extended families


Master Yoda - origami.

Origami Yoda via Wikipedia

Yoda was right. You do or you do not. It’s not a shady issue. Succeed and be rewarded. Fail and suffer the fall-out.

It reminds me a bit of that old saying “no good deed goes unpunished”, which stems perhaps from the idea that good deeds often depend on the favored to achieve success and it’s never a good idea to gamble too much on anything that’s so far outside your own sphere of influence.

DNOS is chuckling like Mrs. Santa tonight because N1 is heading back to Iowa this weekend. It’s been a costly gamble. And not just monetarily. But it’s time to admit defeat and send the troops home to regroup.

I’ve lost yet another day in damage control and I am mightily weary. I have a life and commitments of my own that need my attention and resources. Yet I find that I can’t work up any real emotion over it aside from a heavy sigh. I am not disappointed because I am beyond that where family is concerned. They are who they are. I am not surprised when events end up the same time and again.

But I am not inclined to be sorry either. True. It is do or do not, but you can’t “do” anything until you are willing to “try” something. In some cases, anything.

As I was walk/running at the track today, it occurred to me why I have never won the lottery. If I had that kind of obscene money, I would use it to help people avoid learning the lessons they were born to study and master. I couldn’t help but use my good fortune to give others the opportunity to realize success of their own. Being happy,and really without any serious needs or even wants, for the first time in my life these last few years, I just want everyone to know that same feeling.

Destiny, however, has seen fit to put me in a position that makes it impossible for me to do anything but spot people toward their goals thus forcing them to do the rest of the work themselves. And it’s for the best. You don’t learn anything when life just hands you things, or when people in your life hand you things without requiring anything from you by way of effort. A little help is okay but I think there is also some quaint old saying about the universe helping those more who are willing to also assist their progress with personal sacrifice and hard work. I might be paraphrasing a bit, but I am sure you understand.

Rob, and my mother, both think that I should pat myself on the back for at least doing something because there are those who do nothing and then sit back and nod sagely when precisely nothing else happens. CB, I think, has earned a pat or two himself even with his implosion taken into account. He has less than I do in terms of resources and yet he offered all he had and then some and gained little from it.

But still I think Yoda was on to something. There is no try when try is all you have to offer. If you aren’t willing or don’t believe that something meaningful can result, it’s better not to bother.


Anonymous Woman

Anonymous via Wikipedia

Now that many, many members of my family – immediate, extended and rarely interacted with – are reading my blog, writing about what is going on in my life boils down to a choice between discretion and kiss my ass, go write your own blog if you are feeling misunderstood.

Things in Cali are a mixed bag. After literally weeks of N1 not buying into the idea that he was there to explore new horizons and possibilities (key words that really mean “go to college and get a job”), he finally fell in love with The Bay Area and began making concrete plans. Naturally this was a good time for CB and xSIL to have one of their cyclical love/hate, emphasis on “hate”, fests.

Anyone who’s ever seen them together, even at the best of times, says the same thing about them.

“They just cannot be in the same room together.”

But most meant it in a way that implies that these two don’t have feelings for each other and shouldn’t have hooked up in the first place. What strikes me about them – always has – is how little they know of each other or want to know. They have their ideals and are locked in a struggle to cajole the potential out of each other rather than just except the other one for who he or she is.

They’ll never be happy.

What set off the latest row is a long time in the making and precedes N1’s arrival on the scene, but his moving in probably sped things up because it prompted CB to make a serious attempt and finally giving up drinking for good.

xSIL will have none of it and true to their volatile relationship, she decided the best way to punish him was to get him fired and evicted.

She can do that? It does sound a bit Machiavellian, but her brother-in-law owns the apartment complex CB works at and lives in. Her sister rules the BIL like he was her prison bitch. It’s no wonder they don’t have kids because that guy has no balls. Oh, and did I mention that she is the complex’s manager?

I am never certain that xSIL realizes how her periodically blowing CB out of the water is like cutting off her own nose to spite her face, but as of early this afternoon, CB had abandoned sobriety, refused to discuss his wagon tumble with me when I called, and caused N1 to flee to the public library.

All N1’s plans are upended. CB has no job. The BIL knows perfectly well what’s up but refused to discuss it with CB. He got a 30 day eviction notice, and so he and N1 are out on the streets in 25 days.

“CB says he’s not leaving,” N1 told me. “He says they can throw him out.”

And haul him off to jail too , I thought, because that’s the one thing xSIL hasn’t resorted to – yet. But if I know her at all, she will.  She works for the county at the court-house as an interpreter.  She’s sweet-talked this and that law enforcement officer into doing her dirty work for her before, and I warned N1 to not cross her because she’d gleefully toss him under the correctional facility bus too*.

I try to be nice to xSIL, which DNOS feels is a waste of one’s precious life force, but I don’t dislike her.  xSIL is who she is. Just as CB is who he is. The fact that I accept who they are, however, doesn’t mean that I approve of the stupid and destructive things they sometimes do. They have kids. Acting like extras on Teen Mom or Jersey Shore is a luxury that grown ups with responsibilities, and little lives dependent on them, can’t afford.

I have zero idea how this will play out. My main concern at the moment is N1. He is still seventeen. He has no driver’s license. He can’t sign a lease to rent a place of his own, but even if he could, he hasn’t got more than a $100 in the bank.

Even if I could talk him into leaving – he won’t by the way, he wants to go to school in January and he’s been offered a job at a car dealership when he turns 18 in February – there is the question of purchasing a ticket without computer access and getting him to the airport now that xSIL has banned CB from using her car.

I’m a little annoyed with both CB for deciding to have a breakdown right now instead of manning up a bit, sticking with AA, and with xSIL for putting these events in motion without thinking the consequences through for all parties involved. If I have to fly to San Francisco to straighten things out for N1, I will cross the “annoyed” line and land squarely in “hell hath no fury” territory, but I am hopeful it won’t come to that.

Why?

Because N1 sounded okay today when I spoke to him. We talked about the steps he needs to take and I think there is an outside chance he might be able to do what he needs to in order to get things lined up. Yeah, there is December to deal with and we’ll cross that bridge then, but perhaps CB will rally and xSIL will calm down. Nothing really is out of the realm of possibility.

It’s sad because I spent over an hour talking with CB yesterday morning and he was upset but seemed focused on taking steps to get himself employed and housed again. His daughters and N1 were his motivation. As I have said before, whatever else his faults, he loves his kids and his family.

DNOS will chortle. She thought the whole idea of N1 going out to stay with CB was a disaster movie in the making, and Mom is going to have a small fit when she discovers what has occurred.  She was making plans to go out there, but a bulldozer won’t push her in the direction of California now.

It’s 10:17 P.M. MT and there haven’t been any frantic Facebook messages or phone calls. Of course, if they are in jail, it will be a while before I hear about it. That’s not pessimism. I am a realist. I look and hope for the best but am always aware that just about anything can head to hell equipped with a sturdy hand-basket at any moment.

I’ll keep you posted.

*My family is trailer park in Arkansas effed up sometimes and I can’t even use the “maybe I’m adopted” excuse – because we all are. There is no excuse.


Knock on Wood (film)

Image via Wikipedia

Remember not long ago when I casually mentioned that our renovation progress hinged a bit on the type and frequency of family emergencies? And that I said, we had not accounted for all those who could possibly implode and need assistance?

Okay, so we’ve dodged a bullet or three in the last week or so, but our luck did not hold.

My dear sweet mother-in-law phoned tonight to let us know that she is filing for divorce.

The details are sketchy but sad and a bit sordid. She’d sold her home. Invested in a new one in the States. All of her things are in storage and she is doing the senior citizen version of couch-surfing. Finances are bleak.

“But I will survive,” she said. “I am not going to spend my remaining days miserable.”

What this means in terms of assistance isn’t clear yet.

“You mean Dad is her only option?” Mick typed to me on Facebook in reply to a heads up message I sent to her and Edie.

“Umm, yeah,” I replied.

“I am?” Rob asked.

“What? Do you think your sister is any shape to help?”

He smiled grimly, “She’s on the verge of homeless herself. Maybe Mom can move in with her and help with the mortgage? It’d be like old times.”

I have heard about “old times” and it makes me shudder a bit. Besides, his mother has already lived a version of this with the other sister and it didn’t turn out well at all.

“You know what the worst thing about this is?” Rob said “We’ve lost a place to stay in Arizona for Christmas.”

Like we’d have ever flown to the States at Christmas. Unless someone had died. Which I am knocking wood to ward off those evil spirits even as I type.

* Thanks to furious voting in the past couple of days, I have retaken the 5th spot. I need to hang onto it until the end of the day on Thursday, so I need more votes. I know. I know. I keep saying I need more but I do. For purposes of blog exposure, making the Top Five is important. The site only shows the first five and you have to click through to the others, which is less exposure because who clicks through? I am up by about twenty votes and that’s nothing for someone to gap. I need to be up by 40 or 50. So, if you could click over and vote. Just three more days. Please? Thanks.


Secret Bunker

Image by marcmo via Flickr

Banality thy name is blogging. At least sometimes. Though it may seem like my life is naught but husband, hearth and homey-ness, a lot goes on behind the veil virtual reality allows me to shroud my actual life with when I choose to.

There are certain dramas that don’t receive exemptions. My immediate family once removed has suffered more than one outing here, a victim of my knife-edged keyboarding skills.

However, I do keep some secrets and I don’t always blab about the goings on around here. Sometimes for discretion’s own sake. Most times because I haven’t quite worked out a way to say what I want to say but seem as though I am talking about something else all together.

And sometimes, I just would rather not comment.

Suffice to say that life is interesting – not Chinese curse interesting – but, the game is afoot and outcomes are uncertain in several familial arenas.


"It's YOUR time to SHINE in 2009!"

Image by eyewash via Flickr

And at the risk of sounding shrill as I repeat myself, “unless someone is dead or nearly so, don’t call me!” Really. I mean it.

The latest non-life threatening emergency that presented itself for my immediate attention is the ongoing drama surrounding my older nephew’s premature entry into the adult world.

I am standing in the check out at Safeway yesterday and the phone ringles. It’s the oddest ring tone but the least annoying of the generic options available to me as I don’t (yet) possess a smart phone with all its sci-fi tone upgrading capabilities.

Snatching it up as quickly as the confounding zip locks on my purse will allow, I am expecting a request from Rob. I’d spoken to him a bit earlier, so he knew I was shopping and I thought perhaps he remembered something he wanted me to pick up while I was still in town.

It was Mom.

Since day one of cell phone ownership, Mom’s treated my cell as a homing device. I knew she would. In fact my chief objection to getting a phone was Mom.

“She will see this as permission to track me like an endangered animal on the plains of the Serengeti,” I told my late husband, Will.

He wanted me to have one so that I would “be safe”, but the truth was that he just liked having the same type of instant access to me that I didn’t want to hand over to Mom.

“You can screen her calls with the caller ID,” he said.

“Because having her call me over and over until I picked up would be better than just picking up,” I replied.

I still lost on the issue of carrying a cell phone and Mom went from her habit of leaving me multiple messages on the answering machine to simply stalking me by cell phone if I didn’t answer the home line. The cell phone thing has worked out nicely for everyone but me no matter how one looks at it.

Because it’s the middle of the day on a Tuesday, I know right away that Mom isn’t calling to ask me how my day is going. Like DNOS, weekday calls mean that something is wrong.

“I need to talk to you,” she began.

“I’m standing in the check out at the grocery. Can I call you when I get out to the truck?”

“Okay,” and she hangs up on me before I can even say “good-bye”.

Naturally, I am in the lane of the cashier who least loves her job. She is a dour woman, who moves at the speed of drying paint, so by the time I get to the truck, I have run through a dozen desperate scenarios – which all involve dead or near so relations.

“I’m so worried about N1,” she tells me. “He was up here yesterday for a visit. I made him his favorite lasagna and he couldn’t even eat.”

Mentally, I note that the drama queen gene is overly represented in my nephew, but say,

“Why is he upset this time?”

I’m expecting that he’s made another pitch for a car or asked her to co-sign a lease on an apartment for him because he and his dad are continually at odds, but she tells me that she thinks it’s about his wanting to go to community college and study mechanics.

It’s about no such thing, of course. N1 launched a campaign over the summer to be allowed to move back to D-port, where he went to high school. His dad moved them there a couple of years ago. N1 fell in with a group of older kids – drop-outs to varying degrees – lost interest in school and then quit himself when his dad moved them back to DBQ last winter. He’s moped about ever since, plotting to move back and get a place with some of them and work at a fast food place that someone’s grandmother owns.

It’s a seventeen year old plan and that about sums up the long, short and every which way of it. There is no merit to it. It won’t further his life in any meaningful way because at the end of the experiment (which is where he loses the job, can’t pay his share of the rent or make up the difference his friends won’t be paying either and Mom is stuck with the bill), nothing is gained by way of N1 being even marginally closer to the “contributing adult” status that is fervently wished for by all.

“I think he might be severely depressed,” Mom went on. “Who knows what he might do?”

And I’m thinking now? What the fuck? And why couldn’t she have burdened DNOS with this nonsense after she got off work?

But my wiser younger sis, DNOS, refuses to have anything to do with the half-assed attempts to first aid our nephew’s life. As far as she is concerned, when N1 gets tired of lying in the lumpy mess of a bed he’s made for himself, he will do something related to “constructive” and until he makes a move in a positive direction without help or coercion, he is best left to flounder.

Good point on the “he needs to do this himself” front but it overlooks the fact that N1 is a kid who has mostly been raising himself, and badly, since he was 13. Even before that, parenting isn’t something he’s had too much of.

After fifteen minutes and much reassurance, I talked Mom back off the ledge she tearfully teetered on and promised to talk to N1.

Who wouldn’t give me his damn phone number when I messaged him on Facebook for it.

I’d had it, couldn’t find it and asked him to send it to me. Little monster would only talk to me via “chat”.

Grrrrr.

And no, I didn’t tell him how much like his mother he was behaving though I was sorely tempted. Baby won’t talk to me in real time either.

Back and forth over the course of the afternoon and evening led me to the conclusion that N1 was playing the drama card for a bit of sympathy from Grandma. In fairness, she is as close to a mother figure as he’s got. It didn’t have to be that way, but I failed time and time again to get custody of N1 while he was growing up. My last attempt came just before he entered middle school and I warned my parents then that it was unlikely that I would be able to take him once he hit his teens for real and they would rue the day they turned me down.*

As per her request, I called Mom back that evening to let her know how N1 was. We discussed again my brother CB’s offer to have N1 come out and live with him in Cali.

DNOS is adamant that N1 not go, but she is hopelessly biased. Baby really hasn’t said how she feels about it except to reiterate her inability to foot his room/board in any way. I don’t know how his dad feels. At the moment, his father seems to be wallowing in regret over his own wasted life**, so he isn’t much use.

For all his faults, CB has been a pretty good father and N1 needs a father. CB was also once a 17-year-old high school drop-out with nothing but more ideas than capital and a GED. He certainly has the right credentials for understanding just what N1 is up against in the real world that the kid hasn’t clue one about navigating.

N1 admitted to “thinking about calling Uncle”. We went back and forth and then he stopped responding.

What he will do now, I haven’t the slightest idea. He’s a lot like his mother. He hates the unknown and invents all sorts of worst case scenarios to justify avoiding change, and while he makes friends easily in new situations, he loses them just as quickly. Partly because he trusts where he shouldn’t and distrusts where he should be more open. It’s a gift he inherited from Baby, who has only rarely lucked into good friends and never into a good relationship.

The last meddling I did was at Mom’s behest. I contacted CB and asked him to talk to N1.

And now, let’s all remember – dead or nearly so – anything else really needs to be referred to someone who actually lives south of the Canadian border.

*And I get no pleasure out of this particular “I told you so” because N1 needed a parent. I can only guess where he’d be today if Baby would have given in and let me raise him the first time I asked when he was two, and there is no sense crying over the spilled milk, but few things make me as angry as adults who waste the little lives that life puts in their care. A wasted child is one of the saddest sights. I encountered so many children as a teacher who were ruined by crappy and/or indifferent parenting.

**He was a 19 year old high school drop-out when Baby got pregnant. She was 25 or 26. N1’s dad was a foil. She used him to try and make the real objective of her attention – a mutual friend of theirs – jealous. This guy, though a royal sleeze, was wise enough to realize that Baby was looking for a baby-daddy. She missed being on welfare.


So yesterday was a banner day for views. Between my YouTube version of a Hallmark greeting in honor of my handymanly husband and taking part in nursemyra’s T-Shirt Friday, I nearly topped out at 150. Woo-hoo, eh?

The week was packed with errands and reno and school preparations and family melodrama.

BabyD has been having tiny bouts of anxiety about her upcoming induction into grade one and all day school. To the point where she has been making Rob and I a bit peeved with “growing pain” episodes and tears at the drop of a hat about – nothing as far as we can ascertain.

We dropped by her school on Thursday as the teachers were finally back in the building and a visit to the grade one classrooms and a chat with her kindergarten teacher – in addition to picking up her supplies – has calmed her a bit. I will be taking her in on Tuesday but Wednesday we start with the bus back and forth. Fortunately, the little boy behind us (renters – it won’t last) is going to be riding the bus with her and with luck they will be in the same class.

Tee is a nice kid though Rob doesn’t think he is too bright (he thinks that about the boys ElderD and MidKid bring around too) and today BabyD and Tee played princess and My Little Ponies happily for over an hour. I have high hopes for this friendship*.

Most major activities for the fall are now booked. Ballet on Monday night for BabyD. Yoga twice a week from 10 AM to 11:30AM (me). I found a yoga strength training drop in class on Friday mornings too, and I am signed up now for the writing course at U of A. It’s being taught by a local journalist and writer and is designed for immigrants to tell the story of what brought them to the area. She is going to put together a book in which some of the stories might be included and there is a public reading after the class is over. Very cool opportunity.

Thursday being my dad’s birthday, I gave him a call around lunch because it is better to talk to him early in the day anymore. He is in bed most of the time and is not really eating again. Our talk was brief. He was not very responsive and sounded worn out and very old. Sometimes he is lively and witty but more often than not now he is sounding far away.

CB tried to call dad too a few hours later but got our mother instead and was told to call later as dad was asleep again. His call to dad was really about him – he needs help escaping his situation in San Francisco and wants to go home. To Iowa. That’s desperate folks.

Thwarted, he called me but got the answering machine. His tone told me I needed to call him right away and my instinct was right. He was zoned on his anti-anxiety meds and he talked – mostly at me – for an hour and a half. Basically he wanted me to convince the folks to bring him back to Dubuque.

And that’s what I have done.

But first I told him that it was time to really put the past in the past and take his relationship with our parents from now forward. No more looking back.

I told my mother the same thing when she tried to bring up CB’s long ago hell raising of his teens. I pointed out that he was a kid and they were the adults. They didn’t know he had mental health issues even as a small child but they had made mistakes and some of them were wrong no matter how the spin played.

I talked to my brother again on Friday. He sounded much better and I told him to call home and hash details out with the folks. Later DNOS called to wish Rob a happy birthday**, and when I told her about urging our parents to bring CB home for a bit, I got her pat reply,

“Oh really.”

Our mom uses the exact same expression and tone. DNOS sounds just like her sometimes – and would be horrified to know it.

Anyway, it means “WTF are you up to” or “Thanks so fucking much but I don’t think so”.

I noted but ignored. I am tired of some of the older family dynamics.

Dealing with CB is upsetting. It reminds me of Will in the earliest days of his illness – before we knew anything really – when he would get anxious or angry and plaintively tell me he had no idea why he felt as he did but that sometimes he felt like he was losing his mind. Sadly, he was and no one believed him or me.

CB’s quest to find mental help or help period has been fruitless with most doctors and other professionals telling him (or accusing him – take your pick) that he is actively choosing to live an effed up life. My folks and DNOS still believe this to some extent too. I don’t.

But I have no magic wand (or excess cash lying around) to help him, so I remind my parents that CB is their son and they have amends still to make. Unfair? Perhaps. But that is what big sisters are for.

Today Rob is off to the city to help ElderD move in with her friend who is a boy whom she loves and who loves her. Beyond that is anyone’s guess. Our massage therapist thinks BoySheLoves is gay***. We’ll see.

BabyD and I are off to shop for school clothes.

Next up is cleaning for a garage sale (good freaking god help me) and to put our new fall schedule to a serious road test.

Life in the Great White North.

* Like that the family doesn’t move soon. They are acreage crazy and it’s not looking good.

** My family worships my husband like aboriginals with a Coke bottle*.

*** Okay, we wondered about that too but ElderD says “no” because she wondered also and asked.

* nursemyra rightly reminds me that Australians might take offense at the coke bottle reference. I was thinking about that movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy, when I made the comparison. My family acts as though Rob dropped from the sky like a god in Greek Mythology and it irritates me to no end as it seems to me they are happier with him than they ever were with my late husband. I meant no offense but realize now that some people were offended and I am sorry.