Monday, April 20, 2015

Settled and Sunday

I made a trip to see my parents. They put their much loved, but difficult to maintain home up for sale and moved to a small cottage in a retirement community. Both of them acted out in expected fashion prior to the move on Monday. My mother was argumentative, my father obsessively packed random objects in the middle of the night. My brothers helped them move into the cottage, I came out this past weekend to help unpack boxes and see what they need to be settled and comfortable. I now have a list that includes a non-slip bath mat for the guest bath, a pair of pretty slippers for my mom and a couple more sets of new towels of the bath and kitchen variety.
My dad pointed out a box and bag, set aside for me to take home. The bag held some quilts and shams. The box contained the rest of their wedding silver, including my favorite pair of silver candlesticks, two birth certificates, the one from the hospital marked “baby number 2”, and some miscellaneous items from college and high school.
There was one carefully wrapped object that turned out to be a photograph of me at age sixteen, dancing with my maternal grandfather at a family wedding. I was genuinely surprised that my mother let the picture go, as she adored her father and it is one of the last photographs of him healthy and vibrant. Shortly after that wedding he became incapacitated by a series of strokes and died a month before I turned nineteen.
I am glad she let it go, as I adored my grandfather too and she has all but admitted that I was he favorite grandchild of both her parents.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Family Vacation Planning

I have a lot to talk about. Some of it is even worthy of dusting off my blog and publishing. About how cute it is that Kayne West is such a fan boy of Beyoncé. How awesome that the Day One application actually has auto-correct for Beyoncé.

I could talk about my doctor-mandated weight loss/food lifestyle makeover and how that is going (surprisingly well, thank you). I could talk about the umpteenth bone scan my mother will have, due to suspicions that the cancer has metastasized to her spine. I will need to talk about that if the scan shows cancer, as I will need to create some response scripts to the inevitable raft of “well meaning” comments and questions.

Or I could talk about family vacations. Specifically extended family vacations, the kind you take with your parents, your children, your siblings, their spouses and their children and live in a single space for a week or so.

About the fact that J's sister, who does not pay for the home rental, is able to dictate the time (first week in August) and the place (Outer Banks) over the wishes of the rest of the family.

After last year, J's parents said they going to start renting a houser earlier in the summer, as July-August was hot, a bit uncomfortable and expensive due it being high tourist season.

When J and I learned that they were returning to the Outer Banks in August we sent a list of alternate suggestions. Included in the list were islands such as Mackinac, beach towns on the New England East Coast and Nova Scotia. All cooler places with lots of family activities.

All rejected. The explanation given was that J's sister did not want to deprive her children of a beach vacation as that is where the rest of their classmates went in the summer. It has to be in August because they would miss other activities if it was not.

Did I mention that she doesn't pay for the house rental and that we suggested beaches? Or that one of J's brothers actually hates the beach and would also enjoy going somewhere different.

J and I have decided that we are not going this year and are looking into visiting Nova Scotia instead, if I can get Boy Alien's passport organized in time. J's parents have asked if we are interested in taking a weekend trip to Mackinac Island with them in the spring, sans the other siblings. I said yes, as it is on the list of places J's mom has always wanted to see and I think they are offering it as a way of soothing over the bad feelings.

My frustration with her does not end with vacation planning. J's sister holds some strident pro-life views, which are about to run smack into the end-of-life care decisions that my family may be making in the near future.

My mom is going for another bone scan. She broke a rib due to tripping over a coffee table and is experiencing a tremendous amount of pain in her back, possible signs that the breast cancer has metastasised to her bones.

She has already stated that she will not go through chemotherapy again. If the cancer has metastasised to the bone, treatment would be pointless in light of her other health issues. It would not extend her life and would severely limit the quality of whatever time she has left. My brothers and I understand and accept that a return of cancer means she will elect palliative care.

J's sister will not understand this. If her prior comments on the subject are an accurate reflection of her beliefs, she is a big proponent of “by all means necessary” to extend the length of a life without regard to the quality of such a life. She would interpret my mom's refusal of treatment as affront to this belief.

She is intellectually lazy. Suggestions that she try to understand by reading about the mechanics of dying or learning what it means to have a severe illness with comorbidity are not viable, as scientifically-based sources will conflict with her world view.

And she will not respect any boundaries I attempt to put around the subject. Although I have asked J to handle this issue with his family, I have no doubt she will attempt to make her thoughts known directly to me. She will harangue and harass until she believes her point is made and play offended when I tell her that my mom's decisions are not her concern.

I could be completely catastrophizing this entire thing. The bone scan could come back negative for cancer, rendering this whole entry moot. It could come back positive and J's sister could act like a decent human being.

I'm not holding my breath.

34° Fog

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Thing About an Abusive Relationship

Note: I've turned off comments for all posts, as I have no desire to open myself up for attack from the legions of assholes.

Sometimes it takes a while to learn that you are in one. Especially if he doesn't hit you.

In March 2007, I wrote a brief entry about a bad relationship. It was written in a light-hearted tone, the kind I would take when swapping dating and breakup horror stories among a group. When you tell those kind of stories, you downplay the really horrible parts and focus on that one aspect of the relationship that screams "bad match!" You don't want to bring the rest of the group down.

Since I wrote that post I've done some reading. Gavin de Becker's The Gift of Fear. Rosalind B. Penfold's Dragonslippers: This is What an Abusive Relationship Looks Like. Kate Brennan's In His Sights. I recently finished Lundy Banecroft's Why Does he Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. In between there have been blog posts, articles and essays. There have been multiple hundreds-of-comments long threads at Metafilter and an especially excellent entry on Sick Systems at Live Journal.

All that reading to confirm what I always suspected, that he was abusive and I was lucky.

So I downplay the really horrible parts.

I talk about the arguments we would have whenever we went out in public together. But I don't talk about how those arguments lasted hours, until I was exhausted, demoralized and ready to agree with anything he said just to end the "discussion".

I don't talk about how those argument were primarily him accusing me of wanting to fuck other men and hours of him haranguing me for denying it.

I talk about him sulking when he felt like he was not getting his way about something. But I don't talk about how he would freeze me out and refuse to speak to me for days.

I don't talk about how he never allowed me to stay over at his apartment and flat out refused to spend more than ten minutes in mine.

I don't talk about the comments he would make about my body. About how he would dump me if I gained weight but expected me to stay with him no matter how he changed.

I don't talk about the time he deliberately tried to get me pregnant. Because to say it out loud meant admitting that he was escalating from verbal abuse into something much more dangerous.

When I tell the breakup story, I don't tell the part where he called me at 2:00 AM wanting to discuss things.

I don't talk about how I would go out of my way to avoid him for the rest of the time I was in school. How I would look for him where ever I went, mentally planning escape routes in case he our paths crossed.

I don't talk about how I took J to a mutual classmate's wedding after our second breakup, as I knew that was the only way to keep him from approaching me.

After the first breakup I went back to him because I genuinely believed I was the problem. I left the second time because I figured out that I was not.

But I'm not any smarter, more self-aware or more confident then other women. I figured it out sooner then most, soon enough to prevent any real permanent damage.

He was abusive. I was lucky.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Costco Tire Department, Sunday Afternoon

After what can only be described as a mediocre holiday, I decided to cap off the weekend with a quick run to Costco to pick up bread and honey. French bread, because it tastes as good as I am going to get without jetting to Paris, honey for J to make cherry mead.

As we are going on a road trip in a few weeks, I also stopped in the tire department on my way out to get a quote on a new set of tires.

I learned a few things. I learned that our vehicle had after-market rims in a weird size that Costco does not carry. I learned that the employees of Costco's tire department are incredibly competent, patient, polite and willing to walk out to your vehicle and examine the tires personally. I learned that one of them works as an EMT three days a week.

And I learned that the cold stare and silence is a very effective weapon when handling inappropriate comments about the management of children.

Especially when the child in question does not actually belong to you.

Ahead of me in line was a lovely man, of Indian nationality, in his thirties. He is equipped with empty stroller and the former occupant of the stroller, an adorable two year old girl. The gentleman was picking up his car and had some questions about the tire warranty. The little girl was wandering nearby and examining the various sized bolts and nuts stored in a rack of bins near the counter. I was standing several feet away from the gentleman, between him and the little girl, waiting my turn.

An elderly lady enters the tire area, looks at the little girl, looks at me and immediately says to me “Excuse me, your little girl is playing in the bins”.
I look at her, then away. I say nothing at first because I am confused. Why is she talking to me? I don't have a daughter.

So she is looking at the nuts and bolts. She isn't throwing them across the room, rolling them on the floor, attempting a juggling act or snacking on a nuts and bolts sandwich.

My thoughts move quickly from confused to annoyed. That she is assuming that I am the mother, even though there is zero resemblance. That I have sole responsibility for making a child stay away from the bins. That she is judging my ability to parent my non-existent daughter. That she felt that a child quietly going through bins of nuts and bolts was worth commentary, when an adult doing the same thing would provoke nary a response.

As I formulate a response, the lady speaks to me again. She repeats that the girl is playing in the bins, assuming I did not hear her the first time.

Now I am officially pissed. I give her a cold look and do not respond, turning my attention back to the counter. The silence draws out, becomes uncomfortable. Out of the corner of my eye I see the woman enter the beginning stages of anger.

Finally the man speaks. “Oh, that is my daughter” he says, with a laugh. The lady visibly relaxes, then states “She might mess up the bins”. The man shrugs it off. The clerk speaks up at this point and states that the nuts and bolts are primarily for display. The employees have a separate supply in the back. The point is dropped on all sides.

The lady isn't finished with me yet. She asks what I am doing there, am I picking up my car? I explain that I stopped in to get a quote on tires. She replies that she is checking to see if she can get her tires rotated today, if doesn't take too long. Then she looks me, an unasked question hanging in the air.

I pick up the subtext immediately. She wants me to cede my position in line so she can ask her question first. But she does not want to ask me directly. She wants me to offer to let her go first.

I begin to feel a touch bullied. Bad enough that I am getting subtle verbal chastisement over the supervision of my non-existent daughter. Now she wants me to offer, nay believes that I should offer to give up my place in line so she can ask her question?

I make a non-committal noise and turn back to the counter. The silence grows long again. The clerk finishes with the gentleman and turns back to the counter. I give him the size of the tires currently on the car and wait as he looks it up. The size he quotes me is not the the same - it is smaller, with a larger rim. I ask why they are different. He asks if we changed out the rims. I reply that I do not know, they are the tires that were on the car when we purchased it used. He offers to go out and take a look at my tires, to clear up the confusion and heads towards the back to get another employee to cover the front while he is outside.

The lady is not interested in waiting any longer. She finally asks me directly if she can get her question in before we go outside. I say yes. I have made my initial point. I can be gracious now.

She asks and receives and answer that she did not want to hear. She fusses briefly over having to bring her vehicle in on a weekday. Mercifully she is finished quickly and the clerk and I head outside, bread and honey in tow.

I get in my car, no longer angry but bemused. When you look close enough, I don't look young. I am fat and very out of shape, with grey in my lashes, brows and hair. The skin on my face is old and tired. There is significant flab on stomach that will never go away. The time when I could be mistaken for a teenager has long passed.

Yet there are still these moments. Moments when I am sized up at glance and found to be an easy target because I still look kind of young and I am female, therefore I need to be corrected. Moments in stores when someone will question me for allowing Boy Alien to walk 15 feet away from me to look at toys. I notice them, the quick glance at my hand to see if I am wearing a ring, the disapproving purse of the lips, the pointed questions to my son about the location of his mommy. I see it in the times that someone hovers a little to close to the counter, hoping to cut ahead. I ignore them.
And it wears me down.

75° Partly Cloudy
Pittsburgh, PA, United States

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Cancer Strikes Again (Maybe?)

I’ve had two conversations with my parents in the last 24 hours. Yesterday was my bi-weekly check-in. Today was to return a phone call thanking me for the Mother’s Day flowers, accidentally sent three days too soon. I order from the same local florist’s website twice a year. This is the first time I forgot to check the delivery date, so mom got same-day delivery.

It was an interesting conversation and one of the rare times I could speak with my parents while they were both sober and coherent.

Last year’s breast cancer diagnosis was scraping the bottom of the shite barrel, as mom has had significant medical issues with her back, heart and intestinal system going back years. The deterioration of the vertebrate in her back is directly related to her years as a nurse, spent standing on her feet in bad shoes.

So it was disappointing, but not surprising to hear her tell me that she had fractured a vertebrate in her back and was in some pain. She mentioned it might be “mets” which I assumed was some sort of medical condition that affects the back. She explained that she was going to see a neurologist in Pittsburgh next week. I offered to try to meet them at the doctor’s office.

Today I asked her to clarify why she was going to a neurologist for a bone problem.  She explained when her back problems were diagnosed three years ago, the first doctor recommended surgery. She consulted two additional neurologists for opinions on how surgery would affect the spinal column. Majority rule said “no surgery”.

The conversation continued. No, her spinal column was not affected. Yes, it might be caused by the chemotherapy (my younger brother, D, asked the same question). “Mets” means metastasized.

“Oh shit” I replied, dropping the cheerful demeanor I have tried to cultivate when talking to her on the phone, as it is not the job of the cancer patient to reassure her loved ones. Reassure my mom did, I was finished babbling an apology for the inappropriate outburst.

“The bone scans don’t show anything but the fracture, so it is probably just that”.

My dad joined around that time, to express his relief that I sounded (and felt) better and had recovered from my first serious asthma attack. Those warnings about the late spring causing the pollen to be released all at once? No joke. I spent four days wheezing, coughing hard enough to pee myself and not sleeping, and six days inhaling, snorting or popping a medication every four hours. It was a misery I don’t care to repeat any time soon.


My dad (“not to be political”) blamed it on global warning. My mom commented that D was doing much better after several years on allergy shots. I pointed out that he started sooner and that I would not be as bad as I am if I had started shots four years ago, when the symptoms started getting serious. I am supposed to see some improvement by the end of the summer, but it could take longer. At the very least, I am able to take the shots without visibly flinching, so I guess that is something.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Project 333 - Day 8

It is incredibly windy out. Last night the temperature dropped enough that even J noticed it was really cold. I went to sleep shivering and work up sweaty.

Something must have happened overnight with my employer's network, as I don't appear to have Internet access outside the corporate firewall and my email access is spotty. Which is problematic, as I need external Internet access to figure out what the hell I am doing testing-wise.

Today's Attire:
Lucky Brand jeans.
Black Flexees tank.
Red three-quarters length sleeve top.
Lucky Brand embroidered blue leather belt.
Lucky Brand scarf.
Black Dansko clogs.

Jewelry:
Tag Heuer Carrera automatic watch.
Engagement & wedding ring.
Baccarat iridescent crystal pendant.
Silver deco ring.

Observations:
1. The jeans are probably the final pair of Lucky Brand I will purchase. I'm incredibly disappointed, as they do make stylish, well fitting jeans in larger sizes, but I can't afford to burn over $100.00 a pair, a only to have them fall apart a year later (as the last two pairs did so recently). I have one more pair of straight-legged jeans from this brand, which I purchased from a discount store but never wore because the legs felt too tight. In light of the fact that they will probably fall apart anyway, they will go into my burgeoning charity pile.
2. I have been more comfortable in my clothing in the last week. Deliberately choosing the clothing I like, rather than dithering over those pieces I feel obligated to wear, has been really liberating. I is still taking me a while to get dressed, mainly because I have not pulled my capsule wardrobe together, but I am almost ready to commit.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

Project 333 - Day 7

Another slow Monday morning. I made it into work later than I intended. The outfit that I planned today was not going to work - too dark and not spring-like.

Today's Attire:
Lauren jeans.
Max Studio white cowl neck top.
Tommy Hilfinger navy blue cotton sweater.
Lucky Brand embroidered blue leather belt.
Black Dansko clogs.

Jewelry:
Tag Heuer Carrera automatic watch.
Engagement & wedding ring.
Baccarat iridescent crystal pendant.

I have a combination of the mean reds and the blues today. The home buying/selling process can do the to a person.

J and I are in the process of selling our old home. It felt like a miracle, receiving a respectable offer five days after listing the home. We are in the appraisal/inspection waiting period and the buyers agent is not the most communicative of the breed.

It makes me anxious, as I feel like we, our agent included, are being viewed as adversaries. Which is understandable, but stupid as J and I just want to be able to wash our hands of financial responsibility. We are more than happy to lose any gains we may make, as long as we are able to pay off the loan, cover the fees to the city/county/agent and turn off the utilities.

The only information our agent has been able get is that the slate is crumbling and the buyer is going to have a roofer inspect it. We don't know the appraisal value, we don't know what other issues were uncovered in the inspection, we don't have anything information so we can do the right thing.

Observations (Tuesday Morning)
1. I felt bland all day. I looked fine, I just felt bland. Mostly my mood I think.
2. J got referrals for roofers. Now we need a sunny day to get a proper assessment done and get it fixed.

48° Sunny
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

Monday, April 07, 2014

Project 333 - Day 6

Today I slept late. Went to the flea market. Had brunch. Purchased new pillows for Boy Alien's room. Did two loads of dark clothing. Changed the sheets in the master bedroom. Puttered. Tried to figure out if there is a pants elf running around the neighborhood, snatching packages from unsuspecting UPS drivers and delivering them to their appropriate owner days later.

Late last night, upon returning home from dinner with friends, I discovered a small Zappos package beneath my mailbox. Inside contained the missing pair of pants, which I verified by checking the order number. As Zappos is sending me a replacement pair, I will have to arrange to ship one pair back.

I am mystified. J's guess is that the driver lied about delivering the package, but he would have to have known he was coming back on Saturday. If it was a neighbor, a note would have been welcome, to save me the trouble of reporting them missing.

Today's Attire:
Calvin Klein jeans.
Green Gap t-shirt.
Gap brown leather belt.
Black Dansko clogs.
Purple and orange scarf.
Roots red “Canada” hoody.

Jewelry:
Tag Heuer Carrera automatic watch.
Engagement & wedding ring.

Observations:
1. The semi-obsessive recording of everything I wear and my feelings is a pretty significant exercise in frivolous naval-gazing, but it is not without a purpose. I want to figure out what I genuinely feel good wearing and get rid of any item that does not make me feel awesome or is a hassle to wear (such as a sweater that will not stay buttoned.)
2. I have not culled my clothes down to 33 items yet. I already know that it is probably not going to be possible for another week and I am ok with that.
3. I really want it to be consistently warmer.

54° Clear
Whitehall, Pennsylvania, United States

Project 333 - Day 5

I don't have any idea what I am going to wear today. I need to attend a bridal shower (ugh) this afternoon and meet friends for dinner this evening. Part of my reasoning in doing this first week without choosing my 33 items upfront was to determine which pieces of clothing and accessories I genuinely love. Now it is Saturday, I need to go from a business causal event to an informal dinner and all of the ideas I had planned in my head are probably not going to work. They all involve items I love, but the weather is classic cold spring slush.

Idea 1: Brown XCVI pants, ordered from Zappos on Thursday afternoon, as a replacement for my two ruined pairs of jeans. Paired with a flowing, white Thomas Pink blouse. The pants are made of cotton poplin and have the funky kind of styling that can go from a bridal shower to a causal dinner. Zappos has next day shipping on items ordered before 1:00PM PST, so (fit willing, but I've had excellent luck with XCVI) they would have been perfect.
The bonus would have been being able to add the pants to my rotation for the whole summer.

Except that I never received them. The UPS driver handed the package over to someone trespassing in our yard. Zappos, to their credit is sending a new pair of pants, but I will not receive them until Monday.
UPS gets a few more cents profit, as they get used again for shipping. I know that Zappos will probably recover that money in the end, but in the meantime UPS earns a few cents interest on a shipment they deliberately delivered incorrectly.

Idea 2: Meadow green XCVI shirred skirt with the Thomas Pink blouse. The downside is that it is not going to get close to 50F until 4:00 PM, which means I will need to wear hosiery and I don't have shoes that go well with hose in spring/summer, since it is supposed to be warm enough to go without.
I think I am going to just fuck it and wear trouser-style jeans.

What I ended up wearing…

Today's Attire:
Wide legged trouser-style jeans
Gray Flexees tank.
Cream three-quarters length sleeve sweater.
Lucky Brand embroidered blue leather belt.
Black Dansko clogs.
Purple and blue scarf.
Slim, knee-length black leather coat.

Jewelry:
Tag Heuer Carrera automatic watch.
Engagement & wedding ring.
String of black diamond beads.
Silver deco ring.

Observations:
1. I originally wore a pair of purple Dansko sandals, but the weather was so cold that I had to put on socks, which look stupid with the sandals.
2. The jeans are from the now-defunct Martin and Osa. I was crushed when American Eagle Outfitters decided to close those stores. They were specifically tailored to fit me and are the only pair of pants I did not have to discard post-pregnancy. I am so delighted to be able to wear them again.
3. The sweater, which is really lovely, will not remain buttoned. After the shower I gave up and changed into a blue Max Studio cowl neck t-shirt. The sweater will be washed and added to the charity pile.
4. I still hate showers.

37° Cloudy
Whitehall, Pennsylvania, United States