Friday, 24 October 2008

OH, My Aching Back

Oh what a week. It started Sunday when I hurt my back while -- wait for it -- leaning over and looking at the newspaper. Yes, how mundane. How stupid. How pissed off was I? Plenty. I went to the doctor on Monday. I don't usually bother with doctors for my back and just go to physiotherapists. But this was really painful. He prescribed some heavyduty painkillers, which have knocked me out for most of the week. It's meant no gym, no driving, very little walking. And I'm really, really fed up with it. This morning, as I was gingerly getting out of bed, I went into spasm again. How pissed off am I? Plenty.

But today I'm not taking the painkillers because hubby is in London and I have to take the dog for a walk and I have to be able to drive Jake to the park. He's been looking at me mournfully all morning, like he's saying "PLEASE take me for a walk now." I'm working my way up to it.

I'm not feeling as upbeat this week as I was last week. Hubby was supposed to hear about the only job possibility he's got at the moment. And the call hasn't come yet, which seems ominous. I got an email from my sister yesterday about my mother. Seems my stepfather's son-in-law, a pompous, overweight prick, was incredibly rude to my mother on Sunday. She'd told a story at lunchtime which she repeated at dinner, and he took the opportunity to make fun of and humiliate her. She was so upset she told my sister she's moving to Florida now. My mother also apparently has a kidney infection. She has had a pain in her side for about a year and finally went to the doctor about it, who said it probably started in her urinary tract and moved up to her kidneys. She's on heavyduty antibiotics and really doesn't need the prick making fun of her.

I've considered calling the asshole and telling him off or emailing his wife. It's probably best if I do neither. I asked my husband if we could help my mother financially in finding a place to live in Florida. He said we'll be on the dole if we do. I cried my eyes out while making dinner. I kept cooking so I had an excuse not to talk to hubby or anyone else.

Hubby has been down this week too. He's been very quiet and even more short-tempered with the kids than usual. Last night, though, my daughter asked if we could play a card game. I wasn't in the mood but told them to play with their dad. From the whoops and hollers, I could tell they were having a good time. They need more times like that. Hubby comes down very hard on son and sometimes on daughter as well. I've suggested he back off a bit, but he hasn't taken my advice with very good grace. They're going to grow up hating him if he isn't careful.

Yesterday I met up with a very good friend who also has been through financial hard times. Her hubby drowns his sorrows in two or three bottles of wine a night. I advised her to contact al-Anon. We both agreed when these hard times are over for us, we're going to do more charity work. I have in the past, then gave it up. People need to know there is always someone out there for them, even if it's just to listen and make a cup of tea.

The other thing I want to do an Open University course. And I even found the course: English Language and Literature. I have been fascinated by the evolution of this complicated language since I read Chaucer at the University of Florida. The only thing holding me back right now is the cost: £610 per module. I don't think I can qualify for financial aid yet either. What a pickle.

Hubby and I are still looking to buy a business or two as well. We just have to find the right one that's recession-proof, if there is such a thing.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

In the Beginning There Were Tears

What to do when the breadwinner becomes the man about the house? That's the question hubby and I have been tiptoeing around. We, and he, have gone through a major readjustment to our daily lives and to how we perceive each other and ourselves this year.

Hubby came home from London with his tail firmly between his legs in April after months of fighting for his job and negotiations to get the best redundancy package he could. You see, it's a bit complicated. He was let go for political reasons masked as economic reasons. The mask was quite thin, and everyone saw through it. To avoid the bad publicity of going to a tribunal, his old firm paid him off. Then they got rid of the woman who got rid of hubby. Sweet revenge! But it's not the same as a job.

A man defines himself by what he does, and if he does nothing, then he is nothing. Of course, we women know that's not true. But people do look at you and treat you differently if you're in employment than if you're not. I have experienced that for the past 16 years.

Our friends swiftly divided themselves into two categories: those who were supportive and those who weren't. The supportive ones have kept in touch, have invited us out, asked how things are on a regular basis. Some of them have been in the same boat. They understand when I say I'm waiting to exhale. The others have been notable by their absence. No phone calls, emails, dropping by. Nothing but a great big zero. Actually, in the beginning when I still thought they were friends and actively sought out their company, they would make comments like hubby is a "pain in the arse" and "it's his own fault" if none of the other men talk to him.

Are you shocked to read that? I was shocked to hear it, and I haven't gone out of my way since to see or speak to those two women (Frenemy, of course, and Mildred, who I wrote about previously as well).

It's a tough and uncertain time for a lot of folks. I know we are more fortunate than many in the same boat. I also know just how quickly one's world can change.
That's why I was relieved and gratified to read an article in Sunday's paper about redundancy: that it can feel like bereavement, that it can change the dynamics of a couple's relationship for better or worse, that it can make you a better person if you allow it to. At last, someone wrote about what we've been going through these last six months. I'm not making it up.

We've worked our way through some of the worst of the bereavement. For a few months I cried every morning when no one was around, and sometimes in the middle of the night. I don't do that so much anymore. I try to look forward and think of what to do if this drags on for much longer. We have learned what matters most in life, that a walk with the dog can be infinitely more entertaining and fulfilling than a meaningless evening out. I have tightened my belt tremendously, halving our food shopping bill for example. It brought back memories of my young adult life when I didn't make much money and had to be very careful how I spent it (though I always seemed to have money for alcohol!). I want some new clothes, but a quick perusal through the cupboards revealed clothes I could wear if I lost 10 pounds. So I am working on that. I keep telling myself that I can't control a lot in my life at the moment but I can control what I eat.

Back to the dog: for anyone going through a similar experience, I highly recommend having a dog. Jake has been the saviour for hubby, who walks him twice a day every day. When nothing else could make hubby smile, Jake would sidle up to him and sniff his bum. Guaranteed to work every time (but I'm not going to do that). Hubby and I read the paper together every day and discuss the turbulent world markets and what it all means. Hubby's quite knowledgeable on this subject, and he has taught me a lot.

In the beginning I was reluctant to tell people hubby had lost his job. It felt embarrassing. It's easier now, especially when so many seem to be losing their jobs. It's made me consider how I've behaved in the past toward others in the same situation. Was I rude or thoughtless or insensitive? Was I supportive and helpful? Is there anything I can do now to help others in the same boat? Staying positive is the most important thing. Something I tell myself every day is it doesn't cost a penny to smile. If you smile, the world smiles back at you (though some may question your sanity).

And I plan to keep smiling, no matter what, especially when I'm around Frenemy and Mildred. Let them wonder what I'm up to. I'll never tell.

Monday, 13 October 2008

He's Banned

You know, 13-year-old boys can be disgusting in a burpy, farty sort of way. But I can cope (just about) with that. What I can't cope with is willful, disgusting, destructive behaviour. Like what happened at my daughter's 14th birthday party Saturday night.

She wanted a disco. I didn't want it in my house. She wanted to invite 40-plus people. I didn't want them in my house. So we hired the clubhouse at the local tennis club. I've been there for quite a few events and knew having the bar open would be a bad idea. I knew my husband and I alone wouldn't be able to keep tabs on 40-plus teen-agers. I knew that a few recent parties had ended with the teens getting drunk on vodka someone had sneaked in, vomit in the garden, parents who stupidly had gone out coming home to a wrecked house. That wasn't going to happen on my watch, I decided. So I invited the parents to stay, and a few kindly took me up on the offer. One or two of those kindly helped police the event.

There was an almost fight at the far end of the courts. I went out and told them all to go back inside, even the ones shoving their tongues down each other's throats. They just about obeyed. They kept going round the side, and I or my husband or a friend kept following them and encouraging them to join the party inside.

At the end, we congratulated ourselves on keeping things from getting out of hand without upsetting my daughter. We cleared the place up, then did a check of the bathrooms.

One troubled teen, and I know which one it was, decided it would be funny to pee all over a roll of toilet paper and leave it in the urinal. That was disgusting! I can't imagine ever leaving the parents of one of my friends to clean up something like that. I'd been watching him in particular all night. I saw him and his friend and a couple of the girls disappear into the gents' loo. I urged my husband to keep checking on what they were doing. He didn't know what to look for. I did. I should have gone in there. I found no evidence of alcohol, and perhaps the boy decided to do the pee show out of frustration or lack of respect. Yeah, I know it could have been worse. But I wanted -- and want -- my daughter to have good, well-behaved friends.

He's banned.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

And the next bank to fail is ......

It's amazing how language can change one's perception of an event. This year we have gone from "a slowdown in the economy" to "a credit crunch" to "a global financial crisis".

It's just been bad news all the way in my life. I could have told you two years ago there was a slowdown when we had our house for sale. In six months we had only four viewers and two of them don't really count because they were just being nosy.

Remember a few months back when the really bad news was how expensive petrol/gas was? Don't you long for those good ole days? To gain an understanding of the events happening over the last couple of weeks, I've been reading about the Great Depression and its causes. I am no student of Economics and apart from listening to my parents' stories of how hard times were then and reading The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck and Hard Times by Studs Terkel, I didn't know much about the causes of the Depression. I knew the stock market crashed in 1929 and before that it seemed to be party, party, party (ala The Great Gatsby). I knew there were bread lines and people out of work and starving children. I knew Franklin D. Roosevelt created the New Deal to get people back into work (my grandparents among them) and built numerous Public Works projects as a result. I knew WWII had something to do with pulling the US out of the Depression.

I didn't understand that trade restrictions, deflation, and sharply increased taxes worked together to create the perfect economic storm resulting in Depression. There are several websites out there that clearly explain what happened.

I also thought I should be more informed about Roosevelt's presidency. He is generally accepted as the greatest US President in the 20th century. But he had to be, considering what a mess Hoover had left the country in. As I look forward to the 2008 Presidential election, I wonder which man will be able to fill Roosevelt's shoes because that is what the next president must do. Will it be the impetuous, flighty, maverick McCain with the beehived Palin ("you betcha!") standing behind him? Will it be the overly intellectual Obama whose so-called terrorist links seem to frighten ignorant Americans and whose running mate has his own issues?

I think as important as who is President is who he surrounds himself with. Roosevelt had some of the greatest people of his day behind him. Harold Ickes, Frances Perkins, Henry Morgenthau. Read about these people. They were truly innovators. I think Roosevelt's best quality must have been his ability to listen and to act on what he heard. I wish he hadn't created the Japanese internment camps during WWII though.

I made my mind up to support Obama over a year ago. Nothing has changed my mind since then. Should he win (and I think this will be a very close race to the bitter end), he will have to be very careful about who he surrounds himself with. Hard times call for the best and the brightest, but also the calmest. Roosevelt's fireside chats did as much to stimulate the economy by reassuring Americans as any of his economic policies. Never underestimate the power of confidence.

But if McCain should win, well, Tina Fey will have a job for a long time. Visit and view her take on Palin. Funny but scary in its accuracy.