Luke’s visit, part 8

Over the past year, both Mark and Luke quit drinking. I was a little worried about Mark a couple summers back. One morning he started drinking at the cabin before most of the family woke up. Luke was always a drinker. He knew everything there was to know about beer. Luke was also the comedian. He’s not funny anymore. It’s strange that I felt some sadness at the loss of his role. He always made us laugh which made going through hard times easier.

Luke was upset that our parents did not seem to want to hear what he had to say to them. He told them that he needed to talk to them for him. It wasn’t about him being emotionally supportive for them anymore. He needed this for him to heal. He quit being the comedian not all that long ago. But making us laugh made us feel better, not him.

Luke stripped himself of all coping mechanisms and dove right into the truth. He is relying on God to get him through this. Me, I like to dip my feet in the water and keep my coping mechanisms nearby. Maybe I’m okay with the lies I tell myself until I am ready to face the truth. What is wrong with that?

Mark played the part of the invisible middle child. He had an important role too. He was the one who advocated for my dad when my mom packed up the car with her stuff and was ready to leave. He kept the family together.

I played the part of the caregiver/counselor. I was always the ultra responsible first born. This has been my role since I can remember. I think it is going to be hard for me once my kids all leave home. I cared for my autistic brother Matt since I was a little kid. I still was his caregiver after my children were born up until he started acting violent towards them. Then I had my own family to care for.

Luke asked my husband how I cope. Paul told him that running helps me cope and it does. I don’t drink to cope. I could never let anything control me. But is that really true? I like to work and keep busy at all times. Perhaps that controls me since I can’t ever seem to relax. But how can working be a bad thing? What if my coping mechanisms aren’t unhealthy? Who can I hurt by having a clean house, etc?

I like to write about my experiences. But on the days when I write about the most difficult times, I feel very depressed. Paul said that although writing seems good for me, maybe I need a counselor. But I stubbornly resist the notion of anyone helping me with anything. I don’t want help. I don’t think I need it right now. I want to work through this on my own.

I will be okay. I am healing. But it is not always a beautiful process.

Wine versus exercise in the long run…

Most of you know me as a thoughtful, serious, worried, borderline depressed individual that has had a difficult past. You would be correct. But I’d like to think I have a sense of humor that balances everything out.

It is the weather, people. Yesterday I ventured out and several random strangers stopped me and asked me when spring is coming. Did they think that I know?? I haven’t had any birds trying to nest in my blonde straw like hair yet, so it might be awhile. I didn’t mention my bad grade in the 8 AM college meteorology class though.

I just looked at the weather forecast for this weekend. We are expecting another foot of snow/ice. I’m going to jump off of a cliff. I had to say that out loud and my cliff diving son gave me suggestions of where to go.

Anyway…I saw a funny plaque a few weeks back that I bought for the bar (remember I live in WI) in my new house. It read and I quote…

Exercise makes you look better naked. So does alcohol. Your choice.

Nice, huh? I was thinking of hanging it up next to my medal display. But, wouldn’t that be tacky??

I’ve seen some debate online lately about exercise and wine drinking for longevity.

A new study says that drinking wine is better for longevity than exercise. Of course I had to make a comment…We’ll see who lives longer. Wait! How will you know I am right?

I didn’t bother reading the stupid article. But my question is this…Where do you draw the line??

How much exercise? How much wine??

Last month I went to a party and my best friend asked a doctor friend if running a marathon was healthy. She said that the jury was still out on that one. Talk about safe answer! As most of you know, I signed up for my 4th marathon. I said I would quit after the first one.

Wait! Does that sound like a problem??

How much wine? A glass a day…a bottle a day?? I know people that do both. Again, where is the line?

I have friends that run marathons and are alcoholics. Will they live forever??

Sometimes I wonder if I should say something about their drinking. Now maybe I should say something about their running too. Honey, the exercise is going to kill you long before the drinking ever will.

I think that most people my age (40’s) truly know almost everything there is to know about themselves. They have had enough time to contemplate their lives. At this stage in the game, I am well aware of my strengths and weaknesses. Most of my friends are probably aware that they drink (or exercise) too much. Is it my place to remind them of that every time I see them? What a buzz kill I would be at the post marathon party.

One of my biggest weaknesses (and strengths) is my critical eye. I love to solve problems. I want to fix things that are broken, i.e. people. I want to be in control over the domain beyond my person. I have a natural tendency to nag, complain, and nit pick. I have no problem providing that service to the people closest to me in my life. But most of the time I find myself biting my tongue. Who am I to play God??

Think about it, you probably don’t need me telling you what you suck at. You probably already know.

I know that some of you think I am crazy for running hours at a time. But running actually makes me feel less crazy.. If you’ve never run a marathon, I don’t think I could explain it to you. If you have, you know. Sometimes physical pain provides a release for emotional pain. It clears the troubled mind.

I have nothing against drinking in moderation (because that is what I do). But I don’t exercise in moderation. I’m even thinking of doing an ultra race which is longer than a marathon.

Is that healthy? Or is it a problem??

We’ll see who lives longer.

 

 

A little green

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Yes, I am Irish. I even know the name of my ancestors that came over from Ireland.

I love corned beef and cabbage, but apparently that is not how the Irish celebrate the holiday according to some WP friends that live there. I even heard that St. Patrick is not a real saint. But I am not here to talk about Irish culture because I haven’t a clue. I know how the people in Wisconsin celebrate. Most people wear green and get drunk. Kind of like a Packer game, but in March. Except this year St. Patrick’s Day fell on a Saturday calling out every drunk, moderate, and light drinker.

First of all, over half of America’s most drunkest cities are in my state. There probably would be more if we had more cities. I live near one of the top 5 drunkest cities in America. I might go as far as to say that I live near one of the drunkest cities in the world…a fact I am not proud of, but it is what it is.

I saw something on Facebook the other day about state motto’s. Ours was something like, ‘It’s too cold to be sober’. Here I sit on the first day of spring and our high temps are not going to be above the freezing point.

This year my friend Lisa was in town for St. Patrick’s Day. Our mutual friend Cori invited me out. I kind of had a hankering for corned beef and cabbage with green beer, so I said yes. We haven’t had the chance to get together for 6 months since Lisa moved away. Apparently, Cori and Lisa started celebrating before going out. Then Lisa said she had a tall margarita on the ride there.

Cori told the waitress that when she saw her finger up she was supposed to bring over 2 beers. It seemed like her finger was up about every 15 minutes. Cori told me that she was worried about her adult son. He drinks too much and has blackouts.

The one thing I respect about Cori is that she never drives drunk. She has been bringing her daughter out with her since she got her driver’s license. This is where I have the moral dilemma. Cori told me this past weekend that she created several fake ID’s to get her daughter into bars. Her daughter doesn’t drink. She drives people home that should never get behind the wheel of a car.

I am torn. I am totally against the whole fake ID thing, having someone in high school hang out at bars…What kind of example is that?? But I am for a safe ride home. It’s not like an Uber is easy to get.

I didn’t stay out late that night. I left before things got too crazy. There was a creepy older man dressed in black that kept coming around checking out the women on the dance floor. A woman tapped my arm and said, “You are beautiful” three times. She was young and had green hair. A wig? For a fleeting moment, I felt happy to hear the words spoken by a stranger that were never spoken by my father. I want to be beautiful forever. I grip onto her words vainly as time slips them back through my fingers. I am afraid to get old. The creepy man’s finger nail scratches my back as he steals by.

As I was leaving the parking lot, I saw the creepy old man leave with the nice girl with green hair. Did they arrive together? I feel sad. Is this her life? Why didn’t I say something kind back?

Late the next morning, I had some errands to run with my daughter. Less than a mile from home, we almost got hit by a drunk driver…probably still drunk from the night before. She swerved from the ditch into our lane…slowly weaving in and out as we pulled aside and watched her parade through.

That is St. Patrick’s Day in Wisconsin.

 

Wanted, a few good friends…

Do you ever wish there was an online ‘dating’ site to find friends?  
My wanted ad would go something like this: Looking for a married woman in her upper 30’s to lower 40’s with at least two fairly well behaved children. Must be athletic and adventurous. Must like long walks on the beach. Must not have a fear of water. Must be a thinker who likes deep conversation/debate yet not too serious. Must have a sense of humor. Please no one that drinks, brags, or talks too much. Must be honest with a good personality and morals. Must be a runner, send picture of running shoes or medals.

That is what my ad would be like.

I have been having some problems finding a few good friends. The fish that have been in the sea lately have been rather disappointing.

Yesterday I went out with my friends for my birthday, or should I say that I went out with my friend and her husband. I invited 4 couples. 

The first couple I am not even sure why I am friends with. We have been friends for a decade now. I keep them at arms length. I might even want to break things off. A few weeks ago, someone I know asked me why I was friends with her. She has a tendency to get drunk, be verbally abusive towards her husband, and cheat. I wouldn’t want my husband to hang out with a guy version of her. I had a hard time answering why we were friends. Honestly, I don’t even like her that much. She has gotten in trouble with friends for hitting on their husbands. Believe it or not, she does have a few redeeming qualities. She is fine when she is sober, which isn’t very often. Maybe we should break up?

The second couple I asked were friends for over ten years as well. At one time, I thought we were best friends. We even planned to go on vacation together a couple years ago. I think that is the point where our friendship started falling apart. They asked us on vacation, then ended up canceling out before we really started planning. They decided to remodel their house instead and could no longer afford to go. After that I think they felt ackward around us. Then her mom got cancer. With her mom, four kids, and work she didn’t have any extra time. 

They were on vacation over my daughter’s grad party. They were flying back the day of and said they might stop by which they never did. While they were on vacation, they received a call at 5 AM. The message stated that there was a family emergency and to call the hospital upon receipt. (I can worry about that now because stuff like that really happens). Her mom had a massive heart attack. She keeps saying that we will get together sometime, but sometime never seems to come. Our friendship is falling apart. 

Then there is Lisa. I planned on running a 5k to celebrate my birthday, followed by sailing to the beach, and an evening of dancing at a local festival. 

Lisa stayed out drinking all night the evening before. When she got to my house in the morning, she said that she didn’t sleep and was probably still drunk. At bar time they were so drunk that they ended up walking back to her house. Everyone walked except for her friend and another friend’s boyfriend. It took them a half an hour to walk to her house and another hour after that for the two friends in the van to arrive. The driver claimed that he got lost. Meanwhile the passenger was unconscious in the back seat. It took them 40 minutes to wake her up. It wasn’t the first time she drank that much. Then the girlfriend accused her boyfriend (in the van with another woman) of cheating which ended in a breakup. Honestly, that is not the kind of excitement I want in my life! 

Lisa ended up running the race with me, then cancelled out of the rest of my birthday celebration. I am so disappointed. Maybe I should ax all of these people out of my life for good. Just stop responding to their invitations. Even if we have been friends forever doesn’t mean we always have to be.

The last couple was Cindy and Ted. Cindy is not a runner, but after the race they made us a huge breakfast. Then they spent the afternoon with Paul and I sailing to the beach. We had a great time swimming, sailing, and chatting. They said that they would do whatever I wanted for my birthday. We never did make it out to the festival. The weather was hot and stormy. To be frank, I was tired anyway. They are great friends, the kind that are hard to come by.

It is harder to find friends when you are a couple. The guys have to hit it off along with the girls. It doesn’t work if I end up getting along with the husband better than the wife. Or if I like the wife, but the husbands don’t mesh. Or if I like the wife, but dislike the guy she is with. There are so many dynamics.  

I tried to brush off my disappointment with Lisa. I considered her to be a best friend. Now she is nothing more than an acquaintance to me. Cindy moved up and took her place. 

Do you rank your friends like I do? 

We have tried to make friends with other couples. 

We invited another couple to supper but they cancelled out when the food was on the table because they ended up getting a better invitation. You’re out!

Or the people that we invited over that never reciprocated. One sided friendships suck. You’re out!!

Or the other couple we thought could be friends that kept cancelling out last minute. We rescheduled multiple times to have them cancel over and over again for no good reason. You’re out!

None of those friendships ended up going anywhere. 

It is really hard to find good friends. 

But how do you find new ones that are of high quality? 

Maybe I should take out a wanted ad.

Wanted, a few good friends….

Living in a drunken state

I really think it is time for an intervention. 

I have been doing some research on you, Wisconsin. I think I live in a drunken state. Out of 50 states, we rank number 6 as a top drinking state. We rank first in binge drinking. There is a bar closer to our house than a church. Drinking is a huge part of our culture. If you are trying to quit drinking, this is not the state you want to be in. Everything is tied to drinking here with the exception of school events. I suspect that more parents would attend school events if alcohol was served. I have even seen alcohol served at church events over various denominations. 

Last week I spoke a little about briefly getting into a drinking crowd. I don’t have a problem with people out having a fun time drinking responsibly. It is the binge drinking that I don’t like. I have seen it wreck too many lives. 

When I was 17, my friend’s parents were gone for the weekend and I stayed at her house. We decided to mix whatever liquor we could find in her parents cabinet. It was the most disgusting concoction ever, but I drank some of it. I remember giggling a lot and my legs didn’t seem to work right. We invited some friends over to play a game of truth or dare which resulted in a goldfish being eaten. Before our friends arrived, a squad car parked in front of my friend’s house. We thought her parents made good on their threats of having someone keep an eye on her. My friend hid me in the storage closet off of her parents bedroom. I remember tripping over a large roasting pan and falling down in a dark closet full of junk. Turns out she just lived on a main road in a small town. That was really my first experience with drinking.  

Skip ahead a couple of years later when I was 21. Right after I met my future husband, I was on a dart league with him and a few others at the local bar. I was single, but at the time I didn’t realize that within a few weeks I wouldn’t be. A man across the bar started buying me shots. I thought it would be rude to not drink them. Then he offered me a ride home because I was in no shape to drive. What a ploy! Fortunately, since we lived in the same apartment building, Paul was my ride home. The room was spinning all night. I spent the night puking and was too sick to make it to class the next day. I felt out of control of my body and it was scary feeling that way. I decided since it was self-inflicted that I would not get notes from the class I missed. I ended up doing really bad on the next test. I decided that I was never going to drink that much again and haven’t. Even when it meant leaving behind “free” drinks.

Turning 21 is a rite of passage here. It is encouraged to get really sticking drunk on that day. Even the first drunk driving offense is a traffic violation. We see billboards advertising alcohol next to signs that tell us how many drunk driving deaths occurred during the year. Newspapers advertise liquor next to public service ads cautioning drinking.

Last week I found out why the police were at my son’s ex-friend’s house. The local paper mentioned an intoxicated boy having a physical altercation with his parents on our road. Although this boy started taking his friends down the wrong path, I can’t help feeling sorry for him. His old friends are no longer allowed to hang out with him. While my son and his friends are enjoying the nice weather outside, this kid is locked inside of addiction at a young age.

We have already spoken to our teens telling them that if they ever need a ride home that we will pick them up anytime no questions asked. I don’t want my teens out drinking, but I would rather have them call me then get into a car with a drunk. I don’t know too many people that had their first drink at 21. 

I have known people that died and killed others from drunk driving. My friend’s dad spent years in prison for vehicular homicide while intoxicated. He missed his daughter’s graduation and wedding. He went right back to drinking after prison. One morning he arrived at her house drunk. He hopped into her car with her while she was taking her kids to school. After dropping her kids off, he became belligerent and refused to leave her car. She had to call the police on him outside of her kids school. He had to go back to jail. She was heartbroken.

I also heard of a story of a friend of a friend that was trying to get pregnant. She was a couple of days late, but decided to take a pregnancy test after going out. That night she got wasted enough to get kicked out of the bar. She passed out in the back seat of her friend’s car. The next day she found out she was pregnant. A couple of days later she had a miscarriage. Maybe she thought that it was early enough that a night of binge drinking wouldn’t matter, but it did. 

I had another friend that went out drinking a few weeks before she got married. A group of us were sitting in the living room when she went in the other room with her fiancé.  We heard a scuffling, then we heard a fight. My friend’s fiancé hit her that night. The next day, she wasn’t sure what to do. The wedding was planned and coming up fast. Her fiancé was so drunk that he could not remember hitting her the night before. They got married anyway.

Binge drinking and domestic violence are not as rare as you might think. Just ask anyone around here what they think the chances of fights are after a day of binge drinking and a Packer loss. 

The stories go on and on. Domestic violence, cheating, divorce, cirrhosis, getting fired at work, drunk driving, incarceration, and even death. I’ve seen all of these things happen in this state. It is the dark side of our drinking culture. That is why I don’t like binge drinking. Nothing good ever comes out of it even though it is portrayed as being so much fun. I’m thankful that my parents were not alcoholics like half of my friends parents were/are. In response to growing up with alcoholic parents, some of my friends decided not to drink. Others tend to struggle.

I am glad we had this little talk. I know it is not going to change things, that is just the way our culture is. Maybe you will have a better understanding of life in our drunken state.