Thursday, October 04, 2012

No Empty Nest

A new blog is coming. I'm thinking of calling it "No Empty Nest." There is a lot to tell you but here is the summary of the last few months.

Life with my mother is good. Particularly now that we are out of her hair and she has hours alone every day. She is doing more housework. She doesn't like doing dishes or vacuuming in front of us since she moves so slowly. She seems to feel good about being able to be helpful, and I certainly do appreciate the help.

The real news is my father. Where to start?  So you all remember he got married right? His wife left late last spring to visit her parents in China. Dad started getting a bit weird about it. He doesn't talk much on the phone, but well, let's just say I had decided that he must have started drinking again. He apparently thought that Mom moving in with me was such a good idea that he emailed Sis, who is getting divorced (more on that too) and said that she should find an apartment they could share in Minnesota. Sis decided that was a good idea, found a place and she, my nephew and my father moved in.

Within a week Sis realized that Dad was suffering from some form of dementia. It seems that Dad was aware that he was having more trouble managing his life. Moving in with Sis just seemed to him to be the obvious solution. Particularly since his marriage was in trouble. That is another story I will have to come back to.

Anyway, Dad left California with one small suitcase of clothes and his wallet. We learned from the tenant who rents the apartment at the back of the house, that the place was left in shambles. He (the tenant) has cleaned the place up and put all the paper work he can find on the table. There is a court date for the divorce in just over a week, and I am flying to California this weekend to go through the previously mentioned paperwork, possibly meet with the divorce lawyer, and maybe take statements from people. Sis is making a list.

So how's that a teaser for a new blog?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Hard Part

Before Mom moved in I told a colleague that I was sure that having Mom here would be difficult in ways I didn't expect. It is. Mostly it is easier than I even hoped. Mom clearly came deciding that she was just going to adjust to the way we do things. We don't keep the house as tidy as she would, she doesn't complain. She doesn't make veiled comments about my weight like I feared she would. (In the past it wasn't that she said mean things. It was more that she always noticed and complimented me if I lost any weight. She said mean things about OTHER people's weight problems. That combined made me feel bad.) Anyway, mostly living with her is good.

The hard part turns out to be money. She is indirectly far more expensive than I expected. Her direct expenses are of course minimal. Her impact on the grocery bill is nearly nil. She pays all of her own personal expenses. We even use her car, which she maintains, insures, and supplies with gas, whenever we have to take her anywhere.

So how is she expensive? My mother has always been very frugal, which has also meant that if there was something important she needed, she had the money for it. She expects me to be able to do the same.

So, for instance, the bathroom. Mom needed it to be renovated. I told her that I needed her to pay for it. Because of the inconvenient window, we hired someone who would do a custom tile job. No way would any pre-fab unit fit. They guy came, we think very highly of him. It was his idea to move the toilet. That would cost an extra $300, but it was such a good idea. In retrospect I suppose I should have said, "great, now install a pre-fab shower/tub and your great idea will mean that we will pay you less." The truth is that I didn't even consider it. The extra $300 was in Mom's budget, just barely, but still under. Then I realized that the shower faucet set up that the contractor was going to use would be great for just us, but for an extra $50 I could get the ADA compliant one that would be SO much easier for her to use.  I'd have to pay the extra, but how could I not? THEN I realized that moving the toilet and tub meant that there would be three small holes in the floor where the tub plumbing used to be. I debated what to do. I could leave it, I suppose. So there are holes in the floor. The obvious answer is to pay a very reasonable amount of money to have the floor tiled to match the tub surround.

I considered not repainting the kitchen which I had been planning on doing since before Mom said she was moving, but my father sent me money for my birthday and there was enough to cover it. When it was done Mom said that I really should put up knobs and pulls. I asked if she needed them and that if she did, I would split the expense with her. She said she didn't really need them, but that my nice painting job was going to get messed up if I didn't add the hardware. After she mentioned it a couple times, I just bought the pulls.

Our AC really isn't very effective and it gets hot here. She said that if it was okay with us, that after she caught up with having paid for the bathroom, she pay her next installment for "room and board" by replacing our windows in the living room with some like she put in her house (translation: high quality ones). We tried not to jump up and down for joy at that suggestion. She said that that would probably help keep the room a whole lot cooler, and did I think we could afford to add a window AC unit? I said sorry, but we really couldn't. THEN Roland told me today that he thinks that he thinks it might not even be safe for a elderly woman to be in a house that often hits 83 degrees in the afternoon (it is a dry heat), and he has ordered a window AC unit.

She has noticed that I have repainted every room in the house except the living room. She said she really doesn't like this color and that should be my first project next summer. I told her that I wasn't going to do it. I'd LIKE to do it, but see, the wallpaper under the window (behind the sofa) is falling off and taking some of the plaster with it. I have no idea how damaged the plaster will be if I pull all the paper off and that might be more of a job than I can handle. I said that if it really bothered her, she could hire someone to re-do the plaster and I would paint. She chuckled and said no.  Then later in the kitchen she said, "you know, I had several rooms in my house re-plastered. It really isn't that expensive."

I said, "mmm" and wandered off to have a whole conversation in in my head with her that she isn't having with me, if you know what I mean.  I hear her say, "I am planning on spending a lot of money on your windows, and the living room will still look bad unless you are willing to spend a couple hundred dollars to do something you clearly NEED to do. The wall paper and plaster are FALLING OFF THE WALL."

Then I reply, "Mom, I can't keep spending money that I haven't planned on spending. If the walls bother you so much, pay the couple hundred yourself. I'll still do the painting."

And she says, "You want me to buy you windows AND pay to have the room re-plastered?"

And I say, "No. I don't giving a brown word about the fornicating walls. I like the wall paper just fine. The part behind the sofa doesn't bother me because IT IS BEHIND THE condemned-to-hot-place SOFA! You don't even  have to buy the fornicating windows!"

Then I realize that I am cursing at an imaginary version of my mother and I probably should consider writing a blog post even if I haven't written anything positive and I HATE it when I only write when I have something to complain about, because really, mostly I enjoy having her here.



Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bathroom renovation pics

I plan to update this daily.

Day 2:

As you can see, we decided on a regular tub instead of either a walk-in (tub or shower). This one is lower than average, which will make it easier for Mom to climb in. There will be grab-bars aplenty of course.

Monday, July 09, 2012

bathroom renovation

Remember the posts about the need up renovate the bathroom for Mom? The big issue was that there was an inconveniently placed window. This is what my bathroom looked like this morning after we took out the shower curtain, rugs and towel bars:

After what the builder called "demolition" and I prefer to call "de-construction," the bathroom looks like this:

We are going to move the toilet to the spot next to the window! Problem solved. This solution is possible because the laundry room, which is directly under the bathroom has no ceiling. All the plumbing is easily accessible.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

***This is a post I intended to work more on and publish a couple of weeks ago. Here it is...

Sis and Niece got here the other day. I love them, I really do, but it is rather like having Adrian Monk, and his not-evil twin, move in. After much debate Jennifer decided to clean my kitchen first. Now, before she got there I cleaned the kitchen so that she would not be too horrified. I did all the dishes, put everything away, wiped down the counters. I thought it looked pretty good. It wasn't deep-clean, but it was respectable.

I've been working on Mom's bedroom (another story) and as I left them in the kitchen I heard Niece say, "What's wrong Mom?"

"I'm just so overwhelmed."

"It's okay, Mom. Just pick one spot and clean that and then pick another spot."

I was in and out of the kitchen of course. When we were eating dinner (cooked by Niece) I looked up at the upper cabinets which have glass doors. Everything was so shiny. "Did you clean every single spice jar?"

"Yes!" says my sister, Adrianna Monk.

I turned to my niece, "Does that seem just a bit excessive to you?"

Niece, clearly trying to be gentle with me says, "They were very dirty."

Gary not-officially moved out

So, the last time I saw Gary was Friday evening when he waved cheerfully and said he was spending the weekend with his friend ... the one he is planning on moving in with. He called the house yesterday and spoke to Roland saying that he was going to stop by to pick up his check. Roland said there was no check, and Gary said he would try again another day. I'm not sure what check that is, although it may be his last paycheck from the restaurant.

He still has quite a bit of stuff here, which is why I suspect that he is considering himself as still "visiting" his friend and not moved in. His friends parents have invited him to stay. Their terms are remarkably similar to ours.  We asked for 5 hours or $50 a week. They are asking for $100/month and a couple of hours of chores a week. So I suspect they are taking him in since he is such a nice boy (which is true), and his adoptive parents are cruelly prioritizing birth family and shoving him out the door (which is misleading at best).

My sister, whom I've named "Adrianna" after spending two weeks cleaning my house with her, first said that the friend's parents probably think we are kicking him out. She thought I would be shocked or at least hurt. It is old news. Besides, I don't think Gary really made it that dramatic. He would have just said that he didn't know where he was going to live because members of the "real" family were moving in and there wasn't enough room for him.

I figure it will be a learning experience for the parents. Stephen figures this is the beginning of Gary's "couch-surfing" career and that he will be back. Since he hasn't "officially" moved out, moving back in will be easy. He just has to show up and say it turns out it wasn't going to work out at the friend's house after all. We will let him, of course. Growing up is not easy.

I spoke with Andrew again about the terms for him living here. I told him that if it was in the house he could use it or eat it, but if it wasn't he had to buy it. He also had to pay for his own gas. His "rent" will be paid primarily in planning and cooking our dinners. I may get very, very spoiled for a while. At this point his girlfriend is not "officially" moving in. That is fine with me. I imagine that she will live part time at her house and ours. If she moves in here she has to bring her cat, whom she does not think will be happy here, and since she is committed to helping to care for her younger sister anyway, she might as well still live there.

Brian is doing a litter of foster kittens again this summer. This time it is five kittens with no mother. We thought that would be easier on the rest of the animals.

I'll write a whole post, or maybe even start a new blog, to talk about my mother, but I will say here that things are working out well.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Mom in 30 days (ish)

Yep, Mom's move-in date is quickly approaching! It is final weeks at work. When I am not here, I am working at the house. I know that we have done a lot of de-cluttering, but there is always more. Roland and Gary are going to clean out the garage. I told Roland that if there are any boxes that have been there since we moved in 18 years ago, he should take them to the thrift store without showing them to me. He agreed, after making sure I wasn't trying to make him do the same thing with HIS boxes.

Over the past few days I have painted the bedroom Roland and I are moving into. I really should have just painted it the soothing neutral with white trim that I wanted and never asked Roland what he thought. I asked Roland though and all he cared about was that the room was as light as we could make it. I let him pick the main color: a light neutral with yellow undertones ("Seaside Sand"). Then I tried to do the trim. I didn't like the white I bought to go with it. Then I didn't like the slightly darker neutral that I thought would coordinate well. So then I bought testers of two darker neutrals and picked one. I finished the trim and then when I went to work the next day I realized that I had painted my bedroom in the same colors as the interior of the building. I told Roland that I was very sorry, but I HAD to buy a new color for the trim in the room. When I told him why, he completely understood. So today I am going to buy a quart of a dusty rose color.

I hope I can get that mostly done this evening. Tomorrow evening I am committed to pre-baking pizza crusts for Thursday's department dinner at my house. Everyone knows the state of my existence right now, so I won't be trying to clean the house for them.

Friday I plan to clean the carpet in that room and Roland and I will move our things in over the weekend.

Wednesday, May 16, I have a meeting with the dean, must turn my grades in by noon, and expect my sister and niece to arrive in the evening. We will spend the next two weeks on the rest of the house. Then we fly to Pennsylvania to drive Mom back!

So I have constantly updating lists in my head: lists of things to be graded; schedule for the next three days; goals for the next week; things that will be easy to cook for dinner while my sister is here.

One thing I want to do is get estimates for bath renovation for Mom. The house is 80 years old and we still have the original claw foot tub. I love the tub, but it is definitely NOT ADA compliant.Nothing is going to be simple. There is no alcove. The walls are just painted; and there is a large window that would prevent installing most pre-made units. So I'm pretty sure the options are: freestanding, walk-in tub; custom shower; or a bath with hand shower.

In other news, today is Gary's first day at his new job. He is working in the kitchen in a small restaurant next between the winery and the "fruit ranch" just outside of town. You know the one, right before you cross the river at Lizard Butte.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Rental Agreement

So I talked with Gary, over his 1pm breakfast, about his rental agreement. He looked like he was just barely able to keep from rolling his eyes. When I got to the payment for room and board being $50 a week, payable in 5 hours of course a week he said stunned, "A WEEK?"

"Yeah. 5 hours a week"

"That is freaking lot of hours."

We talked on and I mentioned some things he could do today. "I don't have time today! I have to train from 3-8, everyday."

I took a slow quiet deep breath and did not mention that that was 5 hours, every day. Hours that he is training because he wants to. Hours for which he is not getting pain. Instead I told him that I had a list that Roland had made of things he could do so the chores did not pile up. He did not quite resist rolling his eyes at that. I said I thought it was a good offer, and was actually less that Andrew and Alice were going to be doing. He said, "Yeah, but I don't even get my own room, so what's the point?"

He went on to tell me that he could move in with his best friend for $175/month. He would have to sleep on a sofa, but he could create a private space. It was in the same town as his gym and the community college so it made a lot more sense than staying here. Especially since he doesn't even have a car anymore.

I agreed that it did sound good and asked if he had made any definite plans yet. He said no.

I kept my voice calm and unemotional throughout. In the inside there was another voice being loud, yelling about how the ungrateful little shite has being doing nothing for months and offering to pack up his things and move them to his friend's right now. I don't like that part of me, but it has been trying to get out recently.

I feel badly about being so happy and relieved that he might really move out.

I want things to be better for him and I want to be able to help him to make them better. I just don't think he is ready for that though. He has to do it his own way.

You know that nasty voice that wants out? It wants to start nagging and bitching and fighting with Gary to push him over the edge so he will grab his things and storm out before his friend changes his mind.

I am not always proud of myself.


I have been keeping my sense of humor though. I have just found out about the wonderful "first world problems" meme and have been having fun with it. When Andrew caught me scowling while doing dishes and wanted to know what was wrong I told him, "I'm just so frustrated. I could make Gary's life perfect if he would just do what I want him to do when I want him to do it!"

Monday, March 19, 2012

Talking myself down

After more than a decade of foster care and time in therapy and (most of all) work in Alanon, I know this to be true:

As long as I am trying to figure out how to make Gary do what I think is best for Gary to do, I will succeed only in making myself crazy.

So, what I need to do are establish the boundaries I feel are necessary to protect myself and the rest of the family and the action plan I will take if those boundaries are not respected. Action plans are not threats coerce behavior, they are actions I am genuinely willing to take to protect the rest of us. This, of course, include protecting us from being treated unfairly.

The only real action I can take is evicting him. Evicting is both difficult and easy. On the easy side, he doesn't own very many things and the foster agency would store them in his basement. So evicting him would be as easy as boxing up his things. We might consider changing the locks, but I don't think that would be necessary.

That is extreme action and one I would be willing to take only under extreme situations. That means that I need to accept that I am in fact willing to continue to support him in a very basic way even if he doesn't behave in the ways that I want him to, as long as he behavior stays basically civil. In other words,the boundaries are in fact things like not stealing from family members. There is a point at which I would say enough, but for the sake of everyone's sanity, I am going to avoid going down that path where I only become willing to do evict after a long period of anger and attempted manipulation. Right now I don't have any particular deadline, but eventually I will. I will commit to not fighting with him, but at some point in the future I may give him notice. Start paying rent (or whatever) or you will be evicted.

I know that I am more anxious now because I really hoped and expected that Gary would move out (as he wanted to) before Andrew and my mother moved in. Once Gary does not have a private bedroom he will have no place to isolate himself. That means that we will all have to deal with him, and he with us. I spin possible scenarios in my head. Recently he has been spending most of the weekends with his friends and is only home on the days when he has the house to himself for much of the day. When people are here every day and he has no private room, will he start doing that all the time? Maybe. Though I think that "hanging out" and probably drinking is bad for him, storing his belongings while he essentially lives with friends is not bad for me.

I want help him succeed. I cannot however direct that path.


I have written up a "rental agreement." It specifies what behavior Gary must agree to in order to continue to get free room and board. The agreement includes doing 5 hours a week of chores and not creating more work for others by doing things like leaving messes in the kitchen and dirty dishes in the basement. This agreement has no "teeth." There are no consequences I am willing to impose upon him for immediate failure to comply. Part of the agreement includes that we are not available for small loans or to pay for personal expenses, so I cannot threaten to withhold those if he doesn't comply. So all I will really be doing is documenting non-compliance in case I need to make it clear to him why he is being evicted.

In the meantime, I commit to trying not to create new anxieties for myself. I will not worry about how stressful it will be for me or others to live with Gary when he no longer has a private room. He avoids stress and it is just as likely that he will end up rarely being home as being here fighting with people.

How long am I willing to do this? I don't know. However long it is though I will remind myself that I decided to let him stay. I am providing him with a safety net, housing and food, for the indefinite future. This is a choice I am making, and in making it freely, I am not going to be resentful of him for accepting it.

I do have the power and authority to evict him if I ever feel that I need to. In the meantime, I will try to avoid that insane choice in which I don't take action but instead put emotional energy into trying to "help" (i.e. manipulate him into doing what I think is best for him).

Feeling less guilty anyway

I told Gary that Roland and I would pay off the bills from his ER visit (which look like they will total at least $1200) if he paid us $500 out of the student loan payment he expects this week. He has other bills, but the medical one is the largest and, I think, the most serious.

He turned us down. He doesn't think he can afford to pay that much one one bill all at once.

The conversation went on, but I don't feel it would be appropriate to post it all here. Suffice it to say that he seems determined to make decisions that appear to me to be foolish.  So we will be handing him the medical bills and letting him deal (or not) with them as he chooses.

Update: part of  his decision seems to be based upon a rumor there is a new law saying that medical bills can't affect your credit rating. I looked it up. There is a bill that so far as I can tell, has not yet been passed, which says that once medical bills under $2500 have been paid, the fact that they went unpaid for some period of time will have to be removed from your credit report after 45 days. I'll make sure he is aware of this.

I know that the reason that I am experiencing so much frustration right now is that I am trying to make him do what I want him to do. I'm going to have to think about this...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Feeling a bit stressed

Mom sold her house. She sold it after just two weeks. It was purchased by a local family who I guess had always admired it. In the paper work they agreed that Mom could stay until the end of May. Sis and I are flying out on the last day of May. Presumably we will be spending one or maybe two nights with an aunt or Mom's BFF. Then we will drive back to Idaho. The people who bought the house are finding it difficult to be patient. They now want Mom to move out by the end of April. That's not going to happen.

When I found out that Mom sold the house I had a couple small moments of panic similar to moments I had late in the second pregnancy when for some reason or another it all became very real. You know, that what-in-the-world-was-I-thinking feeling. I kept reassuring myself that I had meant it. I mean, I wasn't just trying to score good-daughter points by saying, "You know Mom, you can always come live with me."

No, I really did mean it. Really.

Anyway, Andrew is here for spring break. He and his girlfriend, whom I call Alice on the blog, are helping with some de-cluttering and reorganization of the house. Yesterday we sorted through books. A&A took three large laundry baskets of books to the used book store. Roland is taking one basket to church and two to his school. That means that all the books that are currently on the ground floor (the house has a ground floor and a finished basement) are now on the bookcases in the basement, which are again close to full.

There is much more to be sorted, sent away, and moved, but I will spare you the details. In the end, Mom will have the corner bedroom on the ground floor. It is the largest, and has lots of windows. I wanted her to have a room that would be comfortable to use at least some as a sitting room. I know she will need to be able to get some privacy during the day. Roland and I will have the slightly smaller bedroom on the ground floor.

Brian is going to be going off to college in the fall. He is definitely going to the college where I teach, a whole half-mile away. He will come home for holidays and maybe more, but starting in September, the bedroom would be mostly empty. Gary says he can't sleep unless he has a room of his own, but he has always regarded this as a fair option because, you know, he was moving out in two or three months anyway.

Alice has been unhappy with her living situation. She lived in the dorms her freshman year and liked it but decided that she couldn't afford it her sophomore. So she moved back home with her two sisters, mother, and mother's boyfriend. She doesn't complain much, but it is taking a toll on her. Andrew plans on living at home for a couple or three years so he can get take the courses to become a high school teacher. Alice would like for him to find a part-time job so they can rent an apartment together. Andrew sees no reason at all to spend money on an apartment while he is a student and he can have free rent at home.

I talked to them and told them that it would be helpful for me if they lived here. My mother is used to a much cleaner house. Andrew already knows that he will be paying for his rent by cooking dinner more often than not. I gave them a list of other things I would really like done, including be available to drive grandma to appointments. We've agreed on a limit an average of 5 hours of work a week each.  They would mostly have the basement to themselves, and could arrange the rec room however they liked to make it comfortable for them both.

I feel much less stressed about it all when I think of them being here. Alice says she has to bring her cat who doesn't like other cats. We agreed she could bring it and assured her that cats learn to tolerate each other. I know she is nervous about moving in here, but she also agrees that it is her best option. I believe that Andrew has told her that if it really doesn't work out they will find another option.

So far, so good. All is well. Brian will mostly be in college but will have his basement bedroom whenever he wants to come home. Andrew and Alice will be living mostly in the basement and helping with the work.

And Gary? Well, when I talked to him about this happening last summer I told him he could share Brian's bedroom. He agreed, but did not really think about what that would be like because he was going to move out in a couple of months anyway. In the summer I didn't think it would be a couple of months, but it would probably be in January. In January I thought it would certainly be by May. I know Gary doesn't want to keep living here. Now though? Well, currently he still has no job, no savings, and some debt. He gets a student loan payment in a few days, but after that nothing.* And for the icing on the cake, yesterday his car was repossessed. He is upset, but mostly I think he wishes he had given the car back to the dealer months ago instead of spending so much money on it. (No, I don't understand why he spent so much money fixing it and did not make any payments on it at all. I know he was counting on it not getting re-possessed before he got his second loan payment.)

He is applying for jobs and still wants to move out in a couple of months, but is now taking seriously the idea of moving into Brian's room.

Except of course he will not really move into Brian's room. It will not become "Brian and Gary's room." It will be the Brian's room with Gary's stuff in it. Gary will live and sleep in the rec room. This, by the way, is main reason Brian has no problem with the plan at all. Sure he can make room for Gary's stuff. Not an issue. I have been confident that since Gary planned to move out anyway and would hate not having a room to himself, that he would surely get his act together and move. Now I think there is a real possibility that he will stay, live mostly in the rec room in the summer and then take possession of the bedroom in the fall when Brian leaves.

We talked seriously about his staying the other day. I wanted him to know that he was not being kicked out of the house. He was losing his private room, but this is his home and there is room for him here. I also told him that we needed to be clear on what chores he did to pay for rent. He has not been doing much, and that really did need to change. I explained that Andrew and Alice would be doing about 5 hours a week each, and he needed to commit to something similar. He agreed he still would prefer to be responsible for the yard. There had been little to do through the winter, but that would probably mean that he would be making it up during the summer. He agreed, although so far he has been far better about agreeing to do work than actually doing it.  I also expect that he agreed because he is still imagines moving out soon.

So I'm stressed. Partly this is because I worry about other people's stress and I have been assuring Alice that living here will be acceptable for her. We have all been imagining the basement as something of a semi-apartment for them. Of course, Brian would be there sometimes, but otherwise they would have a bedroom and good size general room to themselves. As I imagine life with my mom, me, Roland, Andrew and Alice it feels very doable. Mom will like and get along with Andrew and Alice. Everyone living here will be committed to pitching in and making it work. There will be stress and difficulties, but mostly it feels right.

Gary here is not the same dynamic. He says he will pitch in, but doesn't. He doesn't even seem to understand that as a young adult getting free rent it is really, really tacky that he still leaves dirty dishes all over the basement and only brings them up when I demand that he does. He is still a teenager, acting like a teenager, expecting assistance without really believing he needs to do anything to contribute.

On the bright side he did yesterday announce that he has decided that getting drunk every weekend with his friends is stupid. This behavior has not had a much of a direct impact on our lives as he tends to just be gone for the entire weekend, returning with the tail end of a hang over. (Of course, this is not taking into account the emergency room visit, or the affect that this behavior has undoubtedly had on his ability to move on.)

So I hope that Gary will actually move out. Then I feel guilty about welcoming Andrew back and wishing Gary gone. Then I remind myself that I am counting on Brian leaving too, and that I would NOT be happy about Andrew moving back if he didn't have a clear plan for independence. Andrew and Alice will affect household expenses, but they will be responsible for all personal expenses. And because Andrew knows how to cook on a budget, my grocery bill is often no higher when he is here then when he is gone. (Having a reliable second cook also means that we almost never do things like order pizza because I just don't feel like cooking).

Gary does not seem to be any closer to independence. I know he is trying, but nothing is working for him. Right now he is talking about applying to living in the dorms at Boise State University in the fall. That he does not have the academic record to be accepted to BSU does not seem to factor into his computations. I understand that letting him live here is providing him a safety net so that his life doesn't sink in the ways his sister's has, but it also is not helping him to become more capable.

So I find myself hoping that the changes in the family motivate Gary to move. He will no longer have the house to himself when everyone else leaves for work or school. He will no longer have a private bedroom. I find myself hoping he hates it and figures something else out.

Then I feel guilty. I know it looks like all the related-by-birth family is welcomed with open arms while the adopted son is being pushed to leave. So I reassure him that he is not being kicked out. This is his home. He is welcome here. Meanwhile I hope that he moves on.

So yeah, a bit stressed.

And  in case you are wondering, I have no regrets about adopting him, although I do sometimes wish we had waited until he was out of the home like the other boys. The social workers from Casey Family Programs** were so very helpful during transition. I did not realize how difficult this part would be without them.

I don't know. Maybe it would help to be more formal about the work that Gary is supposed to be doing to pay for his rent. Maybe if he had to log the hours it would be more real.


* My current thought about Gary's medical bills is this: Roland and I take responsibility for them but insist that Gary pay us $500 out of his student loan distribution he is expecting in the next week. We then put that money aside and tell him that when he moves out we will give it back to him so he can spend it on his various expenses.

**That is not a mistake. I'm not worried about anonymity so much anymore. I live in Idaho. We worked with the Casey Family Programs.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

"I just want to be taken seriously"

Gary has had 4 ER visits in the past year.

The first was for an injury he sustain in MMA practice. He was afraid he had broken a rib. He had not.

The second was for a panic-attack-from-hell that he had as a result of consuming something (or several somethings) at a party. He thought he was dying. He had his friends call him an ambulance which took him to the ER were they gave him IV fluids and an anti-anxiety medication.

The third was 10 days after he had his tonsils removed. He hadn't bothered with the routine anti-biotics he was prescribed and he was spitting up blood. He could not wait a few more hours to go to the doctor's office. At the ER they gave him sympathy, considered giving him antibiotics, but got an afternoon appointment with the surgeon. He was prescribed antibiotics which he did not take because "the doctor didn't think it was an infection." I argued that the doctor must have thought it was an infection, because he prescribed antibiotics. Finally I just started handing them to him on schedule.

The fourth was yesterday. Friday evening he was at a bonfire with friends. He was drinking, did something foolish, and hit his head hard. At noon he felt he had to have medical attention because he had such a terrible headache. We took him to the urgent care clinic, but he reported symptoms of a concussion and they sent him to the ER. There he was given Tylenol, had a CT scan and was told he was fine.

He has this pattern with his health. He has a symptom, is afraid he is seriously ill and must see a physician. The physician sees him, prescribes some treatment, and Gary goes home, ignores the treatment and usually feels better very quickly. He seems to have a strong need to be seen by a professional. This does not translate into any desire to follow up on the treatments.

And I have noticed at every emergency room visit, at some point when we are waiting for something or other, he will say, not necessarily to me, "I just want to be taken seriously."

My usual approach won't work with this one. I cannot just let him do what he is going to do and deal with the consequences himself.

Okay, I wrote that and then thought "sure I can. I just don't want to."

I can't imagine going back to yesterday and saying, "Sweetie, you have no bruise, no bump, and your eyes look fine. You are severely hung over and you hit your head. Of course you feel miserable. Drink some water and take a pill."

I wanted to say that. I think I would have been right to say that. On the other hand, what if I had been wrong? What if he had had a concussion? I no longer trust his reports of his own health. I don't think he is lying. I think he is genuinely frightened by what he is feeling. He needs the reassurance. Maybe he needs the attention from me. Even if I am right about that, he still could be seriously hurt.

Only the thing is ... I seriously cannot afford this. Roland and I are living on a very tight budget paying off debts from last year. Two thirds of that debt is a combination of Gary-related car expenses and Gary's medical bills. Before this latest ER visit I had hoped we would pay off all the debt before my mother moved in, but thought more realistically, we might make it by the end of summer. I know that "can't afford it" is relative. I know that if he had had a concussion and needed surgery I would be resigned to paying off a higher debt load. I would be worried, but I would cope.

Right now though? Right now I am angry because even if he had been seriously injured, it still would have been the result of getting drunk. He doesn't seem to think that is a big deal. When he was in the emergency room after taking the stuff at the party he seemed quite sincere when he said that he learned never to do that again. This time he says that drinking is just what teenagers do. (Does that mean that when he turns 20 in the fall he will change? I'm not holding my breath.) He won't try to do acrobatics and land on his head though. I do not want to be responsible for this bill.

On the other hand, he really can't afford it. He has to be at least $1000 behind on his car payments. He doesn't have a job and wants to move out. I want him to move out too, and saddling him with more debt won't help.

We've pretty much decided that we are going to take responsibility for the larger portion of the bill and make him responsible for a smaller part of it. The easiest way to do that will be for us to pay the money owed to the hospital and make him responsible for the bills from the docs. (We will get one from the ER physician and from the radiologist who looked at the CT scans). That feels right to me. It means he has to deal with the real-world consequences of his actions, but we have soften the blow enough that it is not going to destroy him. It will hurt real bad though.

Roland and I are getting resentful and that is not a good thing. Gary has been talking about wanting to buy a tablet computer. In the ER he told me that he was thinking that maybe all he could afford would be a Kindle Fire. I ranting about how much money he owes and our struggles to pay off the debts, but I didn't. On the way home I did tell him that the changes that he was seeing in our lifestyle were a result of trying to get out of debt and that I did not think Roland and I were going to be willing to take responsibility for the $800 (or whatever) the ER visit was going to cost. I told him we would help, but he was going to have to be responsible for some of it.

Right now the very best thing about my mom moving in is that Gary is determined to move out first. I warned him last summer that if this happened he and Brian would have to share a room. He losing the private bedroom when my sister shows up in the middle of May.  Since I started this post he has told me that he called his social worker to learn about getting assistance moving out. He just has to find a job first. (He also told me that he is feeling great and he googled his symptoms. He is sure he had a severe concussion. CT scans can't always pick those up, you know.)

I love the boy, I do, but I am past ready for him to move.

I'm angry that he agreed to do chores to pay for his rent and he has not. I'm angry that he leaves dirty dishes in the basement and I have to nag at him to get them back up. I'm angry that he doesn't understand that not doing chores and making messes is something I can tolerate in a high school student, he has passed into a different realm for me.

I'm tired of hearing about all his fantastic plans. I'm tired of feeling resentful.

So I think it helped to rant to y'all.


But I still feel like slapping someone.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

My Mom

Plans are being made to move my Mom here at the end of May.

Last June I made the offer to Mom and she seemed to think it was a definitely possibility. I suspected that Mom would keep putting it off, agreeing that it was a good thing to do in a year or so. She couldn't delay moving indefinitely. She lives in a small house with a bedroom on the second floor and laundry in the basement. As the Parkinson's progresses she simply will not be able to handle the stairs. She says she doesn't want to live in an assisted living/retirement community, and that does not leave many options.

The big change is that her BFF is going to retire and move next fall. That decision wasn't expected, but it makes sense given the events in the BFF's extended family. Mom has become very dependent upon her friend for all sorts of things. Her friend drivers her to most of her appointments, takes her shopping, and carries the laundry up and down the stairs.

My sister is finishing her class work for college in early May. After that she does and internship and then she plans to get a job. Sis can take a month off early this summer to help with the move, but doesn't expect to be able to take that kind of time ever again.

So right now, here is the tentative plan. Sis is a meticulous housekeeper. I'm not. Sis will be flying out here when she finishes classes and will spend two weeks bossing me around and whipping my house into shape. I am by the way, pleased with this. I am getting professional-quality home organization service free. Well, I have to give her room and board and be her staff-of-one, but it should be worth it.

Then Sis and I hope to be able to fly to Mom's house. If all goes according to plan, Mom, with the help of her BFF, will have the closing of the house finished. Most of the furniture is going to a local auction place. Some will have gone into a small moving van. Lots of things will have gone to a thrift store or the dump.

Sis, Mom and I will then drive back here. It will take about four days. It could be done in less, but neither Mom nor Sis do much driving and I think 9 hours a day is about all I can expect of myself. Maybe we will take five days. The main advantage to driving is being able to bring Mom's almost-new car back with us.

We have not finalized all these plans, and Mom is still thinking about whether she would prefer to do it another way,

***correction: I just got an email from Mom's BFF. Mom is sending a check to Sis to help pay for travel. We're on.***

My niece will be coming along with Sis. She will help with the grunt work in my house and with the driving on the way back. With niece to help with the driving, maybe we can make it in 3 days.

I guess I am moving on to the next stage of my life. I haven't been a foster parent for more than a year. Soon things will be different again. Maybe it is time to start a whole new blog. I imagine there is probably a community of bloggers who are living with or at least caring for their elderly parents. I don't want to lose y'all, but it might be good if I connect with them too...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Catching up

(I just read the post below. Damn, it makes me feel depressed about my life. I think this is why I haven't been writing much at all. I don't really feel depressed. Actually, I feel pretty good. But there is not a lot of good news.)

Hi all, just in case you were wondering...

Gary has started taking classes at community college. It is too early to know what will become of it. One of his main motivations is financial. He qualifies for a significant amount of federal aid, and he needs it pretty desperately. He has car-associated bills that are unpaid leaving him in a very difficult place. If continues to live at home, goes to school, gets all the aid, maybe gets a part time job also, he might be able to be out of debt by summer. He wants to move out, but it is unclear whether and when he will be able to afford it. 

We gave him a rescue in the fall. We put a new clutch in the car and made an insurance payment so he could keep driving. Roland tended to wonder if this would "work," meaning would it get him set on a path that would lead to stability. I said that I did not expect it to work, but I needed to know that I had done it. The first time he got in over his head, I would bail him out. 

So, I don't know what will happen to him next. He can stay here and have free room and board indefinitely, but we are doing less and less for him outside of that. He is supposed to be paying all of the rest of his expenses, so mostly that means he does without. I get irritated with him sometimes and then do passive aggressive things like put onions in whatever I am cooking so he won't want to eat it. 

But he is trying. He is struggling with growing up. He makes poor decisions, but I know he wants to be independent. His plan is not to live off of our grudging generosity indefinitely. Eventually he will pull things together. 

His sister Helen is spiraling out of control. My theory is that she just rushed into adulthood too quickly. She did so well in high school. She graduated early, went to college early. She made a couple of really bad decisions which cut her off from her last foster family. Then she got sick and could not or did not ask them for help. She ended up not going back to school and is struggling in ways we all hoped she would never have to. There are people who will help her when she is ready to ask for it. Hopefully she will ask. I don't know how much I can do for her, our resources are pretty stretched. 

We don't get support from the agency anymore, which I am not complaining about, but the reality is that we are living on a tighter budget than we have in a long time. I've got out all my old vegetarian recipes and am enjoying meals with beans (which Brian hates) and onions (which both Brian and Gary hate) and loving it. I'm not doing it to make them angry. It is more that the budget issue has over-ridden my desire to cater to them and so I can enjoy eating things I like without feeling (very) guilty. Today I will be making pizza dough and baking up individual-sized pizza crusts. The boys can dump stuff on them and bake them when they want.

You may remember that Andrew is graduating from college this year. He wants to move back in and attend the college where I teach to get his teaching certificate for high school. It will probably take him two years. After cooking for himself at college, he is very good at eating on a budget. He cooks when he is here, and I am looking forward to that.

My mom's Parkinson's is progressing as Parkinson's does. Her best friend is planning to retire in the fall. She will be moving out of state, which almost certainly means that Mom has to move this summer. She has become very dependent on her friend. Without her Mom will have to either live with us or move into assisted living. So the chances are very good that she will be moving in with us this summer. I'm hoping she can manage the business side on her end ... putting the house up for sale, arranging for most of her furniture to be auctioned off. I'm not sure how exactly we will handle it if she just isn't up to it. The Parkinson's makes her tired. The disease may also be why her hearing is failing so badly. I know her friend will help her make the phone calls so she can get things done. Still, Mom must make the decisions and she is fighting depression. 

Ideally, it would be best if she and we sold our houses and bought a new house with a master's suite for her. After a decade of foster parenting, I've gotten fairly good at adjusting to new people in the house. The most difficult part is going to be Mom's obsessive need for things to be tidy. We will adjust our habits some, but most of that will have to be hers. I will need to remind myself of that frequently. The bottom line is that even if we worked very, very hard, we would never be able to keep our house as meticulously tidy as she does hers. This really is the only part that I am anxious about.

My sister is finishing up college. She is still living with her husband. He has a job that requires travel and is only home about one day a week. Sis says they get along really well that one day. Officially, Sis is still "giving him a chance." One factor is certainly that Sis cannot support herself until she finishes college. I have wondered if she is genuinely trying to make it work, or if she is just trying to hang on until she graduates with no expectation that it will succeed long term. I suspect she goes back and forth between the two thoughts. When she is done she should be able to get a job which will require her to move. I don't know if her husband will come with her or not. 

And I am doing far better than I would have been had I had to deal with all of this a few years ago. Somewhere along the line I just got better and not making other people's problems mine. When I don't need to think about them, I don't. 

Work is going very well for me. The two other members of the department retired in the past two years and we just now finally hired a replacement. We will be a department of two for the foreseeable future, but I am very happy about the person we have hired. For the first time in a couple of years I am not flying by the seat of my pants. The regular work of long-term planning and assessment is no longer the meaningless act of fiction it has been. 

My new colleague is so much younger than I am. I've decided that is what it means to get older.  I don't feel like I am older. I do notice that my body is not as cooperative about some things, but other than that, I feel about the same. What I do notice as that other adults are getting younger. Increasingly I got to professionals that are barely older than my children. Most of the profs we have hired recently seem hardly older than the students. It's weird, but not bad. 

And all this isn't as depressing as it might sound. The children have to follow their own paths to adulthood. I can't travel it for them. All I can do is provide some basic level of safety net so that things don't get too bad for them. I have confidence that eventually they will find their balance. And things will work out with Mom. I get frustrated living with the young men because they do things like leave dishes all over the house. Now I am nervous about living with a woman who will try not to be irritated at me for not washing every pot as soon as I finish using it. There is a stand-up routine bit in there somewhere.