Thems fightin’ words

“I’m never leaving this house. Not until they carry me out of it.”

My mother-in-law stood in the doorway, leaning on her cane, looking into the garage where we worked. She talked about her wonderful, kind neighbors (they are). She recalled how crafty and inventive my father-in-law had been (he was), using items in new ways long before recycling, upcycling and reclaiming became cool (he did). She lamented that he didn’t share things with her, his stories from the war, his childhood, his whatever (he didn’t). She was still learning things about him in the year since he passed. She continued talking and talking about stories I’ve heard a thousand times over.

We worked while she talked. I used to think it was rude, but we’d never get anything done if we stopped to chat. We were fixing up the garage — cleaned it from top to bottom, painted the walls, painted all of my father-in-law’s cabinets (formerly of the kitchen) that still hold his tools. Joe will patch and refinish the floor and then we’ll move on to our next big project – either at the house he grew up in or the house we live in. A 50+-year old house, 15-year old house – they both require work and we have two to take care of. She doesn’t understand that the reason we always seem so busy is because we’re pushing to get things done so we can go back to our own house, where there is also work to do. Sometimes to even relax in. She’s grateful for the work, don’t get me wrong, but she doesn’t seem to see her role in creating it.

After hearing my MIL’s comments, I realized my hope of her moving into a community where she can chat it up with other seniors, or a condo where she can continue to live with my sister-in-law without the yardwork, was mine alone.

I try very hard to put myself in her shoes, to see through her eyes. Rationally, I get why she wants to stay. I understand her wanting control. I understand that one day I will (hopefully) be old and have a son and daughter (and maybe even a son- and/or daughter-in-law) like she does who make sure I’m content, in a home that is well-cared-for. But…

I don’t get attached to houses. I’ve always been okay with change as my needs have changed. I know, God willing, I will want to move to something I can manage before life makes the choice for me.

But that’s not her. And not my parents either – different situation, but they don’t seem ready to downsize. I hope one day they do.

“I know this isn’t the time, but I’d really like to redo the basement bathroom…when you get to it.”

I just kept on painting.

 

Finding my space again

I drafted this a while ago, but for some reason it seems fitting (to me) to share on Valentine’s Day.

One of the hardest things about getting married again, after several years of living on my own, was giving up my space. I’m talking all kinds of “space”:   physical space, mental space, my-time-on-the-laptop space, putz-around-the-house-because-I just-feel-like-it, don’t-judge-me! space. And, yes, drawer space. Lots and lots of drawer space.

To this day I still bear (wear?) the scars of three years ago when I emptied out my drawers and reorganized my closets and life to make room for a man who owned ten times the number of clothing items, shoes and accessories than I did. Let’s just say his collection of navy and gray sweaters alone — divided into crew neck vs. v-neck, summer-weight vs. winter — could bury a person alive.

Joe* dresses well and has good taste. For this I was/am happy! For having a caring husband I was and still am very happy! Relegating my jeans to a dark corner of the closet to accommodate his love of Banana Republic and a t-shirt collection that dates back to the late 80’s? For that I was not happy. So not happy.

Then, one day last month Joe saw me reorganizing my dresser again and again, fretting about how I was going to fit the new sweaters I’d received as Christmas gifts into my sad little allotment of drawer space. “Susie**, here’s what I’m going to do for you. I’m going to move my patterned sweaters*** to the closet and you can use this drawer here.”

I was stunned!

In fact, I must have seemed so happy that he then gave up another full-size drawer, moving his heavier-knit sweaters*** to the closet. It was an act of true love and understanding of just how much I needed my space back.

For that, I was and still am very, VERY happy.

*Seems silly using just “J” when his real name only has 3 letters. Maybe I’ll come up with a better stage name someday?

**Speaking of silly, I begged my parents to stop calling me Susie when I was around 11. Little did I know that one day I would once again readily answer to it!

 ***Yes, you read that right. I told you he had a lot of sweaters.

My husband is a ludite

Let’s be honest: I don’t need a smartphone, but I want one.  I don’t like the prospect of spending $40 more a month for a data plan when I don’t text that much and have managed, to this point, to live without farting apps or being able to surf the web while waiting in line at the grocery store. In fact, you might argue – ok, I might argue because you’ve owned a smartphone for years and already are convinced I’m a 7o-year-old woman – that my life is more “in the moment” and fulfilling because I’m not playing Angry Birds. I actually have to look around me while standing in line to kill time. Sometimes I even have to talk to people.

But I want to upgrade my phone. Like now.

J. isn’t being all crazy about it or anything; he’s willing to upgrade…but On. His. Own. Time. Which is testing my patience and my current phone’s shelf life. (Is it wrong to pray that I hope my phone goes to the permanent recycling place in the sky so I have to get a new one?)

Even worse: he’s applying logic to the situation — as responsible adults do, we are trying to be smart with our expenses and the timing of new expenditures, especially right after the holidays, before tax time, etc. The smart thing would be to switch our phones (low or no cost models) and calling plan (low data version) after we square away our bills.

Smart-fart. He won’t admit it, but my husband is a ludite, at least of PC/mobile phone variety. (He talks lovingly of a new flatscreen TV and stereo system…but, come to think of it, he hasn’t taken the plunge on those either.) He’s content with basic technology, so for now we’re gonna party like it’s 1989:

The Sandwich Generation

Part of why I decided to begin blogging again was (is) to find a way to deal with my family’s changing dynamics and relationships. When I met J. I was almost 40 and a mother of two elementary-school-aged children. I didn’t define myself as a “single mom” or “working mom”; I thought of myself as a driven individual, with her own needs, interests and dreams, who just happened to be single, working and a mom. Somehow, some way I also managed to carve out a wee bit of the time to pursue my own interests while balancing motherhood, dating, chores, family, friends and a career.

Fast forward:  Almost five years have passed. The kids have grown and I’ve gained not only a loving husband, but a loving extended family through him. I’m enjoying the good moments, and there are many of them, but I worry. I worry about our parents’ health issues, which are becoming more serious as the years go on, about his elderly mom’s needs (and, I’m ashamed to admit, how her needs put us out), about our siblings’ struggles with unemployment/divorce/injury/stress, about what I’m doing (or not doing) to help the kids mature, about taking the next step in my career to make my time away from home more interesting and meaningful…and a whole lot more.

Sometimes I get annoyed that everyone else can’t just “buck up” or leave me/us be. Sometimes I get angry that my wee bit of time gets smaller and smaller. Last night was one of those nights when I got annoyed, then angry, then guilty.

So very guilty because there are many people in our lives who are struggling with really big problems.

aargh.

I am part of the sandwich generation. Most of the time life’s sweet and comfy like enjoying a good PB&J. But sometimes, ya know, I just end up feeling smooshed.

 Are you a sandwicher, too?