Saturday, July 31, 2010

My mother, myself, my need for therapy

I'm sitting on the couch with a glass of wine in my hand and two dogs beside me. I made a pretty good dinner tonight - pork chops with rice and gravy, green beans and corn. Of course, I did country fried pork chops dredged in flour, egg and Panko breadcrumbs. This is the south, after all. It was okay. Pretty quick and easy, which is a good thing because, for whatever reason, I'm super tired today. I've already had two naps and I feel like I could go to bed right now and be fine 'til morning.

My mom was here for almost a solid week, and I think some of this exhaustion may be from her visit. She's a bit of a difficult person to be around. And she would be shocked that I just wrote that.

Having my mom around is like a crash course in survival psychology 101: How to listen to and observe a person, without being sucked into their dementia.

Her conversational topics of choice are: Everyone who has ever done her wrong, what's wrong with them and the nature of their psychiatric illnesses; her long-suffering - and by long, I mean from her earliest childhood memory; her children and how they do her wrong and have ruined their lives (present company excluded, of course. I'm sure she saves her discourses about me for visits with other people); how perfect her relationship was with my dad who passed away 7 years ago (and who, by the way, was an alcoholic gambler she fought with and griped about almost every day while he was alive. I now completely understand why he was an alcoholic); and the state of politics and natural disasters which are the ruin of our future and the future of our children and grandchildren. Oh, and also how I let my children control me and run my life.

She also smokes and thinks it's ridiculous that people should be upset by her cigarette smoke, and that there's nothing wrong with lighting a cigarette on the way out the door, leaving a plume of cigarette smoke aroma to be dispersed by my central air unit throughout the house. Silly me.

The hardest part about all this is that she's my mom. I love her and know she means well. She loves her family and honestly doesn't understand why we don't all want to be around her more often.

I think the hardest thing about being an adult is realizing your parents are human, with human frailties. It used to be so easy when my mom was the center of the universe and everything she said was right.

Now, I just need some recovery time. And a lot more wine.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My hero

It's been a relatively calm week after all of last week's disasters. Dalt's been gone to A&M fire school all week and my mom's been here since Monday. She's leaving tomorrow morning and Dalt will be back tomorrow afternoon.

It came as a bit of a surprise to me, but the grass in our yard didn't stop growing just because Dalt wasn't here. It still needed to be mowed. And there is a lot of stuff I don't know concerning lawn maintenance. I mean, sure, I help and ride the lawnmower. Woo-hoo, yippee-skippee. But we don't have a garage here, we have a storage shed. The riding lawnmower is stored in the storage shed and has to be backed out down a set of portable ramps. I couldn't even remember how to put the thing in reverse, much less back that sucker down a set of ramps. Plus, it needed gas - I don't know how to do that. Dalt's got 14 different gas cans out there, some mixed with this or that additive for whatever guy reason that defies understanding. The entire storage shed is one big testosterone filled mystery-land to me.

So, the grass still needed to be mowed. And I tried not to panic. And then, just as the situation seemed about as dark as dark could get, I was rescued. By my 12 year-old son.

Joe didn't even blink an eye when I asked if he knew how to put gas in the riding lawnmower. Before I could say "John Deere," he had that sucker gassed up, backed out and ready to go. Not only that, but he also gassed up the push mower and trimmed all the hard to reach places around the house, driveway and ditches that Dalt usually takes care of. And when it was all done, he charged that ramp like a Sherman tank and got the riding lawnmower back into the shed without breaking a sweat. I was so proud.

Joseph Kyle is my baby boy. He's quiet and smart and a good student. He's sensitive, funny and loves video games. But yesterday, for the first time, I saw him as a young man.

It was great.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pooh, Day 2: The Saga Continues

I woke up from a deep sleep last night, slightly before midnight. Not sure why I was awake, I decided maybe I needed to go to the bathroom. I went to the bathroom. That wasn't it. Maybe (I thought to my sleepy, panty and t-shirt wearing self) it's because Katie might not be home yet from her late-night run to Walmart with her very pregnant friend. I should text her and see when she'll be home and remind her to lock the door when she gets in.

I padded into the kitchen, so as not to disturb my sleeping husband, and tried to find a spot where I could get enough signal to text. We live in the boondocks. This not an easy feat. Finally, right over the kitchen sink, I got signal long enough to send Katie my "When the heck are you going to be home?" text. I flipped shut my phone, turned to set it down on the microwave, and felt water squish between my unassuming toes. Uh-oh.

Maybe somebody just dripped a little water there, right?

I looked down and there was standing water all along the baseboard of my sink, soaking the kitchen rug, and more was pouring out from under the cabinet. I blinked horrified eyes, flipped off the running dishwasher and, for just a brief moment, contemplated pretending I never saw any of it and going back to bed.

But I couldn't do it.

At first I thought the dishwasher had made the septic back up again, but when I looked under the cabinet it turned out that a pipe had disconnected and caused all the water from the dishwasher to freely pour out onto everything under my sink.  Wow.

So, I got to pull everything out from under my sink and play midnight clean-up at the OK Corral. In my t-shirt and panties. (I hope the neighbors couldn't see in my kitchen window.) Katie got home a few minutes later. I locked the door myself.

Dalt got up this morning and fixed the pipes. The septic guys showed up and cleaned out the aerobic system. And I did not have the forethought to not let the dogs out while they were here. Dachshunds are not cute when they smell like raw sewage.

For the second day in a row. 


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pooh, and I don't mean Winnie

So right in the middle of cooking dinner last night, the septic system decides to back up. I'm elbow-deep in homemade macaroni and cheese and frying beer-battered codfish when the kids run in and tell me there's water standing in my bathroom and the kids' bathtub. Great.

Did I mention it was raining outside at the time? Hard?
Dalt ended up borrowing his dad's sewer snake and getting things patched up until we can get the septic guys out tomorrow to clean the thing out. His wet-vac had been borrowed and not returned, so the kids and I had to use every towel in the house to sop up the two inches of water standing on my floor. Never mind that I've been telling him since we moved in that I thought the septic needed to be serviced and cleaned out.

Did I mention I'm really grumpy today? 

My dinner turned out really good, but it was overshadowed by the lingering smell of sewer on my husband and dogs. I ended up having to totally sanitize my entire bathroom from top to bottom afterward while Dalt played KISS songs for me on his computer. It only took one bottle of wine to get me through it. Okay. A bottle and a half, but who's counting?

The kids washed the dogs, our rugs and towels are in the dryer and it's already time to cook dinner again.

Oh, happy day.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Movie night

I picked up the kids yesterday at my mom's. Ali brought them from their dad's house, so I got to visit with her and the baby, too. Fun! Alexa is three months old now and is full of smiles and sweetness and crankiness after I hold her for about a minute and a half. She fights sleep. (I'm sure she just doesn't want to miss anything.) But I got to hold her after she went to sleep and it was just the best afternoon ever. Ali seems to be able to take my mom with a grain of salt, so that's a plus. (She probably takes me with a grain of salt, too. How funny! It's so easy to see the crazy in my mom without seeing it in myself.)

Last night, the kids all had friends over and Dalt had a fire department meeting, so I watched the movie "Arthur" again for the first time in a hundred years. I really enjoyed it! Dudley Moore was so perfect for that part, absolutely hilarious. But I'm sure that movie would never have been made in this day and time. The man drove drunk - a lot. And Liza Minnelli smoked in almost every scene. It actually made me want a cigarette. Come to think of it, I did smoke when that movie came out. Wow.

The night before, I watched a Japanese movie by a director I like, Ryuichi Hiroki. He's an artist as well as a filmmaker and I love the way he shoots a movie. The one I saw was about a lonely woman, obviously with some issues (she's a bulimic with a tendency to drink too much), who runs off for several days with a lonely truck driver she sees at a convenience store one dark, snowy night. The movie is quiet, which I like, and leaves a lot to the imagination, which I also like. The cause of our heroine's problems is only alluded to in a few flashbacks and the ending is not all wrapped up in a pretty bow. It was really like being a fly on a wall, watching two people experience each other while they travel together through a snow-covered, freeway-bound, Japanese landscape.

I liked it a lot.

Monday, July 19, 2010

But not really

Dalt had to work a side job today and the kids are at their dad's until tomorrow (except Katie; she opted to stay home since she didn't want to stay the extra days), so it's just me and the dogs. Katie stays in her room except to eat, shower and do laundry.

It's been an uneventful day; a continuous loop of playing around on my laptop, watching the Food Network and munching. Peanut butter toast for breakfast, Lean Cuisine (tortilla encrusted fish and veggie/rice smothered in crushed red pepper flakes) for lunch and an orange and a handful of raw almonds for a snack. Maybe that will make up for the slice of cake smothered in ice cream and caramel sauce I'm planning for dinner.

Dalt's home now, napping with the dogs before he has to go to the fire station this evening for their regular Monday night meeting. 

The house is very quiet.

I remember days when I had a teenager, a pre-teen, a second-grader, a toddler and a nursing baby at home. TV's blared, doors slammed, the phone was always ringing and somebody always needed a band-aid on something. I had been either pregnant or breastfeeding for an entire decade, I was certain the day would never come when I didn't have a child in diapers, and the phrase "What's for dinner?" could bring tears to my eyes. Sleep was just a cruel rumor and the only time I had to myself was the 10.4 seconds it took me to go to the bathroom.

Those were the days. :)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Who else could have invented strawberries?

I just came in from helping my hubby do the yard. I got to ride the John Deere and go in circles, which is pretty fun, actually. I love doing a job where you can see a really big difference after it's done. I love that feeling of accomplishment. Even if it's just going to have to be done all over again in a few days.

Today, while riding that lawn tractor up and down, back and forth, plowing down row after row of grass-gone-wild, I had one of those moments of clarity. You know, one of those really "in the moment" moments.

For about five minutes, it didn't matter if we ever get to buy the house or have to move, it wasn't important that I wasn't finishing a book or didn't have some spectacular career or that I was never going to win a Mother of the Year award. For about five minutes, I just enjoyed myself. And it made me thankful.

I did a happy dance in my heart and was delighted that God had made me and the grass and the sunshine. I thanked Him for my life and my husband and my kids and the fact that I am His and He has all the best ideas. 

Maybe those Zen guys are onto something.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

It's all downhill from here, and not in a bad way

This age of 44, for some reason, seems significant to me. I think I finally realize what it means to be "over the hill." And it's not a bad thing. You have to get to the top of the hill before you can go over it, and the view from the top of the hill ain't shabby. 44 feels like the top of the hill to me.

Of course, no one knows when they're going to die. It could be tomorrow, it could be 50 years from now. Whichever way, it's going to happen - that's for sure. But it seems to me that 44 is a pretty good age to stop for a minute and look around. Look back, look forward, and get your bearings.

When you're climbing the hill, all of your focus is on getting to the top, striving, working hard, figuring out which route to take, acquiring stuff you think you'll need. Sometimes your attention gets drawn to helping someone up, sometimes to passing someone by, sometimes to pushing someone out of the way. Occasionally you might stop to take a breather on a sunny plateau. But most days all you can see is the hill in front of you. All you can think about is the climb.

This feeling of being at the top, though. Wow.

Looking back, I realize that in all the striving and working hard, I've missed some good stuff. In all the figuring out which way to go, I've made some pretty bad decisions - wrong turns that could have been avoided if I'd allowed God to show me the way. (Still, going the wrong way for a while can be a powerful incentive to learn to consult The Map, can't it?) And I've found that a lot of the stuff I'd acquired, or thought I so desperately needed, was just extra weight holding me back. I see a lot of things I've done wrong and a lot of pain I've caused. But I also see the progress I've made, and it's pretty substantial.

Looking forward, I realize the view is much better "over the hill." As long as I keep my head up, I can see a lot more of the road ahead; as long as I keep my ears and heart open, the better I'll be able to hear His voice and know which paths to take. Going down the hill, there's a lot less striving and a lot more peace. And it's going to go by a lot faster.

Here's to enjoying the ride! :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Food for thought

So, how sad is it that I had no idea it's been so long since I last wrote?

It's been a wonderful summer though, full of serendipity and stunning realizations.

I've spent most of my days watching the Food Network. Oh the fun of it! My kitchen is now full of fresh herbs and veggies - I even have a bowl of fresh cherries perched on the bar, ready to eat by any passerby. I watch Julie & Julia at least twice a week, my new hero is Paula Deen and, I hate to say it, but those Neely's are so hot in the kitchen I find myself hunting down Dalton for a quickie after watching their show. And oh what I've learned! (From the cooking shows, not the quickies.)

First of all, did you know you're supposed to cook bacon low and slow, starting in a cold pan? Or that you can bake it on a rack in the oven and it turns out very lovely and crisp and the fat rendered from it is absolutely beautiful? I mean, you could drink it from a wine glass it's so clear and pretty! And the flavor it adds - WOW. I mean, really wow.

I've been surprised to find a lot of things cook better on a lower heat. I came from my mother's cooking school of high, hard and fast. My life is so much more relaxed since I learned eggs, pancakes and country fried chicken breasts all do much better on a lower heat. It's a revelation is what it is.

Also, herbs are best kept in a glass of fresh cold water on the counter. They last a really long time that way. I've learned not to buy anything unless I'm going to be using it in the next few days - no muss, no waste! It's wonderful not to be throwing away rotted vegetables and herbs I had high hopes for but never used. It's equally wonderful to have everything on hand for a quick herb-laced egg dish or new recipe. And just about everything tastes better with a sprinkling of rough-cut, Italian flat leaf parsley.

And the flavors - holy guacamole! I made a Paula Deen-inspired grilled cheese sandwich the other day that brought tears to my eyes. I used thick sliced bread, pepper jack cheese, crunchy bacon, avocado and this roasted red onion mayonnaise that... honestly, I don't have words to describe how amazing it was. Just - YUM.

There are a million recipes that stem from just a few basics. That's right. Learn the basics and you can fly! Sans recipe! What freedom!

Why didn't anyone ever tell me this before?