, but casual;

AND

5) Inexpensive to the MAX.

There was only one place to go. The Thrift Store, of course! Where else??


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This is the Natick area’s fantastic second-hand store, Savers. It’s only an hour and 45 minute walk from Emilie’s place. Without a car and determined not to waste a single moment sitting at home, I put on my walking shoes and took off with an empty bag and high hopes. I wasn’t disappointed. A few blisters and sore legs and feet later….

Here is my New York Summer Collection.

Polyester dress shirt from Lord and Taylor

Polyester dress shirt from Lord and Taylor

This sheer black Lord and Taylor polyester dress shirt looks good with anything. It has roll-up sleeves, packs into a tight ball in the suitcase and always looks like it just came out of the dry-cleaners. My first find ❤

The polyester/spandex patterned pants I’m wearing with it are my latest craze. I found these new at Beall’s in Florida, and bought a couple of pairs in different colors and materials. They are soft, flowing, and gorgeous anywhere!

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Spring Green top and jacket, by Snoskins

Spring Green top and jacket, by Snoskins

I can spend hours inside a thrift store creating ‘Looks.’ This jacket and pants ensemble by American designer Snoskins is one I expect to wear a lot. I love the color and the fact that I have a little jacket in case Sloan Kettering is chilly inside, which it probably will be. The capri length pants are one of my most exciting finds. Made by Staples, they’re 100% linen, fit perfectly and look elegant. I’m in love! The shoes had never been worn, and were exactly my size. Flat, pointed, and comfortable~ how cool is that!

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I love the way I feel in black and white. The top is a DIY project from last year. I took a knee-length dress two sizes too large and turned it into a tunic top. I’ve kept shortening it depending on what I was wearing it with. Now it’s just long enough to cover my midriff, and it works with a skirt or slacks. The elbow-length sweater is by derek heart. Made of a blend of rayon and polyester, it’s light and a perfect arm cover-up for summer. Love this look! ❤

Sleeveless and totally fresh.

Sleeveless and totally fresh.

I was thrilled to find this Alfani top, and with the original tags on it still. The color is cool for summer and the design is womanly and flattering for a well-endowed woman like me! ha ha. I like that the fabric is stretch cotton. I am going to have to do a little altering, as it’s a tiny bit too large for me under the arms. Next post will show how that comes out.

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I found this turquoise pullover at the Salvation Army Family Store in Clearwater while I was visiting my mother. It’s an Ann Taylor, so they had it on the ‘designer’ rack and I had to pay $8, but I was still pretty happy. I love the neckline, and the 3/4 length sleeves. It’s a great fit and the color really seems to make my eyes pop. Although it may be a little too warm for New York in the summer, I’m going to take it with me and see.

Linen shirt by Charter Club

Linen shirt by Charter Club

I couldn’t resist this 100% linen shirt by Charter Club, although it’s a tiny bit too tight to button all the way down. This photo shows an experimental shot, which I probably would never wear out of the house. I’m absolutely going to make it work though, so I’ll post some other ideas next time 🙂

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More black and white. This is a harve benard linen shirt that Susie gave me while I was visiting her in NC. It was too big, so I took off the sleeves and took the whole thing in, and put it back together. Now it’s a perfect fit.  I like the flower print and the crisp look, and the buttonless collar. Very feminine and practical!

Shoes by SimplyVera

Shoes by SimplyVera

These Vera Wang sandals make me feel like I’m walking on marshmallows. Worn, yes, but there’s still a lot of mileage left on these little puppies 🙂

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An Evening Out?

An Evening Out?

I put this skirt by Merona together with a black top from the Dressbarn. The top has to be shortened a bit to make it look more youthful. In this picture I’m holding it up with my hand in the back to show how it will look after alterations. I loved the top instantly. It’s sexy but still demure. Will I ever wear it? Not sure, but it was only $4 and I was in the mood to be a bit daring.

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Last but not least is the all-important robe to throw on in the middle of the night when nature calls. This hand-sewn kimono-style bathrobe is made of a linen blend of some kind, and feels cool even in the heat of the night. I love the colors and the shape, and how I feel when I have it on.

The total cost of this entire collection: $93 (includes senior discount). Not bad for a fashion lover on a budget.

IMG_0007I’m feeling happy, following my dreams, and wondering where they’ll lead me…

and in the meantime, enjoying the ride 🙂

See you in New York!

LIFE CHANGES, Part 1

I’d like to write about what’s going on here. It’s a long story,
which begins with a change of address from Belgium to Florida.
To make things easy, I’ll start with something very clear and simple, Box 21.

Life Change, PART 1: Box 21

BoX 21

The view from BOX 21 is unbelievably perfect. You find yourself looking directly down over the orchestra, able also to look out at the audience without turning your neck in the slightest. Seats #1 and #2 are the best, of course. Once you’ve tried them, they are the only seats at the Mahaffey Theatre that you’ll ever want to sit in again. I’m absolutely sure of that. And you’ll definitely feel like royalty when your usher guides you along the back corridor that leads directly to your seats. It’s perfect for someone with a walker or a wheelchair because there are no rows or crowds to negotiate. In our case, there was no one else in the box with us when the lights went down and the choral strength of O Fortuna jolted us to attention.

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My mother was enamored immediately by the conductor. Unfortunately, we were told that taking pictures was forbidden. We could easily watch his face as he was conducting and were fascinated by the range of expressions there~ friendly, stern, euphoric, urgent, placid~ we were glued to it as he cajoled, pushed, and commanded musicians and singers through the fantastic and raging energy of Carmina Burana. He knew every gut-wrenching lyric. We watched mesmerized as he mouthed them, eyebrows raised, head thrown back, and wand flourished mid-air, pointed at this section or that. Sometimes I was certain that he had glanced our way, stealing a quick peek up at us. It made me feel so close, and I worried that we might throw him off if our eyes actually met. Ha ha. What illusions we entertain in Box 21! We couldn’t understand how the orchestra followed his cryptic gestures, as the downbeat seemed only to be a visual cue, followed immediately by the inexplicably timed unleashing of sound. It was like a secret code of hand signals that no one but the performers could read. Electrified by pounding drums and lamenting voices, we gripped each other’s hands in the darkness, and listened raptly.

BOX 21, seats 1 & 2 is an allegory for the new life mom and I are carving out for ourselves. Yes, she has been declining, but still loves getting all dolled up and going out to a good show. And yes, I have been grieving, but I too still love getting dressed up and going out~ both of us still alive and yearning to be surrounded with the beauty of the living creative world. Yesterday when she heard there was a class nearby, she announced, “Let’s go! I really want to do Tai Chi!” I had to agree. “Me, too, MOM. I’ve wanted to do it for years, but never quite got around to it. Why don’t we both go!”

We missed it today because of a painful stomach upset she got last night, but it’s twice a week, so now it’s on the Friday calendar. We have a pool date with Dana and Judy on Tuesdays and Thursdays, a lunch date with Murph on Wednesdays, and if all works out, Tai Chi on Mondays and Fridays. Monday at 4pm is happy hour at E&E with the Team (me, Mom, Dana and Judy), and Sunday she goes arm and arm with our neighbor Dianna to church. In between are 3 tiny meals a day, and a growing cookbook to document the creations coming out of our kitchen. Weekday evenings at 6pm we have an appointment with Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart. We’re also regular viewers of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, which is one of our spiritual ‘nouritures’ for the week.

With Judy at E & E

With Judy at E & E

We like our little glass of red wine at about 4pm, with cheese and crackers and some humus if we have it. It’s usually served out on the back porch where we can watch wispy clouds moving across blue sky, and feel the late afternoon sun on our legs and faces. Calli the cat takes the sunniest spot with the biggest cushion, but we make do, and wouldn’t have it any other way. We both look forward to a quiet evening after the Daily News is over. Mom steals my book sometimes, and I steal hers. Or sometimes we read out loud together, taking turns. One night we sang~ I had Glad’s guitar at the time~ but usually we just sit and read, or talk, winding down along with the sun.

Callie

Callie

I know. This all sounds too idyllic. You’re right if you were thinking so. I’ve only shown one side of life here at my mom’s place in Florida. There are definitely others. But today I have committed to 24 hours of no complaining, so I have to be careful. If truth be told, there really isn’t much to complain about, but I can always find something, and I usually do. The reality is that stress builds up when I don’t ask for help, explain my needs, or take care of myself. When I allow negative thoughts to run rampant through my mind I feel bad, and unfortunately I’m all too used to doing that. As a caregiver, I have to remember that one of the biggest challenges is to make sure I give myself the same valuable care and attention that I’m giving to my mother. It’s like giving yourself the oxygen mask before you try to put one on your child. Everyone knows that it would be foolish to try to do it the other way around, but we often do it anyway. Burnout is a dangerous reality in the world of caregiving, and I have been teetering on the edge of it ever since I got here, 7 1/2 weeks ago. Self-care! It’s become a mantra. That brings me round to the big question: What are my needs, and how can I satisfy them? And what are Mom’s?

Every day we take a step closer to answering those questions for ourselves. One thing I know for sure, there’s more to life than eating, sleeping, and not falling☺ Mom has fallen 5 times since I got here, so prevention has become a daily, moment by moment concern. She’s not really the one afraid of falling~ that’s the caregiver’s big burden, and my number one stressor. It’s easy to get into a red-alert mentality 24/7. After recovering from the jolt of a recent fall, Mom felt good enough to go out with Judy to one of their usual haunts, E & E Steak House, where they like to sit at an outdoor table and sip margaritas. I noticed when she came home that she was fresh and excited and EXPANSIVE. She practically sailed through the door, feet barely touching the ground. The transformation was shocking. I had been overly protective, motivated by fear, and her spirit had started to wither. I felt guilt mixed with happiness when I saw how happy she was. Likewise, when Dana came over and dressed her up in all kinds of form-fitting spandex, and coached her through some deep breathing knee bends, I was surprised how young mom looked, and how girlishly she admired herself in the mirror. Going to see a performance by the Florida Orchestra was the same. She was relaxed, enthusiastic, and fresh, and I had to take another look. Where did the aging parent go?
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I know we all need to be spiritually and emotionally energized by doing the things we love to do, and being in the places we feel most alive in. And it’s not enough just to preserve life. Living life to the fullest is our challenge now, and every day we take a baby step toward more joy, more satisfaction, and more life. Knowing the time is limited helps.

For me, the pool is an important part of my Self-Care. I never was much of a swimmer in my life, but I’ve discovered since coming here to live with Mom that I love how I feel when I’m in the water. Especially when it’s 87 degrees (the water) and only a 3 minute walk from our front door. I like that I can be alone AND public at the same time. Little by little I’m meeting the regulars, and a few of us know each other by name and it feels good to wave a welcome. I also learn things here and there from random conversations. Last week I found out that the pool gets cleaned 3 times a week. The day before I had found out that living here in this complex entitles us to a free membership at the spa nearby. Being friendly pays off.

Moving my body in ways I never do when I’m on dry land also pays off. I know I’m releasing stress with each stretch of my hand, and I feel as close to being a dancer as I ever have~ gliding through shimmering liquid turquoise, each stroke a work of art. Sometimes I imagine Michael Phelps, and pretend I’m a former Olympic swimmer. People keep telling me what a beautiful stroke I have, and if it looks anything like it feels, it certainly must be.

I’ve been gathering a pool wardrobe since arriving here. The thrift stores are part of my self-care because I feel so good when I find something I love and only have to pay a few dollars for. I have 5 bathing suits now, and they’re all pretty. Even though I’m overweight, I don’t feel like it when I’m walking across the patio or stepping out of the pool like I always did in the past. I feel good about my body, and unconcerned about what anyone else might think. Maybe it’s because most people here are older and more out of shape than I am, but I think it’s also because I’ve finally grown out of all the body-shaming that most of us go through as young women. I did it to myself, but no more!

What else nourishes me ~ physically, spiritually, emotionally, or mentally?

1. Meeting and talking with people~ the owner of Papa’s Diner, for example, and advertising his new restaurant to my neighbors here.
2. Getting advice from Mom’s friends~ who are healthy and still active, and who know and love her.
3. Spending time at the pool~ I know about 8 people by name there now, and I often learn something new about life here when I get into conversation with one of them.
4. The good books that keep coming to me.*
5. Taking pictures of everything beautiful and inspiring. Documenting my cooking.
6. Getting involved in something bigger than myself~ (like IWK, or KMU). I just signed up for a volunteer training program at the Suncoast Hospice Center the first week in December. Looking forward to meeting someone I can make friends with, like Lina, or Linda, or Lia.
7. Having a good talk with Mom over breakfast, or Dana at her pool. Getting an email from Maja, and writing to Anna, or getting a call from Emilie.
8. Singing~ it’s always been a big part of my self-expression, but recently I don’t sing often~ maybe I should find a guitar and take it to an open mic.
9. Mailing a gift package to BonPapa, Jean and Delphine (and buying the things to send them that I know will bring them all joy). I am waiting to hear from them when it arrives.
10. Buying nice things for Mom (the bib, the tickets to the show)
11. Being creative in the kitchen, and mom’s continued appreciation. She thinks I’m a gourmet cook, and I’m beginning to feel she might be right! I would like to get some help putting a cookbook together in a beautiful website, or book format.
12. Recording my thoughts and feelings on my phone as they come up ☺
13. Getting out of the house and going for a walk or a drive (often to the thrift store, and sometimes to the beach.
15. Training the cat to be picked up and held…She’s getting used to my heavy-handed ways, and doesn’t run away anymore when she sees me coming for her.
16. Opening the windows, feeling the fresh air, and breathing.

Mom also loves the pool, but she hasn’t gotten into yet. She calls it ‘the beach,’ and I do to. She likes to wear her suit and bask in the sun, and watch me do all the work. I’m pretty sure though that when she finally does get in the water, she’ll be a convert, just like me. She always wanted to be a dancer, and she’ll find out that she still can.

The 'beach' at Imperial Palms

The ‘beach’ at Imperial Palms


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She gets most animated when friends visit. Also when she meets new people on our walks around the gazebo across the street, or the neighbors passing by. She loves to stop if she spots Jim driving by in his golf cart, or the bus driver slowing down to wave. Everybody around here seems to know and love her. “Hi, Marilyn! I hope you’re not getting into any trouble today.” ☺IMG_1547

She reads the daily paper, does the crosswords, and loves reading a good novel. Her friends keep bringing over books for the two of us to read. Most of them are about the spiritual journey. I’ll have to write more about that in another post.
In the exercise department, Mom loves brisk, in-sync walking, arm in arm with a friend. We link arms, start out on the same foot~ left, right, left, right~ and off we go. We made it to the beach only once since I’ve been here, and that’s too bad, because she truly loves to watch the clouds at sunset. But she get’s tired more easily now. That’s a change I’ve noticed just since the summer. She doesn’t go as far as she used to, but she still exclaims about how good being out makes her feel. She can’t do it alone without a cane or a walker though, and that’s one of the transitions that she has had to adapt to. More about all this in my next post.

The I love my Walker Pose

The I love my Walker Pose


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Life Change, PART 2: The UnderBelly (to be continued in the next installment ☺)

My Fashion Inspiration, PUCCI!

TEA TALKS with ROBIN

Last year I bought a shirt (see it above where I’m modeling it in front of a Pucci design) that set me off into a new fashion direction: the world of prints. At about the same time, I discovered Emilio Pucci, the Prince of Prints in the fashion world. His story is inspiring, and his influence now, 60 years later, is as strong as ever.

I feel so good wearing clothes with beautiful patterns. Pucci was an artist whose designs accentuated the female body’s natural curves. Wear one and it will make you feel ultra feminine. Of course, I don’t have a real Pucci yet~ they are too expensive for this thrift-store shopper~ but the day is coming when I will, and I’m looking forward to it!

Puchi printss

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Check out his story at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emilio_Pucci
and see Pinterest for an eyeful of Pucci!

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BEAUTY AT ANY AGE~ My Date with Fashion

I went to a birthday lunch this week, invited by an artist and fashionista that I met several weeks ago. She looked smashing, just as I knew she would, so I was glad I had gotten all dressed up to meet her. 

I brought a gift (a scarf) and she was confused. We hardly knew each other, and so I felt sorry that I had put her in such an uncomfortable position. Lesson learned. I thought I should return the favor of being invited to lunch, but I should have known better.

I lived in Korea for 12 years, and one thing I saw again and again was how people never let themselves get indebted. When they come to visit, they always bring something: flowers, food, anything! And when they feel they have received something good, even if they have paid for it dearly, they insist on giving an offering of some kind. They can feel free in their minds that they owe nothing. 

I’m sorry and hope that Diane does not feel in any way indebted because I gave her a scarf to celebrate her birthday. I could say that in my mind she represents all the beautiful women of Liege, and it was in that spirit that the gift was given. She owes me nothing. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Madame! 🙂

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She loved my wig, and told me that the next time we meet, she’ll be wearing one too, and I should have another one!

I think I might have met my match 🙂 

Photo on 2013-10-03 at 11.10

BEAUTY AT ANY AGE ~ & Never too Late for a Date

I decided to dress a little better when I went out yesterday (in case I meet someone, I told myself). Except for my sneakers. Darn! So nice to walk in, but they’re NOT a fashionable statement.

I was glad later because I ended up sitting with two lovely Belgian women, one of whom I asked to photograph because she was so elegant that I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I think this is the best picture.

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It’s a little scary to sit and talk with people you’ve never met, no matter how extroverted you may appear to be. I had to keep pulling my giddy self back down to earth to check that I was not getting too excited and off-balance.

The Madame was dining with a friend who spoke perfect English. My good fortune again. We exchanged our contact info, and I discovered that Madame is an artist. No wonder she is so beautifully arranged, I thought to myself, and of course, the hat should have been a dead giveaway. She invited me to join them for their birthday lunch, which is one day apart~ same time, same place, next month. I accepted. When I got home, I immediately wondered WHAT shall I WEAR? I need to let my artist self be as free and expressive as she does. Hmmm… Time to go shopping again? At least I need some earrings to go with the red silk flower I plan on wearing…and I promised her I would wear a hat…

I always move quickly, without a lot of pre-thought. It can and often has been a problem, and I am trying to learn to think more before I jump. However, it can also be a great advantage to be spontaneous. While other less impulsive people might have hesitated until the opportunity got up and left, it took me less than 5 full seconds to make up my mind to move, and there we were, talking as though we had known each other before.

That 5 seconds before I walked up to their table, and the 15 minutes after I had returned to mine~ with a business card in my hand, an invitation scrawled on the back, and a beating heart that was trying to calm the adrenaline rush that had just washed over it~ can reveal a few things, and makes me wonder about the assumptions that most people make about extroverted people like me.

Which are you, an introvert or an extrovert?
Do you see yourself as a mixture?
If so, how would you describe the mix?

I’ll be waiting to hear from you 🙂

Les lacquements nature~ 3.25Euros and a specialty of Liege.

Les lacquements nature~ 3.25Euros and a specialty of Liege.