Monthly Archives: November 2011

Thanksgiving, the Final Chapter

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Yes, even after all my rants on the topic, today turned out to be one of the best Thanksgivings I can recall.  We spent a lazy morning, made pumpkin waffles with a recipe* that my first-grader brought home from school, watched the parade, and surfed through the newspaper ads.

Can I just say how remarkably calm and peaceful this morning was?  Okay, yes, I found that the dog had chewed the cover off of my daughter’s favorite book, and I didn’t get to watch much of the parade, and I managed to still do dishes and laundry, but overall it was calm.

It was so nice not to be worked up over cooking or who was bringing what or who was mad at whom or any of the other myriad family troubles we manufacture.

The biggest worry I had was being on time, and I was able to dictate the time.  As I said before, stress-free.

We arrived and were greeted by someone ecstatic to see the girls, and they all went off to play.  We brought in the pumpkin pie (store-bought), and the Velveeta shells & cheese (husband-made), and then had to lift not even finger one.  We weren’t allowed to help in the kitchen, set the table, or carve the turkey.  We were allowed to serve ourselves food and eat.  Now that’s a reason for giving thanks.

The kids weren’t even badgered (too much) about not wanting to eat anything except a smidgen of shells & cheese and pumpkin pie.

And all the women present were on the same diet, so no one badgered me about only eating green beans and turkey with a taste of the giblet gravy (which *did* live up to its reputation as extremely worthy).  If I’d tried that around just about anyone else I can think of, I would have been pressured to eat the mashed potatoes, macaroni, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, stuffing, gelatin with fruit cocktail, rolls, deviled eggs, and generous portions of dessert.  Instead, I got to choose exactly what went on my plate and exactly how much dessert I chose to get.  And, yes, I did enjoy a forkful of cherry cheesecake brownie and a sliver of lemon chess pie.

Granted, I’ll still be doing damage control drinking plenty of water and eating enough raw veggies to counteract the salt from the turkey and green beans, but it was nothing compared to the setback I’d be facing in a traditional family setting.  Add to that all the stress, and that would have been truly unhealthy.

It was such a relief to have a day where I didn’t feel my blood pressure spike. Well, except perhaps when I listed off the number of family’s Thanksgivings I managed to ruin (I forget precisely how this came up in conversation, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t originate with me).  I had it figured at 3 – my birth family, my brother’s family, and my husband’s family.  The moment was saved by the grandpa up and saying, “Make that 4!”  And we all busted out laughing.

After we ate, I discovered a new, addicting game on the computer which was a combination of all sorts of different puzzles.  I played that until I felt as though I had melded with the roly-chair, and then introduced the kids to a new board game, Sequence.  Now that was indeed fun.  My youngest doesn’t really like to play many games, but the oldest and her friend had a good time and declared it to be one of the all-time best games.

Then we enjoyed watching evidence of human stupidity, which is always good for a laugh.  We watched Swamp People, a show I never would have discovered on my own, but which had us give all the visceral reactions I can think of in the course of one show of watching these… people… catch and kill alligators.  Our definite favorite was where the big ol’ guy who was huntin’ by hisself decides to up and wrassle in a line of angry gator by standing up on his boat and pullin’ on a string.  It was like watching a train wreck.  You knew, just knew, it was going to be bad, but you couldn’t help looking.  An’ den dis ol’ Bubba done fall into the swamp water ‘long wit’ dis here big ol’ gator.  An’ danged if he don’ come on up the bank an’ shoot the sucker with a pistol.  Let me just say, it was an education.

Well, that was definitely entertaining.

Anyhow, we managed to have a great day, a day I hope my kids will remember fondly as one of the better Thanksgivings of their childhood.

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*Pumpkin Waffles (Makes 8 large waffles)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 beaten eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  1. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and salt.
  2. In another bowl, mix the eggs, milk, pumpkin, and oil.
  3. Combine the wet and dry mixtures.
  4. Stir in the nuts and mix well.
  5. Cook the batter in a hot waffle iron.  Serve hot with butter and maple syrup or honey.

(I’d up the spices just a little bit or throw in a pinch of cloves, but these were heavenly.  Yeah, I ate some!)

Nail Polish and Pumpkin Bread

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I just realized those two things don’t exactly go together.  However, in my world, that’s what I’m thinking about.

So, my step-cat had a tick tonight, and my husband calls out and asks me to get him some nail polish.

Nail polish.  Nail polish.  Nail polish.  Do I even own any nail polish?

No.  My older daughter is the only one of us with nail polish.  So we have a choice of sparkly metallic hot pink or “Hard as Nails” clear.  I don’t think the “Hard as Nails” was actually hers, but it was on her shelf in the bathroom.  (Well, and technically we have the Barbie nail polish, but since that is not actual nail polish but instead some kind of colored glue, I don’t really count that.)

I am such a traitor to my gender.  I need a mentor to just take me, dress me, force me at gunpoint to buy (and learn how to use) all kinds of make-up and beauty supplies, style my hair, and basically teach me how to be a woman.

*sigh*

But at least I can bake.  I can bake and sew and craft and drive people insane, so I must have at least part of the second X chromosome.

Today I made little pumpkin loaves to share with neighbors, and we made an extra one for us.

Ah, pumpkin loaf with cream cheese frosting.  It was divine.

I stole the idea from a casual comment someone made – just take a cup of pumpkin and add it to a basic cake recipe with some pumpkin pie spices.  I did that, added an extra egg for the richness factor, and poured it into little loaf pans.  I baked them a little lower and longer than the recipe called for, trying to account for the extra moisture.  Clean knife test and popped it onto the cooling racks.  Topped it with some store-bought cream cheese frosting, and it was a little slice of autumnal heaven: this delightful, moist, pleasantly pumpkin treat, which we enjoyed over cocoa and coffee (more of the super-yum hazelnut!) tonight.  It was like having our own private little Starbucks, but without having to spend $20 or more for the four of us to have a little something.

Okay, so I may not have the whole “female thing” down, but I at least I can bake.  Maybe now I should go paint my nails.

Fasting

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This morning, I thought I was going to die.

I woke up just fine, got dressed, put on make-up*, did my hair, and started up a pot of coffee.  Now, this morning, I was particularly enjoying the process of making the coffee, because I had just gotten a new bag of Hazelnut Community Coffee, and its aroma was a sweet seduction, drawing me in, chanting a tribal rhythm to my soul.  The weather outside helped set the stage – cool, kissed by the night’s rain, grey, and still.  The perfect morning to indulge in a quiet moment communing with coffee, nature, and inner peace.

And then it hit me.

I was supposed to be fasting this morning for blood work.  I felt as though a little piece of me curled up like a brown autumn leaf, withered and dead.

So, instead of relishing that simple pleasure this morning, I get to go and have my blood drawn across town.  So much for inner peace.

On the bright side, my travel cup is clean, so I should be able to drink my coffee after being violated by needles.

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*Which, by itself, is a sign of the apocalypse, but in conjunction with doing my hair is a sign that you should assume the world has already ended.

Hi, Blood Pressure!

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Soooooooooo.

Well, today, I found out that I can have skyrocketing blood pressure with little or no effort.

I also, and more healthfully, discovered that I can have amazingly low blood pressure.

In the course of the same day.

To get the extra-super-spiffy high blood pressure, it only took a text from my brother.  Two, actually.

I got these wonderful missives right when I found out that my daughters each have four cavities, and I was checking out at the dentist’s office.  I was also almost running late for a gynecologist appointment at a new office I’d never been to before.  In the rain.

When they took my blood pressure the first time, I told them that it would be sky-high.  I was right.  I told them to take it again at the end of the appointment, and it would be lower.  I was right.  (Of course, it helped that the doctor had to go deliver a baby, so I used the extra time to do some deep breathing exercises.)

He told me that I needed to take my blood pressure at random times throughout the day over the next 4-6 weeks and keep a record of it.  During this time, I’m supposed to keep on my diet (the doctor’s scale must be off – it said I had lost 3-4 pounds since Thursday), exercise more, and try meditation, yoga, and deep breathing.  He said, “You wouldn’t believe the benefits of doing yoga.  I’ve got people who really turned around their health when they started yoga.”  Go figure.  Heck, I’m game.

Then, when I got home, after all the evening stuff, I luxuriated in a hot bath.  When I got out, I was putty.  I curled up on the sofa with my cat, Sam, and just existed for a while.  Then I suggested to my husband that I get my blood pressure taken some time when I was actually relaxed and petting a cat.  (Petting a cat is key, here.  It is one of the most soothing things for me, and the mere mental image of my hand stroking through the soft hair is enough to steady and slow my pulse rate.)

Up he jumped to go get his own handy-dandy home blood pressure machine.  Heaven alone knows from whence it came, but come it did.  I kid you not, my blood pressure dropped 40+ points from its earlier peak.  40.  That’s in each systolic and diastolic.  And yes, the home machine is accurate.

My friend told me that if my brother tries to communicate with me again, I should tell him, “I’m sorry, my doctor says I’m not allowed to talk to you.”  And if he persists, to say, “Did you not understand what I just said?  My doctor says I’m not allowed to talk to you.”  And leave it at that.

Right now, feeling my blood pressure spike just thinking about the possibility, I’d have to agree with my doctor on this one.

 

Thanksgiving (Part 3)

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It struck me that I forgot to mention the other amusement of Thanksgiving this year.  I’ve established that I need nothing to do with my birth family, and I perhaps intimated that my husband’s family Thanksgiving really wasn’t up my alley.  The best I can say about most of those experiences was that they were… memorable.

One year, we drove nearly four hours to celebrate with them, but they decided to eat early, and they had just finished by the time we arrived.

One year, I was hosting, and I wasn’t going to bring the desserts out until people had a chance to socialize and let their dinners settle.  My mother-in-law threw an almighty tantrum and stormed out.

One year, my brother-in-law made really off-color jokes the whole time – to the point where I realized I never wanted to try to eat at the same table as him again.

One year, I’d invited everyone over to have “pancakes and pajamas” for Thanksgiving morning, but they didn’t have the common decency to call and decline – and let me know that they were throwing their own Thanksgiving shindig.

So, on the whole, I feel pretty secure in the knowledge that I don’t want their brand of crazy for the day.  I think it boils down to the fact that they want everyone there, they want the food all made a certain way, and then people gorge and go.  There’s no real “family” time.  Somewhere in the depths of my heart, I think that there should be time to sit down and play cards or games outside or… something.  It shouldn’t just be about a frenzy to prepare a beast of a meal just for 20 minutes of chewing.

My happiest family gathering memories are seldom of the food itself.  Sure, I enjoy preparing the food with others, working toward a common goal, but to me, the food is window-dressing.  Getting everyone together on a day off means you should be able to spend some quality time, and not just talking, but doing something together.

I loved my family reunions and funerals in the past.  (Funerals were the only way my dad’s side of the family got together, so they kind of blend into my idea of a family reunion.)  There were planned excursions, there were different rooms open, there was movement, there were games, there were chances to go through old photo albums and chances to take new photos.  Yes, there was food, but it was kind of like an open buffet for people to eat when they were hungry, not some militarized approach to meal planning.  In all of that, though, I miss the games and the sports the most.  It was one of the only times when I could get together with enough people who actually wanted to play a game or kick a ball or play catch.  That sort of thing engages me.  Activities with others bring me joy.  And I don’t consider a meal an activity.

Well, all that said, I wasn’t planning on trying to do the in-law Thanksgiving.  I had my husband’s full support on this.  But, when you say anything like that to the family, you’re bound to hurt some feelings.  So, recognizing my little family unit’s complete lack of concern for the traditional Thanksgiving foods, I invited everyone to come to my house this upcoming Saturday, the weekend before Thanksgiving, for a spaghetti luncheon.  I knew that spaghetti is easy to make and that my kids would eat it.  And then I found out, just the day before my brother called, that no one was going to be able to make it to my get-together* because they were moving my sister-in-law.

Apparently, she decided to move, and rather than hire anyone to move her, she decided to do what she’s always done – ask her family to help her.  Now, I have a problem with this.  Actually, I think I have a codex of problems with this, but I’ll simplify them here for the sake of brevity.

First, she moves ALL THE TIME.  Or at least she’s moved more times than I can actually keep track of.  I helped her once.  Once.  She had nothing packed.  She had nothing ready.  It wasn’t simply a matter of moving boxes, it was a complete pack and move.

Second, she does not have moving vehicles, nor will she rent them.  So, it’s pack everything into someone’s car or cars.

Third, she does not get moving boxes.  So, you’re trying to bag things up in giant black garbage bags, of which she has not enough.

Fourth, and most important, she seems to think everyone is still young and spry and able to move her.  Well, I put my foot down on this one with my husband.  I refused to let him move her again.  He’s not getting any younger, and he doesn’t need to risk his health moving anyone, not the least because his job requires a lot of physical strength and ability.  Now, when we were all in our 20’s and 30’s, this wasn’t such a big deal.  Now, however, almost everyone who is helping her move** is 50 years old or older.  That’s the time you sit back and think, If this move is really that important to me, then it’s important to budget in some movers.

Fifth, most of the time recently, she’s moving in the same apartment complex.  I have no words for this.

Okay, so if you move as often as you change underwear, you should budget for it as an entertainment expense or something.  I mean, you should just put a little aside each month in your moving fund and figure that you’ll just hire out the labor.  Now, some of you might say that movers are too expensive, especially when you’ve got a history of getting your family to move you for free.  My response?  Shop around.  Look for cute college undergrads working as movers.  Then hire them, pour yourself a glass of wine, and sit back and enjoy the view.

 

_________________________

*Yippee!  We’re off the hook for having to host anyone this year!  My husband and I both did a happy dance after the initial reaction of feeling spurned.

**I’m not helping her.  Neither is my husband.

*%@# this Diet!

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Love.  That’s a four-letter word I would never associate with a diet.  Nope.  Not ever.

But, I really, really love this diet. 

You see, this past weekend I went on an estrogen-rich camping trip in which every single solitary calorie known to mankind was present.  And I ate them.  I think I ate them all.  Well, except for the ones claimed by the super-thin model-goddesses who lingered in the cabin kitchen sneaking powdered sugar donuts when their daughters weren’t looking. 

I had gone with the intention of keeping to my strict diet plan.  I had brought ingredients to adhere to it faithfully.  And then, somewhere about the chocolate chip oatmeal cookie, I lost it.  I crammed it all in. 

And on the way home, I ate half a small pizza and all my daughter’s crusts (I adore crusts.  They are manna from heaven.)  And I topped it off with a small jar of Halloween candy during my long soak in the bath.

Monday morning, I knew I would be paying on the scale.  I was okay with it.  I had definitely earned every ounce that scale would show.  So, I weighed in.  I slid the balance to about 4 pounds heavier, recognizing that I typically gain 3 pounds from one pizza night.  The scale thunked down.  Okay, too heavy.  I slowly slid the scale lighter.  And lighter.  And lighter.  And realized that I’d lost a quarter of a pound over the weekend. 

WHEEEEeeeeeeeeeeee! 

Okay, so it’s not as though I should be keeping score, but, well, I am.

And, though I never thought I’d say this about a diet, allow me to repeat, I love this diet.

Thanksgiving (Part 2)

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You know, it’s funny how it all works out sometimes.  Sometimes God’s timing is so perfect, you can’t help but know he’s chortling.

So, just the other day I ranted about my feelings toward my wonderful family.  I was pretty stressed about the whole Thanksgiving thing, and I’m sure that tied in with the whole prehypertension fun.  I’d already decided (along with my husband) that we were not going to try to have a big family Thanksgiving.  I wasn’t going to do anything special for my birth family, and trying to enjoy a meal with my husband’s family is like trying to enjoy a root canal.  You can hope and pray that something will numb you for the unpleasant experience, but you know you’re in for an ordeal. 
 
Then, lo and behold, my really good friend (who actually doesn’t read this blog) up and messages me on Facebook, asking if we would like to have Thanksgiving with her little family.  My daughters were very enthusiastic about the whole idea, being that her daughter is one of their very best friends.  My husband liked the idea because he gets along with my friend, and I liked the idea because I wasn’t related by blood to anyone who’d be there.
 
Also, a huge part of me desperately wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving with others.  Even though I pursued avoidance tactics with family, I didn’t truly want to be “alone.” 
 
I wanted to be able to celebrate with friends.  But do you have any idea how difficult it is to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends?  Everyone celebrates with family.  And if they don’t have close family, they’ve already been adopted by another family.  And most people have two or three families!  And they tell you the crazy stories about trying to make 18 Thanksgivings in one week. 
 
And you sit there and think, There is no way I’m going to ask to come to someone else’s Thanksgiving.  I mean, that would be… awkward.  Seriously awkward. 
 
So, instead, I planned to go do something special with my kids and husband and pointedly *not* *do* Thanksgiving.  After all, my kids don’t like turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, peas, cornbread, stuffing, cranberry sauce, or gravy.  They could dig the carrots, rolls, pumpkin pie, and coconut pie.  So, why not just plan a meal they’d enjoy, right?
 
And then the thing I’d been wanting for months fell right into my lap.  It was a gift from God.
 
And then God snickered.
 
Because the very next night my brother called.  Okay, now, you don’t understand.  My brother has not called me in months.  The last time we spoke, he hung up on me after saying that he had kept secrets about my parents moving abruptly from their assisted living. 
 
He told me that he was going to be having Thanksgiving at his in-laws, and wanted to know if I planned to “take Mom and Dad” for Thanksgiving. 
 
Okay, so now I am suddenly back in the picture?  Just because they’re inconvenient?  I don’t think so.  I mean, really, all he would have to do is transport them to his in-laws and back.  It’s not like he’d have to (heaven forbid) make anything or be in charge of anything for Thanksgiving.  Mom and Dad have always been welcome at my brother’s in-laws.  Always.  And they’re all crazy enough to fit in well together.
 
In all honesty, I’ve often hosted Thanksgiving.  Him?  Never.  I’ve taken care of Mom and Dad when he refused to step up to the plate.  Multiple times.  Now, after he’s been keeping secrets and aiding and abetting my drugged-out emotionally infantile brother, now he asks me?  Yeah, no.  You wanted to get involved; now you’re involved.  You wanted me out of the picture; I’m out of the picture.  Now people might have a chance to see what it’s really like with a little bit of separation.  Either it’s going to make them wish I was still part of the family, or it’s going to make them insanely happy that they don’t have to deal with me any more. 
 
So, do I have a point in all this?  Maybe.  I think it’s that God is really looking out for me.  
 
And I really think that God’s timing has him rolling up there, laughing so hard his sides ache. 
 
Because if it were me, that’s what I’d do.

Sadness

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I think I may be allergic to Diet Mountain Dew.

This is a sadness.

I had experienced this bizarre lip-numbness and tingling last week, and I had a sneaking suspicion that the asp in the grass was DMD, so I tried cutting that out entirely this weekend.

Sadly, it worked.

No more numb lip.

*pout*

See, I really enjoy drinking sodas.  I like caffeine.  I even have a pet name for caffeine: “Caffineine”  (The extra “in” makes all the difference.)

And now, alack.  Alack, alack.  Oh, well.  It’s not as though it was even good for me in the first place, right?  It was just nice to have a free pass to have something I enjoy.  On the whole, though, I suppose it’s better to have figured out what doesn’t work before I created some sort of palsy.

Guess I’ll go drink some more water.  Pretty sure I’m not allergic to that.

Thanksgiving

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Facebook is being polluted, or the more charitable would say “populated” by daily posts about that which each person has to be thankful.  It would be a lot nicer if these weren’t daily obligation posts, but instead posts straight from the heart, a moment of pure thanksgiving – given when truly felt. 

I even had the traitorous thought of giving in and doing it myself, but each time I did, I was impeded by the notion that, sooner or later, I would run out of polite things for which to express my thanks, and I would dive right down into the biggest cesspit of thanks that lurks in my soul right now.  So, I’ll come right out and say it: I’m thankful to be free from my birth family.

Over lunch today, I was thinking about this, and I wound up in the unenviable position of being alone at lunch with my thoughts.  With these particular thoughts.  And, like poison gas, sticking around with them too long was bound to sicken me.  Instead, I grabbed a sheet of paper and a pencil and jotted down every depraved thought in my head, trying a cathartic approach to this ambivalent season.

The end result?  A great piece of vitriol, a sheet of paper so incendiary I thought my pocket might explode.  That, and a stomach that couldn’t stomach food.  And hands tingling with cold, like I’ve got a pinched nerve.  And a headache that reaches around my neck and up the base of my skull to throb in sullen pain.

Because when I was done writing it, I realized I wasn’t free after all.  I was still captive to all the murky emotions and guilt and anger and hurt, and that I, while I may be free of them, I am not truly free of what they stand for in my heart.

One of the most painful parts is the worry, the fear that my children will not understand.  That one day they will grow up and be resentful that I cut off dealing with their extended family, that they will not comprehend the soul-searching and pain severing that gangrened limb of my heart has required. 

I know I resented my father for not building relations between me and my cousins.  On the other hand, I don’t think he ever had the kind of drama which has been played out over the past nearly two years of my life.  Will my children ever understand the difference?  Will they hate me for the decisions I’ve made this year?  Or will they realize that I loved them too much to keep them exposed to the toxic nature of my birth family?  Will they grow strong in the knowledge that they are loved and that a person can choose to accept conventions or, alternately, to create their own traditions?

Intellectually, I know that the future is what I make of it, that the holidays are holy when I make them so, that I have the power to create the future in which I want to live.  But fear trumps intellectualism, doesn’t it? 

Well, maybe not.  I’ve got to hope that the future looks as bright as… as that first taste of freedom.

 

Crash

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Okay, I crashed today.  I felt as though I had a fever – I was cold all over, fatigued, and ready to collapse.

Stress.  Just stress.  Just PTA stress.  That’s pretty much enough to ruin the chemistry of my body and send me into total crash.  No actual fever, though.

I was doing okay until after the fact, then my body shut down.  I figured carb-therapy would be beneficial to bring me back to quick equilibrium.  I had 2 slices of frenchbread, a banana, hot tea, and egg beaters.  Now I’m warm and happy.  I think maybe I need to be a little less militant for the next couple of days about the meal plan, going ahead and having the fruit, milk, and bread that’s allowed.  Yeah, a modicum of sanity might be good.

So, PTA stress, conjunctivitis, and having to wear glasses.  Not the best combination in my world.  Stupid, but it is what it is.

___

30 min. later – Full blown fever of 100 degrees.  Treatment?  Emergency Halloween candy and a hot bath with two Advil.

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Next morning – right as rain.  Stress sucks.  Back on meal plan.  Still wearing glasses.