Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dysfunction Junction, What's Your Function?

I swear I just do not get it. I guess it's time I start going back to Ala-Non again or my long time therapist Elisa.

Yesterday afternoon after I left class I tried to call up my missing in action Auntie Jo to ask if she wanted me to take over paying the taxes and insurance on the farmland her, my mother and their various brothers and sisters inherited after my grandfather died many years ago. I didn't get through so I left a message. Nothing drastic, just, 'Hey, would you like it if I took over paying my mother's share of the real estate taxes and insurance on the family farmlands? It's not really fair that you guys have had to pay her share all these years, so I'd like to help out. If you need me to reimburse you guys for back taxes and insurance I could do that too. Let me know.'

For years and years now Jo has complained about the fact that my mother has never paid her share, claims she'll send a check and never does, plus Mom makes regular attempts to force the others to either buy her out or sell the entire place. I do know that my mother likes to regularly complain about one of her brothers living there rent free in the family dog-trot farm house. Mom is the only one in the family that seems to have an issue with that. No one else does. That uncle and his wife have nowhere else to go, they've had money issues for many years now.

In my tax classes, real estate classes I have taken and during that week long retirement seminar I learned that whenever there is a piece of property held in a tenancy in common that when one of the owners does not pay their share of the taxes/insurance and the other owners do over the period of fifteen years then when they go to settle up, be it by sale of the land or transfer of ownership due to death, then the person that has not be paying will lose their portion of the land.

So I'd put on my list of things to do to call Aunt Jo and make the offer to pick up my mother's portion of the taxes and insurance. I didn't mention that I was going to do this to my mother because I knew it would just upset her, she wasn't paying what she owned anyway and Aunt Jo and I had discussed the non-payment many times now, the last time being about three years ago. That conversation was in front of both of my daughters. Keep in mind there are witnesses to this conversation.

My phone rings and it's my mother, rip roaring drunk and ripping into me for daring to call Aunt Jo about this. She seems to think this is some move of mine to make off with her mythical millions, when it's an attempt to provide a small measure of financial relief to my disabled aunt and protect one of my mother's assets.  Never was I thinking about how I was going to financial benefit from this. I was trying to do something to help both of them!

She sneeringly told me she was going to cut me out of her will. I don't care, I never cared about that. It's not like she has much to leave anyone in the first place, but she always makes it all about who she's leaving her money to. Somehow I managed to avoid telling her where to shove her 'estate'.

Add in that I've been asking all sorts of questions, requesting to know if she had a will, who her attorney is, to know if she had long term care insurance, was there enough coming in from her retirement and social security to allow her to pay her bills and she's sure I'm after some sort of payout. I visited her to ask those questions only to determine if she was financially secure enough for the rest of her retirement. It had nothing to do with nosing around looking for money. I wanted to make sure everything was set up properly after having gone to the retirement seminar. We set ours up, each of our kids has a copy of our plans and all important documents on a thumb drive and our wishes. Jim's mother has done this too. Margaret's in-laws have done this. This is what responsible
normal families do as people approach retirement age!

The thing that seemed to upset her the most was my telling her that Aunt Jo had been telling me that my mother had never paid any taxes on the property. She accused me of lying about this! Like I really wanted to take on another monthly payment for fun or that I was playing some sort of game.

By the end of the conversation I realized that Aunt Jo was the game player, lying to my mother that she'd never said that to me. I know that the three of us that remember that conversation about the non-payment of the taxes aren't all hallucinating at the same time.

I told her never to call me when she's been drinking. I mean it, I've put up with her rages and rants at me while she'd drunk since I can remember. Remember The Fourth of July Tea Party rant phone call followed by her car accident? I still cannot figure out why the investigating state trooper didn't give her a breathalyzer test.

 In the last four or five years her yelling drinking rages have decreased to only a couple of times a year, but as I've gone through therapy for my abusive childhood and leaving toxic religion any instance of drunken abusive displays are unacceptable.  I attended Ala-Non for more than a few years trying to come up with a way to live with her alcohol abuse.

This stops. She cannot call up and behave this way to me any longer. For years I've forgiven much and sought to have a relationship with her to no avail. As long as you're doing what she wants when she wants it my mother is willing to have a sort of one-sided relationship. But the moment you don't go along with her it's all drunken cursing, accusations, and name-calling.

My week with her was pleasant, but I should have known that once she started drinking again there would be hell to pay for asking my secretive mother any information about her retirement.

Ironically the person that helped me calm down the most and talked to me after it happened was Margaret. She happened to call right after my mother because she needed to talk about an IEP meeting they'd had with their daughter's teacher. There are plans being put in place to put my granddaughter inpatient at a child's residential treatment center. Margaret knows this is one area of expertise I have and has turned to me for advice many times now.

Margaret pointed out something so obvious about our family of origin and how secretive all of them were that I'd never realized before, how once we left South Louisiana for Germany followed by Virginia that none of them had made any effort to stay it touch. It's always us reaching out to them and how unhealthy, straight out of alcoholic family behavior, those interactions are.

I realized how right she is. They only want anything to do with our side when we've got something they want, and the rest of the time it's like we're not family. That's not the way healthy families operate. We both agreed we'd struggled to overcome all the crazy alcoholic behavior and reaching out to the Louisiana family was toxic.

I hate to cut off relationship with my elderly mother but I can no longer deal with her episodes. Let Jo and the others deal with her. I'll be concentrating on my own children and grandkids.

Margaret and I laughed when I told her even if I hadn't been the best of mothers at least I have never been prone to calling her up while drinking and cursing her out. Be thankful for small mercies.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Well Whatta You Know?

Been an odd sort of a day. First in my tax class several of the students brought in copies of the self-published romance novel/government conspiracy novel written by the wife of a rival tax office owner and read aloud from passages of it for our amusement. We were laughing and cutting up at the ridiculous dialogue and mistakes made by the author.

I do NaNoWriMo every year but I know that most of my output is crap, really crappy, so I don't go around self publishing bizarre novels. But I am amused at those that do and do it with utter sincerity. Sometimes I'll accidentally download a pretty terrible novel and realize it's someone that hasn't had it edited, can't spell and mangles their grammar even worse than I do. The last one I made the mistake of reading was about the Tudor era and had the main character, Lady Rocheford, speaking like a California Valley Girl from the mid-1980s. Nope, it wasn't meant to be comical either!

It's taught me one thing, if I ever decide to publish one of my crappy-slappy novels it would be best to hire a professional editor for the thing, or risk the hooting derision of the public. Don't be so in love with your characters and your words that you cannot bear the idea of anyone else changing them.

This evening Jim and I attended a local political event for one of the gentlemen running for Eric Cantor's vacated Congressional seat and I was in for my second big hooting laugh of the day. The candidate's wife is someone I used to go to church with, someone I used to know all too well, in fact, I'd written about her in my story of how I'd come to join and then leave The Creek of the Possum church. When I'd known her she'd been having a relationship with a man that wasn't her first or second husband and had told her current husband she'd gone with me to a Van Gogh exhibit in Washington one weekend. I knew nothing about the possible affair or that she'd used me as a cover for her weekend away. When the husband asked me how I'd enjoyed the Van Gogh exhibited I'd shrugged and not said much because I didn't have a clue what the heck he was talking about. She and her husband then kept splitting up and getting back together. Lots of not good things happened and the pastor asked her to leave the church. I haven't seen in her at all in the last fourteen years. I had heard she'd divorced and left her pile of children with her ex.

Saints alive! Quite a change! She had to know if we were still attending our old church. We said little to her beyond confirming that we'd left. Said nothing about the church split or the the Smith family. Got the heck out of Dodge and came home laughing at how funny life has turned out. Glad she got away.

Monday, October 20, 2014

In Only Seven Days

I'd only been gone a week to my mother's house and I've only been back a week now, but I'm fully back in my old rhythms.There was a huge pile of laundry awaiting me, the cat box was overflowing and the birdies let me know the second I came into the house that they needed me to attend to their cage, plus cuddle with them.

Jim, and my Siamese kitty Pedro, were the two neediest. Jim was so grateful I was home again that he immediately suggested we go out for steaks. On a Sunday night! Not something we would ever usually do.

The next morning I found that all the salads and meals I'd prepared and packed into the fridge, labeled and organized, were untouched. He didn't even eat the homemade yogurt I'd fixed with raspberries from our garden and he loves that stuff. I had to ask what he'd been living on and it turns out he'd been eating potato chips and peanut butter straight out of the jar.

When I was recounting this to a girlfriend last week she exclaimed, "What, is he twelve?" Well no, he's not twelve, exactly, but he is very boyish even at 63 and I love that about him. He'll giggle when I torture Siri on my IPhone, he doesn't mind doing fun crazy things like water balloon fights and go-carts and he *gets* me.

Having someone that understands you, really *gets* you is to me is more important than things like man that holds the door open for you, or makes a zillion dollars. To have that connection with another human being is just awesomely essential to me.

On the other hand he knows where all the buttons are and has more than a few times pushed a few of them, like almost exactly a week before I left on the trip. He came to bed around midnight after losing all of his fantasy football games (four). He woke me up and proceeded to try to pick a fight with me because of his angst. I turned over in the bed, told him I wasn't going to fight and went right back to sleep.

You can do that when you've reached many years and a deep knowledge of each other.

Jim's hobby is fantasy sports and I like to sometimes tease him that he sounds like a wounded howler monkey when he's watching sports. Just like I love to tease him when he watchs MMA that the only difference between MMA and gay porn is that the guys are wearing shorts and there's not a bottle of lube in the ring. Always makes him laugh.

Funny, on the trip I got together for lunch one day with one of my old friends and she said something about me having married an 'old man' and I had to laugh. Apparently none of my friends understood at the time that his being 9 years older than I wasn't a big deal, that our bond was deeper than it looked. She and I giggled over the fact that we'd both been married now for quite a long time with no divorces, old man or not.

But getting back to the after the trip. I was surprised how mostly clean the house was, besides the laundry and cat box. I just needed to sweep/mop/vacuum instead of do an entire house scrub. I'd been geared up to do a complete cleaning, dreading that part of returning home since I hate, hate, hate housework.

The other part of my week consisted of a class I'm taking and the great fall shoe hunt. Every fall I get a pair of fur lined house slippers, a pair of casual leather clogs and a pair of dressier winter shoes. And fall has arrived here, it's quite chilly. The problem with the shoes is that it usually takes me a number of days to get them because I have super high arches on my feet, which means my choices are very limited. It's always going to be something like a Dansko, or a Clarkes or some other foreign made too expensive shoe with high arch support because those arch support inserts you can buy do nothing for me. I have a set of custom made orthotics from my doctor but those are like walking on concrete. Huge waste of money.

But the best part was coming home to a huge, HUGE, H-U-G-E check in the mail from the federal government. The IRS finally settled with us over their claims I flubbed up the 2010 taxes. Yeah, the IRS is that far behind in examining returns. I did screw it up, but only because our broker neglected to send us all of the pages of our statement, so I had four pages of stocks not listed on our return. It's been a huge mess to straighten out and the IRS even lost our amended return the first time I mailed it.

Having this hanging over our heads for the last two years has been like walking around with a sword overhead, a sword that could fall at any moment. They withheld two years of tax refunds from us so it was like Christmas in in October!

I needed it to be resolved because it was just one part of the nasty stew of stress I've been dealing with the last four or five months. It takes some of the pressure off. Now if the rest of the situations would resolve life would be the best it's ever been.

Margaret and I have reconciled, we've laughed and talked about her various issues and the things I don't *get* about her and her husband's relationship. I did tell her I still didn't approve and some cautionary tales from my marriage to her father, how triggered I'd been by the old memories of his emotional abuse of me. I even told her I'd posted about it on my blog and been soundly spanked. She laughed even harder and told me she knew I would likely blog about it since I've been blogging on one site or another since 1998. She *gets* that I don't hold back, that I speak my mind and she's okay with that.

That class I'm taking? It's a tax preparer class. I don't intend to actually do taxes for anyone else, but I do plan on understanding the changes this year and making sure we never get in trouble with the IRS again. I'll use what I learn to do our taxes. Gotta get going as I have to be there shortly.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mothering Daughtering

In the last few weeks abuse allegations against a popular former QF family have been aired by one of their many daughters. I've been reading the daughter's blog and the reactions by many former homeschoolers to the news.

It's triggering, it's disturbing, to many people, including me. I don't know what to thing as I've had interactions with the father in the past at NLQ and sort of liked the guy. But... no one can deny that his child is in pain, the kind of deep soul-fracturing emotional pain that calls out for justice, for acknowledgement, for recognition.

Over the years in the survivors out of extreme Christianity movements I've seen similar things play out, grown children coming to confess the memories and pain of abuse that parents unknowingly inflicted on those children, thinking they were doing the absolute best for those kids.

What this family did after the accusations was akin to pouring high test gasoline on a smoldering campside fire, causing it to spiral out of control in an explosive fashion. They defended themselves in a pod cast and attacked the accuser. Instead of being concerned with the obvious pain and distress of their daughter and seeking to do what they needed to do to ease her pain they came out with guns blazing to destroy her, beat her down emotionally. Which strengthens in my mind her original allegations.

I don't know what the truth is in this situation, who's lying, who's truthful, but I do know one thing is so very true, the pain of the daughter is real. She needs support, encouragement, love and healing. That is what this family needs to be focused on right now, healing that pain, not defending themselves. Her pain is genuine. That matters.

No one is a perfect parent, just like no one is a perfect child. We all just try the best we can. While I'm sure those parents did lots of wrong things, we all do, I'm just as sure they did some things right. Only time will tell. I hope they all find a way to love each other, heal the abuse, forgive and move past this.

But I do find it interesting that some of the young mothers in the survivor movement talk about their mothering in the same intense obsession way that those of us that were in the movement as young mothers once did. They are convinced that theirs is the only right way to raise children, speaking with unbending conviction and lobbing stones at those that don't praise them or line up with their vision of motherhood.

Yeah, get back to me thirty years from now when your children are grown and tell me then how you did, if your methods worked out so well. If you've launched successful adults that support themselves and aren't serial killers then I might consider your methods as good. But not before then.

I've raised my kids, they are all fully supporting educated adults with good lives, with loves and careers and lives. Even my eldest daughter I sometimes struggle with. I consider that success, not if my child is wise or can read by two or sits quietly when I require it. The end product. Don't you dare lecture me on my methods when my end results have been good and you're still slogging along in early motherhood. Your ideas are meaningless at this point to me.

I've been a daughter, I've been a mother and none of it is easy. I've learned there is no one fool proof way to raise children. Each is different and each family is different.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Traveling

Last night I arrived back from my week in South Louisiana and time with my mother. It was a good week.

That first day on the road was a bit brutal in one way, the temperatures dropped the farther south I drove. When I left the Virginia Piedmont I'd dressed in the warmest clothes I'd packed for the trip, a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt. By the time I stopped to pee and gas up in South Virginia I'd had to layer on the only sweater I packed and was still shivering. Once I got to Bessemer the radio said that the temps in the morning were going to be in the high 30s I had to buy a heavy sweater, jacket and shoes. I'd packed only for Louisiana, summer clothes and a pair of sandals. Brrr.

On the way down I stayed at my usual hotel in Bessemer, Alabama and got to have a long, laugh-filled, breakfast with my friend Terry. I think the next time I go home I'm going to work a few days stay in Bessemer just to hang out with Terry at the waterpark. Plus her sister and I share an interest in the paranormal. It would be good to meet her sister and answer her questions about my experiences through the year.

Got lost in Mississippi because I decided to take a short cut only to have my Iphone drain the battery and croak. I had no map, but I managed to go in the right direction and arrive at my mother's home. I knew I was on the right track when I passed the exit for Chatawa, Mississippi, home to St. Mary of the Pines Convent. I'd spent one miserable semester there and every summer for many years. I have to wonder if my training bra is still looped over the pipe emerging from the cafeteria forty years later. It was a tradition to see if you could slingshot your bra up over the pipe on the roof. That's when we weren't climbing the fence to hitchhike to town to try and score 3.2 beer.

The week flew by. I managed to talk to my mother about the things I needed to know, wills, plans for the future and other important things. She's considering moving up here, possibly to Leisure World in Lansdowne, Va., not far from myself and my children living in their far-flung Northern Va. suburbs.

My only issues with the week was the very uncomfortable conversation we had involving my father and the fact that after my parent's divorce I'd believed what my father had to say about why they were splitting up. I had to apologize for that, and tell my mother that I stopped believing much that came out of my father's mouth once he introduced me to his mistress and the terrible story about his funeral when several of his girlfriends showed up at the wake at the same time with his wife right there. My poor step brother and I ended up in the family room, bent double in hysterical strange laughter over the mistress and the girlfriend daring to show up, the bizarreness of it all.

I think my mother is doing better than I feared. I managed to keep my mouth shut and not complain about the things that did get under my skin a bit. For example, instead of me staying upstairs in the garconniere, I shared my mother's bedroom with her. Turns out that every night she can only sleep after turning on BBC World Service radio and nothing helped for me. Ear plugs didn't seal it out, pillow over the head. By the end I'd managed to tune it out enough to sleep a few hours a night.

Saw old friends, visited places I worked, I lived, disappointed to see my old apartment building burned to the ground. Baton Rouge hasn't improved, as usual it looks like the politicians still think that the city is disposable, old parts abandoned with zero investment in infrastructure.  Exxon still stinking up the joint with the pollution from the various refineries. On a clear day you can smell the paper mills forever.

Mom wanted me to stay another week, but I'm starting a class on Wednesday so I had to leave. Plus Jim wasn't wild about me being gone. The drive back was rough, not the first day, that breezed by, or it did until I arrived at my hotel in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Had to change rooms twice due to people smoking either near or in the non-smoking room I'd reserved. By the time I tried to sleep around 11 pm and I pulled down the comforter and found that the sheets on the bed were crusted with who knows what. I am sure the manager of the hotel likely hates me by now because I insisted he send someone up to put fresh sheets on the bed.

It wasn't the cheapest hotel and it definitely wasn't the most expensive, but it was one of the chains I've stayed at many times so I was pretty surprised this one was so awful.

The last day of the trip it rained, it rained cats, dogs and horses, it rained like crazy. Slowed down the drive quite a bit and was stuck behind four different wrecks on the interstate. By the time I got home after way too long on the road both Jim and the cats were happy to see me. Today has been petting cats and laundry. Plus gratitude for being home again. My waterbed is the most comfortable place on earth.


Friday, October 03, 2014

We'll All Have Chicken and Dumplings!

Even though I've suffered through a cold followed by the flu and topped with strep throat I think I'm absolutely doing the right thing going home to South Louisiana for a week or two.

Why? Because I am getting very worried about my elderly momma. Especially after we had the same conversation three times this week on the phone. It goes something like this:

Mom: 'Suzanne, I'm going to have Chicken and Dumplings waiting for you when you arrive.
Me: 'Mom, don't bother doing that. I'm taking you out to dinner that night.'
Mom: sounding very confused 'But I thought Chicken and Dumplings was your favorite meal?

Here's the scary part, besides the repeating of this conversation three times, Chicken and Dumplings has never been my favorite meal. I have never expressed a like, much less a love for them since I was maybe six. I avoid wheat heavy food like the plague.

So it makes me think even more that my mother is starting to lose it mentally. I may have mentioned liking that meal once as a kid, but where in the world is she getting this? Misfiring memories? The onset of dementia?

She's started to seriously repeat herself when I talk to her on the phone.

Which is why I'm going down. I cannot put off talking to her about her wishes for the future, her insurances, her will. I do not want a repeat of my father's situation, he died without a will or letting any of us know his wishes.

I'm also going to try to talk her into coming up here to live in the luxury retirement community in our town. That way she'd been close to us and to her grandchildren. There's no one near her down in Louisiana that can check up on her. Most of my relative abandoned the area post-Katrina.

My mother doesn't live in New Orleans, she lives in that golf-crazy country club gated estates where our former governor lived before he went to jail and where all the white folks were scandalized and outraged when Snoop Dog and other rappers bought houses there and tried to turn Baton Rouge into the new Rap Capital. It's a beautiful neighborhood, but it's so lily white it is almost funny.

Her house sits on the edge of one of the fairways, way too much house for one lady. I know getting her to leave for a more manageable situation is going to be difficult at best. But it's worth a try. I'd rather she cooperate with me, but I have a feeling she's going to fight me on this.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Dishwashing

Pedro doing his part to assure the dishes are clean
So yesterday my favorite plumber, the one that's hard to schedule with because he's always booked up weeks in advance, finally made it over and installed the new dishwasher that's been sitting in it's packing in the garage for two months now. He's just that good that he's worth the wait, unless it's a plumbing emergency.

I am back in love with the dishwasher! Our old one was such a piss poor excuse for the dishwasher that I finally started mostly handwashing our dishes. I hadn't used it in several years. Didn't realize what a constant chore handwashing is until I started being able to use the new dishwasher. It even does pots and pans~

Also we got a new  kitchen sink installed and they redid the crazy angled tangle of pipes that the original builder installed under the kitchen sink when the house was built. The plumber that originally plumbed the kitchen seemed like he was making it up as he went along, just using left over bits and pieces because no one puts those angles and tangles under a sink unless they are a) on drugs or b) trying to cut corners and save themselves a few pennies. We've been patching and repatching and tightening to keep all those strange angles from leaking until yesterday, when I asked our plumber to make it right. He did.

Which is pretty rare in this day and age. There are also some out there that need to make a few things right, like those that say they don't look at blogs yet the next day you see they've clearly used something from another blog yet not bothered to say, 'uh hey yeah, I found this at X blog' I'm having conversations right now with tptb about that issue and a few others.

It's really a pain in the derriere when those you've said nothing that wasn't positive to them or about them, and they suddenly decide to go all shitty on you without any warning.

But NLQ is not going to go away regardless of what rumors or lies or 'borrowing' that does go on. The whispering campaign isn't working and it might just backfire on those arrogant whisperers. We're replacing a few pipes, spiffying some things up and moving forward from a few past missteps.

Now I have a dishwasher to fill and run. Oddly enough when I ran it for the first time yesterday both Pedro and my other fur baby Kiki freaked out at the sound and refused to come into the back door while it was washing.