My Mother’s German Clock

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My mother was a hard, cold woman. There is no need to sugar coat it, though I hate to say it. That was, quite simply. her personality. That doesn’t mean I didn’t love her. I did. I just didn’t like her very much most of the time. I spent my life, or perhaps her life, trying to please her. I don’t need all my ten fingers to count the times I heard her laugh in the 48 years she lived while I was alive. I don’t remember what her face looked like when she smiled. She smiled so seldom.

My mother was depressed. Perhaps clinically depressed but, back then, those diagnoses were seldom made so who really knows what was wrong. But, her problems are only tangential to this story. The story of my mother’s German clock.

My mother loved her brothers and sisters almost desperately. She never really separated from that family and embraced my dad and I. One brother, my Uncle Tincy, was particularly special. They were close in age and grew up together. I think separating from him when he left home to join the Air Force broke her heart.

My mother and my uncle always stayed in close touch. His family, including his three children – my cousins, were always close to me. When they would come “home” from being stationed at one Air Force Base and before moving to another, they would often stay with us during the move. My mother cherished every day she got to spend with her brother and with his family. It was during those times that she seemed happiest.

Uncle Tincy was stationed, at one point, in Germany. Before he left Germany, he sent just about all of his siblings a beautiful German clock. I was grown up by then and had left home, but I will never forget when I came for a visit and my mother had received her clock from her brother. For once in her life, she was glowing as she showed me her clock, hanging in a place of honor on the wall. To her, it was not only beautiful, but a symbol of her brother’s love.

Later in both of our lives, my dad passed away and my mother had to live with me because she was very ill. Of course, the German clock from my Uncle Tincy came with her and hung in a place of honor on a wall of my home. Every day, my mother dusted and polished it. She made sure it was wound properly, right up until a couple of days before she died. It made her happy as almost nothing did.

Today, sixteen years after my mother’s death, the German clock still hangs in a place of honor in my home. It has been taken to the clockmaker, cleaned, repaired, and runs  like new. Mom would be proud. I’ve taken over the task of cleaning and polishing it. It keeps perfect time. When I look at it, I think of my mother, with whom I had a strained relationship and who was so unhappy most of the time. I think of my wonderful Uncle Tincy who could perform some sort of magic to make her happy. I remember how she smiled when she looked at that clock. Now, I smile, with a tear in my eye, as I remember what a beautiful German clock did for my mother all those years ago. #amwriting #writing #blogging #depression #dailyprompt

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Women and Midlife: Sleep Issues

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When I talk about women reaching midlife, I am not going to mention the horrible term “midlife crisis.” I’m also not going to mention menopause. Issues that women have at midlife can occur without a crisis and before or after menopause. One issue that we face as we try to juggle children, perhaps a career, elderly parents or other family members, a spouse, and the rest of our lives is sleep. Sleep, for me, is like climbing a very tall and steep mountain.

There is no doubt, according to extensive research, that decreases in a woman’s estrogen and progesterone at midlife contribute to sleep disturbances. Doctors, in my opinion, often simplify our insomnia to just that and it is much more complicated. This is the time in our life when we are most likely to be part of the infamous sandwich generation, taking care of children and parents. If we have a professional career, as I have, add more fuel to the fire of anxiety and stress. You go to bed at night without sufficient time to relax and when you go to bed, you are already hurrying to get up the next morning. I call it the “hurry up and sleep” syndrome. Is it any wonder that you are climbing that mountain toward sleep, hoping to arrive, all night almost every night? Then, rinse and repeat the next day.

The advice continues. Don’t drink caffeine for six hours before bedtime or liquor for three hours. Don’t exercise except earlier in the day. When? We’re busy, working, taking care of our families! Don’t eat a heavy dinner. Go to bed only when tired. Does all this sound as ridiculous to you as it does to me? Then, the last piece of advice. Doctor says, “I can give you a mild antidepressant which should help with your sleep issues.” That, my friends, is when I want to scream.

A drug. Give us a possibly dangerous drug to help us climb that mountain toward sleep instead of addressing the problem. The problem is that we need help. Help with the chaos that our lives have become. Not a pill.

Since help doesn’t often seem to be around the corner, try some natural solutions. Women’s bodies are almost always deficient in magnesium which helps our muscles relax. Take a magnesium supplement a couple of hours every night before bed. It will help you sleep, help your digestive system, and relieve cramping in your legs. Very few foods that we eat on a regular basis contain enough magnesium for us to meet our daily requirements. Melatonin is another possibility. Take half an hour for yourself and try a warm shower or bath, possibly using Epsom salts (which contain magnesium). After your shower, put on some calming music and sit quietly and meditate. Personally, magnesium is a miracle solution for me.

Get all the electronics out of your bedroom. Unplug at night even though it’s hard. Read a book you can hold in your hands rather than your Kindle.

I’m not saying that you don’t have sleep apnea or depression or some other medical condition that needs treatment. What I am saying is that not everyone does and it is too easy for doctors to hand us an anti-depressant rather than take the time to get at the root of the problem and suggest real solutions.

Think for a minute. Does that anti-depressant really make that much difference in how you sleep at night? Does it make that mountain you are climbing toward sleep less steep? Just give some of the natural sleep solutions a try. #sleep #amwriting #writing #blogging

*Image by photostock at Freedigitalphotos.net

Emotional Child Abuse: Mother and Little Girl

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In a previous post, I told you a story about a little girl I once knew. Although most of this ongoing story is about the little girl, I want to introduce you to Mother. Maybe a small part of Mother’s story can help explain how the little girl found herself in such a terrible predicament within her family. I’ll have to warn you. I’m not terribly sympathetic to Mother though I am trying to develop a little understanding.

When I came to know Mother, the little girl was five years old and Mother was 35. An older mother to a child that young back in those days, to be sure. Mother had tried for a long time to have a baby. She was almost 30 when she succeeded. Mother’s pregnancy was difficult. The little girl found out later that she bore the scars of that difficult pregnancy. So, probably, did Mother.

Mother visited the town’s only doctor a lot. He was an excellent doctor but only had the knowledge of those times. But, he was wise beyond those years. Mother had a number of physical ailments that she was diagnosed with when she was between 35-40. Those, however, did not start plaguing her until a few years later.

Mother’s problems during her late 30s were less of a physical nature and more of an emotional nature. Mother had a problem with Daddy. At that time, I didn’t know what  that problem was as I was only a friend. I do know that, as a few years passed, the problem seemed to grow more severe.

The problem with Daddy was not the only source of emotional distress for Mother. Mother had come from a background that was emotionally difficult. Her mother, Grandmother, was a high-strung, temperamental woman who was cold and not particularly loving. Grandmother, to be honest, was mean. Though Mother would never have said so, Mother grew up in a family where the parents were not demonstrative with any sort of loving behavior. Grandfather was a kind, generous man but probably not outwardly emotional. Mother may never have learned how to love. That is what the little girl told me when she became a grown-up woman. She also said that Mother, as she grew up, was much like Grandmother – mean, temperamental, and cold.

Here was Mother – problems with Daddy and a little girl who needed her. A raft of physical problems and an even bigger load of emotional ones that she probably did not understand. No one to help but an old family doctor who tried his best and a sister next door who also tried her best. No one seemed to know what to do. So they did what so many families do. They hid and denied the problem, except among themselves.

Mother only looked outward for help. She looked to Daddy, the doctor, her sister, and even little girl. She failed to look inward and she did not try to help herself. Perhaps she couldn’t. Perhaps her problems were too severe. There is no way to know. The grown-up woman little girl became told me that, before Mother died, her emotional problems had only gotten worse, not better.

But, back to the story. Little girl wasn’t very old when Mother realized something. She realized that little girl was a great deal like Daddy as her personality developed. Mother and Daddy had never resolved their problems and, in Mother’s eyes, the worst thing that could happen was for little girl to grow up and be anything like her Daddy. She was supposed to grow up and be like Mother and her family. Fate has a way of playing tricks on us and that was not happening.

Since Mother could only punish Daddy to a point, wasn’t little girl a good substitute? Wasn’t she just like her Daddy? Wasn’t she like his family and not like Mother’s? That’s what Mother told me. Not that little girl was a substitute, but how much she was disgusted by the way she was just like Daddy. It was years later, when little girl was a grown-up, that she told me this one day.

Not only was Mother a cold, temperamental and unemotional woman, but she had a child much like a man she had grown to hate. On top of this, she had emotional, even perhaps mental, problems and no real help available. When I look back, I realize this was a recipe for disaster for that family.

So began the problems for little girl. Emotional child abuse. A form of child abuse just as damaging as physical or sexual abuse. It just doesn’t leave bruises or any physical scars, though Mother engaged in physical abuse more than once. Emotional abuse involves degrading the child, making the child feel that he or she is not good enough, expecting the impossible of the child, not being affectionate toward the child, and much more. It is not usually obvious to people outside the immediate family. Often, they think the child is acting out when they react to the abuse. But, children who are victims of emotional abuse are not acting out. They are reacting to what amounts to betrayal by their parent.

Child abuse of any type is the ultimate betrayal between a child and the parent. Little girl suffered that betrayal at the hands of Mother even though there were reasons that Mother acted the way she did. There is no reason for child abuse.

Follow this blog for the continuing story of little girl. Continue reading