Obligation

My sister lives across the country. When she comes to visit, she stays with my parents. This is not an unusual family situation- out of town relatives often stay with one another.

But…

My sister and my parents have diametrically opposite views on just about everything. I mean really, everything…

And when my sister comes to town, they verbally spar. They verbally spar about 90% of the time. When my sister came to town a few months ago, her plane landed about 6pm. By 9am the next day she was already texting me about the arguments…

I understand my sister’s point of view. She is just trying to be herself. She loves our parents, wants to see them, yet…

My parents are not always easy to get along with…

And some of my sister’s ideas on life are a bit out there…

I clearly understand both sides in this situation.

I understand the cross words and raised tempers.

I just wish that all of them could be quiet sometimes.

I understand the need to get one’s point across. I understand wanting to be heard and not wanting to be marginalized. I understand that we are all allowed to have our own opinions. I get that opinions can never be wrong.

But…at the end of the day…my sister visiting is a lot of grief for everyone. I don’t know if my sister or my parents are actually happy during the visits. I receive calls from both sides…complaining…

I am very stressed out when my sister visits because I hate to be in the middle. I hate trying to broker peace.

So my question is thus:

If a visit to family causes angst, should you visit?

Do you continue the visits out of a sense of obligation? Out of trying to assuage guilt?

Is there a time when you shouldn’t visit your family?

Which regret is worse: not seeing your family because you drive one another crazy or feeling bad that you don’t see your family?

Discuss:

The Little Things

If you live with family, or a roommate, how often do you acknowledge the little things that they do for you?

How often do they acknowledge what you do for them?

Replacing the toilet paper…buying the toilet paper…wiping down the toilet…

Do you do these tasks? Do you help with these tasks? Does someone else do these tasks? Do you expect someone else to do these tasks?

We ran out of toilet paper last week.

Normally, I am the person who replaces the paper on the holder. Usually they just grab a tissue. At least, I hope that they grab a tissue…but rarely does someone take off the used brown cylinder and replace it with a fresh gleaming roll…

And this is how I know that we are running out of paper…because I put the roll on and I count how many rolls there are left.

Early in pandemic, I would buy toilet paper when I saw it. I would pick up my one rationed pack and tote it home because we really didn’t know if we would see toilet paper again. I’m surprised some enterprising company didn’t rename their paper “Unicorn” because sightings were rare, and we would text each other if we say it…

“Morton Williams. Now. The good Charmin in four packs…”

But I digress…thinking about the good old days and how we had to forage for a square…

Back to my bathroom…

The other day, a miracle happened. Someone in my house replaced the toilet paper.

Huzzah.

Alas, the person who took that last roll out of the plastic covering failed to make the connection that throwing the package away meant that there was nothing left. Not a square to spare…

And neither alerted me to the lack of tp, nor bought a roll on their own.

Toilet paper

toilet paper

toilet paper

Nope. Not like Beetlejuice. You don’t say it three times and have it appear.

You have to actually go to the store and buy it…

Who knew?

Well, you know who knew? The person that always does these things…

So if someone in your life does the little things that make your world go a little more smoothly, give them a little nod every now and then. Be appreciative of the little things that they do. Maybe buy them a present.

Or maybe just check on the toilet paper situation, so that the person who does so much for you doesn’t go into the bathroom and say “Oh crap” for the wrong reason…

Because I’m Not

I have spent three days talking about how much I love being alone, and how much it nourishes my soul. I said to my friend last week, “I think I was meant to be alone.” Of course I was basking in the afterglow of a jetted bath, face masque freshly washed off, tea in hand and the property brothers on the tv in front of me. I was in a unique and blissful and perfect setting. It was an amazing moment to relish.

But it wasn’t reality. It was a fantasy twelve hours in a hotel suite. I got to pretend to be single and childless for a few hours. And that’s the exact word: pretend. Because being alone is not my real life, so a few hours with nothing to do and no one to please was a treat.

Do I really want to be alone?

I think we all long for a respite from the day to day. People with no kids often love an afternoon with nieces and nephews but are more than relieved to let them go after a few active hours. Parents with small children often look forward to sleeping in, no matter how much of a morning person they are. I think everyone needs a vacation from their actual lives.

But do we want to change places?

Do we want that opposite life?

I loved my alone time. I love alone time. But I think I have a spouse and child for a reason. I think I have a small but well cultivated social network for a reason. I love having a family and friends AND I love to spend some time alone. Unfortunately, sometimes the balance gets shifted. When you’re a parent and/or have a needy spouse, you sometimes fall victim to the martyr syndrome: you do what you need to do to make everyone around you happy, but sometimes forget about yourself.

Cue the teeny tiny violins. Woe is me with my family and my friends while all I wish  for is solitude…

We adapt to our environments. We make the best out of whatever situation we find ourselves in. But it does get easy to get into the “grass is greener” mindset. It’s easy for me to talk about alone time because I don’t have to worry about being alone: I’m not. And conversely, someone who is single can crave family time and want it because they know they have the opposite.

So while I wax poetic about my two weekends alone, do I really want to make that 52 weekends?

 

A Shoulder Tale

Once upon a time, the royal household received a delivery of pet supplies, a three pound bag of dog food and a twenty seven pound canister of cat litter.  The King brought the big box up from the lobby and left it in the hallway of the royal apartment.

The royal household is run on a tight budget, so the hallway is more petit than it is grande, so the big box took up half the hallway, and  the royal family members had to walk around or over the box to get from one side of the palace to the other. After five hours of this, the queen finally opened the box and took out the dog food and put it away.  Then the Queen went to lift the heavy litter.  Well, to be frank, the Queen was a little ticked off that no other member of the royal household was willing to put anything away, so she wasn’t really paying attention to how she took the litter out.  And what happens when you don’t pay attention? The Queen ended up aggravating her right shoulder.

Ow.

Alas, the pain was somewhat mild, so the Queen just went about her day and tried to make sure her shoulder didn’t aggravate her as much as her family aggravates her.

And though there was a twinge of pain, the Queen was able to get by.

Last evening, the Queen decided to end her week with a Queen-like bath: bath bomb, face mask, music, candle, hot tea, warm water. Perfection.  After her water relaxation, the Queen began her post bath ritual- which is a plethora of lotions and creams.  And as the Queen began applying her favorite lavender lotion, the Queen heard a pop of sorts.  But the pop of sorts did not come from the speaker.  No.  This sound came from the Queen’s shoulder.

OWWWWWWW

The Queen was in so much pain her eyes crossed. She was having trouble putting her robe on.

OWWWWWWWW

And the Queen exited the bathroom and started barking orders- someone heat up the heat wrap.  Someone get me a pain reliever.

And the Queen went to lay in her bed.

The King and the Princess realized that they better move and move fast.  The longer the Queen was out of commission, the worse it was going to be for them.

When the Queen woke up this morning she was feeling a little better (talk about waking up on the wrong side of 50…) but she knows that she can not push it, or pull it, or lift it. She knows that her shoulder is a big accident waiting to happen.

The Queen surveyed the Palace this morning and noticed that no one put anything away- dirty dishes on the coffee table, clean dishes in the dishwasher, clothes on the floor, snacks left on the kitchen counter.

The Queen was not (and is not) amused.

But the Queen is going to put a blindfold on and ignore the state of the palace.

The Queen is going to rest her shoulder.

So that they can live happily ever after.

 

 

Good, Better, Best

Have you ever played the board game “Say Anything”? It’s a favorite in our house for family game night.  Basically, someone asks a question, and the other players pick what they think the reader will answer.  Then the reader chooses which answer is most correct. When faced with LA trivia so to speak, my Husband knows me pretty well.  When given the question- “If you could start again, what occupation would you have?” Husband knows that the correct answer to that question, for me, would be “FBI Profiler”. Yes- you heard it hear first- if I was entering college, I would take the necessary steps to become a profiler (not a writer as you all may have thought).  He knows my favorite dessert (mille crepe cake from Lady M bakery), and that pink is my favorite color.  We have had many long conversations in our years together, but just because he knows the LA trivia file, does he know me best?

When discussing relationships a few weeks ago, Leslie talked about who knows you better, your friends or you significant other. And while it’s true that my Husband knows the facts, are facts the only thing that goes into “knowing” someone?

Last week I most definitely woke up on the wrong side of 50.  I was out of sorts.  Husband- well- he did not notice a thing.  Daughter though- she was all over me.  She knew within a minute of talking to me that not all was right in my world. She was able to read my body language and facial expression, and I guess interpret what I was actually thinking behind the glib words that I had thrown out that morning. So, while she might not know all the facts about me, she can definitely read my moods better. Does this mean that  she “knows” me better?

I have a friend “G”.  I called her a witch last week. (yes- witch with a “W”) and I meant it in the best of ways.  We were having a simple, pleasant text  conversation about the colleges our daughters are applying to and her kitchen renovation. And then she asked a question- basic question, but it was exactly the thing on my mind (and needless to say it had .nothing to do with kitchens or colleges).  I said “How did you know I was thinking about that?” and she wrote back “LOL. I woke up this morning and thought that. Figured I’d ask while we were chatting.” So, does her intuition about me show that she knows me best?

What do we mean when we ask “Who knows me best?”? Is it facts, is it sense of mood, or is it just knowing without saying a word? Does it just depend on who the person is, as some are more emotionally connected or more intuitive by nature? When you say you “know” someone, what do you mean by that?

The people in my inner circle- I think I know them well, but I admit, some I know better factually, while others I just connect with on an emotional level.  I’m not sure what the real difference is. I’m not even sure if there is a difference. But I guess what really matters is the connection that we forge.  And maybe different relationships are supposed to be on different levels…

OK- I’m throwing this over to you: Who knows you best? Family, friends, partner?

 

Family: Too Much? Too Little?

 

Family: the people who raise you, the people you marry, the relations of your partner, the children you create or take into your heart.  These relationships can bring much joy and happiness.  They can also put you into a pit of despair.  So is there ever a time to push family to the side?

Recently there was a case in New York state where a Mother and Father sued their 30 year old son because he would not leave their house.  They wanted to evict him, and guess what?  They won. Son had to move out.  There was a lot of controversy over whether or not the parents should have sued their child.  I won’t give an opinion on their situation, because I was not their intimate: I have no idea what was going on in the household.  But, the parents had obviously had enough of the situation so they did the only thing that they thought would help them: legal action.

At what point does family get you so crazy that you take them to court?

At what point does family annoy you so much that you try to keep distance?

At what point does family get you so down you can’t see them anymore?

Which brings us to: Should family get a “free pass” for bad behavior?  Should we just accept our families for how they are, and pretend that everything is fine?

As it is what I often refer to as “Write my blog Thursday” I will ask you all:

  1. Is it OK to get angry/be angry with family?
  2. Is there a point where you should walk away from family?
  3. Should family be kept at arm’s length?
  4. Should you accept boorish or disrespectful behavior just because someone is family?

You know there will be a follow up…

 

Be Careful What You Wish For

My niece and nephew (twins)  recently had their B’Nai Mitzvah.  But when you plan this type of event, you must do it way in advance because kids are required to have prepared Torah passages, and most people I know do not speak conversational Hebrew.  So we, the family and friends, have known the date for years.

Years.

So, my mother in law and father in law have been talking about this for years.

Years.

Every conversation with them would start with “Can’t wait for the mitzvah.”  The middle of every conversation would include something about the mitzvah.  And every conversation would end with “Don’t forget the mitzvah will be here soon.”  And I get the grandparent thing.  They’re excited to share the religion with the offspring of their offspring (my daughter is not being raised to follow either Catholicism or Judaism- so the had no such joy from our household) Yet, it is also a case of having absolutely nothing else going on in their lives.  Nothing.  They have no hobbies.  They have few friends.  They have absolutely nothing to look forward to.

So here’s lesson number one: make sure you have at least one hobby that you enjoy.  When faced with the questions, “Why do I need to get out of bed today?” make sure it’s because you have something you can’t wait to do.  And it could literally be anything.  Set a goal to “walk” to China by counting your steps every day.  Watch every Cary Grant movie ever made.  Volunteer anyplace.  You’re getting the idea:  hobbies don’t have to cost a lot of money.

As of now, my in laws hobbies are: annoying my husband, annoying my sister in law, complaining about my husband and sister in law, complaining about their friends/neighbors, complaining about other relations and complaining about me.  They clearly need to find something else to do until the date is set for the Bar Mitzvah of my other nephew.

Now, let’s get to the next part of the issue: What happens when you talk about something for two years, when you look forward to something at the exclusion of everything else?  What happens when you build up something to epic proportions?

We had to go to Temple services the evening before.  my Mother in Law fell asleep during the Rabbi’s talk.  And not just a little doze: she tilted totally to the side, and if the benches did not have little separators, she would have fallen to the left.  Did I mention she snorts when she sleeps?

When we got to Temple the next morning, the first thing my Sister in Law said to us was ‘Please go sit with Dad cause he’s in a snit.” When we sat in row with him, he started complaining that my Mother in Law got seated in the row in front of him at Temple.  he complained that he had been at Temple for an hour, and he was only in two of the pre event pictures.

At the breakfast that is served immediately after a Mitzvah (I don’t remember what it’s called) my family and I had to run to opposite sides of the room to talk to in laws, because they would not sit at tables adjacent to one another.  We called it bagel on the run…

Then, there is the reception.  If you are my Mother in Law, you spend the cocktail hour in the lackluster outer room, when everyone else is in the bar room with the food and the great view.  You decide to find something wrong with every college her granddaughter (mu daughter) is applying to.  Her professionally made up face does not crack a smile.

The dinner portion saw my FIL and MIL sit at their tables, stone faced.  They barely danced.  They barely got up from the table.  They didn’t smile, they didn’t laugh, they didn’t talk to anyone.  The event that they had spoken so highly of for years was playing in a loop right before their eyes, and they didn’t care.

My MIL was annoyed because my niece and nephew weren’t paying any attention to her.  Gee: you mean at a party with at least 50 of their friends, they weren’t sitting in the back of the room with my MIL?  Shocking I say.

FIL was annoyed that he wasn’t being revered as an elder statesman.  In his mind, the crowd would part as he walked the room, kissing his ring and asking for his sage advice and blessing.  It’s a party with DJ’s and spinning lights and too much food.  And it wasn’t his event.  My niece and nephew, and their parents were the stars of the day.  As they should be.

The problem was, they had an idea in their minds as to how this would play out.  And the actual event did not match their expectations.  Their vision of the event was not realistic: they set themselves up to fail.

So, what’s the take away?

  1. Get a hobby
  2. Realize it’s great to look forward to something.  Looking forward to something actually makes you happy.  But, be realistic as to your expectations.
  3. Don’t expect other people to act the way you want them to act.  You can only control your own actions, not the actions of others.
  4. Don’t drive your children, their partners, and your grandchildren crazy.  It’s not a good look.

 

 

 

The Dishwasher

I am cursed.  No, not by a witch or a spirit.  I am cursed by extraordinarily bad luck with dishwashers.  For a family of three, who runs the dishwasher once a day, we seem to need a new dishwasher more often than normal.

Last month, right before I was sick (I believe I’m going to think of my life as BP-before pneumonia and AP- after pneumonia) our dishwasher broke.  You may remember that I burned my arm whole trying to fix it. Now of course, the warranty had ended about six days before the dishwasher washed its final dish.

The same thing happened with the last dishwasher.  Warranty ends.  Dishwasher breaks.  In twenty years, this apartment has gone through five dishwashers.  We’ve had two stoves, two refrigerators and two microwaves, and the only reason we had two was because we remodeled and upgraded.  We’ve had one mixer and one blender and one food processor and two coffee makers.  And five dishwashers.

BP, I was researching dishwashers.  Then I got sick (see how I keep reverting back to that).  So, what I’m saying is, while I was sick, there was no dishwasher.  Get out your little violins and play, because I realize this is the worst thing to befall a family- the workhorse is sick and the dishwasher is broken.

My daughter tried to get out of dishwashing by saying that we were sure to get dysentery if she washed dishes.  My husband went the passive aggressive route and just did a lousy job of washing dishes.  And me. I would wash my one plate and one bowl and one mug and one glass, dry them, and just stare at the amount of crockery and utensils my family could accumulate in a tiny sink.  It sort of became a game.

Which brings us to today.  I have not researched dishwashers.  I have not thought about replacing said dishwasher.  I am enjoying watching my family squirm.  I have enjoyed watching them wash and dry and put away dishes every night.  Enjoyed watching them get to know a sponge and a scrub brush, liquid dish soap and a dishtowel.  Everyone needs a little fun in their life.

Will I eventually get a new dishwasher?

Yes.  I like a dishwasher because I love to cook, but cooking requires getting stuff dirty, and seriously, does anyone like washing dishes by hand?

But for now, I’m enjoying teaching my family a little lesson about what it takes to make a household run.  I should have done it sooner.

Advice: Should You?

This week I spoke of opinion/criticism and I spoke about family.  Today, we’re going to sort of combine the two subjects and talk about advice.  Specifically, parenting advice.

I do not like to receive unsolicited  parenting advice.  There you have it.  I don’t like when anyone tells me what to do with regards to the child that I am raising.  If I want an opinion, I will ask.

Also, I do not offer unsolicited parenting advice to people.  If someone asks my opinion, I will gladly give it, but…  Sometimes I do talk about parenting when I am blogging.  Though I may be giving advice, I am not aiming it towards any specific person, I’m merely sharing my thoughts on a subject.  I think writing about parenting in the abstract is not really advice (my blog, my rules)

I have a rough plan when it comes to how I want to parent my child.  If something is not working, I figure out how to change course.  So far, this method has worked for me.  The rules that I have thought about and put into practice work FOR ME.  They are great in our specific family dynamic.  They might not be great in someone else’s. (my house, my rules)

I have had people scoff at my parenting notions.  I have people that make very passive aggressive comments about how I choose to raise my child.  To say I get annoyed by this is an understatement.  It’s not that I don’t value other opinions, but let’s just say that I don’t like certain things about their children, so why would I want to repeat their mistakes?  This most closely applies to my Mother, because I see which of her actions caused my bad behavior patterns.  Behavior patterns that I find so abhorrent that I refuse to have my child ever thing the same way.  But enough of my emotional baggage for today.

(On a side note, if you do not have children- please don’t ever tell someone how to parent.  Just remember, everyone is the best parent in the world until they have children)

Now we come to the crux of my problem that I am writing about today.  I think my Sister is making a huge parenting mistake with my niece.  Notice how I used the word think.  I don’t know for sure if it is actually a mistake.  I have no actual psychological training with which to base my thoughts on, I’m going off of instinct.

I know that I don’t know everything (seriously- I know it often appears as if I think I know everything, but I really don’t think it or know everything).  But… My logic meter is telling me that my sisters actions don’t compute.  My emotional meter is telling me that my sisters actions don’t compute. Yet, I remain silent.  Because I don’t like to give parenting advice.

Should I break my rule?

When breaking a rule, you have to ask what the benefit will be.  I run the risk of my sister not ever speaking to me again. (she runs a little hot and holds grudges and is a blamer)  I run the risk of her giving me unsolicited advice.  But…is telling her my feelings going to be beneficial to my niece?  See, that’s the unknowable thing- I have no idea if I’m right and my sister is wrong.  I have no idea if my way of doing something is actually better.  Because there are no definitive rights and no definitive wrongs when it comes to parenting.  Different things work for different people in different situations.  Parenting doesn’t come with a rule book.

I’ve actually talked around the specific subject with my sister.  I know her feelings on the issue and I’ve tried to hypothetically point out things to her, so I know her stance.  To delve more into it would be pushing the boundaries.  I know I don’t like when my personal boundaries are pushed:  shouldn’t I respect the boundaries of others?  The issue is also one that would never specifically affect my child.  I have no personal knowledge of the issues faced, so it makes my opinion less valuable.  Do I have the right to comment on something I really know nothing about?

So here I sit- wondering what the best course of action is.  Because I just don’t know what to do.