May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be ever at your back. May your glass be ever full. May you be half an hour in heaven before the devil knows you’re dead.

When I was nine, my 22 year old brother married his girlfriend who he’d been living with. She was nineteen. It wasn’t until about a year ago that I ever really did the math and realized she was that young when they married – she had just always been my older sister-in-law, who I wasn’t very close with.

Fast forward a lot of years and they divorced. Fast forward more years, and she and I found ourselves living in the same city, and striking up a peer friendship.

We don’t get together often, but when we do, a disconcerting thing happens to me. I find myself talking. A lot. I don’t typically talk a lot – I listen. Listening works for me – it doesn’t leave me vulnerable. But with her, I hear all sorts of words and stories and confessions and emotions come bubbling out of my mouth, and even as I’m saying them I’m hearing them and thinking what the hell is going on.

Have you ever come across someone who, for whatever reason, you act very out of character when you’re around them? It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a disturbing thing, and I’ve yet to decide how I feel about this one.

Anyway, this ex-sister-in-law and I chatted on the phone last night — correction: I ranted about family, and she listened. And she said something that simultaneously knocked me for a loop and made perfect sense to me. She said I have several narcissistic relatives.

“Narcissist” is one of those words that gets thrown around a lot and everyone assumes they know the meaning, but after she said that, I looked it up, and… yeah. Actually, I do. And most of those who aren’t narcissists, are martyrs.

When I wasn’t paying attention, I let my innate optimism coax me back into old habits of expecting my relatives to think and behave like I would, and getting confused why they don’t. I should know better. We aren’t wired the same. You’d think by now that I would just accept that and stop getting kerfluffled when their sense of things is so completely foreign to me.

Then we had a very enjoyable lunch together today, and she loaned me a book called “Dealing With Relatives (Even If You Can’t Stand Them).” Hah! I’ll read it, and maybe re-read “Dance of Anger,” over the holidays.

I feel TONS better today. She brings me something that I have long struggled to find – an informed outside perspective. A friend of mine is really good at trying, but they don’t know my family so all they have to work with is my selective memory and skewed view, so their ability to help is limited. Whereas she *knows* my family – the good, bad, unpolished… skeletons and all. She knows what my childhood was like. Another thing that she said to me once, just off-handedly but still with sincerity, is that my family was never there for me and that I raised myself. It BLEW ME AWAY when she said that. I had never had anyone validate my childhood experience before, in any way, let alone so succinctly.

In short, she is the closest thing I can ever hope to have to an informed, unbiased, unwarped perspective about my family dynamics — PLUS, she’s a lot like me in that she loathes drama and game-playing, and she’ll just say what she thinks as honestly as she can, and you can do whatever you want with it.

It’s strange to hear her talk about how dysfunctional my first family (brothers and their spouses and offspring) are, because my natural inclination is to both defend them and downplay any injury I feel. But a lot of what she says rings true for me. And hearing it from someone else gives me permission to start to accept it for myself, and just deal with it instead of trying to always make sense of it or fix things.

It was a wonderful Christmas gift, and I will have a much happier, and comfortable, holiday as a direct result.

I used to write here when I was amused. When my kids delighted me, strangers intrigued me, or possibilities made my imagination dance naked in the fields.

I used to write here when I felt overwhelmed and confused. When the emotional detritus of life bottled up and interrupted the flow, to the point that I felt tossed about and worn out by the undertow.

I used to write here when I was sad. Or scared. Or angry.
Mostly angry.

I haven’t been writing here because I haven’t been feeling any of those emotions to the extremes like I used to – at least not for a notable and durable length of time. Tomorrows don’t start with the debris of yesterdays nearly so often any more.

I think that’s progress.

This is the first time in quite a while that I’ve felt something long enough to consider coming here and writing about it. The problem is, I feel like doing so is a cop-out. My life is better than it’s ever been, and I have absolutely nothing to complain about.

And yet I’m here. Complaining. Oh, it’ll be easy to interject positives to help dilute it, but it’s still complaining, don’t let me fool you.

It seems like there’s a disproportionate number of people in my life who are worn out and edgy. It’s the time of year, for the most part. I know Spring will bring relief, but in the meantime, I’m getting worn out and edgy, and over-sensitive as well. Hell, I’m probably causing people who weren’t edgy to be edgy now. It’s more contagious than H1N1.

I’ve gained fifteen pounds, and it shows. My clothes don’t fit and I’m physically uncomfortable, and I hate, HATE it. But despite the fact that I have the strongest willpower of anyone I know, I can’t seem to get motivated to properly diet. WTF is up with that?

For the last few months I’ve been taking birth control pills for hormone replacement for perimenopause. It’s ironic to me that I’m finally to a place in my life where I’m comfortable and embracing my femininity…. only to get schmucked by it. Forgive the TMI, but since going on the pill I’ve had more unpredictable periods than the entire NHL, and more blood loss than them, too.  You’d think with all that, I could’ve at least dropped a pound or two, but no-ooo. Phooey.

My mom isn’t my same old mom any more. She’s still in pain and, in my opinion, in depression, and everything I do comes out sounding awkward and wrong. Like when you really want to impress someone and yet everything you do backfires, you hear the stupidest things come out of your mouth and you can practically see them shrink further away and be more annoyed, the harder you try. I’m pretty sure I’m making things worse instead of better.

My relatives are driving me nuts on Facebook. I can’t decide if it would be less stressful to delete the account and not know anything, or keep it and try to ignore the annoyances and family drama. I hate stupid manipulative games and when it gets more than I can bear, I speak up as non-aggressively and non-judgmentally as possible. I did that, and I don’t regret it, but as a result I was publicly chastised then privately supported. Funny how that works. It peels off old scabs that never quite heal.

My business is doing really well in all the ways that matter most to me. But I have almost twice as much work as I did this time last year, and little better than half the income. I’m pretty sure that kind of math isn’t in my best interests.

Our kids are doing fantastic. They’re all excelling in their own independent, responsible lives, with the two oldest getting recognized for their work ethic and being hand-picked for jobs (and promotions) while many their age are looking for work. It’s really hard not to brag obnoxiously to everyone I know about them. I’m thrilled and excited for them, and bummed that they don’t need me any more.

We recently took a short trip to the west coast, which was wonderful and exciting and heartwarming. But it also came with more pieces in an ever-growing collection of things that just clash with my sense of what is right and fair and reasonable in the world, and frustration when I can’t fix things for people I care about. I’m an optimist. I can’t stop being — nay, I REFUSE to stop being — an optimist, but that results in some mind-warping when I see good people being repeatedly abused, and when incompetence continues unrestrained and gets rewarded.

Boil this ramble down and it’s all perfectly normal middle age, midlife stuff, with hormones messing with the surface details. Meanwhile the core of my life continues to kick ass and be blessed and awesome.

I’m just annoyed when I allow myself to get hung up on details to the point where they start commanding more attention than the awesome.

I’ve been intending to post for a while but have been too busy to feel inclined. I just went today to read my favourite blogs that I haven’t read for a while, and my heart dropped when I visited Attila and read that her son is clinging to life after contracting H1N1.

She is an amazing woman, with an amazing family, and I’m asking anyone who reads this to please send whatever hope and positive intentions you believe in (prayers, vibes, whatever) to them.

Her kids are about the same age as our kids.

Sooner or later I’m going to have to pull myself together, stop sobbing, and continue on with my day. I can’t begin to imagine what they’re going through.

I have a box of “Virginity Soap” that my brother and his wife brought with them when they came back for a visit this summer, as a gag gift from Doha, Qatar. Except the soap isn’t considered to be a gag there. I guess it’s not a lot different than the penis pumps and breast creams that get shilled here, except you don’t generally get whipped or disowned for having a small dick or saggy boobs. I’ve been meaning to post a pic and blog about it forever, but life has been… complicated.

I also have a photo of me in full burqa. (Actually, the term they used was “abaya”.) All you can see are my hands, and the smallest area around my eyes. It was extremely strange, donning this cultural garment. Even though the material was sensuously soft and fine and lighter than you would ever imagine it to be, there was something… weighty… about it. I don’t know if it was just awareness for the tradition that made me feel that way, or the fear of oppression, or what. It was, and I apologize for the language, a complete mindfuck. I felt almost claustrophobic and repressed, at the same time as sheltered and part of something bigger. It’s all quite bizarre and fascinating, but not an experience I need to repeat. I have a huge amount of respect for the craftsmanship of the tailors, though. It was exquisite bead and thread work, and I’ve never worn anything so big and encompassing and yet so light and flowing.

The only aunt I have that I’m close to is visiting from Scotland, with two cousins I’ve never met before. My aunt is 82 and in failing health, so this will be the last time she makes the long trip here. It’s an extremely emotional and bittersweet visit, as we all know that we’re not likely to ever see each other again.

My mother is in very poor health, and constant, debilitating pain. They have her on morphine pills, which is never something you want to hear. My father is running himself ragged and doing far more that he’s physically fit to do, as a means of trying to cope with his own stress and fears, and because it’s the only thing he can do that makes him feel a little less helpless. When he stops and talks about it, tears run down his face, so he simply doesn’t stop. That’s my family – soldier on, no matter what.

I live an eight hour drive from my parents, but as the youngest child and only girl, I’m probably the closest relationship-wise with them. My brothers, though, have all started to take a more active and visible role and are chipping in with help and talking with my parents. I’m happy to step back and let them take the reins – my grip is weakening. We are going to have to, very soon, figure out a way to convince my father to sell their property and move into some place that isn’t physically killing them. I don’t know if we can do that without killing what spirit and fire he has left.

On the drive home from my parents last weekend, the song “You Can Let Go” came up on my playlist. I had to pull into the ditch. Wracking sobs came up from somewhere I haven’t been in a long time, and it was a while before I could see to keep driving.

This morning I was standing in my kitchen, wearing plaid flannel boxer shorts and a wife beater tank top, eating toast over the sink. Apparently I’ve turned into a man when I wasn’t watching.

My husband’s relatives from California called yesterday, to say that they’d be in the area sometime over the next few days. They were expecting that they could stay here with us. I guess they didn’t think it necessary to actually, ya know, ask that, before they drove 2500kms.

I got my belly-button pierced. It was a mother-daughter shared experience thing on her 20th birthday.

Someone knocked on our door at 6:30 am this morning. As I struggled to pull on a robe and convince my feet to cooperate, our dog let out a very loud and very low string of barks. By the time I looked out, no one was anywhere in sight. Good puppy.

My husband is very busy with his work, and he has multiple clients who all want him to work on their projects exclusively. Later today he will be pushing a button that will cause tens of millions of dollars worth of cheques to be sent out to recipients. Their eligibility and the cheque amounts are all based on program code that he wrote. He’s somewhat stressed. I would be a complete basket case.

Today I will upload and launch a client web site that has been over a year in the making, and that ended up being more than 4 times larger than what I originally committed to. If they ask me for one more change or addition… even just one more… I will explode.

My father-in-law and his new wife are moving back to the hometown area, so they will be 8 hours away now, too. The new wife is ruffling some feathers and there is tension between dad-in-law and relatives. Different people are trying to pull us into the conflicts, using our concerns about his health as a way to try to sucker us into the fray.

This is a piss-poor blog post.

I’m so very tired.

By the end of the summer our children will have all had their birthdays and they will be 17 (son), 20 (daughter) and 21 (son) years old. Really, the vast majority of my job as a parent is done. There’s very little that I can tell them now that they haven’t already heard from me, and even less that they’ll willingly listen to instead of figuring out for themselves.

But that doesn’t mean that I should turn a blind eye if I happen to see – or, more truthfully, sense – an opportunity to help them in some way.

Below is an email that I recently sent them (with their father’s consent). They all acknowledged receiving it, but haven’t said a word to me about it otherwise. I figure, this may turn out to be one of those things that, ten years from now, when we’re all hanging around a table somewhere and swapping tall tales, one of them will say, “Oh, jeezus, remember when Mom sent us those emails about how to get laid?!?” And I’ll say that I don’t remember any such thing! (And that will probably be the truth.) And they’ll all gang up together against me and laugh and make the story even bigger with each telling, because that’s what kids do to their parents. Read the rest of this entry »

We just had a very nice visit with my youngest brother and his wife, who are currently living and teaching in Qatar on a work visa. It was fascinating to me hearing about the country at the opposite side of the globe, and the vastly different culture that, turns out, isn’t as bizarre as one might imagine.

And now that they’ve left for the evening and gone to their hotel, I’m sitting here feeling very bitchy. It has absolutely nothing to do with them – I just feel annoyed with life in general.

Well this sucks.

If this is the start of peri-menopause, then it can just bugger right off right now, because I have no use for this kind of crap, whatsoever.

On a totally unrelated note, here are some of the photos from my trip up North (which was equally enjoyable, visiting a different brother). Ordinarily I’d clean them up a wee bit in Photoshop first, but honestly, I just couldn’t be bothered today, so these are completely unedited and uncropped.

I’m a sucker for old prairie barns, having spent the best moments of my childhood swinging (literally) from the dusty, rough-splintered rafters of one.

This was, at one point, a huge concrete grain terminal in Boyle, Alberta. I watched the wrecking ball for about ten minutes and it seemed like the equivilant of a fly swatter, barely making any dents and taking forever just to loosen a small area. But there must have been method to the madness, because when I went back through five days later, it was just a small pile of rubble.

Not too far away, there was this abandoned log house. I would’ve loved to explore but it didn’t look very stable, plus I was brought up to have respect for the private property of others. Growing up on a farm in a beautiful valley, we had plenty encounters with city people who figured “But this is the country! Anyone can go anywhere – it’s not like you own the place!”

(Yes, I have a thing for liking barbed wire in the frame of my rural photos… so sue me. Unfortunately, this one didn’t turn out very well.)

Visiting my brother and his wife in Northern Alberta. I’d forgotten how beautiful a drive it can be and how many photo opportunities there are. Of course, like an idiot, I see something and think, “Ooh, I’d love to take a shot of that,” then spend the next three to ten miles trying to decide if I should turn around and go back for the pic, or not. Because I was driving by myself, I talked myself into it about 25% of the time, but I need to improve that number. Life is too short not to stop and smell the roses click the shutter.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll fire up my other laptop that I brought (it’s a working vacation) – the one with a card reader – and try to post a couple of the pics that I went back to take.

This is my first full day here, and I’m really enjoying it. My brother and his wife have been very active in community theatre for decades, and they’ve just started their own small theatre group and are opening their first show this week. It looked for a while like I was going to be going to a BBQ and sex toy party (how could I resist? what happens if they confuse the two?), but we skipped that and instead I’ve spent the evening helping my brother prep sound cues – looking for public domain audio files for sound and dialogue effects. Gotta love descriptions like “highland-wedding-march-drunken-piper”. Our imagination of it was WAY funnier than the actual file, though.

Wow. I… wow! Seriously, I had no clue that it’s been so long since I was here. I need to find another source of income than working full time, because the days and weeks (and months!) are flying by faster than ever now, and they were already trucking along at a fair clip before!

I’m fine. Great, actually. As is the family and all who I love. Well, my folks are noticeably fading, and I’m going to have to spend some time coming to terms with that and then helping them come to terms with that, but all in all I have an extremely blessed and joyful life. Still.

Let’s see…. my business, despite the doom and gloom media, has been great and I’m as busy as I want to be, and at times busier than I can comfortably handle. I was having some trouble finding my groove and keeping all the balls in the air when I got several new clients in rapid succession, but I just lost one of those clients – the one who was draining a disproportionate amount of my time and energy – so I’m looking forward to relaxing into the spot and enjoying the work more again. The client was, I’m convinced, manic-depressive or bipolar or something, and as much as I liked him as a person, he was driving me crazy and making me dread Mondays. That telegraphed into all my other work, which I don’t normally dread, and it took a while for me to figure out what was going on.

Our daughter, Jan, broke up with her longtime boyfriend/fiance who she was living with, so that threw everything into a kerfluffle for a bit. They’d been together five years and were almost as good as married, so it took some untangling to separate the two lives physically and financially. But she’s living back home again now (as evidenced by the fact that all her shit is back here and we can’t walk without stumbling over a packing box – LOL!) and she’s happy. Truly happy. Something I had seen missing in her eyes for quite a while. It’s weird having a kid move back home. We found ourselves excited and loving it, but also… ya know… feeling like we’d lost a bit of ground on our independence, somehow. Not that we need to worry – she’s already scoping out places close by to move into on her own, and she’s signed up for some part-time classes to start back to school in the Fall. Our daughter has definitely got it all going on and a firm grasp on the world, and I feel like I’m probably visibly bursting with pride.

Our boys are both doing really well, too, and a strange thing is happening. They’re getting along, for the most part, and tolerating each other, with brief moments of actual friendship. It’s kinda scary to see this foreign beast in my home, so I just watch from a distance and don’t poke it when it wanders by. Ari doesn’t seem to hate me automatically before I even walk in the room or open my mouth anymore, which is a very nice change from the last dozen years of his life. In contrast, I’m seeing Cob and his dad have this fuel and flame, instant aggravation thing going on that was like Ari and I, and I’m getting to experience what Doc experienced for so long – complete bafflement and helplessness when two people you love drive each other crazy.

Uh… let’s see, what other updates and news can I tell you that might be even remotely interesting?

I joined the local gym with Jan. I had never been in a gym before in my life, but figured I’d better up the ante on my own personal exercise program, because I gained 15 fricken pounds over the winter and spring, and damned if I’ve been able to lose them. I don’t know if it’s a peri-menopausal thing (shush, you), a thyroid thing, or if it’s because I’ve been working so damned much and I haven’t taken the time to take proper care of myself. I haven’t been this heavy, or this uncomfortable in and unhappy with my body, in over a decade. Not really the way I wanted to go into summer! But even though I’ve been knuckling down and behaving (well, kinda, mostly), trying to lose the weight, it’s all stubbornly sticking around. Around my waist, to be specific. Annoying as hell. But since it’s the only thing in my life that I have to bitch and gripe about, I won’t bitch and gripe very loudly, because I wouldn’t trade any of the other things that are currently going right in my world – health, finances, love, career – in exchange for a perfectly fit and gorgeous young body.

Hmmm, well, actually……

Nope. No, I wouldn’t. No.

I don’t really know what else to write, which is probably why I haven’t blogged here for so long. This used to be my outlet to vent my frustration, exasperation, and befuddlement with the world. But, you know, along the way, I’ve either gotten more tolerant, or I just don’t give a damn about the little idiosyncrasies of life like I used to.

I think it’s more tolerant. I hope so.

With a dash of laziness, probably.

You’re probably thinking: why the heck did I come here to read this drivel? That’s fair – I’ve turned this into a long post about not much of anything. I don’t want to not have a blog, but at the moment it just isn’t calling to me to come write anything. So, uh…. I’d like to think that I’ll get back into the swing of things and write here more often, because it’s a hugely invaluable tool to me whenever I feel unsure about my footing in life and want some perspective. But for now, I think I’ve got a fairly good handle on things, and I’m too busy living to be writing. (Or to be reading other people’s blogs either, actually. I hope you’re all doing great!)

I stumbled onto this video about an extreme macro photography trick a few months ago, and sent it to my husband. He just recently found time to try it.

Doc posted a few of the resulting photos to his Facebook account, including this one:

"My wedding ring showing the scars of 22 years."

Hours later, the subject came up and he asked, unnecessarily, if the caption he’d put had bothered me at all. The use of the word “scars” doesn’t often connote something positive.

“Not in the least, ” I assured him. “And I clicked on the little ‘I Like This’ icon so everyone would know.”

“I’d guessed that’s why you did that,” he said and smiled.

I’m proud of the nicks and scars. I’d be wary of a marriage that was only polish and gleam.

Here are a few more shots he took:

Cursor on my monitor. Hard to believe that is a white background.

"Cursor on my monitor. Hard to believe that is a white background."

Logo on nail clippers. Interesting that appears to be raised yet it is engraved into it.

"Logo on nail clippers. Interesting that appears to be raised yet it is engraved into it."

Leaf of an African Violet plant.

Leaf of an African Violet plant.

Dead leaf from an African Violet (I need to water them more often).

Dead leaf from an African Violet (I need to water them more often).