Category Archives: Family Drama

The Power in Forgiveness and Gratitude

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So my mom died.

And there was a funeral.

And I was dreading it.

Not because I couldn’t say goodbye to my mom. She’d been declining for years, had many health problems, and had one last round in the hospital and been released to hospice care. I’d been to see her and said my goodbyes. We parted on good terms.

No, I was dreading it because of who would be in attendance. Namely, my dysfunctional family.

So there’s my dad. He has Parkinson’s, disowned me, seated me with several thousand dollars in bills, and then asked me to take him back into my life to care for him.

Then there’s my sister. Well, half-sister. She disappeared nine years ago and hasn’t made any attempt to stay in contact with me. She got disowned, too, but she’s a pathological liar, morbidly obese to the tune of about 350 pounds, bisexual drug addict who introduced me to marijuana when I was in grade school, and is 17 years older than I am.

And my brother. Well, half-brother. He stays out of touch. He lives in California. He had been silent on Facebook and then started posting conspiracy, right-wing, bigoted, inflammatory spam all over his feed. When I saw my ex had recently friended him, I un-friended him. There was nothing worth seeing.

And lastly my two full brothers. The older, who had always used my parents as a personal cash cow, who had ruined their credit by failing to pay for his car that was in their name, who had worked to move my parents out of the nursing home I’d put them in – behind my back and with no notice to the nursing home, also a bisexual drug addict incapable of keeping a job who had moved to, what? Ohio? Iowa? some random state and finally gotten a job managing a pool supply store. The one closest in age to me had largely been a screen, hiding any facts from me, actively lying to me, and generally pretending that he wasn’t hurting anyone. Yeah, he was the one who finally got saddled with “taking care of my parents.” Such as that was. I have it on authority from the nurses that he had so rarely been to see them at the most recent nursing home move that they didn’t know what he looked like.

Oh, and then the family *I* divorced. My ex-mother-in-law and my ex-sister-in-law, i.e. my daughters’ other grandmother and my daughters’ aunt.

What’s remarkable in all this drama is that, the way it played out with my blood family, there was a detente.  We nodded at each other, and they kept their distance so that I didn’t have to use the sympathy pineapple to bash in the sides of their heads, which was my plan if they tried to hug me. (They give domineering bear hugs. Wet, domineering bear hugs. Crushing, wet, trapping hugs.)

So, they didn’t try to hug me. I didn’t draw blood in the church with my pineapple.

The part that surprised me was the interaction with my ex-mother-in-law. Everything was done. Everything was over. We’d gotten through the viewing. I’d gone and welcomed them and even let them hug me. We’d progressed through the service. I’d gone to bury my mom at the gravesite in the bitterly cold rain. We’d returned to the church reception. We’d made it through to the time when people should have been leaving.

And she attacked.

“So, aren’t you going to introduce me?” she demanded, walking up to me and Fiance-Man.

So I did.

And then she did it.

“I’m her mother-in-law. I’ll always be her mother-in-law.” Those actual words came out of her mouth when I introduced the woman to my fiance.

And I’d had enough.

“Point of order,” I said, choosing to fight this battle. “No, you’re not. I divorced your son. I am no longer married to him. You are not my mother-in-law. You are my children’s grandmother, but you ceased to be my mother-in-law when the I divorced your son.”

And she had the audacity to try to contradict me.

And I think I tore her a new one about the way her son acted and treated the girls and me before some very kindly-meaning friends worked to herd me away from her.

I was so angry at the time, but I needed to be shepherded away because she never would have been the first to back down. I was so livid at being “handled” that I made Fiance-Man upset by implying that I “didn’t need him.” No, I just didn’t need to feel “handled.” Looking back, I know now I needed it. There was no other way out of that forsaken conversation.

And so I apologized and admitted I was wrong.

And I stewed a few days and then called my ex-mother-in-law and apologized for essentially holding her son’s behavior as something she could have any responsibility for. However, really truly thinking about it now, I basically was just trying to get her to see that the REASON I was DIVORCED was BECAUSE of her son’s behavior. And when you’re divorced and moving on, you cut some ties quite legally. But I called her and apologized… and MOVED ON. I was able to let go of that horrible experience, let go of some of the hold that horrific memory has on me.

And then this morning I wrote thank-you notes to the ladies at the church who had done all the things to make my mother’s service a lovely event, a celebration of life, a true memorial of her vitality. It felt so good to express all the gratitude in my heart. It was the only other time I truly cried.

You will ride in the limo

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No, no, I won’t ride in the limo.

I do not want to be any closer to you than I must be. I will help you make tough decisions, I will write my mother’s obituary in 40 words or less, I will go to the viewing, the service, and even the interment and be pleasant at all of it.

I will not ride in the limo.

To ride in the limo means that I would actually have to sit in the same enclosed space as you, breathe the same air as you, possibly touch you, and definitely smell you.

Simply put, I value not being in jail.  And I would probably be arrested for assault.  And I would owe the funeral home for cleaning the upholstery in the limo.

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So I took half a day off work yesterday to help with plans for my mother’s funeral.

And, just as I was leaving work, I get a message that the meeting was cancelled by the funeral home.

Okay, whatever.

The meeting was rescheduled for today at 9am.

I was not about to take off another day for this – especially not if it meant sitting in the same room as two of my brothers and my father.

So I get these texts that detail the plans: 2pm visitation, 3pm service, interment, reception

Okay. I can deal with this. Even if I wanted to avoid the whole graveside service thing at any cost, I can deal with it.

And then I get the text:
You will ride with us in limo from the nursing home.

Excuse me?

First, thank you for inviting or asking me.

Second, from the nursing home? Do you mean the funeral home?

Third, um, NO. No, I have other transportation, thanks.  No, I do not want to be trapped in a conveyance with you. No, I do not want to be separated from my children. No, this would not bring me comfort, make things easier on me, or help me or anyone else in any tangible way.

I already told the pastor that I need to be kept AWAY from my birth family. I do not need the opportunity to lash out at these people who would intentionally (and unintentionally) push my buttons, goad me, and keep me from being able to grieve in my own way.  What I need is for my friends to be my human buffer zone, for them to intervene between me and my birth family, and for me to have the least interaction possible with them. Yes, I am an actress, but my performances top out after so long.

I wouldn’t want to make a scene, but I also don’t trust myself to be strong when I am emotionally overwrought.

So, no, thanks, I’ve got my own transportation already. I’m riding with my girls.

Good grief

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Grief comes in many forms: there’s the grief over your spilled coffee when it was the last of the package of Red Velvet coffee from World Market, there’s the grief over the loss of a pet, the grief over the loss of a once-possible future, grief over the end of a relationship, grief over the loss of a loved one, a parent, a friend, a child, a sibling, a grandparent.

I’ve known many of these, and today I am re-experiencing the grief over the loss of my mom.

My mom died in her sleep last night after struggling with pneumonia and problems swallowing and a whole host of other medical problems. She’d been on hospice care for about three weeks after being dismissed from the hospital, so it wasn’t unexpected.

However, it hit me anew today.

I’d already been through a grieving process because my parents had disowned me a few years ago. They had lied to me, sent bill collectors (for their bills, mind) after me, cut me out of all communication, hidden their whereabouts from me, and then… used me. Used me as a way to store their hoarder’s house, used me as a way to deal with all their messes, used me as a permanent address when they didn’t want to give out their nursing home address.

My brother tried to use me as a way to take care of Mom and Dad over the holidays, tried to use me as a responder when they had a health scare, tried to use me as a way to not have to deal with their hoarded stuff.

Last year, my dad asked if he and my mom could come back to live with me.

I had to tell them no.

No, I couldn’t open myself up to that much hurt any more. No, I couldn’t expose myself to the lies, the deceit, the recriminations. No, I just physically and financially couldn’t take care of them any more (I am still paying off their stay in the first nursing home).

And in all this time, I grieved.

I racked myself with guilt for not being the dutiful daughter, for not pursuing them, for not maintaining a relationship with them, for not giving of myself, my time, and my resources to support them. I felt guilty for placing them in a care facility even though it was ultimately their choice. I felt guilty for a number of things. I felt guilty for the angry words I said. I felt guilty for living in their house when they disappeared.

I realize I grieved for the loss of a trusting filial relationship.

Some of that guilt stuff was just a mess, just something I didn’t really need to take on to myself because they could have made different decisions, too. They could have told me that they wanted to move back into their house and take care of themselves and send me back to my own house. They didn’t. Instead, they lied and conspired and treated me as a contemptible outcast – until they needed something. I was a tissue – to be used and discarded – and maybe used again if there were no other likely tissues when the need arose.

I have lived with that guilt, that resentment over the situation, and the grief for the loss of my parents for years.

And now, today, I have good, clean grief. It’s honest grief. My mom died, and I grieve her loss.

But it’s odd because I’ve already been in the grieving process so long that it’s not hitting me like a sledgehammer. It’s not knocking me out and incapacitating me.  Instead, it’s just stealing in and quietly mugging me, draining me of energy here and there, sporadically making me exhausted.

Oh, I had my ugly cry this morning. I cried and sobbed and snot ran down my face. Then I got over it. I got up, started breathing again, and finished out my yoga practice and went home and got my kids ready for school and got dressed for work and showed up on time and did my job. Yes, I took a nap over lunch when it snuck up on me, but otherwise, it’s not this overpowering darkness today.

Perhaps it helps that, in reality as well as in my mind, she died last night. It wasn’t today. There was nothing I could have do. There is nothing I can do. So there is no reason to get overly worked up over it.

It also wasn’t sudden. She’d been on hospice care.

We also weren’t close any more. She’d done more than distance herself from me over the past few years.

I think the saddest parts are when I think back to how close we were. When I think about how she helped take care of my daughters as infants, when I think of the phone conversations, how she helped me go to college, to Europe, to get my braces done, how I took care of her after her heart attacks or stroke, when we were best buddies, those are the times when I feel the loss.

But in the end, we weren’t. We weren’t best buddies. We were distant acquaintances. She knew nothing of my life and I nothing of hers.

I’m not going to kid myself and think her death will have no impact on me, but I think I may now be over the messy, guilt-ridden grief. I may now know how clean good grief feels.

Bailey’s Irish Cream is Always a Good Idea

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At this point, I have NO idea how much alcohol I have consumed.  Suffice to say, enough that I allowed my children to stay up until 10:30 pm without me pitching a fit, and still playing Settlers of Catan with them.

Apparently, Bailey’s Irish Cream is a GOOD THING.

It sounded appealing.  I mean, when we got out of yoga and out of the gym tonight, it sounded good enough that I was willing to make a liquor store stop for some.  And that’s when I realized I’d left my debit card at the house. Cue the theme music, because that’s when Fiancé Man came to the rescue.  He offered to run in and buy the Irish Cream I requested.  (At the time, I had no idea it would only come in a 1.75 Liter bottle at $50)

So we got back to his house and the girls and I settled in to let them have some warm milk and me have some Bailey’s.  It was somewhere in the neighborhood of 9:15pm.  And at 9:50, I called it as time to stop the game at 10:00.  And then I kind of really enjoyed the Bailey’s and decided that it was maybe a good night for us to keep playing just a few more minutes while I refreshed my glass.

And then I noticed that my younger daughter hadn’t finished her milk yet, so it was a good enough reason to still have some company while I sipped my Bailey’s.

And then it was Time To Go To Bed.  And my glass was empty. Sadness.

But there was still a whole giant Costco bottle of Bailey’s right there on the counter. And I was Doing Dishes so I deserved a Reward. Full glass. Bonus.

And then snacks sounded like a good idea. So far, I have had almond butter, almonds covered in burnt caramel and dark cocoa powder, plantain chips, a caramel chocolate robin’s egg, a couple of pecans, almonds, and Brazil nuts, and another happy spoonful of almond butter.  I  have officially decided that the world is right when there is almond butter.  The world is even more right when you get to make the almond butter freshly ground at Whole Foods at the push of a button.  It’s SO MUCH FUN!  And then it tastes good, on top of the fact that you got to use a heavy-duty grinder like a mad scientist to fill a little plastic carton, all crunchy and smooth and rich and a hint of sweetness all at the same time.  I am ADDICTED.

My cup is now empty again.  Well, empty is a relative term.  It has ice cubes.  Hypothetically, if I wait long enough, they will melt and combine with the Bailey’s residue to create enough liquid to be sipped.  Either that, or I could pour myself just a teensy bit more, just enough to finish blogging, even around all my increasingly amusing typographical errors. 

Ah, that’s better.  A teensy bit more.  Fleshed out with more fresh ice cubes.

That makes me think about the wedding and the party.  How will we handle alcohol?  I mean, we both like to drink.  Not to excess (all evidence notwithstanding in this particular post), but we do enjoy a hearty adult beverage with good company.  I know some venues just charge per person on alcohol and you have to hire one of their bartenders.  I’m actually completely agreeable to that.  I just want it to be as hassle-free as possible and to have us all have a good time.  

And speaking of weddings, it may be crazy, but I was looking forward to selling the house I’d bought with my first husband because it looked as though this deal was going to go through where I would be able to sell the house and walk away with enough money to cover my high-interest debt.  I’ve been drowning under this house for the past five months what with repairs and house payments.  I’ve been renting it out, but the rental fees are only going to cover the cost of the sewer system and roof repairs I had to have done.  I’m supposed to have even been giving them more money on top of all that, but I’m tapped out.  

See, Robert, my first husband, decided he’d had enough with pretending to be a responsible adult and a high school physics teacher, so he “walked.”  Actually, he drove away from me and my kids without any warning, without any word, without any contact.  And he took his paychecks and cashed out his bank account and went to live with his mistress Lynette in Utah – and her kids, her husband, and her dad.  And Robert changed his name to Jack and started living a completely different life and created a new Facebook profile (because who can live without Facebook, I may ask) and decided that he only felt moved enough to try to contact me around major holidays – such as just before Thanksgiving, right at Christmas, cards for my daughters’ birthdays, mid-February (Valentine’s, perhaps?). He didn’t actually show up for any of the divorce proceedings – not for the temporary orders, not for the final decree.  The only time he drove through was when Lynette decided to visit her family, and he tagged along.  One thing and another, he missed seeing any of us because we were all out of town that week.  Okay, so that’s the sob story in a nutshell.  But the hard truth of the matter is that he has sent absolutely NOTHING in child support. Not. A. Dime. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nothing to cover the children’s medical, nothing to cover child care, nothing to cover new clothes, nothing to cover food. So here I am stuck with a house that’s in my name with a loan in his name that is not transferable and nearly $1000 a month house payments on top of everything else.  Honestly, if i just didn’t have to fork over the house payment for that rental property, I’d be doing okay. But back in March the sewer system went out. Then in April the roof went out. And that was a total of nearly $10,000 I had to find. And that was on top of $4000 in taxes for the house I live in plus about $7000 in attorney fees. So in the course of six months or so, I lost my husband and his income, incurred debts nearly equal to 40% of my annual income, and have been scrambling to cut costs and reduce financial entanglements everywhere I turn. Did I mention that Robert hasn’t paid a dime of child support? That money would have been exceedingly helpful almost the whole time. But it’s a lost cause. There’s no way to get blood out of a turnip, and there’s no way to get money out of a deadbeat dad.

The important thing about all of this was that I was going to sell the one house to get myself on  solid financial footing. I was going to become the kind of person financially that I wouldn’t be afraid to marry.  I was looking at this financial deal as a kind of permission to go through with getting married to my fiancé because I didn’t want to have him supporting me. I didn’t want to be a drag on him financially. I wanted to bring something to the relationship, something tangible and of concrete value.

His argument is that I am bringing myself and my daughters to the relationship, that we complete his life and make him feel fulfilled by being with him and sharing in his life, pursuits, entertainments, and interests, that he has always wanted a family and he realized after a certain point that if he was ever going to connect with a woman, she would be divorced, she would have kids, and he would have a “ready-made” family. And somehow I was that woman.

Even knowing that he is completely supportive, even knowing that he would drop everything to come to my rescue, even knowing that he is my rock, I still feel as though the rug was ripped out from under me when this house deal fell through. I saw it as a way to validate myself and show that I am capable of taking care of my messes, that I don’t always need rescuing, that I am rock-steady in my own right. Instead, it was a day when he held me as my body was racked with gut-wrenching sobs, as I fought to pull myself together and get a new perspective, as I had to come to terms with more months of living lean and denying my kids some of the basic things they want and need in order to squeak by.  

Because regardless of how much he cares for us, I will not ask him to be the sole provider and breadwinner.  It may take me another month or two to get on my feet, but I will persevere.

Hell, I’ve lived through all of the bad days with 100% success rate so far; I might as well embrace the fact that I can live through more.

And, some nights, a glass – or two – or four – of Bailey’s might just help with that.

Top Conversations I Never Wanted to Have

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So far, 2013 has sucked.  It’s been basically one hit after another – and a lot of mud.

All this has led me recently to have some of the worst conversations in my life:

I don’t know where your Daddy is.

This is an all-time great conversation to have with kids.  The best part about this conversation is that you don’t have to have it right away.  Usually, they don’t notice for a bit that Daddy isn’t there.

Your Daddy lost his job.

This is the soft-touch to explaining that you have no clue when Daddy will be home, because when he lost his job, he went a little crazy, yelled and screamed swear words at you, and cut off all contact.

I am divorcing your Daddy.

This one takes some preparation and forethought. You don’t want to time this one wrong. Yes, you need to answer their questions honestly, but wait until they are home from school, done with homework, done with gymnastics, etc. There will be a lot of crying.

Your parakeet died.

Okay, I admit, it seems a little out of place, but the parakeet really did die the night he left.  Now, if you have a kid with a sardonic sence of humor, she might put it together that it was the only male parakeet, and Daddy was the only male in the family…

Hi, I’m looking for CB.  This is his wife.

Not a conversation I had with my kids.  No, this was me calling Colostomy Bag’s mistress and trying to locate him in order to serve him divorce papers more efficiently.  The more times they have to try to find him, the more it costs me.  However, on the balance, the emotional cost of this voicemail was probably far greater than any monetary considerations would have ever been.  I was literally shaking for half an hour afterward, coming down from the adrenaline high of the potential confrontation.

Isn’t it funny?

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So when you’re pumping along, going through the day, you mentally compose all these great blog posts.  You have witty, funny, pithy things to say.  Then, out of the blue, you have time to actually sit down and write, and yet you have nothing of substance to say?  You stare blankly at the equally blank screen with a bank of blank thoughts blanking out the day.

And then you have another sip of wine, because, really, when doesn’t wine make everything better?

And the best part about me and wine is that it makes hitting the delete key that much easier.  I had started typing this run-down on the latest bit of family drama, but I realize I don’t care enough right now to actually remember all the juicy bits.  And that’s fine by me.  I mean, really, who wants to hear about something that pitiful in detail?  Suffice it to say, I had a “moment,” and my dear friend talked me out of the wallowing in guilt and self-flagellation that I’m so very good at.

The best part was that everything she said was accurate.  And she knew what she was talking about, because her family gives mine a run for its money in the crazy category.  Not to mention that she had been here when everything was happening, so she had been in on the ground floor of insanity and knew all the fire escapes.  She helped me acknowledge that my family have put themselves in an untenable position despite my best efforts, not because of them.  She reminded me that most of the reason that things didn’t work out was because my parents weren’t willing to do the basic maintenance on themselves to keep themselves able to live without constant nursing supervision.  If they had only done something, we would have still been able to care for them.  Tonight, I reflected on this as I drove home, and I realized that it was really a blessing that I was forced out of it all, because I had been putting myself in debt to care for them, both financially and emotionally.   I had nothing left to give, and I was trapped.

So, without going into detail about it, I managed to pretty much go into detail about it.  How’s that for a worthless post?

It seems as though it doesn’t matter how much progress I make in freeing myself from this ugly knot of guilt and negative thinking, I come straight back to it.  But it also feels easier to let it go each time.  Yes, it’s there.  Yes, I feel guilt.  Now, let’s think about something else.

And right now, that something else is reading Harry Potter to my girls.

Penguins, Dogs, and Mangoes

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I don’t know.  I’m so scattered this morning.  Today is MLK day, and I don’t have kids.  I still have to (get to) go to work.  I still get to put in a full day, but my kids are across town for a sleepover.  That’s because the daycare where I typically send them is closed today in honor of the holiday.  That’s fantastic, but I feel adrift starting my day without my penguin and dog, aka my little one and older one.

I should be amazingly liberated and happy.  I have all this freedom to do whatever I want.  Instead, there’s just a general sense of greyness.  It’s like a fog over my morning.  Sure, I haven’t gotten worked up because no one is following my directions, but I also haven’t had the little chirpy conversations or morning hugs or anything like that to get me going.  And though I cannot to save my life do something which requires strict daily fidelity, when my patterns of action are broken, I feel a little lost.  I guess they’re just a happy (if often trying) part of my morning routine.  Without them, I probably will forget half of what I need to bring today, run late because I’m not chivvying them out the door, and be “off” most of the day.  I need them to be my full and complete “me.”  The best part of my day today will be getting to pick them up.

And that’s what kind of sucks.  When I’ve got them, I appreciate them, but sometimes I feel as though I might get more done, be more productive, have less to do, if I only had a few hours without them.  And then here I am, the day I don’t have them, getting approximately zilch accomplished because I’m lonely.  Grrr.

Well, actually, I do feel as though writing is accomplishing something, but you know what I mean.

Okay, enough about that.  I still have a fragment of time before I must depart.

We did go and check on our house last night.  The one that for the past few months we let out to my sister-in-law and brother-in-law (not married to each other – they’re siblings).  Yeah, that didn’t work out so well.  The best part was that it ended before the New Year.  That means that nearly all the horrible family drama (and I feel my blood pressure spiking just typing those words – lovely) was confined to 2011.  That must mean that 2012 will be better in that regard.  Well, we knew my husband’s brother and sister were moving back from the Grand Canyon.  So we had this house that was sitting empty,* and we thought it would be great if the house payment was covered, at least in part, by someone renting it from us.  We knew that they needed to find work and all, so we put the payment as really low – $100 per week, bills paid.  Seriously.  And they still didn’t make the rent more often than not.  And it was always excuses.  “We didn’t get enough hours.”  “We couldn’t get a job.”  “We had to pay the cell phone bill.”  But because it was his siblings, we couldn’t really come down hard on them, even though we had a renter’s agreement.  Even his ever-loving mom stepped in and pleaded with us to continue to let them stay.  Well, let me tell you – their excuses were bogus.  I don’t give a rat’s patootie.  They were full of it and milking their brother for all they were worth.  But did I have room to talk?  Not much.  Not after all the crap we went through with my family and that he put up with.  Then, without any real notice, we find out that they moved out.  Part of me wanted to be angry, “Hey, you still owe us money, you twerps!”  But the rest of me was just glad to get my house back.  See, I have this horrible feeling that everything here is going to go wahoonie-shaped, and I want to have a fall-back plan.  I want to have a house that’s mine through and through in case that happens.  No, I don’t want to uproot my family and move again, but I want security.

So here’s my initial game plan: we’re going to work on clearing out the rest of our stuff from the other house now that we’ve got places for it and now that we’re more comfortable with letting go of stuff (garage sale!).  I really want to get all the “stuff” handled before Spring Break.  That gives us roughly two months, so it should be feasible without becoming a major stress fixation.  We’re going to do that in bits and pieces.  It’ll be bite-size chunks, or like someone in a writing class once said, “Mangoes for the wolverine.”  Apparently, he and his roommate had a pet wolverine, and they would feed it bits of mango before it’s real meal, as sort of an appetizer.  That’s how I think we might be able to accomplish getting it all done.  Otherwise, I think I would be overwhelmed by trying to live my life, do things with the kids, go to work, keep house over here, and figure out the other house.  So, we’re planning to divide and conquer by taking turns over-nighting at the other house.  My husband’s got crazy days off right now, falling at all times during the week, so it makes sense for him to go out there Tuesday night and spend all day Wednesday working on the house, either fixing and cleaning or sorting and clearing things.  Then, Saturday, after we do our indenture selling Girl Scout cookies at table sales (seriously, like five hours – yay), we’ll be heading out there to spend the night so that I can go through a whole bunch of treasures and junk** that we accumulated in our bid to become hoarders ourselves.  Of course, part of my evil plan is that I will continue to sell Girl Scout cookies in that neighborhood, too, thus sealing my bid for world-wide dominance!  Bwahahahaha!

Really, I just know that I can do it if I don’t have the pressure of needing to get it all done in just a few hours.  If I know that it’s mangoes for the wolverine, I probably will be able to handle it – and having my penguin and dog along will help, too.

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*Well, we still had stuff in it because we’re recovering hoarders and we had moved into a house that was full of my parents’ hoarded stuff, so we didn’t have room for a whole bunch of things we really cared about – so we just left it in our old house.

**Treasures include some things like our marriage license and favorite books that we like to re-read.  Junk includes some stuff that we picked up along the way, either thinking we might be able to use it later, or more often because someone wanted to get rid of their hoard dumped it on us, and we were too naive to say, “No, thanks.”

Remind me to bring: glue to fix books, Girl Scout cookies to push off, I mean sell, my badge, my phone, my wallet, my water… gosh, what am I still forgetting?  Oh – COFFEE!  Granted, I’ve already had two large cups, but more is happy-making.

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!)

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.

 

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*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.