The real up north

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This past weekend we traveled to the farthest northern point of Wisconsin.

If you aren’t familiar with our state, we are located in the northern mid-west of the United States. We are surrounded by bodies of water on each border of our state, except our southern border which has Illinois. To the west, we have the Mississippi River. To the north, Lake Superior. To the east, Lake Michigan. With so many lakes, it is a wonderful place for fishing, sailing, and water sports of any kind. The diehards even go fishing on the lake’s ice on the coldest days of winter.

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Most of our population lives near our biggest cities of Madison, Milwaukee, and Green Bay. It takes approximately 8 hours to drive from the southern most point to the northern and 5 hours from the farthest west to the east. A lot of our lakes are practically deserted…peaceful, serene, and quiet.

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Wisconsinners are very hardy folk by nature. We have to be to survive our winters. We are known for the Green Bay Packers, the Great Lakes, brats, and beer. Unfortunately, we are also known for being one of the drunkest states hosting some of the drunkest cities in the nation, if not world. Drinking is a huge part of our culture.

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The far northern portion of our state has a lot of wildlife not related to drinking. I captured a picture of Paul fishing. But in doing so, I may have gotten a little too close to an otter den. I was chased down in the water by hissing otters. I can’t say that ever happened to me before. We also saw deer that were too numerous to count. This part of our state tends to get the largest snowfalls and coolest temperatures.

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I love taking pictures of our state’s beauty. The northernmost part of our state is rugged and wild with the lowest population.

On the way home, we stopped for brunch at what was rumored the best restaurant in the county. It was almost a 2 hour wait, so we decided to skip brunch and headed towards home. It took us over an hour to find another restaurant. Was it the only restaurant in the county?? Gas stations and restaurants are scarce. But even rarer is good cell reception. You might be in trouble if you run out of gas on a snowy winter night without cell reception. Even the highway traffic is minimal. I think we saw more deer than cars.

But I would have to say, even though I’ve been to many beautiful places, that Wisconsin is still on the top of the list. I wanted to share that beauty with you.

The pharmacist

When he got expelled for selling drugs in middle school, his mother said that he had aspirations of becoming a pharmacist. 

I saw his mother this past weekend. I don’t know if she noticed me. Maybe she pretended she did not, like I did with her. In all honesty, I feel disgust towards her mixed with a strong dose of pity.

Looking back, maybe I shouldn’t have allowed my kids to have sleepovers. But I still fondly remember childhood sleepovers…popcorn and movies…staying up all night…laughter and friendship. Why would I take that from my kids for no good reason?

Did she know back then that her son was the pharmacist??

He seemed so smooth, so friendly. Almost too nice, too charming. He always used terms like Mr. and Mrs., please and thank you. Is being too polite now a warning sign?

Who would’ve guessed? For the record, Paul always had a bad feeling about the boy. But he was so young then, only 12, when he dragged the neighborhood boys off the straight and narrow down a deep dark path.

He left them somewhere along the way and kept going…deeper, narrower, darker…DMT, heroin…pills, needles, pipes…I heard he is in juvie now.

Sometimes, when it first begins, it’s hard to see the sole’s first tread off the path.

I didn’t know why he left school at the beginning of the school year. He went on ‘vacation’ for a couple of weeks after leaving. Something about going to visit a relative out of state, but his mother stayed home. Then he started homeschooling because his mother did not like the school anymore. Then there were the Saturday morning community service projects. The warning bells rang like sirens in my head.

I felt angry with his mother for not telling us what was really going on. But is it her fault her son is the way he is? Did she know what was happening in her own house?? Was it already too late when she found out?

Eventually, the neighborhood moms found out what was happening. Their boys were banned from seeing the pharmacist early in the path. But what happened while we were at work?? He only lived a couple houses down. It was a hard time. Teenagers sometimes need as much supervision as toddlers.

Could it have been prevented? We already made sure we had conversations with the parents before allowing our children over for sleepovers.

Keep vigilant when things seem off.

Don’t tell yourself that the empty Benadryl wrappers you found were from your child treating allergies when you don’t carry those pills in the house. You will second guess yourself at first especially when you are not ready to face the truth. Don’t tell yourself, he is only 13.

Then start hoping and praying that your child did not enter a path that they have a hard time finding their way back from.

The internet is a double edged sword. It’s sickening how much info is out there for kids who want to experiment. But on the flip side it can also be a great resource to parents, like me, who have no clue.

Keep talking, eventually the truth comes out. When the truth comes out, don’t expect it to be pretty. Whatever you do, don’t act out of anger towards your teen if they tell the truth no matter how hard it is to hear.

And don’t expect an apology from the mother. Expect to hear that her son has aspirations of becoming a pharmacist.

 

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.

The party saga continues..

Yesterday Arabella started driver’s ed at her new school. I planned on having Angel drop her off and pick her up, but Angel forgot to pick Arabella up. I found myself irritated once again.

We were short staffed at work and I was the only one in the office in the afternoon to pick up calls. I was already leaving for a late lunch to take Arabella to her dentist appointment. I told Arabella that she was going to have to walk the couple miles home.

Then she started to text and call me. I hate Angel. My side hurts. I’m going to pass out because I didn’t drink any water today. There were 20 kids in my class and everyone ignored me. I’m never going to make friends here. This is all your fault! You don’t know how tiring it is to walk in this heat. No, as a marathon runner, I’ve never experienced that. Geez! I told Arabella that I needed to get back to work so I could leave for her appointment.

When I got home to pick Arabella up for the dentist, the pool guy was there. The hot tub hasn’t been working since we bought the house. The pool guy wanted to talk to me about what the problem was. He said that we would need a new pump. He wasn’t even sure if they make those kind of pumps anymore since our equipment is older.

Out of the blue, the pool guy started talking about wearing a hat while working. I’m in a bit of a hurry… Are you squeamish? I said no out of curiosity, but I really meant yes. He took off his hat and showed me a big bloody gash on his head. He hit his head hard while at my house. Do you think I need stitches? I have a bit of a headache, but most of the bleeding stopped. I have to go right now.

I ran off to look for my daughter. Was she even home? We were running late..

Did you offer him something to drink? A washcloth perhaps? A bandage? An ice pack? No, I just freaked out and ran off.

**I wanted to show you the pictures of the balcony that overlooks the pool. The water under the ledge is around 5 ft deep. Just in case you happen to see the videos floating around online of people jumping off the ledge…**

Angel felt horrible about having the party. She said she didn’t have any fun. She shouldn’t have let her friend walk all over her and invite all those strangers into our house. She never got into trouble before. Way to end her last few days as a teenager.

 

Yesterday was a long Monday. Angel came home last night very distraught. Arabella told her that we were going to take her car away from her and kick her out of the house. She spent the day at her boyfriend’s crying. Of course, none of it was true although I may have mentioned that I wanted to do that.

I should’ve known it was going to be a rough weekend when I started it out by stepping in a big pile of dog crap. I feel like I have been dragging it around with me for days.

The party uninvited

I knew that it happened. I won’t tell you how, I just knew.

I was angry, a feeling that hasn’t been fleeting lately.

I thought that once my teens became adults that I would be done with all of the crap. But now I find myself looking for babysitters, who btw were always in short supply in the first place.

Babysitters for adults? Laughable, almost.

I flipped through some parenting magazines. Did you ever notice that they stop giving advice right before children hit puberty? You know, the time when most parents really start needing advice.

I long for the days when sleeping through the night was my biggest concern. Scratch that, how I long to sleep through the night. It’s something I rarely do anymore.

I am worn down. It’s funny how parenting three teenagers can do that to you. I used to resent parents of teenagers before when my kids were little. They were always minimizing my problems…little kids, little problems…big kids, big problems.. Now I understand. If only I could capture the middle childhood years in a bottle like an expensive vintage wine. Those were the best years. I could rest easily back then.

Parents of children ages 6 to 11, enjoy it. Those are the best years. They are some of the busiest years too. Cut back. Don’t run your kids to this sport and that practice every single night of the week. Yes, now I am that obnoxious person giving advice.

Guess what? Sometimes I feel like the world’s worst parent. I felt that way this past weekend. Sometimes I want to end it all. I just want to kick my adult children out of my house. I want to cut them off completely and let them try to live on their own without the help of mommy and daddy. Maybe then they would wake up and I would finally sleep.

I probably never will do this (unless they are still living at home in their late 20’s), although at times I want to. When do you cut the cord? Do you ever really cut the cord? They are all still teenagers.

This past weekend, my daughter Arabella and I went up north. Arabella did not want to go up north with me, but at 15 I told her she was too young to stay alone. We actually had a nice time. Until I found out about the party, that is…

My daughter Angel stayed home Friday night last minute. When I left she had a college friend over (that had been staying a couple days since it was a long drive) and her boyfriend Dan. She also said that another couple might be stopping by for awhile. Okay, no problem. She is almost 20 and I trust her. Big mistake that was.

We just moved into a beautiful new house. Everything is perfect, except for one major flaw. There is a balcony that overlooks the pool that seems to have a magnetic force that strongly attracts idiots of all sorts. I have now heard of at least 4 people that jumped off of the second floor balcony into the pool. Apparently this is a social media event worthy of recording. But one misstep could turn it into a fatal flaw.

Angel invited one more friend over on Friday night. This friend found out that a) we have an indoor pool which is super cool, and b) Angel’s parents weren’t home. This ‘friend’ invited 25 of her friends over. These friends showed up in droves with cigarettes and drunk on cheap beer.

Angel got a little sick of it after awhile. Kids were showing up steadily at the door all night. It became unmanageable. Angel hollered out that the neighbors called the cops and everyone left to victimize the next house. Although nothing was broken or stolen, I do feel violated. She may have not intended for our home to be the site of a wild underage drinking party, but it was.

I am not going to be too harsh on her since this is the first time that she really got in deep water. Frankly, I thought that her brother would be the first one to do this. Maybe some good did come of it. It is forcing us to come up with some new strict house rules.

In the meantime, I am wondering how to place a wanted ad for a nanny for adult children.

I wonder what kind of advice the parenting magazine would give me.

Moral dilemma 5

It happened at a college party the weekend before finals. She thought he was a friend when he invited her in his room to tell her something he didn’t want anyone to overhear. They knew each other for almost two years. She trusted him.

Maybe I was at home saying my prayers for her continued safety as I was going to bed that night. Her roommate walked in looking for her as she struggled to get away. She left the party crying, her trust broken.

The party continued on…He had another secret to share in his room. This girl had too much to drink and wasn’t feeling that well. He gave her something to make her feel better…Xanax. This time he was smarter. He found a way to lock the door. She wasn’t able to fight him off. She couldn’t get away..

My daughter asked…why her and not me? I can’t believe he would do something like this. He was my friend..

She couldn’t concentrate on finals. She just wanted to go home. She felt so sad. She found it hard to trust again. She told her professor who called the campus police.

She told us that she didn’t want to tell the police about the other girl. She thought it would be too painful and wanted to protect the girl. Plus she wasn’t there when it happened. We argued. You are not protecting her by not speaking up, you are protecting him. What if he does this again? After my daughter escaped, he drugged and assaulted a girl. He needs to pay for what he did, even if he was a nice guy before all of this happened.

Thankfully the police found out about both incidents after all of the interviews. It is so terrifying that it could’ve been my daughter.

This is why I worry all of the time…

 

Moral dilemma 4

This past weekend my son celebrated his 18th birthday. I was probably naive in thinking that absolutely everything was going to go smoothly after his friend sleepover Friday night went pretty well.

Recently my daughter Angel started dating her brother’s friend Dan. It’s complicated because Angel and Dan graduated from high school together and were friends until Angel’s ex boyfriend put the ax to all of her male friends.

Then Dan and Alex started hanging out. They played a song together for solo and ensemble years back. They built a computer together. Alex rode motorcycle with Dan. But then Dan stopped coming over to hang out with Alex.

I was hoping with Dan and Angel dating that they would all be friends. I was hoping for once in their lives that Alex and Angel would get along. But….Alex feels like he lost a friend. Dan is siding with Angel. It started a whole new war in my house.

That takes us back to Saturday night, Alex’s birthday.

Meanwhile, Paul and Arabella sailed to Door County to see a music festival for Father’s Day weekend. The weather was volatile and they had to dodge between storms to get there. It was supposed to be in the 90’s all weekend, but it barely made it up to the 70’s Friday and Saturday. No one on the cruise had proper clothing for the weather.

I made the mistake of inviting Dan and Angel to go to the festival with Alex, his girlfriend, and I. We were going to head up after Angel was done with work. Alex, his girlfriend, and I were going to attend a graduation party until then. It was on the way to the graduation party that Alex told me that he really had a problem with his sister dating his friend. He didn’t want them to go with later in the day.

Now I felt really bad because I asked Angel to come with. Dan was coming to our house after Angel was done working and we would all leave together from there.

Since it was Alex’s birthday and he felt hurt about the relationship, I had to call Angel to tell her that she should not come along with Dan. I felt really torn about making that decision. I don’t like making choices where I have to side with one of my kids. It was awful!

We were at the graduation party when Angel got done with work. Alex and his girlfriend were tubing and I was riding on the boat. It was too noisy to call her so we had to communicate via text which was awful. Maybe you shouldn’t go. It’s your brother’s birthday and he is upset that you are dating his friend.

Alex, his girlfriend, and I met up with Paul and Arabella at the music festival without them. Angel was very upset with me because I invited her and then uninvited her. She sent me texts the whole evening about feeling excluded from the family.

When we got there, it was getting pretty cold out but I had extra warm clothes on the sailboat. What I didn’t realize was that Arabella did not pack any warm clothing and she was wearing mine. I was freezing.

I was also under the misconception that the music festival was outdoors like a fairgrounds where you can listen to music and buy concessions. It was not the case. We walked around to find that later in the day the music was in the bars. You had to pay a $10 cover charge to get in. Everyone hanging out in and around the bars was drunk. It was not what I expected at all.

I didn’t feel comfortable taking Alex’s girlfriend in the bars with us. The whole thing was awful, not what we were expecting at all. So we turned around and drove back home after we found something to eat.

Alex’s birthday was a real dud. Angel was angry with me. Dan felt like we didn’t like or accept him. A lot of it was my fault for having too high of expectations…that the weather would be nice, that the festival would be nice, that my children would magically get along by my daughter dating my son’s friend.

I suppose it could be worse…I have a couple of friends whose moms married their sisters husbands. From what I heard, that really didn’t turn out well.

I always thought it would be nice to be friends with someone that my sibling is dating…

Given some time, maybe Alex will get used to it.

 

 

Fortune cookie wisdom #9

The sky seems small if it is looked at from the bottom of the well.

Well, that’s deep!

Life is a matter of perspective.

Where did you start?

Do you see things as they really are?

Do you see things like I do?

Was your view obstructed by the wall of the well that surrounds you?

Do you live in murky waters that make the blue sky seem gray?

Even the clearest of waters can distort and refract our reflection.

Maybe the well is dry but you can only see the things around you with tunnel vision.

Does the sky matter? Or are you only concerned with what you are surrounded by?

What do I see when I look down at you? Only a poor reflection of myself?

I shouldn’t judge your views if you see things from a different angle.

I wonder…How did you get inside the well in the first place?

Were you born that way?

Did something push you over the edge?

Did you fall into it unexpectedly?

Are you trying to hide from your demons behind the cool dark walls?

Were you seeking satiation and got trapped in the drink?

What if you need help?

If you are at the bottom of a well, perhaps you have bigger concerns than the size of the sky.

It’s too bad, the sky it a beautiful baby blue today without a cloud.

 

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.