My husband, my boss

Paul and I will be celebrating 18 years of marriage this weekend. The number one question that I have been asked over the years has not been how I have managed to stay happily married after all these years. That is too bad, because that would have been an easier question to answer. What people tend to ask me the most is how I can work with my spouse. Even couples with the strongest relationships cringe when I mention that we work together. We have been partners in the office for almost 8 years now. My husband left his previous employment 13 years ago to work full-time at his own business. So technically that makes him my boss. 

Have I ever been fired? Many times. Have I ever quit? Many times. Do we spend so much time together that we run out of things to say? Sometimes. What makes it work then? We are both willing to do what it takes and we have complimentary skill sets. He is an extrovert, I am an introvert. He is good at verbal communication, I am the writer. He is great at sales, I couldn’t sell water in the dessert. He is a good public speaker, I am a good listener. He is the visionary, I am the day to day planner. We make it work. 

A majority of the time working together has been a positive experience. It really forces us to work together as a team. We work through the demands, pressures, and stresses of owning a business together. We make all major decisions together as a team. I drag Paul back when he veers in the wrong direction and he pulls me ahead when I don’t embrace change for the better. We can be honest with each other to promote growth. We can say things that we don’t want to hear when our employees would say only the things that we want to hear. We make it work. 

Will I get fired again? Probably. Will I quit again? Probably. It has been worth it. Last night Paul said that he hopes that he dies before me because he couldn’t bear to live without me in his life. I hope that in the end we can sail off into the sunset together and that it will be smooth sailing…  

Here’s to another 18 years!

What happened after….

Almost two years after the birth of Angelique, I had another baby. A little boy that I will call Alex. Alex was an easy baby. He was always content, rarely cried, and followed a very consistent feeding and sleeping schedule. Both babies slept through the night at around 2 months even though I nursed them. I figured I had this parenting thing down pat. Life was going fairly smoothly for awhile. After those first couple of years of peace, life got a little dicey. 

After Matt attacked Angelique on her 4th birthday, life got a little crazy. My mom couldn’t accept that I needed a break from my violent autistic brother for awhile. She pleaded, pressured, and begged to have Matt in our life again. She would drive over a couple of times a month just to have Matt wave at my kids through the car window. She would help out if Matt was included. I couldn’t risk my 2 and 4 year old being hurt by a grown man. I couldn’t. Matt almost exclusively attacked little girls. It wasn’t long after this that I found out I was pregnant and having a baby girl. I didn’t want to tell anyone the sex of the baby, so my mom figured out it was a girl or I would have said something. 

Right around this time, I started babysitting for the neighbor girl about 50 hours a week. She started calling me mom and hanging out with us when I wasn’t babysitting. Every weekend she would stay at her grandma’s while her parents partied. I secretly resented them for having a break. I can’t say that I didn’t feel relief after they eventually divorced and moved away. Also, during this time my husband had started a business on the side. He was working for another company and went down to part-time so he could do this. He eventually used up all of his vacation days and they gave him an ultimatum. Either come back full-time or leave. He left. The stress started piling on again. 

When it came time to schedule my final c-section I opted to do it on a Friday. I had images of watching my other 2 kids while I was in the hospital if it was on a Monday like they suggested. My mom came early Friday morning to watch the kids, thankfully Matt did not get up that early. Arabella was born. Paul went to work. He was a one man show and we had bills to pay. Mom dropped the kids off mid morning as Matt had a dentist appointment. Paul had the kids with him off and on at the hospital all weekend. He had someone from church watch the kids Monday morning to pick us up from the hospital. Then my mother-in-law helped Monday and Tuesday. After that I was on my own, less than a week after major surgery with a 4 year old, 2 year old, and a newborn. A newborn that cried incessantly. That didn’t sleep through the night for a year. 

I felt hurt and angry at my mom for leaving me alone when I needed her the most. Matt always came first. I gave up my childhood for this? In my mom’s defense, she was working full-time and it was her busy time at work. Matt still lived at home and she no longer had my help. Six weeks after Arabella was born, my grandma had open heart surgery and for some reason I was handed the baton of throwing all of the holiday parties. I ended up getting mastitis twice and blamed myself for having a difficult baby because I was very stressed. 

Windy days

I hear the wind whistling through every cracked or slightly open vessel. I feel it wind its way deep down into my soul stirring up memories that I long for but are long gone. The wind cries with an urgency that begs for immediate release but when searched for cannot be found. For me the wind cries “grandma.” It transports me back in time to my grandpa’s truck. I sit peacefully between my grandparents with the window behind my head open a crack forever whistling with the wind. Every time the wind blows, I feel a nostalgic longing for them. 

My grandma is the main reason why I survived my childhood.  She also gets a lot of credit for helping Mark through too. She is right up there with Mother Theresa in my blog. Mark and I would take turns staying with my grandparents every other weekend. She did all the little things to make me feel special. We worked on puzzles together, she cooked my favorite meals, she made cookies for me, and she always had time to listen. We always celebrated holidays at their house. One Christmas off to the side was something hidden under a large bag. It was for me. Inside was a dollhouse created partially by grandma using little pearl buttons as light fixtures. She also made doll clothes for me from patterns, struggling to get her big fingers into the little tiny clothes to sew them together. 

Last week while cleaning out my grandma’s house, I found my old dollhouse. Maybe someday I will set it up the way it used to be in its finery. After 6 years of being vacant, someone wants to buy my grandma’s house. My dad never put the house up for sale and it was left as a shrine to her memory. Despite all of his shortcomings, my dad provided loving care for his parents and aunt in their final years. Every time the wind blows, I will be thinking of them and be thankful for the difference they made in my life. 

Real life Tetris 

What is easier, training for a marathon or blogging about painful events in my life? In analysis, they both take approximately the same amount of time per week. I would say, without a doubt, that training for a marathon is much easier. I only feel tired and perhaps physically sore after running. I feel tired, sometimes upset, depressed, and emotionally sore after blogging. 

Is there anybody out there? Am I all alone? Where have the other siblings of the disabled gone? Have you escaped? Have I not? How can I? Why can’t I? I don’t want to do this anymore. It is too personal. The feelings are too raw. I am picking away at old poorly healed scabs. This worries me. 

I feel very overwhelmed in general. I was just notified of mandatory practices for my kids at school the next couple of weeks that conflict with other mandatory practices. When do I have time to work? What about work? We are picking up our biggest client ever the end of this week. It is great, but overwhelming. Will I be able to perform? Will I be able to handle the work? I feel like I am playing Tetris right now. Pieces falling haphazardly on other pieces and nothing fits. I am fighting to stay in control. I worry about the things I can’t control. Am I all alone?

Up north, part 3

This past weekend I was up north with my daughters. Luke’s wife, Emily, and I threw a bridal shower for Mark’s fiancĂ©, Carla. This is the start of another strange happening this month. Emily recently had surgery and was having some health issues related to this. She ended up driving herself to the closest ER an hour away from the cabin after a sleepless night. I was running later than I wanted to the morning of the shower and had a lot of errands to run. Through a series of strange events, I ran into my sister-in-law at the pharmacy in the middle of nowhere hours from her house. My daughter rode back with her to the cabin to help keep her alert. It seemed like a bizarre coincidence and I still don’t know why things happened that way. 

It was lunch time when we all got to the cabin. Luke bought some bread to make sandwiches with the peanut butter that was there. First, he had to call our mom to make sure that this was not Matt’s peanut butter. I had almost forgotten about this very basic rule. Most of Matt’s food was labeled with his name. You did not dare eat Matt’s food without facing the wrath of my mom. Since he spent most of his life gluten and dairy free, his food a lot of times was separate from ours. If Luke put the knife in the peanut butter and touched the bread, then it would be considered contaminated. My dad would eat Matt’s food a lot of times probably just to piss off my mom. She would worry endlessly about food for Matt to the point of obsession. 

Another thing that happened, the last time we were up north my brothers put in an A/C unit. It was really hot this weekend so we were running it with a lot of fans. We had 13 people sleeping in the cabin. Matt came out to the porch angry saying that the fans were too loud, that he couldn’t sleep. My initial response was to ask Matt how long he was trying to sleep. Luke agreed. Mark was concerned that Matt would be up all night worrying. Mom went with Matt to turn off all the fans. Now no one would be able to sleep. Luke turned the fans back on after Matt fell asleep.  Luke said, “Part of this is his condition and part of this is his conditioning.” Matt never had any consequences, seems like we all had the consequences for his decisions. I felt the familiar old resentment towards my mom for allowing Matt to be the god of our lives. The god we sacrificed to day in and day out. Sacrificing the good of all for the sake of one. I hated being forced to worship and kneel before the alter of autism. 

The bridal shower went without a hitch. Haha. The future bride left saying, “See you at the wedding, if there still is one.” Mark and Carla spent most of the weekend fighting. Everyone at the shower said that Mark and Carla reminded them of my parents. That is not a compliment. My parents marriage is filled with strife. It is not something sacred, to be yearned for. I worry. My husband says I should only worry about the things I can control. 

Marathon training, week 10

I’m back on the road again after taking off a week due to an ankle injury. I ran 6 miles on this very hot and humid day. I felt fine with no pain even after having to jump out of the way to avoid stepping on a huge toad. I spent a lot of time reflecting. If you haven’t noticed already, I am a person who has hard core determination, a stubborn iron will, and impressive self-control. It has been a great strength and great weakness, as most gifts are. The greatest strength that comes out of this is my ability to follow a rigorous training schedule. I have noticed over the past year that this really gives me a competive edge. This is a gift, I have found, that few people have. 

The weaknesses of this are that I can be judgmental. If I can eat only one potato chip and you eat the whole bag, then I am critical of you. It gives me an “if I can do it why can’t you” mentality. This makes me feel frustrated and resentful. It is wrong for me to expect perfection from others and perhaps myself. My husband once said that even if Jesus came back, he wouldn’t be perfect enough for me. I don’t think this was a compliment. This gift also makes me stupid. If I didn’t get injured last week, I would have ran 24 miles outside on an extremely hot and humid day. So, in essence, being injured saved me from my worst enemy, myself. 

I thought a lot today about decisions we make and predestination. I tend to believe that things happen for a reason. I have been asked if I believe this, then why do bad things happen to good people. I don’t know. But I have experienced being upset at leaving late only to find out that if I left on time I could have been involved in a fatal accident. Maybe that has happened to you too. Other things have happened this month, such as rescuing a man on the water. We weren’t even supposed to be sailing on that day at that time. Due to an unplanned string of events, we were there and may have saved that man’s life. I have to believe that happened for a reason. 

A driving controlling fear

Mom is a good driver. I usually feel safe when she is in control. My dad likes to drive really fast. He says that we don’t have to wear our seat belts. I feel safer when it is on especially when we go over bumps and my head almost touches the roof. Bumps always make the seat belt tighter around my waist and I have to take it off to loosen it. I think that my dad learned to drive from Aunt Grace, except she drives really slow and goes through the stop signs. 

When mom drives she has to be careful. If she puts Mark and Luke next to each other they like to laugh and do funny things while she is driving, like open the door. The day it happened she wasn’t being careful. She put Matt in the seat behind her and she was wearing a ponytail. Matt likes to pull hair, sometimes very hard. I worry that Matt might pull her hair so hard that her head will go back and we will go off the road.  I am sitting in the back with Matt. Matt starts pulling mom’s hair. Gentle tugs. 

Matt pulls mom’s hair. It is loud in the car. Tug, pull. It is hot, the windows are open. It is loud. Tug, pull. Cars are coming down off of the highway. It is hot! Mom drives through a red light. It is loud, hot, a long ponytail of hair!  Mom keeps honking her horn. Loud, loud! Cars slam on their brakes and swerve. 

My little brothers giggle and can’t wait to tell everyone that mom ran a red light. “Did I just run a red light?” asks mom. “Oh my gosh, I could have killed someone.” Mom is upset and pulls the car into an empty parking lot. Matt is upset and runs away towards traffic. Good thing mom was able to catch him before he reaches the busy street. Mom is a good driver. Mom needs control. I need control. 

Fear tires

A strange car pulls into the driveway. Inside an elderly man and a woman about my mom’s age. The car is shiny and new. The man drives. Matt is afraid of the tires. Mom says it is her old college roommate. Matt screams and kicks the tires. The man and woman stare out the window at us. Matt screams and throws gravel at the car. Mom tells them that her life has changed and it would be best if they leave. Matt is uncontrollable. The strange car backs out of the driveway, never to return. Mom cries for a long time. 

Losing my best friends

I lived in one of “those” houses. You know the one. It was a house that a lot of my friends weren’t allowed to go to but I was always welcome at their house. I was invited into the popular group for a little while but that didn’t work out too well for me. I had an issue with conforming to narrow and limiting group norms AND I lived in one of “those” houses. I did have a best friend in high school I will name Shelly. Her parents only let her leave the house to go to school and to walk down to the store to buy them cigarettes. My second best friend was Mary and she was one of 13 kids in her house. Her parents didn’t seem to notice if she was home or not. So this worked!

When Shelly was 17, she was allowed to come over to my house once. She got home an hour late that day. By the time I took her home, the police were there because her parents listed her as a runaway. Shelly was one of those quiet girls that never got into trouble. When she turned 18, she moved in with us. My mom didn’t charge her rent because she didn’t have a job. She did have to help clean the house, which was no easy task because my parents are practically hoarders. At 19, Shelly got married and I was her maid of honor. 

Shelly was having a hard time finding a job right out of high school. My mom got her a job as Matt’s teachers aide. After 3 years of being “kicked out of school” for his violent and aggressive behavior, Matt was transitioned back in. He still was angry and would lash out if forced to do schoolwork. At this time, I was going to college and was roommates with Mary. I was soon to meet my future husband who lived in the apartment below mine. 

Over time, Matt was still having issues in school. He kept attacking Shelly and pulled her hair. Matt’s teacher convinced Shelly to press charges against Matt because he didn’t have any consequences for his behavior. The next time Matt attacked Shelly at school, she called the police. The police came to the school and arrested Matt with the charge of assault. At this time, I was engaged to Paul. My mother was devastated as she picked Matt up from the police station. I was torn between my best friend and my family. Mary was torn between Shelly and I. It was a big, fricken mess. 

After several months of legal issues, Matt was found incompetent to face the charges brought against him and they were dropped. He has the mind of a 7 year old. He does not read or write. He can’t do simple math. I lost my 2 best friends. They didn’t come to my wedding. That is why, parents, you should not have your child’s friends be caregivers! It was a very hard time for me. I haven’t talked to Shelly in almost 2 decades and Mary for at least a decade. People sometimes ask me if I have any friends from high school. Did you just drift apart over time? Yes, it was something like that.