Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Family Therapy

We had our first encounter with the family therapist a couple weeks ago. I have very mixed feelings about it. I left feeling like it was a good start, open honest discussion about the good, bad and the ugly. But the more I think about it, the angrier I get. Maybe "angry" isn't the right word, but frustrated. I think it's important that we as a family have a forum to discuss the difficult issues and get the input of an impartial third party...that part was good. But the moment I used the words "disappointed" and "betrayed" in the context of having difficulty trusting our daughter again after going through several periods of sobriety followed by relapse(and even the "sober" periods were not always as sober as we thought), I was accused of "bringing morality into it." According to the therapist (and most addiction counselors who subscribe to the AA brand of treatment would agree), addiction is a genetic disease and she can't help it (i.e. she is not accountable for her actions). I strongly disagree.

Then there was the discussion about getting a job, going back to school, etc. While we have talked at length about the importance of getting a job, we know that going back to work in the restaurant business (her former job) invites temptation that she does not need, nor does she look forward to a lifetime of waitressing. My suggestion was to take advantage of the time she has now (while we're willing to help financially and with babysitting) to go to school, possibly tying in a job with her education if such an opportunity exists (she wants to pursue a job in healthcare, starting as a medical assistant). The therapist contradicted this and suggested that she was not capable of doing school right now and should stick with a waitressing job until her brain is functioning normally. She added that we should not expect her to ever be the "problem solving over achiever" that I am. Excuse me? I had never talked to or met this woman before. I'm not sure how she knows that much about me or how encouraging our daughter to follow her dreams (NOT my expectations) was expecting too much.

Oh well. I guess I should not have EXPECTED so much from a family therapist.


Friday, September 25, 2009

Almost Forgot...

I almost forgot to mention the highlight of last week...I ventured into a real live PAWN SHOP for the first time in my life. And not the kind that's all clean and sterile either. No, this was the kind with bars on the windows and surveillance cameras everywhere and lots of guns and knives on the shelves, in a seedy part of town. Why? Because we decided to do something nice for our daughter when she got out of rehab, and she's been carrying around an old CD player for a long time now. When we suggested that maybe she would like an MP3 player like all the cool kids have, she was thrilled with the possibilities and suggested that we might find a good deal at the pawn shop where she recently APPLIED FOR A JOB. Ahem. Well, the job application has been withdrawn now, but I decided to go check it out (with her guidance and direction...mind you, I was dressed like the grandmother that I am and wore my hair up in a perfectly coiffed bun ;-). I managed to find the most clean shaven, nerdy sales clerk in the joint and asked to see their MP3 players. He hooked me up and we walked out with a perfectly good 8G iPod Nano with earbuds and the Apple USB cable all for $49.95. And we lived to tell about it!

The name on the iPod was "Dad's iPod." Something tells me that Dad's offspring did the setup for him. I hope Dad is not now missing his iPod!

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Z'Bout Time

I know I'm due for some kind of update around here. It'd be so much easier if I'd just jot down a note or two every day rather than let everything build up inside for a month. Sheesh.

Our daughter is out of rehab and back home now, adjusting to the "boring" life again. She says she really, really enjoyed the program and is glad she did it. She admits now to having reservations about it all the way up to the front door, and even for a couple days after that, but she met some good people and is better for the experience, I can tell. She even received the Award for Best Client (out of a group of about 25 people), and...here's the shocker...the award for the Cleanest Room!! This is HUGE! She's never made her bed, never picked the clothes up off her floor, never put trash in the trash can. My solution has always been to either a) close the door, or b) wait until she wanted something and use this as leverage...clean up your room, or else. I'm a bit of a neat freak so the fact that she got this distinguished award gave me goosebumps. :-)

She is still doing good (still happy with her decision to live a sober life, still focused on recovery, still interested in getting her old job back and starting school, more interested in actively parenting than she has ever been), but we've also had our moments of frustration adjusting to life together again.

We'll spend some time in family therapy sessions along the way so that we might hash
out the difficult issues in the company of professionals. From my perspective, the difficulty is we are either offending her by stepping in her way and not letting her "be the mom," or she loses her patience and gets frustrated because she doesn't want to parent and then we're not helping enough. She is very sensitive about the fact that she's not been here for so long and trying to preserve her role of
"mom." To avoid skirmishes, I've taken the position for now that I will let her do the caretaking unless she asks for help, and when she does, I am going to try and remain as neutral, loving, uncritical, and helpful as I can, trying to teach her what I have learned along the way without getting mad when she dismisses me (her favorite line is "don't be so paranoid"). We've agreed that I won't tell her how to parent if she won't tell me how to grandparent. I'm frequently told that I'm spoiling him...grandparents are allowed to "baby" their grandchildren when they fall and pick them up when they cry, right? Her counselor told us that we should just be prepared to parent while she is recovering because she can't do both simultaneously. Agreed! To this end we try to let her do as much as she's comfortable doing but without expectations. We try to step in when a diaper needs changing or when he wakes up in the night rather than calling on her (she never hears him cry at night anyway, and she's never seen him wake up in the morning ...which is a shame because seeing his happy little smile in the morning is the best part)! So you can see the dilemma. It's not easy. I should have studied psychology.

Julian, for his part, is doing great, glad to have Mommy home. He is
babbling, sometimes non-stop, and sometimes cussing us out in Baby,
like when we try to make him go to bed or take away the remote control. But he is still the most good natured little guy. He is practicing his walking with a push car and going faster every day.

We gave him a soft serve ice cream cone at McDonalds for the first time and he shoved it up Mommy's nose, then in his eye. He finished off with a heroic squeeze of the cone which, of course, resulted in much mess all over himself, but he was thrilled with the results, and quivered with delight. We captured lots of hilarious laughter on my cell phone. Wish I could upload the video.

We have been spending our weekends going to garage sales and thrift stores. Sparky now has more clothes than anyone else in the house and lots of toys. We've found a few deals for ourselves as well. I've vowed never to spend full price on clothes again (except for underwear and socks), not even at Wal-Mart.

And we are looking forward to our first airplane trip with Sparky in October (to Tacoma for a visit to our boat). I'm making long lists of all the necessities for traveling with baby. So much for traveling light! I'me resigned to having to check some bags this time.

Tha's about it for now. Until next month. Let Go, Let God.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Day 13

We just returned from visiting with our daughter, Julian’s mother, at her place of recovery, three hours away. She is on day 13 of a 30-day program, and she was given a pass to leave the facility with us for a few hours. It was a very rewarding visit. She is embracing the recovery process and enjoying the people and environment enough to stick with what must be a very difficult process. She recognizes and accepts now that 30 days is only the beginning, not the end-all cure. She shared with us several writings and “homework” assignments that she has been working on. I was amazed to see the words on the pages and I told her as much. They reflected a deeper thought process and a better understanding of what she is going through than I knew existed. Most astounding was the honesty! Addicts are among the greatest deceivers. Honesty has been sadly missing for a long time. The letters that touched me the most were those she wrote about “force,” about the ways in which she has forced her addiction into our lives and her son’s life. Up to now, she has persisted in the argument that we have taken her son from her and didn’t want her to be a mom. Addicts are adept at playing the victim. I suppose her belief was easier to live with than the truth, that she had abandoned her son in favor of drugs. Her view gave her freedom and permission to carry on with the “party.” The insights in her writings were a vast improvement over where we were a month ago! And the best part was seeing the joy that she is experiencing for the first time in a long while.

The core of the treatment is a 12-step program modeled after AA. As such, there were worksheets designed to facilitate dissection, introspection and ultimately understanding/belief in the 12 steps. She still has a ways to go, but there is progress. Reading a worksheet for Step 2 (which is something along the lines of “Come to believe that a Power greater than yourself can restore you to sanity”), she was asked to define such a “Power.” I think the purpose of this was really to allow people to define God on their own terms, but she wrote down “Julian” and “my parents” in her first draft of the worksheet. I laughed…poor Julian has the weight of the universe on his shoulders (actually, this isn’t funny when you think about the number of children of addicts who are forced to give up their childhood in order to “parent” their parents because they truly are more powerful than their parents…that makes me cry). Nevertheless, she managed to work her way through Step 2 and ultimately came to understand that the right answer was not Julian or her parents or even her boyfriend. When asked how or why they came to believe in a “higher Power,” she answered, “because God IS the higher Power.” Duh. ;-) So now, maybe Step 3 (“Make a decision to turn your will and your life over to that Power”), while clearly fundamental to everything else, will be easy.

We left encouraged. That is all we can ask for now.

Isn't she beautiful?

Happy times

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Saturday, August 22, 2009


Off to Costco, to stock up for the Apocolypse...

One Year food supply, for two

Fruit supply

Vegetable supply

Deluxe Emergency Supply Kit

You gotta love Costco. I gave up my membership for a few years because, as good as the bargains were, I always felt broke after leaving their warehouses. Not to mention the difficulty storing the pallets of toilet paper and paper towels. Now look! You can buy food for a whole year. Just add water and a heat source and you're prepared for anything. Is this overkill or what?!

Updated: Okay, seriously, I think I may buy this for my mother, for Christmas. She lives in a pole house on a cliff in CA not too far from the San Andreas fault and as she should (given the number of earthquakes and wild fires that have threatened her home), she is always working on emergency kits. She has flashlights and batteries in every corner of the house, bottles of water, and whatever other supplies she deems necessary, but I don't think she has a condensed supply of food like this...so...shhh, don't tell her!

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Friday, August 21, 2009

V is for Victory

A big reason I began blogging was to spend a little time journaling. I've never been good at doing this, but thought it was important to do and thought by having a public face, I might be pressured to keep at it a bit more. That was a faulty assumption. I'm just not disciplined about it. Lately, there has been a lot of stressful stuff going on, much of which isn't very good blog fodder, but I'm going to ramble on for a minute in hopes that it might be therapeutic...this post is really about God giving us victory when and how we least expect it.

When I first began blogging, I never could have imagined that I would be where I am today, "retired" from public accounting and raising a grandson. Yes, I was planning to retire in a year or two (and had been wanting to leave for longer than that). The goal was to rid ourselves of worldly possessions, live on a boat, work odd jobs and SLOW DOWN to enjoy life! I kept praying for a sign that I was doing the right thing...a new job offer, a boat, something, that would affirm my decision. One affirmation was finding the perfect boat, certainly, but I still had serious doubts about leaving a lucrative (by modest standards) and "prestigious" (whatever that means) profession with such a vague plan for the future. I'm a workaholic by nature, but even I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I knew that my excessive work hours had taken a toll on my relationships with family and others. The painful hours of tax season finally took their toll on me last year and ended with a Big Bang! And then...

...along came Julian. God's timing being what it is, my semi-planned early "retirement" came just in time to help take care of this little guy. I never expected to love him as much as I did and I never expected his mother (my step-daughter) to be as unprepared to parent as she was. He was the sign I had been asking for, but if anyone had told me a year ago that this is where I would be, I would have run for the hills! I mean, it's been a stressful year, don't get me wrong! I wasn't planning to start all over again raising kids. It's hard work! I wasn't planning to deal with the extreme anger and frustration that we have felt for his mother. But the love and joy that Julian has brought to this family is indescribable. In hindsight, I wouldn't wish to be on any other path right now. He definitely affirmed my decision to leave the job that had consumed more than half my life. And I am blessed that God has entrusted me with him for as long as it takes his mother to get her feet under her. We continue to pray for her every day.

A most recent victory came when I received a call from my step-daughter asking me to give her and her boyfriend a ride to a friend's home closer to us so that she could see her son more frequently. She's been living on friends' couches ever since we evicted her. We have continued to hold the line on not allowing her to live with us until she committed to getting professional treatment for her addictions. She has opted not to do that for about 6 months now, although recently she has expressed an interest in doing so in order that she might parent her son. However, her intentions have been to get custody and live with her 18-year-old boyfriend (not the bio-father) who has outstanding warrants, no job and no high school diploma, while our intentions have been to help her get her feet under her first (i.e. recovery, college education, job), at our home with our support and lose the boyfriend. Without going into details that might make for a good television drama series, that phone call last Monday resulted in the boyfriend going to jail ("for a very long time" according to the detective we spoke to...he was on the Most Wanted" list in a town nearby and had warrants in several jurisdictions, including federal felony charges). While tears were shed, our daughter admitted that she was relieved to have him out of her life for now so that she could focus on the things she needs to do. Her attitude took a 180 degree turn for the better, she applied for and got her previous job back, and a week later (this past Tuesday), I drove her to a very nice treatment facility 3 hours away and she checked herself in. I have a good feeling about it this time. I know it's only the beginning and she has a lifetime of recovery ahead of her, but as they say, you can only do it one day at a time, and I am so thankful for this huge victory!

I am no longer burdened by anger. God is good.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Black Eyed Pea

Well, little Spartacus just sustained his first injury. We've added "Black Eyed Pea" to his list of monikers. And under my very close and watchful supervision, I might add. He's had his share of close calls...

1) rolling off the bed (thank goodness it was not far off the ground due to a previous incident wherein the entire bed caved in, and he appeared to have rolled sideways onto his back rather than falling head first),

2) being locked in the car (thank goodness it was only 65 degrees out, although the sunny conditions had me in full lock-down paranoia while waiting for AAA to show up with a Slim-Jim...which they then used to break the window...I could have broken my own window in half the time, but thank you AAA for covering the cost of repairs), and

3) thumping his head on the floor numerous times as he learned to sit up on his own.

But while talking to my brother-in-law and comparing notes on the challenges of parenting one child vs. more than one (specifically with regard to preventing injuries since his second child is a litle dare devil...they've been to the emergency room too many times to count and they're both medical professionals), I jinxed myself (and Sparky). I said something to the effect that I hadn't done much baby proofing around the house yet because I'm attached to Sparky 24-7; with just one baby in the house this is much easier to do and he's less likely to get hurt. He agreed, remembering the days before their second baby came along.

And then we came home and when it was time for a bath, I put Sparky into his little baby tub inside the big tub. He was messing around, trying to climb out of the little tub and reaching for the shampoo bottle, and I was trying to wrestle him back into the little tub, when his hand slipped and he cracked his eyebrow on the side of the tub and started howling. At first I thought it was his forehead or his nose, but when I turned him around (and my husband came running from the living room when he heard the crack), there was blood running down his eye. Once we dried it off, we got the bleeding stopped pretty quickly and put ice on it to keep the swelling down, so we didn't need to go to the hospital, but it was obvious that he was going to be sporting a shiner for a few days. Poor little guy!

I've always said that a parent's job is not so much to prevent injuries as to be there to pick them up when they fall. But I'd really like to think I could do a little better on the prevention side. Afterall, I am supposed to be his Guardian Angel. 8-}


Friday, July 31, 2009

Random Thursday, Friday Edition

Thursday's edition was delayed because of THIS (I thought life as I knew it was over!):

Nearly 2 inches in diameter!

Thanks to what I have come to learn is a Funnel Web Grass spider (and not the dreaded Brown Recluse spider that I thought), my entire bedroom was turned upside down and vacuumed, dusted and sprayed in order that I might sleep last night. I caught this utterly despicable creature recreating in the door jam of our bedroom sliding glass doors. When I chased it down with a broom handle, it ran for the small space between the mattress and the wall (made smaller by the fact that our mattresses are still sitting on the floor and not on a proper frame). This close proximity to my pillows made the thought of sleeping virtually impossible. I've never been an arachniphobe until I started reading up on Brown Recluses. Then I became a complete nutjob. My husband had never witnessed this side of me before but like the saintly Prince that he is (he loves a good damsel in distress...makes him feel needed, I guess), he quickly went to work in the bedroom. I refused to go in until he delivered proof that this spider had been dispatched. When he returned with the thing caught between two chopsticks, I laughed (but made him put it in the toilet until I could be sure it was dead). He actually sprayed it with ant spray and then removed it with the chopsticks. It wasn't quite like the scene in that movie where the Chinese guy catches a fly with his chopsticks...what was that movie?? We extracted it for a photo shoot and a full internet analysis. Thankfully, it is not a Brown Recluse, but I also learned that even a bite from a Funnel Web Grass spider requires immediate medical care and anti-venom.

Anyway, back to the Random:

1) Julian has developed a fascination with all things electrical (he found this under the sink...clearly we need to up the baby proofing).

No matter how many times I redirect his interest, he returns to this particular electrical outlet with alarming (and increasing) frequency. I finally unplugged the lamp and picture frame and plugged up the holes, like all of the other unused outlets within his reach.

2) Julian reads! This morning, I caught him reading for the first time. I put him in his crib for a nap, walked away while he was playing and went back when things quieted down to what I thought was an actual nap. I peeked into the crib and saw him quietly reading this book, stroking the picture on the page (his normal routine is to use reading time for clapping, repeatedly slamming the book shut with each turn of the page). I was quietly pleased at this little discovery. He really does know that books are to be read, not slammed shut!

3) I spend about 6 hours a day hunting for lost binkies. Julian has only 4 that he will use (not available at Wal-mart or Target) and about 15 that he will not, so we have to protect the 4 with all we have.

4) Julian's mother did not check into rehab on the appointed bed date, a decision that brought immense disappointment to me and her father, but did not surprise us. She needs to do it on her timetable, not ours, and like we told her at the time, we would have been more disappointed if she had checked in and not completed the program than if she decided it wasn't the right time and/or place to check in. We drove her there (about 200 miles round trip) and saw the place, but in the end, we drove her back to her temporary place of residence and went to IHOP.

5) This resulted in a lengthy text exchange, followed by a lengthy letter in which I laid out a perfectly good argument (read this with a hint of sarcasm please) for her to seek God and ask Him to help get her life back on track, because me? I've done all I can do.

6) I received the perfect cookbook for my birthday! I have tried more of the recipes in this book in less than a month than in some of my other books (I have a LOT of cookbooks) in a lifetime! I highly recommend Barefoot Contessa's Back to Basics!!

6A) I love pesto and the fact that my basil is growing gangbusters...pesto for the masses!

6B) I love making risotto...the magical transformation from a collection of basic ingredients to creamy divine taste and texture is a culinary thrill.

6C) I love marinating...and I love the combination of garlic and ginger for this purpose. And a bountiful collection of fresh homegrown herbs.

6D) I love being able to cook with ingredients I have on hand instead of having to make a trip to the store for every meal.

7) I am enjoying the summer without having to work, and enjoying much needed time to spend with extended family. My cousin and her husband and two daughters came through town and I was able to spend the entire day with them, on a weekday, and even prepare a meal in my home when I normally would have suggested we go out to eat. Eating at home afforded the opportunity to invite my brother's family over and all of us enjoyed time together that we had really NEVER experienced. My brother hadn't seen our cousin since 1983! Their kids are the same age and yet they had never met each other...I am the one hiding behind all the skinny beautiful people!

8) I also received the perfect devotional for my birthday, but already I am behind a day or two in the reading. I really am going to try and stick to a daily routine this year. REALLY!