The language of love

Many years ago, I read a book about love languages. The basic premise was that people give and receive love in 5 major ways:

  1. Quality time.
  2. Acts of service.
  3. Gifts.
  4. Words of affirmation.
  5. Physical touch.

I wrote my love language in the order I like to receive love. It’s complicated though and sometimes I wonder if I unconsciously avoid receiving love.

For example, quality time is the number one way to show me love. However, even though I am currently not employed, I have a long list of things I need to get done every day. I am not the type of person who will drop everything to sit and talk to you. In fact, that rather annoys me to be interrupted while I am in the middle of something.

I leave the ringer off on my phone. I avoid answering calls. I will only answer texts between tasks. One might ask if I really enjoy quality time. If you catch me early in the morning while I am having my coffee or late at night when my chores are done I will gladly spend time with you.

Let’s talk about my second love language, acts of service. This is also complicated. I never ask people for help. If people jump in and help me, it bothers me if they do it wrong (i.e. not my way). I also hate to sit and watch someone else do my job. If you do your job then I feel like it is really not an act of service for me. Again, I am refusing to be loved.

I prefer to show people I care about them by doing acts of service. I would gladly work my fingers to the bone to show people I love them in this way. But no one in my house really feels loved in that way. It’s frustrating.

My husband is a words of affirmation guy. I am horrible at this. It’s pathetic really. I have been blogging for 4 years now. Unless I am on vacation, I have consistently wrote at least once a week since then. I don’t seem to run out of things to write about, but somehow can’t think of any encouraging things to say to him.

My husband’s mother was great at encouraging words. His mother really didn’t have much to offer. She was an uneducated single teenage mother who struggled to make ends meet. Yet she told him he could do anything he put his mind to.

I, on the other hand, struggle with affirming words to say. I am the ‘good job’ type of person, not the “I’m so proud of you for building a successful business out of nothing” type of encouraging.

It doesn’t come naturally. Encouraging words seem in-genuine. You see, I’m not really sure that you can do anything you put your mind to. I feel like I am lying when I say what his mother said. If I say something nice, you can bet I really mean it though. It’s easier for me to say something encouraging after the fact. A ‘wow you did it’ is a lot easier than an “I know you can do it” because like you, I worry you can’t.

Maybe it really doesn’t matter how we give or receive love as long as we make the effort to speak each other’s language.

 

Amongst the weeds

I wouldn’t say that I am the overly jealous type, not about material things anyway. The biggest thing that causes me jealousy is relationships.

I felt jealous when your parents moved up from a southern state just to be closer to you. I should have been happy for you, but sadly that was not the feeling it triggered.

The last time I saw my parents together, they were fighting. My dad went almost a year without showering when my mother said she couldn’t take it anymore. Now she said that he must shower once a week or there will be consequences. On that day, my mom and I went somewhere. When we got back, my mom asked my dad if he showered yet like he was a small child. He did not and she yelled that he better hurry or he would be in trouble. I would never ask them for marriage advice.

My dad did not attend Alex’s graduation. He did go up north with the rest of the family (not including us). He sat around all weekend in his underwear. This bothered my SIL Carla greatly and she complained about him. Carla and my brother Mark helped clean out my parents shed. Carla said now that it is cleaned out a little, they can fill it with more crap. Or maybe they can buy another car. Carla said she would love to buy a hearse for my dad. It was funny, yet it was not.

I felt jealous when your brother told me he was going to move closer to home to help you and your husband raise your first child. I know your family will be there for you anytime you needed them. I could probably count on one hand how many times we were able to get away when our kids were little because we didn’t have anyone to help us.

I had to schedule my 3rd C-section to be in the hospital over the weekend so my husband could watch our other kids. He just started his business and had to work on the day our last child was born. After he came back from working a few hours, my mom dropped off our other two children at the hospital because my brother Matt had an appointment. Matt always came first, even on the day I gave birth.

I found someone else with demons. We hold each other’s hands as we walk through our own hell fires. Paul is the only person I can count on and I trust he will be there until he can’t be. We’ve had to rely on each other.

Paul never had a dad. His mom had a brief marriage when Paul was little, but she left her husband because she said he was abusive. Martha did remarry after Paul grew up and left home.

Paul did not have one single person from his family to invite to our son’s graduation, unless you count his step-dad. His step-dad Darryl attended but brought a new girlfriend that we met for the first time that day. Darryl has moved on with his life. Paul shared his grief over the thought that his mother will no longer be remembered. He is an orphan. His whole family is gone.

Paul grew up with a great void. I grew up in an environment of dysfunction and abuse. We had to rely on ourselves to survive. It gave us grit and strength beyond belief. But there was no one to turn to when we needed help or advice.

It’s tremendously hard to create a healthy family without having a firm foundation to build our house upon. You may envy our fierce drive and independence, but behind it lies brokenness, emptiness, and pain. Maybe you envy our financial success, our big house, and attractiveness. But I’ll tell you what. We both would give everything we have in exchange for a healthy family of origin.

It’s amazing that we survived and thrived as beautiful flowers among the weeds in which we were planted.

 

 

Trauma drama

Last night I was having a debate with Arabella. She said she believes that everyone experiences traumatic childhoods.

What??

So I gave her a scenario. Girl A spent her childhood as an incest victim. Girl B’s most traumatic experience was that she didn’t get what she wanted for Christmas one year.

I asked her if both girls experienced a traumatic childhood. Arabella responded that they both did. I couldn’t believe it. Then she further stated that my childhood was no more traumatic than her own. I felt offended by her comments and am hoping that her viewpoint will change once she matures.

Arabella asked me if I knew anyone with a perfect childhood. I responded “yes” that I believe my sister-in-law Emily had a perfect childhood. Both my brother and I have flashbacks and at times PTSD from our childhood. It has been very painful dealing with this far into adulthood. Emily has been trying her hardest to help my brother through the pain he is experiencing.

The other day I told my husband Paul that maybe he is better equipped to help me than Emily is to help Luke because his childhood was less than perfect. He disagreed claiming that he has his own demons and voids to fill from his own childhood. He said that someone with a firm foundation is better equipped to help someone who is struggling.

Paul grew up without ever knowing his father. His mother was a teenage high school dropout when she had him. She was willing to work, but struggled financially due to her lack of education. She wasn’t very bright, and although she tried couldn’t earn her GED. We also suspect that his mom was mentally ill. She had a lot of symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

Paul’s mother Martha was never a boring person. Sometimes she was a lot of fun to be around. She was exciting and when she loved you she made you feel like you were on the top of the world. There was a time when I was absolutely wonderful and I could do nothing wrong. She made me feel special, important, and loved. In those times, she was a very positive and encouraging mother to Paul. She told him he could do anything he put his mind to.

But there were times that I couldn’t do anything right. Everything was my fault. I was a horrible person. At times she was paranoid. She accused me a taking her boots and leaving a pair of boots that were just like hers but weren’t. She would scream and kick us out of her house. Nothing was ever her fault. Someone else was always to blame. She didn’t lose her job because she was always late, it was because someone was out to get her.

She couldn’t handle watching all of our kids if we wanted to get away for a weekend. She called the oldest two kids demons and our youngest an angel one of the few times she watched them. My son locked himself in the bathroom on the last day until we picked them up. Even her one on one time with the grandchildren turned into big fights. She got into huge arguments with everyone she was close to, then the next time she saw you acted like nothing happened at all.

Martha could convince anyone that she should be the mother of the year. She said things that weren’t true, but were absolutely believable because she believed them. I could go on and on. I don’t believe that Martha was a bad mother. She was just mentally ill. In some ways that makes it so much easier to understand and accept. As you can see, Paul has his own baggage. How can he help me? We tend to stumble along down this path together.

Paul and I did the best we could to be the best parents we could be with what we were given. We didn’t get a lot of help and support with our children and at times felt like we needed to care for our parents.

Paul said that Emily is better equipped to help her spouse through hard times because she has a good foundation to lean back on. Being able to relate is overrated. He convinced me and I changed my mind. Now if I could only convince Arabella and change her mind.

De-roling

My daughter Arabella said something interesting the other day. Yesterday I told you that I found a new friend from the theater who is also a runner. Arabella said she didn’t know if she liked my new friend or if it was just her character that liked her. Interesting! My daughter was the maid of my new friend in the show. They had a really close stage relationship.

It really got me to think about acting. The last two shows I’ve had stage husbands. I am absolutely in love with both guys, although I would probably never date them if I was single.

This past show, I was in a romantic scene with my stage husband. We were supposed to kiss. But since I am married, the kiss on the lips turned into a kiss on the cheek. How was I supposed to muster up feelings for a complete stranger that I wasn’t remotely interested in and make it look convincing? I had to pretend to be in love with someone I wasn’t in love with.

My husband also had roles where his character was married to another woman. He was married to one woman on stage twice. It really didn’t bother me all that much. But there was another woman he was married to where we ended up stepping down from our roles. This woman was completely gaga about my husband and rubbed it in my face while I played the part of their maid. It didn’t work out well at all. Later she ended up leaving her husband for someone she was in a show with at the theater.

Surprisingly, these things happen in a community theater. Rumor has it that in a previous show a stage husband and wife slept together although they were both married to other people. I could probably write a play about all of the things that happen backstage and call it fiction because no one would ever believe half the stuff was true.

It is strange that while working with someone very closely on stage, you get to know them very quickly. I built relationships within a few weeks that otherwise would take me years to build. I had to feel comfortable working with my stage husbands if I was going to pull it off.

I’ve also had parts in the last two shows where I had to hit people on stage. This past show I had to hit my stage husband. The show previous to that, I had to hit my stage child. I really don’t feel comfortable hitting people, even more so people I don’t know. We really had to work together as a team to make it seem natural because in real life it wasn’t.

But some of the best shows I’ve been in I have had parts where I was married to my husband on stage. We’ve had people ask of if we were married to each other after the shows because if we weren’t we would no longer be married. Being married on stage and off is so much easier to pull off.

Then just like that, the show is over. Do I really like that person I was supposed to be in love with? Or was it just the role I was playing? Reality blurs a bit. I find myself forming friendships with people that I probably wouldn’t otherwise associate with. People of all ages and backgrounds come together for the common goal of putting on a good show.

I have been in enough shows now to know what to expect. As I’ve dealt with the anxiety and excitement of being on stage, I’ve also dealt with the sadness when it is over. For a short period of time, we become family. Then the family falls apart.

The cast members are making plans to get together again. But it won’t be the same. I am just glad for the experience and the friends I’ve made along the way. It’s time to say good-bye to my character, one of my all time favorites. It’s time to de-role until the next show.

I find it interesting with all of the time spent building a character, no one mentions once how to tear it back down and let go. Sometimes that can be more difficult. It makes me wonder how professional actors are able to do it. From all of the tabloids, I see that it doesn’t always work out well for them either.

 

Leaving tonight?

I thought that things would be a little less crazy this week, but I was wrong.

My son was trying to sell something online for us and almost got scammed. A person sent my son a check for over the asking price for the object and told him to take it to the bank right away.  He did because the bank was closing soon and he didn’t know what to do. Then the person was going to have his “moving person” swing by and pick up the object along with the extra money for moving the item to another state. It seemed a little fishy, but everything happened so fast that I didn’t stop my son.

When Paul heard about it later, he worried it was some sort of money laundering scheme. He dug around online and found out it was a scam. The scammer sends a legitimate looking check for over the price and tells the person to give the money to the mover who is stopping by to pick it up. The person who picks it up steals the item and the money then the check bounces. Our item was scheduled to be picked up the day we are leaving for vacation.

Yesterday morning, I went to the bank and expressed my concerns about the check being fraudulent. Upon closer examination, the bank also thought it was a scam. Unfortunately, when the check bounces my son’s account with be charged. I feel bad that I didn’t stop my son from putting the check into his account. We both thought something wasn’t right but ignored it because they were pressing my son to cash it before the bank closed the night before. It really didn’t give me enough time to think.

It just started the day out bad yesterday. But it didn’t end there. Someone pulled out in front of me and I skidded on the ice almost hitting them. The roads here are still horrible. Last Monday we got a foot of snow. Then we had 4 days of temps in the double digits below zero, followed by an ice storm, followed by more cold weather so the salt didn’t melt the ice.

Oh, it gets better. Then my husband went to the dental hygienist and she refused to treat him because his blood pressure was too high. Yesterday Paul had several meetings with key clients to try to save accounts. After I lost my position at the company we previously owned, clients got a little skittish with all of the changes. The meetings were stressful for Paul and he was running late to his appointment. His blood pressure was 185/107. They told him he needed to see his doctor immediately.

Paul had appointments all day, but kept monitoring his BP. His BP has been borderline high for years. By the end of the day, his BP was still high and the nurse said to take him to the ER since he also had a slight headache. Off to the ER we went. I was paranoid by all of the illnesses we were exposed to last night. If I didn’t think my husband could wind up dead during the night from a stroke, I wouldn’t have risked it. Ah, the things we do for love.

We spent the evening with Paul in a hospital bed, in a gown with an IV in his arm watching the state of the union address. The nurse came in and jokingly said that the SOTU was giving her high blood pressure. Even though no fight ensured about politics, Paul’s BP was still high when we left so they gave him medication. We left to drive home through another snow storm. Big snowflakes and sleet pattered against the windows, but we made it home safely. I certainly did not want to go back to the ER.

This morning there was 4 inches of snow over glare ice. Arabella fell on her way out to the car for school. It’s just nasty out there. Paul spent hours plowing everyone out. Then tonight we are expecting freezing rain followed by another 6 inches of snow. Paul and I are planning on flying out early tomorrow morning for a sailing vacation in the British Virgin Islands with friends. I hope we can leave.

I will be taking some time off of blogging. You are probably sick of my whining and complaining anyway. When I get back, I will write a travel series about the trip and lighten things up a little. I try to do that after things get a little heavy. Then I will be back at it again.

Well, I better get packing.

Goal 7: Finish strong with parenting and be an enjoyable life partner.

Winter has finally arrived in Wisconsin. Yesterday we received a foot of snow and the next two days we will have wind chill warnings of 35 to 50 below zero. Maybe I will be able to dust off my cross country skis after all.

It has been hard to work out lately. Not only has it been impossible to exercise outside, it has been hard to get to the gym.

Yesterday school was cancelled. Today the kids had school. Some are already cancelling for tomorrow. The roads have been treacherous, but we carry on because this is where we live.

The final countdown is on. Alex has less than 4 months now until graduation. He passed all of his classes and signed up to go to tech school this fall. I have been very excited about the positive changes but there have been a few slip ups. Alex still is consistently late for school. It hasn’t been easier since we moved further away. Plus the weather has been bad and last week he had car trouble. I think a lot of his problems would be solved if he just got up 10 minutes earlier.

Arabella is no better when it comes to timeliness. Angel always had to be 10 minutes early which caused a lot of fighting among the siblings when she drove the kids to school. As a parent, sometimes you just can’t win.

Next year we are planning on hosting a foreign exchange student. Then for her senior year, Arabella wants to be a foreign exchange student. We would love to visit her and watch her graduate in a foreign country.

But after this parenting gig is all over, Paul and I will be on our own too. We weren’t even married for a year before our first baby came along. I want to be the life partner that is enjoyable to be with. Right now it seems like all of our focus is on problem solving and dealing with all of the change in our life. We concern ourselves with the urgent but not necessarily the most important.

Life is always a work in progress. My goal is to finish strong and keep working on my relationships. Instead of trying to change others, I need to change me. That has been a difficult realization to make. I need to be the change I want to see in the world. I can’t fix others.

Oh, and the next couple of days it will be colder here than in Antarctica. Maybe visiting all 7 continents wouldn’t be so bad after all. I am getting used to this now. I have to admit, it is very beautiful watching the swirling snow fall.

Time to update my bucket list and start working on my goals.

The cough

In the midst of everything else going on, last week my husband Paul went in for a CT scan.

My husband has had a chronic cough for years. He finally broke down and let me make him a doctor’s appointment. I was worried especially since his mother and an uncle both passed away from lung cancer last year. His mother and grandmother who lived with him smoked during his whole childhood. His mother smoked while pregnant with him. But it was the 1960’s, people smoked in libraries. Almost everyone smoked back then and no one thought much about it.

Then after Paul left home, his mother quit smoking and he started. He smoked for almost a decade. He was exposed to cigarette smoke in some shape or form for half of his life. He had close family members die of lung cancer. I was worried.

That day at the doctor’s office, they made him wear a mask because ‘cough’ was listed as his symptom. He glared at me in contempt and muttered muted garbled words of unhappiness through the mask. Look what you made me do! I am not even sick! The doctor set up a urine test and blood work along with an appointment for a CT scan several weeks later.

After the doctor appointment, we ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant. He received a fortune cookie that stated he would enjoy good health for a long time. See! I’m fine!!! It’s probably just allergies.

In the meantime, we worried. We worried more after I lost my job.

What if?? What if I have cancer like my mom?? How am I going to work? How are we going to make ends meet? How am I going to handle the lead part in the show if I have been given bad news the same day?

What are we going to do?? It took our minds to dark places…

The morning of the show, Paul left home early for the CT scan. A few hours later, we received the results. Everything was fine. No cancer! Praise God!

I’m just fine he said with a cough. May the fortune cookie be right. May he have good health for a long time.

This time another crisis was averted. I can’t bug him anymore about the cough, but I bet he will bug me about the doctor bill. Knowing that I did everything I could and having a peace of mind that everything is okay is money well spent.

 

 

 

Hell week

Last week I lost my job.

Last week Sunday hell week started with a nine hour practice at the theater.

We sold our business earlier this year and up to this point everything has stayed relatively the same. I wasn’t expecting this at all. I didn’t have time to prepare for this in any way. I didn’t have plans to quit working anytime soon.

Then last week happened. Paul and I found out a couple of days before corporate flew in. We met them out for coffee on a brisk chilly sunny morning. I didn’t want to meet them. I didn’t want the small talk about the weather. I wanted the day to never happen or be over before it began. I faced the day with dread. I had nightmares about it when I could actually sleep.

It was the hardest day I ever faced at work. I had to go to the office that morning and watch my staff get fired right before Christmas. They didn’t do anything wrong which made it harder. I felt like I betrayed them. They had to immediately pack up their belongings and leave. I didn’t have time to prepare for the pain of firing long time employees, people that I saw day in and day out for years. Employees that I talked to more than some of my family.

I understand why it happened logically. Corporate wanted to consolidate all of operations into one centralized office. It makes a lot of business sense, but it did not stop my tears from falling.

I have been doing this for over ten years now. I feel really lost like I am losing a part of who I am. Who am I? My job will be gone and my kids will be out of the house soon too.

I thought about my time here, building a business alongside my husband. I thought about the friends I’ve made throughout the years. I thought about the clients that I will miss. I thought of the conferences I attended, the files I stockpiled, the work relationships I built during the 15,000 hours I dedicated my life to this. I feel a great sense of grief, of loss. Maybe if I saw it coming months before it would’ve been easier to adjust?

I feel unsettled, anxious, and depressed. Paul and our sales staff will stay on. My department is closing. I am the only employee staying on to make the transition of our operations to the central office. By the end of the month, our office here will close and I will be out of a job.

I wish I could say that the transition has been seamless, but it hasn’t. The central office has a different way of running things than we do. It is neither right nor wrong, just different. This has upset some of our clients which has been upsetting to me. I don’t have any control over this. I wasn’t prepared, I wasn’t ready. I am trying to let it go and not let it bother me, but it is easier said than done.

I feel like I am getting a divorce. Paul and I spent half of our married life working together. But it isn’t over, Paul and I have plans in the future to start another business together. This all had to come to an end sometime, I just wasn’t ready for it to end now.

That night Paul and I went to hell week rehearsal like nothing happened. Paul has the lead part in the show. Could he do it? Could I go on stage and smile when I spent half of the day crying? Acting like everything was okay was one of the toughest performances we had to give. We couldn’t tell the cast before we were able to tell close friends and family.

Somehow we were able to pull it off, but last week certainly gave a new meaning for hell week.

Peace and joy

It has been a stressful week in the season of thankfulness. I was out and about yesterday and overheard people freaking out about the fast approach of the holiday season…and my sister is coming from CA and she is always judging my decisions… cooking… stress… family. It seems rather ironic that the things we are supposed to feel the most thankful for seems to stress us out the most…family…

I have been hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas since I was in my 20’s. I took the baton from my grandma after she was no longer able to. My brother Luke stepped in to help out several times over the years. Looking back I don’t know how we did it.

I always get depressed this time of year. It never fails. I don’t know if it is just a lack of sunlight or the added stress of the holiday season. But this is when it usually starts and pretty much lasts all winter into early spring. But I am a functional depressive. I get out of bed and get stuff done like I normally do.

I have been having a really hard time lately. Alex decided to skip school the day before Thanksgiving break. Although half of the school may have decided to do that, he can’t afford to with his failing grades. Alex read the student handbook and found a loophole that as an adult he can pre-excuse several of his absences. I received a call from the school saying that he intended to do that, so we stepped in and told Alex that if he skips school he would lose his car priviledges over break and won’t be allowed to have friends over.

He skipped school and now we have a battle on our hands. I told him that the boy with the face tattoo could not come over for Thanksgiving as originally planned or stay with us over break. The boy can eat his Thanksgiving dinner at the homeless shelter for all I care. I am angry. Never underestimate the rage of a peri-menopausal woman. Why that coincides with teenage boy angst I’ll never know. One minute I want to hold him close and the next minute I want to smash his crap with a baseball bat! Happy Thanksgiving, huh??

I am also stressed out because Paul went to the doctor this week. He needs to have some tests done. I am worried about his health. Maybe it is nothing, but what if it isn’t?? What if something happens to him?? I told him yesterday that I am unhappy because I have not experienced a lot of peace and joy in my life. But the few fleeting moments I have experienced have been with him. I started crying and then moments later started to yell at him. What a hormonal mess!

The stress of maybe losing a life partner is terrifying. I am probably worried about nothing, but that is what I do.

Add the stress of a wayward son and my husband possibly having health issues with feeling like I am getting sick, having family over tomorrow, trying to find time to cook, covering for an employee who took the week off, less hours of daylight, feeling depressed and tired, aging, my baby getting her temps, getting ready for the holiday season, extra play practices for the musical, a teen minor with a face tattoo always hanging around our house, and raging hormones…Whew!

I know, I know…I really should be counting my blessings! I have a lot of those too.

 

What now???

Sometimes life can be stressful. When I am not busy at work, raising teenagers, or slaying my demons…I try to relax.

Work requires me to make a lot of high level decisions that effect other people’s lives. Someday I will tell you about it all, but not today. Last Friday we had a new client do some work with us and he didn’t understand the whole process of what we do. So rather unexpectedly he conference called me and chewed me out saying that I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I’ve been doing what I’ve been doing for over a decade and he is a brand new client…and I don’t know what I’m doing??

After 30 minutes of trying to explain the process, which he wasn’t listening to, I was pissed off and wanted to tell him to take his business somewhere else. But I remained fairly cool and calm. I sent him an email with answers to frequently asked questions. But that still did not satisfy him.

I ended up sending him over to my husband Paul. Paul makes higher high level decisions and often deals with difficult clients, makes collection calls, and other stuff I couldn’t stomach doing. When the guy started to complain about me, Paul said that I am his operations manager and also his wife. Shut the guy right up.

Running a business together can be very stressful. Sometimes we have to make hard calls. I have lost a lot of faith in people. Sometimes it feels like it is us against the world. I think working together has made us closer as a couple. We make a great team both at home and at work. I can’t complain because we make an excellent living. But that doesn’t make it any less stressful.

Although most of the time I enjoy what I do, work is a big stressor in my life. I try to relax, usually unsuccessfully, over the weekend.

On Saturday morning I received a phone call from a parent of Alex’s friend saying that she wanted to come over with her husband and talk to us right away.

I could almost feel my ulcer burn. What now????