Never Ending Dysfunction

My sister has been staying at my mom’s house for a visit.  These visits are tremendously stressful for her because she will harbor the ideas of guilt of what she should be doing for her mom, but her ideas of what she could be doing rarely turn into action because she becomes quickly overwhelmed.  My sister and my mom can’t get along but they have this relationship where they can’t leave each other alone and I often play odd man out.

I went to visit, a bit of a drive from where I live.  I thought we would have some lunch and that would be it.  As soon as I get there, I can see my mother is struggling to keep up with being able to live alone.  I don’t know that she takes her meds appropriately.  Any suggestions of what could be done to make her life easier are instantly shot down.

At this point my mother is angry that we have confronted some of the issues that she struggles with.  She takes her anger out on my sister who has been drinking during her stay with my mom.  Now I more than anyone understand the anger and frustration with my sister’s drinking.   The things my mom says though are unspeakably cruel.  She calls her a slut multiple times, she says she wants nothing to do with her and that she(my sister) is not her daughter any more.

At this time my sister’s normal reaction is to bolt.  She usually ends up in a bar somewhere.  This time she tells me she can’t take her life anymore, she is depressed and wants to get help.

So we go to the emergency room and work our way through the system to see what can be done.  Her blood alcohol level is sky high.  The staff asks her lots of questions and her answers sometimes vary.  A physician asks her about the quantity she drinks each day.  On this occasion she says her drink of choice is wine(she drinks anything).  Once she tells him she drinks two glasses of wine.  Another time she tells him she drinks a box of wine a day.  “A box?” he says, puzzled, but then moves on.  I’m not sure the physician knew boxed wine was an actual thing.

My sister is directed to a treatment center eventually where she currently withdrawing from alcohol.  I hope it works.  Earlier in the week she had attended an AA meeting where she met a man who gave her more alcohol and tried to assault her.

I’m not sure what the answers are.  I pray that this time she can gain peace and sobriety.

Summer Snippets…The Graveyard of Old Hurts

Circumstances have dictated that I must spend more time with my sister and my mom. Being around family means that old disagreements and painful memories come back to the surface.

It is okay to examine these old hurts for a time.  It gets dangerous for me though when they start to consume my thoughts.  Memories I thought were long dead come back to life to haunt me.

When those old memories haunt me, it is easy for my depression to sneak in and cast a dark cloud over everything.

I know for now I must say goodbye to the graveyard.  Time to get back amongst the living.

Tea Cup

She saw the tea cup decorated with red roses in the antique shop and she knew she had to buy it.  She was sure her grandmother had a tea cup identical to it. She had always loved that tea cup.  Whatever had happened to it?

It was funny how a simple tea cup made her think about her grandmother for the rest of the day.  She had regrets that she had never tried to get to know her grandmother better, for now it was too late.  The tea cup was a symbol of her grandmother’s struggles, of a hard life.  Her life had so many more opportunities and physical comfort  compared to that of her grandmother.

She was never quite sure what to say to her grandmother, after all they didn’t seem to have much in common.  Now she wondered, what part of my grandmother is in me? There was the faintest hint of her grandmother’s bone structure in her face.

The tea cup was always on display, one of her grandmother’s treasured items in her small house.  Grandmother kept her house neat, and took good care of everything she had.

Grandmother was a “little old lady” presumably delicate. However she’d lived a much harder life than her granddaughter.  Her parents had come from the old world. Grandmother dropped out of school at an early age to begin working.  She’d worked on and off throughout her adult life, out of economic necessity.  Those memes about fifties housewives, they’d never quite applied to her.

She found a treasured place for the tea cup with red roses.  Every time she looked at it she would smile just a little bit and think of her grandmother.

Summer Snippets…Time Travel, Role Reversal

Sitting in my mother’s living room, in the house I mostly grew up in, I feel like I am travelling back in time.

The living room especially hasn’t changed very much since I was a kid.  Some new furniture mixed in with the old.  The paintings on the wall are the same.  Newer curtains that look just like the old.  Other parts of the house evoke a similar feeling.  As I sit in a chair in her living room it is easy to let my mind drift by to the days of being a teen.  I get the same feeling in the dining room, memories of dozens of holiday meals and who sat where at the table and what sort of dishes were used.  At times it is a comforting feeling. Other times I look around at things that could be spruced up or fixed, if only mom would let us.

One day, mom sat in a chair and I fixed her hair for her.  I was glad to do it, but perhaps not ready for the role reversal.  I’m sure many more role reversals are yet to come.

Summer Snippets…All Day Text Drama

That damn invention called a smart phone sits there, threatening to rattle my peace with a vibration that yet another text has come from my sister.

She has been texting me all day long some days.  Texts about trivia.  Texts about how hard she has it.  Texts about how she is better than me.  Texts where she is aggravated that I haven’t responded to her sooner. Texts where she is angry. Texts about how she does more to take care of our mom, continually neglecting the fact that she has agreed to take care of things for my mom for the short term in exchange for PAY.

Maybe I am just too old, but sometimes I’d like to flush the phone down the toilet.  My husband and I don’t do the all day texting thing.  My kids might do the all day texting thing…but not with their mom.  I text, sure, but about boring stuff…what time to pick up the boy, or that we need milk, blah, blah, blah.

There is no time too early to text, or too late to text.  When I am around my family I have just taken to turning the phone off so I don’t get jumpy when I hear the phone vibrate. When I am at work I just leave it in my purse.

Technology is nice, some of the time.  Maybe I am a freak, but I just don’t get this expectation of having to communicate with someone all day long.

Summer Snippets…Odd Woman Out

My mother is aging and she needs more help.  She is trying to bounce back after a hospital stay.  In our own way we are each trying to help her.  It is scary to travel on the interstate to see your mom so much you barely remember your trip, you are so busy thinking of all of the family drama.

My sister wants to make this a contest.  She has done so much, according to her.  She perhaps has done a little more than me, but I want to scream YOU ARE GETTING PAID by mom to help out.  I don’t expect to get paid, but I sure don’t appreciate your martyr complex when you keep leaving that detail out.

Sister says she has been spending hours upon hours cleaning.  I’m not sure where those hours were spent as the kitchen sink, the refrigerator, stove all have a coat of scum on them.  Perhaps a coat of scum that my mother just does not see anymore or doesn’t have the energy to care about. Maybe my sister doesn’t clean her own kitchen…who knows.  So while she has a temper tantrum, I clean the kitchen. My sister has trashed the part of the house she is staying in. Hopefully when my sister picks all her crap up from the floor, my mother won’t notice that a room that had stayed pristine over the years now has a stained carpet.  WTF.

There is a weird dance between my sister and I.  She has been lashing out at everyone and anyone because she feels left out.  She is mad that her life choices have put her in a place where she is in a financial mess, so god forbid anyone have more opportunities than she does.  Yet she seems to forget that between the three of us, my mom, my sister and I, it is I who have been left out.  Whether my sister and mom are getting along or not, they have always been in constant contact….not so for me.

I’d like to think my sister is staying sober.  Even if she is sober, it seems like her brain has changed over the years in a way I no longer understand.  She is paranoid about hurts others have inflicted on her, but seems to have almost no memory of her behaviors.

You would think after decades on earth together, we would have this family thing figured out.

Mother’s Day

It is getting close to Mother’s Day as I write this post.

Mother’s Day..what is it?  Many years ago it was a fairly low key affair with my mom. After I was married, for a while it seemed to be a battle for whose mother reigned supreme..his mother or my mother.  While my mother in law was still living, it was expected that we would always put her first..beyond whatever I might wish to do with my mother, or what I might like to do once I became a mother.

These days it is back to being a more low key affair that I spend with my kids.

It is also a time of reflection.  As my kids get older I look back to some of the difficult times I had with my own mom.  I hope and I pray that I can be a mom without all the drama I grew up with.

Today I was thinking about when to step back.  Sometimes it is hard not to hover and interject my own opinions over trivial things.

Most of all though, I think about how blessed(lucky, grateful) my husband and I have been by our children.  They are definitely more than the sum of our parts.

Family Motto, and other thoughts

Surfing the internet the other day I came across a blog where the mother included the family motto.  I can’t remember the whole motto, but I do remember it included the line “Creating a Family of Significance”.   I wonder how one defines a family of significance? Would my family live up to her definition?   Her blog was full of those sorts of posts where one can measure their success as a parent.  Nine things you should never do for your kids, four things you must teach your kids, blah, blah.  Well I have already found out I am lacking as a parent because I don’t make my teen do all his own laundry.  I’m probably also lacking because my husband and I haven’t created a family motto yet.  I can’t really think of anything lofty, perhaps “In all things love, with plenty of fun and good food along the journey”.

While wasting more time, I came across an odd post about a Roomba and some dog poop.  You can use your imagination to figure out what happened next. Apparently the owners of the dog and the Roomba had autoprogrammed the Roomba to run in the middle of the night.  I have to say I was a little suspicious of the post.  I don’t have a Roomba, but if I did I’d almost surely trip on it going to the bathroom if it was running in the middle of the night.  My own dog would wake up and get aggravated with the Roomba, thus waking up the rest of the household.  A Roomba doesn’t look very big to handle dog hair.  They seem rather expensive just to free you up from the physical annoyance of doing vacuuming the old-fashioned way.  And if the Roomba doesn’t have the intelligence to avoid a pile of dog poop, it probably wouldn’t know to avoid whatever potential obstacles could be found on my son’s floor.  Writing that sentence, I know that could spark a blog post for those perfect moms with family mottos.  I still vacuum his room for him, and he still leaves the occasional set of earbuds on the floor.

Teaching Your Children

We teach our children many things. Some things we teach directly, like how to tie their shoes or how to ride a bike. Children learn by watching our behaviors, whether they be positive or not. We teach values to our children, perhaps hoping they will travel the same path we do in life.

I was reading a blog post from a dad who expressed the thought that traditional femininity was something his young daughter should be taught, and he would be active in the teaching process. By traditional femininity here I mean notions such as women should have long hair, women should strive to look conventionally attractive and they should cultivate sweet demure personalities. The girl growing up in this household would have little freedom.

I was brought up in a religious household where there was a certain brand of traditional femininity was taught. It was especially focused on females having little freedom, even as adults.

Growing up, I would often bristle at the things I was taught. For the most part I wouldn’t express it though. Having grown up in a household where a certain brand of femininity was taught, I realized certain things. These things wouldn’t have to apply to femininity alone, but anything you might think is important to teach your child. Your child will:
1)Buy into your value system
2)Maybe adopt some of your values but not others
3)Totally reject your value system

If your child doesn’t buy into your value system, eventually they will go their own way, no matter how hard you have tried to make them conform.

Some things my parents taught me I eventually tossed aside. Some other things they taught, though were definitely good life lessons.
Some of these include:
1)The value of reading and the library…My parents were both readers in their own way. My mom especially loved the library and we went there often as children. There was always a bit of excitement hoping you would find a hidden treasure.
2)My parents believed in making do. There was never a big rush to buy a new car, or other expensive purchases, even though they could afford it.
3)They were impeccable with their finances. They were both good investors. They would be horrified to pay a bill late. Of course due to hard work and some luck they tried to live their life together in a way that there wouldn’t be any worry. I realize that despite hard work, many people still have a hard time financially.

Now just because they had these values doesn’t mean their children necessarily grew up with the same values. I would say I am good with reading and making do. I don’t think my husband and I will end up with the same kind of nest egg when we reach retirement, but we do try to do our best. My sister, has probably destroyed her finances entirely in part due to her alcoholism.

Some things you might think are just common sense, things that everyone teaches their kids. Years ago, I went to visit my sister, long before I knew she struggled with alcoholism, and some things shocked me. She had many things stored at room temperature that you would normally keep in the refrigerator(at least at our house). I never asked her about it, but it was definitely a what the heck moment.

My husband and I have values we hold important. We hope we’ve taught our children well enough to be kind out in the world. Some of the smaller stuff though, it won’t be the end of the world if they change their mind.

Thoughts on Femininity and Nellie Oleson

I had another blog before this one, which I deleted.  The blog was largely focused on religion and gender roles.  Some of these thoughts have probably appeared other places in this blog.  Because I was raised in a household which promoted a rather narrow view of femininity these topics are sometimes on my mind.

Some people seem to have the belief that women who identify strongly with traditional gender roles are just better people all around compared to their less feminine counterparts.

The woman who puts on a veneer of femininity or has the physical attributes that are considered to be the most feminine is considered to be a better “book” just based on its cover.  My sister and my mother have always been better than I at projecting a veneer of culturally approved femininity.  They are both smaller than me, and have better raw material as far as looks.

At some point in my life, I realized I had trouble fitting in to what others thought feminine beauty and feminine behavior should be.  Growing up, for a long time, I was always among the tallest of my classmates, boys and girls.  Eventually I stopped growing so fast, and many of the boys grew taller than me.  By this point I had already been given the message that small = feminine.  Plus I had my dad’s broad shoulders so that didn’t help.  I remember for a while being about 13 and wanting to shrink in to myself, and would often slouch.  At that point I was put on a diet by my parents….my shape was rearranging and I think it must have disturbed them.  At the time I weighed less than the midpoint of my ideal body weight range.  If you want to make sure a girl is going to have a fucked up view  of controlling her weight, do what my parents did.  Expect it to backfire.

I have often struggled with social awkwardness and being shy.  My mother and sister didn’t have these same struggles.  They could speak in honeyed tones with strangers if the situation called for it.  The private versions of my mother and sister were something else all together.  Swear words, raised voices and insults you could never dream of.

Do you know the TV character Nellie Oleson, from the TV series Little House on the Prairie, somewhat based on a series of books by Laura Ingalls Wilder?  I loved the books, and often watched the TV series.  When I was older I started rewatching the TV series, and didn’t love it quite so much, as I don’t think it stayed true to the books.

Anyway Nellie was an awesome character.  She was the daughter of a couple who owned the town’s mercantile.  Her snooty mother Harriet made sure Nellie was always dressed in the finest clothes.  Nellie’s blonde hair was neatly curled with lovely ribbons.  In Harriet’s eyes, Nellie was far more cultured and refined compared to the Ingalls girls who wore simpler clothes and came from a family that wasn’t as wealthy.  The character of Laura Ingalls was a bit of a  tomboy.  Harriet tended to look down upon many of the families in the town of Walnut Grove, including the Ingalls family.

If you’ve seen the show you’ll know that Nellie was a straight up brat. Nellie and Laura often did not get along. Her fine clothes and neatly done hair provided a contrast for Nellie’s character.  The character of Laura was also imperfect, but in the end Laura always had a better heart.  So the cover doesn’t always match the book inside.