Monday, 24 December 2007

Merry Christmas, Everybody!!!!!!!!!

And a very Happy New Year!!!! I'll blog when I can.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Of Boyfriends Past

Laurie got me thinking about boyfriends past. I've had a fair few of them, most not very acceptable. But some made more of an impact than others.

There was my College Boyfriend (CB). I met him on a night out with girlfriends when I was 17 and a freshman. He was 21, with wiry, prematurely gray hair and a mustache (I had a thing for facial hair when I was younger). I was very drunk. He took my number and I really didn't think I'd hear from him.

He did call, two days later. I was completely infatuated and started spending lots of time at his (unheated and this was December) apartment in the student ghetto. He was funny. He was smart. He also had another girlfriend in West Virginia. She was in law school. He was studying political science. He came into my life at that stage when I was a sponge, soaking up as much knowledge as possible.

But he was Catholic, from a large family with an alcoholic father and lovely mother. Though he didn't practice his Catholicism anymore, he retained the guilt. And he felt very guilty about the other girlfriend, who knew nothing about me. He would make comments about me, comparing my body, my mind, my whatever to her. The Christmas break came, and I went to visit my mother in Wyoming, where I met a gorgeous cowboy. We had a fling, but I couldn't get CB out of my head.

After the Christmas break, he moved and broke off contact with me. I got the flu really bad and couldn't get out of bed for a week. Then the depression hit me. I looked for him everywhere on campus but never ran into him. Till it was almost Spring Break. I saw him or he saw me walking. We spoke. He took me back to his new apartment and introduced me to his new roommates. We resumed our relationship. His girlfriend still didn't know about me. I stayed on at college that summer to be with him. Gainesville, Fla., is not where you want to be in the summer. Except I wanted to be with him.

I went to my dad's for the break till the next term started. In that time CB moved again. He was supposed to call, but never did. Finally, I tracked him down. His old girlfriend had been visiting, and his new roommates thought she was fantastic. Still, we didn't break up. He introduced me to his new roommates, who never did take to me. Neither did his family.

The longer we were together, the more determined I was to be the girlfriend who won. It took me over a year. No one I knew liked CB. Not my family. Not my roommates. Not my friends. I didn't care. I wanted him. Finally, I wrote him a letter telling him that I couldn't take being second in line anymore. That did it. He broke up with the other woman.

And he turned into a possessive maniac. He didn't like me to wear makeup. Or revealing clothes. Or to talk to any other guy. We had a huge fight in McDonald's once because he'd seen me talking to a guy in one of my classes. He made me cry. In public. He also cheated on me at least once. And I cheated on him. We broke up once. I lost loads of weight. Then we got back together. I needed him. Somehow he was my security blanket. He disliked the major I chose, journalism, because he had contempt for all journalists.

Finally, he graduated and went to another university to get a master's in public policy. I drove two hours every weekend to see him. But I was starting to feel my independence. I got an internship at a paper. I started to work at the college newspaper. Other guys showed interest in me, and I was interested in them. I had a fling with one of the reporters on the college newspaper. When I graduated, I got a job at a newspaper in Fort Myers, on the copy desk. I lost loads of weight again and got loads of male attention. Finally, I could no longer keep up the double life.

CB and I had talked about getting married, but had never officially become engaged. It was just an understanding. I broke up with him on the phone. Cowardly, I know. He said lots of mean things to me, which I shrugged off. It didn't matter because I'd met someone new.

I moved on with my life. A few years passed, and in the middle of the night the phone rang. It was CB. He'd been drinking with his dad and got nostalgic and tracked me down somehow. My then-husband was not pleased. He had nothing to worry about. The next day I called CB. Was he OK? Yes, but his mother had been killed by a robber at the convenience store she'd had to get a job at. He'd married his next-door neighbour, a nurse. They raised dobermans and had a couple of kids. He worked as a rep for a drug company, never using the master's he had completed.

And that was the last I heard of him. I wish him well, but he's not someone I would want back in my life. Unlike the next boyfriend.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Sleigh Bells Ring, Are You Listening?

As I look out upon my frosty lawn, I start to feel more in the spirit. I have been on a cleaning spree. No particular reason other than it's nice to have the place looking clean, if not tidy.

No relatives are descending upon us this year. Usually, I invite the outlaws, but this year I didn't. So no need to clean the guest room or get in extra food or have any extra worries. The house feels a bit empty, but we're making up for it with a couple of parties. Once again I gave in to daughter and have allowed her to have a party this Saturday. There will be no food, though, so no chance of it getting thrown around like last time. Now, you'd think she'd be sucking up to me every chance she gets. You'd be thinking wrong. My 13-year-old has changed in the last couple of weeks. No kisses or hugs at bedtime. No goodbyes as she leaves the house for school. And son informed me he wants to go to the town centre with a friend and his "girlfriend." I said no, unless I or another parent takes them. Daughter isn't even allowed to go on her own with her friends yet. He wasn't pleased.

I'm having another party on the 27th for friends and their kids. So yesterday I did the mega-shop at Tesco (which did my shoulder no good) and have planned menus for Christmas Eve (my traditional lamb stew), Christmas (Ballotine of duck, chicken, and turkey, courtesy of Marks and Spencer's), Boxing Day (Gammon), party (poached salmon and pork roast), and New Year's Eve (individual Beef Wellington's). Not bad, eh? I always feel better when I feel more in control and on top of things. I AM a Capricorn, after all.

And I'm fitting in hour-long walks with Jake. I've discovered a local park that seems to be doggy paradise. All the dogs I've come across have been well-behaved, and it's good for Jake. Although he can be a little monster at home, he's quite timid and submissive around some dogs, particularly those that bark a lot. He barks only when he has a reason. So he needs more socialization. I've had a trainer come round twice to assess him. His biggest problem is pulling on the lead till he chokes himself. A friend gave me a harness, which we used till he grew out of it. I then got him a Halti. Actually, I got two, because the first was too big. He's chewed the second one so much he's shredded it. So I'll have to get another one. In the meantime I'm doing the tried and true method of stopping every time he pulls on the lead and only going forward when he allows slack on the lead. He's a smart dog and seems to be catching on slowly. I just let him in and he's jumped all over me with his muddy paws, leaving a big black paw print on my cream slippers. What is he like!

I must go and figure out a last-minute gift for hubby. Men are so hard to buy for. At least he gave me hints this year: coat and watch. That's it. No clues as to what kind of coat or watch. So he's getting a coat and a watch and if he doesn't like them he can take them back.

It's a beautiful day here.

Monday, 17 December 2007

Tags and Blawards (blog awards, my new word)

I haven't been writing here much which means I've been catching up on Christmas, trying to get out of my Bah Humbug mood, and trying to get over my shoulder pain. I'm sort of achieving all three.

So to catch up: The lovely Pixie has awarded me the Best Blogging Buddies award. I love the design of this award as much as its meaning. A year ago I never knew anything about the blogging world or how it could open up a whole new world of friendship and thought to me. But it has. Now I must pass it on to 7 other blogging buddies. I nominate Queeny, Kaycie, Laurie, Kelly, Flowerpot, Debio, and Lady M.

I've also been tagged by DJ Kirby.

I'm supposed to:
1. Link back to the person who tagged me. DJ, I'm not sure this will be easy. In fact it's going to be bloody difficult.

2. Imagine you could send a letter back in time to yourself, when you were 13 years old, what would you write to yourself?

3. Tag 5 people to inflict this on.

Dear Wakeup:

You have just become a teen-ager. Congratulations! You will be a somewhat difficult teen-ager, but it won't all be your fault. In two years you will grow up in many ways, many ways that just won't be that necessary. You will experiment with drink and drugs. You will be very susceptible to the opposite sex, particularly when you mix the drink and drugs. Your parents will cause you much heartache and sorrow through their own selfish needs. Your teens won't be your best years; you will make a lot of duff choices, but you will learn from your mistakes.

In your 20s you will start to enjoy yourself more and become more confident. You will discover ambition and career. This will take over your life and will cost you a marriage. But it won't have been a good marriage anyway.

As you enter your 30s you will worry that you will never have what you want most in life -- a family and stable marriage. Don't fear. Happiness is around the corner for you. By your mid-30s you will have achieved your family goals with a husband and two children, and career and ambition will take a back seat for the foreseeable future. Becoming a parent will help heal the hurts inflicted on you by your parents when you were 15-18. You will move to states and countries that you never even dreamed of doing at 13.

Your 40s will be, if not an awesome decade, at least a comfortable one. You will mature in many ways, including a menopause that sneaks up on you. At 47 you will grieve for the loss of what you considered your womanhood, something that had been with you every month since you were 9. But HRT will replace that, at least until you're 50. Physically, you will be both at your best and worst. You will have the time, energy, and desire to improve your fitness. You will overdo it, though, and end up with injuries.

As you approach 50 and look back at the girl who was 13, you will recall tears, fears, but also laughter and joy. For you are and always will be a person who feels all the emotions that are out there, and you should never be ashamed of that.

And now I have to tag five people, and those five people are Darth Sardonicus, Jenny, crystal jigsaw, Pixie, and VI (for when she has a chance while in Australia or when she gets back).

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Bah Humbug

I got tagged by Queeny, oh about a million years ago. Sorry it's taken me so long to pass this along, Queeny.

Here it is:

When you get tagged, you have to add your name next to the person who tagged you and by doing so you are letting the list grow.
Rachel’s Soulful Thoughts
When Silence Speaks
Dancing in Midlife Tune
Underneath it All
I am Dzoi
Hobbies and Such
moms.....check nyo

Now, I'm going to pass this on to some more of you: annie, kaycie, laurie, the rotten correspondent. It's easy enough, and requires absolutely no soul-searching whatsoever.

Onto other matters, here's another list:

Number of Christmas cards I've written: 0

Number of presents I've bought for family in the UK: 2

Number of presents I've bought for family in the UK that I have to take back: 1

Number of times I've heard "Merry Christmas Everybody" by Slade this year: 2002

Number of mince pies I've eaten: 2

Number of mince pies I've wanted to eat: 0

Number of times I've felt in the "Christmas spirit": 0

Number of times I've felt like throttling someone in the past week: 10

Number of people I've felt like throttling: 10

I'm sorry. I'm just not in the Christmas spirit and people like Martyr, who came round to my house the other night to discuss the narrative for the 12 Days of Christmas for our church's crib service, just incense me.

According to Martyr, she has singlehandedly produced our crib service for about the last 9 years. For at least 4 years I know I've played a significant role in helping her. But she fails to acknowledge this, and goes on and on and on about how no one ever helps her, blahdeblahdeblah. She also keeps saying how her children would much rather attend another church in our village, which has trained youth workers. I'm thinking, why don't you go there too then.

Anyway, this year the older kids and I came up with our own version of what the 12 Days of Christmas represent. I went through it with Martyr and the other woman who is "producing" the crib service. Martyr sighed and kept saying, "Why did you say that?" "What does that mean?" "I think it should be this." Finally, in frustration, I said, "I don't know why I've bothered doing anything for this if you've already made up your mind as to what it should be." With that, she backed down completely. She even backed off having her son, who attends the other church now, be a narrator.

I feel guilty for being pissed off about this. It's a crib service. We're supposed to be celebrating Jesus' birth. We're doing it for the people of our community. But people like Martyr just suck all the joy out of me. She also had a great big moan about the school my son and two of her sons attend. It's an awful school, according to her. Well, we've had a different experience. In fact, I'd say this school has been the best thing to happen to my son.

Recently, there was a meningitis scare at the school. Two Sixth Formers (17, 18-year-olds) got it. A third went to the hospital with similar symptoms, but because the lumbar puncture failed, they couldn't say it was meningitis. They gave the girl antibiotics and by the time they could do a lumbar, there were no meningitis markers. The school never came out and said this was a third case, nor did they say it was a suspected third case. Martyr thinks the school was irresponsible. I don't. I think they were trying to avoid a mass panic. Also, the decision-making was actually out of their hands. It was up the the Health Authority to decide what to do at this point. Needless to say, Martyr and I disagree.

I've known Martyr for 11 years. We've been almost-friends for that time. Now I can see clearly why we will never be friends. She just bugs the shit out of me. Nuff said.

Number of pain killers I've taken for my shoulder pain: lots

Number of pain killers that have worked: zero

Number of times I've felt panicked about Christmas this year: 20

Oh, I'll just go take a Valium and maybe it will all go away.

Just kidding!

Monday, 10 December 2007

City of Hope and Dreams

In addition to the cold I've had, I now have pulled a muscle in my shoulder. The pain radiates round to just under the left breast. Nothing I've taken even touches the pain, and I feel sick to my stomach with it. I've spent 13 minutes phoning and phoning my doctor only to be told there are no appointments left. I'll have to wait till this evening to go to the out-of-hours clinic. I'm almost in tears with the pain. This just sucks!

Thank God for Cranford. I so look forward to watching it every week. For those of you in the States, look out for it on PBS. It's as good or better than the Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth.

I also watched the Royal Variety Performance Show last night, held for the first time in Liverpool. I felt so proud of this city that I've come to know since moving to the UK. The Empire Theatre never looked better. In fact, I'd say it puts many London theatres to shame. My one complaint is they had Bon Jovi singing Beatles songs. Why didn't they get the two Beatles still alive on the stage? After all, the Beatles, more than anyone or anything, put Liverpool in the international eye. Mention Liverpool to most of the world and the Beatles is the connection. Paul McCartney started LIPA (Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts). He still has family and property around Liverpool. He should have been there. And why close the show with Let It Be?

For anyone wanting to read a book rich in Liverpool history, "Sacred Hunger" by Barry Unsworth is a must. It shows the effect of the slave trade on Liverpool, which certainly profited from it. It's set in Liverpool's heyday, in the 18th century. In fact, stroll around Liverpool and you can see the remnants of its onetime wealth. It has more Georgian buildings than any city outside London. Across the water in Birkenhead, where all the wealthy ship owners used to live, you can also see its onetime glory in its buildings. Birkenhead is a shadow of its former self. People only live there now because they can't afford to move out. It's earned a place in the Top Hellholes of the UK to live in.

My husband's father's side come from Liverpool. Actually, they came from the Norfolk/Suffolk border. A housekeeper had three children by her employer. He never married her because she was already married to a man who was in a mental asylum. There were two girls and a boy. The boy inherited land and wealth from his father's brother, but lost it all by a very early age. My mother-in-law and I have speculated that perhaps he gambled it away. However, there was a mini-depression in that area among farmers at that time so perhaps that is what happened. In any event he left his wife and children with relatives and made his way to Liverpool with the intention of getting on a boat to America.

That never happened. Perhaps he lost the money for the fare. He stayed in Liverpool and got a job on the docks. He sent for his family eventually. By that time, though, his wife had died. His two daughters and son joined him. One of the daughters married a widower who lived across the street. Inexplicably, this widower lied about his age on his marriage certificate.

The son had two sons, one of whom moved to Australia, the other stayed in Liverpool and did quite well for himself. The Australian branch was lost to all until two years ago when I did a google name search for my husband. It's an unusual name because of the housekeeper merging her employer/lover's name with hers for her children. Anyway, up came a search on one of those genealogy websites from a man in Australia for any descendents of the fellow who moved to Liverpool. I passed the info onto my mother-in-law, who made contact, and the rest is family history.

She and my father-in-law went to Australia last year for a giant family reunion, where my father-in-law was feted by all. My mother-in-law was a bit unhappy because she'd done so much work to find these people and was not acknowledged at all. I was a bit unhappy because I was the one who actually found out about the Australian side first, and my mother-in-law didn't even bring me back a pine cone from her trip (she had gifts for everyone else). Ah, such is family history.

The wealth of the Liverpool son didn't get passed on to even one generation. His grand house in Liverpool has been torn down to build some really crappy public housing. His son, my husband's grandfather, ended up living on a council estate, where my father-in-law was born. My husband's grandfather was by all accounts a miserly curmudgeon. He used to go to sea, then retired to become a decorator. A fall off scaffolding crippled him for life, but he still managed to be a night watchman at a hotel. His wife was a lively woman who must have been stifled by the man she married. She would kick her heels up every night after her husband went to work. She ended up being one of those genteel alcoholics who put whiskey in their tea but forget how much so keep adding some more. She loved cats almost as much as her whiskey and cared for many a stray. She developed dementia in her later years, which was a shame. It clouded the memories of those who loved her. When she could no longer care for herself on her own, my mother-in-law put her in a rest home. She thought it was a hotel, a lovely one at that.

The vista of Liverpool has changed dramatically since I moved here 15 years ago. I used to drive down Scotland Road three times a week to visit my cats in quarantine in Aintree, which is where the Grand National horse race is held. Scotty Road was and is a hellhole. I used to try to count all the pubs along the way but always gave
up. But the Liverpool city centre now is a maze of cranes as it prepares to become the 2008 European City of Culture. I want good things for Liverpool and its residents. It has been a city in decline for so long but deserves so much better.

I'm going to have to go to the pharmacist for some pain killers now. I won't last the day otherwise.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Grey Skies are Gonna Clear Up

First of all, I want to thank each and every one of you who commented in the previous post or has ever commented on my blog. Your comments mean so much to me, and help me get through the hard times.

Now, let me update you.

First of all, the skiing: the guy from the company phoned me yesterday morning to reassure me that yes, they have the cheque, and we are all square. An American friend is meeting us there and she's been in touch with the guy. For some reason, I'm not getting any emails from him. But all is well. Whew!!!!!

Secondly, Friend No. 2: After spending a restless night in which I cried, raged, thought about what I was going to say or write, I decided not to say, write, or do anything. Friend No. 2 is just like that, and nothing I do will change it. Our lives are too entwined for me to dump her, as hubby suggested I do. I decided that I'd far rather spend New Year's Eve with the people who matter the most to me -- my hubby and kids -- at home than in the house of someone who doesn't really want me there with people I hardly know. So I'm going to buy some very nice champagne, cook a very nice meal, get the chimney swept so we can have a roaring fire, and play board games with hubby and kids. Sounds ideal. And the rest of them can go fuck themselves.

Last night we went to a black tie dinner dance. I got a spray tan so I don't look like death. I went to my wonderful hairdresser yesterday and told him my tale of woe. He said, "Right, we are going to make you look fantastic." And he did. He curled my usually straight hair into a Charlie's Angels hair style. Farah Fawcett, eat your heart out. Friend no. 2 and that other frenemy were there. I told my hairdresser I don't get mad, I get even. So I walked in like I owned the place and pretended I was not the least bit bothered. I boogied (but didn't drink too much because I'm still suffering from drinking too much last week with my Frenemy). Hubby did drink too much and did his trick of falling asleep. But not before he told everyone how lucky he is to be married to me. The husbands of Friend No. 2 and the other frenemy weren't even there.

Back to my hairdresser. I've gone to him for 10 years. We always have a good laugh, but we had an even better one yesterday. He recently decided to open his own salon, but is suffering financially at the moment so he's put his house up for sale. But despite his worries, he is such good company. We had each other in tears of laughter with the voices we do for our animals. He has three cats, including a real bruiser named Jake. I, of course, have two cats and Jake the puppy (who's getting huge, by the way). His Jake is a big hunter who delights in leaving "presents" all over the house but especially in the bed. And his Jake would live off takeaways if he could. My Pearl, the Maine Coon, loves broccoli, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, peas, etc. She and my Jake have bonded over food.

I left the salon in much better spirits than when I arrived. Amazing how one person can make a difference. Laughter: the best medicine there is.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Friends and Frenemies

You ever have one of those days that just gets worse and worse? Where all your best-laid plans fall apart? I've had one of those, which is why I'm burning the midnight oil writing this.

It started with the rain. Hey, it's England. It rains a lot. I know that. But there's rain and there's rain. Then I arranged to go dog walking with a friend in the woods behind her house. We hadn't gone very far when I noticed I hadn't seen Jake for a while. Normally, he stays very close to me. So my friend and I then spent half an hour shouting his name and wandering around looking for him. My imagination took over, and I envisioned spending the whole day looking for him, phoning vets, telling the family he was gone. Then my friend called her house. He was there! He'd run back when he couldn't find me. Clever boy!

Now this bit gets complicated. My dog-walking friend is going to Disneyland Paris for New Year's. I thought another friend was having our family for New Year's. The dog-walking friend said she'd heard from another friend that dog-walking's frenemy (not the same as mine) was hosting a dinner party on New Year's. Hmm, I thought. Friend No.2 is very tight with dog-walking's frenemy. Does this mean she's dumped us for the frenemy? I saw Friend No. 2 later in the day. "What's happening with New Year's?" I asked. "Oh we're going to frenemy's for a dinner party," she replied. She said her daughter told her we were doing something with some friends for New Year's. "Yes, you were the friends we were doing something with. Remember, I said I'd do something, but you said you wanted to." She brushed me off. I was -- and am -- really upset and would have cried except I'd had a spray tan earlier and didn't want to ruin it. So we're high and dry for New Year's. It's too late to organise anything, and it would -- and does -- look like we're Billy No-Mates.

What really bothers me is that in the past Friend No. 2 has asked to come to mine for New Year's, and I've obliged. I also oblige when she asks if I can have her kids while she goes out, as I am tomorrow night and on the 22nd. I think it might be time to reassess the friendship, which will be hard because my kids and her kids are really tight. And I go to salsa dance class with her.

This brings me to the third shit part of the day. My kids and I are going skiing in February to the same resort as Friend No. 2. Except that I can't get any confirmation from the company I've booked it through that they've received my cheque. Hubby has gotten me all worked up about this, and I'm really worried that I'll be left high and dry again. But in a way, it might work out. I'm so upset with Friend No. 2 at the moment that I don't want to go skiing with her. But my kids were looking forward to going with her kids. Oh what a tangled web.

If only I had some legitimate problems to moan about. At least Jake is all right.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

I Just Can't Be Bothered to Be Articulate

The cold that everyone else seems to have had a month ago has finally caught up with me. I can't breathe. My eyes feel like they're bulging out. My muscles ache. I feel BLAAAAAHHHHHH! This always happens at this time of year when I should be writing Christmas cards and buying presents. At least it should be gone by Christmas.

Onto to other gripes: I am finding it hard to get onto the computer these days between hubby and the kids. "I have homework to do," they whine. So I sign off. And when I check on them, they're on MSN or some computer game. And hubby has work to do, which he updates me on every five minutes. Well, it's not like I HAVE to be on the computer. I mean, there's only my blog and my Amazon shopping and maybe a few emails. And I need to check the other blogs I follow (which since we got the puppy I've been very remiss about). And how about a Sudoku to calm my nerves? And what's going on in the world? Oh yes, I could easily be on the computer all day long. Who cares about clean bathrooms or floors or food shopping or real life? Not me!

The good news is I won DJ Kirby's Wordless Wednesday last week. Thanks, DJ, and I need to put the award on my blog.

What I really need now is a nap, but Jake needs a walk. And I have to work on the things the dog trainer suggested for me. Yes, I got a dog trainer to come over last week to assess me and the dog. He's great. I could do with some improvement. Jake is a nipper, which can hurt, believe me. He also gets excited and jumps up on people. And the worst is taking him for a walk. He strains on the lead so badly, I'm afraid of choking him. I got a harness, which he has now outgrown. I got one of those Halti things, which he hates. He and I work on the lead every day in the driveway till he gets really frustrated and attacks my leg. But Rome was not built in a day, and Jake is an intelligent, if stubborn, guy. Well, so am I, Buster, so watch out! He is awfully cute, and one day I will post pictures of him. It's amazing how much he's grown, and how he's changed our family dynamic. Hubby, so opposed to the idea of a dog, values his time with Jake, using it as therapy almost. Daughter has been good at training him. Jake sees Son as his equal, so we need to work on that. The cats have settled down somewhat. I never knew that cats could eat and growl at the same time but Minnie does. Pearl, always the dominant cat, has rolled over and played dead practically. At Thanksgiving, hubby gave Pearl some turkey. Jake snatched it from her mouth. She has the claws, she just needs to learn how to use them.

I shall leave this mishmash of a post now to take Jake for some exercise. And remember, tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Britney and Amy and All the Rest

No they don't look alike, but they are alike. Two talented young women throwing it all away. And for what? Drugs, booze, inappropriate choices in marital partners. Their type has been around before. Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin come to mind.

What is with this self-destructiveness? Are they so spoiled they can't see how enormously fortunate they are? What will it take for them to see it? Losing custody of her children didn't make Britney wake up. A drug overdose and arrest hasn't made Amy wake up. My daughter asks me difficult questions about these two. Why do they behave that way? What will happen to them? Do I think they are talented? I only know the answer to the last question, which is yes. I think they are tremendously talented. But talent is no excuse for bad behaviour. And these two are the poster children for Bad Behaviour.

They make me angry because they remind me of another once young woman I know who lost her life to drink and drugs: my stepsister. (Welcome to another post about my vastly dysfunctional family.) My stepsister didn't have the talent of Britney and Amy, but she certainly has had the advantages. She went to six (!!!!!!) colleges and still doesn't have a degree. She married a man who had cheated on her with her roommate. When they made up and he got her pregnant, both families forced them to marry. He then was sent to rehab by his parents and wasn't around for the birth of their first child. Neither was very disciplined about money and they ran up enormous debts, which they couldn't pay because they didn't work (except sporadically for his parents). He went back to rehab, she went to rehab, he got out of rehab, she got out, they had another child. They had lots of help along the way with their dysfunction by both sets of parents. They split up but never divorced. He would resurface in his children's lives from time to time, then leave as quickly. Their kids went to live with my stepbrother, and hopefully won't fall into the addiction vortex. Stepsister is currently back in rehab after leaving her wildly inappropriate boyfriend (on the sex offenders' register). Her husband is in jail awaiting trial for stealing from a relation of stepsister. (You would think we were from a low-income, poorly educated background. We are not.)

So Amy and Britney, Wake Up and Smell the Coffee. You are role models for our daughters, and you are failing abysmally. Make something of your lives besides a mess. Insecurity is not an excuse.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Aaarrggggghhh! My Sister!

I had a rather upsetting conversation with my mother last night about my sister. Apparently, my mother sent her some money to buy a digital camera for Christmas. My sister's oldest son, 34, unemployed, single dad who lives with my sister along with his two brothers and his daughter, called my mother and told her my sister used the money to pay her electricity bill.

I think the most upsetting part of this is that my sister, 57, still has to use money from my mother to pay bills.

We're not very close, my sister and I. My sister doesn't believe that I can begin to understand her problems. I don't want to begin to understand her problems. They began when I was 11 and she was 21 and moved in with the man who became her husband. That he was a ne'er-do-well was apparent even to my innocent 11-year-old eyes. He blatantly cheated on her but stuck around long enough to father four children with her (and a couple in between with his girlfriend Mimi). They had financial highs. My dad begged my sister to put away money for her children during that time. She swore she had. That was the beginning of her lies and deception. When the financial lows followed, she relied on money from my mother, sent three of her kids to live with her for a while, and when my mother remarried, sent her children to stay with her all summer every summer.

My sister's children inherited her ability to massage the truth. She has played the single mother card for a long time. She has moaned that the whole world is against her and her kids. She HAS worked hard, but I think work has been an escape from her home life.

I used to fall for her stories of woe. I sent money and gifts to the kids, though they were never acknowledged. I gave my niece my childhood rocking chair. It ended up in pieces. I offered to have a nephew come visit me when I lived in New York. My sister neglected to tell me the date he was arriving. He spent 10 hours alone in La Guardia Airport because my sister neglected to give him my phone numbers. He was only 12, scared and angry. I tried to make it up to him, but he took it out on me by getting lost in the Museum of Natural History and stealing from me. I had planned to have the others come stay with me, but that visit scuppered those plans.

My sister's kids are all grown now, and I see the dysfunction continue into another generation. As I said before, her three grown sons live with her. One works for her. The other two are unemployed. The girlfriend of one has just had a baby but refuses to live with him until he gets a job. My niece, the one who visited my mother in the summer and suffered from Harry Potteritis, then gastroenteritis, is stuck in a bad marriage to a control freak who is addicted to Valium and prescription pain killers. The control freak has a bad back (as did my sister's ex-husband) and can only work intermittently.

My sister thinks my husband and I look down our noses at her and her family. If only that weren't true. But it's not for the reasons she thinks. I have gotten caught up in her family dramas in the past and been burned because she is frugal with the truth. I would listen to her cry about her ex-husband cheating on her, then see her act as though nothing were wrong when he was around. She has been involved with a man for the past 14 years. She used to harbor dreams of marrying him, but his children hate her and he will never marry her. He also has cheated on her. She used to call me up and cry about how badly he treated her. My daughter was a baby when this happened the first time. I was so worried about my sister I called her the next night to check on her. And guess what? Everything was hunky-dory again and they were going out. THE NEXT NIGHT!

Her kids have been involved in drugs, have been sent to jail for assault and concealing weapons, have run away, have been put in secure mental health units. And none of it is their fault. When the going really gets tough, she sends them out to my mother's. One of my nephews was sent out there a couple of years ago because he owed a drug dealer money and needed to get out of Florida for a while. But that's not what my sister told my mother. She sent my niece out there last summer, hoping my mother would help her sort out her marital problems. My sister totally ignored the fact that my mother was going through her own crisis. No one else's problems ever come close to being as bad as her and her family's.

We can't choose our family. I really wish I could be closer to my sister, could offer support to her. But I can't and I won't. It's a one-way relationship and a web of lies and deceit that I don't wish to get caught up in. So in this Season of Good Will, I'll send her my best wishes, but I won't send her money.