Coping with past histories

M and I have been married nearly 20 years, together for more than 25. A long shared history.

However, we both had lives, friendships, relationships before we became a couple. Like everyone else. Not so stark difference with us is that vast majority of my friends pre-M have become part of the fabric of our lives post relationship. In fact, many of my old friends became close (or sometimes even closer) to M through the years. M, however, took a 20 year hiatus from ALL his closest friends in his long running career. I mean, zero contact. It’s made for an interesting integration in the years since he began running again and crossing paths, making inroads into the old trail running ultramarathon world.

And being absolutely honest: it’s really hard for me. After a few false starts where I felt trapped or ignored or minimized or any other range of negative emotions – only a fraction of which are all in my mind – we have come to a solution that mostly works for us: M attends significant events alone.

It’s not that the runner people are mean or unpleasant or don’t try to somehow integrate me into the conversations. No, not all all that. There is just this whole big giant block of shared history and then 20 years of catching up and including the shared history, and then there is this non-runner wife who is clearly bored AF by endless running stories and updates on new running adventures and yet more rehashing and retelling of stories and memories that have absolutely nothing to do with me or my life with M.

Even typing that, I feel the twinge of childishness creeping into my own judgment. It’s not like I haven’t tried; I have. But my own capacity and social skills have me hamstrung, and it’s hard to bridge the gap with folks who treat running as a religion and your husband as a trail running legend, if not elevated to demigod status, retired or not. Because of that, I must be equally special or gifted somehow with the fleet-of-feet sport, right? Fuck no. I’m accustomed to that surprise-to-incredulous expressions that cross their faces; sometimes I’m even mightily amused by it. Their eyes go from glowing in anticipation to anywhere but mine when they try to engage me. Because I don’t run. Like Ever. Maybe if I’m being pursued by someone with murder and mayhem on their mind, but since that has yet to happen to me, I cannot be sure. Possibly I could be persuaded to run under those circumstances.

I sound really small and petulant, particularly to myself. But I’m over it now. I’m tired of trying to fit in with the great unwashed asshat community that are many of M’s former competitors and “friends” in the racing circuit.

Anyway, when we have invited runner people to our home, I’m fine to infinitely better. We are hosting, I am busy, I have a relevant role. In another type of social setting – at a race, at a banquet after the race, at other running events – I feel like an unnecessary accessory. This does not come from M; that part originates with negative girl and persists in my general boredom. Bad, bad combination.

I’m wrestling with it again this afternoon. M is attending a wedding, the groom is his best friend’s son, and my hyper-responsible side is sort of squirming. M had said we would both attend, and after a bit of a snippy tiff this morning, we agreed it best if I stay home. I do not typically fail to meet my commitments unless the reasons are valid. My not wanting to go is not really a valid reason in my book.

Snippy tiff – still not sure if this was me picking a fight or me just expressing how I feel and it falling short of M’s expectations. Bride and groom have this magical and romantic love story, per M’s telling. Since I barely know them – the groom have met in passing a few times, have seen the bride from a distance on another occasion – they quite honestly mean very little to me. Wife of the best friend – we have nothing in common, and as far as she’s concerned I’m dumb as your average box of rocks, not at all socially prominent, and therefore someone to be polite to and then set aside. It’s fine with me; we are just very different. I will not fake what I don’t feel, and I quite sincerely wish the happy couple well, but I do not find anything especially romantic or extraordinary about their relationship. Maybe I was a lot too blunt about it, but I essentially said to M that they really do mean nothing to me. I’m happy for them. I hope they have a long and happy union. But I’m not all ooey-gooey about their romance and very special love story.

M thinks my outlook is dark. I think I am realistic and honest about how I feel. However, he felt it would be unlikely that I could avoid showing my indifference. The rest of the tiff – M’s joking references to A and K as “future ex-son-in-law” or “future first wife” have not set well with me and I have told him so in the past. But compared to his glowing optimism and joy about the “specialness” of this union, frankly it irritated me far more than usual. I saw or heard little of this sort of thing when G and K got married, although we both love and adore K and G and K as a couple. For C and A, there has been a conservative concern about their long-term relationship, because there are some unique challenges built in. Our concern as parents – we want our kids to be happy, to have healthy and thriving relationships – and the way we show it is just different. I get it. But since I’m already in a bit of an iffy, vulnerable state, it’s impossible to not feel a little hurt by the contrast.

So I am sitting at my desk pondering things rather than watching the this couple walk down the aisle and then eating and drinking and being merry at the reception. And we are all so glad. I’m actually happier here, and in truth it’s healthier for my own relationship that I am here.

But I wonder if I will ever be confident enough to withstand running-related events. M does not compete anymore, but he’s still highly regarded and respected in the running circles he travels. Many, many of his good old boy network is still active in local ultramarathon circles, including volunteering at races, mentoring others new or growing into the sport, crewing other runners during actual races.

Many of the folks M knows and hangs with now – I enjoy being around them and would gladly, happily go to their weddings or events. Thing is, these are relationships M has begun, fostered, built during our marriage. I am not just the woman he left racing to find; I’m the one who finds dirty, sweaty people standing on my pool deck when I get home from work. I have shared history with these folks along with M.

However I try to describe it, it is just different. And while our solution to my feelings seems extreme (even to me), it is also the only thing that truly works. Hating myself for feeling the way I feel does no good, and in truth M is comfortable with going alone. While he will never openly agree with me, he enjoys himself a lot more not having to be concerned about me.

By the time he left for the wedding, we were fine. Usual, typical, relationship normal type fine.

Like weddings, life and marriage are imperfect. Many a bride has hopes and dreams of the “perfect” wedding and something goes wrong or falls short of lofty expectations. Same with marriage. In my own, it’s fortunate we can be honest about our disagreements. M doesn’t always see the snubs and such that I feel, and I accept full responsibility for my own insecurity and social awkwardness. This world of his old friends, many of whom are athletically-snobby (M has his own strong and wide bias in this area as well) – I don’t belong there. It’s good that I recognize it and dial direct in dealing with it.

But I don’t always feel great about it. Human here, with my own little fragile ego to make me absolutely certain it’s real.

Budget sacrifices

We have a couple gifting occasions coming up this summer. Normally I don’t give it a whole lot of thought – if it’s a wedding I go to their registry, pick something out, order it, ship it, done. If it’s a baby shower, I do the same thing. If it’s a baby announcement, though, I like to go to some baby explosion store and buy some cute wearable. Because it’s a baby and they have amazingly cute, tiny things. And it’s remains a novelty for me to shop for tiny things.

Essentially, I make giving gifts all about me in the convenience and fun factor. Plus buying from a registry ensures the couple or parents get what they want or need, and the post delivery baby gift selection is typically functional as well as ridiculously cute. At my core I am pretty practical.

I never think about whether I’m being cheap or anything else. I typically have a budget range in mind that depends on who the person is in my life, their own circumstances, etc. In my mind gifts should be given and accepted graciously with little or no thought to cost. Of course, I am a complete Pollyanna who truly believes it is the thought that counts.

Lately here, discussion in my own life about weddings and baby showers are coming up more and more, and there seems to be a great debate over how much to spend on a gift. With 2 kids having weddings last year, apparently I should be more in the know about this stuff? Nope, not this mom of both a bride and a groom. The kids are adults, capable of handling their own gifting and financial affairs, and frankly the biggest concern I had was being the mother of “those kids” who did not write their thank you notes in a timely manner. Thankfully, both of mine got theirs done within a month of their weddings.

Sorry friends, I’m the last person you know to ask if a gift makes you look cheap. If you put some thought – even if the extent of the thought was to check their registry and select something – it counts. A few years back a client’s son was getting married and when I checked the registry, a single piece of their china was over $100, crystal was expensive as well. I felt weird giving a coffee cup or salad plate, so I wandered over to towels and such and purchased a set of towels that happened to be on sale. It was a registry item; obviously that’s what they wanted. I didn’t blow my budget and got them something they indicated they desired. My work is done.

This comes up periodically because I work with younger folk, many with a lot of student loan debt hanging over their heads and influencing their choices in jobs and career pathways. Something like gifts for a wedding and a shower can be major budget busters. One of my associates was recently asked to be a bridesmaid. She immediately said yes but is now having serious reservations about the idea once she began adding up the costs. There is an engagement party, so that means a gift. A shower gift, a wedding gift, the dress and shoes and jewelry, the bachelorette party, and it’s also a destination wedding. Ugh. I would have been tempted to say no to the invitation out of budget constraint, but I’m also middle aged and if my friends are getting married now, they are more far less concerned with the modern day wedding experience.

When is enough I wonder? I don’t know. I had the minimalist experience with my daughter last year and then the more modern tradition with my son. Both turned out beautifully and all parties are happy. My daughter had the small courthouse wedding she wanted, my son and daughter-in-law had the wedding of the decade (it was so much fun). The work leading up to the bigger wedding event was enormous, but that was what they wanted, so that’s what they had. I think they did a good job of managing costs and expectations, but it was still an expensive event. I also think it helps enormously that G and K are reasonable people – no -zillas that I saw or heard about – and were able to work with their friends to make the important parts of the wedding happen.

But I still know a lot of folks who worry about appearances. I suggest to my peeps that living within your means always looks good, but when you are a young attorney saddled with debt, most people only look at the profession and make the assumption that passing the bar automatically equates to healthy salaries. Perhaps, but when you factor in long hours, living expenses, and the burden of 5 to 6 figure students loan debt, they healthy salary sudden feels a lot like minimum wage.

This does not mean feel sorry for the well educated young professional, they have such a rough life. But it does mean that their lives are not so rapturously golden because they have a law degree and a professional job.

Once upon a time I was a budget coach, in that I helped people figure out their income and expenses and all the live they were presently living and really could not afford. It was some of the worst and most painful work of my life. Going through it myself was bad enough; trying to help people understand that their “needs” did not equate to cable television, 2 cars (with car payments), new electronics every year, etc. was a huge challenge. Once they realized they would have to give up most of if not all of their wants to pay down their debt, they wanted to get out debt as quickly as possible, which meant unsustainable budgets and more month than money and having to hit the credit card again for basic living expenses.

It was an ugly cycle.

I rarely do that kind of thing anymore. Dave Ramsey has getting out of debt pretty well covered if someone is serious about taking those steps. But chatting with my associate and her stress about the minimal expenses and bridesmaid obligations saddens me. Her heart is in the right place, her friend is her best friend since childhood. But the expenses are going to pile up and she is not going to be able to afford a cup of coffee for the next 7 months unless she diverts any bonuses (90% of which have been used to pay down her student loans) for the wedding expenses.

At least she has options; few people get work bonuses. Small comfort when she is trying so desperately to relieve herself of the debt burden.

Hard choices, difficult conversations ahead. But no, I don’t think she looks cheap for not wanting to spend thousands to be in her dear friend’s wedding. And yes, I do think her friend should understand if she says she cannot afford to be a bridesmaid and attend a wedding in Hawaii. If anything, I wish everyone were as disciplined and as driven to break out of debt enslavement. Law school was worth it, and student loans felt like her only choice at the time. I don’t care about that; what’s done is done. But I very much respect her smart choices now and the sacrifices that may have to be made to slay that dragon.

I am very proud of her, no matter what happens next. I advised she be true to herself, her values and priorities. True friends will understand or work with her to make it happen.

Zoom, zoom, zoom went the Saturday

Less than a week away from the wedding, and things this shit is getting real! But thankfully I have other stuff to download about today, other than wedding shopping, etc. Of course, my other themes – diet and exercise – loom large right now. I feel like it’s cresting to a new transitional something and once more the peanut gallery is full and expressing opinions. I have a whole other post on that in process as well.

In other words, bear with me. The shopping craziness is over and the wedding is less than a week. I keep telling myself to grin and enjoy it, maybe take up medicinal drinking, too. We have a couple of those airline size bottle of booze hanging around from other occasions and I was sorely tempted to slam one down tonight. Purely medicinal, of course. I avoided it, and a trip to the nearest grocery store stocking ice cream, chocolate, soda, and not necessarily in that order. Instead my experiments with vegan muffins continue.

Anyway, my day went something like this.

Wedding gown drama. There is a big huge difference between The Dress (mine) and The Gown (K’s). The Gown has been through 2 rounds of alterations and is still not fitting comfortably. Last Thursday was supposed to be the final fitting, but it was still too tight in the hips and thighs, rendering walking difficult and sitting nearly impossible. So this morning K had an appointment for the last fitting – hopefully the shop had gotten it right and fitted so she could actually walk and sit down in it. I asked last night if she wanted me to go with her, for moral support if nothing else. Her reply “If you want to. It’s probably going to be more of the same.” was not exactly inspiring for her frame of mind. I gave her the happy platitude that all was going to be fine, all the while realizing I am platituding her because I don’t know what else to do or to say. This morning, at 7:45 while I’m at the gym getting into my practice, she texts that she would really like it if I would accompany her, because she’s afraid of what happens if it still doesn’t fit. I’m fine with that … except the appointment is at 9:15, and the shop is downtown, about 40 minutes from my house. I rush through a little of each of the remainder of my List, try (not 100% successfully) to quash all feelings of guilt, and console myself that running out of the gym counts for something.

This time, dress was better and worse. She could walk and sit down comfortably with room to spare, but now it was too big in the waist and gapped and gathered inappropriately and the top was still not laying correctly. We are less than a week from the wedding and it STILL doesn’t fit right? K is understandably upset. The problems started long before the seamstress got out her pins and started the alterations process. The dress was supposed to be here at the end of June but did not arrive until mid-August. When K would call to check on/track it, she was told every week for multiple weeks that they didn’t know where the dress was but it would be here in plenty of time. Alterations were started 2 weeks ago. When she went in Thursday things she thought would be done were not done. Same story again today. Monday she’s back for another fitting and will be picking it up on Wednesday no matter what.

This whole process has been a horrible nightmare. At the end of the day, the dress doesn’t matter; this is about Graeme and Kayla. But it’s sort of heartbreaking on top of everything else going on that must be dealt with. What is it about weddings and funerals that bring out the worst in families? Except for us, anyway; we are probably kind of awful in a lot of little ways all the time.

While K was changing the seamstress looked at me and said she would work very hard to perfect the dress for K. I explained that the whole family are a planning breed, that the pressure of time and deadlines is weighing upon us and it feels like the problem is getting worse instead of better. There is a bit of a language barrier, too; this woman is originally from south America somewhere and she’s not only difficult to understand, she speaks very fast and says the wrong things. At one point she told K her body was “complicated to fit” for this dress. Seriously? You work with brides all day every day and you have one already unhappy and upset and you say THAT to her in the middle of a fitting? It was a very tense time and I am now really glad I went.

Work. The dress fitting also took long enough that I had to push back an appointment with a client across town. He’s leaving the country for a month and he had a list of extras for me this month, all of which can wait to be started on when I return from my vacation. I haven’t seen him in a couple of months and was surprised at his appearance – he’s been using a meal preparation service and has leaned out and looks nearly gaunt in a good and healthy ways. Next up: he is switching over to an even more vegetarian diet (is not yet ready to acknowledge he’s going more vegan), giving up the last of his poultry and fish.

Suit shopping with M. From there I raced home and went with M to pick up his suit, which fit perfectly, debated the tie issue again, dropped his shirt off at the dry cleaners to be professionally laundered and pressed. Other than a t-shirt that actually fits his runner skinny self, he’s ready to roll.

Domestic choring. And finally back home for M to finish cleaning up the back yard – an ongoing daily chore – and fold the laundry that seem to have piled up all week while I have been busy with other things.

That’s the highlights of the zooming. It’s just been a very busy, hectic day thus far, but I am not especially surprised. Our ducks are mostly in a row. I still have more cleaning to do, a bunch of stuff to drop at the donation place, and plans to firm up for social events this week. It’s crazy, but we’re working at it and getting it done.

But as I said, while I know it will be wonderful, memorable, and absolutely magical, right now it’s a lot of work, pressure, and stress. Plus trying to keep everyone together and calm.

Amazingly, I am the calm and clear-headed parent in all this. I must be am better at this mom stuff that I ever realized.

Sometimes I surprise myself

Early to bed, even earlier to rise. Body had its own ideas yesterday, and threw on the brakes after yoga class last night. I got home, showered, and fell asleep – at 6:30 on a Friday night. Obviously we are party animals around here.

Whether it was too high of temperature in the class (Bikram is not referred to as hot yoga for nothing) or something else, I came home with a queasy stomach when I rarely have tummy troubles. Unless I eat bad food, of course; food poisoning seems to happen to everyone once in awhile.

So after a solid 8+ hours of sleep, I was awake with M at 3:30 in the morning. Oh well. The nice thing about self-employment is that I got a lot of work done and can reprioritize other chores and errands after I’m done with my practice today. My client is still out of town, so I have a pretty free day after this.

And practice … oh my. After a few weeks of doing the day series J has been working on with me, I returned to the favorite full-body dumbbell routine. Fortuitously, J was subbing for the instructor at the 9 a.m. class, effectively pushing it back to 9:30 to accommodate his regular Saturday morning training clients, so I had extra time in the practice room with the bench. It’s not that the other teacher boots me out or that I am somehow interfering with the class; I just prefer to be done before they start because between the music and her cueing the class I become extraordinarily distracted.

Anyway, today was full-body dumbbells, and I did 5 sets of the first section, 4 sets of the second, which is that maximum range J has written on this List. And it was a first for me, but I reasoned I feel stronger now, having been doing a lot of other stuff between the last rendition and now, plus it’s Saturday and I had extra time. What’s the worst that could possibly happen?

Nothing bad, actually no down side for me today. I walked away feeling very pleased with myself for how far I have progressed in this, between slightly heavier weights since last time and still making at least the higher minimums for each exercise. Fatigue, for sure, but in the best ways. And I am sure it’s just me, but 5 then 4 sets of this List time just seemed to whiz right on by. Lately we have Lists with 4 sections of 4 exercises each, but this list is 2 sections of 8 or 9 exercises. My familiarity with the cadence and  order made the practice zoom-zoom-zoom without having to pause and check what was next made time pass quickly.

But this is my first time of going through the complete 4 sets of single leg Romanian deadlifts followed by curtsey lunges on the same leg. Those curtsey lunges have been killing me since their introduction; it always feels like someone is stabbing me directly in the side of my ass cheek with an icepick. I suppose that makes them effective? Today by the third set, I felt as if my bum was completely numb. I was cruising along, methodically working my way through the List, but the curtsey lunges came up and there was minor sound deep inside body, probably my glutes bleating out weakly “is it over yet?”

Now, sitting down and typing this hours after leaving the gym, I feel fabulous. I can definitely feel I have been doing something at the gym, but still feel particularly energized and spectacularly good, as if I have won something big. Considering the events of this Saturday, perhaps I have while working my way through my Saturday chores and errand-running and then dinner with friends.

On my to-do list today was taking M’s car in for a smog check. One of the weirdnesses of M and I is that I am the purchasing agent for all our vehicles and I am also somehow responsible for taking them in for service. Today was M’s car for smog, and I swear it was not in that bay for 5 minutes – it took longer to fill out the paperwork and my credit card slip to print. For once there was no waiting, though, and I was in the midst of several conversations about wedding issues and mini-drama about my dress and then poof! He’s back, it’s passed, and I am on my way.

I was going to do a separate post about the dress (for G and K’s wedding in exactly 2 months), but it has become a non-drama by my choice. K’s aunt has purchased the exact same dress, in the exact same color as the one I planned to wear. K told her that I, mother of the groom, had purchase that dress months ago and perhaps she should wear something else, and her response was “oh, it will be fine; we’ll be twinsies!” No appalled reaction, no “OMG, I can’t wear this dress to your wedding!” (as would be MY reaction upon learning this was a wedding party member’s choice). Nope, she felt fine about wearing the same dress, and despite all 4 of her daughters (2 of whom are also engaged and getting married in the next few months) trying to encourage some empathy, her response was something akin to “but she’s only the mother of the groom, and I am the mother of the bride.” For any guys reading this, I know this is another of me and my first world problems, but it’s a serious stress-inducing thing for the bride, knowing how upset she would be in this situation and thinking that I probably believe her entire extended family are crazy. After my initial shocked reaction, I told K not to worry about it, I would find another dress. Then  I went online and found another dress, or rather, 4 other dresses, and will pick one of these or keep looking. It is difficult to have any kind of reasonable argument with someone as insensitive and socially backward as K’s aunt apparently is, so I chose to not to further the distress or K’s stress level and simply got online and went shopping for something else.

There are worse things in life than having to shop for clothes, especially online. One of today’s 4 will be The New Dress and all will be well. I’ll look even better in the pictures with the contrasting color. But really, it’s all about G and K, and fortunately I am not so madly in love with the original dress that I am more upset about it now. I worked all that out in my practice this morning.

But at dinner tonight – which was actually more like a party with heavy duty finger food – we crossed paths with my old friend and her husband, the one I ended up cutting off communication with because of her ongoing campaign about weight loss and not really being serious about my health. I do look different than last she saw me, if only that I’ve cut several inches off the length of my hair and am sporting a new setting for my wedding rings. Plus I was wearing a sleeveless dress and showing off the new tone in my arms, and yeah, I have a visible bicep muscle now and worked damn hard for it, because I am the probably the only person in that entire gym that dislikes curls. Arms and body are showing tiny signs of tone these days … at least that’s what several of our other friends were telling me. So yeah, I do have some baby muscle definition starting to peek out. Lots and lots of work yet to do, butI have the whole rest of my life to work at it and can be patient.

Old friend greeted me rather stiffly, and since I made no move to hug her as I typically do everyone I know and have not seen in awhile, she believe I am still mad at her. That is actually an inaccurate statement. I cut off our communication because coping with her ongoing negative attitude toward me and my better health efforts was not at all helpful or encouraging or enhancing either of our lives. Tonight not a word was said by her about my appearance, but there was big show and big enthusiasm for M and his thinner frame. It did not hurt my feelings, which really did kinda/sorta of surprise me even if I was prepared for it. What I’m realizing – I’m a lot tougher than I was 6 months ago. I have another 6 months of nearly daily training under my belt and a significant amount of successful mastery to my credit. I can be very honest in my assessment that I no longer give a flying f**k what she thinks about me or my efforts, and her negativity will no longer have any real impact me the way it would have at one time.

While it is very liberating, it is also a little sad. Her own body image and world view is so narrow and so focused, and there is nothing I can do to change that for  her. It might give her a little zing of power to see a flash of hurt in my eyes from her cutting words, but I was quite ready for it tonight. Not spoiling for a fight. Not even looking for revenge or to even the playing field with an equally cutting remark right back. Merely curious as to what she might say and feeling highly confident that it was not going to ding my ego or bruise my pride. I’m off the insulin and diabetes management drugs. I’m healthy, I’m happy, I’m growing stronger and more confident every passing day. From my perch where I am sitting right now it would be very difficult for her casual cruelty to knock me down or even piss me off a little bit.

I’ve come a loooong way, baby. And damn, it’s feels pretty damn swell.

 

It gets better and recent family discussions

I was chatting with a friend this morning about her trials and tributions with therapy. Anyone who has been through this sort of process for emotional stuff understands it can be very, very tough getting started. And all too frequently it seems to get so much worse week after week.

It also gets better.

I myself have been so guilty of this very same phenom. I am mired in the misery and the muck of the present moment and all I see and feel is being stuck in that same suck space and imagine it continuing into forever.

From the outside looking in, it is so easy for me to see the positive side in other people’s problems, to be encouraging and positive and hopeful for them. With my own stuff, my own voices, my own deep-seated demon dragons, having real hope for a different outcome has been an uphill battle. I expect myself to fail; I expect to disappoint those around me. This year’s rendition of therapy is part of alleviating or at least managing those expectations.

While I never think of myself as a control freak, I know the reality is that I am in a weird way. I am not necessarily externally controlling – I might want to smother M with a pillow periodically so I do not have to negotiate or compromise having my own way – but I feel a strong need for some sense of order and control over my own environment. Part of that comes from understanding those around me and their impulses and desires, often making it appear as if I have no strong opinions or closely held beliefs of my own. I do, but I tend to be much milder in my assertions and low-key in expressing my thoughts.

Ask my kids. I have pretty awesome relationships with both my kids, and it is something I give thanks for every single day. They both live nearby and we all are busy with our own lives, so we do not see each other as much as we all might enjoy. But with email, text, even Facebook it’s possible to be in touch as much as we want or need.

My daughter is getting married next month in a simple courthouse ceremony. My son is in the midst of planning a wedding-palooza type family event. Lots of bells and whistles with the latter, and as we discussed long, long ago, it is not as if he has much control over the type and size wedding festivities. M and I are supportive of both efforts and events. The courthouse in its simplicity and no-fuss efficiency suits my daughter, and the bigger ongoing party is what my future daughter-in-law desires so we are on board with that as well. Bottom line for me: I want them to be happy, now and long into the future.

Our conversations of late have been wedding, family, and health dominated. While I could potentially break my arm patting myself on the back, I know my kids are glad I am the type of person and parent that I am for them. I listen, I might express an opinion or thought about the my perception of the best course of action, but unless it seems life-and-death, I am certainly not going to push my ideas or opinions on grown adults very capable of managing their own lives. And if I do say something that sounds or is that emphatic, my kids tend to listen to what I’m saying, because when this mom gets frightened and wants them to do something, there is always a very good reason other that “I’m the mom” at the root of my desires. And I do not get angry if they ignore my advice, and I never say “I told you so” to anyone for any reason, but especially to my kids. They make pretty good decisions, and they seem to learn from prior missteps. I am very, very proud of both of them.

I have never lied to my children. They ask me a question, I answer it honestly. If it seems too personal – has happened only a couple of times that I can recall – I have said that seems a little too personal and perhaps out of bounds for the parent/child relationship. However, after thinking it over, I came back and asked if they still wanted an answer, I would provide an answer. At 19, my son asked me if I had ever had unprotected sex, particularly between my divorce and marriage to M? Another time my daughter asked if I had ever cheated on her dad or on M. Nope, but I had dated while M and I were officially and legally separated, which M and I agreed in therapy did not count as cheating. Because these are important issues and I felt fair, if uncomfortable, questions as they learned to navigate in the world of adultier adulting. I felt kind of weird about it, but on the other hand, I also understand for them I am a trusted source for information and perspective. Because seriously, no one wants to know about their parents’ intimate lives and habits. Ewww.

I suppose I am one of those hippy-dippy parents who see nothing wrong with being an open book with my kids. My responses have always been geared toward age appropriate – there are things I would say very differently to my adult kids than I would to their elementary school  selves – but  always candid and honest. I have never pretended to even think I know best; my loftiest goal is to do my best based on my experience and knowledge of each of them as individuals. Everyone who has ever known me understands I bend over backwards to ensure they know I have limitations.

The relationships with my kids are precious to me, and I certainly do not take them for granted. It seems they are now extending to their future spouses, for which I am very grateful and pleased about. I like that we have separate relationships outside of the individual couple-dom.

With the upcoming weddings and such, talk naturally turns to children and starting families. It is not a subject M and I are particularly concerned about, but G and K have told me that they are not interested in having children and vented their frustration with other branches of the family tree expressing disappointment and assurances that they will change their minds. *eye roll* I tell them to just brush it off, that they are adults and the course they pursue will be the correct one for them. That said, many of my friends I have shared that sentiment with are sad and kind of appalled that they have already decided something so important and seem to have difficulty with why I am not more upset. I don’t get it. I had children. I raised them to be independent adults capable of making their own decisions and being responsible community citizens. They are not dumb either, and I have to believe they have given their choices plenty of thought before sharing them with others. And they are only 29; there is plenty of time for them to change their minds in the future should the spirit move them.

But really, why would it matter to me? Grandparents are sort of optional in my experience. My maternal grandmother was the only one still living when I was born, and I met her once in my life, when I was 8. All I can recall is that she was very quiet and seemed kind. My kids have benefitted greatly from knowing both sets of grands, though, and that was my choice and decision. I wanted that for them, and I have zero regrets. Again, their dad and I made those choices and it was not based on our parents’ desires or say in the matter.

As for my daughter, she is not 100% sure about babies. They have animals, and she has periodic struggles with depression that make the idea of parenthood overwhelming. She is real with me about her feelings, because (1) I don’t judge, (2) I’m her mom, therefore odds are I will be on her side, and (3) I value her overall heath first and foremost over the idea of some future grandbaby.

She recently had a meltdown with me on the telephone about work, the wedding, the other side of the family, and how she feels her thoughts and opinions and needs are discounted. Her fiance is not insensitive to her feelings, but he is in such a habit of listening to and trying to please his family that he sometimes does not recognize what he does to C in the process … until she brings it up, points it out, and they have another discussion about families and boundaries. In other words, she is very blunt about how she feels. Occasionally that happens after she has vented with me about his behavior, and I encourage her to speak to him as frankly about her feelings, because I am certainly not going to do it for her. One memorable time, he did something that made me so angry at his lack of consideration that A was afraid to come to our home or speak to me for a couple of months. What he learned then was that I am not a grudge-holder; if C says they discussed it and he regrets his behavior, then I will let it go. But what C had to explain to A, if he made a habit of doing regrettable, inconsiderate actions (like turning off his cell phone after work and going for a drive without telling her AND being completely out of reach for almost 3 hours) then I was not going to be so forgiving next time. My daughter suffers from depression and anxiety. Her newly minted fiance disappearing for 3 hours without calling, texting, or otherwise telling her was enough to send her into a panic attack to the point that she calls her mom to talk her off the ledge. Not. Cool.

K also has drama over the wedding guests on her side of the family. G and K are adults and shouldering the burden for the cost of the wedding, so they have had to severely limit the guest list. That has not stopped K’s aunt from arbitrarily inviting other extended family members, leaving K the task of explaining the limitations of the wedding budget. It’s an ongoing push-pull between that side of her family and it tends to cause much drama and stress. I feel for her, but again, I am her voice of reason and support system, not the conduit to resolve the problem for her.

Part of these happy realizations of my role in my family’s lives stems from supporting the same friend in her battles from comporting herself into command central for her own immediate family and any/all problems they faced for nearly all her life. While I feel the codependent urge to stand up and solve other people’s problems, I understand my limitations and where the healthy line exists in such matters. I am glad to be a safe outlet for my children and my friends to talk about issues, but I am equally glad not to get overly involved or caught up in their drama. Somewhere along the line I learned how to be a good friend and good parental unit without falling off one side or the other as far as helping my kids navigate.

Nice, low-key ending to a busy week. I’m not feeling 100% today – stomachache and mild nausea this morning has me feeling physically kind of blech – so good texts and positive thinking takes the edge off tum troubles.

Happy Friday everyone!

Weddings, birthdays, CAKE … oh my!

News of the day is that my daughter, C, and her fiance, A, have finally settled on a wedding date. Theirs will be a simple, no-frills, courthouse wedding downtown tentatively scheduled for April 22. Since that is what they want, we are completely behind their choice and happy for them.

However, A’s big, boisterous family have certain expectations and desire to be part of celebrating the happy event and feting the happy couple. My sister in mother-in-law-hood reached out to me yesterday about having a BBQ for the kids the weekend after they definitively decide that yes, that’s when they are getting married. I’m fine with that – assuming C is okay with being feted that casually. Whereas her whole immediate family numbers less than 20, A’s immediate family is more like 120+. And that’s just brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins that live locally.

I think she will be okay with it. A’s mom will spearhead the effort; I have already offered to cover desserts and anything else she needs. This should be an interesting event to unfold, and I truly hope the planning does not get so out of control my daughter regrets telling the family about their marriage.

K’s birthday is Sunday, and we’re having family dinner on Thursday but celebrating with cake and ice cream here on Sunday evening. Which brought forth this wild hair that 2016 will be the year of scratch-baked cakes for the kids’ birthdays. K is February, G is March, then A in September and C in December. Surely I can manage, right?

So I inquire as to what sort of cake K would like. First choice is German chocolate, second choice is coconut. Since none of  the rest of us are crazy for coconut, German chocolate is what I’m making. I have never made a cake from scratch in my entire life, much less cake and frosting. But how hard can it be? (Hopefully only a rhetorical question.) I will make one on Thursday to ensure I can do it and that it tastes like it’s supposed to taste. If it’s a total bust I still have time to call the bakery and order one.

A is going to be tricky – black forest cake. Ick to the cherry topping, but I have enough time to experiment and figure out how it’s done. C and G are simple souls – chocolate cake, chocolate buttercream icing, sprinkles and white/yellow cake and chocolate buttercream icing, no sprinkles, respectively. But between K’s German chocolate and A’s black forest I have lots of time to experiment and to ponder. Except I have another birthday next month, a wedding and it’s associated celebration the month after that, then a summer of guests … plus my usual work and exercise and rest of life’s responsibilities and such.

But hey, it’s an adventure, right?

So many other topics to write about ping-ponging around in my head, but I have TM this morning (versus our usual afternoon) and my schedule feels off because of it. I am such a creature of habit.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Too matronly to be a matron of honor?

My young friend just got engaged and shared the happy news with me/us last night. I am delighted and happy for her, because her fiance is a good and honorable man and they are a wonderful couple.

This morning she asked me to be her matron of honor, C to be her bridesmaid, because they are planning a small, simple wedding and will each have two attendants (groom has two brothers). I am really moved that she asked this of me, yet I am hesitant. I feel a little torn that she does not feel closer to one of her other friends or even former roommates to choose someone closer to her own age. Is that weird? It is akin to her asking her mother to do the honors rather than be honored as mother of the bride.

Not that I am her mother or have ever tried to take on that role with her. When we met she was a couch-surfing 15 year old struggling to survive on her own outside the notice and constraints of child protective services. She got her GED and supporting herself in an apartment with roommates at 16 (she is now 24). Through the years our friendship has deepened and we have helped her a little with some gifts of cash or food or clothing as well as safe harbor when she needed it. Never has she even tried to take advantage of our kindness, and she is a core member of my tribe, as I refer to my by-choice family members.

My daughter and G’s fiance think I’m being silly about this, that my age does not matter and that our relationship and closeness is the primary determining factor. But even M wonders if I am a bit long in the tooth to be an attendant at a regular wedding that is not one of our peers getting married a second (or third or fourth) time. M is not a big wedding fan in general, so I mostly get his point.

Age does not matter, I know. And I am going to agree because I love my young friend and if this is what she truly wants, I can do my part and purchase a one-time-only dress for the occasion. But it just feels a little weird.