Dead Dads Club

My bestie C unexpectedly lost her Dad a year ago today. I was her first phone call after she heard from her mom. It was awful and gut-wrenching to hear your friend in so much pain and to have known and loved her Dad. 10 years prior I made a similar hysterical phone call after I heard about my Dad’s passing and I’m so happy I was able to be there emotionally and later physically by flying up for services.

The club really sucks, but it bonds you with people in new ways. Much love to all my brothers and sisters out there who have lost a parent, especially the daughters who lost their fathers.

Thunder Cat (my special nickname for C’s Dad) was such a big man in every way – big heart, big personality, big love of breakfast, big charmer, big comedian, and big beer bellied! Lots of people are missing you today, but I hope all our beloved dead Dads are in a club of their own shining down on us!

Measuring Monday:

18 months ago this week I went to my first ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) meeting. My success in this program helped give me the strength to handle a long weekend at home for my Grandmother’s funeral services. I only learned about ACA in December 2016 from a book, about 6 months before I started attending meetings at an early suggestion of a counselor I was seeing to deal with my workaholism. The book Perfect Daughters is about adult daughters of alcoholics which was the first time I even heard of  the term “adult children.” In reading that book I learned that less than 20% of children grow up in a household where only the mother is the alcoholic. Alcoholic fathers are most common followed by homes where both parents are alcoholics. It was only in late 2016 that I was able to even verbalize that my mother is an alcoholic – also common for daughters in situations like mine to be in denial about it or make excuses for their alcoholic mother.

There was no denying that my mom is not well, but she has a lot of problems from OCD to agoraphobia to suspected borderline personality disorder and narcissism so it was hard to bring myself to name any of them. However in late April 2016 on a Friday afternoon, my mom left my sister and I each a “goodbye” voicemail. I called 911 for police to make a welfare check and my sister headed to Long Island from NYC with her boss not knowing what they would find. There’s no telling how serious her attempt was, she was assessed by paramedics, but refused transport. Essentially she was very drunk and took some pills. She has no recollection of the attempt and refuses to accept it was as traumatizing as it was for us, especially my sister. My sister drew a line in the sand that day, but I still took on more of her abuse and added to my self-abuse through workaholism.

Over the last 18 months through attending meetings and working the steps of ACA I’ve set boundaries with my mom. One of our guiding principles is our take on the Serenity prayer “God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage the change the one I can, and the wisdom to know that one is me.” I no longer stay at mom’s house when I’m in NY – I stay with other family or get a hotel. I decide how I want to spend a holiday as opposed to feeling guilted or obligated to be there which is often at my own detriment. I requested we set up weekly calls which helps me mentally and emotionally prepare for a call as opposed to her previous cold calls at odd hours. I do my best to be nice to her and remind myself she is not well, but she also hasn’t been for a long time and refuses to help herself. The worst part of every interaction with my mom is still the not knowing. Am I getting Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde? This trip to NY for my Grandmother’s services was fairly tame and I had my fiance with me as a human shield. We drove her to the church, took her to lunch, and our for a few errands. Lots of small talk and pleasantries, but I guess it’s better than yelling or crying. I’m not sure how the next few days and weeks will play out. Will she find relief from no longer being under my grandmother’s control or will things be bleaker? Either way I am working to release myself from any sense of responsibility to fix things, please her, or be perfect. To quote one of my favorite John Mayer lyrics, “I’m in repair, I’m not together, but I’m getting there.”

Note: Note my 20% stat is of children in alcoholic homes only 20% only have an alcoholic mother. Estimates are that ~45% of the population have been exposed to familial alcohol abuse and more than half of those are children.

The Matriarch

My grandma passed away yesterday at age 90 after quite a few years of failing health. This picture is from my grad school graduation in 2007.

We weren’t particularly close, but she was smart, very educated, belly danced as a hobby (even into her 60s), and taught me to curse in Slovak. But she was a very broken person for reasons she never shared or maybe fully explored, but it manifested itself in many ways. She never said please or thank you, instead she barked orders. She also was one to always remind people that they could lose some weight or had put on a few pounds. She was very critical of how her family did in school and was never satisfied with anything less than an A.

However she was my last surviving grandparent. My dad’s dad died when I was a baby and his mom died in 2001. My mom’s dad died in 1995. She was my mom’s mom and the long reigning family “matriarch.” She was the oldest of 4 sisters and lived longer than all of them. She has 2 daughters and each of her daughters has 2 daughters. However there’s also a long history of emotionally abusive mother daughter relationships which has lead to a very splintered and dysfunctional sorority of sorts.

My fiancé and I are heading up to New York for services which is going to be explosive I’m sure. I’m using this long car ride to prepare mentally. I hope I can get through the weekend relatively unscathed, but I don’t think I’m that lucky. I’m thankful for all the work I’ve done on myself the past 18 months particularly around my mom’s alcoholism and I have the supports to help me process things after this weekend. Thoughts are appreciated.

A Look Back at the Beginning

Here’s a throwback to my very first blog post in January 2010. Back when it was more of a diary. I never thought I’d share it even anonymously let alone with people I know!

Everyone needs to start somewhere, but I started and have been documenting “it” ever since. It really meaning measuring life, weight loss/gain, love, stress, accomplishments, failures, coffee and more.

Measuring Monday: Holidays from Hell

Maybe I’m not a big holiday person because holidays equate with families and I’m not really a family person. Yes, I know (and believe) family can mean many different things, but when it comes to holidays that’s generally the blood-related family time. I saw some of my family at Thanksgiving so we’re staying local for Christmas and we’ll spend tomorrow with my fiance’s family. Most of my holiday memories involve yelling, feeling uncomfortable, and that feeling of sitting on pins and needles. I’ve long established that my mom is a terror, but so is her sister and their mother. The holidays for a long whole meant bringing all 3 of them together and it was just horrific, carnage everywhere.

The mental and emotional trauma of these days will never really be something I think I can totally heal from. From little things like being forced to eat fish on Christmas Eve at my grandmother’s house before we could open presents to explosive fights over stuffing at Thanksgiving that resulted in my mom kicking my Aunt and her family out of the house before dinner and then her throwing most of the food she made away while my sister, Dad and I just sat shell-shocked and yet not totally surprised. My “traditional”  holiday task since I turned 18 has been buying my mom cigarettes – Capri ultralights. Mom never lets me drive her car, except to buy her cigarettes. One year I found a local Turkey Trot a few towns over and wanted to run it with my sister, but my mom refused to let me drive her car. I knew there was no winning because she likes to keep control over the few things she has control over, but still, it was a big fight that year. When I was home for Christmas last year fetching her cigarettes was the last request I fulfilled for her – in my car because I can no longer stand to be there without a clear escape option.

My adult years involve finding alcohol my mom hid around the house and trying to dump enough of it that wouldn’t result in me getting lashed out at. I also often spend the holidays get slurred at from my mom about “when does she get to be Grandma,” meaning when does someone else host Christmas since my Grandmother stopped hosting holidays after my Grandpa died when I was 12. For the record, I would LOVE to host a holiday and have offered, but that would involve my mom coming to my house. Which means leaving Long Island and being in a car for more than 40 minutes which are all things she doesn’t do. She came up to my grad school graduation in eastern Connecticut for the day with my grandma in 2007. That’s the last time she traveled for me and she constantly reminded me of what a taxing request it was for her to drive 2.5 hours each way. Aside from that, she hasn’t seen a place where I lived since I was a freshman in college, but that’s a whole ‘nother post.

Social media makes this time of year especially painful because sometimes I like to imagine all families are as broken and dysfunctional as mine, but then I see pictures of family game nights, family Christmas pajama parties, family hat parades, and more. It breaks my heart every single year and yet like a car accident I can’t look away. I get kicked while I’m down during the holidays thanks to the TimeHop app. Here’s a random sample of what popped up today – Christmas Eve:

  • 2017: Pictures of cute Pomeranians on Instagram is my only drug option to keep me sane while at my mom’s house #hour2
  • 2011: Nothing says Christmas like family members screaming at each other on the top of their lungs #crazyfamily
  • 2010: Running errands with my sister AKA getting away from my mom for a few hours
  • 2010: Traditional Christmas yelling is on full effect
  • 2009: True life my mom made me curse in church because she is a crazy biotch

If this is the stuff I felt comfortable posting – crying for help –  via twitter or other social media you can only imagine what I didn’t post. In reflecting on horrible holidays what does it say that Thanksgiving 2007 doesn’t even crack the top 5 of horrible? Let me remind you my Dad died unexpectedly the Sunday before Thanksgiving that year and his wake and funeral were the 2 days after Thanksgiving. Yet I truthfully have had worst holidays. Bah Humbug feels like an appropriate way to end this post.

Wedding Planning

I was never the person who dreamed about their wedding, in fact I actually began to dread the reality of it – the family drama, the finances, the planning. NIGHTMARE. My then-boyfriend and I moved in together to a house he bought in Summer 2016. Not too long after on social media or tumblr I posted that as much as I want to get engaged, I was starting to understand the weight of the wedding extravaganza and wasn’t looking forward to the circus. Well of course soon after I posted that we got engaged in February 2017.

I remember asking him soon after he proposed why did he do this to me NOW?! I was literally at the beginning of a long Spring as a one person office at work and we were planning on doing major home renovations.  I didn’t even have time to think about a wedding. So when people asked I said Fall 2018 because I knew Fall was the best time for me to take off of work and I like that time of year. Fall 2018 seemed so far off when we got engaged. The only thing we knew was that we wanted a beach wedding, but September-October is hurricane season on the east coast. So I googled something along the lines of “warmest ocean water beaches in fall without a hurricane threat” and the internet gods said Portugal and we were like sounds good.

March to September 2017 was a blur of a horrific nightmare due to work stress, renovations, mom drama, a shitty boss, and more. I was coping through not sleeping and severe workaholism. By the time I could come up for air I knew a 2018 wedding wasn’t going to happen and those closest to me knew that, but it didn’t stop the incessant questions and puzzled looks from random people when I said we hadn’t set a date or made plans. How do you tell a work acquaintance that you are trying to just keep yourself sane and finish out 2017 in one piece.

I set my intention for 2018 as “Balance” which meant no wedding planning because I knew I needed to work on me first. However this year was more about setting an intention, it was living the intention and that takes work and time. With 2018 winding down I’m happier with myself then I think I have ever been from the inside out. My fiance has also been on his own developmental journey. Together we are better now than we’ve ever been. We weathered a few storms and are stronger for it.

Last week was our 4.5 year anniversary and I joked that we are “Forever Fiances.” I was asked several times if he or I were “okay” with that. I still don’t really understand that question.

  • Are we okay that neither of us are really close with family and none of our family really care about our wedding because regardless of what we do it will be an inconvenience for them, if they come at all?
  • Are we okay that the only part of my wedding I ever “knew for sure” was that I wanted to to dance with my Dad to “On the street where you live” from My Fair Lady, but he died when I was 24 and never got to meet most of the important people in my life including my fiancé?
  • Are we okay with going into debt to self fund a wedding or cutting back on home improvements and aggressive mortgage payments to pay for it?
  • Are we okay with me doing large scale event planning for my day job and then me not really being motivated to do it in my precious free time? The free time that I’ve used to get a fitness instructor certification and lose ~25 lbs this year?

We don’t want a big flashy wedding, but we do want a wedding and we want to do it right, we just need time, money, and patience. The marriage part is what we’ve already been working on and we don’t need a piece of paper to do so. The party will come and it will be great, but I didn’t expect all the pressure put on engaged couples, particularly brides. Unless you know you will be invited to my wedding or you are willing to pay for it, please don’t ask me about it. When plans are set I’ll be the first one to shout it from the rooftop.

Measuring Monday: Wedding Planning

I was never the person who dreamed about their wedding, in fact I actually began to dread the reality of it – the family drama, the finances, the planning. NIGHTMARE. My then-boyfriend and I moved in together to a house he bought in Summer 2016. Not too long after on social media or tumblr I posted that as much as I want to get engaged, I was starting to understand the weight of the wedding extravaganza and wasn’t looking forward to the circus. Well of course soon after I posted that we got engaged in February 2017.

I remember asking him soon after he proposed why did he do this to me NOW?! I was literally at the beginning of a long Spring as a one-person office at work and we were planning on doing major home renovations.  I didn’t even have time to think about a wedding. So when people asked I said Fall 2018 because I knew Fall was the best time for me to take off of work and I like that time of year. Fall 2018 seemed so far off when we got engaged. The only thing we knew was that we wanted a beach wedding, but September-October is hurricane season on the east coast. So I googled something along the lines of “warmest ocean water beaches in fall without a hurricane threat” and the internet gods said Portugal and we were like sounds good.

March to September 2017 was a blur of a horrific nightmare due to work stress, renovations, mom drama, a shitty boss, and more. I was coping through not sleeping and severe workaholism. By the time I could come up for air I knew a 2018 wedding wasn’t going to happen and those closest to me knew that, but it didn’t stop the incessant questions and puzzled looks from random people when I said we hadn’t set a date or made plans. How do you tell a work acquaintance that you are trying to just keep yourself sane and finish out 2017 in one piece.

I set my intention for 2018 as “Balance” which meant no wedding planning because I knew I needed to work on me first. However this year was more about setting an intention, it was living the intention and that takes work and time. With 2018 winding down I’m happier with myself then I think I have ever been from the inside out. My fiance has also been on his own developmental journey. Together we are better now than we’ve ever been. We weathered a few storms and are stronger for it.

Last week was our 4.5 year anniversary and I joked that we are “Forever Fiances.” I was asked several times if him or I were “okay” with that. I still don’t really understand that question.

  • Are we okay that neither of us are really close with family and none of our family really care about our wedding because regardless of what we do it will be an inconvenience for them, if they come at all?
  • Are we okay that the only part of my wedding I ever “knew for sure” was that I wanted to to dance with my Dad to “On the street where you live” from My Fair Lady, but he died when I was 24 and never got to meet most of the important people in my life including my fiancé?
  • Are we okay with going into debt to self fund a wedding or cutting back on home improvements and aggressive mortgage payments to pay for it?
  • Are we okay with me doing large scale event planning for my day job and then me not really being motivated to do it in my precious free time? The free time that I’ve used to get a fitness instructor certification and lose ~25 lbs this year?

We don’t want a big flashy wedding, but we do want a wedding and we want to do it right, we just need time, money, and patience. The marriage part is what we’ve already been working on and we don’t need a piece of paper to do so. The party will come and it will be great, but I didn’t expect all the pressure put on engaged couples, particularly brides. Unless you know you will be invited to my wedding or you are willing to pay for it, please don’t ask me about it. When plans are set I’ll be the first one to shout it from the rooftop.