That weird crush I had on Peter Davison and other strange facts (or just a post about what I’m watching right now)

I haven’t been blogging much lately, mainly because sometimes life sucks and you don’t feel like writing about it.

But while I haven’t been blogging I have been watching somewhat odd British murder mystery shows from the 1980s and early 1990s thanks to Britbox on Amazon.

250px-CampiondvdMy husband suggested I watch Campion, a show headed by the fifth Doctor himself, Peter Davison, who I first developed somewhat of a crush on in the old BBC show “All Creatures Big and Small” that they showed reruns of on PBS when I was a kid.

To be honest, half the time I have no idea what is happening in the episodes, which are two parts and an hour long each. I’ve found myself rewinding them to try to figure out what just happened or what someone said, partially because of the British accents, and partially because I think in an attempt to be clever, the writers simply make the dialogue vague and confusing.

Despite those shortcomings, I can’t stop watching the show and wondering what is going to happen next. Campion’s sly, mischevious, and brilliant character is fun to watch and it’s also nice to see that Davidson was able to break out of the typecast hole some of the other Doctor

Who’s fell into over the years.

Miss Marple is another of the British mystery shows I’ve found myself caught up in, even though I’ve only watched two episodes so far. From what I can tell, each series takes us through one mystery, with each episode offering another piece to the puzzle each time.

 

There is so much meaty dialogue in each installment I found myself needing to take a break before diving into the next episode. These older mysteries weave such interesting stories it’s hard to binge watch them without becoming overstimulated, which is both a pro and a con of them.

 

On the lighter side, my son and I have been trying out Netflix’ latest cop show offering, The Good Cop starring Tony Danza and – uh – could it be? Is that him? Why, yes it is. It’s multi-million selling recording artist Josh Groban in the lead roll as Tony Caruso, Jr. The premise behind the show is that Tony Sr. is a crooked cop who just finished serving time in prison for various nefarious actions while on the force and his son, Groban, has swung the pendulum completely the other way by being the “good cop” or the stickler for the rules.

Woven in the storyline is the backstory that Tony Jr.’s mom and Tony Sr.’s wife was killed years ago in a hit and run accident and Tony Sr. is working behind the scenes to try to find her killer.

Groban really surprised me with his acting skills. The acting in the show is solid overall, but the plots and the writing could definitely use some work and I feel that is a disservice to the high quality talent they have on board. I’ve never been a huge Tony Danza fan but he really pulls off the slack off, flippant and defiant, bad cop Tony Caruso role.

If you’re looking for a hard hitting, gritty cop show don’t look here. The rating on this one is PG and the storyline is simple and cases easy to solve, except, even if you know who did it, you don’t always know how. My son compares this show to Pysch, which used to be on USA Network and you can catch in reruns on Amazon (no, I’m not being paid by Amazon… yet. ha!), mainly because of the intricate and humorous way they reach a mystery you may have been able to partially solve in the first ten minutes.

Since the show is PG, it is fairly safe for your older children to watch with you, but there are still some adult themes of sex, murder, cheating, and a few swear words. We haven’t finished the season yet to determine if this is one we will put on our list to look forward to a second season.

So, what are all of you watching, listening to or reading this week? Let me know in the comments or link to a blog post where you share what’s on your watch, listening or reading list this week (or month).

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The love that didn’t last

Looking at her young face staring back at me from the vintage, monochrome photograph it suddenly struck me how young she had been when her world fell apart. Her story was family folklore, passed down as one of those subjects discussed in hushed tones and only around certain family members.

Here she was, though, appearing to me younger than I had ever imagined her when I had heard the stories as a child, a teen and even as an adult. I saw in her eyes a bit of fear, maybe trepidation, but also a lot of grit mixed with the slightest hint of humor.

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When she’d met the man she would one day married she was head over heels in love. He was handsome and charming, and loud and boisterous. Some, though, especially her family, called him trouble.

She wrote love letters to him and told him she couldn’t wait until they could be alone again, married and on their own.

The details are hazy, the story one fractured by memories not as strong as they once were, possible family biases, maybe a bit of resentment and a whole lot of “he said, she said.” What is known is they married, he did something that hurt her deeply, her family chased him off with a shotgun and she came home with a 2-month old baby and soon to be divorced, something not often heard of at that time.

The baby was born with the last name of Hakes, but a line was struck through that name and it was eliminated, one might say. When the divorce was final the baby’s last name became Robinson, his mother’s maiden name, and stayed that way, even when she became an Allen through a new marriage, years later. Family lore, accurate or not, says her family wouldn’t allow the little boy to have his father’s last name. So, the baby, my grandfather, was Hakes by blood but not by name.

Raising a son alone, so young, with a broken heart and maybe added shame, must have been close to impossible, even with the help of her family. I often wonder how those events shaped her inner being, how it maybe led her to throw up walls that it took years to let down, if she ever did.

It seems when we get older we are told new stories about family members, or more of the story or maybe we just listen better and find out what we had always thought was the full story really wasn’t.

More pieces to the puzzle of the story of my great aunt, taken away from her family to live in a mental hospital and then a nursing home were recently given to me, correcting my belief that she was placed in the home at a young age. Instead, she was apparently closer to 30 when her parents had her committed and one reason was the fear she would harm my dad, who was about three or four at the time.

And she wasn’t really abandoned there, as I had previously thought. Instead, she withdrew into herself after years of odd behavior and her parents felt she was safer in the hospital. They also had limited income and only one vehicle to visit her with or bring her home.

So while I heard new information about my great aunt’s story recently, the story that remains a mystery for most of our family is what really led to my great-grandmother Blanche leaving Howard Hakes. It’s not really a topic you bring up when meeting distant relations only at family funerals every few years.

“Hey, so whatever happened with that whole divorce thing with Blanch and Howard anyhow?” you can’t simply ask. Or, “Was that Howard a real jerk or what’s the real story?”

It wouldn’t exactly be polite dinner (or funeral) conversation.

There are the family “rumors”, of course. He liked his parties, women, and alcohol, was the one rumor. Blanche, had finally had enough, some say, and she left Waverly, NY, considered the “big city” back then in the early 1900s and returned to her family’s farm with her young son, Walter, who happens to be my grandfather.

It’s always a bit awkward to write about family drama when some of those family members who might know more are still alive so I will admit that I know very little about what led to the end of the marriage. Not too mention, because it was so long ago and I never met Blanche and was only about 2 when my grandfather died, I don’t have a “dog in this fight” so to speak. I don’t see either party as an enemy or at fault, simply because I wasn’t there, therefore I truly have no idea.

What I do have is a wonder about how Blanche felt about it all, and even how Howard felt. And when you get right down to it, what did Walter feel about it?I wish he was around for me to ask.

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Whatever led to the failed marriage, it came and my grandfather was raised without knowing his father. It wasn’t until Blanche died, well after my grandfather was an adult with two adult daughters and one young son, that Howard showed back up. My dad remembers he was about 13, returning from a Boy Scout camp out,  when a man approached him in town and told him, “I’m your grandfather.”

Later that day, sitting with my grandfather on the porch of my dad’s house, now remarried and a father of other children, Howard tried to make peace with his firstborn, asking him, “Well, your first born is always your favorite, aren’t they?”

“I don’t play favorites,” my dad remembers my grandfather saying in a deep, stern voice.

My dad was the baby of the family, his sister Eleanor was the oldest and sister Doris the middle. And no, Walter wasn’t going to play favorites.

Maybe Grandpa was telling Howard he wasn’t about to accept an attempt to suggest one child should be loved over another as any type of apology for being an absent father.

Even if my grandfather couldn’t accept the failed attempt of an apology that day, some sort of peace was made. Visits were had, half-sisters were met and Howard’s funeral was even attended many years later.

Two, faded and short, letters are tucked away in a jewelry box in my parent’s room and my parents aren’t even sure where they came from. It’s clear they were written by Blanche to Howard and start with “My Love.”

“They are heartbreaking,” my mom told me one day. “She really loved him.”

And she did. Telling Howard she hoped his new job was going well and that she couldn’t wait “until you are here in my bedroom with me again.”

Gasp! In her bedroom?

Scandalous stuff for 1900.

Maybe so scandalous some in my family might not think I should air the family’s “dirty laundry.”

But, if we are honest, every family has their own dirty laundry and some of that dirty laundry isn’t really dirty, but just heartbreak caused by broken people.

When you hit old age before you’re old

000000_DSC_3270-EditI wake up with a weird, buzzing, anxious feeling in my chest.

Everything is wrong, but nothing is wrong.

Everything is scary, but nothing is scary.

Everything is death around the corner, but death is not there.

Restless.

That’s what the ladies in an online support group I’m in call this feeling. I call it sheer terror.

This buzzing,crazy, I’m-going- to -crawl- out of -my -skin -feeling.

I don’t know what to call the internal buzz other than a feeling of doom and darkness, the feeling something bad is about to happen but I’ve forgotten what so I sit for a while each morning trying to remember what in my life is bad and terrifying. I can’t think of anything I should be anxious about so my brain conjures up something for me.

That twinge in my hand.

Is that numbness?

That pain in my back.

Could it be my heart?

Crap.

My cheek feels funny.

Is that numbness?

It’s probably a stroke.

That’s it.

It’s a stroke.

I’m having a heart attack, a stroke and a brain aneurysm all at once.

Before I can decide which ailment I’m dying from there is a kid in my room asking if he can go outside and ride his bike and a toddler hanging off my neck like I’m playground equipment, asking if she can have candy for breakfast. Now my heart is pounding and both my hands are numb and my right ear has filled up and I can’t seem to move my legs right. I’m not old enough to be old but here I am at 40 with all these terrifying symptoms and general feelings of oldness.

The anxiety is nothing new to me, it’s been there off and on for years. The intensity of the thoughts and the inability to slow them down, that’s slightly new, a bit of a sign that something is making this curse progressively worse the older I get.

Despite the horrors my brain keeps screaming at me, I’m certain what I’m dealing with is hormone induced and that learning to cope is what I’ll have to do, especially since the worst time for these thoughts and feelings are right before the cliche “Aunt Flow” stops by for a visit (like a nagging old lady). I’ve told myself I’m not alone in having these feelings and I know I’m not because I’ve read their stories.

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So many women with so many of the same thoughts and all of us terrified and being told it’s all in our head and we just need this pill or that surgery and we will be fine. And don’t forget the traditional lines that always begin with “Well…you’re a woman, so…”

We have become our own doctors, doing research, reading books and blogs and asking questions that many times don’t get answers. We have left behind doctors and “experts” because none of them have helped us and we have had to become our own expert.

And we are cutting out certain food and adding certain food and dropping supplements and adding supplements and living our lives by trial and error to see what makes us feel less like we are hanging by a thread that is about to snap at any moment.

We share our self-care with each other over coffee and via technology and together we find assurance that we aren’t “just women” and, more importantly, we aren’t alone.

Three going on fifteen or why my new name is “mooooooom”

Little Miss, 3, 1/2 is back to calling me “mom” instead of “Mama” and saying it like an annoyed and spoiled teenager. “Oh Moooom.”

“Mooooom, watch me.”

“No, I don’t want that for dinner, Moooom.”

It’s seriously like she’s 3 1/2 going on 15 some days. And boy does she have my moodiness tendencies, much to my disappointment. One day last week she made a mess with water by pouring it all over the living room floor in what she said was an attempt to pour it on Zooma the Wonder Dog to stop her from pulling on her clothes.

I asked her to clean up said mess and she informed me, first, “No. I won’t. That’s not my job.”

Trust me, that little comment did not go over well with me.

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Her second excuse was: “I just got comfortable” as she lounged on the couch watching a cartoon.

I promptly turned off the cartoon and this resulted in long sighs as if she’d been mentally transported into the future as her 15-year old self. Somehow my demands that she clean up the mess she made by herself became a completely overblown toddler crisis and she ended up hiding behind our couch, in a small area near our front door where we keep our shoes.

She had thrown all the shoes out, was crying and in between sobs was saying “but it’s not my joooob! I don’t want to do it! I just want to be lazy and not clean it up!”

I know exactly where her demands to be lazy are coming from and when my 11-year old son got back from camp we had a serious talk about the days he declares “I don’t want to do anything today! It’s lazy… (insert whichever day of the week it is). Eventually the entire drama came down to her saying she would have cleaned up the water if only I had used the word, “please.”

She said all this while still nestled in the space behind the couch and when I added the “magic word” of please to the request a slightly muffled voice informed me: “Well, I can’t do it while I’m crying and I can’t stop crying!”

Eventually, the water did get cleaned up and the drama was abated with a cartoon and cuddle but the attitude bordering on full-blown teenage angst continued off and on throughout the day, with most of her responses coming at me in irritated and impatient tones.

I liked my mom’s suggestion when I told her this story, which was that if she says again “it’s not my job” I turn the tables on her by refusing to do various tasks she would like done and saying flippantly “Sorry. It’s not my job.” Mom and I were fairly certain this effort will one day backfire on me, however, since I am a mom and it actually is my “job” to take care of my kids and Little Miss will most likely inform me of that. one day.

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Why I didn’t want to tell my son about the death of Anthony Bourdain

I didn’t even know him.

Not really.

But yet it was almost like losing a close friend.

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Photo by the Wall Street Journal digital artwork by Lisa R. Howeler

I’d had a crappy night of sleep with two sick kids and I had reached for my phone to see what time it was. There it is was on my screen- a note from my sister in law expressing shock to the obituary story she had attached.

“No. It isn’t possible.”

I thought this over and over in my bleary-eyed, not fully awake state.

The man who had taken me around the world so many times without me even having to leave my house was dead. I typed out the word “nooo!” to my sister-in-law, as if that word would stop it from being true.

I felt numb and sick to my stomach. It must have been his heart, I thought.

Or something he ate.

He was always eating weird things and something finally got him. Or a car accident or his plane went down while they were traveling to somewhere exotic.

My heart sank when I clicked the link. I was in shock when I read the words.

Suicide?!

Suicide?

Suicide.

It’s like the word wouldn’t even make sense to me.

Anthony Bourdain had committed suicide.

I follow him on social media and recently I had noticed he was looking thin and tired but he travels a lot so I figured he was exhausted. It had been a stressful couple of years. A whirlwind break-up followed by a whirlwind romance and then all that traveling.

Now all that traveling I loved to watch him do was over and the only trip he’d most likely be making was a one-way flight back to the states to be buried.

Suicide.

I still couldn’t wrap my mind around the horror of it all and the horror for Eric Ripert, his best friend, to find him that way. And his daughter. Oh, my heart ached and my head felt funny at the thought of her being told.

I’ve never been a traveler – partially because of finances and partially because I’ve lived a life of fear. Tony made me want to live a life of courage in my small world and if I couldn’t go to all those fancy places just yet I could at least watch him visit them. My son learned about much of the world from a very young age while his dad and I traveled with Tony.

We let him watch episodes we probably shouldn’t have at 4 and 5 and he was introduced to death on an episode where a pig was slaughtered. Granted, this was the age when “No Reservations” was already streaming so we could fast forward the scene, but my kid is wise beyond his years and he knew what was happening despite our attempts to shield him.

We haven’t been able to shield him much these last couple years – not from heartache and anxiety and death. First, the big loss was our dog of 14 years, the dog that had always been his. Then it was a 17-year-old cat, again there all his 11 years. Then the worst blow came four days after Christmas this year when he lost his great-aunt, who had lived with his grandparents since he was four. His head was spinning. School pressure was mounting. Panic attacks were becoming the norm.

We’ve walked through it with him with every loss, every question, every tear, and every crying storm. All the advice says you have to tell your child directly and bluntly about the person who has died so they don’t feel they are being lied to or misled.

When I told my son about his great aunt I was apparently too blunt. I was so nervous because I’d never had to tell him something so hard – not even the death of his dog could compare to this. I blurted out “Dianne died.”

Died. I used the word died because all the articles I found on Google told me to. “Don’t use the words ‘passed on’ or ‘went to a better place,’” the proverbial “they” said. “It needs to be clear to the child the person is dead and never coming back.”

I was so numb from the sudden loss I really didn’t think it through because that advice was for young people, not 11-year olds who clearly know the meaning of the word “dead” but would also understand the term “passed away” would mean the same thing.

He clearly knows what death is and here I was that morning knowing I needed to rip the news of Anthony Bourdain’s death off like a band-aid but, ugh, crap and darn it all to hell, I simply didn’t want to. Especially because I had to add the word “suicide” to the ripping.

“For a little while today I’ll shelter him,” I told myself. “We don’t have cable so he won’t hear it there.”

And all the traditional advice says the news of death must come from someone the child loves so I knew I couldn’t shelter him for long.

The ripping started with the lifting of the edge and then just one fast, hard pull. When I told him he said “oh that’s sad,” but he didn’t take it as hard as I thought. He did, however, express the same denial I did when I told him they thought he’d taken his own life.

“That’s just not possible,” he said. “I don’t believe that part of the story.”

We both agreed it wasn’t possible and we comforted ourselves in our denial of it all.