Incidental family

Incidental family

When my landlord decided to lease the guestroom in my house, Gaefan became an incidental member of our family.  When he moved into our lives, I was one year into the divorce process, one year into a job hunt, I was way behind on rent and I was shouldering $80k of credit card debt my ex created by secretly supporting his failing business with my credit cards. Since he used my cards, I was also dodging the phone calls from Citibank.

My parents were retired and lived inTexas.  Still do.  My father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  I was working six part-time jobs and still not able to pay the bills.  I had also started dating a guy fairly regularly.  He was employed, good looking, crude and probably an alcoholic.  Some of my best stories have to do with the Boyfriend Candidate.  He was and is quite something.

So basically, I was busy and panicked.  I had relationships going and coming.  I was trying to keep the lives of my three boys normal, at a level of privilege they had gotten used to, but was impossible to maintain.  The days of immediate gratification and spontaneous generosity were over.  I came up with an empowering action list.  I love lists.

Option 1. Get a job.  I had been a stay-at-home, home-schooling mom to my slightly autistic son.  That would have to end.  He started brick and mortar and I started pounding the pavement.  I submitted my resume to over 500 companies in the 8 months I was out of work.  I had temp jobs that floated me.  I transcribed.  I participated in surveys, and I dated for dinner.  Best of all I started web and blog writing.

Option 2. Get remarried, quickly, to man who would make all our problems go away.  It could happen.  I figured I’d fall in love again one day.  If that day could be today, that would be really convenient.

Option 3. Prepare to move back to Texas.  If 1 and 2 didn’t work out, singularly or in combination, that would be all that was left.  Me and my three would be moving into a three bedroom with my elderly retired parents, one of whom was suffering from dementia.  These are not the warm fuzzy grandparents that I hear other children have.  My mother takes no prisoners and my dad is a mystery.  So finding a job or finding the love of my life was really critical.

So into my very ordered, yet unpredictable life comes Gaefan.  He was all hippie auras and holistic transcendence.  He was so far out there he looped all the way around, back to self-righteous and had no idea.

When I met Gaefan, it was late at night.  I opened the door to a much older man, shaved head, energetic.  I didn’t get any kind of a vibe off him so he seemed safe.  Not a child molester, not a gay pedophile, not hot for me.  No flags.

He was British and had the accent.  Clearly delightful.  I gave him the tour.  We have a yard; he had a dog.  I told him then my children were allergic to dogs so his would need to have limited range.  He seemed ok with that.

And he was in.

We need to talk

We need to talk

My Boyfriend Candidate texted me this morning, “We need to talk.”  At which point I asked myself, why didn’t he call if he actually watned to speak?  But not one to get hung up on details, only distracted by them, I texted back “cool”.  THen four hours went by.

I don’t know about you, but when my guy says he needs to talk, I go into red alert.  Guys don’t want to talk at all ever, if he needs to talk now, that’s some big shit, right?  So, I literally sat there staring at the phone waiting for it to vibrate.  Finally, I couldn’t take it any more, I was starting to stress eat the last of the eggnog yogurt covered almonds, and I texted him that I needed to know the next move.  He then says he’s under radio silence: he’s taking a yoga class.

Seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up.

We finally get together.  The confrontation required negotiating and careful manipulation, the details of which I won’t bore you with.  He basically says that he feels that he can’t talk to me about my life.  That whenever he has a suggestion or advice, I’m not open to it.  OK.  First of all, giving me advice is quite the opposite of having a discussion about my life.  For men, they want to problem solve.  For women, we want to be heard.  I know at this early stage of our relationship that the BC doesn’t get that yet.  When I start to talk about my life, I just want to be empathized with.  I know what needs to be done.  I’ll do it.  I just need to talk.  Do not solve my problems for me. . . unless I ask.  All women work this way.  In any case, no, I don’t want to hear whatever from you about my life.  You don’t know me well enough and it makes you look arrogant instead of simply galant.

Also, he is a control freak.  My way of controlling the control freak is to shut him down.  He starts to opine about what time is best for me to check the mail or best ways to teach table etiquette to my sons and I change the subject abruptly.

The fact is, we are too old for this.  He is a mature man of a certain age who knows with certainty what is right.  I’m a certain woman of a certain younger age who feels the same. We often times don’t agree.  I’d rather not even talk about it so, guilty as charged, sir you win.  You are right, you may not talk about my life.

I’m glad he’s confident, self-assured and reticent.  And for better or worse, he found a woman who is the same way.

New Year’s Revolutions

New Year’s Revolutions

My kids and I have been discussing the resolutions we want to make.  I think goals are a good idea.  I think that reviewing where you are and thinking about ways you’d like to change or improve can only be a good thing.  We take the whole first week of the New Year to think about it since being on time or being prepared has never been a resolution.

So my Sam says, “I want a revolution too.”

“That’s ‘resolution’ little guy, but I like your spirit.”

“I want my revolution to be eating more dessert and less school.  I like school, but I don’t want to go to school.”

Which makes perfect sense to me.  For my part I’m going to try embracing holidays.  I really do hate them.  The older I get, the more cynical I become, every single holiday feels like an orchestrated event to get us to spend money and buy advertising space and humiliate ourselves trying to sing unsingable songs.  And with small children, the holidays cannot be dodged.  The decorating, the obligatory gift giving and card sending . . . it all makes me crazy.  Crazy with exhaustion and that feeling that I’ll never get a grip on it.  I’m always behind.

So this year, I’m getting in front of the holidays.  Every month there is some opportunity, and we are going to celebrate.  We are going to celebrate every damn holiday if it kills me.  We are going to have fun dammit.   That means decorating, a small gift exchange, food and some social activity for the whole family.  I will even hang the appropriate flag outside our front door as evidence of my holiday spirit. Ugh.

Which brings me to the first holiday.  Martin Luther King Day.  What on earth does one do for this holiday?  I’m being challenged right out of the gate.  How do you decorate to integrate?  Is there equality food?  What does a freedom gift exchange look like?  All I can think of is that we each take a portion of King’s great speeches and read them aloud.  And while that might sound educational and beautiful, come on, it’s lame!  My resolve is being tested only two weeks into the New Year.

I won’t be tripped up though.  I’ve got the glow of a New Year’s Resolution all over me and I will not fail.  I’ll probably lose that last ten pounds by then too.  Who am I kidding?

Excused from PE for life

Excused from PE for life

I have a girlfriend diagnosed with cholinergic urticaria.  There is no cure.  There is only pre-emptive treatment which means you have to know when an attack is coming.  And, that’s not possible.  Even if you could know in advance, there are only over the counter medications.  Big pharma hasn’t taken on the task of trying to fix this disorder.  And yet. . .

A quick look on Wikipedia says that this is a disease brought on by a rise in the body’s temperature, ie from exercising!  That’s right: an allergy to exercising!  And it has such an exotic name.  Bonus.

What I wouldn’t have given for a note to my gym teacher in high school, “I’m very sorry, please excuse my daughter from PE today and every day.  She has cholinergic urticaria which is untreatable and incurable.” No navy blue gym shorts of unfashionable length!  With my name in white fabric paint etched across my thigh!  No more teachers hollering my name from across the field!

Wait, were they teachers or coaches?  Come to think of it, they didn’t do either.  They were more like referees or parole officers keeping the potheads from sparkin’ up and too cools from humiliating the nerds.  Although most of the too cools got to take cheerleading as a class.  And what was that about?  A class?  For credit?  For cheerleading?  Seriously, I hope things have changed.

I digress.  I feel terrible for and envious of my friend.  I really do love to exercise, but I have no time and my butt shows it.  The thick layer of dust on my treadmill is testimony of my good intentions.  By the time I get home from work I’ve got two hours to do homework with the boys and cook dinner.  The idea of 30 minutes on the treadmill is a distant fantasy.  Maybe if I get up early…

But really, I sound so whiney about it.  Much better to say, “Sorry, I’d love to go for a run along the beach, but I have cholinergic uticaria you know.  I have to be careful.”

Right on the nose

Right on the nose

I’ve had a lot of fun this past week talking about my Boyfriend Candidate’s gift giving extravaganza.  And I realized I didn’t share the best part in my past posts.  I opened the first gift and it was . . . a nose hair clipper.

I knew in that moment I could love this man deeply.  I knew it was a practical joke in the literal sense.  Practical, sensible, hysterical and the kind of thing you never want to buy for yourself so receiving one as a gift is kind of thoughtful and generous.  Almost like a sexual lubricant or Preparation H.  Do you really want to check out at Wal-mart and know that they know that you know you have an intimate issue?  No.

Also, and he doesn’t know htis, several years go I gave everyone in my family nose hair clippers for Christmas.  I mean every man, woman and child.  I actually read in GQ that it was one of those must haves for men that most men didn’t have.  At the time I felt women were getting the shaft; and why not women?  Like we don’t have nose hair too?  So I thoughtfully covered everyone’s unacknowledged needs that year.  As I opened my package I reflected on that and I felt a kindred spirit in my guy.  I actually kind of teared up. Among the other gifts were jewelry, a massage certificate, some knick knack thing for around the house.  Those gifts will all be forgotten.  But the nose hair clipper?  He really loves me.

Merry Christmas my children, I give you me

Merry Christmas my children, I give you me

This Christmas I decided to give my children my office.  I’m completely redecorating with desks and bookshelves, lots of space for school projects and floor to ceiling whiteboards.  It’s costing more money than I have , but it really has to be done.  My kids are struggling at school.

I openly stressed about the money and the transition to my mother over the holidays.  She completely missed my bigger issues which makes sense because she is a woman of another generation.  My open stressing rendered no support, instead some small condemnation.

My mother suggested I was redecorating because I like to do that sort of thing.  She suggested that I not make financial expenditures which could deprive my children.  This was merely a luxury I should forego.

She was missing big points and I couldn’t convince her otherwise.  She was a stay at home mom most of her life.  She married my dad when she was 21 and raising children was all she ever knew.

My kids have me for only a couple of hours every night – for homework, dinner, chat and cuddling.  They are now at an age where they need space to open books and make projects. The three of them share a single, small bedroom. They need my office space more than I do.  My single, imposing desk which accommodates one will not help the four of us muddle through the three Rs.  No question:  they need a functioning room and the expense is just one of those things I’m going to have to shoulder.

But the bigger heartache in all this is losing my office.  I had an occupation and a profession which gave me satisfaction and independence.  I had barely begun marketing myself and enjoying the thrill that comes with building a business.  I’m turning my back on that, giving it away to the three people I love the most who depend on me for everything. . . and it hurts.  It hurts to realize I’m not that zippy independent professional I once thought I could be.  Calling the shots from my seat of power, making things happen and influencing the world.  I’m simply not important in that way and handing off my office seals that fate and acknowledges my own impotence in the adult world of movers and shakers.  It’s really quite sad.  I could feel like a failure except that I see this step as one toward creating success in other areas, other more important areas, like the development of children.

This really is their time.  I suspect my time is over, my arc has ended.  Whatever chances I had to “be something” have now dissolved except in ways that pertain to or at least include consideration of the kids.  I’m really ok with that.  It’s an adjustment period certainly, but I feel triumphant in that it was a hard decision. . .  and I only hesitated about two days to make it.

Shower me

Shower me

My Boyfriend Candidate went nuts this year and gave me a bunch of gifts.  Not individually extravagant, but as a whole, it was an investment of time and consideration.  I gave him a set of wine glasses – which he really didn’t need.  It was nice, minimally thoughtful, and looked kinda puny next to his pile of generosity.

I have such a problem with this.  Being new to dating protocols – after 20+ years of being with my now ex-husband –  is the gift giving suppose to be equal?  That’s unrealistic considering our difference in income and the fact that everything I have rightfully goes to my children.  Still, I’m uncomfortable.  I want to show him materially that I care – it’s just not practical or even possible.

It doesn’t bother him at all.  As a matter of fact, when I mentioned it, he was put out.  He said it was his opportunity to be a little extravagant and spontaneous, and if I was going to tie his hands with a budget aimed at achieving equality that would take all the fun out of the holidays.

I believe too that this gift-giving addresses a sort of fundamental difference between the sexes.  I suspect men want to contribute to their women in ways that show character traits and promote their desirability while increasing their market value.  The gifts from my BC showed me that 1) he has a sense of humor, 2) he notices my decor/nesting and can purchase an item to match, 3) he notice my stress and wants me to relax, and 4) that he can pick tasteful fashion jewelry which complements my style.  These gifts all say “I notice you.”  I suspect there was no budget in play.  Or at least he wanted it to look that way.  I learned a lot about how he feels about me and how he wants me to perceive him.  Considering his inability to have a discussion about his feelings and intentions, he accomplished that very thing he avoids through the gift giving.

Or maybe he was at Target and just picked up a bunch of stuff.

 

All he wants for Christmas are his three front teeth

All he wants for Christmas are his three front teeth

Christmas light update:  they are still working.  I think we have a truce.

My youngest son, when he was about a year old, was going up the bunk bed ladder and fell down.  His mouth took the brunt of the fall and probably hit more than a couple steps on the way down.  By the time I got to his screaming little self there was blood gushing from his mouth.  I could see his top front teeth positioned in completely unnatural ways.  I had visions of the ER and a long night with a suffering baby.

I paged the pediatric dentist.  She called me back right away even though she was at a cocktail party.  She told me just to move the teeth back where they belonged.  I was stunned.  I was actually driving the car around in circles not knowing if I needed to meet her at her office or go to the hospital.  Instead she sent me home.

I did as I was told and it worked.  I put the teeth back.  Got a cold compress and saved his teeth.  For about two years.  Then he came home from daycare, smiled and his upper teeth were gone.  They had broken at the gum line.  No one saw how or when it happened.  He didn’t have an accident.  I can only assume they were fractured from the long ago fall and that was the day they decided to fall out.

The roots of those teeth had to be removed.  The broken bits were sharp.  Which Sam misunderstood to mean “shark” like he had “shark teeth” which wasn’t an entirely bad description.  We were at a maxillofacial surgeon’s office to get that done.  They don’t like using general anesthesia on babies so they used all locals to remove the teeth.  Sam takes after me in that he does not respond to painkillers.  The meds didn’t really work.  He didn’t dose off and he screamed like murder during the procedure.  The roots of these baby teeth were half an inch long.  The doctors had to physically pull me from the room while I was screaming I had a right to be with my minor son.

My now ex-husband told me I needed to mind the doctors.  I was disruptive, a distraction.  I should have divorced him then.

When my son was in recovery I went in.  He was literally like a caged feral animal.  He hissed at me.  The nurses told me not to worry because the meds caused a type of amnesia.  He wouldn’t remember a thing.  But I would.  I toss an imaginary grenade every time I drive by that office.

All of this is to explain why my son doesn’t speak well:  he has no upper teeth.   And because of that he says the cutest things.  He can’t say “you’re welcome”  for instance.  It comes out “I’m Malcolm.”

“Thank you Sam!”

“I’m Malcolm Mama!”

I just love that.  That’s really all I wanted to say.

Stupid Christmas trees

Stupid Christmas trees

I am irked by the holidays.  I’d go so far as to say I hate Christmas, but I think God would be angry and I can’t have that.

I have a fake Christmas tree on my front porch.  It’s a hand me down from my mother.  I already had very nice compact tree for the inside of the house so this big tall one got relegated to outdoor decoration.  And amazingly, it gets lots of compliments from the neighbors who enjoy seeing a big 10’ Christmas tree all lit with multicolored lights and metallic bows.   Now, not only because of the God thing but also because the neighbors expect it, I have to put that frickin’ tree up every year.  I go to war with this tree every December.

I got new lights this year. I thought I would do something nice for it and it might return the favor.  About 2000 tiny jewel colored flickering lights in the night.  At least for a few hours and then they sputter out.  I’ve change the fuses now three times.  I’ve changed the way they link together so that they don’t.  Each strand has its own independent extension cord.  Wires flow from under the tree skirt.  Very high tech.  I fear I can only keep the lights on for about four hours at a time and then they blow out.  I’m so irritated with the outdoor tree I could cry.  I don’t even move the ladder back to the garage any more.  It’s on standby.

The indoor tree has proved just as uncooperative this year.  It’s a conspiracy of ornamentation.  It’s a prelit tree which came with now lost guarantees.  I stacked it up and plugged it in and several of the strands don’t work this year.  So off to Target for replacement lights.  A couple hours later and it’s up and down the ladder filling the voids.

My faith in the indoor tree is lost so I won’t decorate it.  It’s a naked tree.  As soon as I hang something on it, I know a strand will go out and I won’t be able to do anything if balls are on it.

The last few days I walk into the living room, glare at the tree and challenge it to screw me over.  Then I hold my breath and plug it in.  Whatever relief I may experience when the lights turn on is short-lived as I realize I need to walk to the porch and have a show down with Tree Number Two.

Considering my investment of time, these trees are staying up until Valentine’s Day.

Next time I go naked

Next time I go naked

I went to the Boyfriend Candidate’s house the other night.  I think the relationship is getting stale, and I’m concerned.

I walk in his door, granted the three kids are in tow.  Also I must say, he was sick and I was having neck pain.  We are old indeed.

I call out, “Hello?” And the three kids start calling out his name.  We go to the living room.  Empty.  The playroom.  Nothing.  On to the kitchen.  Here we find him.  He is reading the Economist, glasses at the end of his nose.  He delivers this heart-felt welcome.  “Oh hi.  I didn’t hear you come in.”

I have problems with this and if the kids hadn’t been bouncing around the kitchen, I would have called him out.  Not hear us?  We are a herd; that’s not possible.  There was a time when he would have been sitting on the front porch looking for me, waiting for me with some anticipation.

He didn’t even stand up.  It was disappointing and hurtful in the way you would expect, but I immediately went to the bigger picture.  Do I want to come home to a guy who doesn’t stand up and embrace me?  My marriage degraded over the course of 20 years into that kind of nonchalance and mutual apathy.  What does it say that that the BC and I have already hit that mark?

Then again, I know I should give him a break.  He’s sick.  I’m edgy.  The children can have a numbing effect.

Next time I may have to walk in naked and check his response.  Then I’ll know if I’m really in trouble.