Monday, April 06, 2015

It's Not Easier

People seem to think that since we've done this before, we know how to handle things, that we're fine.

That's utter bullshit.

The second time around does not make it easier. If anything, it's harder.

Twice I have slept in an ICU with a child in critical condition, holding his hand and tending to his needs. Telling him he would be okay, that we'd get through this, when I wasn't so sure myself.

Three months ago today, I walked into the ICU to see my son just out of emergency surgery with oozing bandages on his head, tubes in and out of his body, and a purple swollen face. Twelve years ago on Thursday, that same son crashed and coded in another ICU and ended up on life support for nine days.

It's harder to go through it again because we know the some of the recovery ahead of us -- yet we know we don't know at all what is to come. We don't know the trajectory, or what curves will be thrown our way in the process. And this time, some of the recovery is happening out of our sight.

In each instance, we've come out the other side with a son who is alive, even if not quite intact. He has more than two feet worth of surgical scars on him now, a bit less lung, and a bit less skull (replaced by titanium plates). But he is alive, and cognitively intact from everything we can tell. He is back at at school.

I'm so thankful he is alive. I cannot put into words how thankful I am for that. I am so thankful that he is on another path to recovery, but I am having even more trouble understanding why.

One kid, two freak incidents. What were his chances of developing ARDS as a 7 year old? What were his chances of hitting that tree as an almost 19 year old, the one tree on the hill that he been used for sledding by generations of he friend's family. It had never been hit before.

I know. There is no point in asking why. It just is.

He'll never be the same. Again.

We'll never be the same. Again.

People around me assume that since C is back at school and there is no active care-taking happening in my home that it's all done and over. Injury+surgery+clearance to go to school=done and recovered. Not quite. He has a traumatic brain injury and still shows some post-concussion symptoms (subtle though they may be). He looks okay, therefore all must be okay.

When people ask how we are and I respond with anything other than, "Fine," it's clear they don't really want to know. They want reality to match the outward appearance. We look okay, therefore we must all be okay.

Right now I need people to have patience with me, but it's hard to ask that out loud. I am trying to process a lot. So is my husband. So is my son. So are my other children. I'm emotional and get upset easily. There's been some extended family drama, too (both sides). We as a family need to have patience with each other, too, and in some moments, that's hard. We are all needy -- and we all need each other not to be so needy. It's a catch-22 that will take time and a bit of faith in each other to get through.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

It's not the end of the world

Though to listen to the voices in my head, you might think it were.

So I enjoyed myself over the holidays and the scale is reading a few pounds or so higher than I'd like. Really, just a few. Single digit. So what.

So what.



I haven't been one to make resolutions the last few years, but, dammit, I need to get over this body image issue. Or through it. Or something.

I'm fit. I'm strong. This shouldn't matter. Why does it so?

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

I'll Take That as a Compliment

Early this morning my husband and I were having a conversation about out 15yo C and academics. There's this current awful teacher situation we're trying to coach him through, and there's also planning for next academic year -- his junior year in high school (how the hell did that happen?).

I said something like, "I'm trying not to be a helicopter parent about this, but it's hard."

My husband said, "I don't think you are a helicopter parent. I think you are a predator drone parent. You operate stealthily, at a higher altitude, allowing greater freedom on the ground. But when appropriate, you are able to launch a surgical strike with lethal precision. These teachers just don't know who they are dealing with."

Blink, blink.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It Gets Stranger

So...continued drama with my sister. I received this email from her yesterday.

You have plenty of friends to talk to, but your last e-mail trivialized me. I have told you that you won. You fucked me over. Please stop it. This is another case where you "poured gasoline onto a fire" and detonated a bomb. Your actions since yesterday have hurt me deeply. I cannot continue to receive your harassing emails, texts and a phone call is out of the question. I have told no one, not even S*****. The issue now is only about your behavior in the last 17 hours. Please do not contact me. Maybe later, but it would be unproductive in the near future. You have destroyed me enough I chose not to put myself through any more. I'm not in very good shape today because of you and if you contact me again it is because your only intent is to further fuck me over.

I'm still trying to sort out exactly what is going on. What I've won, I have no idea. Apparently I f*cked up a situation I knew nothing about by responding to her calling me a bitch. I mean -- really -- did she expect no response? And it appears her husband knows nothing about it. Big red flags to me. I had no idea I had so much power!

But so much is not adding up. The idea that she's trying to catch some perv is questionable. She doesn't have an altruistic bone in her body -- never does anything unless she gets some benefit. My suspicion is that she's hiding something really big -- something she really screwed up but, as usual, won't take any responsibility for her actions. I suspect this whole stalker/catching a perv claim is really an affair gone bad. I wonder if the whole fall drama was an effort to deflect someone in the house getting close to the truth. The AFS student perhaps?

One night last summer on the beach, the power of a moment stopped me in my tracks. It was a gorgeous night, my family was together, eating good food, goofing off, bickering, and so on. My sweet husband came up behind me and hugged me and asked me what I was thinking. I said, "I want you to know that I'm not going to screw this up, at least intentionally. We have such a good life, and I appreciate it. You and the kids and where we live and all that. I'm not going to intentionally do anything to fuck this up."

My sister -- the whole family -- can have the west coast. I will take my life on the opposite side of the country with glee and appreciation. it is not a perfect life, but it is a good life. I appreciate it, challenges and all.

Maybe that's what I have won.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Don't Know Why I Bothered


It's been quite a while. Much has happened, is happening. Since I can't vent about some stuff on Facebook and Twitter, I'm back writing here, trying to process the latest drama.

It's been over a year since I wrote about my sister. In that time, it's been mostly calm. That is, no contact. There was this small episode in February '11 while I was working on the initial phases of the town project (which passed, by the way). She was very nasty to a friend of mine on Facebook -- yes, we were still "friends" though she had filtered her page so I couldn't see anything -- but shortly after that she was off Facebook completely.

I had some contact with my oldest nephew. He moved to a new city to start a new job. I was very excited for him. (I later figured out that the Facebook episode in February corresponded with his departure for the new city -- much like her dramatics each time he left for summer internships.)

This fall, in November, the nephew came to visit. It was great to see him. But the trip was a little odd, too. He seemed distracted. He also said his mom and family didn't know he was visiting us and he'd like to keep it that way. I agreed to keep it quiet, not post his name on Facebook, etc.

Later in November, I sent my sister a birthday gift, like I did last year. This time, though I sent a gift card and it would have been harder to return.

A couple weeks later, I checked one of my alternate email accounts for the first time in a while. This is also the only email address my sister has. And there was an email from her.

It was nice. It was thanking me for the gift and telling me some things, and though it was a little cryptic, it was nice.

I waited a couple days before I replied. But I did reply, hopefully.

And thus began about a month of tentative communication. I was careful not to respond eagerly and took great pains to craft emails that were showed some interest, but weren't too...anything. I vowed not to get caught up her in her shit again.

Along the way I learned that in early November she had been involuntarily committed to the psych ward for several days. This corresponded with the nephew's visit and explains why he was distracted. As far as that commit goes, I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner. Really. It's been brewing for years -- and brings whole new meaning to the term "crazy relatives." I'm not clear on how she extricated herself -- don't really want details! -- and whether this therapist who called the police is still around. I suspect not -- I suspect she's done her usual see the mental health professional long enough to complain about how she's been done so wrong and get prescriptions but as soon as the therapist asks her to take some responsibility for her life, she bails. It's about a 30 year pattern at this point.

Anyway, the emails. Among other things, I learned that they are hosting an AFS student from Spain this year. Yes, an innocent girl from half the world away has been cast into the mess. The real motive for having an AFS student became clear in one email. She wrote, "When S***** came in August I made the mistake of thinking I will have a daughter who would be just like you. As my little sister you liked anything I did, etc." Poor girl. As my sweet husband said, if the year ends without a visit from Interpol, we can call it a success. However, as of this last week, AFS is looking for a new host family for the girl.

She went to visit the oldest in his new city in December and insisted on telling him all the details that got her the police escort to the locked psych unit and a three day commit. Her sons DO NOT need to know those details. They are not responsible for her mental health. And this oldest nephew now feels in such a difficult situation. As if he doesn't have enough going on in starting his new life.

Christmas gifts were exchanged, even.

So...things were going along fine. Until last night.

Last night I hopped on Twitter and discovered a mention in an account I didn't know. This account, this handle, called me a "bitch." Upon investigation I was able to easily discern it was my sister. And I could see that it was in reponse to a Thanksgiving-related hashtag I'd used back in November, noting that the biting incident was my worst Thanksgiving ever (and I do take responsibility for my role in that). Further investigation of the handle revealed a tweet saying, "New area of expertise: sisters from hell." That would be me, in case you hadn't guessed.

I responded to the tweet with:

@******* Oh, hi, A*****! Nice to see you on Twitter. Hey all, say hello to my sister, A*****. She lives in AZ. Hope we'll have fun here!

Okay, perhaps I should not have done that. I've been called worse by her, admittedly, but this seemed rather out there. She really had to look for that old tweet. She *worked* for that indignant feeling. But -- what the F**K? -- my *sister* calls me a "bitch" on Twitter and I am supposed to do nothing? Wait, don't answer that. I suppose that is what I should have done. But clearly I didn't.

Next I tried texting her. Here is our text exchange:

Me: How about we actually talk things out instead of calling names? 1993 *was* my worst T-day ever...and *I* had a part in making it such. Why are you using J***** B******'s name anyway. Do you even know where he is now?

Her: 17 years ago? Just when I thought you were growing up

Her: I use J***** b***** because I had a horrible stalker

Me: It was rather memorable. And I guess I'm lucky that in those 17 years I haven't had another really terrible T-day. Although 1999 was pretty sucky. And 2006. It was a hashtag that millions of people were using that day. I'm sorry if you take offence.

Me: What does "growing up" have to do with it. It happened. Maybe with time travel we could change the past, but we can't.

Me: Why the need to call names?

Me: Offense, that is.

Her: Thanks for your apology. It's a first. And I do understand that its funny. After 17 years wtf I have gone through it's not fair

Me: We've all been through lots of shit.

Her: If you don't have a better story time to make some new ones

Her: I'm busy. Last word. Gfi

Me: And I am pretty sure I apologized to you back in 1993 when I gave you that book about sisters, cheesy though it may have been.

Me: Gfi?

Me: If you want apologies, how about these:

Her: Go for it.

Me: I am sorry I was born and screwed up the perfect family of four.

Me: I am sorry I no longer idolize you like I did when I was little

Me: I am sorry that I left Phoenix and didn't come back.

Me: I am sorry that you've dealt with the brunt of mom stuff.

Me: I'm sorry I'm not what you want me to be in a sister.

Me: I'm sorry you've been so unhappy all these years.

Me: I'm sorry Dad was so uneven as a parent. Im sorry you think i was his favorite. You should know how much he talked about you and worried about you. He just wanted you to be happy and didn't know how to help that happen.

Me: I hope neither of us ever have a worse Tday than 1993. I only want us to have better Tdays than that. And better days every day.

Her: You were not his favorite. Go back under your rock

Me: I certainty hope I wasn't! It was often accused by you, however. WHY are you so intensely angry at me?

Me: What does what I do with my life have to do with yours?

Me: Why do you feel the need to call names and get so nasty?

Her: Go away. I'm not even reading them. You won! But I wasn't competing

Me: Won what? I haven't been competing either. And I don't believe that you really want me or anyone else to go away. You want us to see how unhappy you are. We see it! You want us to know how angry you are at the world. We know! But what do you want any if us to DO about it?

Her: Erase erase erase. I can truly erase before I read. Don't cast your pearls before swine!! Tweet that one under stupid sisters.

Me: I am trying to do the right thing here. You are my sister and I love you. Even when you are nasty and angry I still love you. We also have a mother who isn't getting any younger and we are going to have to deal with her.

Her: Now my phone is off

Me: Super! You'll get these when you turn it on again

Me: Turning off you phone isn't going to make any of these issues go away

Then it moved to email. The first one from her:

I am so mad, I can't and will not even read your email. I had a stalker. I follow my stalker. The ** police patrol my house. I had to close my other twtter account down with a K score of 52 and 350 terrific followers, including the site for which I have written. That site (HUGE) was almost shut down three weeks ago because of attacks by my stalker at me on that site. Now, you are making me start over again, after just one fucking week? There will be an arrest.

Again, grow up, have the last word, fuck me over again, talk about me for shit that happened 17 fucking years ago, There are people who follow you and they know who I am. I have groveled enough to try to have a relationship. Congratulations J, you fucked me over. Again. Take my kids. Take anything dear to me. It's yours.

Then this:

Your email is unread. This was important to me. I can see you now, running around calling all your friends and anyone that can listen to you just like a girl and a catty one at that.

Then another claiming she's just really an internet crime fighter and I screwed everything up and put young girls in danger. So which is it? So many things don't add up. I had no idea she had a stalker -- and if that Twitter account was all about catching him, why would she call me out? Not to mention Words with Friends posts that mention her friends' names (that would then put them in danger), and so on. It was way too easy to figure out it was her.

Clearly this is a no-win situation. I get that. If I could just sever all contact with no fallout, I just might. But we have a mother who is not getting any younger (she turns 80 this spring and I get the sense she's hoping for a big family get together to mark that birthday. Oh dear.) and extended family that would be extremely uncomfortable and her kids...her sweet boys (at least 2 of 3 are sweet).

I think we're back to silence. It's rather a relief. I was getting caught up in her shit even though I vowed not to. Why a woman who has such huge life advantages sees herself as such a victim, I don't know. Life isn't perfect, crap happens, but she played a role in a lot of that crap happening. So "all I have have been through" sounds so pathetic. Rather "all the poor choices I've made and refusal to take responsibility for my life."

At 57, she's hopeless. I know that, as much as I hate the reality of it. I hate acknowledging that about someone I do love. A healthy relationship with her is not possible. Trying to interact with her in a rational manner is not possible. It's about damage control and minimizing issues from this point forward as long as our mother is around. And as my grandmother lived to be 95, it could be quite a while. Sigh, and all that.

In other news, I am unemployed again. Trying to go in many different directions at once -- which one will stick?

Monday, October 10, 2011

She Must be One of Those Job Creators I Keep Hearing About

I've been working on a project in town -- trying to get town approval for funding a new school building. It's no easy task. The first half of my effort was last spring and resulted in favorable votes at town meeting and town election for design funds. Now we're asking for the big bucks -- construction funds.

The project is solid. We need it. As a community we have to afford it for our long-term health. The people involved are honest and hardworking and have put in thousands of hours of volunteer time. And so on and so on. I believe we have sufficient support in town. Still, there are pockets of opposition and I will not feel calm about this until all the votes are in, 27 days from now.

Saturday morning, an acquaintance and I were standing outside the local market passing out flyers and talking to people. It was a productive morning. My acquaintance is terrific for this task as she grew up here and she knows everybody. Everybody.

A couple hours in, this woman comes by and starts chatting with us. She clearly knows my aquaintance. We tell her what we are promoting, and she immediately launches into a monologue about how we really don't need schools, and if they pass she doesn't know if she's going to be able to afford to keep living here.

We hear this a fair bit. The cost is not insignificant, and we are not unfeeling. Town officials are working hard to make sure the financing is as affordable as possible. We have tax abatement programs in town for those in need. And so on. So when this woman said this, I was sympathetic. Plus, she is absolutely welcome to her opinion.

But then (and of course there's a, "But then.") she said, "When I moved here, my taxes were $6000 a year. Now they are over $24,000."


I know the tax rate in this town. And when she said this I was quickly able to determine that her home is assessed at about $3,500,000. That's assessed value, not market value -- which likely would be higher.

I worked hard to keep my poker face on while I offered facts on the project. And this woman continued find reasons to dismiss those facts.

Shortly, though, the woman said, "Well, I've got to run. I'm trying to get to Nantucket for a couple days and need to make a ferry."

My acquaintance said, "Sounds wonderful. Where do you stay on Nantucket?"

The woman said, "Oh, I have a house."

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Oh the Ambivalence of Mother's Day

We just can't seem to get Mother's Day right. Or, rather, I can't seem to get Mother's Day right.

We had a fine Mother's Day. Really. We have a family project going on that I'm really quite excited about and the day itself was fine. Truly! We had casual dinner out -- and then I started to loose my shit.

I'm overwhelmed by house management. I've never been a very been a fabulous housekeeper, though I manage okay. But as the kids have gotten older, staying on top of all of it has gotten harder and harder. Tonight, trying to get the kids into bed, I blew up a bit, so pushed to the limit was I by some of this house and stuff management. 60% of the family ended up in tears. I'm not proud of this moment. I've already made my apologies. But it happened.

But why did it happen today? And not yesterday? Or tomorrow? Or Thursday? Why today?

All day I've been avioding the news media and even Facebook to a certain extent. All the posts by my friends and acquaintances about how much they love their moms and she's their best friend and all the gushing? Well, I kinda don't get it. Mom and I aren't close (I, uh, may have mentioned that here before), and even though I love her, there's a distinct distance, on both our parts. And then I feel guilty thinking that because I do know I'm lucky that my mom is still here with us. My husband lost his mother almost 23 years ago, and would love to have her healthy and available and part of our lives. Ditto with other friends.

The posts gushing about kids I get, but I wouldn't necessarily do something like that myself, especially on Mother's Day. Because I feel like such a screw up as a mom. I know my kids deserve so much better, and making such a grand statement on such a day feels weird. I think I feel like if I did that, it would be so laughed at. Like others would say, "What a joke! Her! Trying to claim some credibilty!"

The build up to this day by advertisers has become just unreal. It's like three weeks of in my face of how I don't have a Hallmark relationship with the one who gave me birth. I don't begrudge all of you who do. I don't! But could we all just step it down a couple notches? Please? And it's giving my kids this ridiculous idea that they have to go over the top for it to be a "good" Mother's Day. Mother's Day or not there are still dishes to be done, laundry to fold, floors to sweep -- and teenage boys who strew their socks all over the house, pre-teen boys who argue at the drop of a hat and tease their little sisters, and seven year old girls who don't want to eat their dinners but still want ice cream and dissolve into serious tears if she can't find a specific stuffed toy among the gazillion in her room.

My mom happened to call earlier this week. I swear here voice was overly perky, like she had to psyche herself up to call me. She called to tell me she'd been to a performance by the local ballet company (I'd given her a gift certificate for her birthday). She had a nice time, which was nice to hear. She also talked about she might finally have convinved my cousin and her family to come visit her, as she's been asking them to come out for years (her emphasis, not mine) and how said cousin's daughter loves to hear about the local sites. You know how often my mother has expressed a desire for me and/or my family come visit? Zero.

So, yeah, I have some ambivalence about this day. Which makes it a little more understandable why I lost my shit today instead of yesterday or tomorrow. I still wish it hadn't happened.

Bad mommy.