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It’s a Sister Thing

 

Lip Balm

July 3, 2016

Ahhh. I am drinking an ice-cold Sweet Baby Jesus! Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter following a strenuous walk with my husband Henry. My sister is downstairs making dinner. We are visiting Mom and Seamus in the country for the holiday weekend.

First of all: If you are a woman who does not have a sister, please drop everything, run to the store, and buy one.

Second of all: I am not sure I should be drinking while blogging….

“Jane Marek? Follow me, please,” the nurse called from the doorway.

Jane Marek? Follow me, please,” rang the disembodied voice behind her in clear, honeyed tones.

The nurse froze, her face still bent over the clipboard. Only her eyes moved–from side to side, and finally up and over to me. Her brow furrowed in confusion.

I stepped over the threshold and there was Gwen. She was at the checkout desk and not visible from the waiting room.

Gwen is my younger sister by 18 months.

Last week, Gwen and I scheduled skin checks. With the same dermatologist. On the same day. Back to back. Without trying.

Gwen had a mole removed for biopsy. I had a mole removed for biopsy. She waited for me in the waiting room.

When it was my turn to check out, I observed the young African American woman at the counter. The sleeves of her hot pink shirt stuck out from underneath her scrubs and perfectly matched the thick pink swirl in her otherwise dark hair. I am not normally one to effuse but the color perfectly offset the blackness of her hair and skin, creating a stunning impression.

“I love your hair. It looks so good!” I told her.

“I said the same thing!” cried a voice from the waiting area.

Gwen followed me back to my house. We decided to take a walk. She borrowed shorts and a t-shirt because, voila!, we are the same size. And, unlike days past, I will get these clothes back. Washed and folded. Within my lifetime.

If you are running out to procure your sister, don’t worry about lost time. Now is the best time. History is great and all that, but coming late to the party means you can enjoy all the benefits of sisterhood without having to recover from those early years of room sharing, name calling, hair pulling, and makeup stealing. I won’t say who did what to whom other than to say that Gwen was a snuggler and a spooner. Spooning was gross and made me sweaty. Whenever we traveled, we had to share a bed. Nobody cared if I tossed and turned next to my furnace of a sister. But I guess hers was a small offense when you consider that I once made Gwen eat an entire mouthful of gravel.

Yesterday, Gwen and my husband Henry and I climbed into our Subaru; situated Trident, the greyhound, in the back; and headed to the boondocks for the weekend.

While zooming down the interstate, Gwen and I decided we needed to compare biopsy sites. Hers was on her shin. That was easy. Mine was above my left breast, and Gwen was sitting behind me. Thus, partial nudity, gymnastics, and the removal of one Ikea brand kitty bandage ensued. Thank goodness, Henry is an excellent driver!

This was not my first biopsy by any means. So I had to show off my other biopsy sites. My situation is probably typical for a super-white European descendant and former athlete. I was thrilled that the site on my face had healed with no scarring whatsoever. This was, of course, due to the magic of Vaseline. I had followed Dr. Mole’s instructions religiously: Vaseline 24/7. Neosporin was strictly verboten.

“But I ran out of Vaseline this time,” I said, “so I kind of cheated. ”

(Cue the sheepish laughter.)

“Do you think this will work OK?” I pulled the supersized Hello Kitty lip balm out of my purse. “I just smear this on it and then cover it with a bandaid.”

Gwen didn’t shame me at all. Her response? “Yep. Because I am using the chapstick I got free at work on mine.”

We were not friends as girls. We could scarcely stand to breathe the same air. We were told we were opposites and occasionally pitted against one another.

Now women, we are friends. Sister-friends. This afternoon, we sighed the identical three-syllable “O-o-oh” when a darling fawn crossed our path. Hers began a microsecond prior to mine but we were pitch perfect.

After we arrived yesterday, Gwen and I took a walk around Mom’s property. The light and the wildflowers were too enticing to resist. Armed with a smartphone and a tablet, we set out on a serious mission to capture the flowers before the shadows grew too long. We succeeded–kind of.

Adult supervision may be required for future missions.

Oh well.

Please enjoy some examples of our brilliant photography.

The Virgin.jpg

The Virgin by Jane Marek. Be the first to tell my why I chose this name, and I will mention you in a future blog.

Buttflower

Buttflower by Gwen Lee.

If you want to read more about the spirited Gwen, you might like this post from the Family Rules thread.

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Infidelity III

Photo credit here.

Photo credit here.

Sept. 30, 2012

This is how I broke the rules.*

Until Hanna and Niko announced their intention to come for an extended visit last summer, I didn’t realize how much peace the distance between us had accorded me. Though I missed them both, Hanna terribly, we had done well with snail mail, Skype, and email.

My knee-jerk reaction was one of dread. It was quickly followed by guilt. BIG, FAT, UGLY GUILT.

I appalled myself. My superego roiled. I had to ask myself what was really going on here. In my typically obsessive fashion, I drilled myself.

It went something like this–on and on and on:

  • Was I insincere when I called Hanna my best friend? No.
  • Was I insincere when I professed to love them both? No.
  • Was I insincere when I said I missed them? No.
  • Was I insincere when I stated that I had enjoyed their last visit? No.
  • Was I insincere when I assured Niko that we did not harbor resentment against him for his psychotic break during their last visit? No. It was not his fault he had become ill, and he need not feel shame nor fear our censure. I assured him that no lasting harm had been done.

So why was I having trouble sleeping?

I was just coming into conscious—and reluctant—contact with the reality that my giddy naiveté had been stripped away. My husband Henry had been living in reality all along, and it appeared that our children had bounced back nicely from the last visit. In fact, the kids were all for a repeat performance. They couldn’t wait to see their fun-loving Aunt and Uncle!

The real change had taken place within me. Now I KNEW what could go wrong. I KNEW what a repeat of 2006 might cost my family, my friends, the friendship itself. The feeling I had was similar to the feeling I had after my first cross country race as a high school sophomore. I hadn’t known what I was getting myself into when the gun went off. I ran like a demon and finished much faster than expected. Wobbly and green, I nearly puked my guts out. Having only begun to run two weeks prior, I limped away with a roaring case of tendonitis which made it difficult for me to train–let alone walk–for weeks. Stepping onto the starting line was much harder after that. I knew what lay ahead.

Henry and I talked. It was clear now that successfully orchestrating a lengthy visit involving a person with special needs would require more than, “Y’all come!” We weren’t sure we had the resources.

On the other hand, we loved Hanna and Niko; and we missed them. We knew what this vacation would mean to them and how they had scrimped and saved to make it possible. They continued to try to keep Niko’s illness under wraps but had not been able to avoid negative reactions. Though they lived in the heart of a city, they led isolated lives. They had often told us how loved they felt in our home, and by the time 2011 rolled around, they had named us as their only real friends. We appreciated what we understood as a sacred trust.

Saying yes was impossible. Saying no was impossible.

So, we said yes.

Unlike 2006, Henry and I worked together. We shared our concerns with one another and discussed what we believed would have to be put into place in order for the visit to be enjoyable and “safe” for everyone involved.

Working things out with Henry in this way was an important step in my consciously choosing the welfare of my family over my intimacy with Hanna. I believed this to be a healthy step. I had learned in the intervening years that it is possible to have rewarding intimate friendships without crawling directly into another person’s skin. Reducing my enmeshment with Hanna would undoubtedly result in healthier relationships all the way around. Right? Unfortunately my private discussions and teamwork with Henry were later viewed as the cornerstone of my betrayal.

Henry and I attempted to come up with some boundaries which we hoped would serve us all, and I discussed them with our friends via Skype.

Our invitation:

  1. You are welcome to come visit!
  2. You are welcome to use one of our cars whenever we are not using it.
  3. You are welcome eat all your meals with us.

Our requests:

  1. Limit your visit with us to 4 weeks duration. Spend half of those nights away on outside travel. You can use our house as home base. I’ll take any week off work to hang out with you. Just tell me which week.

This request was huge and very, very difficult for me to voice. I felt tremendous loss at limiting our contact. And I was extremely worried that I would hurt Hanna’s feelings. Still, I firmly believed this request would serve us all.

This request was made to protect Hanna and Niko. Though we had set up a reasonably private apartment (sans running water) in our walk-out basement, he had become overwhelmed by the noise and non-stop activity in our home during their last visit, and it had contributed to his crisis. Hanna, who works an hourly-wage job, is their sole breadwinner and Niko’s sole caregiver.

It was made to protect Henry and his fragile employment status as we prepared to send two children off to college the following year. The economy was still rough, and Henry was still recovering from workplace trauma he had experienced at his previous job. He had just taken a new sales job which required him to work from home. We were concerned that the noise and disruption might prove problematic while Henry was mending and trying to make a professional transition requiring his complete focus. (Henry’s office was in the basement next to the apartment our friends would be using. We knew our success in limiting our daughters’ urge to thunder up and down the stairs for visits would go only so far. Plus, the visit would take place during summer vacation, and it didn’t seem fair to require monastic silence.)

It was made to protect me. I was both stay-at-home Mom and part-time counselor now. Due to my availability and German skill, I would be the go-to person for parenting, household duties, and hospitality until about 6 or 7 each night. I had been a homemaker for many years, and I wanted to adjust our friends’ expectations to make sure I would get to enjoy this visit without becoming overwhelmed and exhausted. I wasn’t too worried on this account, as our daughters would help if asked; and Hanna had always pitched in without waiting to be asked.

It was made to protect our daughters. I was determined to give our children sufficient attention, something I had failed to do during the last visit.

  1. Obtain travel health insurance. It just seemed like a good idea given Niko’s history.
  1. Purchase tickets with a flexible return date in case Niko shows signs of distress OR Henry’s work situation proves too stressful for us to continue to host you.

We believed these were fair and straightforward requests. That didn’t make them any easier to speak. Any limit, any “no” was new to me when it came to Hanna, and I was very, very anxious. I was relieved when Hanna and Niko received our words in the spirit in which they were intended. Spending some time out of the house would be in line with their plans, they said, since they had wanted to do some sight seeing anyway. They agreed that if Niko showed signs of instability, it would be best to return home immediately; and they asked us to let them know if we needed them to leave the house. They indicated their willingness on all accounts and said they were planning to rent a car so as not to inconvenience us!

I felt relieved and reassured.

We were going to have a great visit!

This post is the ninth part of The Story of Hanna. Infidelity, Infidelity II and other installments of the story can be found under the Hanna tab.

*I broke this Family Rule! You can find other family rules and some family-related essays under the Family Rules tab.

Sexy

Sexy

Disclaimer: The following blog entry contains sexual language and graphic nudity.

Hello, Ladies.

Let me introduce my playmate, Trident.

Trident, aka “Sexy,” will make all your dreams come true.

He is tall, lean, and well muscled. He is a blue blood with a pedigree which will make you swoon. If you like bad boys, Ladies, you’ll want to take a number. This fellow runs with a fast crowd, and he’s been around the track more times than most. Just take a look at his tattoos. He’d love to get his paws on you.

Sexy loves petting, and he has quite an appetite. He’ll fix you with his languid gaze as he gets naked and invites you lead him around by his choker. Or if you prefer the thrill of the chase, just say the word.

Sexy has a sensitive side too. He likes long walks at sunset, and he is the rare fellow who enjoys a long cuddle.

He’s a complex guy, our greyhound.

Here are a few glamor shots:

Trident cutting a dashing figure in his winter coat and booties.

Trident cutting a dashing figure in his winter coat and booties.

Feeling ashamed in my old sweatshirt. Hey, he gets cold!

Feeling ashamed in my old sweatshirt. Hey, he gets cold!

Naked and unashamed: Trident cooling himself on a warm day.

Naked and unashamed: “Sexy” cooling his privates on a warm day.

Reading my blog.

Reading my blog.

As for me--I'm learning to live with a furry head implanted in my armpit.

As for me–I’m learning to live with a furry head growing out of my armpit.

I thought this would be a good time to take a short break from the heavy memoir writing. I hope you enjoyed meeting Trident!

If you are interested, you can find unrelated posts with dog imagery here and here.

Credit for choker image here.

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