Poverty and Black Stockings

Our family grew up poor. That meant we had to be “creative” in having and buying certain material goods.

When I ran middle school track, our uniforms were old and the shorts were too short. In order for the team to be united and to keep the breeze from going through our rear ends, our coach required that we have black spandex to wear under our shorts.

I told my dad as I jumped into his clunker blue truck, “I need black spandex for track.” He drove me to Wal-Mart, the biggest store in the Northern Hemisphere of our State, and lo and behold, NO BLACK Spandex. Seriously, you can buy a gun, some ammo, a black ski mask, duckt tape, a crowbar and craw fish, but no black spandex! I mentioned that some girls on the team were going to the local sporting store in town, G & G Sports to buy theirs.

We parked the truck in the empty parking lot. We walked in and there was plenty to select from.

I found a pair that would fit and I just knew it would be the pair to set new records. “Twenty-two dollars!” my dad exclaimed in disgust. “Sorry, but I am not paying twenty-two dollars for spandex.” We left the store and I was disappointed.

The next few days, our coach kept reminding us that we needed black spandex as part of the uniform, or we wouldn’t be able to run at our first track meet.

So I had to find something and find it quick. I snuck into my mom’s closet drawer and pulled out a pair of her black stockings.

I put it under my shirt and ran to my room. I cut the bottoms and scrunched them up so they looked like black spandex. From far away you couldn’t tell the difference. No body could tell if they were stockings.

So when it was time to warm up for our relay race, one of my teammates stared at my “spandex” and asked, “Are those stockings?”

To my utter horror my secret was out! I freaked! My eyes popped out of their sockets and I shouted, “YEAH! IS there a problem?”

“NO! I just…”

“Just what?” My voice wasn’t very kind, but I was soooo scared that she would tell everyone else, and everyone would start teasing me.

So I did what anyone else would have done in this situation. I ran my ass off and helped our team win first place.

She said nothing more of my stockings. I was eternally grateful.

The next year I wore my moms’s stockings again, because for some alien reason, Wal-Mart did not provide black spandex and paying Twenty-two dollars was just something my dad was unwilling to pay.

I made Varsity Track that year. I even qualified for State as an 8th Grader, with those stupid black stockings.

When I was old enough to hold a job, I bought my Twenty-two dollar black spandex, along with a new pair of spikes, and deodorant- which is a whole other post at another time.

I am always amazed at how resilient children are, and mostly how when an obstacle presents itself we will do whatever it takes to meet a goal, or to participate in an activity or event. I was so determined to run track, and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me.

It’s true that poverty takes many forms. It often does mean lack of income, certainly, but it can be emotional or spiritual as well.

This particular memory I hold reminds me of the message I received when I was only a child- that I wasn’t worth even Twenty-two dollars. You see, it wasn’t that my dad didn’t have the money- he did. Most of his income went to his hobby in restoring old cars into hot rods.

So my sister and I had to find “creative” ways to fit in, to have certain items, even personal hygiene and health care. Ask my sister why her smile lights up the room today, and why she refused to smile for her Senior Portraits.

A child living in poverty is tragic indeed, but a child who thinks they don’t count is a child needing love. A child who believes they can’t do anything right is a child living in emotional poverty.

The good news is that being born into a poor emotional environment does not mean it is the child’s destiny to remain there. The past was not our choice- the present is.

How wonderful to pass this gift to others- that past wounds don’t have to define who we are!

LOVE ALWAYS!

Reflections on Scars

“You can’t catch me!” my little sister screamed as we ran around our parents’ bed. The bedroom was located at the back of the house. What is now the living room was the bedroom that all four of us shared- my parents, my sister, and myself.

Our house was made from adobe and wood. It was built without the skills of a contractor or architect, instead it was built from sweat and love by our grandpa. It explains why the doorways are little short, and each room leads to another- no foyers, no hallways and not very many doors. It housed my grandparents and their five children.

My father was the third child. Due to his wild lifestyle- hence his nickname, “Wild Man,” partied and partied until one day he brought home a girl from Colorado and started a family. With only a high school diploma and not a lot of experience in the work force, except fixing cars, he simply did not move out of the house.

Eventually as the years passed my dad and my grandpa (AKA Pita) added to the little house to make room for our family.

Before it became an official duplex, my sister and I would run around inside that house, room to room, playing chase, hide-n-seek, and other games that required fast running and jumping.

It wasn’t unusual for my parents to leave us unattended since Pita and Grandma were at home.

It was late that night, the night my sister and I were playing chase around our parents’ bed. At least it was late for a 5 and 4 year old.

My parents went on a McDonald’s run. They had the munchies- I hear that is common after a religious ceremony of “joint” proportions.

“You can’t catch me!” I chase her, running as fast as I could. Around the bed- around and around. She turns the corner, and I am about to catch her… CRACK! The bed was next to some closets decorated with those retro gold veined mirrors on the door. She fell and hit her face right into it!

Golden Veined Mirrors

I see her laying on the floor. I stopped dead on my tracks. She just laid there. “Ha! Ha! Fina! Very funny!” I shoved her a bit and still she wouldn’t budge. My heart suddenly felt very heavy! I couldn’t breathe. I froze! Slowly, very slowly, I walked away, not knowing what to do. Then she moved! Her face covered in blood. I swear to you, I physically felt my eye balls jumping outside of my head!

She ran to find Grandma, leaving a bloody trail. I followed. Grandma was already sleeping in her bed. She shrugged her awake, and when she saw the blood- all I heard her yell was something in Spanish that had to do with the mother of Jesus and other Spanish words I wasn’t suppose to know about.

She grabbed a towel and put pressure on the wound. All I could do was watch from a distance. Isn’t it funny how we can remember some things so vividly? I remember it like I was watching an old movie from far far away. I guess that is how I felt- small. So small that the world looked so far away and there was nothing I could do, and I had no idea what I could do, so I watched.

The next thing I remember is my parents walking through the front door with McDonald’s bags in hand. They took one look at her and I saw the shock on their faces. They dropped threw the bags and the fries flew all over the floor.

They grabbed her and sped to Holy Cross Hospital.

And there I stood… processing all that I witnessed. My grandma and Pita began cleaning up the blood and the broken mirror pieces. I began to eat those french fries on the floor. I couldn’t let them go to waste now, could I?

That was a scary scene for a little girl to watch, and it was a frightening experience for another little girl.

The next morning I heard tales of how Fina had to be strapped down so that the Dr. could put stitches on her wound. I thought she looked a little like Herman Munster from the “The Munsters” T.V. show with those stitches on the corner of her forehead.

All that is left now is a scar.

We all have scars. Scars to brag about, scars we wished never happened and try to cover up. Scars are a result of healing from a wound. A mark that reminds us of the incident that created the wound.

Even though it makes sense that this little incident could have been avoided had we been properly supervised, it doesn’t erase the scar. We could have a debate session on who was to blame for that scary night. Was it my fault because I was chasing her? Was it my grandparents fault for going to sleep? Was it my parents fault- for soooo many reasons? Hmmmm. Or maybe it was all her fault- doesn’t she need to watch where she is going?

In the end it doesn’t matter who is to blame or why it happened. What matters is that we stitch up the wound before we bleed to death! Contrary to the saying, “Time Heals all Wounds,” healing only happens when we put in the work. We need to take care of the wound first, and even though it leaves a scar- that scar is just a reflection on a life full of crazy adventures or hard lessons to learn! Just don’t take the “reflection” part literal as did my sister- she was always such an overachiever!

Love Always

Just Another Birthday

Birthday Cake. Blowing out the candles. Making wishes. Fancy dresses and funny hats. Balloons and silly games.

Remember when we were younger, how excited we were to be celebrating our birthday?

Then as we got older birthdays became meh.  “Just another birthday” we mutter, and every year we wince in a bit of pain as the years start to accumulate.

This month is a big number for me.  40!

As much as I want to cringe and complain about getting older, (maybe just a little) I am actually excited.

It took me 40 years to be where I am today. 40 years to learn the values of my life.

You see, this birthday is not just another birthday- at least not to me- it is a mark of success- a hope of great abundance yet to come- a symbol that love does overcome.

You see, I wasn’t born privileged.  I was born to a couple, not yet married, no money, no education, no home.

In fact, my dad was an alcoholic.

You have to understand, that this is not uncommon in our little town. Drinking, drugs, unplanned pregnancies.

The first five years of my life I watched my dad get drunk and high. 

There are some things in life that are hard to talk about. At least in your mind you feel that they are hard to talk about because of the fear of shame, invalidation, or worse indifference.  Then courage begins to surge and you know you have to talk about it because it’s the only way to light the path.

You could say that I didn’t have a very good start in life. I’m not saying this to blame my dad- he did the best he could. In fact when the drugs became too much- he quit when I was 6 years old.   If I don’t say anything else about my dad- he was able to stay sober ever since. 35 years of sobriety- quit cold turkey and never looked back. It sure says a lot about his will power and convictions doesn’t it?

Life is hard and unfair to begin with- so when you mix in addictions, poverty, and dysfunction life can feel hopeless. And when hopelessness is the norm, you can bet there is a lot of resentment and anger.

You see, even though my dad was able to stay away from the bottle, he had a bit of a temper and used his hobby of building and restoring old cars as his new drug of choice.

The anger that stormed inside my dad manifested itself in abuse.

His go to put-downs to my mom, my sisters and myself were, “stupid, worthless and lazy.” I was 14 years old when I got my first real job- it was a program called “Summer Youth Program” for low income families. Children were able to find work at the ripe ol’ age of 14 to work during the summer. I got a job at our local hospital filing old papers in a hot room with no windows, and no air conditioning. My dad drove me on my first day  and do you know what was said to me? “I don’t even know how you got this stupid job you’re so damn lazy!”  Needless to say, I didn’t perform very well at the job.  So I grew up feeling unseen, unheard and unwanted. As a little girl who desired to be cherished, I internalized these words and grew up believing I was stupid, worthless and a burden.

I hit the re-play button for many years. Over and over again I heard in my head “you’re stupid,” “You’re not good enough,” “People don’t like you.”   I constantly apologized. Apologizing for taking up space. Always apologizing.

I had a lot of fear in me.

In my search and desperation for love and acceptance I followed a pattern:

~I was married at 19 and divorced six months later. I didn’t want to get married at 19- but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
~At 21 I had my first baby- with a guy I hardly knew. I didn’t want to have sex yet, but I wanted him to like me.

~We had our second child when I was 24.
~We married. More of the same- addictions and abuse.
~We tried so hard to make it work.

You see, I was the type of person that thought I was being unselfish and caring to give the other person what they wanted, regardless if it didn’t match my needs or wants. I wanted to be the exact opposite of my dad. Yeah, that didn’t work out so well.

I am a recovering co-dependent.

Believe it or not, there are support groups for that!

Imagine- sitting in a basement of a church saying, “Hi, I’m Roxanne and I’m co-dependent.”  Yes, that happened. I worked the 12 steps. And in working those 12 steps I found God- or God found me.

I had a sponsor and everything. She was very wise and a little nuts. She helped me see the truth of who I was. Turns out I was better at abusing myself than the other people in my life.

I also went to therapy, read a ton of books to help me learn and understand co-dependency- I was determined (and still am) to conquer this flaw in me.

In working those 12 steps I had to forgive my dad. I did.

It took years to understand what forgiveness meant and why it was important in my recovery- and even though I wish my dad and I had a better relationship, I know what happened all those years ago was not my fault. I also learned that even though my dad hurt me, and our family, I know that he loves us.  See, my dad was playing the same game that was taught to him. Addictions have a way of doing that–The same game played with different players as each generation steps up to the plate.

Lucky for me, there were angels in my life that were able to light the path for me and my sisters- people who showed us that there was hope, joy and that life is actually fun and meaningful.

I am forever grateful for my extended family- they brought fun, joy, and showed me and my sisters acceptance. The biggest lesson I learned in the last forty years is that although our families may be broken, dysfunctional, and maybe a little crazy, family is the most important aspect of our life. Every pleasure and pain in our life will be experienced in the context of our relationships. We may fight with our family, we may not even like them that much, but they are our roots, our bridge, our pathway to discovering who we are in this big mass of mess we call home. Family teaches us humility, forgiveness, compassion and what love really means.

I’m turning 40, and I couldn’t be more excited. The next 40 plus years are not going to be wasted by fighting wrinkles and grey hair , or sagging skin and trying to look 20 years old again (maybe a little).  The battles I choose to fight are not physical at all. I choose to fight for me- to fight those demonizing voices. To fight for my family. In my opinion, the best thing anyone can do in their life is to forgive.  Forgive your parents. Forgive your siblings. Forgive the Universe. Forgive yourself.

The next 40 some years is something I want to enrich with adventures with those I care and love about.

Cheers to 40!

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If you are interested in some of the books that helped in my journey, click on the links below. (Amazon is supporting my blog if you just click the links and make a purchase from the site). I appreciate your support!

Love Always

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//ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=roxyjaecks-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=0981501788&asins=0981501788&linkId=5a43b01f1f2bcd01537dbe00fc8bf301&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Al-Anon The Twelve Steps and How it Works

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Self-Help Books

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