Back At Work, Again

A couple of weeks ago, I went back into the workforce. I’m still writing at home and still pursuing a couple of small business opportunities online. But I’m at a point that I need some guaranteed income each month.

There is a local embroidery shop here in Whitehall that provides custom orders for embroidery work, as well as heat transfers. The woman who owns the shop also does manufacturing sewing for military items and some other businesses, like Laundry Loops.

She pays her employees well, starting well above minimum wage and increasing pay shortly after a probationary period. I like to sew and like the creative process and I figured this would be a good chance to earn some money doing something other than a service job.

I started the week following Memorial Day and my first couple of days involved a pretty stiff learning curve. I made plenty of mistakes but I also learned some great new skills. And I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the ‘warehouse’.

There were only three of us working for most of the week, each with something different to do. The first couple of days, I spent most of my time sewing small pieces that were to be sewed to other pieces. It was monotonous, tedious work, but I felt good about the work I did. The rest of the week, I spent my time doing heat transfers and embroidering hats. The owner wants to train me to do most of the work up front; the embroidery and heat transfers. That way, she can focus on doing assembly work in the back of the shop.

She is working on a multi year contract with a state university. If it materializes, she will have permanent, full-time work in the front of the shop, which will probably be where I do most of my work. And I wouldn’t mind that at all. It’s fun watching the embroidery machines do their thing. And while they are sewing, I can be assembling small pieces for laundry loops or doing heat transfer work.

The part I like most about this job is that there are lots of options. And every day is a different task. I like that there aren’t a lot of walk-in customers to deal with. They need to speak with the owner. So, I can just go to work, do my job, and go home at the end of the day feeling like I accomplished something.

Going to work each day means that I don’t have as much time for my writing or sewing or other projects at home. I’m hopeful that after a few months, I may be able to change my work schedule and do four tens. Ideally, I’d like to do three twelves and a half day. Then have the rest of the week to devote to home-based work. But we’ll have to see if anything like that is possible.

I’m grateful for the work, especially after this past year of a ruined economy and so many businesses being forced to shutter permanently. I’ve known the owner for several years. When I was athletic director at the school, she did many of our sports wear jobs. So, I feel comfortable with her. And so far, the other women who work there are people I already know or are easy to spend the days with.

At this point in my life, I figured I would be making enough money writing that I wouldn’t have to worry about a ‘real’ job again. I’m still hopeful that will be possible in the near future. But I need the income from this job. And I need to get out of the house. I’m feeing like a hermit lately, and this job will force me to get up, shower, and be around other people each day.

Whether I stay there a few months or a few years, I intend to be the best employee I can be. I learn quickly, and I’m willing to learn from mistakes and put my time I wherever I’m needed. She told me that some of ‘the girls’ don’t like doing the embroidery work. But I figure, if that’s where I can be the most good, that’s where I’ll work. After all, she’s the boss.

It feels good to be back at a regular job again. On a regular schedule. Feeling productive. I’m hopeful that this will lead to added prosperity and good luck in the future.

Divorce, Lies, and Bullying

As I recently posted, this past weekend was Garris’ last high school rodeo. Ever.

I thought I would be more melancholic about that milestone, but I’m not. I will miss going to the different arenas and watching him make his runs. But the atmosphere among the rodeos themselves have changed over the course of the last few years.

It’s no secret that my divorce was contentious. My ex is a petty and bitter person who, almost seven years after signing dissolution papers, is still foisting his bitterness onto our kids. I tried the first few years to co-parent with him. I kept him in the loop about parenting decisions and asked for his input and help when I was at a loss over what to do with Garris. But I didn’t get anything but blowback from him. So, a couple of years ago, I quit trying.

The reason that matters? The majority of our friends no longer speak to me. The majority of rodeo parents ignore me. These are people that I once considered, if not friends, at least folks who I could sit with and chat with during the rodeos. Now, I feel like a pariah when I go into the stands to watch the rodeos.

A couple of the rodeo moms told me last fall some of the things that are floating around the gossip mill about me. And there is only one source that could have originated those lies. I suffer from severe social anxiety. I get physically sick when I have to be a large crowds. Even just walking in front of people, like in the grandstands at a rodeo, makes me nervous. I have hyperventilated before in those situations and almost passed out. And now that I know I’m not welcomed to sit down with the other parents, the stress level I feel is magnified to a level that I can’t control.

Honestly, the people who believe the rumors about me, after knowing me for ten or fifteen years, aren’t people I need in my life. I don’t mourn the loss of them. What makes me angry and frustrated is that so many of these parents are ostracizing me based on lies. No one has asked me if there is any truth in the rumors. No one has been decent enough to give me the benefit of the doubt, probably because I’m a quiet person. I’m not going around debasing my ex or spreading lies about him. No one has questioned me about what led to our divorce, which is very different from the false narrative that’s being told.

These parents are engaging in adult bullying. It’s amazing to me that at this point in my life, I am witnessing the same actions that happen in schools. I’m an easy target. And it is hurtful. It reminds me of my two years at Bozeman High School and having to make my way through the gauntlet of mean girls and cliques. Once I graduated, I never figured I’d have to steel myself against that kind of behavior again.

It’s like I told Garris the other day: I always enjoy watching his runs, even the ‘bad’ ones. But having to sit by myself, knowing that I will be ignored if I try to sit with other parents, makes it a lonely way to watch the rodeos. I used to be included in the chit-chat. I used to be in the rotation of bringing treats. Now, it’s like the other parents can’t remember who I am.

So maybe that’s why I won’t really miss the high school rodeo atmosphere. I’m looking forward to attending college rodeos. And because Garris is the youngest, I will be able to go to more of those than I could with my older boys. Sure, some of these same parents will be in attendance at those rodeos, but college rodeos are set up differently than high school. There are different sections of go’s, so that not every student competes at the same time, or on the same day, for the same round.  So the number of those parents in attendance at the same time as me will most likely be drastically reduced.

I know that in time, the truth will rear its head. And those people who are actively choosing to believe in lies will discover they’ve been manipulated. But that doesn’t quell the pain in my chest or the nausea in my stomach.

I think this weekend finally brought some clarity to Garris as far as my struggle to support him without exposing myself to the cruel comments from the other parents. Our district was going to do an ice cream social for our seniors. Garris asked me if I was going to attend it, and I talked with him honestly and openly about how the other parents treated me. He nodded and said that he didn’t like the situation. He said he was sorry that they acted that way. And he said he didn’t understand why they wouldn’t talk to me. He knew that there are lies being told.

But he also understood why I wasn’t keen on putting myself in the middle of that social time. By the end of the weekend, he thanked me several times for driving to Baker and he said he knew that it wasn’t easy for me to be in crowds or around those other parents. So, even though it is the end of his high school career, I feel like he and I grew a bit closer and he grew up a bit over this weekend.

All I can hope is that he learns from this how to treat other people. We all love to hear juicy gossip about others. But not too many people work to separate fact from fiction when it comes to information sharing. What I’ve learned over the past few years is to reserve judgement about other people’s situations until I know the entire story. I try to choose kindness over cattiness. Sometimes I succeed. Sometimes not. But I try very hard not to spread rumors. I know firsthand just how much it hurts when those rumors are false and being treated as gospel.

Ultimately, I will be fine. I know what led to my divorce. I know what’s true about me and what isn’t. I know my culpability in my situation. The web of lies that has multiplied over the last couple of years will eventually tear apart and the creator of those lies will be proven as unreliable. A liar. Someone you can’t trust.

I am secure in my small circle of friends. They know me and defend me voraciously. I know who I can count on. That’s what I have to focus on as I take a step forward, with Garris, away from the childish antics of high school rodeo. And toward the next chapter of my rodeo mom career: my final college student.

Hello World

This weekend marked the end of an era. After twenty years of attending youth and MHSRA rodeos, I watched Garris compete in his final state rodeo. Unfortunately, it was not the weekend he expected or wanted.

 

He couldn’t buy a good catch. He missed both of his tie-down calves. He caught both team roping steers, but during the first run, his heeler missed both shots for the heels. On the second run, Garris missed his dally, his rope popped out of his hand, and he broke the fifth metacarpal bone when his hand hit his horn.

 

On top of all that, he missed out on winning one of the Montana Hall and Wall of Fame scholarships. Each of his brothers were awarded one of the scholarships and Garris figured he had a pretty good shot at one for himself. It just wasn’t his weekend.

 

For the first time in seven years of MHSRA competition, Garris did not qualify for the short go at a state rodeo. He missed out for the short go by one spot in tie down and two spots in team roping. As s result, he didn’t make it to Nationals.

 

Now, going to Nationals is a huge goal. It is prestige, a shot at scholarships, and a chance to move up to the next level of competition. But we parents tend to make it a bigger deal than it should be. We put too much pressure on our kids for one rodeo, once a year. I am just as guilty as anyone else. So, this year, I tried to downplay the importance of Nationals. And when his luck failed him, I said the most positive things I could think of.

 

I don’t like the way our state rodeo is set up and how points are awarded. Double points at state set it up unfairly. Why? I see it every year that kids who have led standings all season have a bad weekend and end up dropping in the standings and miss out on their chance to go to Nationals. Conversely, kids who have hovered at the low-end of the middle pack have one great weekend and leapfrog over other kids. Those kids qualify for Nationals and go into a competition that they are not even remotely ready for.

 

Every year, Cyris ended up in the crying hole because he had one bad run or a sub-par weekend. He worked harder than any kid I’ve seen, and his hard work was derailed by stress or a crappy draw. It just never seemed fair to me, and ultimately it ended up souring him on rodeo competition.

 

Some might say that kids should be able to handle the stress. But should they be put into that situation? It’s easy to say that state is just another rodeo, but in reality, every kid knows how much weight is on every run.

 

I wish the high school association would adopt the same process as college: whoever has the most total points at the end of the last regular season rodeo gets to go to Nationals. Every point counts. And there are only eight total weekends of competition – four in the fall and four in the spring.

 

We are done with high school rodeo, so the format doesn’t apply to us any longer. And changing it into something similar to college would turn it into a trailer race. But I don’t see how it’s much different than what it is right now. Many of the families already spend eight to ten weekends each fall and spring to get their kids to as many rodeos as possible. If districts would come back, that would limit how many rodeos each kid can go to. That would eliminate the trailer race aspect and put everyone on a level playing level. And it would eliminate the stress-filled weekend of a state rodeo that determines who goes to Nationals.

 

As I look back over the past twenty years and replay my boys’ rodeo careers thus far, I realize how quickly those years flew by. I can remember so clearly when Garris first picked up a rope. He was two years old. By the time he was three, he was roping a dummy. And by four, he was competing in pee wee events at the rodeos.

 

Now, he’s eighteen and ready to launch into the world. He still has rodeo goals. He wanted to compete in NRA rodeos this summer, as well as Wrangler ropings. But a broken hand is going to force him to change that plan. He still wants to someday qualify for the NFR. Right now, his favorite, and best, event is tie down roping.

 

He was disappointed in failing to make the short go. But he came to terms with it pretty quickly.

 

In the big picture, not qualifying for Nationals wasn’t such a bad thing. The weekend could have been much, much worse. Even though he broke his hand, at least he didn’t lose any fingers. And he may not have made Nationals, but he has four years of college rodeo to look forward to.

 

He has had some horse power issues this spring, and I don’t think his horse would have been competitive at the National level. So it’s probably a blessing in disguise. Traveling to Lincoln, Nebraska, would have been expensive. He would have had to miss about ten days of work. And the competition would have been much more stressful than state. So, at the end of the weekend, I don’t think he was terribly upset about where he ended up.

 

I honestly think this gave Garris more incentive to work harder to prove himself at the collegiate level. I think his pride was damaged more than his hand. He has always been one of the kids to beat in calf roping. And usually, he steps up and makes at least one great run during the state rodeo. This year, it just didn’t materialize. And I think that bothered him more than missing out on the National team.

 

For me, I was relieved that his high school career ended as it did. He has struggled the past two years with academics. I was just thankful he received his diploma and has been accepted into UM-Western at Dillon.

 

As the flag drops on high school competition, a whole new world opens up for him starting in the fall. Hello world. Garris is on his way.

 

 

One Year Already

Last week was the one-year mark of my dad’s death. I know everyone says this, but I cannot believe that a year has gone by without him.

I asked my mom ahead of time how she wanted to acknowledge the day. We landed on a family dinner and all the kids attended. We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day a couple days early with corned beef and cabbage, plus Irish soda bread and Irish pound cake for dessert. My dad liked that meal, so I thought it was fitting to enjoy it.

As I have with all dinners this year, I set an empty place for Dad beside Mom. It keeps him in our thoughts, although we really don’t need the reminder.

I was thankful for the kids. Mom actually coped better than I figured she would. She had moments during the day where she retreated to her room, most likely to cry. But overall, her spirit was good. During dinner, Cyris kept us in stitches, teasing Garris and making quips about everything. We all needed the laughter.

The past year has seen a lot of change for us. Just the process of filing paperwork in response to Dad’s death took months, especially with the pandemic taking grip. Sorting through their house and culling loads to the dump took months as well.

And planning his memorial service, while dealing with an ungrateful and obnoxious family member, took months of time, a lot of energy, and a great deal of emotion.

Moving Mom in last summer was one of the biggest changes for all of us. I know it’s hard for her to give up her autonomy and her home. But it would have been harder for her to stay there alone. She has never lived alone, and I don’t think she would have survived it very long. We are still adjusting to the living arrangement. And I will admit, there are days I long for my private, selfish days of having my house to myself.

But I think we are all content with the arrangement. The weeks that Garris is with me, we adjust to that reality as well. The house is louder and seems more alive when he is here, even on the days he’s only around for a few hours.

Mom’s house was vandalized last August, and that threw another wrinkle into the situation. Luckily, the only damage done was to drywall, flooring, and windows, plus some personal items that were left in the house. We had already moved anything of value out of the house. But the process is on-going with the insurance company. And the contractors are squeezing the repairs into their schedules, so we’re still waiting for work to get done.

Sylvis has been living in the house since last fall, when he decided to move back from Texas. His plans for breaking into the film industry didn’t pan out, mostly due to Covid, which shut down most of the opportunities he was pursuing. He has done all of the clean-up and all of the structural repair work at the house so far, along with a couple of friends. He is doing remodeling: flooring, painting, etc. And although it’s taking more time than a contractor would, he is doing a good job and the house will look better once he’s finished. Dad wouldn’t even recognize it.

Mom is still debating about selling. If she is offered enough money for the place, I’m sure she will sell in a heartbeat. She has admitted, she wants to be done with the place. With Dad gone, it just isn’t the same. And I think here is feeling more like home to her now.

One of my biggest adjustments has been having someone with me twenty-four hours a day. Not since Garris was five have I been in this situation. And I’m not used to it. I am used to doing my own projects, at my own pace. I am used to coming and going without anyone looking over my shoulder or offering judgement. In short, my days the last few years have been free-form in terms of scheduling. I tend to be a free spirit and let the day take me where it needs to.

My mom, on the other hand, is used to a very structured routine, doing everything at almost the exact same time every day. Chores, meals, even brushing her teeth, are dictated by the clock. I told her before she moved over that I didn’t roll that way, and that we weren’t going to be joined at the hip.

The first couple of months, she acted like my shadow, following me everywhere. If I went outside to do a personal project, she would suddenly be at my shoulder. And then be upset if I didn’t have anything for her to help with. Conversely, there have been times I asked her to do a certain job, and she acted put out by the request. And that is where my biggest frustration lies.

I don’t need anyone creating jobs or tasks for me to do. I have a constant, revolving list of manuscripts and other house-related or craft projects to keep me busy longer than I sometimes care to be. Plus, I work out each day and try to ride a horse and/or mess with my colt. And even when I try to think of things to keep Mom busy and content, she seldom wants to partake in those activities unless I’m going to do them too.

I’ve suggested movies. She doesn’t like watching tv. I’ve suggested music. She doesn’t like listening to the radio. I’ve suggested sewing. She doesn’t want to. I’ve suggested taking up new hobbies like knitting or crochet. Nope. I even suggested she go through her mom’s recipes from when she ran the Woolworth lunch counter and choose fifty to put into a recipe book. I would help her publish it. So far, she hasn’t looked at any of them.

Honestly, I don’t care what she does with her time. If she’s content surfing the internet or re-reading the same books over and over again, then I’m glad she’s happy. But to act and say that she’s bored when she won’t even try to stay busy does irritate me. Last fall, I was making blankets for everybody out of Dad’s shirts. It was a surprise for Christmas, so I kept my door closed. But I’m sure she heard the sewing machine going. She was upset that my door was closed, because she thought I didn’t want her around.

She does ride her horses when the weather is good. And I’m glad she feels like doing that and still can at 82. But even then, it feels more like a duty than something she enjoys. That’s what struck me the other day: everything she does during the day is done as quickly as she can get it done and then she looks to the next thing as her next obligation.

Sylvis gave her some adult coloring books for Christmas, for something different to do with her time. She colored in them obsessively until she had them all filled up in a matter of a month. I’m not sure if she even enjoyed the process, because she was so focused on ‘getting done’. And that kind of defeated the whole purpose of the books.

Whether it’s feeding the horses or eating a meal or again, brushing her teeth. She approaches tasks with an almost obsessive quality. Even taking a bath, which is something I utterly enjoy. I get the water as hot as I can stand it, pour it bubbles, then enjoy soaking in as much water as will fit in the tub. Not Mom. She rushes into the bathroom as soon as chores are done, runs a tiny bit of water, and spends about three minutes in it. What’s the point?

I know that she is used to her routine, and I’m not actively trying to interfere with that. She got into habits while Dad was alive, and she isn’t going to change them now. But I have to wonder what Dad would think, or if she was like this with him.

I know he was regimented in his routine as well, but I don’t recall him taking on tasks as duties. I don’t remember him ever saying or acting like he was bored or had nothing to keep him occupied. He did do a lot of reading. He repaired tack over the winter and made sure all the saddles got soaped up. He was very good at puttering.

And maybe that’s what I expect from Mom. I really thought by the one year mark, she would have settled into this life a little more. Enjoyed not having a set schedule every day. Have the ability to pursue a hobby that maybe she hadn’t been able to when Dad was alive. I don’t know.

And I’m not sure what she does with a lot of her time, because she stays in her bedroom most of the day. I gave her a puzzle for Christmas, and I figured she would work on it a little bit each day. It sat in the box for a couple of weeks. Then she did get all the pieces out and turn them over. But she didn’t put any pieces together for another couple of weeks. We’re going on three months and the border isn’t done yet. Again, this was an idea of something to occupy her time and keep her brain active. But she would rather be alone in her room.

She is a contradiction of actions. I used to think that my dad was a bit harsh with her at times. But I’m seeing that she is more high-strung that I realized. She can be demanding and borderline cruel with some of her comments. So, I do understand a little bit better why Dad talked to her the way he did sometimes. I did make him a promise the day he died that I would look after Mom and make sure she was okay. I would make sure she ate. I would get her wherever she needed to go with her horses. I let him know that she wouldn’t be alone. And I think and hope that brought him some measure of comfort in his final moments. And I take that promise seriously.

There are still moments I reach for the phone to call and talk to him. Ask him advice. Or just see how they are doing. I find myself finding recipes that I think he would enjoy. And I still try them, but it’s not the same as seeing what his reaction would be.

I hope that he has found some peace by now, one year after going to rest on that mountain. I’m sure he has found all his great horses and tracked down all the people he was missing. I do feel like he’s been a guardian angel at times. And I like the idea of that. I talk to him almost every day. Even if it’s just a quick good night.

There are certain songs I can’t listen to without crying. There are certain phrases that hit me hard. And there are days when his picture on the wall makes me a bit sad. I didn’t leave anything unsaid or undone with him. I am confident in that fact. But I do wish for more time. To ask him some questions about his life, about things I never knew until we went through papers and boxes. I wish for another chance just to observe how to be a decent person.

My dad was one of the most selfless people I ever knew. He willingly did without things so that he could help us kids or grandkids. And to a degree that I wasn’t aware of. A certain family member always had his hand out, asking for money, always with a sad sob story. And always with a promise to pay Dad back. That money never did get paid back. Dad actually had to pay back loans that this person had finagled out of other family members, because he never paid them back either. I want to go back in time and tell my dad to just stop the handouts. Let this person stand on his own and supply his own needs. But I can’t.

What I can do is make sure that Mom is never forced into that situation. She needs a thicker bubble of protection now. I think Dad would appreciate that. The next big day is his birthday in two days. I don’t have any celebration planned, but I will bake a cake and we can sing for him and enjoy something sweet in his honor.

I feel like we can all start to live again, as normal as we possibly can, because we have acknowledged all the ‘first times’ without Dad. Not that we will ignore him now or forget him. But I feel like Mom has almost wrapped herself in grief this past year. I know she will always miss him, and she should. But there have been times I’ve watched her use his death to try and get sympathy or excuse her less-than-stellar actions.

I feel like I’m coming out from under a black cloud myself. I have rearranged my life this past year to accommodate Mom’s move and her lifestyle, to a certain extent. And I’m happy I was able to do that. No regrets. But I haven’t taken time for myself, to be alone, and to fully process what Dad’s death means in my life. I need to start forging ahead with some of the plans and goals I’ve put on hold.

One thing I am going to do is to go visit Marnie and re-fresh our friendship. We are planning on traveling somewhere this fall, depending on Covid and travel restrictions. We’d like to do either Greece or Aruba. But if the pandemic continues, we’ll do something domestic. Doesn’t really matter as long as it’s warm and we’re together for a relaxing week or so. That will mean prepping Mom for my absence. I’ve already told her of the plan, so she has several months to wrap her head around being alone for a couple of weeks. And I know the boys will check in with her. I have friends who can help if she needs it.

After this last year, I’m embracing the idea of enjoying whatever it is I’m doing. In the moment. Making it a memory. And something to treasure. Not something I just have to get through. I’m making a point of making that my life’s mantra. Live life to the fullest, without regrets.

I think Dad might have adopted that himself, had he known how everything would end.

Still thinking of you, Dad. Til we see each other again . . .

Changes

In the last three weeks, I have bought a new car, sold my pickup, and sold my horse trailer. That’s a lot of vehicle changes in a short amount of time.

My mom and I have been kicking around the idea of going in together on a crossover SUV. So, I did some research and landed on the Hyundai Santa Fe. It’s got the best warranty of any class of SUV, plus that model is made in Montgomery Alabama, using American made parts. I liked a few other makes as well, but they didn’t get the safety ratings I wanted or started out too expensive for just the base model.

I had intended to buy either a good used Santa Fe, or one of the base models of the newer ones. But you know what they say about good intentions? We went to Missoula with the intention of simply driving one to see if we liked it. We ended up buying the top trim level model, with a turbo engine. Plus, it’s bright red.

I’m sure I did every single thing the experts tell you not to do when buying a car. We only drove one. I didn’t step back and leave the showroom to think it over. I said I liked the car. I didn’t ask enough questions on the pricing. I do like the car. And most important, my mom likes it and feels like she can now go off by herself to do things if needed. So, in the big picture, it was a good decision. Like I told my mom, if we decide after a few months that we don’t like it as well as we thought, we’ll trade it in. I have no problem doing that. So far, I’m not attached to this car.

I absolutely loved my pickup. It was the first vehicle that I bought following my divorce, and it made a statement. It was a beautiful tungsten gray, one-ton diesel Silverado. It was a sexy truck, and I liked driving it. It had power, class, and was fun. But, it had 130,000 miles on it. I am facing an empty nest in the next few months. I’m not hauling horses like I was before Garris got his driver’s license. Plus, he’s not using my horses this spring.

I had intentions of starting to compete in breakaway myself, but I think that’s at least a year away. It may even be one of those dreams that has to die, because I just can’t get any help pursuing it further than roping the dummy.

So, I checked out my truck’s value on Kelley Blue Book. I looked up what it was worth as a trade in, what it was worth selling private party, and what the cash offer might be from a dealer. After looking at all three, I decided to try the cash offer. The three values were within $500 of each other. I hate trying to sell anything, but especially vehicles. That way, I didn’t have to deal with people wanting to drive my pickup and possibly getting in a wreck. I didn’t have to haggle with anyone over its value.

Within a few minutes of hitting the button, two dealers were in contact with me. One was in Butte; one was in Helena. I tried the Butte one first, as it is forty miles closer to me. The men who assisted me loved the truck, commented about how clean it was and how well I had taken care of it. I had all of my maintenance records with me. I honestly had no issues with the truck, but I figured it was worth getting something out of it while it still had value.

I was surprised they didn’t even open the hood. They drove it up Harrison Avenue for about three minutes.

They ended up offering me a little more than the KBB offer, and I walked away with check in hand. I will admit, I cried. I hated walking away from my pickup. And I know, I can always buy another one, and probably will in another year or so. But that pickup was a part of me and my life for the past six years. It represented my freedom from a troubled marriage. I only hope whoever buys it will get as much enjoyment and use out of it as I did.

Similarly, I hated selling my trailer. I had ordered it exactly the way I wanted it from a dealer in Billings. It was a three horse Hart trailer, with an oversized front tack and swing out saddle racks. It didn’t have a living quarters, because we didn’t plan to use it on many overnight trips. But for a night or two, there was plenty of room for two of us to sleep in it. It was easy to pull, and it was just about the right size. But it was sitting unused for most of the two years I had it.

Garris has decided against competing in reined cow horse. He decided not to use Fritz for calf roping. So, my trailer has basically sat in the barn for most of the time I’ve had it. I ordered it with the intention of hauling him to cow horse events and because he said he was going to use Fritz. It really didn’t make any sense to leave it sitting, while it had value in it. So far, it hasn’t gotten dinged up or damaged.

So, I took it back to the dealer and consigned it with him. It sold within two weeks to a woman in California.

My place looks pretty bare without those two vehicles parked outside. And I have had a few moments of panic, like maybe I should have hung onto them. But I think I made the right decisions. I couldn’t see paying insurance on vehicles I really wasn’t using. And right now, we can get by with my mom’s truck and the old red stock trailer. She has a few reined cow horse shows she wants to attend this summer, but none of those are any further away than Bozeman. So, we can make do until I get another truck. Or until we can find a two horse stock combo that would suit our needs right now.

So, I have a little bit of money in the bank, a nice little sporty car to drive, and an easier spring than I anticipated in terms of high school rodeo. It’s hard to think that this is the last season of sitting in the bleachers and cheering on a son. And maybe that’s why I’m so emotional selling my rodeo rigs.

Garris asked me the other day what I was going to do when he was gone. I told him the first thing I was going to do was miss him. And as I think ahead to when he’s done with high school and either goes to college or trade school or work, I know there are many more changes ahead of me. I’m just not sure I’m ready for all of them.

 

Summer of ’84

If I could go back to one moment in time, I would go back to the summer of 1984. One moment changed the trajectory of my life. I have grieved so often for what I lost due to that decision.

When I was sixteen, the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school, my dad asked me to go for a ride with him one evening. I climbed on one of my colts and we rode through one of the neighboring ranches. We stopped on the top of a butte to rest the horses and he told me that he was offered a job – a transfer to Belgrade.

It meant leaving my friends and moving 300 miles away.

“If that’s what we need to do, then I guess that’s what we need to do.” I tried to be practical.

“No, you should have some say in your life. Do you want to go or stay?”

“Well, I don’t want to leave, but what’s the option?”

“I don’t know.”

We kicked around the idea of Mom and I staying in Miles City until I graduated. Or me staying there alone. Or staying with someone. But in the end, my folks didn’t want to leave me. And my dad didn’t want to leave his job.

So, I left behind a lifetime and moved to the Gallatin Valley.

I have thought a lot about how my life might have been different had I been more selfish and insisted on staying in my hometown. I know the emotional trauma I suffered from that upheaval would never have happened. I’m sure other things in my life would have affected me, but not to the degree that that had on me.

I left my friends. My school. My life. I know that sounds melodramatic – the emotional rantings of a teenaged girl. But at the time, I didn’t realize how untethered I would become. I was vested in my friends and my school. I had a solid life in Miles City. I had goals and expectations. I had a place and a role.

When we moved, that shifted. I suddenly was just a student in a sea of other faces. I wasn’t anybody special or talented. I didn’t have any people in my corner at school. I didn’t have people to lean on or confide in. My mom was consumed in her own situation: she didn’t seem to have the time or energy to help me deal with the loss of my ‘everything’.  That was when I started internalizing my hurt and just got through as best I could.

Mostly, I didn’t have my best friend, M. We had become almost inseparable by the time I left. She was like a sister; she spent more nights at our house each week than she did at her own. I didn’t realize how my leaving would also affect her. And our friendship. I thought our relationship would weather anything. I was wrong.

At the time, I didn’t realize she was dealing with an abusive stepdad. I didn’t realize that she was coming apart emotionally. I didn’t know any of that until several years after we were out of high school. And only then did I find out her true feelings about my leaving.

She was angry and hurt that I left. She said and did a few things to ‘get back’ at me because she felt I abandoned her that summer. She felt lost. Like I didn’t care about her. Like I escaped and left her behind.

I was hurt that she didn’t seem to care how alone I was. How miserable I felt. And how much I needed her to still be on my side. She didn’t understand that I didn’t have the power to stay or the power to fix her situation. Now, of course, I see that my home and my parents were her safety zone. The place, with the people, where she could just be a teenager.

When our friendship imploded, I was broken-hearted. I confided some things in her that she then shared with my mom. I lost faith, not only in her, but in people in general. I cut myself off emotionally to anyone else. I didn’t forge any lasting friendships with anyone at my new school. I didn’t pursue any good romantic partners. I kept choosing guys that were wrong for me: slackers, too old, too immature. But at the time, I wasn’t aware of that.

Had I stayed in Mile City, I would have graduated at the top of my class with my childhood friends. I would have pursued something useful in college. I probably would have been part of the high school paper staff. And maybe gone to journalism school or do something else with writing.

I would have possibly gone to a horse school in either Texas, Colorado, or Wyoming. I wanted to do that, but my dad inadvertently talked me out of pursuing that dream. So, I stayed at home, again, and got a degree in sports medicine, which I have never used.

I would have avoided my ex-husband and not been tormented with emotional abuse for twenty plus years. I would have waited for the right person and not settled for someone who was coarse and loud and obnoxious. Because I know M would have told me that I was being stupid for giving him the time of day.

Mostly, I would have held fast to my best friend. She and I would have helped each other through the toughest challenges we faced together. That, more than anything, is what I grieve the most.

After I left, she started hanging out with the party crowd. She started drinking. Doing indiscriminate sex. I think she started doing some drugs. She got hepatitis. I’m not suggesting that I would have somehow prevented all of that from happening. She might have been on that path anyhow. But I do believe, had I stayed, she would have felt she had another option. I heard rumors from other friends, about how wild she got and how careless she was with herself.

Knowing what I do now, I think she was screaming out for help in the only way she knew. Once she was out of high school, she married a classmate right away, and they moved to Germany, where he was stationed. The marriage didn’t last long. And she was on to someone else. She tended to follow in her mother’s pattern of jumping from man to man, from bed to bed.

And there’s no judgment on my part. I didn’t live her life or survive what she did. From what I understand about sexual abuse survivors, her behavior is almost textbook. What I feel bad about is that I wasn’t aware of what was going on. And I will admit, I was pretty naïve in terms of the world. I didn’t date much. I didn’t flirt. I was the stereotypical ‘good girl’. But I think she needed that in her life. She needed the rules and limits that my parents placed on me, so that she could bounce up against those when she felt out of control. When she stayed with us, my parents were her excuse to say no if she got into a situation that was maybe too much for her.

And I needed her just as much, for the opposite reasons. I loved spending time with her, because she gave me the freedom to be silly and funny and daring. I experienced a side of myself and a side of life that wasn’t available to me while I was being that good girl. Nothing salacious. We didn’t drink or do drugs. But we cut loose. We drove around and sang at the tops of our lungs. We went out on a motorcycle. We went skinny dipping. Things that were still pretty innocuous, but for me, things that were bumping up against my boundaries. I felt free and confident with her.

I guess it boils down to: we brought out the best parts of each other. And together, we were almost invincible. It got to the point with our friends and classmates that if they saw one of us, they expected to see us both. I have never had that kind of friendship with another person. And more than a romantic relationship with a man, I crave that kind of friendship again with M.

Unfortunately, it took a medical challenge for us to put the past in the past. We are finally restoring the vibes and the easy relationship we had when we were teenagers. When my dad was flown to Denver following a massive stroke, M stepped right back into my life. She offered love and support. And that meant so much to me. I let go of all the hurt and resentment I had felt through the years. Maybe I just finally grew up enough to see that we were both at fault for the disintegration of our friendship.

We are planning a trip somewhere this fall. Don’t know where yet; it will depend a lot on what happens with the whole covid crap. We never did get that cross-country graduation trip that we had talked about during high school. Might have to do that at some point too.

I mourn for my interrupted life. It died, just as much as a person can. I became a different person, one I didn’t recognize or like.

I don’t blame my folks. They did what they thought was best at the time. And that’s all we can do. But if I could go back and change it I would. I know it wouldn’t have been ideal to be on my own at sixteen. But when I look at what I ultimately had to do, I was on my own. I lived with my grandparents for the last two years of high school, only going home on weekends. How would that have been different than my staying in Miles City?

One thing that made M really mad was that my mom wouldn’t consider letting me stay with her, with either of her parents. Mom had a pretty good idea, I think, that something was going on at those houses. But she didn’t know exactly what. She just didn’t want me part of that. She didn’t like the way M’s mom parented. She treated her daughter like a wing man for her and allowed her to do things that were beyond what a teenaged girl is mature enough to handle. And her dad was an enigma. We didn’t know him well, but Marnie’s brother lived with the dad. He was an alcoholic and drug addict, who had a severe anger issue. Still is, and he has spent most of his adult life in prison for drug-related crimes. So, I can’t blame my mom for saying no.

But I have to wonder who else might have allowed me to stay. Or at least checked in with me had I stayed on my own. I was mature enough at that time to be on my own. I could have gotten a small apartment, or we could have found someone for me to stay with. Ranch families did that every year when one of their kids had to start school in town. Something. Anything would have been better than the hell I went through.

And it didn’t stop when I graduated. The effects of that move have stayed with me throughout my life. I lost confidence in myself. I lost the drive I had to succeed. And I settled for a lot of things: the wrong man. The wrong major. The wrong plan for my life.

The entire trajectory of my life would have been so different had I stay where I had friends, support, and a good foundation to succeed.

It’s possible that M and I still would have gone different directions and ended up cutting our ties. But there is a part of me that thinks we would have weathered things. Maybe gone a couple of years between visits. But not twenty. I went back to the ten year reunion and she didn’t make it. I did see her a couple years after that, when we were traveling through Colorado. But we were each married to emotionally abusive men at the time, and we weren’t able to spend any time alone together. We both attended the twenty-year reunion, but she was hip-to-hip with her latest man, and again, we had no time together. Then it was fourteen years before we saw each other again. There have been a few instant messages and the yearly birthday greetings. But I want more.

We planned to go on a Caribbean trip for our fiftieth birthdays. But I had a cancer scare and simply couldn’t afford to go. I should have gone regardless. Which is why I’m so adamant about us going somewhere this fall together.

So, if I could go back, I would go back to that summer evening and beg my folks to let me stay put. And as it turned out, two years later, the company my dad worked for gave him the option of transferring out of state or taking severance pay. This after he had worked for them for thirty years. So, in the end, that move devastated not only my life but that of my parents as well. We just weren’t aware of that at the time.

I think maybe my folks would have chosen differently too, had they known what the ultimate outcome would be. If only we had the ability to look into the future and see which direction to take . . .

 

 

 

Farewell FB

A few days ago, I finally pulled the plug on my Facebook account. I’ve been mulling over the decision for about two years. I finally had enough of the leftist bias, the censorship issues, and the swirling hatred in so many posts. When I first joined, it was because Cyris and Sylvis each wanted an account, so I got on to see first hand what they were jumping into.

It has gotten progressively aggressive. The platform is a ‘safe’ way for people to condemn, push agendas, and be virtual bullies, all from the sanctity of their home and keyboard. It used to be about sharing funny memes and keeping up with long-distance friends. But for months, it has only made me sad and angry.

I never have posted much. I don’t think people really care what I eat for meals or what I wear to go ride the horses. I’m not sharing personal information, like vacation dates and destinations or delicate information like surgeries. I don’t post pictures of myself. Only occasionally will I post something about the boys if they had a good day at rodeo. I just don’t think random posts like the above mentioned are necessary. And I am shocked daily by what some people share over the web.

I learned a few years ago that trying to post opinions on some posts was like inciting a verbal name calling war. It amazed me that grown adults would stoop to those tactics when someone didn’t agree with their politically ideologies. And I simply stopped posting any arguments.

I found myself wasting too much time going through hateful posts from people whose opinions were far away from mine. And I found myself internally responding, getting angrier and most disillusioned about human kind. I had to block people that I had known since kindergarten. I had to unfriend a couple because of things they posted. Not about me or connected to me, but things that were simply not within the realm of being kind.

I haven’t missed it. I took the app off my phone. It’s no longer on my computer, and I am getting a lot more accomplished during the day. Still not as much as is on my lists every morning. But I don’t have running commentary going in my head. I don’t have to scroll past certain people who seem to always put something controversial on their feed.

And given today’s political climate and uncertainty for this country, right now I’m content to duck my head away from mis-information and outright lies being offered as the gospel. I am trying out MeWe and will wait to see if Parler can find a new host for its platform.

It’s sad that in today’s modern world, we as humans are still reduced to caveman behavior and tactics. What happened to civility and the ability to have differing opinions without the need to belittle and denigrate? I have friends and family members who do not agree with me on every topic. That’s okay. We’re still friends. We’re still family. We still love each other. We know that there are certain things we aren’t going to talk about. And that’s okay, too.

I think what disappoints me the most is how deflated I feel, not only about the outcome of this fraudulent election but also about the vitriol being flung at anyone who stands away from the leftist agendas being shoving down our collective throat. That’s what I had to get away from.

The whole ‘woke’ movement of late, where I’m encouraged to apologize for my skin color and the fact that I have worked during my lifetime to accumulate a nice home and a comfortable lifestyle. Somehow, I’m to be held responsible for events that happened hundreds of years ago by people unrelated to me in any way.

So, for now, I am isolating from social media. The world of inflated egos, flatulent lies, and dangerous ‘influencers’.  I think my little world will be just fine. I have actual friends that I can talk to and who don’t resort to name calling if we disagree about something. We can make fun of each other without someone getting offended. And we can make jokes together, laughing so hard we either cry or wet our pants. I’ll take those kinds of friends over posts anyday.

Farewell FB. Hopefully the movement will catch on and more people will take the plunge to disengage from the dysfunctional environment.

Power Tools Blues

I have been divorced for six years now, and I have to admit, I’ve learned a lot about power tools and how to use them. Also how to not use them and what my limitations are with them.

I have been steadily increasing my tool inventory. I like corded tools much better than cordless. Maybe if I could afford to get the super powerful cordless ones, they would work better and last longer than the basic models I have. They sit on the shelves and will probably migrate to the boys at some point.

I know the basics of a drill and impact driver. I can run saws and sanders. Most recently, I bought a planer and have been replacing the kitchen counters with ones that I’m building out of boards from the barn. We are repurposing the wood and the counters so far look pretty cool. With each one, I learn something else so that they are evolving into better versions of the last.

But I still need help with some things in terms of power tools. Sometimes I don’t have the strength or force to push a screw into two pieces of wood. Or to get tin screws to go where I want.

Sometimes I don’t have enough confidence to run some of the tools. Sometimes I just need help moving them or keeping the wood steady. And that makes me angry. Especially when I watch Cyris show up and do all the jobs with ease that I have struggled with.

I also get irritated when Garris argues with me in regard to using the tools. I know he’s a guy and he thinks he knows everything better than I do simple due to his gender. But I am more precise with my measuring. And my fine tuning tasks, like sanding. He tends to go at things with all the finesse of a wild boar. And then things start breaking. Driver heads start wearing out and screws get stripped. Boards crack because he isn’t careful about where he starts the screw.

Take the other day. We are making shelves for the garage, using a technique I saw online. I thought it was very simple and easy to get things measured correctly. The first set went up easily and only took us in total a couple of days. The other set was a different situation. We are attaching them to a cement wall, so it wasn’t feasible to try and screw them into cement. I did get some masonry drill bits, but Garris didn’t want to spend the time needed to drill holes.

So, I suggested we either use a cement grade adhesive (which I had already purchased) or make them freestanding. His suggestion was to make them with rope. I vetoed that idea, and he got very angry.

So, we made the first set of legs and shelf supports outside. I suggested he measure everything before we began. Instead, he just starting screwing the pieces together. When we brought it into the garage, the legs were all different lengths. So he tried shortening them using a hacksaw, holding the leg up. Needless to say, we never did get the legs all the same length.

At that point, we put the adhesive on. I suggested moving the fridge over to keep the wood butted up against the wall. Garris didn’t want to move it six feet, so he propped the ladder up to it and put a case of bottled water on top. It promptly fell over.

After Garris left the garage, I man handled the fridge over to one leg, moved a dresser against the second, and put several cases of water against the third one.

After about thirty-six hours, the bonds look like they are holding pretty well. After Garris gets done with school today, we’ll try to finish those shelves, plus another set I started last night in the storage room.

Up to Garris, we’d be working on these shelves for the next three months. I want to get them up so I can de-clutter the basement and set up a work area for myself and get my supplies in one general area.

I’m not trying to pick on him, but if he would take the time to listen to what I say and suggest, the amount of work we actually have to do would be less. He isn’t good about putting tools away, either. And once he starts buying his own things, he can do what he wants with them. For now, with my tools, he needs to put them away. Where we can find them. Out of the weather.

Which is why I want to get all these shelves done in the garage, so I have a dedicated space for all my tools and all my hardware, etc. I won’t be searching in four different places in the house and wondering why I’m constantly buying new fasteners and new drill bits and new glue.

The next big tool I want to get is a big table saw, so I’m not trying to cut all this wood with a circular saw. So far, it has worked fine. But I have bigger pieces to use next and I know a table saw would be safer and more efficient.

Until then, I’ll suffer through the power tool blues and try not to use them on my youngest son.

Mom Too

After posting last time about my mom’s move in with us, I thought that it might have seemed  a bit harsh. I love my mom, and I’m happy with our arrangement. I was venting some frustration over what I see as choices. And I’ve talked with her about this.

It seems like Mom is choosing to look at life as the glass-half-empty scenario.

Yes, Dad died unexpectedly. But he died with both Mom and I at his side, holding his hands, allowing him a dignified death on his terms.

Yes, she’s a widow. But she isn’t alone. A couple of years ago, she voiced her concern over what would happen if she ended up alone. I told her then she would just move in with us. And when it looked bleak for Dad, I reminded her that she had that option.

Yes, she had to leave her home of 35 years. But wasn’t forced to sell it yet. She can wait until she’s ready to let go of it. She is fortunate that she has a place to live, where she can continue to ride her horses and live in the way she’s used to. It isn’t exactly her life as before, but it’s pretty damned close.

Yes she’s dependent on me for day to day living. I buy groceries and pay bills and make sure she has what she needs and wants. But many of her friends have told her that she’s in enviable position. Not every elderly parent is welcomed into their adult children’s homes. Many are left to fend for themselves for everything: food, medical, housing. At least she knows she has a warm home and everything will be okay in the long run.

Yes, her life has changed. But her lifestyle is basically the same. She still lives on an acreage. She still has her horses and her dogs. She still goes to the events she wants to.

What I mean about choices is that she is tended to. She is cared for. She is loved. But she still chooses to walk around with a frown on her face. She chooses to complain about the weather. She chooses to find reasons to be unhappy.

Last summer, after we had a little tiff, she sniffed and said she should ‘just go home.’ She had said that to me about once a week. That time, I asked her if that’s what she wanted. She looked at me with wide eyes and said no.

“Then don’t say that to me again. If you do, we’ll start moving you back to Belgrade.”

She hasn’t said it again.

Similarly, she somehow missed a payment on her cell phone bill, and they called her about it. She got mad and hung up on them, then started screaming about how unfair life was. She said she wished she were dead.

I told her that I didn’t know how to react to that or what to say. But that I didn’t want to hear that again, because that is a horrible thing to say to your daughter. She hasn’t said that again.

She was used to my dad doing everything: paying the bills, doing the banking, doing the shopping. Making arrangements for everything that needed to be done. She expected me to take that over. And I did help her get things arranged. But I refused to make her phone calls or take over her checkbook.

I forced her to call social security and Dad’s life insurance company. His pension accounts. I made her call about his death certificate. I made her go to the lawyer (I went with her). I made her make changes to all the bills and to the bank accounts. It was hard for her at first. But I knew she needed to be able to do those things herself. Plus, I didn’t want to give my brother any ammunition to claim that Mom wasn’t capable of taking care of herself.

And now, she doesn’t even ask me to make her phone calls. She does it herself, without prompting. She has gained confidence in herself. She knows I’m here if she needs help, but she also knows she can take care of some things alone.

I’ve had to adopt a kind of tough love with her, so that she didn’t just fade into a chair to curl up and die. She doesn’t have a lot of interests. She doesn’t watch tv, because it’s a waste of time. She doesn’t listen to music, because it’s stupid. She doesn’t want to knit or crochet or do any crafty type things. She enjoys reading but has read the same books dozens of times.

So, for Christmas, Sylvis gave her some adult coloring books, and she loves them. It keeps her occupied and gives her something to accomplish. Same with a couple of jigsaw puzzles.

She tends to feel left out when I write or when I am sewing or working on my own hobbies: I’m learning about watercolor painting; I practice my breakaway swing most days; I’m teaching myself to knit.  But she doesn’t really want to put any time into learning anything new or to do any of those hobbies, so I have to do my own thing and let her figure out how to fill her hours.

Mom only has a couple of friends. In the past, women have tried to do things with her, but she always declines invitations to lunch or shopping or anything. But then she gets mad when I go with Colleen to Butte and have lunch or am away for the day.

One friend has been a trooper. She calls Mom regularly, knowing that Mom will never call her. She continues to invite Mom to lunch, knowing that Mom will never go. And that’s sad. I have lost friends due to lies started during my divorce. The friends that I do have, I cherish and I nurture those friendships. But Mom has chosen to go through life without any friendships to speak of. And then complains because she doesn’t have anything to do or anyone to do things with.

She expects the world to conform to her whims, but she isn’t willing to put much effort into changing her behavior to help that happen. She doesn’t compromise or put herself out for anyone. Last summer, she competed in a reined cow horse series of shows, with some ladies who have known her for a dozen years. All of these women have always supported Mom and Dad, but this summer they went out of their way to encourage her, cheer her on, and compliment her runs. She was always in the first class of the day and always wanted to leave when she was done, so she never put any effort into watching these other women.

At the last show, I suggested we stay for awhile so she could do that. She thought that was a good idea, but then refused to leave the trailer when I said she should go over by herself. I know these women, but they are in Mom’s circle and she needed to spend some time alone with them. At first, she leaned against her horse and watched from the trailer (about two hundred yards away).

I kept telling her to go to the arena, and she just wouldn’t do it. She finally sat down by me at the trailer, and I started loading us up. I said that if she wasn’t going to go support anyone else, we may as well leave.

“I suppose you’re mad at me,” she said.

“No, I’m not mad. I don’t understand you. These people adore you and think of you as a friend, but you won’t do anything to support them they way they do you. You’re selfish. And if I were any of them, I wouldn’t consider you a friend after this summer.”

She likes hearing that her run was great, but she never offers any positive comment to anyone else. I have a hard time with that. I was not taught that when I was growing up, so it confuses me that she can’t be more gracious.

Even with the boys. Half the time when Cyris or Sylvis stop by for a short visit, Mom won’t even come out of her room to greet them or say goodbye to them. I told her a few weeks ago that if she didn’t change that, they were going to think she didn’t care if she saw them or not.

I have had to tell her that she needs to think more positively and there are days I have to ask her to avoid saying negative things. I remind her when she says the word ‘hate’ all day. Like she hates the wind. Or she hates the night. Or she hates the traffic. I don’t think she even realizes that she’s being a downer, until I say something.

I know some of my mom’s orneriness is simple aging. She will be 82 in a couple of weeks, and it’s normal for the brain to miss a step or two. And part of her personality is due to the same. But I’m stuck trying to figure out where normal aging stops and the more serious issue of dementia begins. Her mom developed Alzheimer’s and became mean. I don’t want to see my mom go down that road, but I’m unable to stop it if that’s in the cards for her.

So, for anyone who thinks I’m being overly critical of my mom, put yourself in my position. Think about your own parent moving in with you, rearranging your life to accommodate that parent, and feeling overwhelmed by the situation. I am trying to do what’s best for her without relegating her to a child-like position. I want her to retain her own life and her own self. Autonomy.

All while salvaging my own. The middle is not a great place to be, and I’ve already apologize to the boys for any future irritations I may cause. Like I told them, sometimes I think it’s a mom’s job to antagonize her children, intentionally or not. And though Grandma wasn’t trying to, she was driving me crazy! They all thought that was pretty funny.

But hopefully, this experience will help me in the future should I be the same position of living with any of my kids. And they may have a bit more patience with me than they sometimes have.

In the Middle

I’ve shared with you previously that my mom moved in with us after my dad’s death last year. She has been with us almost six months, and I’m grateful this was an option for her. She would not have done well alone.

But it has been a stressful time for me. When Dad had his heart attack, I became a de facto head of household for her. And when his stroke sent him to Denver, she relied on me for everything: finances, major decisions, day to day details. And again, I’m happy to help her. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But I feel like I’ve been ‘on’ twenty four hours a day for almost a year. I don’t have anyone to take some slack for me when I feel overwhelmed or when there is simply too much on my plate. I had to get Mom on track with transferring financial matters into her name, getting her house packed up and moved over here, dealing with medical bills and horse-related decisions, and her fragile mental health.

My brother has been useless, and that is being kind. He has thrown added stress into every situation from the beginning of this ordeal. So, I can’t even rely on him for assistance.

Add to that the logistics of creating a three generation household. All of the boys were on board with Mom moving here; they all said there was no other option. And I agreed. Still do. We are still adjusting to this change.

Mom took over two bedrooms and one of the living areas on the top floor of the house. She has her own bathroom. We share the rest of the house: kitchen, laundry room, dining room. And she really doesn’t spend any time downstairs, where Garris’ room and bathroom are. I have my own room and bathroom and a living area outside my bedroom. There is definitely plenty of space for everyone.

But sometimes I feel like I have another child in the house. I walk around behind my mom and turn off lights, pick up wrappers off the kitchen counter, and pick plates up from the table. I’ve asked her to watch the lights, because there is no sense paying for electricity we aren’t using. (I got the same lecture as a kid).

And I’m trying hard to avoid micromanaging her. She is an adult, and my mom, and I want her to feel comfortable here. But we have had to figure out a division of tasks. When she first got here, I did all the cooking and cleaning, including washing dishes. And I didn’t mind. Mom does not enjoy cooking, never has. I do, so it makes sense that I do the cooking. But what surprised me is how little she offered to help. And usually only when I was almost done with the meal. And then, when it was time to clean up, she would stand and watch me do dishes and wipe down the kitchen.

After a couple of months, we came to an agreement: I would cook and she would do dishes in the evening. When we were working outside last summer, I fixed two meals a day. Once the weather turned colder and we were stuck inside more, I whittled that down to one meal a day; the rest of the time we are both on our own for snacks or a smaller meal if we are hungry.

One of the biggest struggles for me is having another adult around twenty four/seven. I’m not used to that. I have my own routine, and I talked with Mom about that before she moved over. I told her we did not have to, and wouldn’t be able to, do everything together. I encouraged her to develop her own hobbies and meet with friends if she wanted to. I spend a lot of time by myself, as I have to concentrate. And I think she got her feelings hurt a bit when she first came over.

I shut the door to my room when I need to write. Or when I just want some privacy. When she first moved over, she would just walk into my room without knocking. It took me yelling one day for her to stop. I wasn’t proud of myself and didn’t do so intentionally, but she startled me and it was a knee jerk reaction.

I know that I have a certain way of doing things. A couple of things we had to hash out seemed obvious to me but apparently were not to her. She would go to the horse pens and walk through manure then walk through the house. In the summer, it was her tennis shoes, and lately, it has been her winter boots. I asked her to leave her manure shoes by the door and to not walk through the house. But she kept doing it, until I finally had to be more forceful.

I told her that she was dropping manure onto the carpet and that was smelling and staining it. I also reminded her that she used to get pissed off at Dad for doing that very thing. She got mad at me and told me I was being fussy. But I stood my ground.

Another thing has to do with garbage. We take our garbage to the dump, usually Garris does once or twice during the weeks he is here. I asked my mom to put her garbage into bags and tie them. She kept putting her garbage into the cans loose and it was flying out when Garris went to the dump. Week after week, I asked her the same thing. Week after week, she kept slipping in her garbage loose. Until I got mad again. I explained that it was easier to grab tied bags and take them to the dump. Plus, we didn’t lose as much garbage on the road. She pouted for a few days but has been complying.

It’s like she is reverting to a childish state of life.  And it’s frustrating.

She can be a bit sharp with words. She has no filter most days. And sometimes she seems to be intentionally hurtful. I can let a lot roll off me, but there are times she goes too far, and I have to bite back.

One example is the first week she was here. We had eaten an early dinner. And I was fixing a bowl of cereal to have before bed.

“I though you already ate.” She had a very judgmental tone in her voice.

“I did. And I’m going to have some cereal instead of dessert.”

“You don’t need it.

“How many ice cream bars have you eaten today , Mom?”

You see, she weighs about 85 pounds and is seriously underweight. Her biggest goal in life is to be as tiny as possible. It’s obvious to me now that she has at least a couple of eating disorders. And she is the reason I have struggled with my own. When I was in high school, she told me I was too big and too fat because I wasn’t the same size as her. (I was a size four!) I was always in sports and built muscular. I never had chicken legs or a non-existent butt like her. So, in her mind, I was too big.

So, I started starving myself and purging, trying to please her and to be closer to her size. Looking back, I was perfect. I regret abusing my body for so many years to reach an unattainable size. I didn’t realize at the time that she was purging after every meal, making herself sick.

But back to now. I told her that she didn’t get to comment on what or how much I ate. I recently lost about 35 pounds. None due to her comments. That topic is off limits.

I admitted to Garris the other day that I wish sometimes I had my house to myself. Even if it was only a couple of days. I miss feeling free in my own house. I feel like she’s judging me if I want to have a pop in the afternoon. Or if I decide to watch an episode of a tv show. (She doesn’t watch tv and makes snide comments about everything Garris and I watch.)

I think one of the hardest things for me has been her negativity. She is not a happy person, and I don’t think she ever has been. But she wallows. Focuses on everything that is wrong, instead of the things are going well. She overreacts any time some small thing happens, as if the world was ending because she deposited money into the wrong checking account and now has to transfer funds.

I’m most disappointed with her selfishness. I don’t remember her acting this way when I was growing up. And part of this is probably just aging. I see her mom in her, and my grandma got to be very nasty as she aged. But Mom doesn’t offer to help around the house much. She can’t seem to see when the garbage needs to be changed. Or when the rugs need vacuumed. She expects me to drop what I’m doing at any time during the day to focus on something she wants.

I drove her all last summer to her reined cow horse lessons and to her shows. I was happy to do it. We used my truck and trailer. And it was all on my dime. I didn’t expect her to pay for fuel. But it did surprise me she never offered. If we stopped for something to eat, I paid. When we stopped to pick up groceries, I paid. And I am fine with that. But she just didn’t seem to appreciate anything.

Most surprising is the fact that she won’t eat unless I fix her something. I have told her if she’s hungry and I am not planning a meal until later, to go ahead and find something. There is almost always something leftover in the fridge. But the pantry is chocked full. The freezer has ready to eat meals in it. I know she was the cook during the entirety of her marriage. And I know she can make herself a sandwich or warm up some soup. But if I don’t make her something, she walks around sighing, saying how hungry she is. I have gotten to the point, I just ignore it or remind her to find something to eat.

I do vent to Garris and to Sylvis occasionally when I find something overly amusing or overly irritating. I love my mom to pieces. But there are days she drives me crazy. And I guess the most positive way to look at it is this: she must think I’m the safest person in her life, because she is the most disagreeable with me. I don’t regret for a moment having her move in. I just wish she could try to be a little more content. And complain a little less.

I can go down a dark road very easily, so having another person in the house who says and does negative things pushes me that much closer to a depressive episode. And I know most of the time, what sets me off is probably insignificant to others. But this is my house. I pay the bills. I keep things running. I feel like I have the right to set the rules of the house. And Mom should do her best to abide by those rules, whether she agrees with them or not.

I used to think my dad was harsh with her. I thought he treated her like a child at times. And I thought he barked at her when it wasn’t necessary. But now I am understanding more the dynamics of their relationship. She isn’t an easy person to live with, and she seems to thrive on discord. I feel like any little thing sets her off, and that isn’t a great way to live.

It has been a role reversal. And not one that I wanted.  It’s hard being the middle ground, between my mom’s generation and my kids’. I feel like I have to be everything to everyone and I don’t get a chance to relax or take a few hours ‘off’.  I look forward to the time spent with my best friend. Every couple of weeks we go to Butte for a day of shopping and lunch, and I’m able to let off some steam. She’s willing to listen, and I feel better when I get home.

As we move forward, we’ll continue to fine tune this living situation. Hopefully Mom can settle in more and reach the conclusion that this is as close to her old life as she’s going to get. This is the best I have to offer. Hopefully she’ll she that she’s fortunate. Not all adult children welcome their parent(s) as they age. She is in a safe home, with family who love her, and does not have to face growing old alone.