Monday, June 04, 2018


Mission accomplished! We have committed to going away during a period in which we would normally be expected to spend time with family. We are going somewhere Boy Alien has expressed a repeated desire to visit. Discussions have been had, places and transportation have been booked. Everything is non-refundable.

I am excited. This is the trip I badly wanted to do during a period of too-much-family-togetherness last year, as dealing with his family while mourning my mother's death just felt a too hard. I was talked out of it for the sake of keeping things normal for Boy Alien. It did not go well for me.

This morning I reiterated a comment I made last night about what how I intended to handle any conversation from his parents about cancelling the trip. Which is to request the full reimbursement of transportation and lodging, in spendable cash*.

J announced that we were not saying anything to them. At all. And when we do, it will be in the most vague of terms, as in "we will not be here".

I was surprised, but I should not have been.

*J's father collects coins and bills. It is fully within his MO to agree reimburse us, then pay us in bills and/or coins with no immediate, fungible value. Thus he follows the letter of the agreement while transferring any risk of loss to us when we sell the bills/coins.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The In-Laws Continue to Push

I'm writing this at work, as I need to get out of my head.

One of the coping mechanisms I have learned over the years is to keep ANY information I don't want shared with J's family to myself and to be explicit with J when I am sharing something with him about myself or my family that should not be passed on to J's family. They are strictly on a need-to-know-when-necessary basis, as sharing either leads to gossip or endless attempts to organize our lives.

The reason for this is because J's father is incapable of not gossiping about his kids to his other kids, to his friends, to the former neighbor he last saw twenty years ago. He has no respect for privacy when it comes to his children. All issues are aired out and judged.

And it happened again this weekend, at a family wedding. J's father ran into someone he has not seen in years and promptly spilled all the personal drama about ABIL. I sat there quietly horrified, listening to him discuss the personal issues of his adult son, who is well north of 40 years old and perfectly capable of handling himself.

Later, at dinner J's father asked if we were going to spend the night at their home. J said no. Both of us are still working intense schedules and are still exhausted. The only reason we showed up for the wedding is because we were raised right and would not skip an RSVP.

J's father did not like the word "No" and went into a full-court pressuring of J for us to spend the night. J continued to say "No". J's father then pivoted into yet again asking J to come with them to southern beach city for a week, as they are not permitted to take the Boy Alien out of state without one of his parents in attendance.

Then he sulked.

And J caved, called them when we reached home and invited them out to our house the following day for a late lunch / early dinner to smooth over hurt feelings.

And the parents responded by pressuring J to come out on Monday for dinner. Even though we had seen the entire family 48 hours previous.

Then the gods smiled upon me and created a water main break that left our house with no water pressure, thus forcing us to cancel the lunch.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Mother's Day 2018 - The One with the Dysfunctional* In-laws

It has been a very long time since I had cause to write about my in-laws. Since Boy Alien came along, we all had settled down rather well. The boundaries J and I built so we could balance the raising of a child with familial demands were working out well. They were not always happy with our decisions, but at least they had the sense to not complain about them in my presence.

But there has been upheaval in J's family recently, which has resulted in J's parents, especially J's father, returning to their passive-aggressive, boundary pushing ways. I am hoping that this is merely a glitch, that once the upheaval is resolved, J's parents will settle down again. Otherwise there will be several miserable months and I will be the one causing the misery.

Part I - The Background

J's brother, Awesome BIL, is a priest, . Last fall ABIL realized he was burned out to the point that it was affecting his relationships with everyone. He saw himself becoming mean and passive-aggressive and turning into someone he recognized and did not like. He recognized that he was becoming like many of the older priests he interacts with - joyless and angry.

So he went on a forty day retreat. Forty days turned into a six month leave of absence, which appears to been extended another six months. In short, ABIL is working out his his issues. Working a secular job, attending therapy, learning how to reconcile the secular and spiritual in his life.

It is very important to emphasize that ABIL wants to remain a priest.

Over the years I have "gotten away with" saying things to ABIL that his parents and most people can not and would not say to a priest. Because ABIL is still a human and needs his agnostic, unconventional-by-his-family's-standards brother and SIL to keep him humble.

Is is of no surprise that J's parents are very unhappy with ABIL's current situation.

So what do you do when your adult-in-their-late-forties-child life seemingly spins out of control, even though said child actually has situation firmly in hand and is taking the necessary steps to get better?

If you said "Try to control one of your other adult-in-their-forties-children" you win a cookie!

Part II - The Miscommunication

Last week Boy Alien made a request to spend the Saturday night at the in-laws. This is something he does regularly. Since J's parents were coming to watch Boy Alien play in his game and go out to lunch, they took Boy Alien back with them. J and I would pick him up on Sunday.

At that time, I had not been feeling well, due to side-effects of stopping my antidepressant (it was time). Starting or stopping this particular medication comes with multiple physical side-effects that cause misery for several weeks. I was in week two of withdrawal.

The day of the game was pleasant. Lunch was fun. Boy Alien went off with the in-laws, J and I went off to act like we were 25 and childless instead of in our 40's with a kid.

We woke up Sunday, puttered around, then drove to the in-laws to pick up Boy Alien. I agreed to come along on the ride on the condition that we did not stay for dinner, as I felt utterly terrible due to the withdrawal and because I acted like I was 25 the night before.

Due to construction and an accident (hello summer!) it took us 45 minutes longer the usual to reach the in-laws home, which put us perilously close to dinnertime.

We enter the house. The baseball game is blaring on the radio at a volume that literally shook the wall next to the radio. Same game is also on the television. It is very loud and warm.

And then the bomb is dropped on J and I. The family is celebrating parent's anniversary today. We staying for dinner, right?

J's siblings took it upon themselves to plan a meal for J's parents on Friday. None of them, including ABIL bothered to tell us.

J's parents knew when they came Saturday that this was happening. They did not bother to tell us.

J pushed back. We have things to do at home. I push back. I am not feeling well. We cannot stay for dinner.

ABIL backs us up, reminding his parents that NO ONE bothered to tell us. If ANYONE had bothered to pick up the phone or open their damn fool mouth with greater than 24 hours notice, J and I would have rearranged to accommodate.

FIL, being the asshat that he becomes when he sees that he will might not get his way, completely ignores us and suggests that I go lie down in the spare room. I go to the spare room in an attempt to pull myself back together before I go nuclear. I listen to the shaking of the wall and the blaring radio and cry tears of rage.

Thus J and I have boarded the wayback machine and traveled 15 years in the past to pre-Alien days. Those halcyon days in which his parents pulled this exact stunt all the damn time. If I had the energy, I could probably find one of the entries I wrote about this exact thing.

We collect Boy Alien. We head home. We eat sandwiches for dinner in our quiet house.

Part III - The Fallout

In a reasonable family, it would have ended there. Parents and siblings would have been reminded of the importance of communication, admitted that their feelings of hurt and disappointment are their own damn fault and tried to do better going forward.

J's family is not that kind of reasonable. On Monday J receives a phone call informing him that there will be a Mother's Day dinner at eldest brother's house. No words are said, but the subtext is very, very clear. We hurt feelings, and now we must pay.

So we come full circle. Since J's parents can not do anything for ABIL, they will do (in their minds) the next best thing and attempt to control the youngest child and his family, because we are not on the right path* either and must be corrected.

*Chose your own expletive if so desired.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

Cultural Clashing

Things have been a bit tense in the cup-de-sac for the past week. J and I working as peacemakers, as I do not want to live in a place where it feels like all the neighbors are feuding. But some background is necessary, as the neighbors who are the cause of this current low-level simmering are actually the unfortunate victims of the drug-dealing asshat across the street.
I have not written about the drug-dealing asshat publicly, as I did not want to give away too many details. The short version is that a week after we moved into our new home, the asshat moved in across the street. Into a house that cost far more to maintain then he could afford.
As it was winter and he did not know anyone, the first months with the asshat were quiet. Then the asshat lost his job, began sharing his home with a parade of unsavory roommates, dealing pot, entertaining prostitutes and throwing wild parties, essentially making all the residents in the cul-de-sac utterly miserable.
I can even pinpoint the precise day that he showed his true character: the (very) early morning hours of August 7, 2014. The incident involved a missing wallet, a verbal argument between the 40+ year old asshat and three teenage girls and eventually the police. Who let everyone off with a lecture.
Since that incident has been arrested for dealing drugs (summer 2015), delayed his court appearances for over TWO YEARS and finally to get the charges against him dismissed on a technicality in December.
Asshat is now renting out his home on Airbnb, to suspiciously high ratings.
Cue three weeks ago. The father of our very lovely, non-Christian neighbor, dies. Lovely neighbor (P) comes over to tell us that his father has passed away and that there will be a considerable amount of activity around his home. He asks us to let him know if they become too disruptive.
I give my sympathies and tell him to do what he needs to do.
Things are OK at first. P also applied to the borough for a short-term zoning variance to deal with the activity around his house, as his faith requires an extensive and ritualistic period of mourning and requires that the house be open to visitors 24/7 during the mourning period.
Unfortunately, the length of time is not well communicated to the neighbors and some of P’s visitors act inappropriately during the night - drinking, noise, leave trash. Asshat also takes the opportunity to host visitors at P’s expense.
So there is noise and trash and sleepless nights for some of the neighbors. One of the visitors decides to get out of the driveway by backing out over our lawn. Complaints are made to the chief of police, who has dealt with this before and asks us to be patient.
J visits P’s home on Friday evening to let him know that it is becoming too much and neighbors are upset. P asks all of us to please come for lunch on Saturday. J, Boy Alien and I go. The other neighbors say no. We go because I absolutely do not want to be feuding with all the neighbors.
The family is still in mourning. Lunch is amazing. Family is surprised that J and I enjoy the spiced food. P and his siblings explain the meaning of all the rituals. Repeated apologies are given. P is not caucasian and I can imagine how nerve-wracking it can be to inadvertently piss off a bunch of the neighbors in the current political climate.
Saturday evening J and I stop at one of the neighbors most affected by the noise and encourage him to have a conversation with P. Neighbor says he will wait until the mourning period is over and he has calmed down a little more.
Hoping for peace.

Monday, January 01, 2018

A New Year - 2018

The old one ended quietly. A dinner with friends. Boy Alien and I headed home afterwards, while J stayed behind to continue the celebration. I was asleep by midnight, after a poorly made double old fashioned.

Back over to our friends this morning for breakfast and some episodes of House Hunters. Six of us in the living room, making fun of the buyers and criticizing the houses. It was lovely.

There is some upheaval. J is still miserable in his job and still refusing to seek any sort of help to deal with the stress. I even suggested a career counselor. Maybe he will take that suggestion to heart.

J's brother has taken a leave of absence from his pastoral duties to do some soul searching. J's parents are not saying anything other than to talk to BIL. J and I have no intention of asking him anything other than an offer of a place to stay while he works his issues out.

Back to better eating habits tomorrow. The long break has helped a great deal, but I would have liked additional time for wallowing.

Objectives for January:
  1. Ignore the drug-dealing asshole neighbor who managed to get his case thrown out and has returned to his old ways with impunity. He woke me up last night, but was not making enough of a racket to bother calling the police.
  2. Spending freeze.
  3. Get eating habits back on track.
  4. Write more.
  5. Attend two Friends Meetings.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The One Where Christmas Eve Goes as Expected

I've actually been writing a fair amount over the past few months, thanks to Day One. However, Christmas Eve deserves its own post, put out there on the internet for someone to stumble across one day.

I've been mostly OK through this Christmas. I took an extra week off and went to New York City for several days. I stayed in a very nice hotel, ate some good food (Oyster Stew as the Grand Central Oyster Bar, a lobster roll at Urbanspace Vanderbilt) and spent hours upon hours walking the Manhattan streets. Walked to the Strand. Walked to Central Park. Walked through amazing holiday markets in Bryant Park and Union Square. Looked at the windows in Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue (Saks won, hands down. Absolutely spectacular windows). Wished my mom a Merry Christmas, lit a candle to St. Patrick and had a cry in St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Per our arrangement when Boy Alien arrived, this year's holiday rotation was for Wigilia at the in-laws on Christmas Eve. I begged J to skip it this year. I really did not want any attention called to my loss. I wanted to stay home, stare at the Christmas tree and drink wine and watch the cats sleep. But Boy Alien is eight and should have an actual Christmas. So J insisted on going. Not only Christmas Eve. Family (both sides, whomever could come) on Christmas Day. A Boxing Day dinner with his family. All of it.

Quoted from a site from which I have a social media account:
"Wigilia went exactly as I expected. There is some tension between hosting Aunt and my MIL (they are sisters), so there was an undercurrent in the room. Aunt stood up before dinner to give a speech about how wonderful and blessed 2017 had been for the entire family, only to suddenly pivot to acknowledge the passing of my mom last spring. Since there was no transition between the two topics, it came off as "We had a great year! Except for that downer in-law in the corner over there. Her mom died". 
I had a mild case of hysterics once we got back to the car. 95% laughter, 5% tears. I shared the story with my dad and twin brother yesterday. Thankfully they both also saw the humor in it."
So that happened.

To smooth over the savagery, I also went on my annual holiday shopping excursion with a good friend this week. She talked me into these beauties:


Which have kittens and bunnies and insane colors. As I am officially a woman of a certain age who must wear mostly sensible shoes, I am embracing the absurd.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Another Step Forward

I purchased a new wool long coat yesterday.

I have been looking for a new long coat for three years, when it became crystal clear that my beloved size 12 Worthington black long coat with black rabbit fur trim on the hood, was falling apart by inches. Fur went missing from the hood and there were spots near the bottom where the wool had worn almost completely away.

My beloved long coat, purchased by my mom from J.C. Penney’s sometimes in the mid 90’s, approved for wearing by my mom and her best friend Jane, who said she liked the way the back flared out when I twirled and walked. I liked that it was long, with lots of buttons to keep out the cold and that the wool was light on my shoulders.

And because having something with flair is important when you are 22 years old and broke.

Three years ago I started looking for a new coat. But I wanted the kind of coat I was losing. One that was long, with lots of buttons to keep out the cold and some flare in the back to make me feel like a princess when I walked.

Because having something with flair is still important when you are in your early forties and not as broke.

But nothing I looked at was right. Wrong color, wrong length, too flashy, too strange. I tried a vintage navy peacoat, but it turned out to be too heavy and too warm for every day wear.

I wanted something that was going to keep my happy for the next 20+ years of my life.

Last year my mother gifted me with a wool-cashmere blend camel colored long coat. She had purchased it for herself, but it was too large.  It is lovely, Not perfect, but very lovely. So I wore it.

Then yesterday I found the coat, in Nordstrom. On sale. One left. In my size. With a flare in the back when I twirled. I purchased the coat. With wool that hung light on my shoulders.

I came home and happily showed J my purchase. He grumbled about the number of coats I owned, grumbled about the price, grumbled in general. I reminded him that I had looked for a new long coat for three years. That I would finally purge the old coat from the closet (and a bag of clothes I no longer wear).

(Aside: I also stocked up on Teavana teas as well, as Starbucks is closing all the stores and the stock is being sold off. Seeing that I had purchased over six pounds of assorted flavors, J asked how much I paid for the lot, *after* telling me *not* to tell him how much I pay for things. It was rather amusing.)

I hung the coat in the closet and put the tea in the tea drawer. I changed my clothes and headed downstairs to clean the litter box.

And I burst into tears.

Because until yesterday, my mom had purchased every single long coat I had ever worn. And every single one of them was beautiful and made me feel like a princess when I wore it. And I was letting go of the last one, the one infused with the memory of the laughter of my mom, her best friend Jane and 22 year old me twirling in the middle of the coat section of a small town J.C. Penney’s.