My Parents (Boundaries, Part 3)

My mom and dad decided to put their elderly farmhouse on the market. This is not as charming as it sounds, except when it is, which is only just as the sun sinks below the Blue Ridge, casting the crepe myrtles and blackberry bushes into shadow and when the breeze swirls the scent of freshly cut grass and young pine trees through the summer heat. The rest of the time, it has mice and the plumbing is sluggish. The pipes burst, the slate foundation leans, there is a bear in the woods.

I fully support this decision. My dad is having more trouble with stairs (and walking in general) and they have an hour drive just to have an appointment with the doctor. It never really made sense to buy the house but they did and there it is. I think it’s smart to downsize and to be closer to emergency care. I think they will be happier to spend less on gas and to be less dependent on their questionable car to take them back and forth. I think they will like plumbing. It’s nice.

It isn’t easy though. They want what they have always had* – a spacious house with a large yard. They want it to be one level and close to town. They would like to pay two pennies for this house. I’m a little surprised at their inability to truly downsize but I shouldn’t be, I guess. It’s exactly as they have approached my dad’s diagnosis on the whole: out of sync with reality.

My mother has been crying about money and moving which is really crying about my dad. I’m pretty sure that’s how you can class all the crying around here. And I reassured her that they wouldn’t be on the street. That if the house sold immediately (ha) and they hadn’t signed a lease, they could live temporarily with us. Can you imagine what my mother heard? I believe it was something along the lines of: You should move in with us right away. Debra and I will move into the unfinished basement so that you don’t have to use stairs. Live here forever.

My sisters will hopefully help to turn her away from this collision course she is on. But that seems flimsy, doesn’t it? How do you say no to a man with cancer and his bereaved wife?



*They have forgotten the tiny trailer in San Bernadino, the brick box in Benson, and all the times they moved in with my grandparents.



Xanax Bought Me These Pants

I am the worst at clothes shopping. My wife referred to me (not at all lovingly) as quasimodo on Sunday.

As in: You still look like quasimodo in the mirror with one shoulder hiked up and a grimace.

She’s right though, even when I buy clothes online and try them on in my mirrorless bedroom, I do some sort of weird clothing-related hunching maneuver that is likely a physical manifestation of the way I feel inside when I try on clothes.

I have never in my life put something on and thought, yes. yes this fits like a glove. I am so excited to wear this. I’ve had clothing that fits beautifully standing up but which turns into a shambles sitting down. I’d had things look terrific from behind and a monstrosity in the front. I’ve had an enormous number of Clown Pants and Strangulation Shirts. You see, my shoulders are broad, my arms are assertive, and I have a nice rack (all the better to carry my problems with, and heft my child, and carry bulky things, and shrug off disasters) which makes many, many shirts ride up around my neck while simultaneously gripping my upper arms for dear life. I also have my grandmother’s belly which is to say I am perfectly normal until you sink below the belly button and then holy fuck what is that even and then normal again. I remember looking at the smooth, sudden roundness of her belly as a child and wondering how on earth that happened while leaving her perfectly average everywhere else. This ensures that dress pants that fit my belly often tent out like I’m a circus clown in a hula hoop and suspenders.

I’m hot stuff, you guys.

Now, I could go on about how I’ve spent the last year miserably under compensated for a promotion, which is to say not compensated at all (and I have lots to say about that), but I’ll stick with the fact that I can’t afford new pants, or nice pants that won’t fade, and I desperately need them because jesus, having a dad with cancer and a mother who has a husband with cancer has really done a number on my eating habits (pretty much all cake). I’ve been wearing two pairs of pants – one faded twill and one pair of jeans – for the last eight weeks. My clothing in no ways says, hey I’m a Director of Important Shit. It more says, hey, I work here, maybe, if work means come here every day and sit in that corner office hoping you won’t look at my pants.

It’s not good when you find yourself taking a day off every other week so that you only have to wear each pair twice. On the odd weeks, I sub in a questionable dress and skirt, neither of which I have seasonally appropriate shoes for. I have also taken to canceling meetings or showing up early to sit down first so that people don’t notice my pants problem.

And so, on Sunday, my wife announced we were buying new pants. There was a lot of moaning and grousing and general whining, all of which sounded generally like but nothing ever fits! I’m always BETWEEN and remember the Clown Pants?! But because I’m a big girl, I took a newly-acquired-because-I-am-not-handling-this xanex and you know what? I didn’t cry. I even found three things that mostly fit. At the first store.

This has never happened. There were no casualties. And even though my wife still called me quasimodo (thanks for that). I didn’t even try to hide or hold my laptop in front of me when my boss walked past today. Progress and pants, brought to you by anti-anxiety medication. I’ll take it. Literally.


Things I Didn’t Expect To Say

Whose pee is that?

And honestly not know.

Because there are multiple culprits.

And I’ve said it more than once today.






While You Were Away…

You guys, I was on my way to bed, thinking to myself, “no screen time two hours before bed, even backlit screens, how am I supposed to do that” forgetting, for the moment, that I’m trying not to control everything so who the hell cares whether I’m reading a book on a backlit screen before bed, when I realized you were the only people who would appreciate how ridiculous I look.

Because here I am, blue face mask drying (anti-stress, it says) in an effort to hopefully get the blemish the size of Mount Kilimanjaro that arrived ON MY CHEEK to subside or at least stop being so red and so…tall. It is so giant that I’m distracted by it when I glance down. I am also wearing one shoe because two minutes ago as I was trying to wrestle a fitted sheet free from its boa constrictor-like grasp on my forearm, I stepped awkwardly on my heel which was already sore and a blinding pain shot up my leg and knocked me over. On my ass. So I hobbled around with snake sheet and blue mask until I got to my shoe because isn’t that what you’re supposed to be doing when your foot hurts…shoes…and I jammed the hurt foot in. I did not put on the other shoe because I can’t put enough weight on the first foot to manage the second shoe. I gave the cats some water because I’m a good person and also because I’m trying not to think about the fact that I might be left with those ungrateful bastards because today the vet found a lump in the beloved dog’s rectum and it’s being biopsied and I actually cannot think of that reality. So I don’t look where I’m going with my one shoe, blue mask, snake arm hobble and I put the bare foot right into cat poop.


So I’m calling you. Because who else can you tell this shit (literally) to?

Not an Uplifting Post

So I’m still working my way through the L Word – very nearly done now! – and I find myself stuck in a parallel universe that has none of the fun sex and all of the stress. I think I’m Bette in this terrible scenario, facing the reality of being too controlling.

For the five of you who didn’t check out after reading “the L Word” but don’t have the context, suffice to say there’s a relatively successful woman (Bette) who has lots and lots (and lots) of flaws and who is generally finding herself either a) angry, b) angry and sad, or c) angrily trying to fix things. After setting the rustic table at her girlfriend’s home with a tablecloth, she is accused of trying to control everything. And, the viewer has to admit, it’s more than a little true.

I can’t see myself from the outside but I feel like I’m that person. The one who is putting a tablecloth on a perfectly fine table in someone else’s home. Bizarrely, my own home is a jumbled mess. The books stay where RR has dropped them. The pictures she has drawn litter the living room floor. The clothes are folded but not put away. There’s a t-shirt on the table and a backpack under a chair. Some library books are due. I don’t know when. I haven’t looked for them. I hope no one else is waiting for the audiobook of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus.

At work I have all the things I wanted but am on the wrong side of every conversation. I can’t seem to fix or stay on top of anything. People talk and my feelings are hurt. And yet, I know I’ve got it right (or mostly so) and this is the consequence of being a somewhat more noticeable chess piece on the board. Still I wake up each morning with a pit in my stomach. Every shower is a problem-solving session. Supper is fuel for worries. Story-time a merciful pause before the constant mental scrolling of the work yet to be done.

I’ve been to this place of inertia before and then I felt hopeless. Now, I feel like I’ve done this to myself and that I perpetuate it by trying to fix everything. If I stop trying to fix things, I’m afraid I’ll be awash in everyone else’s tides and THEN I’ll feel hopeless. I’m not interested in that particular trip. So, of course, I try to fix it and in the midst of seeking a solution realize I’m trying to control something quite out of my control. Which reminds me of Bette and the L Word and how if I wasn’t that person, I’d probably be just fine.

I keep hoping it’s not noticeable to everyone else. This unfortunate personality trait. I’m afraid it’s the most noticeable thing about me and I don’t know what to do about it. And, if I wasn’t this person, I wouldn’t care. That’s a horrible circle to be stuck in.

It Isn’t My Fault At All, Apparently!

Having my parents live nearby has been more rewarding than not. I also get to catch a glimpse of my unmedicated self in my mother – just in case I was falling into the familial trap of thinking all pills are the devil.

Sanity. It’s worth it.

One of her skills is to turn everything in such a way that it has been directly influenced by or is related to her own actions. This takes extraordinary talent and is especially notable when she manages to extend it generationally.

Case in point: she is sure that the reason RR is taking so long to toilet train is because she wished this on me when I was small. And not just small. She spent a lot of time wishing I would get all of the things I challenged her with back – threefold. “At least.” She truly feels bad only not, she says, because I had it coming.






Frozen Solid

What is the CRACK that is Frozen?

Is this because we never watched movies before Frozen? I feel like we need a B.F. and A.F. notation to denote which part of our lives happened before they were accompanied by Let It Go and the parts after which involve a lot of serenading.

Also a lot of braiding – LIKE ELSA MAMA! – and dress-wearing – LIKE ELSA MAMA! – and towel cape wearing – LIKE ELSA MAMA! – and long, involved conversations wherein Debra and I are are some combination of Anna, Sped (or Swed), Olaf, and Hans. There is also lots of “Hans Kissing” while RR holds your chin, ever-so-gently, and kisses you. You mustn’t kiss back and, if you keep your eyes open, you can watch her go cross-eyed as she zooms in on you.

This child, who has never touched a doll, suddenly discovered the two she has and christened them Elsa and Anna. They appear suddenly together in odd places although only Anna (my old doll with has clouded over eyes*) goes to sleep with her.

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Last night she asked me to sing Let It Go to her and Anna but, since I’m not a talented singer, she had to sing it all. the. way. through. twice before I could try again. Spoiler alert: I failed and the ensuing meltdown reached epic proportions.

Friends, I am not alone. Youtube is riddled with other children serenading the camera. Pearl Jam covered it at a concert in Italy. The Boston Globe tries to capture why it’s so popular. It’s not just the 4-yr-olds. It’s catchy, even Jimmy Fallon thinks so.

We’re a little late on the Frozen train but it appears there are no stops to get off. I don’t mind much (she’s super cute when she sings the word fractals) but I’m amazed at her capacity to remember every single word in the script as well as every single move that accompanies it. It all makes sense though. Clearly the reason she hasn’t mastered the potty is that there is physically NO SPACE in her brain for anything else.

Glad we’ve figured that out.

* Mine at 4. Cloudy eyes courtesy of that time she spent the night under the yews on a wad of Big League Chew:

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