Reprieve

On Wednesday, my mom left for six weeks and it feels lighter, as if everyone can take a deep breath. I feel awful saying that, but there it is. When she’s there, every moment sits on the edge of a knife. Is what’s happening true? Is it explosive? Am I saying the right thing? What, exactly, IS the right thing? I spent most of my teenage years slipping off the edge and crashing around on the eggshells below. As an adult, I think I’ve got it in hand but living together certainly makes it clear that I pretty well don’t have it in hand. This is not her fault, but it’s evidence of what brain chemistry can do to a family.

I’m taking a meditation class and I’m grateful that I’m able to find that place in my mind where I can just breathe and each moment is just what it is without judgement. Living with my mom is the opposite of that. Every statement could play out a dozen ways in an instant. I never know what (or who) to expect. I’m going to cook dinner could mean a great number of those things, most of which do not result in dinner. It’s hard to let go of anything as a result and that, in itself, antagonizes her. My having an opinion antagonizes her*.

While this is frustrating, it’s not impossible, at least not until you realize that belligerent stampeding has shifted into every part of your life. Even after two months, most of the dishes end up in the wrong cabinets. There is a persistent brown streak showing up on the back of the toilet seat that I clean every morning (if I didn’t, it would stay there indefinitely). The refrigerator and cupboards are bare while the amount of dirt accumulating in the house is stunning which, apparently, is the price we paid for being away over the weekend and not doing all the housework and grocery shopping.

I feel ungrateful and horrible but unbelievably, that’s better than rocking the boat. By the way, my mother has stated that they are planning to stay until June. I’m not sure if that was to get a rise out of me or truth. There’s no way to know for sure that doesn’t involve some sort of slamming door.

 

 

*For instance, she said I could sew curtains for the basement windows. I said that would be nice. She said they need to be blackout curtains and that the only place you can buy blackout fabric is from a place in Evanston, Illinois. I allowed as to how that didn’t seem right – maybe we could call our local shop? She huffed. She insisted that it wasn’t the right kind of fabric. With some prodding, she did check the local store and they carried it. She said she would use our existing curtains. While I wasn’t keen on that, it seemed like less work than trekking through a crocodile filled pit of opinions. She brought home sparkly tan velour and the blackout fabric. I wasn’t able to cover my concern about the velour in time and so she didn’t speak to me until the next day. She did sew the curtains but did not actually attach the blackout fabric to the curtain so it was less sewed and more hung. Have we talked about my feelings surrounding “done right” and “done enough”? I recall saying to her that it was fine if she made curtains but that I did not want them to cover the glass when pulled to the sides. I like light, I said. Please don’t limit the light coming into the basement. She said, of course! The curtains obscure half the window. Your father didn’t want to hang the rods out further, she says, as if I’ve made an unreasonable request in my own home. I want to velcro the curtain to your door, she says over dinner. I balk. This goes on. It’s awful.

Everything

I love the word maelstrom, even though I don’t use it in conversation. I don’t get the opportunity, not being a sailor, which, I suppose, is a great thing for me. Or not, if you consider that I really would have liked to have been a sailor (in theory, at least). This week, however, is a maelstrom of stress. Sucking, swirling, drowning, whirlpool of stress. I’m back to therapy after more than a year away which feels necessary but also disheartening. There is not one thing that isn’t looming, pressing, pulling, or flattening me.

If it’s work, then home is an oasis. If it’s home, then work is an oasis. A long walk is a vacation from them both. But I know things have gone into a full tailspin when even a walk cooks up anxiety. For example:

Breathe. Focus on the world around me. Again. Let my mind empty. Just walk. Is the dog limping? Just walking. Not watching the dog. Why is he limping? Do we need to stop? If we stop I’ll never get ten thousand steps in. Breathe. What does it matter, the steps. Clear my mind. When the dog dies I’ll have to walk alone. I’ll never want to walk again. It’ll be fine. He’s young. He’s not dying. I’ll die too, of heart failure from sitting on the couch weeping for my dog. Can’t breathe.  

Right, then. Back to therapy. I’m also registered for a class called Meditation for Stress Relief beginning today. Ridiculously, one of the jabbing, nagging, frustrating things has been the lack of communication until yesterday. No confirmation. No idea of what the first class will hold. No real directions. If it were me and I knew I was leading or organizing a class that had stress relief in the title I’d probably go out of my way to get information out as fast and as fully as possible. What will we do, exactly, for two and a half hours?

I feel tremendously guilty for snapping at RR because she was putting too much glue on her valentines. I feel sad because I feel frustrated that she cannot figure out potty-training. I feel disappointed in myself for going back to therapy and embarrassed by the privilege of using a therapist for something that feels less than important. I feel inadequate for not connecting with my wife in the evenings and instead feeling my heart race and falling asleep paralyzed. My parents are back and while my wife is a subtle reminder to be grateful for them, I still can’t fully relax while they are around. How long until my mom lays down eggshells in her path? How long until their teasing goes too far? How long until another formal dinner sends my wife over the edge?

Work deadlines are looming too close. Planning is taking too long. There is nothing there that can’t be knocked out relatively quickly and yet I seem to be paralyzed. I’ll go in tomorrow and the same pile plus some might still be sitting there, waiting. And then there’s the snow forecast for tomorrow evening. It may keep us home. With my parents. Having a lot of togetherness. By the way, my head has hurt off and on for days. I can’t think. I can’t even breathe.

I know all of the coping skills are tied in together. If I could de-stress, I could relax. If I could relax, my head might stop hurting (or it might not, that’s the fun of migraines for you). If I were more relaxed, I would be less inclined to crumble under stress. My wife keeps asking what’s causing it. Everything, I say.

Things will straighten out again but, in the meantime, I’m nailed to the floor, not breathing.

 

Go for the Gold

In another lifetime, I lived abroad. Abroad makes the actual living sound fancy, as if I were dining out in Paris or ice fishing in Ontario. Although everywhere I lived usually had running water, I often spent time in places that did not, or where the electricity only ran for a few hours a day, or where toilets were more of a suggestion. I also lived in places where everything appeared to run and work and thrive but when you dug around the edge, it wasn’t what you imagine a big, cosmopolitan city to be. Almost first-world, over the developed line but still dragging bits and pieces behind. Not what we assume the States to be, although frankly, there are places here that don’t meet those qualifications.

I left behind a wedge of my heart when I lived in Brazil, a glorious, richly-textured, brilliant, thriving nation. In one small town, there was a narrow alleyway, the walls of which were coated in layers upon layers of chewing gum. I left a piece of white gum near the middle (though I wished it were more vibrant, a tropical blue, perhaps). I don’t remember the town, there was no placard on the street, the alley wasn’t in a guidebook, it wasn’t as developed as where I live now but had I asked the occupants, they would have assured me that their town, maybe, but certainly their country, was developed, first-world almost, just like any other rich nation. I say all that to say this, place doesn’t have to be developed to be worthwhile, to be enriching, to be deserving.

The coverage of the Olympic preparation in Sochi is chilling. The criticism of the accommodations by American journalists borders on cruel. The more scathing reports I read about the inadequacy of the hotels, the hue of the water, the scrambling of staff, the offensive decorations in the rooms, the list goes on, the more I worry for Rio in 2016. Already the articles have started about the hotels that haven’t been built, the transportation snarl that can’t be undone, and the crime that absolute poverty drives down the hill and onto the city streets.

The Olympics are huge and the required infrastructure is vast. When a country fails to deliver on those counts, of course we are critical. But is it right to only hold the Olympics in countries that can afford to host packs of journalists from every major world network in gorgeous, well-appointed hotels, while also providing perfect transportation solutions and accommodations for the athletes in an unimpeachably fashionable environments? So much of harshest criticism is directed at things that are par for the course in many places that are not here.

I’m glad RR isn’t old enough to buy into the Sochi-trampling*. Perhaps we can rethink our expectations for the games and hold them instead in a way that allows some of the income and glory to spread to nations that don’t have the capacity to be such shining beacons of first-worldness. Perhaps it’s okay to send one journalist per network instead of 20. Perhaps it’s okay to hold different events in different places at different times. Perhaps I’m an Olympics heretic. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been on the wrong side of popularity.

 

*Of course, we want, we require, safety at any high profile event. Further, any criticism on that front is separate from whining about twin beds in hotel rooms. Come on. It’s a twin bed. Sleep in it.

The Pie Contract

That year in high school when I ate nothing but ice cream sandwiches for breakfast.

The time I was grounded for two weeks for sending my 10 year old sister into a store to buy candy for me (buy one get one free large bags of M&Ms).

The way I arranged the hostess snacks in the box so that it looked like there were just as many as there were before I ate two – assuming my mom wouldn’t notice when she made my sisters’ lunches.

The fact that I couldn’t stop myself from covertly eating one of the chocolate bars in my German host family’s pantry.

The month I ate all salads with my fingers even in front of other people in order to appreciate it more and eat less.

The cookies I have kept in desk drawers. The chocolates I have hidden in shoes. The empty plates I have shoved under sofas.

I have a lifetime of food issues. It’s the thing to talk about our relationship with things and in this case, my relationship with food has been outrageously difficult. It’s also the thing, in my family, to blame your upbringing and, in the past, I haven’t minded dropping a little responsibility off there. Now, I own it. No matter what was said to me when I was small, how I thought I looked, or how I actually looked, I have grown into a person who takes full responsibility for who I am and what I put into my mouth, whether it’s too much ice cream or a thoughtfully prepared, delicious, nutrient-packed meal.

You know, I’ve chosen to eat a lot of pie since November. I have enjoyed every last delicious bite. I’ve had pie for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’ve had two different kinds of pie in the same day. In one dire case, I hid pie in the back of the fridge so that my brother-in-law wouldn’t eat it. In fact, I’m not down with hiding food much these days. It was a moment of weakness so I won’t do it again. Probably. You guys, he eats everything. The thing with pie is that there’s an exchange. In exchange for pie, you either get to move more or weigh more. At least, that’s the exchange if you’re me. It’s the unspoken agreement you and the pie make.

After you sign on the dotted line with your fork, you then get more choices. Though I have been a member of many gyms (and still have a membership) we have an on and off again relationship that, while not as rocky as my relationship with food, has never been completely smooth. I crave variety and I crumble under schedules and routines. I’m old. I go to the gym when I want. For awhile I called an unused gym membership my “fat tax” in hopes that it would inspire me to go. The expression didn’t inspire me, it made me feel worse about myself.

I’m not slender. I am mortified to see pictures of myself from the last decade. Who is that person? What happened to her? Routines don’t work. Belittling myself didn’t work. Changing my mindset helped. It wasn’t subtraction I needed (eat less, don’t eat any of that), it was modification (eat this now, do that later). I’m not the person I was 60 pounds ago, so something must have worked.*

Which brings us to the point of this post. Because of our success (and all the pie consumption), my wife has recommitted for the new year. I haven’t said as much (though if you want to see, it’s here) because when I talk about eating differently, I hear myself saying that I’m currently eating badly, and my mind interprets that as being a bad person. It’s good to know your own pitfalls, people. I’m too healthy mentally to step into that trap right now. My mother, too, has opted in.

My dad, on the other hand, is always going to pick pie. And cookies. And whipped potatoes. And fries. Living in a house where 50% of the people have chosen not to eat those items AND one of those people is, by nature, a person who qualifies herself as good or bad depending on what goes into her mouth AND, without meaning to I suppose leaves a slight trail of I’m the one who is doing food right everywhere she goes, is really, really hard. I don’t want to eat pie, so I don’t. But I feel incredibly awkward and uncomfortable taking actions that isolate my dad so I’m taking the middle ground. I don’t love it but it’s better than the alternatives.

Suffice to say, I am dead tired of thinking about food. I’m tired of planning menus for a house of people who eat different things or, in my mom’s case, claim to be eating different things. Further, I’m tired of playing defense when my mom suggests having pizza instead of cooking dinner (dude. I would have thrown it in the slow cooker if I had known you wouldn’t). Also, I know that one of my coping mechanisms in life is pie (in moderation) and I miss it. I’m unhappy**, you all. Thank you for listening.

 

*By the way, I’m not discounting a pretty hefty mental shift, the help of mood management, and a significantly lower stress, higher activity lifestyle. I’m also not discounting my genes, which are predisposed to eating lots of pie and retaining it unhelpfully in my belly.

**A note to my beloved wife who, even though I have TOLD her that I love her and am behind her 100% might read this and think I am unhappy with her: I am not. I am 100% supportive. Still 😉

Happiness is a Choice…

Joel Osteen. I know. I’ll bet I just brought tons of traffic over here from folks that are going to shrivel and die a little when they read about the fact that I almost had to get an ultrasound during my period. I might have said that just to give a few folks (including myself) heart palpitations but it was just a horrible misunderstanding thank god. Speaking of which…

My mother sent a cryptic email earlier this month to my sisters and I: “I sent you a kindle book that you’ll get on the 31st. No judgement!” You know what, anytime someone, especially my mother, cheerily says “no judgement!” I’m pretty sure what comes next is going to be offensive. But I’m easy going enough not to jump to any outright conclusions and so when the following click-to-accept-gift note comes:

“This is a challenge. Read one a day for the month of August. I sent same to sisters. There is a caveat….if there are references to organized religion, you should know I ignored them. :-). That said the core is my philosophy and I wanted to share!”

I think, I’m so glad my mom sent me a gift. Even if it is self-help related and/or religious (as is her wont). I’m so lucky. Until I SAW the book. I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life by Joel Osteen. I’m not linking to that. I don’t want you to buy it. Seriously. Please don’t buy it. My mother bought FOUR copies and I will be happy to loan you mine.

Let’s be clear for a moment, religion is a hard subject for folks to speak politely about, myself included. This post is not about religion. It’s not even really about the way Joel Osteen presents religion. It’s about my relationship with my mother. Comments, as always, are moderated the first time and approved every time thereafter on a sanity basis (my own). I’m not a journalist and I delete things I don’t like. I’m super fun that way! Speaking of…

I wish I could delete the part of my mother that thinks it would be okay to send her gay, non-religious daughter a copy of this book. Clearly she thinks the most egregious thing about the book is that there may be a reference to organized religion which, mom…it’s Joel Osteen. Of course there will be. That isn’t a problem at all! There are perfectly good viewpoints within and outside of organized religion and I’m not opposed to hearing them. Joel and I, we’ve spent some Sunday mornings together. That guy is charismatic as hell.

My mom completely missed that fact that, charismatic or no, he thinks I’m a sinner. He routinely conveys to one of the largest congregations on the planet that I am wrong. An abomination. A sin. That I choose this path of sin. He says worse than that actually, if you do any research, and he’s allowed to preach that even if I think he’s wrong and an asshole. But for MY OWN MOTHER to buy and then give to me a copy of his book shows, at best, a poor understanding of who I am and the challenges I face on a day-to-day basis and, at worst, is actively sending a hostile message of change and rebuke. I’m assuming she is naive to the discrimination we face and that she is ignorant of the way it feels to be actively oppressed.

I am assuming the best. I’m also repeating that to myself. A lot. She mentions her philosophy and it’s true that this book reflects it (yes, I’ve begun it). Her philosophy was shoved into every potential emotional leak I had as hard and as deep as possible. Happiness is a choice, she would trill, misery is an option! There was no room to mourn, grieve, stumble, hiccup, ponder, reassess, or fall. The only acceptable emotion was to haul yourself up (shame on you for getting to that point) and paste a grin on.

I’m with her on the concept. You can choose to be happy. I do. I choose to find the right way for me. The best path. The brightest angle to consider a challenge. I make choices that preserve serenity and bring joy. But you know what? I can still be sad. Be miserable. Be heartbroken. Be blocked. Need a damn hug. For a second. Joel and my mom are on the same wavelength and god bless them both. But I don’t need to understand her philosophy if it means financially supporting a person who preaches hate.

You’re right, this post was about religion and I’m sorry for it. I’ll loan you my book. Remember, you can choose to be happy about this.

Front Page

I’ll admit it, we get the newspaper. The actual paper. Delivered to our door. I know. We’re like dinosaurs. It doesn’t make it any better that the reason we got the subscription was to please my parents during the two weeks of the year they are visiting. Or that the reason we kept the subscription was because we like to do the crossword.

That’s right. I’ll let you take that in.

On Sunday, I flipped over the front page and there we were, D, RR and I, blowing bubbles in the backyard.
photo

We knew we’d be in the paper again since D did another interview about the DOMA decision and the paper sent a photographer out to take our picture (one portrait, she said, one candid). We didn’t expect it to be Sunday’s paper. Or on the front page.

And although I am not particularly skilled at the art of writing a short piece, I’m good enough to know I’ve gone about this all the wrong way. This post isn’t about going out to get the paper with my cane, house slippers, and dentures or about being in the gay couple of the moment in our small town. It’s about self-image. Way less interesting, I know.

I love that we are the sort of people that make it safe to be okay with marriage equality*. I don’t fear for our safety and I don’t mind being the go-to gays for the local press. But the pictures, you guys. I wish I were the sort of person whose first reaction to a front page shot was ohmygod that’s so cool and not gah I can’t share this with my friends.

Instead I think, I don’t look that lumpy in person. Or maybe I do. Why did I pick that shirt, it makes me look as if I’m wearing the same clothes as in the last photo we took. And ugh, people will think my arm is huge but it’s my scar arm** and there’s nothing I can do about it. Why don’t I have shirts with longer sleeves? Let’s face it, longer sleeves can’t help this. I can’t tell that I’ve lost 50 pounds. Oh wait, I now have the melted candle look that’s a sad side effect of going from big to less big. Surprise, it doesn’t actually come off the way you’d expect it to. I’m ashamed to show this to my friends.

Seriously. I am much more confident than this. But there it is. I’m proud of my wife for her well-spoken interview pieces and I could look at her all day and never get tired of it. My daughter, well, when I say she’s cute it’s not just motherhood talking. In my eyes, next to them I look stiff, flat featured, squinty, and wholly unattractive.

I’m not fishing for compliments here but I never want to be the person who, when someone says I saw you in the paper!, responds with Ugh, I know, worst picture ever, right?! So I keep my mouth shut and say something appropriate and then go off to die a little. I sure as hell don’t want my kid picking up any of this. So consider this the last time you’ll hear this and, if you listened this far, there’s a scar arm picture as a reward.

*You all, of course, don’t need a reason but my 70-something conservative neighbors might.

** Also, how is it I never ever showed you a picture of my scar arm!?! Obviously, it’s the day after the melanoma surgery, I’m drugged and glazed, and I’m hiding the 50 pounds I eventually lost, sort of.

261703_10100448543207712_5444687_n

Supreme Court Decisions

My twitter account is following #marriageequality and #scotus this morning but I can’t keep up fast enough to read.

#monumentaldecision
#sicktomystomach
#nothopeful
#mostlybecausevirginiaisanassholenomatterwhat

It Isn’t “Fun”

You and I both know that social media is both awesome (yay! friends!) and terrible (that one guy? he sucks.)

Screen shot 2013-06-24 at 9.03.35 PM

I’m on the side of awesome, for the most part. But today I heard several intelligent, thoughtful, kind people who are typically reasonable refer to the Supreme Court decisions this week as “fun”. It’s not fucking “fun”. I get that SCOTUS is making huge and important decisions right now and that’s impressive and worth watching but when the rights of a group are at stake (as they so often are for the Court) it is not fun.

I’m chalking it up to a poor choice of words. For all of them. Because I’m nice.

Just like many of you, I’m in knots about the decision  I think we’re likely to hear that DOMA is overturned and that the decision of the lower court in California will stand. I’ll take it because it’s progress. I don’t think we’re likely to get the best possible scenario – which is well within the court’s power – a decision that makes it unconstitutional for all states to ban gay marriage. Obviously, if you’re in Virginia, you’ll just replace the word “ban” with “vow to fight ’til the death over (and that’s putting it lightly, y’all)“.

Yes, let’s pay attention. Let’s watch avidly. Let’s refresh the SCOTUS blog a million times. Let’s do all of that. But let’s don’t say it’s fun.

Also, you deserve an update for having to listen to that and graciously agreeing not to make your hand into a little mouth and flapping it to say “blah blah blah”:

The IUI was nine days ago and I am frustrated at all the symptomy non-symptoms. For instance, I was exhausted on Sunday. Couldn’t move my limbs exhausted. Queasy exhausted. But on Monday, I was mostly fine except for a brief stint of ohIfeelhorriblewhyamIawake in the evening. My back (not high enough to be shoulders, not low enough to be kidneys) hurts. And I am all too aware that I have a uterus which I’d rather not be unless there’s a baby in there. I want to be hopeful about these things but I don’t want to look this Sunday in the eye and find out that yep, I was just pretty tired. This whole waiting thing is for the birds.

Culture Clash

When you buy a plane ticket to another place, you are also purchasing a little (or a lot) of culture shock. Maybe it’s just a weekend jaunt to New York from Miami. Or, maybe it’s Dubai via Lisbon and Atlanta. Either way, you already have an impression of those places, in relation to who you are and you’re ready (a little…or a lot) to meet the culture change and adapt (a little…or…and so on).

When you marry someone, you also sign on for a bit of culture shock. If you’re lucky, you get the views and the foods and the people to go with it. If you’re not, you get a lot of stuff you’re not prepared for, say inadvertent discrimination or outright antagonism. It’s hard to explain to others. After all, everyone you talk to comes from a place either more or less on the scale between you and them.

Them. It’s a smile if they’re on good behavior or, for a bonus, are just like you. It’s that sort of them when they aren’t. And hoo boy, it sure is us and them around here. So here’s a little culture shock for you (or a lot), courtesy of two weeks and counting of my visiting parents, their three cats and a 190 pound rottweiler named Sam.

I could stop right there, right? 190 pounds. That’s pretty much enough of a story. He’s about 6 feet tall. Or thereabouts. He’s practically Babe and the Big Blue Ox. Both of them at once. Only less nice.

I grew up with these people so I wasn’t surprised when they informed me that they had brought with them from Wyoming their three cats and that they had left them in the trailer in our driveway.** I wasn’t surprised to see that they only go out once a day to feed them. I’m not even particularly surprised that they don’t refer to them by name. Given the familial live and let die perspective, I was only mildly surprised when they went looking for a cat they thought had escaped. I wasn’t surprised when they stopped looking five minutes later.** D, who considers our cats family members, had a slight learning curve. All things considered, she adapted quickly, knowing both that my parents are basically kind people.

But man, are they fucking clueless.*** We stored our cats in the basement. I promise, it’s perfectly spacious and hospitable. Practically a five star hotel compared to a trailer. We do this because Sam has a cat tooth. You know, a sweet tooth for cats. Oh, he’s a big baby, says my father. My mother stamps around nervously but ineffectively, believing that as long as we do everything right nothing bad will ever happen.**** After all, she says, he doesn’t want to hurt anything. He’s just so big. And so strong, you guys, no one can hold him. The last time he was here, he tried to eat my cat. There are not enough italics for this post.

sol

There’s nothing funny about it and I can’t even manage a quip here. It fucking sucked. They did not apologize. They did not pay vet bills. What they said was, “Are you sure it wasn’t Moses?” It was not Moses, friends, unless you are missing a loaf of bread and a pork chop, it is never Moses.

moses

Our confined cats come up at night to engage with humanity, because we are not only basically nice but our pets are not the sort you store in a trailer. And, in the morning, we shoo them downstairs. Except on Wednesday when we didn’t shoo fast enough.

One cat had learned his lesson, he heard the tramp of giant feet and was a flash of white bolting down the stairs. The other cat, the one that swipes at everyone, was lazy and she tried to stroll. Sam snatched her up in his giant maw before any of us, including the cat, could move.***** In the chaos, Debra tried to restrain Sam and I pried the cat out of his jaws as she sprayed us all with urine and drew as much blood as possible. No one can say she’s not a fighter.

biscuit

My parents? They did not apologize. What they said was, “Are you sure it wasn’t Moses?” although it happened in front of them. The remainder of the day was spent on eggshells as they alternately ignored the situation and muttered a story about how they once found their kitten in Sam’s mouth and how now, they proudly say, that cat is the only one who will go near him.

Anything you can tell me here is something I’ve already thought of. And you’re right, there are a lot of solutions to the problem, plenty of sympathy, and more than a ration of outrage. There are plenty of opportunities for should have and unacceptable. Suffice to say that we’re dealing with a fair amount of culture shock here. The scary kind of culture shock. The kind that makes you want to lock yourself in a hotel room and book a new flight home. As someone who is bi-cultural in this case, I’m at a loss. This visit is over in three days.

Everyone will be alive when we finish.******

 

 

* They tow this across country as opposed to flying.

** The cat was under the sink.

*** Whoops language. But, in this case, called for. Believe me.

**** Hello therapy.

***** She is fine.

****** They damn well better be.

Expectation Management

You know, if my mother had just cooked breakfast once, rather than SAYING she’d cook breakfast everyday, there would be a lot less stress at our house.

Breakfast is just a symptom, of course. A symbol of the way my family negotiates and communicates life. Wait. Don’t get excited about some charming thought piece about how food is the thread that knots my family together. I know you’ve read those. They are magical and usually involve mothers and daughters and something hot and cheesy.

During a family visit, the planning, cooking, and consuming of meals are landmines. Lest you think there’s time to plan where to step next, know that conversation about meals starts the moment you wake up and continues until the moment you go to sleep. Who will be cooking? Who is picky about dairy? Who wishes they hadn’t eaten that? Who is “Not eating that right now”? Who is eager to cook? Who is too lazy? Who says they will and then doesn’t (more people than you think)?

But I’m old, you all. I’ve found a solution! I plan the meals ahead of time! I write them down! I do the grocery shopping! I cook! I can’t anticipate changing plans or the aftermath but it helps get us past the series of passive-agressive actions that takes this centerpiece of life and turns it into something consumed as fast as possible, nearly in silence. You’d think for all the talk about food, we’d enjoy eating it more.

And so it goes when my parents visit. Which brings us back to breakfast.

My mother requires a degree of precision and attention found only in the most skilled bomb diffusers. I had forgotten that one of the keys to success in my life (and I promise you that my sisters do not have to negotiate these same pitfalls, lucky bastards) was to expect that nothing will occur as stated. Read the small print. Plans are required but antagonistic. Have no expectations. My priorities are…not. Being married to my sane wife has lulled me into a feeling of safety. As such, I’m not sure why I got up ten minutes later expecting that I wouldn’t have to worry about breakfast. I’ve obviously forgotten my origins.

Things generally work out for me. But I also spend a lot of time preparing for every eventuality I can think of. Talk about a rabbit’s hole. I’m better about it than I was growing up, but having my mom around illustrates clearly why I do it to begin with. Far better to make my own breakfast and avoid being disappointed. Far better.

As a side note, D and I are suffering a bit by choosing not to discuss having a second child with them or with each other while they visit. Much like the circle of grief you all probably saw floating around last week (i.e. you vent out and console in from the person who is experiencing the event), announcing a happy event should be met only with “That’s wonderful news!” and any other personal feelings should be delayed or communicated to people further removed. That’s a simplistic interpretation but it’ll do. Maybe I’ll post it on the fridge.