Monday, February 7, 2011

Shutting Up

When I was six years old, my parents came home from the first of many parent teacher meetings at my school. "Sister Rosalia said you are a very nice little girl and a very good student, too." my mother said.
"She did?" I asked, excitedly. "Did she also tell you..." I started but my mother cut me off.
"What she also said was that you need to stop talking so much." she said.
Somehow I wasn't surprised in the least. This was most certainly no earth shattering piece of information to me or to my parents, for that matter. I was routinely sent to the office for talking in class, though the habit was not simply limited to the classroom. I grew up being called "Chatty Kathy" by my family and I even talked in my sleep with shocking frequency. I'm told by my husband that little habit has still not resolved itself.
Over the years I have managed to learn to shut up when necessary. In the last few years however, I have come to realize that shutting up may be more than a necessity, it just may be a considerate act toward those around me. 
If you think about your communication with the people you come into contact with each day, you'll see what I mean. For example, I go to the grocery store and really don't speak to anyone until I reach the checkout counter. The clerk dutifully asks me how I am and I follow the appropriate social norm and respond with, "Fine. How are you?". I could have a ten inch knife sticking out of the side of my head and I'd probably still say, "Fine." because after all, does the clerk really care? Probably not.
The next time I'm at the bank and the teller asks me how I am, I think I'll respond with "Well, funny you should ask. My entire family was wiped out last week by malaria, a meteor fell on my house on Monday and my dog, who just contracted rabies, bit me on my way out this morning. I guess overall I'd have to say I'm pretty shitty. How 'bout you?" I guarantee I would be met with a look of confusion, horror, or outright concern for my sanity and nothing more. The bottom line is it really doesn't matter. Unless you are paid to care (therapists, etc.) people generally are too busy with their own lives to really care too much about anyone else.
So what about those in our personal circle? I guess that depends on just how big your circle is. I don't work and since I moved away from my hometown I really don't even get to see or speak to my friends anymore so that makes my circle really small. If I am sad or upset about something, who can I talk to? Well, there is my sister, who is newly pregnant with a very, very fragile pregnancy, has two other children, three dogs, a husband who is about to be deployed again and is moving this week. Hmmm...... dump more on her? No freaking way!
I also have children, but wait..... oh, that's right.... they are children. They shouldn't have to worry about adult issues yet. They have enough to worry about with school, friends, and being kids.
So I guess that leaves my husband. I can always talk to him. We can always talk in the mornings.... except he is usually trying to hurry to get out to work. But there are times when he doesn't have to go in quite so early.... except he usually asks me to be quiet so he can sleep a little longer. Well, there are always evenings when he gets home from work.... except he rarely gets home before 7 or 8pm and by the time he does get home he is so tired he usually quickly tells me about his day, eats dinner then falls asleep. It's not for lack of concern, mind you. He does try to stay awake to talk to me, he is just usually very tired and can't keep his eyes open.
I miss getting to talk to people. Actually, I think I miss being heard more. I'm finding the older I get, the fewer people there are to talk to and the fewer people there are to talk to the less I have to say. There are too few people and too little time. Things seem less important than they used to. Perhaps the key to learning how to shut up was learning that no one was ever really listening anyway.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Day the Dam Broke.... All Over Our Front Lawn

Well, it has happened. That's right, the inevitable has occurred, the dam has broken, the proverbial poo has hit the fan. The hurricane and I have finally come to blows and it was exactly as I expected. I said only a fraction of what I thought and she screamed expletives at Brian and me on our front lawn. It was humiliating to say the least. If Brian had been drunk and wearing a wife beater and I had a dirty baby wearing only a loaded diaper on my hip and a cigarette hanging out of my toothless mouth we would have all been in full white trash glory. It started simply enough. Let me explain.
The hurricane has two long lost sisters who showed up on her doorstep about a year ago. Apparently, these are the children of her mothers first marriage or relationship - I'm not sure which. Decades ago, for reasons I'm not privy to, her mother left the children and started a new life. Nobody but her current husband knew about these other children until they showed up at the door. Needless to say, this has been a huge issue for the family to deal with.
On top of the "secret children" issue, one of the sisters has pancreatic cancer, a horrible illness, to be sure. For the most part, however, she appears to do fairly well, all things considered. Alex and Jessica seem to get along with the one sister but Nicholas has bonded with the sister with cancer. Recently, there was a development in the sisters illness when a new tumor was found. Given the situation the children struggle with as far as Nicholas' cancer is concerned, Brian and I felt it best to not share potentially upsetting news with them (especially Nicholas) and Brian asked her not to discuss it with them at this time. Guess who disagreed?
Sunday, Hurricane D. arrived to pick up Nicholas and Jessica for a visit. I came into the living room as she was talking to Brian's Alex. She informed me that she had told Alex and Jessica about the sisters new tumor. I shook my head in disbelief. Her immediate response was a heated, "Oh, what? You disagree?"
"Yes, I disagree. It's too much for them to deal with and it will end up getting back to Nicholas." I said.  From there things got worse. When pressed for further explanation of my opinions I informed her that in general I felt she had terrible boundaries and routinely told the children things that were horribly inappropriate. "Like what? How do I have poor boundaries?" she barked at me.
Oh dear God, I thought, let me count the ways. "Well, for starters how about asking me to fix you up with my ex-husband? Or telling the children that, 'Mommy got the cobwebs cleaned out.'? Both seem shockingly inappropriate to me." I said.
"I was kidding about your ex-husband and Alex was the one who said anything about cobwebs being cleaned out. Right Alex? Wasn't that your joke?" she was practically shrieking by now.
Alex readily agreed that the poor joke had been his, though I wasn't entirely sure I believed him.
"What Kathleen? Do you just want me to get out of your house?" she snapped.
"Honestly, yes please. Buh bye!" I said.
Clearly offended and yelling indecipherable rantings on her way out the door, she finally left. "You're a freaking nut job, lady." I said, as I closed the door. Yeah, I know not at all helpful or mature though an honest observation in my opinion.
Brian, having missed the entire "discussion" was in the bedroom. I went in to tell him what had just taken place when the phone rang. It was Jessica on her cell phone. "Mom wants to talk to Dad." she said, Dawn still ranting in the background. Brian said he would be outside in a minute. "He better get his ass out here right now because I've had it with her!" Dawn shrieked in the background.
Brian and I went outside. "What is your problem?" Brian asked.
"HER!" she bellowed. "She doesn't think I should have told the kids about my sister! She thinks I have horrible boundaries and I say inappropriate things to the kids!" she was screaming at this point.
"She's right" Brian said. "I told you not to tell them about your sister. These kids have so much to worry about with Nicholas right now why would you want to upset them even more? Why would you tell them something that is going to get back to Nicholas who is already scared about his own mortality?" he continued.
At this point I'll just paraphrase because there is just too much. There was a whole lot of "I guess I'm the worst mother in the world.", "No matter what you think, you're not their mother - I am!" and "Fine, you can tell the kids that you won't let them see me anymore" among other untrue and manipulative statements. There were also charming statements like, "I don't want a f---ing thing from you or her.", "F--- this.",  "F--- that.", "I never wanted your ex-husbands stupid ass." and so on. One interesting Freudian slip occurred when she told us she has been trying to remain "Sibyl" so far. I think she meant to say "civil".
We live in a quiet development so having her scream all of this at top volume while shaking, cigarette in hand and sunglasses askew on her face was just lovely. I can't even imagine what our neighbors think.
Finally, seeing we were not going to resolve this issue until cooler heads prevailed, Brian told her to knock it off and that we would send the kids out to her. As we walked into the house she continued screaming at us from across the lawn. Charming.... just charming.
Hours later, she did apologize to us both. As irritated as I still was, I suggested we put it behind us and start over.
The next day, Jessica told me that Dawn fussed at her for telling us about the cobweb comment. "Why would you tell them I said that?" she demanded. "Because you did!" Jessica said. As it turned out, Dawn  did say it and threw Alex under the bus to cover for herself. She put him on the spot and left him no option but to lie. And for what? Honestly, why does she care what I think? She could have told the truth, setting a good example for her son and what would I have done about it? Nothing! It always amazes me when some people will have two paths before them and will consistently pick the wrong one.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rules of the Opposite Ex

Everyone who has ever been divorced knows there are rules about the opposite ex. Okay, they may not be "rules" exactly but they are at least culturally accepted norms, unspoken guidelines really for how one is expected to behave in such a situation.
Regardless if you are the "dumper" or the "dump-ee"  in the relationship, you automatically understand there will be a predictable response from both sides. As the "dumper", you can expect your friends to support you and agree that you deserve better, he (or she) wasn't good enough, didn't treat you well enough, lied, cheated, had bad breath, poor personal hygiene, whatever. Your reasons will certainly be sound and supported.  You will also understand that you will be seen as an insensitive selfish ass by the other side, at least for a while. Hey, what do you expect? Nobody likes getting dumped.
As the "dump-ee" you can expect your friends to support you as well and agree that the aforementioned insensitive selfish ass doesn't know what he (or she) has just given up, they were clearly not good enough for you and, rest assured, your real love is still out there just waiting. The "dump-ee" will often also be the recipient of a six pack, a gallon of ice cream (or both!), and/ or a girls (or guys) night out for cheering up purposes. They may also help you burn pictures and personal belongings of your now ex.  There will also be lots of heads tilted to the side as dump-ee supporters sympathetically touch your arm and say things like, "I'm so sorry." and "Are you okay?". 
Once the initial break up period has passed a new set of ex rules come into play. The question now becomes how do I deal  with my ex? There are several options here. As the dump-ee you may decide to go the traditional hit man route, though I really don't recommend it. Defense attorney fees are quite expensive. Don't believe me? Just  refer to my earlier blog entitled, "The New Public Enemy Number One".  You could always just move to another town, state or country to avoid the awkward run-in at the local 7-11. That isn't always the easiest to do, what with jobs, families and the cost of moving and all, but it is one option. It worked flawlessly for my brother who moved back to the United States from Germany and has never so much as heard my former sister-in-laws' name again. In his case, problem solved! What made it easy for my brother, however, is that they never had children. No kids makes it much easier to cut ties. Sharing children means that you are now biologically tied to this person who now makes you want to spit gum in their hair every time you see them. On a personal note, I have found that sharing children sometimes intensifies the feelings of disdain, disgust, annoyance and general loathing.
Unless your ex has moved to the moon and no longer cares to see your children, chances are you are going to have to deal with them and, lets face it, you probably won't enjoy it. We have all heard the rumors about the ex's who remained friends. Perhaps they do exist, but really, nobody likes them anyway because they make the rest of us look bad. If you are are still friends with your ex, you are either a far better person than I, or you are delusional and don't realize that your ex really hates you and probably makes fun of you when you aren't around. If you really are still friends with your ex..... well, I don't know what to tell you. You are clearly someone I don't understand and we won't be sharing nachos anytime soon anyway so good luck with your friendship.
If you are not friends with your ex (or you are deluding yourself into believing you are even though people have been trying to tell you you're not - you know who you are) here are some guidelines you should follow to simplify my life..... er.... your life. First, you're no longer married so stop calling your ex for advice. I don't care if your checking account is overdrawn, you had a fight with your new significant other, your computer crashed or you can't find your car at the mall. Not my spouse also means not my problem. This may sound harsh but it's really tough love. If you are the ex calling the other 9000 times a day for every stupid reason under the sun, you are making yourself look needy and overly dependent. Put on your big girl (or guy) panties and take care of yourself! Nobody likes a 41 year old toddler!
Second, do not fool yourself into believing you are now BFF's with your ex's new girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife. You're not. They are being civil to you because it is the polite thing to do and it's what is best for the children involved. You are only annoying the living crap out of them and at some point they may tell you just that. Avoid the uncomfortable conversation and understand the boundaries of your relationship.
Third, under NO circumstances should you discuss your sex life with your ex or their significant other. It's icky, inappropriate and a recipe for you to be told to shut the hell up while the other party runs screaming, fingers plugging their ears. Also, at no time should the phrase "Mommy got the cobwebs cleaned out" be spoken to your children. Seriously, Hurricane D.- totally off the charts. Thank God for child therapists!
Finally, do not ask your ex' significant other to fix you up with anyone, especially not one of their ex's. I was approached recently by the hurricane and informed that she found my ex-husband to be "really good looking" and questioned me as to his current relationship status. Boundaries? We don't need no stinkin' boundaries!
When I informed her that he had a girlfriend her response was, "Well, that takes care of that.". Really? The girlfriend was the fly in that ointment????
While I must admit the rules I have been discussing are really aimed at one particular boil on the buttock of humanity , I would venture to say they may apply to other ex's as well. As the boil I must deal with increases in size and annoyance, more rules may need to be added. After all, I'm sure they will be needed. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lifes hardest lessons

There are few things in life I am as proud of as my son, Alex. Actually, upon further consideration I can't think of a single thing I have ever done that makes me as proud as my son does everyday. He is turning into the sort of man I always hoped he would be. Don't get me wrong, at 16 he is far from perfect. He is still a teenage boy, after all. His room often looks like his dresser threw up onto the floor and it frequently smells like a noxious mix of gym shoes and something I still can't identify. I'm pretty sure we are single handily keeping the Fabreez company in business. If given the choice between reading a little extra Chemistry or playing X-Box - well, what do you think he would pick?  When it counts, though, Alex never lets me down. Sometimes he even surprises me.
My ex-husband, Rick, and I have been divorced for about three years. In the divorce Rick got our house. The 130 year old house I searched for, found, fell in love with, decorated and cried over leaving. The house he originally didn't even want to live in, he now wanted. In the end it was worth it, though. I may have lost the house, but I found my home in Brian.
Since our divorce, Rick has remained in the home we once shared, though the fate of the house now hangs in peril. Due to the recession, the company Rick worked for was forced to cut all overtime, which hurt - a lot. Things got tighter and tighter until one day he was laid off altogether. For months he looked for work, unable to find anything that would make ends meet. He finally resorted to collecting unemployment, though even that didn't pay all the bills. The mortgage fell further and further behind. He worked diligently with the mortgage company to find a solution but has now exhausted all the options. Short of a miracle, it appears Rick will have to quickly sell the house or risk foreclosure.  
While I have known about the house situation for several weeks now, Rick and I agreed it would be better not to tell Alex until he had to know. Rick decided this weekend it was time to lay his cards on the table with our son. Understandably, Alex was upset - very upset, but not in the way I expected. He was rather quiet but supportive with Rick. When he came home Sunday night, I could tell something was bothering him. As he told me I could see him fighting back tears. "I know you're going to miss the house, sweetie, we all are." I said. "Mom, it's not that." he sobbed, "I feel like I'm watching Dad lose everything. His truck is going to die any day now, he is going to lose the house...." he trailed off. "I feel like I need to move back with him, get a job and help him." he said, crying even harder.
"Alex, I know how much you want to help Dad, but it's not your job to take care of either of us. It's our job to take care of you." I said, trying to think of some way to comfort him.
"I know, but family always takes care of family. That's what you've always said." he sobbed.
I was silent. I looked at my son and was struck by the poignancy of the moment.  My little boy, who now towers over me at  6'2", was at a crossroads. He was caught between the blissfully naive shelter of childhood and the cold, hard reality of adulthood. He wanted desperately to help his father fix his plight but was feeling the desperate pain of not knowing how. All the times he had "helped" his dad before flashed through my mind. Pictures of Alex proudly helping his father fix a bicycle or work on the car flooded my brain. I was struck by the pain my child was in, knowing he wouldn't be able to help his dad this time, and I wanted to cry for him.
I spoke to Rick last night and told him about Alex's reactions. He too, was silent for a while. We may not agree on much anymore but one thing Rick and I both share in common is our unending admiration for our son who has grown from a chubby cheeked little boy to a young man who values family and takes it personally when they fall on hard times. I love you, Alex, more than you could possibly know.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nobody loves you like your mama....

Today is an appropriately crummy day. It's windy and raining. Normally I love the rain because I find it so peaceful and relaxing. Today I love it because it reflects exactly how I feel; sad, overcast and like quietly curling up in my bed, hiding under the blankets and crying. Today is the second anniversary of my mother's death. I have only been awake for a few hours and I already hate today.
Since my mom passed away I have struggled with so many thoughts and feelings there are times I feel like my head will actually explode. I have obsessed over my own abilities and short comings as a mother and step-mother. I have grieved long and hard for other family members who have passed away. I have considered my own mortality and what it will someday mean for my children. I have reached near panic mode with worry about Alex's future if I should die unexpectedly. I have had to learn how to cope with missing my mother and all that "missing her" means. I have had to learn how to live with regrets. I'm failing miserably with that last one.
My biggest regrets are for the things I can't fix; the "I'm sorry" and "I love you" that can no longer be heard no matter how loud I shout it. Perhaps there is still value in saying it, though. Perhaps there is some catharsis in making the effort. I'm sad and I'm hurting and I don't know what else to do so I'll make the effort.

Dear Mom,
I miss you. I miss you every single day. There are some days I physically ache from missing you so much. I wish  I could just pick up the phone and talk to you again. There have been a million times over the last two years I have desperately needed your friendship, opinion and advice. You were always the person I went to when I didn't know what to do or if I was doing the right thing, especially when it came to Alex. I didn't realize just how much I needed and valued your opinions until they were gone. I'm so sorry for not appreciating you more. I didn't recognize how lucky I was until it was too late.
I have needed your advice on lots of things but nothing more than being a mother. I never understood how hard parenting teenagers really was. You always said we would learn one day but I was sure I would be able to handle it. How hard could it be? As it turns out, you were right;  it sucks. They act like hormonal lunatics 90% of the time!  They are messy and moody and frequently quite unpleasant to be around. They are absolutely exhausting. I would take up heavy drinking but we had to lock up all the alcohol because Brian's Alex was getting into it.
I don't know how you did it, Mom. You always just handled everything. As a kid, I never considered how hard it was to worry about me AND Mary AND Sarah AND your job AND all the bills AND your health and everything else life was always throwing at you. I guess that's the beauty of being a kid; you only have yourself to worry about. As the parent though I can't tell you the number of times I have wanted to pull my hair out in frustration. It has made me realize just how much I took you for granted and for that I am deeply sorry. I am truly in absolute awe that you made it through out teenage years without killing us or turning into an alcoholic. I just hope I can do as well as you did.
It's kind of funny thing. I never realized just how much like you I wanted to be. You always had a quiet inner strength that gave you the amazing ability to deal with whatever came your way. You handled everything with your unique blend of grace, strength, humor and piss and vinegar. I see that in myself sometimes although I think I'm a  little light on the grace and strength and a little heavy on the humor, piss and vinegar. You taught us to be good women, Mom. You always saw the best we could be and pushed us to reach that mark. You believed in us even when we didn't believe in ourselves. You loved us even when we failed and you taught us the true meaning of unconditional love. I have a tremendous amount of love in my life everyday but I miss your particular way of loving us. I guess what a friend recently said was exactly right, "Nobody loves you like your mama.". How could they?
Who else would make all the sacrifices you made for me? Thank you for always loving me, even when I was the obnoxious, know-it-all teenager. Thank you for never giving up on me. All I can do now is take the lessons and the love you have given me and never stop trying to be the person you always believed I could be. I will never stop loving and missing you, Mom. Know that you will always be in my heart.

All my love,

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Deal

Fall used to be my favorite time of the year. I always loved the slight nip in the air, digging out my sweaters and buying mums for the front of the house. I have always been in complete awe of autumn leaves. The beautiful colors that fill the landscape, watching them gracefully float from their perch in the trees to the chilly sidewalk below. I loved hayrides, pumpkin patches, corn mazes and hot apple cider. There was nothing I didn't love about this time of the year. Until two years ago.
My mother was sick for the last fifteen years of her life. She did pretty well for most of it, despite being on dialysis and her occasional hospital stays. Two years ago, though, that all changed. In August 2008, my mother was taken to the hospital with difficulty breathing. Not a new problem, after all she had been on oxygen for several months already. It was only now that they discovered her breathing difficulties were not tied to her pulmonary system at all but to her heart and she needed surgery immediately. She spent a week waiting for surgery because of an infection they had to get under control first. Mom and I spent a lot of time talking during that week and some of those conversations have forever changed who I am.
It was during that same week that Nicholas was first diagnosed with brain cancer. I was visiting my mother in the hospital when Brian called me to tell me the doctors had just told him about the baseball sized tumor in his youngest child's brain. He too, would need surgery immediately.  I was stunned. Able to read my face like a book, when I hung up Mom asked what was wrong. I told her and she was silent. Neither of us knew exactly what to say.
I visited Mom several more times that week and we talked about this and that while watching the Little League World Series. One night we we talking and she said, "Kathleen, I have been doing a lot of thinking and I want you to know I have made a deal with God." "A deal?" I asked. She continued, "I have lived a good life. I have raised my children and gotten to see my grandchildren. I have traveled to places I always wanted to see. I've done most of the things I wanted to do." I was becoming uncomfortable with where this conversation was going. I could feel tears beginning to sting my eyes. "I want you to know that if only one of us is meant to survive, I have asked God to please take me. Nicholas is just a child. He hasn't lived his life yet and there is so much more for him to do."
The thing that has always stayed with me about that moment more than even the words my mother said, is how unusually calm she was when she was talking about her "deal". She wasn't sad or fearful at all. In fact, it was the most peaceful I had seen my mother in quite some time.
The morning of August 25, 2008 my mother had open heart surgery at St. Josephs Hospital in Towson.  My sister, Mary and I were there with her before they took her in. We hugged her and told her we loved her. She told us how much she loved us, too. That was the last time I ever heard my mothers voice. After surgery, she was in a coma for two gut wrenching weeks. On September 10, 2008 Nicholas had brain surgery at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. For several weeks, Mom and Nicholas would be at medical odds. One would do better while the other was doing worse. I spent my evenings driving between the two hospitals. After the coma, my mother came around a bit, though still on a ventilator. She was improving. Nicholas was not. Three days after his operation, he had to be rushed back to PICU because his brain was swelling at a dangerous rate.
For weeks, Mom and Nick went back and forth until one day the scales began to tip. Nicholas began to steadily improve while thirty miles away my mother began to slip away from us. I was emotionally split in two. The joy and relief I felt that Nicholas was finally improving was forgotten each time I saw my mother. I knew in my heart we were losing her. Each time I saw her, there was less recognition in her eyes. I would sit with her and tell her about my day, never sure if she knew who I was. While she slept, I held her hand and fixed her blankets. I didn't know what else to do.
After my mother suffered several massive strokes, infections and what the doctors felt was now the beginning of lymphoma, my sisters and I made the painful decision to do as our mother had asked; we signed the papers to move her to hospice. On September 28, 2008 we met the ambulance at the hospice center. As the ambulance workers wheeled her inside the building, it occurred to us that this would be the last time mom would ever feel the sun on her face. After hours by her bed, my sisters gathered up their kids and headed home. It wasn't ten minutes after they left that mom drew her last breath. It was a quiet, peaceful and dignified death. It was exactly what she had asked for.
I called for the nurse and she listened to my mothers heart. She quietly looked at me. "I'm so sorry, dear. Your mother has passed.". I felt dizzy, lightheaded and nauseous all at once. I felt like someone had violently twisted all my internal organs into a painful knot. I heard someone cry out as if they had been punched and realized later it was me.  I knelt next to the bed and sobbed into my mothers shoulder for the last time. I cried for my loss. I cried for my family's loss.  I cried for the injustice of her life cut short. I cried for all the things I never said and for all the things I forgot to apologize for. I cried for not thanking her enough for the sacrifices she made for us. I cried for the deal she had made with God.
Since my mom passed away I have healed a lot. I no longer have the twisting pain in my stomach that lasted for months. I no longer cry every time I talk about or think about her, though to be honest, I have cried almost the entire time I have been writing this. I just miss her. I miss her in the way you miss your best friend that has been away too long. I want to talk to her. I want to hear her voice. I want her to hug me and tell me everything will be okay. There is an aching hole in my heart that will never be filled in. If there is anything that has given me even a small measure of comfort, though, that has helped to soften some of the jagged edges of the hole left behind it is the deal mom made with God. In true mom style, she wanted to give of herself to a child, no matter the sacrifice - and she did just that.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Death by home renovation

When my sisters and I were growing up our parents had a great hobby. They loved to buy old houses and lovingly renovate them. They would spend every weekend working on some major project. There was nothing they couldn't do. From small additions, to gutting rooms and starting over, to completely rebuilding chimneys and fireplaces, my parents did it all. Sounds quaint, doesn't it?  Well the reality of it was a little different. One house we lived in had actually been on fire. It didn't have a single window that hadn't been broken. The children in the neighborhood referred to it as the haunted house. That didn't scare my parents, though. "Bring it on" was always their attitude. After about ten years of moving from room to room and living in drywall dust, it was finished and it was beautiful. What to do now that it was a gorgeous historic home? Why sell it of course! Aarrggg!
That was the last house my parents renovated together. After they sold it, we moved into a newly built house. My father only lived there with us for about six months before my parents divorced but my mother remained there until her death twenty-three years later. I will always love that house because of the memories it holds for me. That being said, however, I have always longed for a really old house in need of renovation. New houses are nice, don't get me wrong, but there is a sort of romance to an old home. I can get lost imagining the families who lived there over the generations, the history that has taken place both inside and outside those walls. Just thinking about it gives me chills. I also possess a romantic notion of restoring it. After all, how hard can it be? My parents did it over and over again for years and they made it look easy.
Fast forward to today. Brian and I own a home built in the mid 1980's. Absolutely not our idea of our romantic historic home but it will do until we can find our "forever home".  Both being completely addicted to HGTV and the DIY stations, we always look for home improvement things we can do ourselves. Recently, we found mold growing behind our walls in the basement. We have had to completely rip out all the walls and insulation and re-do everything. While the finished product is looking quite stunning (we are only about half finished so far), I have made another shocking discovery. Apparently, I did not inherit my parents natural talent for renovations. As it turns out, it's really hard, we have had to learn a lot of things by making mistakes that usually end up costing us valuable time or money or both and it's really not as much fun as I thought it would be. I have learned I hate having the furniture shoved all over the place. While I have become quite proficient at putting spackle over nail heads and drywall seams, I hate the drywall dust. The mess of the entire project in general leaves me feeling all out of sorts and kind of pissy.
Since I have always been a big one to shoot my fat mouth off about how easy it is (what? it's my parents fault - they made it look easy!) and how much I would just love to completely gut a house and renovate it myself, I really feel as if I have painted myself into a corner, no pun intended. While I know beyond a shadow of a doubt my husband would still love me and think no less of me, I feel like I can't tell him just how much the reality of home renovation now scares the pants off me. I work hard to keep it to myself, though. I wouldn't want to be seen as a quitter or a wimp. After all, I come from a family where a little basement renovation is seen as nothing.
The other night, Brian and I were again watching a home renovation show about putting in bathrooms, something we have wanted to do in our basement for sometime. During a commercial, my dear husband turns to me and says, "You know.... I'll bet I could just rent a jack hammer, demo the basement floor and lay all the pipes for the bathroom myself. I just know we could install the bathroom ourselves!" A wave of panic came over me. Does he really think we can do this or does he know my secret fears and is trying to kill me?
There are very few things in life my husband can't do. He is an engineer for NASA so he is, quite literally, a rocket scientist. He sees everything as a challenge he can't wait to take on. Honestly, I'm a little jealous of that attitude when it comes to things like this. His "bring it on" attitude is very much like my parents. As it turns out, I don't have much of that attitude. I'm kind of a wimpy girl in brave girl clothes but I think Brian may be on to my secret. I'm also pretty sure he is trying to kill me by way of  first degree home renovation.