Lord help that child

I have said it before and I mean it, I love my stepdaughter. That being said, there are things she does that drive me crazy and from what I can tell, they are pretty typical behaviors for her age (13) and they drive all parental types crazy. Today’s example: not being able to find something that is literally right in front of her.

My stepdaughter has a fairly full summer agenda for a 13-year-old. She had camp, sports practices and meets, sleepovers and outings with friends. Many of these things cost money and at our house there are a chores/responsibilities that must be completed to earn the funds to have the fun. To help her manage her time and responsibilities,  we leave a list daily of what needs to be accomplished before she leaves. This has been a struggle for her, as she, like many of her peers, would prefer to sleep late and watch YouTube until the very last second before walking out the door.  Her list today included cleaning the windows on the kitchen doors. Knowing this would be met with texts and likely a call as to what she needed to use to clean said windows and where it could be located (all cleaning supplied are under the kitchen sink, yet she asks, EVERY SINGLE TIME), I put the window cleaner on the kitchen counter, next to the sink, by the paper towels were it could not be missed.

I did not hear from her, so so around lunch time  I asked my husband if he had heard from her. He said he had, and I quote “she couldn’t find the window cleaner”. What? How is that remotely possible?  When I say it was in plain view, I mean it could not have been in a more obvious location. I told him “I put it on the counter, how did she miss it?” Being her loving father, he looks for some logical answer to my sarcastic question, “I guess she was looking under the sink”. What? Did she walk into the kitchen and approach the sink with her eyes closed? Had she not eaten or had anything to drink (trust me, this is NOT the case, at 13, girls eat as much as boys)? There is literally no way humanly possible for her to have missed the large bottle of blue liquid staring at her from the kitchen counter.

“If it had been a snake, it would have bit you”- I could hear my grandfather’s voice in my head. We have all lazily looked for something, throwing our hands up and asking for help when the task of looking seems too much, only to be made to feel silly that whatever it was could be found in plain sight. This drove my grandfather insane, as he had no patience for whiny, needy children, a trait I have inherited from him. God love her, my stepdaughter gets to assume my role as I have now assumed my grandfather’s. But like he was with me, I want to help her become independent and able to think and do for herself.  Yes, she found the cleaner and I can only assume she used it to accomplish her task, but I can’t help laugh at the fact that in trying to make it easier for her, somehow it became more difficult.

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The eternal struggle to be the bigger person

I try to be a good person, to treat others with kindness and respect, as I wish to be treated. However, for all my efforts, there are some people I struggle to show even the smallest amount of kindness. I know this is a flaw on my part and fully realize that giving into this pettiness makes me the smaller person, but honestly, I do not care. At the top of my list of people I can’t bring myself to be kind to is my husband’s ex-wife, we will call her Ursula, as in the villainous creature in the Little Mermaid, trust me, it’s a suitable name on many levels. I have mentioned in a previous post that I made attempts early on to be civil and try for the sake of my stepdaughter and my family, however I quickly learned this civility as one-sided and I opted to accept that Ursula was an evil presence in my life that I would have to find a way to manage. I’m not proud to say that my way of managing is to be petty and mock her when the opportunity presents itself, behind her back and NEVER in front of her daughter.

I could go on and on about the vile characteristics of Ursula, but if you know the Disney character you have a basic understanding. The character will stoop as low as she must to achieve her goals and  only agrees to help the less fortunate when she’s confident that she can gain something from them in return. This is very much how my husband’s ex lives her life. In addition, she has a very inflated sense of self, due in large part to a drastic weight loss, in which she went from literally looking like the Disney Ursula to more of an Ariel silhouette, thanks to weight loss surgery. I truly believe, although I did not know here then, that when Ursula was heavier she had to play nice in order to make and keep friends, as she loathed herself for being fat, she assumed others would as well. Now that she is thin, I truly believe she has cast aside much of her faux niceness, unless it serves an end goal.

At times my pettiness towards Ursula has come back to bite me. There have been misdirected emails sent to her by mistake with my most honest feelings of her included. Last week my husband was busted snapping a photo to feed my petty mocking ways. While these are mistakes on our part, to which she has every right to take the moral high ground, rather than take it and remain without reproach, she take it a bit too far in an attempt to make herself even more high and mighty. With the email, I accepted my fault and expressed not my regret, but more my need to vent to my friends about the toxic environment she creates for all of us in this blended family. I vent to my friends so I can work out my frustrations without taking them out on her daughter, who lives with me half the time and who I love. As for the photo, well, no real excuse there. He shouldn’t have done it and certainly not so carelessly. Its was not a the huge deal she made it to be, but that is her way. Rather than be embarrassed, when I read her email I could not help but roll my eyes. The martyr was in full force. She made it seem that everyone knew what he had done, that strangers were concerned for her safety and not only that their daughter knew, but she had cried to her mother about;  a week later. I don’t believe half that.  I think someone noticed and mentioned it to her and she opted to wait until the day before the next scheduled event to mention it. I’m not making excuses, as I said, she has every right to lash out when she has the ammo to do so, we do the same when the tables are turned, but at least be honest.

I wish I could be a better person, to not let Ursula get to me and make behave unlike my usual self. But some people just bring out the worst in you. So, no lessons learned, other than my husband will not be called upon to be a spy anytime soon. My stepdaugther will be home this evening, we will not address the situation as Ursula suggested, as I don’t believe for a second it was known to their daughter and there is no reason to make a bigger deal out of it. It was a picture, a single photo snapped to be petty and childish- nothing more covert than that. If she brings it up, we will handle it honestly, as we must own our role, but I won’t lie, it will be very hard to not roll my eyes and maintain a civil tone, it’s just how I deal with all thing Ursula.

Today it happened….I am an old southern woman

No, it’s not some milestone birthday. To the outside world I’m still the same youthful looking 40-something with purple highlights and a sassy red sports car. But I know the truth. Today,  it happened, I sneezed and peed a little! I don’t have children, so this isn’t something that happened due to the miracle of childbirth, I’m just old and this is just one more way of my body telling me the harsh truth. I guess I better go shopping for funny clothes and ugly hats and will spend my weekend digging in the dirt….all with a strong cocktail in hand, as this reality is a bit to harsh to handle sober.

Why do I feel this biological milestone is the official “welcome” to old age? For a long as I can recall there have been commercials of old grandmotherly ladies talking about bladder control and the horrors of finding products to help conceal the horrible truth of old age. Flowery boxes with names that evoke security to protect you from this unfortunate milestone: Depends, Poise, Reassure and Dignity. This, to me, was something that only happened when you were old, when you were someone’s grandmother. In these commercials there are always two concerns: helping with the problems of peeing your damn pants and how to do so with no one knowing you are wearing a product to hide the fact you are peeing your damn pants. And these embarrassing commercials about feminine products to conceal biologic functions don’t start in the later years, you have decades of cringe worthy commercials about products to help woman manage being a woman. Let me tell you the embarrassment of watching tv with your first boyfriend and a tampon or maxi pad commercial comes on. Its torture. They seems to last about as long as Gone with the Wind and you want to crawl into a hole. Why do we even need these commercials? You start your period, you get the products you need to manage it. Same with personal products for every stage of life…. IF YOU NEED IT YOU WILL FIND IT, NO ADVERTISING NEEDED!

Something I have recently noticed is the advertising of similar products for men and how the marketing is very different. As mentioned above, products for older woman with piddle problems were advertised using sweet grandmother types. There is a new commercial for a Depends product for men. The man in the commercial is much younger than any woman I have ever seen in an ad for such products. He is a fireman, getting into his gear. The message is that when in certain situations (like fighting fires), you don’t want to have to think about such things (like adult diapers!). They show the product, grey and black in a “cotton like” material, not the white diaper like product I recall from just about every commercial aimed at women. What is the message here: when men pee their pants it’s because they are doing something noble and virile, but woman are baking cookies for the grandkids or quilting, just being OLD.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that advertising for similar products, the double standard on aging has always been obvious. Women get old and undesirable, where men become distinguished and debonair with age. There are few female actresses that people say look better as they get older. Some maintain their looks, which is often discussed in a surprising way, as if women can’t improve or maintain with age. Often you hear they have had work done. By comparison, you hear all the time how Hollywood leading men look better as they age. Plastic surgery is rarely discussed with regards to men, unless it is someone who has overdone things to the point they look like a science project gone bad.  Is it fair, no, but its a fact. This fact is not reserved for Hollywood types. Look at how mainstream and acceptable it is for older men to have much younger wives.  No one questions it, men congratulate him and women assume the younger woman is nothing more than arm candy, the replacement for the previous wife who aged out of the position.

So, today I am old. I don’t look any different on the outside and I really don’t feel any different on the inside…but it as an embarrassing wake up call I could not ignore. Off to Google those exercises I’ve heard help reverse this sign of aging and hope for the best, as I’m just not ready to give myself over to those products I’ve seen advertised. I will maintain my poise and dignity while depending on myself for reassurance…at least for a few more years.

Cancer sucks…PERIOD

There are few people I know whose lives have not been touched by cancer in some way. Either they themselves have had it in one form or another or a scare or someone they loves has battled and triumphed or lost a hard-fought battle. Even our beloved pets are not spared this hideous disease whose treatment is often as bad as the disease itself.

Today a friend lost a close and dear friend to cancer. She is taking it hard, as most friends would, and I feel helpless, as there is nothing you can do or say to ease the heart-broken by the death of a friend. It was quick, which some see as a blessing, his suffering was not drug out and with luck he was able to live his life on his terms to the very end. This is true, but for those left behind, the ones who didn’t get to say goodbye, who thought they had more time to tell their friend how much they loved them and how important they are to them, a sudden death is like a double blow to the heart.

This is the second friend who has lost someone to cancer in less than a week. Another friend is having a mass for her step mother right now. While they were not close, seeing her father mourn the loss of his wife of more than 30 years is difficult. No matter how old you are, seeing your father in such a vulnerable state is hard.

Trying to find the words to comfort my friends I thought back on all the ways cancer has touched my life. While I suffer with a chronic illness, I have thus far been spared a personal experience with cancer myself (knocking on wood as I type). I have lost family to cancer, but at very advanced ages, so they had long, wonderful lives. The hardest loss was of a friend at just 30 years of age. Amy was pregnant with her second child when she first became ill. She fought hard, but lost her battle before her son turned a year old. She was a wonderful person and my greatest fear was her small children would grow up not knowing their mother.

I have a friend battling colon cancer. He is doing an experimental treatment now, as the traditional treatments failed him no matter how closely he followed the doctors’ treatment plan. That is one of the worst things about cancer, the treatments don’t work the same for everyone. There are no guarantees. You put your trust and faith into a doctor and treatment and hope for the best. Right now, things seem to be good, or as good as possible. He is such a good person, I mean one of those people everyone likes and who makes everyone feel loved. He is a big teddy bear that you just want to hug when you see him. He is an amazing husband and father, who has devoted his life to caring for and making sure his family knows they are his priority. He will fight with everything he has, not for him, but for them, because that is the kind of man he is.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, last year a former friend also found out they had colon cancer. While I will never say anyone deserves to struck with a potentially deadly disease, this person lives in a state of constant negativity. She had the same surgery, the same treatment plan and is doing great:  no further treatment, no additional surgery. I look at both of them and question why. Why is this man who brings so much good into the world given the crap hand and endless suffering and the woman who spews negativity gets a royal flush? I know life isn’t far, but damn, cancer is truly the cruelest of all.

Cancer sucks. It robs us of our lives and our loved ones. It takes the joy of out day-to-day, as the fear of cancer from what we eat, what we drink, where was live and work. No matter the type or when it strikes, it’s horrible. I don’t wish cancer on my worst enemy and one of my constant wishes is that no one I love falls prey.

When does wisdom come?

“With age comes wisdom”- we have all heard that saying. While I don’t consider myself wise, I do feel I have reached a place in my life were I am making better choices because of the mistakes I made in my past. I don’t feel its an age thing, as I feel I made some solid, responsible choices in my 20s and I have many friends who are wise beyond their years.

Today someone told me they were  quitting their job. My first question was where was their new job, as no one quits a job without a new one to step into, right? He has no new job, not yet. And this is what started me thinking about when one about when wisdom comes. Yes, this person is younger than me by 20 years, but I don’t see youth as an excuse. At 27 I was married, owned a home and had been in working at the same company for several years. So, it wasn’t age, it was an inherent  sense of responsibility. I made my share of mistakes in my 20s, but I always made sure I had a job to pay the bills. I was also diagnosed with a chronic medical condition at 24 which requires expensive medical treatment that without insurance are impossible, so in addition to money to pay my bills, I had to maintain medical insurance. Maybe my medical issues aged me faster than some, but I still think by 27 most people realize their responsibilities.

Many people today seem to feel the younger generation are more entitled and spoiled than those before. Just about every kid over the age of 12 has their own cell phone and expects the latest and greatest model as they are released. Kids are also taught at an early age with every second of their day planned to entertain them, that the world seems to revolve around them. This is how the entitlement starts. If you aren’t expected to entertain yourself for even a car ride around town without a DVD playing or a hand-held device to pass the time, then how are you expected to learn about personal responsibility? Everything is provided for them, with no requirement to earn it for the most part. So the question is, if everything is provided, what choices do the younger generation have to make? Without choices, how do they learn what the right choices are and ultimately, how to survive on their own?

This is a topic we struggle with in our home, as my husband’s daughter is 13 and we are trying help her develop strong life skills. She is a good kid, gets good grades and is an all-around decent human being. However, she is unable to do some pretty basic things without supervision or constant direction. I, of course, blame her mother, who has gone over board in babying her to keep her dependent. I guess that is what some parents tend to do when facing an empty nest after being a parent for 25+ years (she has older kids from a previous marriage). I can’t help but wonder if the rising divorce rate plays a part in the entitlement of the younger generations. My parents were divorced, but I don’t recall them battling to “one up” each other when it came to me. I lived with my mom, saw my dad on weekends,  that was the norm “back in the day”. Today many parents share custody with kids spending half their time with each parent. Rather than the rules and expectations being enforced daily, they shuffle back and forth between two homes, often with different house rules and expectations.

I am noticing more of my peers are struggling to pay for college for their kids, taking money from their retirement accounts or taking a second mortgage on their homes to make sure junior graduates with no debt. That is great if you can afford it, but college is a privilege, not a right. I paid my way through college and took out loans which I paid back. I believe knowing I was paying for it made me work harder, I didn’t take anything for granted. Shouldn’t college be the time for kids to start taking responsibility for themselves? If college is nothing more than an extension of high school with a huge price tag, what’s the point? It’s not just learning the lessons from the lectures  and books, but about living on your own, budgeting and time management. I think those are as valuable, if not more so, than what is learned in books. If we don’t learn it in college, then when?

So, back to my original thought, when does wisdom come? It is not like we wake up at 40, 50 or older and have all the answers. Life is about choices. We often learn life’s biggest lessons from the wrong choices.  Touch the hot stove, you learn not to make that mistake again. Get your heartbroken, with luck you learn not fall for that type of person the next time. The list goes on and on, but what about for those who are protected from the burden of making choices for themselves? Those who never learn the life lessons from falling and making mistakes. Does wisdom every come to those people?

An unplanned epic weekend

I’m a planner. It is my nature to plan and organize, whether its meals, weekends, events or vacations. That’s not to say I can’t be spontaneous, I can, but when things need to be planned, I am in my element.

This past weekend was originally going to be nothing special. A nice quiet weekend with no plans, just go with the flow. Friday morning I get a message asking if I want to attend the U2 concert. HELLO… SURE! While I have never been a huge U2 fan, they are legends and as my mother taught me long ago, when you get the opportunity to see a legend, you take it. When I was 18 the Rolling Stones came to town and again, I was not a huge fan. My mom got me tickets for my birthday. I still remember how I protested, I did NOT want to go, but to this day I am so glad I did. I have seen the Rolling Stones, wow. And now I can say I have seen U2 and it was beyond any expectations I had. I love concerts. Live music is simply amazing. I have seen some of the best performers live and I can say U2 had the best show from a production stand point I have ever seen. I had also forgotten now many songs from the Joshua Tree album (which they played in it’s entirety) I loved. Bono remains passionate about causes near and dear to his heart and isn’t afraid to talk about them, even in a deep red state with our “Trump light” governor in attendance. It was emotional and beautiful and the performance was amazing.

Saturday started out with no plans, but like Friday, it took a fabulous turn. First we checked a major item off the family “to do” list: we bought a new mattress set. I have found as I talked to folks about the need to tackle this, mattress shopping is a very big deal. Unlike any other furniture, your bed truly needs to be the perfect purchase. You spend 8 hours (if you are lucky) every night in your bed. It is required to comfort and cradle you, to ensure you drift off into restful slumber so you awake the next day refreshed and ready to take on the day. When you are sick its a safe haven that protects you from the outside world and provides a place to recover. When your mattress fails you, life is off balance somehow.

Shopping for a mattress is an odd process. Yes, you sit on a chair or sofa when you shop, but rarely do you lay down and attempt to make yourself comfortable….IN FRONT OF STRANGERS! And silly me, I thought enough ahead to wear sandals so I could easily remove my shoes to test drive the mattresses, but not enough to realize a short sundress was a HORRIBLE idea. So there I was, awkwardly trying to get into  bed after bed, attempting to appear to be testing the comfort level and  all I was thinking was “am I flashing everyone?”. Finally we settled on a set, but honestly, they all felt the same to me, so I hope we made the right decision. We have a 120 night sleep test, which sounds like a great thing, but the return sounds like a huge hassle. Removing a king sized bed is no easy task, so unless I wake in as much pain and misery as I have been of late, not to mention being more exhausted than when I went to bed, this bad boy will be home to stay. And if our track record holds, it will be our mattress for MANY years.

After the successful shopping trip, we were invited to some friends’ house to just hang out. We listened to music, had some adult beverages and just chatted about all kinds of fun, stress-free topics. It was a nice summer evening.  It is interesting how the dynamic of a group can shift when another person joins. Another lady joined us later in the evening. She was very nice and outgoing, I’m sure under other circumstances we would have a great time hanging out. I could tell fairly early on that there was a heaviness about her. The mood shifted to political talk, which always gets heated and impassioned. It was getting late and after the very late night on Friday, we used that as an excuse to make our exit. Apparently our timing was perfect, as after we left the woman had  full emotional meltdown. Perhaps is happened because we were gone, but I am grateful we were not there to witness it. Being emotional support for my friends is something I do well- I’m a good listener and I try to give sound advice when it is asked of me or simply comforting words and support when its not. But to deal with a stranger’s emotional breakdown, that is a bit too much for a Saturday night.

Sunday was Father’s Day. I do not have a relationship with my father. I had emotional closure many years ago, so it no longer affects me. Father’s Day is meant to be a day to honor my husband who is a wonderful father to his two children, as well as our furkids,  and my father in-law who I could not love more. I’m very lucky to have the love and support of my in-laws, especially since my parents are absent from my life. Family gatherings are always interesting for us. My husband has a brother who is the polar opposite of him in every way, except one; their need to debate and be right. Yesterday was no exception. As we finished dinner they got into a debate on government funding and it got heated…VERY heated. I am not even sure they noticed that everyone left the room, leaving them alone to battle their points. The epic debates between the two are so legendary it was decided that a safe word was needed so the rest of us could call it out to put a stop to any discussion we felt was getting out of hand, as they rarely can see this for themselves. I was very impressed that they were able to escalate, argue and come back to a place of calm without anyone using the safe word. Maybe they are maturing…. at 46 and 42 years of age.

As I sit here this Monday morning thinking back on my weekend, one that I had no plans or hopes of greatness- it was truly one epic 72 hours.

Triumph

via Daily Prompt: Triumph

To me, to triumph is to overcome or achieve that which you have wanted for a long time.

Today is my husband’s birthday- I honestly feel my marriage is the most profound triumph of my life thus far. This is not my first ride on the marriage roller coaster. In my early 20s I followed what seemed the logical relationship path with the boy/man I dated for nearly 4 years- marriage was the next logical step, so that is what we did. The problem, I didn’t love him, at least not in the way a wife should love her husband. He was a nice guy and we got along well, we had a great friendship. My parents divorced when I was very young and I was determined to do better. I made every effort to make my marriage work and while it was not the worst of relationships from the horror stories I heard from others, I wasn’t happy. I would wake up and think “is this it”, is this my life. Waking up day after day, not miserable, but certainly not thrilled to face the day with the person laying next to me.

Leaving my first husband and the life we had build was hard, but necessary. In doing so I set upon a journey to find my happiness, not just another relationship. I had long periods of time where I had no interest in dating, others were I casually dated just to see what stepping outside my comfort zone felt like and I had relationships that felt like they had promise, but inevitably fell short. Once lesson I learned from my first marriage: I was NOT going to settle.

When met my now husband I was done with dating. I went into the date with new stand: all cards on the table. No playing coy to feel out how much of my extrovert personality he could handle. No ordering a safe glass of white wine that was nursed upon throughout the evening of boring chit-chat. I brought my full personality to the bar, ordered and beer and said “Ok, here ya go, what do you think”. Lucky for me, he was of similar thinking. He started off by telling the me the worst thing about himself- the thought being if I could deal with that, all he had to do was not lie and no matter what came up it was no worse. How refreshing. We talked and laughed for hours (and on a work night!). I left thinking, for the first time in a long time, this guy had promise.

That was nearly five years ago. I feel I triumphed over single life over 40. I found my perfect match and a life I honestly didn’t think was possible. My life is a triumph.