YOU CAN’T PUT A PRICE ON PEACE

I recently accepted a job that pays me 65K less than the position is worth. It has been well over a decade since my salary was this low. “Take the job until you find the one for you and one that will pay you the salary you deserve.” Everyone I know repeated that sentence to me. My first inclination was to turn it down. In fact, I was insulted when I received my offer letter. Did they think I was an idiot? Did they think because I was a woman I would just say yes to a ridiculously low salary? Perhaps they accidentally left off a digit!!!!

I took everyone’s advice. A low paying job is better than no paying job. I was tired of consulting and was ready to call a place of employment my home away from home, Working for one firm would give me continuity. I was ready. So, I took the horrible paying job while I continued to look for a job that would pay me the going rate for a tax director.

By the second week after I started my new job, I received a call for an interview for twice the amount of money I was making. I turned it down. I told myself it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. Within a month, I had three more calls for interviews. I turned them down.

Why was I turning away these great opportunities? The answer: I FOUND PEACE. I found peace at this law office, made up of tax attorneys, tax accountants, and myriad other positions. I also felt I could trust the man who runs the firm. Of the three men who interviewed me, only one wasn’t an attorney, but he is the person who runs the firm. He was the last person to interview me and when I asked about salary, he said, “I promise the firm will pay you as much as it can.” I don’t know why, but I believed him. When I received my offer letter however, I wasn’t prepared to see such a low number. I immediately felt like a fool for trusting him and called to tell him I wouldn’t accept the job. There was still that “something”, a gut feeling that made me believe he wasn’t lying to me. So what did that mean? Was the firm falling apart?

The firm isn’t falling apart. They are restructuring. In the meantime, resources are low. In place of the salary I deserve, I am the Director of the Tax Department and the people on my team are as nice as they are smart. One has a Doctorate in chemistry, one has three Master degrees, one is a CPA, two are Enrolled Agents, and the rest have varying degrees of tax experience. The partners of the firm are a father and son team and both are very kind. And the man I trusted, the one who runs the place, he is exactly whom he seemed to be at my interview. He is a man of integrity. He has a deep voice, deep blue eyes, and a very rare quality: honor. There is also a touch of movie star quality when he enters a room. He is extremely masculine but also very kind, caring, and sweet. He expects everyone to do their best and he leads by example. His grey hair is a reflection of his many years of experience.

So here I am, two months later, under-paid and the happiest I’ve ever been at a job. I rent out a room, which helps me to pay my bills. I thought I would hate having someone in my home, but he is a wonderful young man, a pilot, and I have given him a place to live where he feels comfortable and safe.

My daughter is getting married next month. She hasn’t lived at home for eight years and I miss her so much, even though I see her at least once a month or more. But now, I feel like I am a substitute mom for a young pilot, a guiding force the employees on my team, and I found my home at the law firm, which is exactly what I wanted and more.

I have faith, in time, the firm will prosper and I’ll start making more money again. In the meantime, all the support they have given me makes my job so much easier. They have trusted me to run the tax department the way I see fit and take the time to listen to any ideas I have for the firm. I believe I have found a work-environment where I can thrive. I wake up happy every day. I am at peace, which is priceless.

EVERY DAY MIRACLES

Some people don’t believe in #God. Some don’t believe in the power of the universe. But I experienced a miracle last night. So much so, I wept and wept for hours. My best friend of fifty years called and I couldn’t even speak to her. It took me quite a while before I could even drive back home. I just sat in my car, in total disbelief, in despair, grieving and grateful at the same time.

I started this blog really for parents of children. I started it to make a difference, to perhaps save a child from harm. But today as I passed my Christmas tree, I saw one of my ornaments sparkling in the light as if it was the only ornament on this heavily decorated tree. The ornament is not the miracle, nor what it said. The miracle happened last night and the ornament reinforced the power of love. The ornament is one shiny word: BELIEVE.

I visited my friend Tony last night. This April we will have known each other for forty years. I met him right before my 17th birthday in 1977 and two years later we were engaged to be married. Anybody and everybody who knows me is sick of this story I’m sure, but it helps to explain my gift from the universe, God, or whatever you believe in. Tony cancelled our wedding, after we had deposits on a band, flowers, a hall and a photographer. I was devastated. He was the first man I ever fell in love with, the first man I ever made love to, and the first man, other than the father I never met, who broke my heart. We stayed apart for a decade and were reunited at a friend’s funeral where we became the closest of friends. I relied on his opinion for a lot of things, especially fashion. A lot of gay men have a keen eye for what drapes the human body so it can look its best. Yes, that is why we didn’t get married. Tony is gay but we loved each other like the title of our #Streisand song, “Evergreen” Tony is dying now.  He has #LewyBodyDimentia. Some people group the illness with #Alzheimer’s disease. He was diagnosed at 54. He is 61 now. He can no longer walk, feed himself, or speak very well. He has been in a diaper for years now. I liked it better when I would try to get him on the toilet as he was losing his sense of balance, and we would be laughing and crying at the same time because from afar we looked ridiculous and in reality he knew he was losing his ability to wipe his own ass or even position himself on the bowl so he could poop.

Most of the time, Tony mumbles now. He may say a word or two clearly but mostly he just smiles and laughs or grunts if something hurts. During the first two hours of our visit yesterday, I fed him dinner, wiped his mouth, and picked up the food I inevitably drop while feeding him.

Most of the time, Tony mumbles now. He may say a word or two clearly but mostly he just smiles and laughs or grunts if something hurts. On a good day, he may even get out an entire sentence and respond intelligently to what you’re saying. Not enough for a paragraph, but a good sentence or two.  During the first two hours of our visit yesterday, I fed him dinner, wiped his mouth, and picked up the food I inevitably drop while feeding him. I was disappointed because he hadn’t said one word clearly last night at that point. He mumbled a lot and smiled a lot.

I wheeled him back to his room. We took a picture together in front of the tree his partner had put up in December. As usual, after dinner, we watch TV together. The #Notebook was on whatever station he had on the television. At first, I wanted to change the channel because I knew I would get upset but Tony and I were holding hands, Tony in his wheelchair that I relined back for him and me, sitting on a chair I had placed by his side. Toward the end of the movie, Ally mentally comes back to Noah for a short while, a brief break from #Alzheimer’s. I remembered someone telling me they should never have put that scene in the movie because the person never comes back. Just as I was remembering what I had been told, Tony clearly said the following: “I want Jeannine.” I jumped up and through my arms around him and said, “I right here sweetheart,” As I held him tight, he said, “I love you.” I began to cry, as I am as I write this. When I released my grip and looked into his eyes, he was lucid and said, “I know you’re busy.”. I sat back down and kissed his hand, mostly so he couldn’t see my tears. Still looking at his hand, I told him I will never leave him. He said, “I know.”

He didn’t speak again. I leaned against his arm, holding his hand and wiping my tears. Something else was playing on the TV now but I couldn’t tell you what it was because I was in another world now myself. When I finally pulled it together, I got him some ice water, one of his favorite things to drink, even when he was well, and he sipped all of it through his straw until there was nothing left. I hugged him and told him I would be back soon. I kissed him on his mouth, as I always do and waved as I walked away. He always smiles as I leave. I usually smile too, even as I walk out of the nursing home, just happy to have spent time with him. But last night, I wept as soon as I was out of his sight. I know for a short moment he came back to me. He spoke clearly. He was my Tony once more and that gift was also a curse. I wanted to see it only as a gift but I couldn’t. I begged God to give stop making my life so difficult. There has been too much suffering over the past fifty-six years. But then a calmness filled my body. I was able to see the night as a gift. I was able to see my life, my daughter, my home, and my great friends, all as gifts. I tried to commit #suicide twice and I was so happy to be alive, so grateful I didn’t succeed. 2017 is going to be a great year. It is my 40th anniversary with Tony, my 50th anniversary with my best friend Debbie, and best of all, my beautiful daughter is getting married. As usual, I started to pray that nothing goes wrong. I am always frightened. I am frightened that any joy I have will be short-lived and taken away from me, so I live my life in fear a lot of the time, fear and doubt. Today my mind was going back and forth between joy and fear. I was so grateful to be in my home, looking at my tree. I was grateful my daughter text me to see the choices she made for her registry. I was grateful I had a job. But then I thought about what I perceive as my failures, my weight, my inability to sell my books or make a difference in a child’s life, and my failure to serve my purpose through my charity, R.A.C.H.E.L.S bunk2bunk. It was then that I got up to get something to drink and saw that shiny ornament: BELIEVE. It was then that I thought about all the gifts in my life, some of which I couldn’t appreciate because my mind, or trauma, or just plain blindness, wouldn’t allow me to.

The name of my blog is a combination of my two children’s books: “Looking in the Mirror” and “Cuckoo Bananas”. The world is cuckoo bananas. Life is cuckoo bananas. I watched “Snowden” today. Some see him as a brave man trying to make a difference, others see him as a traitor. But it shows one person can make a difference. Tony still makes a difference in my life. My daughter makes my life worth living. My friends bring me peace when I lose my way. In this cuckoo bananas world I am one person. We are all individuals. My prayer for everyone is to experience their lives by choosing to see themselves as a miracle. We each touch lives, hopefully in a good way. As for me, I am choosing to continue my mission to make a difference. I am choosing to BELIEVE I can.

 

 

 

 

Violence in the World

It’s the holiday season and for many people in the world, tragedy is what they have to remember. #SandyHook must never be forgotten. The people murdered in #Orlando and Paris cannot be forgotten. Children lost in #Columbine and those suffering all over the world should be remembered.

Why do we have such #gunviolence and bombings? Some believe it is not the gun but the people behind the gun or the weapon of choice. The red tape in Washington and the mighty #NRA refuse to limit the access of automatic guns being sold without proper background checks, or fix the many loopholes that exist. Have any of them lost a child to gun violence or put themselves in the shoes of grieving parents!

#Mentalillness – two dirty words – not to be discussed without the risk of stigma. Years ago being gay was an illness to many because of ignorance. People are afraid of what they don’t know about or understand. We need to do a better job in understanding it is an illness, just like any other illness. People with depression don’t want to be sad or angry. They WANT to feel good and struggle with the war going on in their head. I have sufferd from #depression’ which is now under control with lots of help. I wake up happy every day even after the trauma I have been through or my diagnosis of PTSD. There – I said it for the world to see. I am no longer ashamed of it because I did not cause my trauma.

Lack of #selflove, especially as a child contributes to some of the violence. You cannot give what you do not have to give yourself. When you feel good about yourself, your capacity to love others grows exponentially. Let us try to change the world by teaching children to appreciate who they are, just the way they are and perhaps we can prevent violence in the future.

Please take the #lookinginthemirror challenge today and ask three people to do the same. Pass it on! Go on to my facebook page: Jeannine Marie or Jeannine Marie Author. You can also check out my web page at www.jeanninemarieauthor.com

#JOY IS UNDERRATED -PUT IT ON YOUR LIST

Do you wake up in the morning and ask yourself, “What will I do today that will bring me joy?”
On any given day, I have a list of things I MUST get done and somehow a pleasurable activity like reading a good book, a bubble bath, flipping through a magazine, or dancing – rarely make it to the list.

How about simple joys:

Writing down what you’re greatful for
Really noticing the miracle of nature
Listening to music – really listening
#Meditation or
Smiling at a stranger.

Make some time for JOY each day and you and everyone around you will be happier and joyous!

Fear – It’s Not Just For Kids (Take My Challenge)

A lot of children have either started school or will be starting school soon. Some kids get excited about the first day of school but others may have anxiety or are just scared to death. Either way, don’t dismiss your child’s feelings by saying something like,”Oh, don’t be a baby.” All of us want to be validated, heard, and to feel safe – children, as well as adults.

Fear can be paralyzing. I haven’t worked on my books or blogs for quite some time. Why? I was afraid. There – I said it! Afraid of what??? – Failure, Success, the Unknown??? Whatever the reason, it has taken me all day to be brave enough to start again, to know I can succeed.

So how did I get past my fear and start back on my journey? I went all the way back to when I was in school; and at 55, that’s a long time ago. I started to list all my accomplishments:

1. I always did my homework and got A’s, even though my life at home was quite stressful.

2. I joined the Glee club even though I couldn’t sing, but singing brought me such joy and I made the club.

3. How could I possibly do a cheer in front of four girls sitting at a table just waiting to judge me? I did it and became a cheerleader.

4. How could I possibly finish college with no money and a broken heart after my fiance cancelled our wedding? But I finished.

5. How could I become a single mom and walk out of an abusive marriage with a daughter in private school? How was I going to live through a divorce with a “Tony Soprano” type man? Well, my daughter and I had a great time together in the new house I bought and although times were tough, she graduated without any loans from one of the best colleges in the NorthEast.

After focusing on my successes, the fear seemed less intimidating. I chose1  thing to do – this post – to get back in the swing of things, and I’m not afraid anymore.

So, here is the challenge:

Write down what you’ve been afraid of. Take the first step to crush the fear. A journey begins with the first step. You may not know the ending but isn’t it worse if you don’t try?Take until Labor Day and list some of your successes. Let us know if you’ve now been brave enough to take that first step and how you felt.

Good luck and I am looking forward to hearing about your progress and if you’ve been able to step ON fear-crushing it OR if it is still crushing you. Fear is a huge hurdle so be kind to yourself if you’re still stuck. Just know – You’re not alone.

As for me – I feel better already!

 

 

 

HOW WAS SCHOOL TODAY?

Have you ever asked your child a question and get a response of “fine”? So you ask another question, maybe: Do you like your teacher? Your child replies, “Yes”.

Here is a skill to engage your child in conversation so you learn more about their day and how they’re really feeling:

Try not to ask questions which will allow a one word answer. For example, try “Tell me about your day today. What is your favorite class so far and why? Who is your favorite teacher and why? What are your friends names?  What is it like on the school bus? What exactly did they serve for lunch and did you like it?

Now I don’t suggest you ask all of those questions at once. But start off with one or two questions a day and you will be more in touch with how your child is doing when you are not with him/her.

Believe me, this really works. I used to find out a ton of information from my daughter.

Good Luck!

New Beginnings

“Go get your mirror. Take it down from your shelf. Now look in your mirror and say, “I love myself.”  These lines are taken from my book, LOOKING IN THE MIRROR.

Each year we put so much pressure on ourselves to start a new goal. Start here; with loving your self. Until you master that, your dreams won’t feel as great if they do come true. So look in the mirror and as you brush your hair or teeth, take that one minute to really look at yourself, and reflect on your goodness, or the fact you deserve forgiveness, or list your accomplishments. Start off each morning with “I love me.” The rest will follow.

It is so much easier to attain your goals for 2014 when you believe in yourself. It is so much easier to believe in yourself when you love and care for the human being you are or strive to be.

Happy New Year and good luck. I hope all your dreams come true. They will – if you stop dreaming and MAKE them happen with that healthy sense of confidence you will attain by taking the time each day to appreciate who you are!

IS DADDY REAL?

Like many children in the world, I grew up without a father. I never met him. My mom said I met him when I was five, but I don’t remember. Funny, since I remember so many things at that age.

I was told he didn’t want me or love me and once I was born, he left. I wasn’t even shown a picture of him until I was about eight. My grandmother showed it to me like it was a top secret document stolen from the CIA.

All my life, when people asked, I would say, ” I have a mom but I don’t have a dad.”  Most everyone would reply, “Sorry!”

Recently, I said the above in front of a friend and he gave me such a huge gift. He said,       ” Just because you’ve never met your dad, doesn’t mean he wasn’t real.” Someone said it out loud, without any judgement, without any horror stories about him. I never had the opportunity to have the perspective my father was real; a real person, not a monster.  I mean I knew he existed and people told me he was my father, but I never felt I had the right to truly claim him as my dad. It always just felt like a word to me “dad.” Underneath, I felt I never had a father because I never knew him.

I felt like a whole person when my friend Kevin said that to me. Sure, I heard it before, but not without some bitterness attached to it. It sounded so different coming from a friend or maybe it was because it came from a man.Whatever it was, I heard it, really heard it, for the first time.  I had a mother AND a father. Whether he acknowledged me or not, a fact is a fact, and the fact is, I have a dad, just like everyone else. In that moment, I felt like nothing was missing in my life. I have a real dad and not even he could deny it (were he still alive). WOW. It was a nice feeling. It didn’t matter he died before I could ever reach out to introduce myself to him. The fact is he was real; not just a title or a word. He was my father.

For those of you who never met your dad or the father of your children is not around, remember what Kevin told me – for me, it was one of the nicest things I’ve ever heard.

Your children are always going to want to love both parents, good or bad. Let them. Support them. Validate them. Both parents are real, no matter what they’ve done.

FOR GRANDPA HERB – IN THE END IT’S ONLY ABOUT LOVE

Grandpa Herb has died. He is being buried today. With him, all the love, peace, and family will be there as he returns to the soul of the universe for his next journey.

My daughter’s grandfather and I locked horns early in life. He disapproved of me because I wasn’t Jewish and felt his attorney son could do so much better than some poor, part black kid, from a broken family in the Bronx.The icing on the cake was I always wore a cross (still do), went to church on Sundays, and spent twelve years in Catholic school.

I was so insecure about myself, I agreed to have two weddings, one on Friday night for my side, cleaned my gown on Saturday, and had a wedding for Randy’s side on Sunday. His parents made up some story about my parents being Spanish Jews to save face for friends and family.

Obviously, I should have known then his son didn’t love me enough to accept me for who I was and I certainly had no love or respect for myself either. I reconverted to the Catholic church eight months after we were married and later on God gave us the gift of our daughter, Rachel.

Needless to say divorce was inevitable and Rachel and I lived a wonderful life together of love and fun. Financially it was hard but I was grateful for this incredible child.

As the years passed, Rachel’s grandparents remained kind to her. Years later, Grandpa Herb, after our horrible parting of the ways during the divorce: restraining orders, break-ins, taking Rachel and threatening not to give her back neither to his son nor myself, etc, etc., walked up to me at an event and said, ” You did a great job with her.”

In that one sentence he displayed all that mattered to him was Rachel. That still could have been true without him giving me credit for doing a wonderful job raising her. He could have just said hello or said nothing. Instead, he chose to be a man with integrity and speak to me with kindness.

It’s funny; although I know a long time ago he didn’t want me around and maybe he still felt that way, all I remember now, is he loved my daughter, got a kick out of listening to her imitate Forrest Gump’s, “Life is like a box of chocolates”, he built an amazing built-in fish tank, and paid me the best compliment a mother can ever receive.

What will people say about you when you die? If those who you have harmed or who you have had misunderstandings with, can say, ” I loved him/her in spite of our differences”, you have lived a life of grace. I’m glad I had a chance to say, “Thank you” for Herb’s compliment. It meant the world to me. But most of all, if not for him, there could never be a Rachel.

Rest in peace Grandpa Herb.

 

The Cost of Not Teaching Your Children To Love Themselves

The week before July 4th, for the second time, I tried to take my life. The first time I thought about dying, I was eight years old. A girl in my Catholic School class was hit in the head by a swing. I never liked Regina Rowland but the day of her funeral, buried in her Communion dress, I was asking God why He didn’t love me enough to take me instead of her.

The worthlessness I felt then continued into my adulthood and I finally have a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder. Between the abandonment of my father and a stressed out mom who thought constant beatings and emotional and verbal abuse were a form of discipline, I grew up feeling worthless. I fight the feeling now but at times there are triggers that bring me back to the worthless feelings and/or the feeling that something beyond my control, is my fault anyway.

This is such a morose subject matter, especially while I am trying to sell children’s books, but if I can drill into parent’s heads what you do now, as your child is young, has an impact on them for years to come, it will be worth it.

Save your child years of pain. Just love them now. Love them and find a way to deal with your problems without putting them in the middle of your mess. Get help. Explain things to them. Tell your child when there is chaos, it is not their fault. It’s not too late. It’s never too late. Most of all, if you’ve made a mistake, admit it. Be an example to your child. Caregivers are their heroes. They depend on you for the most basic of things: food, clothing, shelter, most of all love.

Let them know whatever happens in life they need to love themselves first. The rest will come! Is it ironic I wrote “Looking in the Mirror” to teach children to love themselves and yet I struggle to love myself? NO, I say. It is the very reason I wrote the book. I know how important it is. I see how different my friend’s lives are and my daughter’s life is because they have a healthy sense of self.

Suicide and depression doesn’t make you crazy. Halle Barry once tried to kill herself. Justin Beiber’s mom tried to commit suicide. Joey Pants wrote his book on depression. Ms. Zeta-Jones suffers from depression. Millions of people have issues. Try to take care of your children the best you can when they are young so they have the best chance to grow up as healthy as possible. That is a parent’s responsibility. If something is wrong, seek help a.s.a.p.

For the most part, I live a fairly happy, zany, life. I enjoy my daughter and my home, and I have the best friends in the world. I wish those lapses in judgement, those memories of the past, those feelings of worthlessness that can be triggered just by someone blowing me off, didn’t exist, but they do. I’m working on it and one day I will appreciate the wonderful human being I know deep down inside I am and I’ll be able to say, ” Hey, I love myself anyway!”