Spending my birthday with my (fake) dad

It was Paul’s fault really. I told him not to tell anyone that it was going to be my birthday, but he did anyway.

We needed to sail our boat back to her home port after some routine maintenance. We made plans to sail the boat back with Harv and Kate. It was meant to be a fun little trip until we heard about the high chance of severe weather. I was almost happy when Kate cancelled coming on the trip because of back problems. I probably mentioned this quite awhile back, but our good friends are in their upper 80’s. I was afraid if we hit stormy weather that Kate would get hurt as she is rather small and frail.

Harv asked if another buddy of his could go instead which was fine. I dragged myself out of bed at 5 AM on my birthday so we could try to make the trip before the storms hit. It was going to be an adventure everyone was up for. Harv and his buddy were probably sailing before I was born. Along with my husband, I thought there was no group of experienced sailors that I would rather risk a storm with. The weather was perfect that morning. It was warm with a brisk breeze. We caught the wind and were able to sail back with an hour and a half to spare before the storms hit.

We made it back to the marina at lunch time. Harv treated us to lunch. But that wasn’t all. He surprised me by making me a cake. Instead of frosting, he covered it with tapioca pudding. They sang happy birthday to me. Harv only put 8 candles on the cake so it was a little short. But they were trick candles. Every time I blew them out, they relit. After we enjoyed his cake, he pulled confetti poppers out of his bag. When you pulled on the string confetti would pop out. Harv and I had a confetti fight until there was confetti everywhere. We all laughed and had a good time.

Harv (and Paul) worked really hard to make my day special.

I felt happy that Harv took the time to think of me and make me a cake. But underneath it all was a whole mess of hurt and sadness. My own dad didn’t acknowledge my birthday in any way. He didn’t call or send a card. He never did. He never bought me a birthday gift much less bake me a box cake. In that one act of kindness, Harv was more of a dad towards me then my dad will ever be and that hurt.

I thanked Harv and gave him a hug. Harv’s friend joked and said that Kate would be jealous. I told him that I didn’t need another husband. I already have a wonderful husband. What I really needed was a dad. On that day, Harv was my fake dad and it really was a great birthday.

After Harv and his buddy left, the storms came rolling in. I always love a good (not damaging) storm. It’s the way my birthday is the majority of the time, stormy.

Gratitude week 81

  1. We made it across the bay back to our home port before the storm hit on my birthday.
  2. It seemed like absolutely everybody at the marina knew it was my birthday (even people I didn’t know). It’s probably the first time since I turned 40 that I am all birthdayed out. It was too much attention for this introvert.
  3. I met my son’s new girlfriend at my birthday party. She is really quiet and that is nice.
  4. Today I met my daughter Arabella’s new boyfriend. I did meet him briefly before when he came over at night and I was sleeping on the couch. I told him it was nice to finally meet him when I was dressed. Well that was awkward. I meant to say it was nice to meet him when I was awake (not sleeping on the couch in my pajamas).
  5. Summer!! After the storms on my birthday I couldn’t ask for better weather.
  6. I am planning Arabella’s graduation party. I am grateful to plan her party. As I looked at all of her pictures throughout the years I found myself really grateful that I am planning her graduation party and not a funeral. Worrying about death is one of the hardest parts of being a parent of a child with serious mental health issues. Graduating was a milestone worth celebrating, even if she is not heading to college like all of my friend’s kids.
  7. Over the weekend I went out to eat at the restaurant Arabella works at. I felt grateful that she has a job she really loves.
  8. I also went to a wedding show over the weekend with Angel, Dan, and his mom. I think within the next week or so we should have a date. I still cannot believe my daughter is getting married!
  9. Although I slept better on the sailboat, it is really wonderful to sleep in my own bed again.
  10. I am grateful for Angel’s birthday this week. We are planning massages and going out to eat at our favorite pizza place.

The sorrow of friends lost

Arabella lost almost all of her friends. She didn’t get invited to her best friend’s birthday party. Her best friend and another girl would still hang out with her but at the risk of being ostracized by the rest of the friend group.

Arabella decided with some guidance to let her friendship with Ashlynn go. Ashlynn continued to make poor choices. One night when Arabella was there, she decided to sneak out of the house in the middle of the night to hang out with some guys. Then she lied to her parents about it. Ashlynn was spiraling out of control. Once I found out about the shoplifting and smoking I told Arabella I didn’t want them to hang out anymore. Arabella did not fight it but agreed with me that this friend was going in a direction she didn’t want to go.

That left her with just one friend, a girl she met in inpatient called Kami.

Arabella tried to connect with a friend from her old school. But it wasn’t long after she left to visit this friend that she came back home. Her friend told her that she changed and asked her to leave saying she didn’t want to be friends anymore. I would’ve expected tears when Arabella got home. But instead, there was laughter. Arabella laughed at all of the friendships she had lost. I really started to worry when not only did she not cry, but she acted as if something really wonderful happened.

Yes, my daughter did change. She was no longer the easy going happy go lucky girl we all knew so well. I wondered if this is what it is like when someone who is relatively normal suddenly slips into psychosis. What happens to friendships if someone suddenly develops serious mental health issues in the late teen years? Almost every single interpersonal relationship she had became very rocky.

It made me feel incredibly sad. My daughter is severely mentally ill and it pushed away all of her friends. Forget a minute about the sappy Facebook posts that say if you are thinking of ending it all give me a call. I am that friend you can call in the middle of the night crap. I want to tell you a hard truth. When you actually hit rock bottom even most of those friends are nowhere to be found.

Mental illness is ugly. It’s robbed my daughter of so much. I can’t even blame some of her friends for leaving her either. She really wasn’t all that different from Ashlynn, unhealthy. It is very painful to watch as a parent. I wanted so much more for her.

Another sleepless night

Arabella wasn’t invited to her best friend’s birthday party. After the falling out with the friend group, any remaining friend she did have was pressured by the group not to be friends with my daughter. They said she was too toxic and kept a list of her wrongdoings.

The weekend of the birthday party, Ashlynn invited my daughter overnight. I thought it was a good idea because I didn’t want her at home alone depressed thinking about how she was abandoned by her friends. Arabella was running out of her medication and there was a snafu with getting the prescriptions filled earlier at the pharmacy. Arabella would be out of two of her medications the following morning. Since her friend lived close to an hour away, the only option was to pick up her pills before the pharmacy closed on the way to her friend’s house that Friday night to have them the following morning.

Everything seemed to be going alright. It was a typical Friday night. Paul and I were watching a movie and I fell asleep on the couch. If I had been in bed with the ringer off, I would’ve missed the text at 11PM. Jordan’s mom texted me saying that Arabella told another friend she had a plan to OD on her medication. I woke up really fast.

Immediately I called Arabella, thankfully she answered. She was alive and seemed to be alright. At the same time, Paul called the crisis center. We came up with a safety plan.

It was one of the hardest things as a parent. We were thinking about picking Arabella up from her friend’s house. But by that time it was close to midnight and the friend lived almost an hour away. We didn’t want to disrupt their family if we didn’t need to. Plus we were exhausted. We decided with the help of the crisis center that we needed to have Ashlynn wake up her parents to lock up Arabella’s medication. We knew Ashlynn, but we really didn’t know her parents. It’s asking a lot to wake someone up in the middle of the night to make sure your child is safe at their house. I felt maybe they would understand because after all Arabella and Ashlynn met at the psychiatric hospital.

Ashlynn’s mom was really understanding but that didn’t make it any easier for us to do. Hey stranger, can you make sure our daughter is safe at your house? Lock up your knives, alcohol, and pills. It was a responsibility I never wanted to place on another parent. I wondered if after that night their friendship would be over. That was before I learned Ashlynn was a bad influence and wanted the friendship to end.

Paul made plans with Ashlynn’s parents to pick up the locked up pills and escort Arabella back home in the morning. It was another sleepless night…

It’s not summer camp

Sometimes the friends you meet at the psychiatric hospital are not the best kind of friends to have. It’s not summer camp, you know.

But it was hard because Arabella missed so much school due to mental health issues that she needed to finish her education online. This meant that she had to drop out of the play she had a part in. She had to drop her extracurricular activities. She also lost the comradery with her friends from not attending school in person and being involved like she used to be.

She started hanging out with kids from the hospital. Some of them came from rough backgrounds. I know this because one girl was living in the homeless shelter and another at the domestic violence shelter. Another girl that she developed a friendship with made a serious suicide attempt right after Arabella visited her at her house. It really shook Arabella up because she was the last person to see her until she was found and the rescue squad came. Let’s put it this way, friendships formed in the psychiatric ward do not foster healthy relationships. But my daughter wasn’t healthy either and needed friends.

There was this one girl that was especially a bad apple and I will call her Ashlynn. She was into shoplifting and smoking. She pulled my daughter into it with her. I say this because my daughter did not do these things before she met Ashlynn. I do understand that my daughter is responsible for her behavior, but she is also easily influenced due to her fear of abandonment and own impulsiveness. Arabella decided to shoplift Christmas gifts for her old friend group. When her old friend group found out about the shoplifting, they had an intervention with my daughter and almost every one of her friends cut her out of their lives. I had no idea any of this was happening at the time.

What I do know and what I was able to piece together later was that Arabella came home very depressed from the intervention with her friends. She told me she was afraid that her friends were going to abandon her. It was not uncommon for her to feel this way whether it was a legitimate concern or not. I told her she should try some of her strategies on her list she made at the hospital to help her feel better when she was depressed. She decided to take a shower and listen to some music.

Afterwards, Arabella had a really good conversation with Angel and I. I thought maybe Arabella was feeling better. She seemed to be doing well. Maybe her strategies worked. I let my guard down. Big mistake.

After our conversation, Arabella went into her room and created a noose with one of her dresses in the closet. But she decided not to go through with it and called the crisis center instead. I had no idea what was going on until I talked to one of the people at the crisis center. It was terribly shocking. I thought she was doing better. My daughter wanted to go back to the hospital, but it was the weekend and my daughter was scheduled to start her outpatient program on Monday.

I opted instead to have the crisis center call her and myself several times a day to see how she was doing. I didn’t want her to lose her place at outpatient which took a month to set up to have her go back to the hospital which didn’t do as much to help her long term like I thought outpatient would. I set up new boundaries for her as well such as she could stay in her room by herself but needed to keep the door open at all times.

She was feeling better the next day and wanted to drive to her friend’s house but I said no. I didn’t want to let her use my car if she was feeling suicidal in any way. Obviously I couldn’t really tell or believe she was feeling better after the night before. But I also felt like I was punishing her for something she didn’t do wrong. Do I take away privileges for her doing the right thing by reaching out for help? That is something I always struggle with. I told her she could visit with a friend but she would have to come here and find her own ride.

We made it through but I’ve never been more afraid in my life having a mentally ill, impulsive, suicidal daughter that once only spent a whole week just at summer camp.

home again

Arabella stayed at Jordan’s house for about a week. She ended up passing all of her classes with the exception of creative writing. She didn’t want to come back home. In her eyes, we were awful people.

Once the pandemic started, Estelle drew closer to us. It must have been very difficult for her to be essentially trapped in a foreign country without her family. She was really looking forward to prom, something they don’t have at her school in France. She just started track, then everything ended. She couldn’t even hang out with friends. But she tried to make the most of her experience. We played a lot of games, did puzzles, went running together, found new recipes to cook, and did a lot of talking.

I think that the time we spent with Estelle made Arabella feel more anger towards us. What were we to do? We didn’t want Estelle to have a bad experience because of COVID and the girls no longer getting along. To make matters worse, Estelle’s flight home in June was cancelled and she was going to be staying indefinitely.

Estelle became like a daughter to me while my own daughter pushed me away. I tried to reach out to Arabella as much as I did Estelle, but my efforts were met with slammed doors and snarls of leave me alone. Once the fighting over missing assignments started, we didn’t know what else to do. I thought a few days away would help but she ended up wanting to live with Jordan’s family and made it miserable for us in our attempts to keep her at home.

I thought maybe a fun family project would help and bought paint for our wood shed. Maybe Estelle and Arabella would make amends and patch things up. But it didn’t quite work out that way. The whole time Arabella complained about how much I sucked as a mom. Eventually Estelle couldn’t take it anymore. She stood up to Arabella and told her how great I was. But in the process Estelle pushed Arabella and called her a bunch of horrible names.

So many things were happening at the time. My daughter Angel’s college graduation was cancelled. We didn’t know when we would see her again. The family didn’t get together to open the cottage for the season up north. That was partially from COVID, but had a lot to do with my dad. My mom got a call to pick up items from the evidence room. My dad’s main computer wasn’t there for pick up. We could only imagine how many photos were on there. My dad’s case was turned over to the district attorney and he could be arrested any day. I went with my mom to visit an attorney which was incredibly stressful.

I was absolutely miserable. The undercurrent of uncertainty and fear was hard to handle especially in the bubble of complete isolation.

Gratitude week 64

I have to admit I am feeling rather crabby today…so. I just feel bored, restless, and like my life lacks purpose. Maybe it’s an empty nest thing. I don’t know. I went from spending the last year trying to keep my daughter alive to her going into a residential care facility. I hate to say this, but maybe my purpose was keeping her alive and now I don’t have that purpose anymore. Not only that, but family therapy seems like kind of a waste at this point. It sure would’ve been helpful 10 to 15 years ago. But now with my baby turning 18 in less than 2 months, it seems a little late.

So anyway, here is my list for this week:

  1. Spring!
  2. 1,000 followers!
  3. I think my son broke his little toe this week. He could barely walk, but is starting to feel better.
  4. My mom took my brother Matt to the ER today as she thought he might have scabies again. Thankfully it’s not that and doesn’t appear to be anything serious, although his rash is really bad.
  5. Stimulus checks.
  6. Our refrigerator bit the dust. Unfortunately the first place we went had the fridge we wanted on back order due to COVID with no arrival date in sight. This shouldn’t be news to me, but apparently COVID also caused a refrigerator shortage. Thankfully we were able to find a new refrigerator at another store, but it will take almost a month until we get it. I’m grateful in the meantime that we have a chest freezer and a drink cooler we can put food in. So we didn’t have to throw anything away.
  7. I was finally able to get in to see my therapist this week.
  8. Paul took me out to eat at our favorite Indian restaurant to celebrate 1,000 followers.
  9. My best friend and I went out for corned beef and cabbage yesterday. I’m grateful since I didn’t think I would get any since I didn’t go out for St. Patrick’s day.
  10. Today my mom, Matt, and I went for a walk and yesterday Paul and I took our dog for a walk. It’s nice to be able to start getting outside more. We did get some snow this past week but it’s pretty much all gone now.
  11. I’m grateful that Paul assembled a chair for us to sit in on the front porch. Then we can watch other people who have a life come and go. Okay, I’m busy but am starting to feel this empty nest thing.

Gratitude week 58

  1. While it was really wonderful to get away. I’m grateful to be back home again.
  2. I checked another 4 states off my bucket list. Only 14 states and 5 continents to visit before I kick the bucket.
  3. Talking about kicking the bucket, our dog is feeling 100% better so we didn’t have to put him down. I don’t know, maybe it was the fried eggs. LOL! I’m grateful for more time with him.
  4. My son is moving out this weekend with a couple of friends into our partially finished garage. My husband’s office is out in our detached garage now which will be moved into our son’s bedroom. The garage already has two finished bedrooms, a full bathroom, and a partial kitchen. We are going to use the money we charge for rent to finish remodeling the garage apartment. I’m getting excited about the remodeling project and also thinking of ways to update our house.
  5. We ended up getting a lot of snow a couple days ago and now it is bitterly cold, but it is absolutely beautiful outside. Even though I complain, I am grateful for very distinct seasons. When we were on vacation it was anywhere between 45 and 75 degrees. I don’t know if I would like a cool winter without snow. It was funny because a news station in New Orleans was talking about the cold Wisconsin weather while we were there. There is some pride in being a hardy people, plus our summers are absolutely perfect.
  6. Arabella is making a lot of progress on her online schooling which is wonderful. I was kind of worried about if she would be able to graduate on time.
  7. I’m always grateful for a warm house to live in on a brutally cold winter day.
  8. I’m grateful to be back in planning mode. I’m thinking about the next trip I want to take, getting ready for summer, and hopefully a graduation party as long as things wind down with COVID.
  9. I think the next couple months are going to bring a lot of changes. I felt very apprehensive about things because I really don’t like change. But sometimes change can be good. In the next couple months all my children will be adults and although I do worry a lot about my kids I feel like a lot of responsibility will be lifted. Technically I could go from 3 kids living at home to being an empty nester. Instead of viewing this as a negative thing I can view it as an opportunity to grow like I haven’t been able to before because I always had to be responsible for someone else besides me.
  10. I am grateful for my husband who has been putting a lot of hours in since we got home to keep things running around here.

50 years and a million tears

Today is my parents 50th wedding anniversary. It is a huge milestone that should be celebrated yet I feel conflicted. They have been unhappily married for probably a good 49 of those years. They are miserable together, but they did stick it out.

My mom acts like everything is normal between them as if the police couldn’t show up at any moment and haul my dad away. I don’t know how she can live that way. She would rather stay with him then start over without him. I think if it was me I would’ve left a long time ago.

I think my mom’s life would’ve been better if she never married my dad. Maybe she should’ve left him for good that time he was mean to her before we were even born. I think my dad would have been better suited as a single man without children. He just wasn’t good husband and father material despite the fact that his parents were wonderful people.

I know that if my mom didn’t stay my brothers and I would never have been born. I wouldn’t have my children. I wouldn’t have my nieces. There wouldn’t be me. How can I say that it would be better if my parents weren’t ever together if it threatens our very existence?

What would the world be like without me ever being here? How can I say what is best for someone else if it would obliterate my existence and those of my siblings? I have to look at the good that came out of their relationship. Sometimes good things do come out of bad situations.

I examine my life sometimes more than George Bailey in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. There must be a reason we are here or we wouldn’t be. Right?

I will not send my parents a sappy card that says I want a marriage just like theirs. Quite the contrary, from them I learned I wanted something different.

For their anniversary they are getting a snow storm cold and blustery. It’s not a lot different from their wedding day or their marriage.

I wish them the best, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t wish things were different.

Maybe it was the fried eggs

Maybe it was the fried eggs.

It’s been a rough couple of days since we got back home. There is so much to catch up on it makes me wonder if it was worth it to get away.

This morning our dog stopped eating. I think it might be time for him to cross the rainbow bridge. Angel said that he didn’t eat much on one of the days we were gone. Maybe he got into something or someone else fed him I thought. When we got home everything seemed to be fine. Yesterday I took him for a walk. Then he got sick later that night. He pretty much stopped eating and is shivering a lot. I called the vet and got him an appointment for Friday afternoon. I got the number for the emergency vet just in case.

I feel sad that his end may be near. He’s been a part of our family for the last 13 years. If I think about it too much I want to cry.

Maybe it was just the fried eggs. That is what my son said.

Yesterday there was a big fight, or maybe it was the day before. It wasn’t over something that big. Each of the kids had chores to do while we were gone. I told them, however, that they were in charge of cooking and cleaning the mess for themselves. Angel is pretty anal. She cooked and cleaned up right away. Alex not so much. He tends to procrastinate and that is where the trouble started. Angel got on his case about cleaning up his mess and he didn’t respond all that well to being told what to do by his older sister.

I thought it was relatively minor and everything would blow over once we got home. Boy was I wrong. Angel and Alex got into a huge fight. I felt like I was their referee. Although I sided more with Angel, I could understand why Alex did not want to be told what to do by his sister. The fight devolved into name calling and ended when Alex threw a fried egg at his sister.

I took each kid aside and had a conversation with them about the fight. I listened to their point of view, validated it, and encouraged them to work it out. There are things that both of them did wrong and it pains me to see them wreck their relationship over a petty little fight. Neither one would hear of it though. Angel said she was moving out and staying at her boyfriend’s house with him and his parents for awhile. Apparently they never have conflict at their house like I do at mine.

When I finished talking to Alex I told him he needed to clean up the mess he made with the eggs. But by the time we finished our talk he lucked out because the dog gobbled it up.

Fast forward to today. My son thought maybe the dog was sick because he ate the eggs. I googled if eggs were bad for dogs. I found out that eggs are good for dogs especially ones with upset stomachs. It’s not the eggs. If only the answers were that easy to find.

I wish I could tell you by the end of this post that everything is fine but it’s clearly not. Instead of talking things out with her brother, my daughter avoided it by leaving. It’s probably something that I would do. Oftentimes I also avoid talking about problems with people I am upset with. My son didn’t seek out his sister and apologize either. They were getting along so well before we left, better than they ever did before. Then everything fell apart. It’s very upsetting to me to have such conflict and strife between them.

I don’t know what is wrong with our dog either but I don’t think it was the fried eggs.