Guilt Trippin’… Want a Ride? (a Rant)

We'll take a second to blame our fellow blogger, Sally, for this posting. It started off with a comment on her post, but I felt I was getting a bit long-winded, so decided to just say "to heck with it" and do my own post. Here goes…

As I've mentioned probably more than any of you care to hear, I'm an only child. This can be a good thing when it comes to siblings. I've bemoaned the fact many times over the years as Hubs has had to deal with his family that we, too, have given our children … siblings. Except for a few hiccups along the road when they were small, and perhaps a few more as teens. they are now actually friends… a feat by no means simple and one I am very proud of. They did it. Not me.

The dynamic of Hubs' family is this. He's the eldest of three children. He has a sister a couple of years younger, and a brother about six years younger (my age). As much as his mother and father were teased about the last one being a "surprise", they don't take the bait… so we assume he was "planned". Okay, whatever. Hubs' always farmed with his dad. When he was young they had livestock – cattle and pigs, as well as being grain farmers. Ironically enough when Hubs was drafted into the Navy, dad sold off the livestock. Guess it was too much work alone. The younger brother had no interest in the farm and instead was interested in fast cars and ditching school, leading to various other problems. The sister was, and has always been, The Princess. (Yes, she has actually moved into Queen status, but less I confuse you with MIL who is THE QUEEN, I'll refer to her as The Princess… or TP). She was the one that when Hubs' dropped out of college and got drafted, managed to get not one college degree, but three, count 'em… three. Yeah. She made up for both the brothers in that department.

After Hubs got out of the service, he wasn't given a choice. It was just assumed he would come home to farm. There wasn't anyone else to do it, so he did. His mom and dad built a new house with the good grain prices of the 70's and moved, leaving him to live in the house he'd grown up in. Fast forward a few years until I came on the scene. The first thing I did wrong was be a divorcee with two children. MIL never could quite get a handle on that. Somewhere in the back of her mind I was never quite good enough. Whatever. Hubs loved me, that was what counted. I was a bit peturbed however that she refused to have my children call her "grandma". She never wanted to be called that until about 14 years ago when the last grandchild was born. Suddenly she was the perfect grandmother. Go figure.

TP had married before us, and moved to a far eastern state to have a dairy farm with her husband. They ended up having two children, just about the same ages as our two eldest. Being as they lived out there, phone calls and letters (before the days of e-mail) were pretty frequent between MIL and TP and occasionally Hubs would get drift of the conversations. Lots of "oh woe is me"… and "things are hard" … constituting secreted checks being mailed out a day or two later. MIL has no idea we know this, but the facts are there. One of my most vivid memories was the time we scrimped and saved to buy our kids a fairly large swingset (there were four kids, so had to be big enough)… and when MIL got a glimpse of that she immediatly thought TP's kids needed the same thing, so *swoosh* went the checkbook and off went the money… yup. Not long afterwards we heard how thrilled TP's kids were with the new swingset.

Over the years BIL got married and had the two kids… The Boys. They live just a few miles away in the next town over. You don't see them unless they want something or want to kiss up to MIL for something. Several years ago we got wind of the fact they were in severe debt. Suddenly, you didn't hear about it any more. Speculation, anyone?

We have to walk on tiptoe around anything the rest of the family does or says. Everything is a big secret. The TP's eldest let slip a few years ago that his parents had come into a windfall that allowed his and his sisters' college education to be paid for. In full. With money left over. Did anyone else tell us that? Did MIL share the good news? Hell no.

When BIL youngest started having some medical and behavioral problems, it was all whispering and innuendo and hush-hush and secretive looks… but when anything is going on with OUR kids, it becomes quickly a group project to be analyzed and gossiped about all over town.

I won't even get into the whole religious thing, except to say we didn't get our children baptized. *gasp* According to MIL they're probably all going to hell. We don't think that her putting on every diamond she owns, her most expensive suit, and washing her car to go to church guarentees her a place in heaven, but we could be wrong. Guess we'll find out someday.

Hubs' shop is at his mom's house. It has been that way forever. He shows up, she shoots down from the house to jabber (yes, jabber) at him non-stop until he can barely think straight. He is the one who is responsible for many of her bills. He cleans her driveway, he makes sure she gets to town in the wintertime if she can't get out with her car. He (involuntarily) takes her to the races every week. He feels as though his mother has designated him to be his dad's replacement, since he died several years ago. It is as though Hubs' is responsible for her well-being, care, and entertainment…and yet? How do you say "no" when she's one of the landlords and every farmer knows you have to kiss the landlords' ass? *Sigh* It's a fine line, I tell ya.

Yet? After all that he tries to do for her… after he is the one she calls when she wakes up in the morning to find her husband dead beside her in bed… who is the one she depends on for so many things…Who is the one who gets picked on? Who gets the guilt trips laid on him all the time? Yeah, you guessed it. Hubs. I don't understand what drives this woman, but trust me, it isn't love. A sad thing to say, but truthful. I hope my kids can't say the same thing about me. Ever.

Ewwww… (A Poll)

I was reading a blog the other day when it brought back some … uh… unpleasant memories. I have a couple of questions for you. Feel free to answer anonymously if you wish, this is just a fact-finding mission.

1.) Do you pick your nose?

2.) If so, what do you do with the "product"?

3.) Has this behavior changed since childhood? If so, how?

4.) What is the grossest thing you have ever seen? (In REAL LIFE, people… not a movie or a picture, but something you have witnessed up close and personal.)

Why I ask:

Several years ago my eldest daughter was going through a divorce and she and her small son needed a new place to live. A very small farm house near us came up for rent and we knew the landlords. Because the previous tenants (PT) had left rather suddenly, there was quite a bit of mess to clean up and the house had some much-needed renovations before it was livable. At that time I wasn't working off the farm and my daughter was working full time, so I offered to help with the house – and the landlord agreed to pay for supplies as long as we furnished the labor. I was happy to do it to make my daughter's life a bit better. It really was a cute house. Just bad tenants.

I'm not sure I have ever been exposed to the conditions that some people are willing to live in. The house had a bad mice problem that the PT had evidently done nothing about. The first day in the house we found a dead mouse floating in the toilet. I think mice are a bit smarter than that, so have to assume the PT left it there as a house warming gift after they were evicted asked to leave. Needless to say, exterminators were called immediately.

Further joy was spread when my daughter and her male friend from work (who much later became her husband) were doing some cleaning one night after work and discovered PT had left a used condom in the bedroom. My daughter was mortified. To his credit, my now son-in-law stayed very cool about it all. I mean, really… was that necessary to leave behind? It wasn't even in an obscure place – we just hadn't gotten to that room yet.

The biggest shock of all was the condition of the second, smaller bedroom. The PT had two children – not real little, but by no means teenagers. However, they must have had some terrible physical ailment that made snot fly out of their noses at the speed of light, clinging to every surface of the room before it could be stopped by a tissue, a toy or possibly a hand. Oh… you mean you think they PUT that snot there? On the walls? On ALL the walls? I have to admit I vomited a bit. In my mouth. I spent days with a paint scraper and rough sand paper cleaning rock-hard snot off the walls so they could be disinfected, painted with Kilz, and finally given fresh coats of paint. Yes, we replaced carpeting, too. Don't ask.

I admit, I let the house get a bit untidy at times. I may walk in the house after work and realize I didn't get the garbage outside quick enough, but to paint my walls with snot? Ugh. I just don't get it.

Becky Has Questions… I Have Answers

I have to admit I volunteered for this. What was I thinking? Thanks Becky for going easy on me!
1.  You live in a really rural area — do you ever wish you lived in a city and if so, where would that be? Nope. I've been there and done that and didn't find it very much fun. I was raised in a big city and lived in smaller towns and by far this is my favorite of all.  I occasionally think it would be nice to live close enough to have pizza delivery or to be able to have faster internet service, but then I realize it isn't that important. I'm happy with all the good things I get out of this location. I will have to say, when I first moved to the country I thought it was waaaay too dark, and waaaay too quiet. It spooked me if I couldn't see the lights of town shining in the distance. Now? Some days I wish we were even further out.
2.  What's the best advice/guidance you've given yourself? Trust yourself. Trust your own instincts, not go by what someone else says. Doesn't mean I'm good at doing this, but in the couple of times it really counted it worked. (That made me sound really wise, didn't it? I'm not. Honest.Just think you have to trust your gut in most things.)
3.  What's a particular topic of conversation that usually gets you "going" in that you just have to say something? LOL… where do I start? Probably the one that gets me going fastest is when people complain about food prices going up and blame the farmer for it. Trust me, the farmer isn't the one seeing the huge profit increase. It's the middle-man. I'll stop now before I get on my soap-box. Oh, and I also get pretty riled up about animal abuse. I'm not a fan of PETA but there are some people who I'd like to give a taste of their own medicine when it comes to how they treat the critters. A couple of other things get me going, but I'd say those are the biggies. (Hubs would be so proud… coming from growing up a "townie" to standing up for the farmer. Wow. Amazing…)
4. Is there something in particular that you like to collect? Hubs would say critters Wink.  In my younger days I had a type drawer and collected tiny things to put it in, but that was in my "country" phase and now am more modern in my taste (my modern and my country always clashed) so those things have been put in storage. I'm kind of a pack-rat, but not really anything in particular – more like lots of "stuff" in general. Probably my biggest collection (unintentionally) would have to be books. I can't get rid of a book after I've read it – unless, of course, it belongs to someone else! I have huge bookcases in the new house and am wishing I'd added more. Maybe someday… (you listening, Hubs?)
5.  Have you ever seen Children of the Corn, and if so, has it made you afraid of cornstalks at night? Of COURSE I saw it. I'm not sure if it was re-released, or re-made or whatever. I saw the original one in black and white. Pretty creepy stuff. It never made me afraid of the corn – although I've heard stories of children and animals getting lost in the cornfields, so was always careful not to let the kids or pups go in them. As far as worrying about something come out of the corn? I relate more in a positive way with "Field of Dreams"… where the players came out of the corn. I look at it as a pretty benevolent thing and love hearing the corn grow and rustle in the summertime and smelling the damp earth after it rains. Yes, you CAN actually hear it grow, weird as that seems…
If anyone else wants to play, let me know and I'll try and think up some deep questions to probe your mind!

Unofficially – A Lifetime

27 years ago today I "officially" forged a bond with the love of my life. We'd met almost a year before that when I was climbing out of a slippery slope of a marriage to a man I thought was going to be the one-and-only. I think when you have those dreams it is hard to admit to yourself that sometimes forever just isn't. I was struggling with the end of a marriage, unsupportive parents, non-existant friends, a lousy self-esteem, no marketable job skills, and two children under the age of 4.

When we met it wasn't easy. A chance encounter at a party I wasn't even supposed to be at… and an introduction to this man who was the brother of a man my girlfriend was dating. I wasn't thrilled with the guy she was dating, so hadn't held my breath waiting to meet his brother. I'd made up my mind there would be no more men in my near future, and no more marriages in any future. When fate decides to laugh at you, it makes it loud and long.

A month after meeting this guy I was hooked. Fearing I was doing some kind of rebounding, I was cautious and when he asked me to move in with him along with my children, I held off bringing the children into the mix. I've talked about what drama that created, and suffice it to say this guy was my rock through it all. It wasn't too many months later we were all together as a family… although an unofficial one. Plans were being made to change that status.

27 years ago at 4 o'clock on a warm July afternoon, I married the love of my life. We've had our ups and downs, our joys and our heartaches. We've raised the two children we started with, plus added a couple more along the way. We've laughed and cried and screamed and punched walls and giggled until our stomaches hurt, just like little kids. We've shed tears of grief and tears of pride and tears of joy and tears of pain. We've held hands. A lot. We've said "I love you". A lot. We've looked into each others' eyes and said "We're lucky… we found each other". A lot.

Today may be the "official" anniversary of the day we wed… but "unofficially"… if feels as though I've known this person my whole life. Happy Anniversary, honey… I love you.

Back

Some of you read this a couple of years ago when I posted it. I am adding this small current update – I don't know if it was the long car ride on Saturday to the wedding shower, or if I slept wrong, or what I did (no, I was NOT moving furniture, wise-ass) but when I woke on Sunday morning I could not stand up. Well, I could, sort of, but I looked like the hunchback of Notre Dame. With all the wedding things I had to do, I spent most of Sunday and Monday playing the ice / heat game with my lower back until finally on Tuesday I was able to stand up straight – not necessarily pain free, but functioning. Yay me! Thank goodness that didn't happen the day of the wedding! Yikes! 

Originally posted May 2005 

A Tale of a Chiropractor or How I Came To Love My Surgeon  

When I was a kid, I used to move my bedroom furniture. I was a budding design student or architect or I was just bored – I’m not sure. It wasn’t light furniture, either. It was huge, dark, antique furniture that I hated. That might have had something to do with the re-arranging. I may have been hoping to push it out the door. Didn’t happen.

Over the years, the habit stuck. I moved many times in my younger days and each time I had to re-arrange the furniture several ways before I was satisfied. Yes, I drew diagrams and measured and pictured it in my head, but I had to live with it to decide if it was really what I wanted.

All of this created a bad back.

Fast forward several years to my 20’s. I am married to my Hubs, have four children under the age of 7, and suddenly am stricken with lower back pain from hell. I can barely move. My parents, who have been going to chiropractors for years, try and encourage me to try one. Me? I’m scared of things I don’t know and go with what I do know. I go to my medical doctor. In medical lingo, my “primary care physician”. You know, everyone must get their piece of the pie! You can’t just jump right to the specialist, you have to get a “referral” that takes 10 minutes and costs $200. No wonder our health care system is such a mess. I could go on and on about this one, but I won’t. At least, not right now.

I then am sent to an orthopedic surgeon who pokes and prods and sends me to a neurologist who puts needles in my legs and sends electric current through them. (Remind me not to be taken prisoner anywhere at anytime. I can’t take the torture.)

After all the x-rays, exams and god-knows-how-many questions, I am told I must have 6 weeks of complete bed rest and take muscle relaxers and pain pills. I will say this, as much grief as I give my MIL, she did step up to the plate on this one. Between Hubs and her, they managed to take care of all the kids for those 6 weeks. Me? I never knew they happened. I was so drugged I didn’t know if it was day or night. I slept 24 hours a day and only got out of bed to pee and nibble on something.

Unfortunately, when the 6 weeks were up, nothing had changed.

Back to the “professionals” who recommended physical therapy. Okay… did that for several weeks. No change. Back to the docs. Now what? You guessed it… 6 more weeks of bed rest and meds. You have Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

I finally called my parents and had their chiropractor recommended someone in my area. What did I have to lose at this point?

We made an appointment and Hubs went with me. We had the x-ray, the thorough exam, the questions… always questions… and finally the chiro said, “We need to have you come every day, twice a day for awhile, but I think your husband needs to take you out to dinner and a movie tonight – you’ve been cooped up in the house waaay too long.” Did I mention I fell in love with him on the spot?

Many years went by and I continued to have some lower back pain off and on, depending on the weather and the degree of effort I put into doing things. As much as my chiropractor would have loved to keep me on a weekly regime, I could not justify the expense and after the crisis was over quit going.

1995. Mother’s Day. Beautiful spring weather. Farmer’s planting in the field. Hubs planting. Close-up to me, riding in the tractor with him… ah, togetherness. I’m riding on the wheelwell, as this tractor is smaller and has no second seat. Have I mentioned it is rough? It is. After many jigs and joggles and being banged around a bit, I gave up and went in the house. Togetherness can only stand so much.

The next morning I wake with a stiff neck. No biggie. Happens occasionally when I sleep wrong. You’ve probably all had that happen. Another day passes and it’s no better. I consider going in to have it popped by the chiropractor. I wait another day. Now my left arm is starting to hurt. It hurts when I stretch it out and pulls on my neck and shoulder. This doesn’t feel like a stiff neck. By the third day I’m not sleeping. I can only get comfortable when I sit in a chair and keep my arm propped up. It’s weak and tender. I call to make a doctor appointment. They can’t get me in for another couple of days. When I ask for some pain medication to help me sleep, they say no. Hubs comes home to find me bawling from the pain and frustration – as well, I’m sure, from sleep deprevation. He calls the doctor and they agree to some Tylenol with codeine. He must have been persuasive.

Remembering the fiasco the last time, I decide to skip the middle man and go straight to the chiropractor. I know they don’t like medications, but I explain I needed to sleep. He was okay with that. He did his x-rays and exam, and found nothing. Hmmm… This was a puzzle. He could tell I was very stiff and sore, so started me coming 3x a day. You heard me. 3x. a. day. He would give me a treatment and I would think I was going to pass out from the pain. A few days went by and he started by giving me a treatment and saying, “Now, that’s better, isn’t it?”. No matter how much positive thinking you try to blow up my butt, it is not going to make it better if it is not. Trust me. It was not.

I have a pretty liberal physician. Most hate chiropractors. Mine thinks they have a place, so doesn’t object to you seeing one. After two weeks with the chiro I decided things were not improving and I went to my doctor. He took more x-rays. Nothing. He suggested I try a different chiropractor – one with different methods. Now I was being put in traction. I was put on a bed of rollers (those actually felt good!). The chiropractic part was questionable – he’d use this little snapper thing and just thump me in places. I have no idea what that was supposed to do,but he was a very reputable guy so I went along with it. I got a home traction device (which I was warned had been mis-used and caused hanging deaths before. Oh. Goody.). It did nothing.

Back to the doctor. Now we were going to get serious. At this time we had no good neurosurgeons in our community, so I was sent to the big city. I had an MRI. Lo and behold, I had a herniated disc in my neck! I mean, that puppy was outside the box… surgery was discussed and my response was, HELL YES. Let’s do this thing!

A week later I was prepped for surgery. It’s weird, but it’s easier for them to do back surgery on your neck by going in through the front than the back. You have to agree to do this, knowing that you may never be able to talk again as they are right around your vocal cords. Truly, when there is this much pain involved, you’ll agree to anything. I see how torture can work.

The minute I came out of surgery and woke up, I was fine. I had some discomfort from the neck incision, but that was all. No back, neck, or arm pain – I could move my arm! I could stand! I could sleep! Normally, they keep you in the hospital for a day or two, but hospital beds and I don’t agree with each other – we don’t bend in the same place and I end up with lower back pain. So, Hubs borrowed his mother’s smooooth riding car and he took me home to recouperate.

I’ll always remember the chiropractor “cracking” my neck – the pain blinding me, taking my breath, almost making me black out – and his cheery voice saying, “now, that’s better, isn’t it?”.

Fuck you very much.

Ass-Backwards

I'm going to do some catching up, so if you're a devoted reader you probably will figure out where you are in space and time. Otherwise? You may be clueless. If so, I apologize, but then… it IS my blog, right?

Awhile back I asked you to respond to a pop quiz on your sun and/or tanning habits. Thank you to everyone who responded. Where did this come from? (Besides the fact it is summer and we're all exposed to more sun?) I am a ghost. I am, and have always been very pale. Although I am a red-head now, I am not a "natural" red-head. I have not tried to hide that fact from anyone, it is just the way it is. I have the red-head complexion, however. I have whiter than white skin and, yes, freckles. Everywhere. Because of the sunscreen in my makeup and the makeup I wear, the ones on my face stay pretty much "under cover", but on the rest of my body? Thick. My mom has freckles, too, although she tans… and she used to say if her freckles would just all run together she'd have a pretty good tan. Me too. If it wasn't for the freckles, I would have even less color, if that's possible.

Growing up I wanted to tan in the worst way. I had a gorgeous cousin (think dark-haired Angolina. Yeah. What gawky teen needs to compete with THAT?) who would naturally tan a deep, dark, golden brown. She'd share her "tips" with me. Not content to broil in baby oil, she would slather Crisco on herself. She reasoned if it fried chicken to a golden brown, it would do the same for her. It did. We won't mention the smell, but hey! The things we do for Beauty, right?

I tried it all. All it got me were sunburns that, even if you couldn't see the red would make me violently ill. I think it was radiation poisoning, really. I would get the shivers and shakes and my very bones would ache for two or three days. Not to mention the pain of touching any part of my body with… anything. I could cry to put on a shirt or a bra if the straps didn't line up exactly with the swim suit straps (and woe to me if I pulled the straps down because I didn't want tan lines! Uh huh… you know what I'm talking about…) I would slather this stinky lotion on that had some cooling ingredient (can't even think what it is called now, but it stunk to high heaven!) and would put on aloe, but to no avail. Then, for all my torture, it would develop blisters a few days later and I would go through the molting phase. Big sheets of skin and yuck would come off, to be followed by the worst of all… the itching. Oh.My.God. The itching. Especially bad when it was on your back. In the middle. You know, where you can't reach? Just thinking of it gives me the willies.

I would try and help my tan along by the use of Coppertone Sunless Tanning Lotion. Here comes the "old folks" line… "Back in MY day"… yeah, well, I don't know how much they've improved the sunless tanning products, but back then it was stinky and you had to be particularily careful on your knees and elbows and um… palms of your hands… yeah. I went through half the summer with a carrot-orange body and even brighter orange palms. Who was I fooling? No one. If the smell didn't give me away, the color sure as heck did. Still? It was the thing to do, you know.

Finally I got a little smarter and just said "I'm a white girl who is very, very, white"… and started slathering on the 40+ sunblock and calling it life.

What reminded me of this so vividly was a woman I saw in the grocery store the other day. It was someone I knew, more as an aquaintance. She didn't see me and in my anti-social avoidance mode, I didn't approach her. What shocked me was that at first I didn't recognize her because she looked so OLD. I mean, really, really old. Wrinkled, prune-face, lips all bunched like a smoker (she doesn't)… I took more than one look to make sure it was really her. It was. You know where I'm going with this… yes, she was tan. Yes, she always tanned. Yes, she is one of those women who gets deep, dark, gorgeous tan in the summer and works at getting there. In our younger days she was beautiful and I was envious. Now? She could have been my older sister… and she is at LEAST ten years younger than I am. Seriously.

Yes, I'm concerned about skin cancer. After my youthful indescretion flirting with the sun I've had one spot taken off my back and have a couple others I'm watching. I worry about my children and their sometime flirtations with the sun. At this point? I'm really glad that I never was one of those people who "tanned", as I may have continued frying myself in Crisco until I became a piece of overcooked leather. Remember, sun damage doesn't usually show up for several years as it gets into the deeper layers of your skin and it is only when it finally is uncovered that you see what you actually did. I'm hoping I've gotten past those stages by now…

If you are one of those people who "tan" or are out in the sun a lot – please use your sunscreen. I can't impress upon you enough how important it is. Not only for your health, but to honestly look better… further down the road.

Missed Me?

Last week was a zoo… I had back problems, 4th of July, relatives here for my son's wedding, and, yes, my eldest son's wedding. When I get a chance to take a deep breath I will gradually catch you up as well as expound on my recent "questionaires". Be patient.

26

Twenty six years ago today a red-headed pea-picker (as Hubs used to call her) entered our lives. Red heads are known for many things, and believe it, ours lives up to most of the images. As hard headed and stubborn as she can be, she can be generous and loving and sweet. Her wit can cut like a knife and the sarcasm will drip off her chin. She's beautiful and funny and smart … and can be frustrating and irritating with the best of them. She is an ideal representation of what our family can be – a little dash of her father, a little smidge of me… a dusting of brothers and sister influences… all rolled into a very complex package.

Happy Birthday, Em! We love you to pieces…