(Excerpt from the book, Random Notes)
The mother-daughter bond—that secret society connected by the blood and the pain of labor (nearly three weeks of labor, if you listened to my mother) —does not come with a secret handshake, but often a test of wills. This happens more often than not, as I learned when a friend invited me to lunch.
Unbeknownst to me, it was the anniversary of her mother’s passing. In a quiet voice, my friend told me that, when she was little, she sometimes felt like her mother hated her. After saying this, she looked me in the face, attempting to gauge my reaction. What she couldn’t have known was she had put into words and feelings, what I hadn’t shared with anyone else.
“I could never do anything right in my mother’s eyes”, my friend whispered. “Her way was the only way to do something. Her way was always better, quicker, etc. Her constant criticism paralyzed me so much that I became even clumsier around her.”
Boy, could I relate to that, for no matter how others praise you, no opinion matters or makes you more vulnerable than that of your mother’s. How I longed to tell my friend how her feelings mirrored mine. Yet, I didn’t dare interrupt because I knew how difficult it had been for her to share things that I suspected she had never told another living soul. This was her story to share and, for whatever reason, she chose me to share it with.
Yes, I could have told her that I too had searched for approval in everything I did, every decision I made, yet rarely was it forthcoming. When I did, it came with some kind of barb: “You did OK, but next time…”
Few of us had mothers like Carol Brady from the Brady Bunch or Claire Huxtable on the Cosby Show. The kind of mothers you could share things with and they understood. For example, one time out of my father’s earshot, I tried to ask her about the hair that had suddenly sprung up under my arms and down there. Frankly, I was concerned that other places might spring hair too—like on the bottom of my feet, or under my chin, which actually happened years later.
Her telling me not to worry about what was going on down there in a voice that halted any further conversation really hurt, to the point that I never discussed my changing body or my feelings about anything with her ever again.
Perhaps battling fatigue and wrestling with demons of her own, she failed to realize how fragile a child’s feelings were or how fleeting youth was. Once, I braved punishment for “talking back” when I voiced a question that had haunted me most of my young life: Why was she always so mean? Why couldn’t she be more like my friend Eileen’s mother?
“The world is not always going to be kind to you, so you had better get used to it now”, she often said. Then she added: “If you don’t like it here, feel free to go live at Eileen’s house.”
There were also a few good memories. In my mind’s eye, I can still see her in the kitchen, with an apron tied around her waist, as she peeled an entire apple in one long dangling peel for an apple cobbler for dinner. (Now that’s food good for the body as well as for the soul.)
No, my mother was not perfect-no mothers are (something I finally discovered). As I ruminate over our relationship, I have to believe she did the best she could, with the skill sets she had at the time.
Today my friend is a loving wife and a nurturing mother of two. Some years later, I shared my own story with her. We both smiled, happy for the loving, nurturing women we had become despite our upbringing/childhoods.
Still, sometimes when it’s quiet, I imagine that I hear her whisper in death the words, for some reason, she could not utter in life. “You have turned into an amazing woman, my child; I knew someday you would.” Standing next to her, I hear my friend’s mother echo the same to her own daughter.
Once upon a time, two young military airmen stood in front of the altar at their base’s tiny chapel. Looking into each other’s eyes, they promised to ‘have and to hold from that day forward. To take each other for better or worse, in sickness and in health.’ That couple was my husband and I. And this happened over 45 years ago today.
Standing there, my heart nearly bursting with joy, my mind conjured up the fairy tales I adored as a little girl. You know, those that began with “Once upon a time” and ended with “and they lived happily ever after”? Although they were as far from my life as a little, inner-city girl with brown skin and braids could be, I adored them. Now I was about to embark upon my very own.
We had been married about three months when it hit me that there were tons of things that I would learn about my new husband. The first came about when he came to me saying, “I have something I need to tell you.” Hesitating, he blurted out, “I’m addicted — to pound cake.” Of all the addictions I had ever heard of − sex, alcohol, ‘crack’− this was a first. It seemed his mother had been touted “Queen of Pound Cake” so, as his wife, this designation seemingly now fell on me.
So I decided to make him one. How hard could it be? I thought to myself. Silly me! First, there were like a gazillion recipes for pound cake. As an airman, trained to shot an M-16 (rifle) if need be, I refused to be outdone by pastry.
Not after cakes one through five turned out to be flops. Not when a cake that looked great in the oven, deflated much like a balloon when removed. Not even when said cake, flung out near the trash in disgust, became a bed for the neighbor’s cat. I refused to give up until I mastered the perfect pound cake.
Little by little, my fairy tale started to lose its luster. For instance, I’m a hopeless romantic. My new husband? Not so much! While my idea of newlywed romantic gestures leaned toward perfume, lingerie or chocolates, his leaned toward —kitchen appliances.
Our first Christmas together, he gave me a four-slice toaster that was professionally wrapped and topped off by a huge red bow. On Valentines, he gave me a blender. Although it was the top of the line at that time, it was still a blender. I suspect he thought he was making things easier for me. (How could that be so wrong?)
Over the years, our marriage would consist of other defining moments. The next occurred around year 13, when unresolved issues forced a marital ‘time out’. While in flux, our relationship had always been love thus, two years later, we reunited.
The third occurred when my husband suffered his first heart attack. The past 28 of our 45 years together, I have been an interpreter of every illness, recounting them in minute detail, to everyone who needed to know about them.
Still, whenever my mind touches on that place inside me where fear constantly lives, I realize that I wouldn’t be the wife, the partner or even the person that I am today, without these seasons in our lives. Today, our love and relationship is stronger than ever. Perhaps, unlike how I imagined it, every once and a while a real life fairy tale comes along.
-Author Carol Gee
Retired military (AF) veteran, Author, Columnist and Motivational Speaker
I have a confession. I was born without the faux (false) gene! In laymen’s terms: I don’t do well with ‘stuff’ that I wasn't born with.
This discovery was made when an Air Force dorm mate suggested that my eyes would look nice if I wore false eyelashes. Having a set handy (seriously?), she demonstrated how to apply them.
Following her lead, I combed them out. Then, after applying a thin line of glue to the outer edge, I pressed them onto my eyelids. After letting them set for a few minutes, I used an eyeliner pencil to line over them. Supposedly this was to make them look more natural. A coat of mascara and . . . voila!
You’re envisioning how good I looked, huh? Wrong! As it turned out, I was allergic to that brand of mascara, which caused my eyes to water. For about five minutes, I couldn’t see anything. Telling me that my eyes looked good, my roommate suggested that I wear my lashes to a party that night. (Why was I even still listening to her? Wasn’t she the same chick that just caused the floodgates of heaven to open and flow from my eyes?)
At the party, the late singer James Brown encouraged partiers to Get On The Good Foot and Make it Funky. I was doing both with gusto when the unthinkable happened: one of my false eyelashes came off and landed on my lower lid. As James Brown screamed on his song, I also screamed, thinking a spider had landed on my eyelid. Oh God, Oh God, Help!
Leaving my cute partner on the dance floor—sorry Charlie, Dayquan or whomever—I ran to the restroom. Once, there, I removed the offending lash—where it remained stuck on my bottom lid—plus the one remaining and threw them both in the toilet, flushing twice!
Oh, but my faux drama doesn’t end there! Wigs? They make my head sweat. False fingernails? Alas, those didn’t go well either. I remember when one came off and landed in my dinner date’s lap. Seemingly unfazed, he picked it up and handed it back to me and continued eating. Can you believe that I never heard from him again?
Acrylic nails looked great. However, once removed, my own nails were so soft that even water made them hurt.
So, I should have seen the danger when, after having a pedicure, I decided that a toe ring would look cute on one of my toes. Purchasing a two-piece set from the Dollar Store, I put one on the second toe of my right foot. It immediately sprung off.
Trying again, the same thing happened! Only this time, one of my kitties chased it—the one that weighed 18 pounds—and promptly sat on it. Score! Apparently the first toe ring was too wide for my toe. The second one in the set fit perfectly.
Well, false eyelashes are back in style. Don’t worry, I learned my lesson the first time around. Better late than never, right?
(Excerpt from Random Notes, available on Amazon & most online retailers where books are sold.)
As a child, I read everything from mysteries to the Bible. From biblical characters like Daniel, who bravely survived the lion’s den, I learned that you can survive by using your wits. When it came to David and Goliath, I heard somewhere that, after that incident, there was a ban on slingshots in the land. Seriously?
Initially, I read enticed by the great stories and hours of escapism they provided as I turned each page. Then I began to read and even analyze them. Much like the Little Red Hen, I discovered something. (No, not that constantly looking up to see if the sky is falling can cause whiplash or land you face first in dog-do; I meant that other lesson.) “If you want something done right, you usually have to do it yourself.” Ask any woman with a husband or children.
From Romeo and Juliet, I learned that a serious Love Jones can be the death of you. (However, keep that on the down-low, okay?) From Chicken Little, also sometimes known as Henny Penny, I learned that on life’s journey we frequently meet a lot of strange folks along the way. Hopefully, none with such names as Cocky Lockey or Turkey Lurkey but, hey, I’m not one to judge.
"Homer's Odyssey” was a story about a man’s wanderlust, a wife’s longing for a spouse, a son and a father. It was also my first-ever introduction to the absent-father syndrome.
In college, Socrates, Plato and Nietzsche were absorbed into my pores like steam. Some months later, Jung (a famous psychologist) helped me to rediscover my inner-child. To tell the truth, until then, I didn't even realize that she was missing.
Today, I read books for entertainment rather than enlightenment. Alas, while I've finally got my mind together, the rest of me is going to pot. For starters, there is that one chin hair that persists on growing back even after continued yanking with industrial-strength tweezers. Only now has it started playing hard ball: as early as last week, I noticed that it was back and had returned with an entourage.
Meanwhile, further down, my knees are in competition to see which one can make the most noise when I bend over. In case you are wondering, it’s the right one.
However, I’ve sworn not to let these things bother me. You see:
I am grounded.
-Author Carol Gee
Retired military (AF) veteran, Author, Columnist and Motivational Speaker
You see them everywhere: men and women jauntily wearing scarves around their necks, even in the summer when it’s hot as heck outside! Don’t get me wrong, I love scarves, which is why I was really hurt to discover that they didn’t love me back.
Imagine my surprise the first time one actually tried to kill me. It was when my scarf got tangled up in my seat belt while exiting my car. Luckily, I got it untangled before any real damage was done.
I blame my near death experiences on the fashion experts who tried their best to make us believe that scarves were our friends. You’ve seen the teasers: 100 unique ways to turn your scarf into a fabulous fashion accessory! They never warn you that you are taking your life into your own hands by wearing one! And, no matter how hard I try, my scarves never look on me the way they look on others.
Desperate, I bought a book for help. The instructions were confusing from the start. You know: bring the left end over the right end, and finish by tucking it counter-clockwise—say what? Thinking I had somehow misinterpreted the instructions, I reread them. Again, the instructions went awry. The end result? A scarf that looked like it was tied by someone high on Crack.
Placing a pretty pin on it, and with my head held high, I went merrily on my way. The trouble was, with my head held high, I almost fell before catching myself.
Each episode starts out with the best of intentions. So the day that one looked passably like one pictured in the scarf book, I was stoked. That’s when it happened. The scarf I was wearing that day got caught in my desk drawer. The next thing I knew, my neck was caught in a vise. My eyes started watering, causing my mascara to run. The final insult—one of my false eyelashes came off!
So what’s a diva to do when her scarf tries to kill her? First, she throws out the scarf book. Then, she simply loops it over once. It may not be pretty or even interesting, but it still gets the job done.
More than surviving a murderous accessory, my scarf dilemmas validate that anything can be beautiful, when worn with confidence.
I am an adoring wife, a loving sister, aunt, cousin, friend, mentor, book author and business owner. These are the things most people know about. I am also a diabetic and a stroke survivor. All are part and parcel of what makes me—well—me.
When people learn that I served in the Air Force, they say, I don’t look like a soldier (airman). “You look too soft, too feminine looking.” I have always taken that to mean that I didn’t fit their idea of what a female serviceman looked like. You know, the ‘hard looking I can shoot a gnat at fifty paces” kind of woman. (Actually I earned a military marksmanship ribbon).
My love of perfume and all things girlie aside, I am pretty tough. Indeed, life has demanded that I be. After all, few people have the fortitude to spend six weeks on their hands and knees cleaning grout from bathroom tiles—with a tooth brush. (Military Basic Training). Or once eaten Octopus Tempura in Okinawa, Japan (octopus dipped in a breaded coating and fried), and lived to tell about it. (I was told by one of my troops that it was some kind of fish).
Seriously, once I was able to banish the image of those bumpy tentacles from my mind, and discretely spit it out, he was lucky I didn’t make him drop down and give me 50 push-ups, then and there. Consequently, the military guided my life’s trajectory, affording me an education, opportunities to travel, and to learn about other people and cultures.
Likewise, few know that growing up, I dreamed of writing the great American novel. I began with writing little short stories to entertain my younger sister. Poems followed. Two, “Ode To That Lying Scum” and “Swinging From Chandeliers, Do You Suppose The Warranty Covers That” came about after dates with first “Mr. Wrong” and then “Mr. Crazy” who really was crazy if he thought I was doing that on the first date. Besides, I didn’t, and still don’t care for heights.
Finally, came my debut book The Venus Chronicles, followed by a robust freelance writing career. Four books later, and by retaining faith in my dreams, I’ve finally done it. Become a writer! To paraphrase a quote from the 1948, police drama The Naked City. “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This is mine.”