Is it normal?

I imagined the way it would be in my mind. Thick heavy intricate snowflakes dropped with a plop on the cold empty ground. There were horses with jingling bells pulling a sleigh behind it. Hot chocolate stirred with a candy cane. It’s a picture of us trying to find that perfect tree. Even the boy with the face tattoo is there. He is the one taking the family picture of us finding that perfect tree. A ray of radiant light shines through the snow on the right one. We are all smiling and happy.

It wasn’t that way at all. It was raining and the kids had other plans. Paul ran out to the closest tree lot by himself and picked out the tree. But it was that way once. The problem is that I still expect it to be that way now. I spent some time that afternoon crying curled up in my bed playing lullabies that I once played for my babies. Is that normal?? I am off my rocker, literally and figuratively this time.

Is any of this normal?? Paul and I have been struggling lately with this very concept. This will be the last Christmas break that our whole family will be together. Angel is not planning on coming home after college this year. Alex will be graduating (hopefully) this spring and moving on. Arabella is still seriously interested in becoming a foreign exchange student.

I put a lot of time into this whole motherhood thing, and now my kids don’t need me anymore. Who am I now? I am excited to have time to myself to do the things I always wanted to do. But I never thought that the letting go process would be so painful.

Our son is really struggling right now. Although he is 18, we still have boundaries and rules because he is living in our house. We have been asking ourselves if his behavior is within the realm of normal. It was hard to let go of our firstborn, but she was heading off to college and we knew that she would be okay. We feel unsure about the future of our son.

There are really only two scenarios. Our son is completely normal. Then the problem is with us. We need to let him go even if he has to fall on his face a few times. He has to figure things out for himself. We need to let him go even if his future isn’t what we planned on it being.

The second scenario is a bit more troubling. What if he has mental health issues? Then I think it is our job as his parents to make sure that he gets the help he needs. But he is an adult. Is it our job to try to fix him?

Would you try to save someone from drowning if you knew that they knew how to swim??

I think that our son is normal. But what is normal? People have been asking us if he is depressed. I don’t think so. But I’m not sure. I want answers. I want to be guaranteed that he will be okay.

Letting go of a kid to go to college is normal. It is painful, but you are also happy that they somehow became fully functional adults with you as their parents.

But what happens if you think they are not ready yet?

This has been my struggle lately. I probably won’t get all the answers I’m searching for. Plus it doesn’t help that I have unrealistic expectations in my head of how I expect things to be…the way they once were, but no longer are.

Is any of this normal?

Ancestry vs DNA

A couple months back I shared my AncestryDNA results.

I was frustrated with it because all of my genealogy records compiled by my great aunt pre-internet, and even the research I did myself, did not match the DNA results like I was expecting. The genealogy records showed a strong German heritage, the DNA results did not.

It was very confusing for me because my records did not match the DNA results. Which records were right then??

Without really realizing it, I had identified with my German roots. After all, I was called a stubborn German by relatives. It’s no wonder why I enjoy German beer and sauerkraut. My grandpa and great aunt spoke to me with German words. Strangers remarked how German I look.

Then when the DNA results came back with 10% German, I felt like I lost part of my identity. It was part of who I thought I was. It was the connection that I had with my grandparents. They are long gone and I am not even me anymore. I lost all interest in genealogy at that point.

Then a couple of weeks back, I received an email from Ancestry stating that my DNA results have been updated. Apparently now I am mostly Germanic European. They were even able to pinpoint the region in Germany from my genealogy records. What??!? How confusing is that?

The good news is that now my records match. Otherwise who would I believe? Science or a long line of family tradition and record keeping?? I was really doubting the family records. There were a lot more questions than answers.

Maybe I’ll dive back into genealogy again. It has been about 10 years since I started digging for my roots online. I bet a lot has changed since then with the information that is available. It would make for a great hobby on a cold winter’s night.

 

 

Fortune cookie wisdom #15

Sometimes…money costs too much.

Money…along with sex, religion, and politics are the topics I was taught not to talk about.

Money…how can it cost too much??

I think greed costs too much. If you spend your life chasing the almighty dollar at the expense of having close relationships with others, in my opinion the price is too steep.

But wait, aren’t all rich people greedy?? Absolutely not! Greed can take the hearts of the rich and poor alike. There are a lot of rich people that do wonderful things with their money. If you don’t have money, you could be generous with your time.

But, doesn’t money buy happiness? It certainly can make your misery a lot more comfortable. My husband always said that the only ones he hears say that money doesn’t buy happiness are poor. It’s unusual because he has lived his life at both ends of the money spectrum. It gives a different perspective.

Paul is the type of guy that if we go on vacation, he spends a lot of time talking to the servers or staff. He can relate to almost everyone. Neither one of us feels comfortable being served. We like to clean our own house, mow our own lawn, and pull our own weeds.

I think we all tend to get used to our mode of living. If our fortune changes in either direction, it can be rather shocking.

For us, there is always the ‘can’t afford’ warning bell going off in our heads. It’s strange to live in a big house. Our electric bill this last month cost more than our mortgage on our old house. The more you have, the more everything costs.

I grew up middle class. I had a rich uncle that paid for my college tuition. My aunt told me to never tell anyone that he was paying for my college. There seemed to be a certain hush hush involved in having money. Like it’s some big shame to work hard and be successful.

In fact if people talk about how much money they are earning or how rich they are, I mistrust them. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But how come we don’t feel that way when someone tells us how broke they are?

I admit, though, I am jealous of a few rich friends that don’t have to work. It must be really nice to be able to devote all of your time to your hobbies. Maybe it would get old, boring, or be unfulfilling. I tell myself that often while I am at work on a beautiful summer day.

Although I’ve lived in my dream house almost two months now, I posted zero pictures on Facebook. I’ve told only the people that I’ve had to. I live a very secretive life and I like it that way. Money makes me feel very uncomfortable. It doesn’t fit. It’s a huge adjustment from the way we grew up and how we have been living up to the point of selling our business.

It has always been us and them. Now we are not us anymore, we are them. How would you act? I don’t want people that liked me to love or hate me. I don’t want to be treated differently. I just want things to stay the same, but they’re not. So I tend not to talk about it even though it is part of my story now. I’m afraid to be honest with you about money because it has been so ingrained in me that it is taboo. But who really cares?? There are people out there smarter, richer, and better looking than me. That is okay, I guess.

I think most people know where other people are at even if we don’t talk about it. Even if you never posted about money, I could guess where you are at just by the things you post about.

But, isn’t money the root of all evil? It depends on how you use it. There is a lot of weight on the little piece of paper that doesn’t grow on trees. And sometimes it costs too much…

 

What’s in my genes

You may remember a couple months back when I told you that my son took the AncestryDNA test…He found out that he was only 7% German and I concluded that he probably wasn’t my son.

After all, my genealogy records put me at approximately 75% German…Mecklenberg…Bremen…Pommern…Germany…Germany…Germany!

People comment all the time that I look German. I love beer and sauerkraut.

Imagine my surprise when my results came back as 10% German. Really??

I am almost a three way tie of British, Eastern European (Polish, Czech…), and Scandinavian.

I am also more confused than ever. Could my genealogy records be inaccurate? It seems like all the research I did was a waste of time.

I knew I was English and EE, but had no clue about the Scandinavian.

Several years back someone asked me if I was Swedish. I laughed it off and said I was German. How did they know?

I was so pumped to dig into genealogy again. I wanted to learn the language of my forefathers. I wanted to travel to the land of my heritage. I wanted to dig up dirt and find my roots. But now I totally lost interest. Things don’t mesh up.

I hate it when one plus one doesn’t equal two!

Something appears to be rotten in the state of Denmark.

I used to know so much before I had so much knowledge.

Now everyone wants to take the DNA test. My mom took it and she has a large percentage of Scandinavian too. I know where I got it from, but where did she get it from??

It does change the way I think about things…I didn’t think it would. Do some of the things I like just reflect who I thought I was?

It’s not a bad thing, just different from what I was expecting.

I thought I would find confirmation, but instead I have more questions..

 

 

 

Fortune cookie wisdom #2

Blessed is he who makes his companions laugh.

I absolutely love this fortune cookie.

Growing up there wasn’t a lot of room in our house for happiness or laughter.

I was so serious, I rarely cracked a smile or a joke.

My youngest brother Luke was the household comedian. He would do outrageous things to try to make us laugh.

Then over time, Luke changed and so did I. Luke is now the serious one and I am the comedian. I don’t know when we exchanged the baton. I can’t explain it. How do roles change? Can the childhood caretaker become the adult mascot??

Did we just fill the roles that we needed to to survive? To function in dysfunction?

Now can we be who we really are? Who are we really? Are we who we were then or who we are now? Or is it a mixture of both?

Now when I get together with friends and family, I play the part of comedian. I love making people laugh. Life is too short to be serious all of the time.

I try to mix some of my serious blog posts with a pinch of laughter. There is nothing like adding a dose of humor to topics relating to death, despair, and disaster. It makes for some interesting post tags. Hmmm…death and humor?? Really now?

What is wrong with Alissa? I think she has a warped mind. I can hear your voices in my head already.

I don’t even know what genre I’m blogging in. Personal?? And everything else outside and in between. Real life? Your guess is as good as mine. You never know what you’re going to find.

I love following blogs that are able to mix seriousness with humor. It’s really difficult to master and even more difficult to consistently find in writings. They don’t seem to naturally mesh.

Why does it have to be one or the other?? Life is a mixed bag of sunshine, rain (blizzards), laughter, and tears. Most of the time the opposing spectrum cannot cross the center line. Tears from laughter. Sunshine and rain. Both are rare to find combined. Maybe that’s what makes a rainbow so beautifully profound yet elusive to capture. It is mysteriously bent outside of its natural boundaries like the top and bottom ends of the bell curve.

All of these deep thoughts over a fortune cookie about laughter…Geez…It’s not even funny..

 

What’s in your genes?

Last week my son’s Ancestry DNA results came back.

It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. In fact, I don’t think he is my son.

Well, that might be taking it a little far…

My son is only 7% German. According to my genealogy records, I should be at least 75% German. In fact, just last week someone commented to me out of the blue how German I look. My husband even said that he doesn’t know anyone that looks more German than I do. That was before my son got his results back. Now I’m not so sure anymore..

My son is 27% Polish which definitely comes from Paul. He is also 10% Italian which was also a bit of a shocker. I am going to say that Paul is Italian. Both Alex and Paul look a little Italian to me. Plus Paul loves Italian food, music, and wine. My records do not indicate that I am Italian.

Of course, my curiosity got the better of me and I ordered 4 more Ancestry DNA tests for each member of my family. It was the only online shopping I did while trapped inside 3 days during the blizzard. You should be proud of me! Lol. I was tempted to order the ‘how to speak German’ kit and buy plane tickets, but hey maybe I’m not even German.

Now here is the big kicker…My son is almost 50% British. I didn’t know that my husband was British. My genealogy records indicate a small percentage of British blood.

Last year Paul’s mother passed away. He never knew who his father was. His mother told him some very limited details about the identity of his real father. One thing she said was that his dad’s last name was Wilson. The Ancestry DNA results matched my son up with an unknown 2nd cousin with the last name Wilson.

I’ve opened Pandora’s box. Should I reach out and contact this unknown cousin? I asked Paul what his thoughts were. He doesn’t care either way. Is there more to gain or to lose?? I honestly don’t know. What are your thoughts?? I have been tossing this around in my brain a lot lately…especially since soon this Wilson guy is going to be seeing 3 more close relatives that he probably had no idea existed.

I started digging around in my family tree to try to find my British link. I found 2 separate lines going back to England both with the last name of Wilson. Then it hit me. Oh my gosh, could my husband and I be related?? Is that why my son is so British?? What have I gotten myself into now??

I can tell you one thing, this has really renewed my interest in genealogy.

 

 

 

Moving on, part 1

Last time I shared how my feet swept the ocean floor. It was pretty raw, but not at all pretty. Today the pendulum is going to swing in the opposite direction.

Both the deepest lows and the highest highs are hard to talk about. People just don’t do it, unless they are writing a novel about the life of someone else. It somehow seems too personal.

But to talk of everyday life is boring. It is like a flat line on a bell curve. Today I did a load of laundry, ran the dishwasher, and went to work…blah, blah, blah…Nobody wants to be flat lining!

I learned a long time ago not to care what others thought of me. Having a severely mentally ill brother and an obese father that is known to walk out to get the mail in his underwear would do that to you.

Seriously, I would’ve been soooo screwed if I was sensitive enough to care what people thought of me. Instead, I do what I want whether people like it or not.

This thinking opened the door to new adventures. Literally!

In two months, I will be moving into my dream house.

Who could’ve guessed that the business my husband started and I helped him build would be such a success? We struggled to make ends meet for so many of our early years. We almost bit the dust with the recession. Then we slowly earned enough money to start remodeling our modest little house. And now after selling the business (but still working there) we are starting our life over.

He is having an identity crisis now, my husband. What happens when you accomplish more than you set out to achieve? Should he start another business? Would we, as workaholics, end up destroying ourselves when there is nothing left to build? Should we retire early? How could we sit still and do nothing? Should we start new careers?

My husband always thought of himself as the underdog, scraping and scrapping to get by. Who is he now??

People are stopping by our new house just out of curiosity and showing pictures to all of their friends. Remember that boy who didn’t have a dad that we thought wouldn’t amount to much?? People are talking. Rumors are spreading like wildfire. People are asking…How much are the taxes?…Are you going to clean your own house?…Why would you want such a big house when your kids are ready to leave??…They swarm around us with a buzz of questions like busy bees.

I’ve always wanted a swimming pool. When I left home, my parents bought an outdoor swimming pool for Matt’s therapy. What??!? When I begged them for one, they always said ‘no’. I could swim in the lake up north. It always made me feel a little hurt. But in our climate, we can only use an outdoor pool for about 2 to 3 months of the year. It doesn’t seem worth it. My parents haven’t even used their pool in years.

My dream house has an indoor pool in a room that is probably the size of my current house. It is an older house, but full of character and charm. It has hardwood floors, wood burning fireplaces, and a big yard for my dog to run around in. My kids will each have their own bedrooms.

At least people cannot say that I married my husband for his money. He didn’t even have the proverbial pot to piss in when I met him.

I married a boy that spent his earliest year growing up in the projects in the inner city of Chicago. When I met him, he didn’t own a house. He didn’t have any money in the bank. He owned a rusty old Chevrolet. That’s about it. He had a mediocre dead end job. He wasn’t going to have an inheritance. He didn’t have a father and had no clue how to be one. He didn’t have any siblings. He didn’t know how a husband should act. His mother wasn’t the type to offer help.

He had nothing and knew nothing about family life. But he had this dream to start a business. It was a big risk, but it paid off.

I am really excited to start this new adventure.

I’m ready to move on…

 

 

 

 

Dark doors

The other day my son asked me why he is so dark.

Immediately I said that it was a part of his personality. Maybe it is something that you could work on. Oh my, did he get that from me??

Then he said, “Not my personality mom, my skin.”

That was a few days after he took the Ancestry DNA test. I told him that we would find out soon. I also heard that the test could match you up with long lost relatives or maybe famous people.

Famous people? Then I got to thinking some more.

Why are my oldest two kids freakishly talented at music? This past weekend my son made it to state as a junior for his graduate level solo and ensemble piece along with 2 other pieces. My daughter was involved in a big singing competition, made it to a difficult level, and earned the opportunity to sing for a big opera star. She was invited to compete at an event in Boston. So far they are the only sibling duo to receive perfect scores at state for music in their high school.

There aren’t any professional musicians in the family. No one had a garage band. Not even one music teacher. Just a haphazard bunch that played an instrument for awhile or sang in the church choir.

Was it because of the early childhood piano lessons? The family involvement in community theater?

This got me thinking some more…

Maybe Paul’s real father is Jim Morrison from The Doors. It makes sense. It was the 60’s and Morrison was alive back then. So it has some face validity. Talking about his face, my son does resemble him a little. They have the exact same scowl.

But, if Paul’s dad is a rock star…why did his mother fail to mention that? This is where my theory gets a little tricky.

I guess we’ll have to wait for the Ancestry DNA results to come back.

What if we find out who Paul’s father is? What do we do with that information? Maybe Paul has siblings? Or a hefty inheritance that no one has claimed?

Or maybe we are cracking open the door to Pandora’s box.

 

Thailand, parting thoughts

This is going to be my last post about Thailand…parting thoughts…general observations and comparisons..

Really, though, comparing the culture in Thailand to that of the US is like comparing apples to oranges. We are all fruity in different ways. Seriously though…there are so many ways that I wish we were more like Thailand, and other ways I am glad we are not..

I had a hard time with the young Thai girls with braces in the clubs. Technically, there is no pimp in prostitution there. If a customer would like to borrow a girl for awhile, he needs to pay the club owner a ‘fee’ to take an employee from their work shift. It bothered me to see young girls in this position.

In America I think most prostitutes would fall into the category of drug addict or runaway. In their culture, they view it as a girl (or lady boy) providing a service. A lot of these young folks take the money they make and send it home to support their families. I could never accept money from my children that was made in that way, but I also was never in a position that I had to.

Our tour guide gives some of his paycheck to his elderly father. The father spends a lot of the money on the lottery. Again, that would not fly in America.

The Thai people also think that putting a parent in a nursing home is a big no-no. The Thai people are very family oriented. Divorce is not common. There seems to be a cohesion of the family unit that is quite lacking in America.

The people dressed and acted very similarly to one another. The school children wore uniforms. The men and women dressed very plainly and modestly by our standards. Most wore monochromatic light colored clothes, not bright clothing with wording. They didn’t have dyed or crazy hairstyles. The women didn’t have tattoos nor shaved hair. They didn’t have gauges or seem big on piercings. Even the prostitutes looked very similar to each other. In America, we take individuality to the extreme.

The culture is very peaceful and relaxed. The people are not at all rude, hurried, or unfriendly. I suppose it is a little easier to deal with life if you strongly believe in karma or that someone you don’t like will come back in the next life as an insect. I personally think that Christians could learn a lot from the Buddhists in how to get along with each other. Here we squabble and fight over ever little issue. How are we going to handle an eternity in heaven together?

The people of Thailand did not generally beg for money. They took pride in bargaining and selling their wares at the market.

In Thailand, if people talk negatively about the king, they could face incarceration. I love the freedom of speech. But, geez, don’t Americans take it too far sometimes?? All we hear is fighting about religion, politics, and practically everything really. There is no respect anymore for someone that has a different opinion and yet we tout ourselves as being tolerant. We try to teach our children to respect authority, yet we dis people left and right. Enough already.

I think all schoolchildren should see what life it like in another country. Heck, maybe everyone should travel. Not only did I get the opportunity to see another culture, but I got the chance to see my own beliefs and culture differently. It enriched my thinking. I learned something about someone else and myself in the process.

Some of the things I thought were important really don’t seem all that important anymore. I don’t even care if the toilet paper faces up or down anymore. I am now happy to have toilet paper. I have a new appreciation of western bathrooms, even the crappiest ones.

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The restrooms in Thailand were quite different from ours. The hotel rooms had a regular toilet with what looked like a kitchen hose sprayer next to it. How were we even supposed to use it? We were a day into the tour when I experienced the first bathroom without toilet paper. I started carrying some around with me after that.

This was a public bathroom that we stopped at. I really didn’t even know what I was supposed to do. Plus there wasn’t any soap to wash your hands with. The public school bathroom was very similar. The western bathrooms there were tiny in comparison to ours. We had to pay at times to use the restroom. One of the perks of paying for the bathroom at the floating market was free internet. Seriously? The bathroom wasn’t wonderful enough that I wanted to hang around for the internet.

What a fascinating place and culture. I’m sad that our journey has come to an end. But I have a lot of pictures, all 750 of them, to remind me of our travels.

Who I was..who I am..

Is distrust bad? Why does it have such a negative connotation?

When I was about 12, I went on a trip to South Dakota with my Aunt Grace, mom, dad, and one of my brothers. Aunt Grace wanted to go there for a church conference. Although she didn’t have hotel reservations, she had my dad as a driver. We loaded all 5 of us into her little 2 door Cutlass and we were on our way.

There wasn’t a hotel room to be found in the city of the conference. But I don’t think it mattered as Grace only stayed long enough to pick up her registration bag from what I remember.

I saw an ad for an indoor water park. I begged my Aunt Grace to allow us to go. I’d never been to a water park before. Aunt Grace said ‘yes’. So once again we loaded up the car and my dad drove 2 hours to get to the water park. I could barely contain my excitement as I grabbed my swimming suit and ran indoors. We took a tour of the water park. I saw kids climbing on ropes, going down slides, and swimming in the water. I couldn’t wait to get in the water.

After the tour, Aunt Grace said that it was time to go. Wait! What??

There was restaurant across the street from the water park that she wanted to go to. I refused to eat. I wanted to go to the water park!  I begged my mom to convince Aunt Grace, but she refused. Aunt Grace is paying for the trip so we will do what she wants. I was angry, frustrated, and started to cry. Aunt Grace yelled at me for being an ungrateful child. She wouldn’t stop so I told her to shut up which to her was like screaming obscenities. She never liked me after that day..

I don’t look back on this in anger. I really don’t think that Aunt Grace even intended to be cruel. In her mind, I think she believed that she was gracious enough to take me to the water park.

I learned a few valuable lessons on that day..

First, never trust anything that anybody says. Second, don’t trust anyone until they prove to be trustworthy. Third, don’t get too excited about things that might never happen.

If I trust you, it is the highest honor I could give you.

Do you think that distrust is a negative quality to have?

I would argue that someone needs to question, doubt, test, discern, and protect oneself and others from blindly trusting. I am that person.

My childhood was difficult…and my adult years have been easy in comparison. There is a part of me that feels if I let go of my past, then I will give up my grit and toughness that came from it which makes me who I am. I am afraid of that..I am afraid of losing who I was..who I am..