Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Day of Rest

So the family got home at 1 am this morning after our trip to my mom's. I took off the Super Mom cape and did not go into work today. After our last trip, we got home at 9 pm, then I did grocery shopping, made lunches, slept and went to work the next day. Needless to say, I almost got sick from exhaustion. This time I'm trying to be smart. It feels like slacking, but going to work on half a brain isn't good for anyone and I didn't want kids to have to wake up and go to summer school after a rough day of travel. My son slept in until 10 am!

I survived the stress of the trip and am glad that we went. One absolutely endearing moment was watching my mom and daughter play patty cake. My daughter was amazed when my mom knew the words to her tune, and my mom even knew some my daughter didn't!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bad Habits

Ever notice that when we are most stressed and need to do all those things that are good for us (exercise, drink water, don't eat too much sugar, don't drink too much caffeine, and don't drink too much alcohol), we do exactly those things. They seem to offer a quick comfort at the expense of a clear head or calm psyche.

Wish I understood.

Maybe it's because they feel like obligations and not following them feels like a small sense of freedom when so much else feels out of our control . . .

I Need a Vacation from my Vacation

Right now I am on my annual visit to my mother. This visit is very different from how I imagine it is for many friends visiting their parents. My mother is disabled and on social security. As such, she lives in a boarding house and has so for 17 years. She has no license, and thus no car. When we arrive, we rent a car, and drive to our hotel. We visit her twice a day, as she needs a nap in the middle of the day. Those visits occur in the park or at the hotel, as children are not welcome in her home. Right now, she is being asked to move as the house has sold - she is really stressed. This is all she talks about. Times like this, I feel myself slip into a pity party.

My mom and I have had a challenging relationship ever since the divorce and this annual visit has always been hard for me. Since having kids, I have been slowly mending our relationship, understanding that it is up to me. So I call once every week or two and prepare for the hour or two long call about this and that. We avoid the topic of my dad or her sister. My brother hasn't seen her in years, but the two are not openly antagonistic even though he admitted to me that the next time he sees her will be at her funeral. If I miss a couple of weeks between calls, she gets paranoid. My mom misses birthdays and Christmas, not calling or sending a card. The phone calls after my birthday are the hardest as she spends the call explaining why she forgot. Sometimes I pretend I didn't have a birthday. The phone calls after the kids' birthdays are also hard as she explains why she's so busy and then laments that the kids don't know her. Maybe they would if she sent a card every now and again. She is pretty much a one way person and my brother explains that this is why he stopped trying. She can forget everyone else, but gets terribly upset when she is forgotten. She is immature and self-centered in this way, but she is my mom. At night, after the kids are in bed, I pause and wonder what I do that is like my mom and if I will grow up to be like her. Then I try to stop judging and instead to be more forgiving. Then I long for the childhood that I feel was robbed from me 24 years ago when she kicked my dad out of the house and accused him of molesting me.

Visiting every year is the right thing to do. My children will know my mom through the photo album and the few pictures a year I capture. My husband admitted that he thinks of sending me alone now that the kids are older and a little easier to manage while traveling. He is so good during these trips, but I can tell that they are hard on him too.

So after day three on too little sleep in a couped up hotel, I'm ready for a vacation from my vacation, and an end to my pity party too!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

My Bad

Last night was a complete disaster when it comes to family harmony. I came home to an empty house (the kids and husband were at swim lessons), the back door was open, the dog was loose (thank goodness she didn't run away as our back yard is not fenced), there was paint on the ground outside and it was tracked inside and was on the carpet, toys everywhere, pillow cushions everywhere, ripped up cardboard and miscellaneous papers everywhere. So when my husband walked in the door, I nagged. It wasn't "Hi Honey, how was your day?" or "Hi Sweetheart, nice to see you.". It was "Will you get the kids to clean this up while I make dinner?" So, I set the tone for the evening. My husband was so mad, he simply pulled the garbage can up, put it by the front door and started throwing away toys and all of the paint and brushes. The kids went from panic to distraction to yelling at us to stop yelling at them. Then, just when I had four pots on the stove, all going strong, the boss calls me on a personnel matter that had happened that day.

My glamorous life.

Thank goodness that my husband and I spent some time together once the kids were in bed and didn't go to bed angry.

But I caught myself keeping score, or "doing the math". I imagined if my husband had to ask me to do the things I do. "Honey, would you please wake up every morning before anyone else, make our lunches, then go to work, work 9 hours and come home to fix our dinner . . . oh, and don't forget that I get Saturday mornings all to myself while you care for the kids." But it goes both ways, "Honey, would you put your career on hold and work part-time, being available whenever the kids are sick or need to go to an appointment . . . also, pay all the bills and track our finances, and don't forget to be the calm, rational one when I'm not." I do have it good and I need to remember that next time I open my mouth with a nag instead of a warm greeting.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

My family is a compilation of people who aren't speaking to one another. My parents are divorced and have been in the same room on two occasions since their divorce 23 years ago: my brother's wedding and my wedding. So, for one, my parents don't talk, which causes family vacations to be split in thirds: my dad, my mom and my husband's parents. Thank goodness my husband's parents are still married.

Next comes my dad and his brother. Before my wedding, they decided they weren't speaking. It was huge turmoil when I decided to invite my uncle to my wedding. My dad, who I adore and respect, was very hurt and upset that I invited his brother. The reason I did was that he was the only aunt/uncle who didn't stop communicating with me after my parents' divorce. I always appreciated that. Being ex-communicated as a teenager was very, very hard on me. Now that Dad's fighting cancer, I still haven't decided whether or not to tell my uncle - I'll cross that bridge later.

Then comes my mom and her sister. After the divorce, my mom moved out of state to go live near her sister. This sister have four kids, my cousins, who are roughly my age and starting having kids of their own a few years ago. Each year of the last 10 or so, my mom would organize a family gathering during my annual visit to see her that would include my cousins. My husband likes my cousins, and their children are the closest cousins my children have. As such, my husband wants to maintain relationships with my cousins. Here's the wrinkle, my mom and her sister have stopped talking, putting me and my cousins in a rough spot. When I talked about trying to see my cousins while up visiting mom this coming weekend, she got upset and made it clear she didn't want to be there. Last year, she made it clear that she didn't want me seeing her sister. It was a guilt trip about how she only gets to see her grandkids a few days each year and shouldn't have to "share" that time. I respected her wishes.

This is when the pity party starts. I'm so tired of my parents' selfishness when it comes to family relationships. I don't understand why they don't accept or acknowledge their effect on others and how unfair it is. It makes me angry and it embarrasses me that my family seems so dysfunctional. My husband's family seems so normal in comparison. So, now I get to either make my husband happy and my mom mad or my husband disappointed and my mom righteous.

Ugh . . . .

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Freak, Part 2

Went to opening day of the horse races yesterday and felt like a total freak. I was the only woman covered head to toe and wearing flat shoes. Everyone else seemed to be in pretty, flirty little dresses with high heels. When I met up with my hubby, I apologized for not looking sexier (we were meeting up with an employee and I had two other employees there - so I dressed conservatively). He said not to worry. It just felt really strange to look and feel so different, but I also know I would have been tremendously uncomfortable in a little dress and heels. Sometimes, I wish I fit in more, though.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"Mom, do you know _______?"

So, parenting sometimes feels like a series of mini-heartbreaks, different stages of independence and letting go. My kids are in summer school this summer. Due to schedules, my husband drops them off and picks them up. I get to drop off and pick up once every two weeks. Needless to say, I am a little out of touch. So, it's breaks my heart a little when we sit down to dinner and the kids ask me, "Do you know Abby" or "Do you know Ms. Lynn". I have to say no and then ask them to tell me about this person who very well may spend more time with my child during the weekday than I do.

Recently, my boss teased me for making my families dinners and lunches. I guess when you're at my level, you have a stay at home spouse (like he does) or the part-time person takes on these duties. I didn't have the heart to confess that I make their lunches as a small gesture to make sure they know I think about them, even though I am not around when they wake up in the morning and only see them for a couple of hours in the evening.

My mom tells of how she used to sit next to kids with homemade lunches and was envious. Her mom worked and did not make her lunch. My mom says she would have felt more loved if she felt her mom prepared her lunch. Frankly, my kids would probably love Lunchables five days a week, but it makes me feel good when I pack fresh fruit in season or cut up veggies with dressing. Sometimes I sneak in a little treat or a simple heart or smiley face. It's probably more for me than for them . . .

Monday, July 16, 2007

Zzzzzz . . . and Karma

So while on vacation recently I took some yoga classes. One I remember in particular had one of the Activity staff in it with me. A man in his 20's or 30's. The Activity staff party alot and he was tired, as expected. Well, during deep relaxation, he started snoring. I thought it was hilarious (no, I didn't laugh at the time, but I did tell my husband later).

Well, tonight that was me. Here I was in deep relaxation (sponge pose where you lie on your back with palms up and feet apart) after about 2 hours of yoga on a Monday after a long day at work, I hear my name, and when I look up, the whole class is in the sitting pose, looking over. At least they got a little laugh when I squeaked and got up. The instructor's mom was so sweet, she simply said "you're body must have needed the rest."

I guess I did!

Doing it Again

Every so often I become absolutely obsessed with work. It's all I talk about, I think about it before falling asleep and again immediately upon waking. It usually happens when I have a problem, but not a solution and I just feel stuck. Well, that's happening now and my poor husband is being as patient as can be with me, but I know I'm boring him to death with my worry, over analyzing and insecurity.

My goal is an organic life. That can mean a lot of things. One concept I really like is looking at really fast marathon runners. They make running look effortless. They have a stride that puts energy into the right places. Their faces are soft, their fists aren't clenched and their strides long and easy. I want to be that in life. It's not that I want to not work, but I want my work and home life to be a good fit.

Now I just have to figure out how.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Catch 22

Each summer, like most families with school age children, we're faced with the challenge of how to care for the kids. Last summer, our youngest stayed in his preschool while the oldest went to YMCA day camp. Since we're too cheap to sign up for the cool camps (like ice skating, swimming or reptiles), my daughter spent her days on a dirt lot with some shade, doing crafts and learning about values from teenage girls who shared stories about their boyfriends and their views on God. As you can tell, this was less than ideal in my point of view.

This summer, I pushed to have our kids at the local Montessori school during the summer. That way there is still some down time for crafts and such, but at least it would be in framework and structure that I respect. Trained teachers and appropriate values. Of course, that costs more. So, when I tell my husband (I work full-time and he is part-time) that I want my kids to be home when he's not working, it became clear that he feels pressure to work more to pay for this summer school option.

So, from 8:30 - 3:30 everyday my kids are spending their summer in school. And during that time, my husband is working to pay for it. The worst irony of all, is that we barely break even financially on the deal. But it keeps his career intact, which is important. You can't tell your employer that you're taking the next three months off and expect not to be replaced, unless of course you're having a baby and protected by law.

Well, at least they spend their time in a classroom, not on dirt, learning from mature teachers, not teenagers. Right?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

If I Were Religious

I work for an immature and aggressive man. In my 18 months on the job, he's chewed me out about 4 to 6 times. The first time was just one month into the job. It put me in tears in the bathroom. The second and third time had me in tears in his office. The last time just left me numb. Anyone who's read about how NOT to fight with your spouse knows not to use words like "always" and "never" during the fight. These are some of his favorite words. Before I came to work here, I was warned that he "had lot of testosterone", but I didn't understand what that meant. Now I know that it means he is easily threatened and picks fights. He's like a bull who sees everything in shades of red.

So how do I cope? If I were religious, I would believe that God sent him to me for a reason. Fortunately, I am very spiritual, and I do believe that he is in my life for a reason and that I have a very important life lesson associated with this challenge. My father always said that my skin was too thin and that I needed to thicken it up if I was going to be successful. I fought this, thinking that the only way to have thick skin was to be callous to others, to not sympathize or feel their pain. But I think I can learn to have thick skin, to let these fights roll off my back, and still be a compassionate and loving person to others. First and foremost, I need to remember that 99% of how people act is from their own internal pressures and stresses. His blowups aren't because I am a total screwup, but they are his reactions to me because of his experiences and outlook. When I'm insecure, I do wonder about what I'm doing wrong to cause it, though. Then I overanalyze what I'm doing and how I should change.

My main problem is that I need at least 8 more months to vest in my retirement, then I'm a free agent. Also, I took the job for a reason and that reason hasn't really changed, despite working for a challenging individual.

So, for now, I'll practice making like a duck and keeping centered.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Manly Smelling

Can you believe that my dear husband of 9 years just offered, in all seriousness, to run around the block and make himself "manly" smelling for me.

I'm dying.

Fortunately he only reads my blog when he's looking over my shoulder . . .

Our Parents, Ourselves

So I am privileged to be part of a wonderful volunteer organization, Rotary. By being involved, I get to interact with some of the most amazing people. Tonight I had a conversation with one of my favorites; he helped me remember that a big part of who we are is directly due to our parents. To embrace and love our parents is to embrace and love a part of ourselves.

This conversation came to pass as I talked about my dad, who is battling cancer. My dad is a wonderful man and I've been fortunate enough to have shared my high opinion of him with him over the years. Meaning that I feel comfortable that he knows how much I love him. As weird as it is to say, if he were to die tomorrow, I would rest easy knowing that he knew how much I loved him. Crazy and sad to think that way, but true. I remember a radio show I heard once that interviewed Oncology (cancer) nurses and they were polled as to how they would want to die, if given the choice. Some of the choices were to die in an accident, to die in your sleep, to die of cancer, etc. The poll showed that they chose cancer by an overwhelming majority. The reason given was that cancer gives you time to say good-bye. One of my former employees lost her husband to cancer. While he was alive, he was able to video tape sessions of himself talking to his sons (who were only 4 and 7 at the time) and tell them things he wasn't going to get to tell them since he had only 6 months to live.

My dad will have surgery in the next 1 - 3 months. My understanding is that his chance of survival is 50%.

But this blog isn't all about dad. It's about my mom too and how I've learned to embrace her and all of her beauties, flaws and weaknesses. My mom is part of me and as I grow into womanhood, I see how I act like her and am like her. Instead of rejecting it, I'm trying to learn how to embrace it. Like my dad, she is wonderful, in her own way. Like my dad, she made me. Like my dad, I love her.

As I learn to love my parents even more, and as I learn to forgive their shortcomings, I learn to love and accept myself.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Over the Top

So my boss walks in as I'm leaving a message for someone. When I'm done, he says, sarcastically, "so professional, you're always so professional". Because of his tone, I ask if there is something wrong with that. He says that sometimes it's over the top and makes people question whether or not they are professional.

So what the hell am I supposed to do with that bit of criticism, be less professional? Am I supposed to dress worse and use bad grammar too for fear that I may intimidate someone?!?! Mostly I'm mad because this has confused me for a while. I've been told time and time again that I am intimidating, but I don't understand why that is bad or what I am doing to intimidate people. It's not that I'm aggressive, or is it? Is it that I make people feel like they are in competition or is it just that insecure people feel even more insecure around me.

Augh . . .

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Anger and Embarrassment

My stepmom called me today to let me know that my dad, who is battling cancer, is in the hospital . . since Friday of last week! That's more than five days that he's been in the hospital and I've been going about my life like everything is normal. Was he sitting there thinking no one cared about him? Did he not want to bother me? Was he scared and didn't want to worry anyone? Did he even have an opinion on the matter or was it entirely up to my stepmom? I'm angry I didn't know sooner and embarrassed that I spent the last week living such a normal life without checking in on him.

It reminds me of something that happened to my college room mate. Her grandfather died while we were in college and no one told her until after the funeral. Now I understand a little of the complex set of emotions she must have felt.

Now I'm worried about how much I'll know as this cancer battle continues. The only thing I can do is to call more often to check up on him. But this touches on my need to feel some sense of control in matters - that's another blog in itself.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


Okay, I have to admit it, I'm one of those sun cautious freaks that you see at the pool or beach, covered from head to toe and wearing a wide brimmed hat. I've been reluctant to admit it, but two things happened recently to drive it home.

Looking over vacation photos from our beach/pool vacation in beautiful Puerto Vallarta, a funny image came up. It was the photo from the sun dance, which was basically a line dance coordinated by the staff each day at 4:00. They would get the guests to line up and dance a little number to their theme song. Imagine people in bikinis and board shorts, tan and happy. Then next to them, imagine a family in long sleeve swim shirts, sarangs that reach the floor, and hats. That would be my family.

At Legoland last week (it must sound like I llive on perpetual vacation), I saw a family who looked odd to me. The mom had an umbrella, long skirt and long sleeve shirt. I looked at the brand name and realized it's what I buy - the only difference is that I stop at the umbrella, haven't gone there yet. I thought the family looked odd, until I realized they look just like mine.

No plans to change this freakish dressing, I gave up any chance of being cool a long time ago. It's just odd when I'm forced to acknowledge it.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Bliss - only in hindsight?

Here is a picture from my recent family vacation to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We spent about 11 days there at an all inclusive resort. Three pools, activities all day, shows at night, babysitting, all you can eat and drink. As I look at this picture, I imagine myself in heaven. Happy, calm, relaxed and with the people I love more than anything. Total bliss, at least in hindsight.

The truth is that it took several days to even relax. Worrying about sun exposure, saying "no" to the dozens of people wanting to sell you stuff on the beach, worrying about the kids and pool safety, etc. Then we started to relax and spent about 5 days exploring new areas and becoming more familiar with the existing ones we knew. After that, we started to get what I call that "Sad Sunday Feeling" when work is starting to cast it's shadow.

When I look back at this photo and think of our time, I wonder why I didn't realize bliss the entire time and if you need the perspective to experience bliss. It seems the goal is to learn to live in the moment more and to learn to sieze the beauty that is in front of all of us. At times it feels like I spend so much time planning my future, that I forget that the present is here and now, and more often than not, quite wonderful.

Maybe this picture will help me remember that.