Gratitude

The day before Thanksgiving.  Today is the day before Thanksgiving.

I was going to type in a longish, ranty post about my brother again.  For those keeping score, my brother ended up not cancelling his trip to FL this Christmas, so we will in fact all be together.  He sent me a note asking what my children, my husband and myself would like for gifts.  I think the note was as close as I’ll get to an apology.  But by then I had already moved on from my anger to acceptance.  This is who he is.  Whatever.  I told him to not bother with gifts for us, gave him inexpensive ideas for my kids, and told him what options I was choosing off of his kid’s list.  He responded that they were thinking of getting a laptop for his kid for Christmas, so those would be perfect options.   My sister went ballistic again, but I’d already moved on.  My brother is who he is.  He won’t change.  I’m done trying to hope for it to happen.  It won’t.  Life goes on.

Instead, I am mulling over Thanksgiving.  We are staying at home again this year and I am pushing myself hard to not allow it to be as unsatisfying as it was last year.  Last year, R and I fought silly battles with no big meal or task to distract us from sweating the small stuff.  This year, we won’t even have my eldest home to behave a little better for.  Z is staying in DC this year, spending this Thanksgiving with his fiancee, since they plan on spending Christmas with us down in FL.  I think this marks the first time I’ll have spent this day without him.  Which makes me sad, in a way, but mostly grateful that he is doing so well and happy on his path.

Which is how I am resolving to feel about myself and our Thanksgiving together this year as well.  We are doing well financially this year; my husband’s job continues to be incredibly busy and therefore (we hope) secure.  I am getting enough website work to keep me feeling productive and justify me spending my time this way.  The two younger kids are both doing well in school.  My daughter seems to have mended fences with several of the kids who were causing her trouble at school, and did amazingly well in her role in the school play a few weeks ago.  We are planning our annual trip to Florida for Christmas, which is always a wonderful week of warmth, family and sun (hopefully).   R has worked hard in the last six months to address the needs that I laid out to him in our devastating fight last May.  It’s not perfect, not by a long shot, but I think we have both done a pretty good job at trying hard to appreciate each other and not sweat the small stuff.  We’re talking more, doing more together, and not getting upset with each other when life gets in the way as much.  It’s a nice feeling.

So this Thanksgiving?  I won’t spend it thinking of years past, wondering if I’d chosen this path or that path would my life be better.  This is the path I chose, the present I have, and I am grateful for it.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone.

Yep. I Called That One.

Here is the text of the voicemail that landed on my phone while I was out running this morning:

“Hello.  I just wanted to call and thank you for ruining Christmas, that was very nice of you, I appreciate that.  We won’t be going to Florida this year because (my fiancee) won’t come anywhere near you.  She is too mad at you for trying to bully me into going to (your son’s) wedding.  So, talk to you later!”

No matter that my father shared with me yesterday that my brother had already contacted HIM to complain about my reaction to the news of him not attending my son’s wedding.  No, that’s completely fine.  But I am a completely terrible person (once again) for going to my father to seek advice on how to handle my brother and his absence at my kid’s wedding.  I didn’t ask him to speak to him (in fact, I expressly asked him NOT to, but he did anyway).  I didn’t even tell him anything he didn’t already know; my brother had already told him about not attending and my father is aware enough to know that this would hurt my son’s feelings.  He’d already been trying to convince him to change his mind, and my email yesterday just gave him another push.

Whatever.

Having my son’s affection is something that my brother no longer deserves.  That’s how I feel.  And I’m fine at this point with helping him through the disappointment of seeing my brother (yet again) let him down, rather than having this type of animosity ruin what should be a wonderful, incredible, important day for my kid.  If my brother feels it is “bullying” to want him present there, then I don’t want him there.  I don’t want him anywhere near me or my family.  Because he doesn’t deserve us in his life.  Not if this is truly how he feels.  I’m over it.

Again.

UPDATE:  While I was writing this blog post, the following email arrived in my box:

After much discussion with xxxx we’ve decided to cancel our trip to Florida.  We are not going to go down there and try to enjoy a holiday with all the tension you have caused over xxx’s wedding hanging over everything.  It would be uncomfortable and awkward for everyone and I’m not going to spend my Christmas under that dark cloud, let alone ask (my fiancee) to and force (my son) to.  Christmas is supposed to be a joyful holiday.  Unfortunately it has all been soured and I don’t see any way to salvage it.

As I told Dad, xxx announced his wedding one month after we accepted Dad’s offer to go to Florida.  We can’t afford to do both.  Now, because of your wailing and gnashing of teeth, we will probably do neither.  You have upset xxxx and I both and neither of us wants to spend any time anywhere in your vicinity.  At least with the money we won’t be spending we can get xxxx an awesome wedding gift.

Family and Frustration (Again)

So, in a very strange turn of events, my brother and my son are getting married in the same calendar year.  I have known this for a while now, as my brother asked his on again/off again (but mostly on lately) to marry him nearly a year ago.

Now, in case you haven’t followed my blog for long, you may not realize that this isn’t exactly a warm, fuzzy relationship I have going on with my brother.  Long story short:  my brother, who has since been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, reacted badly to my parents’ divorce when I was seven, and I spent several years being his punching bag (not figuratively, but literally his punching bag).  He was institutionalized several times before my father took custody of him when I was 15.   For much of our adult life, his focus on himself above all others has been a constant source of frustration and angst for me.  Click here for far too many posts about how my brother and I go constantly around in circles of either speaking or fighting or not speaking because we recently fought.

All that being said, it’s kind of a miracle that he is getting married, and I am glad that he’s finally found happiness.  The fact that they are still together after nearly a year of living together and being engaged is astounding, and I’d been looking forward to the wedding they planned for next November.

My brother called me a few weeks ago to ask for some addresses for the family for his wedding guest list.  I of course had them on hand from my Christmas card list and told him I’d send them along.  He lamented that his side of the aisle would be kind of light and asked for suggestions on who else he should invite to the affair.

I told him we would likely have the same problem, and that I fully expected that some people from the family would likely be forced to choose which of the two family weddings to attend this year.  I told him that I expected more of the people from great distances to choose his wedding over my son’s.

That’s when he dropped the bombshell.

That he was going to make that choice too.  That he wasn’t going to be present at my son’s wedding.

Now, this shouldn’t have surprised me.  My brother always has time and money for himself and what he finds important in his life.  But, he told me, he was busy saving for his own wedding, and couldn’t sacrifice the money that going to an out of town wedding would take away from his own special day.

If I agreed with him, if I truly felt that he couldn’t afford to do both, I would understand.  I would.  But my brother has a way of making sure he is able to go out for karoake and drinks with his friends once a week, buying the latest technology for himself, and smoking hundreds of dollars of cigarettes a month.  Tightening his belt is a foreign concept.  Why should he sacrifice his fun for a family affair peopled with people he hardly ever sees and doesn’t often get along with?  But he expects us at his own wedding.  He worries the crowd will be “thin” for him.

I think it’s the hypocrisy of it that really grinds my gears.  Well, that, and the fact that my son will be supremely disappointed in his uncle.  He has a firm grasp of the person my brother is, but I don’t think even he imagines that his uncle, who has always talked about how proud he is of my son, would not attend this most important day in his life.  I don’t think it has even entered his head.

So I don’t know what to do, here.  I know from past experience that I never win an argument with my brother.  Conflict is always my fault, always.  When he told me, in fact, I simply said that I was disappointed but would get off of the phone before we both said things we would regret later.  I don’t want to have my father (again) offer to pay for my brother to attend.  My feeling here is that my brother can afford it, if he chooses to make this event an priority.  But there is no way I can make him do that.

Yesterday, my brother sent me, my sister and my father his son’s Christmas list.  It was full of gifts that had a price tag of between $100-$200 each.  He plans on getting “several” of the items on the list himself for his kid.  It brought it all to the forefront to me again, this frustration that I have with him, that he is more important than any of the rest of us.  In a fit of frustration, I sent an email to my father about the situation.  I don’t want him to fix it, I don’t want him to pay for it, I just want some advice from someone who knows both my son and my brother; who they are and how to handle this situation in light of who they are.

I don’t know what he will say.  Probably, my brother will be angry with me for making him “look bad” to our father.  Maybe I’ve made a bad situation worse.  I don’t know.

I just don’t know.

Divided

I didn’t know what to expect with yesterday’s election.  It’s no secret to my friends and family which way I lean; I ran for our local board of education as a Democrat three years ago.  I consider myself a very middle of the road, moderate D, but more often than not, I find myself looking towards that side of the aisle. Still, I pride myself on being very open minded, researching the issues, and not demonizing people who disagree with me.  I try, really try, to listen and have discussions with those who don’t feel as I do to try and understand why people think they way they do.  I have plenty of friends who are conservative, but the ones I am very close to have the same ability to see things from someone else’s point of view, and respect that just because we don’t agree doesn’t mean either of us are wrong.

Still, in the last few months the divisions have been heating up, even with those I know personally.  The anger and rhetoric has reached a very divisive, fevered pitch, all of which was going to culminate yesterday in the election.

I was uneasy from the start of the day.  I knew that no matter what, no matter which side prevailed, our country was still going to be in a mess.  With the country so divided, and angry, no matter who won would have a mess on their hands, I reasoned.  I fully expected that we’d find ourselves in a 2000 election scenario, with the winner unknown for days or even weeks.

Which is why, while everyone I knew stayed glued to the TV last night, getting either very happy with each passing hour or very upset, I went to bed early.  I fell asleep on the sofa at 9pm, tired and frustrated.  Feeling as if no matter who won, I wasn’t going to be terribly happy with the result.  Don’t get me wrong, I was hoping for a blue side victory, but I knew that the other side would be so angry and so upset that any hope for real compromise or bipartisanship would be out the window.  As much as I didn’t agree with much of Romney’s stands, I realized that he likely would have a better shot at getting anything done because he would have a Congress willing to work with him.

And so here we are, the day after the election, and just as I feared, half the country is Extremely Pissed Off.  My own Facebook feed has comments that include, “God Help Us Now,” “Welcome to the United Socialist States of America”, “I’ll just stop working now and put my hand out,” “We just handed America over to the Devil.”  I’ve seen people compare Obama to Hitler repeatedly, and Lenin.  Honestly.I get that some people are upset and disappointed.  That makes total sense to me.  But the name calling, the vitriolic anger, the total lack of respect for a human being is just abhorrent to me.

And I truly don’t get why no one else seems to get that that is just plain wrong, and does nothing to move our country to a better place.  I mean, we all say we love our great country.  But part of the whole premise around our great democracy is that it is built on compromise.  No one person holds all the power for a reason.  And to get to the land of compromise, two things have to happen.  People have to trust one another and respect one another.  Two things that I see very much lacking, not only in Washington, but in much of the political talk that goes on between regular folks these days as well.

The elections are over.  The decision is made.  It’s time to push up our sleeves, respect our differences, and find some common ground to get the hard work that needs to be done, done.  Our country is great, but it won’t be if we continue this level of division and anger.  It’s time to get over ourselves, all of us.  No gloating from the left and no whining from the right.  Just put your heads down and do the hard work that needs to be done.

Why, Oh Why, Sandy…..

We are back up and running after a harrowing week dealing with Sandy. We live in SW CT, about ten miles from the shoreline.  Our experience with the storm was that it was a wind event for us, with very little flooding since we are inland.  Here is how we experienced the last week.

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We were all home on Monday, as officials had called off school the day before.  I spent the day finishing up laundry, cooking things that would be easily reheated in case of power outage.  It wasn’t even in case, really, we knew it was inevitable.  The whole day was spent watching and waiting for what everyone said was going to be catastrophic.  It was hard to imagine, really.

At first we all thought it wasn’t so bad, that perhaps the storm was tracking far enough south that it wouldn’t impact us.  We had very little rain, and while it was breezy, the winds weren’t terrible.  But around 3pm, the winds started to pick up.  Our anxious dog needed his Thundershirt to calm down as things got noisier outside.

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The power started flickering around 5pm.  I cooked dinner on the stovetop just in case it went out before I was done.  We are very, very fortunate to have a gas stove that works in power outages.  Sure enough, just as I was putting the last touches on dinner, the power went out, at 5:30pm.

The conditions got worse as the night went on.  We could hear things hitting the house outside.  The howling of the wind was like nothing I’d ever heard.  We put the kids to bed and turned on the crank powered radio to hear any sort of news.  The only station we could get was WCBS out of NYC.  The stories we were hearing were simply unimaginable; that water was flowing through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, that the water was rushing over the streets, that there was a horrible fire that no one could put out in Breezy Point.  We finally went to bed around 10pm.

We didn’t sleep much.  The noise of the wind was so unnerving.  Our daughter, who was worried about a tree falling on her in bed, joined us.  We didn’t kick her out, having heard about two boys who died when a tree fell on their bedroom earlier in the evening.  Finally, around 6:30 am, the light was starting to gather outside, and I got up to see what I could see.

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It was still lightly raining outside, and breezy, but it was clear the worst was over.  I took a flashlight outside and the dog to see what I could see.  We were incredibly fortunate that we did not have any trees down in our yard or worse, on our house.  We are surrounded on three sides by trees, so this was amazing.

We still had no power.  There was no question were in for a days’ long outage.  It was time to fire up our new generator.

When we saw the predictions for the storm the week before, I started calling around to get a generator.  I was mostly concerned about water in our basement, which has a sump pump.  I bailed it out by hand last summer, and this storm was predicted to be so much worse.  We got it all hooked up by ten am, and figured out how to snake extension cords around to power the fridge, the power strips to charge devices, and a few lamps.   We tried the TV, but the cable was out, so it wasn’t worth wasting the gasoline in the generator.

Cell service was incredibly spotty, and we weren’t getting a lot of information from our radio.  We knew that the damage to the coast had been bad, but we had no idea how much.  We weren’t sure it was safe to drive anywhere yet, so I put on my sneakers and took the dog for a walk to see what I could find out in the neighborhood.

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Trees were down across the road.

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Trees were down in people’s yards.

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Trees were down everywhere.  This is around the corner from my house.

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Driveways were rendered impassable.

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I saw three separate houses that had trees down on the houses.  It made me realize how incredibly lucky we had made out with just losing power.

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Here’s another one.

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Trees were uprooted, or in this case, completely snapped off of their trunks.

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And all over, trees were laying on power lines.  It was no wonder that 24 hours after the storm, our town was 90% without power.  We offered our family in town to come over to our place.  We didn’t have power, or heat, but we had running water and a few lights, and a fridge thanks to the generator.

So many people in this area have wells for their water.  When you lose power, you lose your running water.  The lucky people that have city water (we are among them) often do not have natural gas in their homes, so when they lose power, they lose the ability to have hot water.  When we bought here, we were so used to having natural gas, it was a factor in our choice of home.  We’d never had a well, didn’t feel comfortable with oil heat, and so we sought out a house that would have city water and natural gas.  We had no idea how beneficial this decision would be during these power outages.  They made a huge difference.

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We had our family in town over our place during the day on Wednesday and Thursday.  The house was growing colder, but we at least had the fridge and a few lights.  They didn’t even have water.  So we were a step up for them. It made the long days without school much more bearable.

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We cooked on our stovetop for each meal.  This was dinner on Wednesday night; sloppy joes with meat that was starting to thaw from our visiting family’s fridge.  Paper plates and plastic cups.

Wednesday was Halloween.  We didn’t celebrate.  It was cancelled in our town.

By Thursday, the house was getting cold.  We haven’t figured out how to make the furnace run on the generator, and I started to worry looking at the forecast for colder temperatures coming our way.  We took the kids to the mall to warm up on Thursday afternoon.  It was like something out of a movie.  Near every plug there were people charging their devices, using the WiFi to work, to get information about what was going on in the rest of the area.  We came home and got ready for church for All Saints’ Day.

As we were putting on our coats, the power came back on.  It was 72 hours almost to the minute since it went off.

That evening, we were able to watch the news.  We sat stunned looking at the images of what had occurred during the storm all around us.  The Connecticut coastline was decimated.  NYC was flooded, still, days after the storm.  The Jersey Shore was unrecognizable.  So many who lost so much.  Once again, we felt relief and gratitude, that our experience wasn’t worse.  We were so lucky.

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