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How can I communicate openly and honestly with my mother?  With her, even I-statements don’t stand a chance since she perverts and twists everything I say to her like it’s a funhouse mirror, until it resembles an insult, rather than a clear expression of my feelings. 

Mom buys me things I do not want, do not like, did not ask for.  They don’t fit, or have missing pieces, or are things I would never like and have expressed so.  Never one to see the solution-less problem, she bends over backwards, martyring herself in pursuit of the one underwire bra I will like, because it will fit, even though I have stated my opposition to them a thousand times, on moral, ethical, spiritual, and ergonomic grounds.  Yet far be it for me to reject her gifts, for she recoils as if it is a piece of herself. 

At the very least, she meant well.  She honestly believes this.  Foisting unwanted, unasked for garbage of my or others is a measure of her good intentions.  And if she is so well-meaning, I dare not say anything about that particular act, as it is perceived immediately as an act of overt criticism.  Even if I start a sentence with, “I know you meant well, but…” it’s a criticism, it’s a critique, it’s a bald-faced insult of her good intentions. 

Last night, as I tried to assert myself, going against my usual complacency for her actions, and avoidance of conflict in general, it turned into a Mommy-trashing session.  According to her, at least, I was engaged in nothing less than the undermining of her very foundation, nothing more than verbal abuse.  Here’s how I perceive my part of the conversation went, after polite small-talk:

“Mom, I don’t like it when you send me a stamped card to send to someone, like Uncle Leo.  When you do that, it makes me feel like I’m a child.  I am an adult and am capable of sending a card by myself.  If it’s important to you that I send one, please just tell me.” 

That was perverted into accusations that I was ascribing intentions (malevolent, no less) to her actions, and that she views me as a child, and that she doesn’t think I’m an adult, and that she thinks, she feels, she means, she intends.  If you’ll reference my statements, I believe I talk only about her actions, and my resulting feelings, just like a good, assertive I-statement would.  She also enclosed a note I consider hideously inappropriate.  Had I used those words, I might be able to understand her feeling “trashed”, but I didn’t.  She essentially solicited gifts for Mother’s Day, under the guise of “helping me” by offering to let me know what she wants if I am so “stumped”.  I spent 30 minutes hand-crafting her a card, painstakingly sewing buttons and embroidering little flowers on it.  Her note immediately made me feel guilty for not sending a gift.  Even if I had – and I considered it – gone into a tizzy crafting/buying something fabulous for Mother’s Day, it wouldn’t have arrived on time, like the card did.  And doesn’t that just smack of, “I meant well, but I needed your reminder to send a gift, ‘cuz really I just forgot about you until you reminded me, and  it’s the thought that counts, but you solicited this ‘thought’, and it really doesn’t count, so Happy Mother’s Day anyway”?

So I gave her a similar message about her note about gifts.   Which was again perverted into accusations that I was assuming her intentions, her feelings, her thoughts.  This turned into a tirade about how everyone needs help, not just children.  People need help remembering to do things, to acknowledge the special days, to find the right gifts. 

And I basically lost it at this point.  Instead of her usual generalizations about life’s maxims and playing Devil’s Advocate for no apparent reason, it seemed very personal all of a sudden.  As if she were accusing me of, child or not, needing help to “do the right thing”.  And her version of etiquette – that’s what it’s always been about.  Sending cards for holidays and birthdays, making sure thank-yous are sent and received in a timely manner.  I hear about her harsh criticism for others who “never even sent a thank-you note” after she painstakingly picked out an obscure wedding gift of a pickle fork that probably confused the poor bride and groom more than anything.  I hear about her so-called friends who never call, never write.  I hear the judgment pouring out, and I know I have internalized it all. 

And because we cannot be mature in our conversations, my mother hung up on me shortly after 10pm, leaving our words said, but our conversation unresolved.  I called 8 times, and she wouldn’t pick up.  I tried my father’s phone, the land-line, and finally left a short message on her voicemail:

“When you hang up on me and don’t pick up the phone, it hurts my feelings.”

I tried again this morning.  She really couldn’t fathom why I’d want a “do-over”.  I had said what I wanted to say, right?  And every way I tried to say it, hurt her feelings.  I asked her last night how she would prefer I phrase it, as I couldn’t seem to play the game her way.  Oh, she had no idea; I should talk to my therapist about that.  Yes, I demurred, but my mother would be the only one who can gauge if my statements are appropriate enough for her ears. 

I don’t have therapy until Wednesday, and Mother’s Day is tomorrow.  I had to get this monkey off my back, so I tried again, in spite of her protestations that we’d already said all that needed to be said. 

“I don’t like it when you send me a stamped card to send to Uncle Leo.  Please don’t do it again.”

Okay.

“I don’t like it when you send me a list of things you want for your birthday or Mother’s Day.  Please don’t do it again.”

Okay.  I pushed for a third.

“I’m not using the stand mixer you bought us for our anniversary.  Where can I return it to?”

Wal-mart.  Figures.  Of course, I was not rewarded for my last attempt, as I had waited too long to speak up (see how I can’t win?), and she doubted the store would take it back, even if she could (heroically) find the receipt.  And what a waste of money.  Yes.  Her money.  For buying us something we neither asked for nor have used in the 7 months since receiving it.  We are automatically ungrateful.  This was not expressed, but I could hear it between words. 

And though therapy isn’t until Wednesday, I think I may have figured out how best to express my feelings or opposition to things my mother says and does – leave emotion out of it entirely.  As all my feelings are perverted into insults on her pure intentions, or assumptions of her thoughts, none of them are valid. She can’t handle my feelings.  She can’t even comprehend them.   And they certainly don’t have a place in any conversation where I express dissatisfaction.  I may be able to get away with statements like this, geared at someone with the emotional maturity of a preschooler: “Stop that.  I don’t like that.  It makes me feel yucky.” 

Nothing more specific, nothing like “I feel angry when…” or “It hurts me when…” or “I feel guilty when…”  Nope.  Just “yucky”.  I think she could handle that.

And just to prove I’m not completely insensitive, cold, hard, and unfeeling, I ran a version of my first attempt by my husband.  Just to check. 

If he persisted in buying me beautiful skirts that were size 4, and I’ve been a size 6 since forever, it might make me upset.  I might want to speak up.  I might say, “Honey.  I know you mean well when you buy me these skirts, but they’re always the wrong size.  When I see that they’re too small, it makes me feel fat, or as if you’re trying to tell me I’m not the right size.  They’re beautiful, but I can’t use them.  Please stop doing it.  It makes me sad.” 

I asked him if that would make him feel “trashed”.  Nope.  I asked him if felt like an attack on his very underpinnings. Nope.  It seemed, on the whole, quite rational, quite reasonable.  And quite, now that I’m wiser, unlike anything I’ll ever be able to say to my mother.

The phone calls never go as I plan.  It’s hard to have a mature conversation with a person who resists maturity with every stuffed-animal cushioned bone in her body.  Nevertheless, I keep trying.  Confronting my mother seems to be a necessary evil, lest I stew and breed resentment in myself.

My uncle, mom’s brother, is getting his tonsils out.  This is not the same procedure for a 50-something year old as it is for kids.  It’s not just ice cream, pudding, and a day off from school.  As I learned when I did my clinical rotation at the cancer hospital, getting tonsils removed when one is an adult is a little more serious.  Adults have actually become accustomed to using their tonsils as a first point of constriction for swallowing.  It’s what makes swallowing so painful post-tonsillectomy.  And the tissue is older, more at-home in its surroundings.  Mom has been talking up this surgery as if she’s going to be at bedside.  She complains her sister, who actually lives near my uncle, will do nothing to care for him, will just dump him off at home after the surgery and leave him to fend for himself among the hoarder’s cache of camera, National Geographics, and BetamaXXX pornos.  She herself is seemingly happy enough to disparage her sister, without volunteering to pick up the slack herself and fly out for the surgery.  It’s very convenient to complain, and very easy, without doing anything to fix the “problem”. 

But one thing she is very good at doing is sending gifts and cards, especially to people who are convalescing.  A packet arrived yesterday at my house.  In it were the usual assortment of newspaper clippings I might find “of interest”, a post card for some crafty person, some Spongebob paraphernalia, and a letter.  And one more thing – a stamped envelope with enclosed get-well card.  All she didn’t do was address the thing for me.  I wrote some bullshit in it about Jell-O and Ensure, crossed out the “Happy Birthday” message, and banished it from my house to the mailbox.  It was completely inappropriate.  Sure, her intent is kind-hearted – to make sure her poor baby brother gets get-well cards in his time of need, but the passive-aggressive way she went about doing it makes my blood boil.

“So who else do you think got these in my mail?” my husband asked. 

My brother and sister for sure.  I know for a fact she sends my brother cards for him to send to us sisters for our birthday, since he’s too incompetent or too important to seek out a gift shop on his own. 

So I called her.  If it’s so important to you, I said, or, if you think it would be so meaningful to him, just ask me, I said.  Like an adult.  Not that she’d ever cop to the passive-aggressive and condescending message of putting a pre-stamped card in the mail.  That strikes me as something you do for your child who’s away at sleep away camp for the first time.

And she can’t just say “okay.” She can’t just say that she’ll do that next time, that’s for letting her know, she appreciates that I’d take the time to send a card if it was important.  Why do I even try when I feel like I’m talking to a rubber wall and all my well-reasoned I-statements come back in my face, twisted, distorted, perverted so that it’s suddenly my fault for making my needs and feelings known?  At least I will know that I tried.  And hopefully it won’t keep building in me.

On Friday, I’m flying to Rhode Island to spend the weekend with my parents and my cousin and her family.  Since my cousin, her husband, and their 3-year-old son live in England, their infrequent visits are a pretty big deal.  Since Mr. Apron is working this weekend, I’ll be transporting myself to New England via US Air.

My cousin’s plane doesn’t arrive until Saturday night, but I’m flying in Friday morning, which means I get almost 2 whole days with my parents.  That means, grossly speaking, with my mother.  When I asked her what flights I should book, based on what time she could pick me up from the airport, she cheerily replied that her whole day is wide open.  Mom is an attorney for the state of Massachusetts, and if she doesn’t have court scheduled or a visit with a client, she’s pretty much flexible in her schedule.

Which means I can prepare myself to get dragged around on pointless errands, wild goose chases for Scandinavian chestnuts or fire-truck-themed party hats, and to see countless things she’s been saving up for me.  I can usually only tolerate a weekend of being home, but I also usually have my buffer/husband around.  Last visit, over Christmas-time, Mom and I had a huge blowout, and I had to keep running back to Mr. Apron for moral support and to gather up my strength to do it all over again.  Last time, I had a meltdown in Nordstrom because Mom dragged me there to help her pick out a new shade of lipstick.  Last time, a major snowstorm stranded us at their house with our energetic, yet not quite potty-trained puppy, Molly, and their 3 insane dogs.  Last time, I struggled to communicate my needs to my mother, my needs to have my emotions allowed and validated.

Because I come from emotionally immature/limited stock, it’s challenging to express any emotions beside contentment, joy, gratitude, and agreeability.  These emotions will only encourage her to ask you to wrap packages, make dinner (nothing normal, of course, but something requiring the shelling of 7048 scalding chestnuts), accept vast quantities of expired and/or unwanted junk food, and “help” her with 3 dozen more mindless tasks.  “I don’t feel like it” or anything more negative than that (anger, depression, resentment, sadness) does not fall in the scope of acceptable. 

This either leads to a grin-and-bear-it attitude through clenched teeth and internalized resentment, or else an explosive drag-out match between logic (me) and stubbornness (her).  Mom is, after all, an Aries (and a narcissist). She finds a way to redirect all conversations to an anecdote about a client, or a tangent about some valuable lesson she learned, neither of which have to do with the issue at hand, but it’s not about the issue.  She doesn’t listen to me when I’m anything but happy, but again, it’s not about me. 

So I get a choice, of sorts this weekend – I can go along and get dragged around, or I can try to assert myself with my own preferences.  That is, if I had preferences.  But what do I want to do?  If I go along, that has to be my choice, too.  Mr. Apron shared a story tonight about David R. Dow, the author of “The Autobiography of an Execution”.  He relates in his book (which Mr. Apron is currently reading), that he, as a 3rd grader, missed a bathroom break at school and later pissed his pants.  Complaining to his father, looking for sympathy, he was met with the father’s maxim: “You shouldn’t do something unless you’re prepared to accept all the consequences”.  I guess my visit to my parents’ house is similar.  Not only the choice to go there in the first place, but my choice to either remain silent and complacent, or to speak up and assert my own preference for  activities. 

The latter is tricky for me – not in general, but in Rhode Island.  Since I didn’t grow up there, I don’t have any friends there.  I don’t have any old stomping grounds or hang-outs or places I remember going.  My longest period of time there was a summer I worked at Ben & Jerry’s and went with a coworker to gay clubs every weekend.  I didn’t exactly establish community or a sense of belonging.  I don’t have a childhood bedroom, or a space that is mine.  Everyone in that house seems to gather in the kitchen anyway, much the way kitchens functioned before central heating in Colonial times.  The kitchen was the center of activity, the hearth, the core of a home.  The living room and dining room are sealed off from dogs, as is the family room, or as we’ll forever call it, The Addition.  It will never quite be a part of the home as if we’d grown up with it.  We never played endless games of Monopoly in the family room, or opened Hanukkah presents there.  We never did homework sprawled on the couch or had sleepover parties on the floor.  My brother and I never built pillow forts or fell asleep under warm dogs there.  My father has installed a Rube Goldberg machine of a sound system  such that my mother and I can’t even sit down to watch Sex & the City without his tech support, let alone a movie.  During Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the last movie I watched at their house, the amplifier overheated every 9 minutes, letting out an ear-piercing spark, killing the circuit, and necessitating being reset. Though Dad has allegedly rectified the problem with another contraption, I think I’d have PTSD effects if I tried to watch any more movies there.  We watch TV instead on the 10” set mounted on their kitchen wall, while not lounging on the $5000 leather sofa purchased for The Addition, but perched instead on $5 folding chairs from Rite Aid while seated at the kitchen table.   We never established a use of the room as a family room, so it will always remain The Addition. 

I guess I never established use for Rhode Island either.  I’ve explored the far corners of the nation’s smallest state, from Purgatory Chasm to the Norman Bird Sanctuary.  I’ve hit all the small towns full of antiques, from Block Island to the shops of Newport, and I’ve seen Blackstone Bay, where my brother once took us sailing.  We’ve had soft-frozen lemonade and coffee milk, and the Mayor’s marinara.  We’ve eaten within walking distance of the East Side and on Federal Hill.  I’ve been to county fairs and triathlons.  I’ve been hiking in the woods of Chepachet, and partying in the mansions of Warwick Neck.  I’ve done it all, but as a tourist.  It’s a fantastic little state, but not one I’ve ever lived in.  Over the years, I’ve even managed to take Mr. Apron to all the sights I enjoyed, but none of them are mine.  And so when Mom asks if I have any special plans for my visit, I usually demur. 

I don’t have a solution right now, so I’m dreading the visit, as usual.  Maybe I should take a page out of Mom’s book, and invent some bullshit activity I have to do, like cutting out a dress pattern, or sourcing an obscure flavor of yogurt, so the running around will be on my terms.  Then I can make her chauffeur me around, since I don’t drive a manual, and every single one of the 5 cars they have parked at the used car lot their house is stick-shift.  Maybe I have to make her come with me to buy styling products to maintain my new hairdo.  Maybe I have to go to an antique store in Barrington, or look for cufflinks carved from Dodo whiskers for Mr. Apron.  Maybe I have to hunt down shoes and a headband to match my as-yet-uncut dress pattern.  Maybe I have to do things her way in order to do things my way.

To prove my assertion that my mother’s visits are like a tornado, I have made a list of all the food items found in and out of the fridge that she deposited here last weekend.  Keep in mind, there are plenty of non-food items (“Projects,” clothing, magazines, newspaper clippings, etc.), but these are easier to catalog.

To wit: The food found in the fridge post-Mom:

  • ½ garden burger, fries, from her lunch on the way down.
  • 1 bite of pumpkin cheese cake in a Ziploc baggie.
  • ¼ Austrian tea cake from a bakery in Plattsburgh, NY, where we used to live.
  • Leftover yellow curry, from our Thai dinner before going to see Mr. Apron’s play.
  • A blob of sugar cookie dough, neglected from when she made turkey sugar cookies within minutes of setting foot in the house.
  • A small Greek salad from Panera, neglected by my sister, who didn’t like the dressing.
  • Bulgarian cheese, because in my 5th grade gifted program (“Odyssey”) I researched Bulgaria and made an authentic dish which called for Bulgarian cheese.  Back then, we made do with farmer’s cheese.  What am I going to do with Bulgarian cheese?
  • Turkey sugar cookies.

And lest the cupboards become jealous, here is what she left them:

  • 1 pkg Cadbury chocolate eggs.
  • Pumpkin seed brittle
  • 1 bag chips from Panera
  • 6 bags of Trader Joe’s low-fat kettle corn
  • 1 tin “pretzel poppers”, chocolate covered pretzel balls, which resemble goat turds.
  • 1 opened package of “Spongebob Graham Snackers”

My task is to consume or redistribute as much as I can before the expiration date.  We have so far eaten the garden burger + fries (Mr. Apron’s lunch), the Thai curry (my lunch), most of the turkey cookies, the Greek salad (appetizer for Mr. Apron), the chips (another lunch accoutrement) and 2 bags of kettle corn.  We are working on the pretzel poppers, graham “snackers” and Cadbury chocolate eggs.  We have given away several turkey cookies to my in-laws.  I have pitched the bite of pumpkin cheesecake (and Ziploc baggie). 

Will the guilt expire before the pumpkin seed brittle does?  Will I ever find a recipe for Bulgarian cheese?  How many kernels of popcorn will I find in my teeth?  Stay tuned for these, and other questions, in another installment of “Food = Love”, brought to you by the number 17, the letter Q, and mothers everywhere!

I had to cancel on my friend.  The opera season is opening tonight and she was pumped to go rush for tickets to see “Othello”.  At first, it was going to work out perfectly.  My new job gets me home earlier, so being downtown by 5pm was not too difficult.  Mr. Apron’s new job often has him leaving work by 3pm, so that would work, too. 

And then Mr. Apron reminded me that his work changed his schedule so he’s now working till 4pm on Fridays, which makes it harder to come home, and then head downtown.  Or, if he were to head straight downtown, but I had to come home first to walk the dogs, and we met downtown, we’d have two cars downtown in expensive garages. 

So maybe I go anyway, and Mr. Apron could just suffer without me?

Then my father called.  Through the usual brand of my family’s craziness, he wants to spend Friday and Saturday night with us this weekend, because he’ll use our house as his home-base for his trip down to Silver Spring, MD, where he lived when he was a small child, and still has friends.  So although our floor installation with him is still slated for Sunday, we’ll still be hosting him Friday and Saturday night.  And unless he wanted to arrive close to midnight, we’d be out at the opera.  Assuming we got tickets, that is.

Last time we tried to rush for opera tickets, it was almost too easy. By some miracle, I arrived downtown by 5pm on the train, and Mr. Apron was already downtown for a meeting.  We showed up at the box office a trifle early (though the website had said it opened at 5pm, they wouldn’t open doors till 5:30), waited, and were the 3rd or so group to buy tickets for “Orphee et Eurydice”.  “Three please,” we’d said.  He handed over 3 tickets, we paid our money, and we headed out to dinner.  After a pleasant dinner, we returned to the theatre, where we finally looked at our tickets, and they glaringly said, “Showgirls.”  So that was why it was so easy.  But the website had said that was where the operas were playing.  Stupid website.  At least they took our tickets back, in spite of the no-refund, no-exchange sign by the ticket window.

This time I can just picture the insanity.  I somehow arrive downtown and have to pay $20 to garage my car.  I have a cardboard cut-out of Mr. Apron to hold his place in line, and he’ll finally arrive after we’ve already gone through the ticket window.  He’ll wait in line and get a seat, but it’ll be an obstructed view nowhere near my friend and me.  Or, worse, none of us get seats at all, and our attempts to score cheap opera tickets cost us $40 in parking, with no opera. 

Or else we go see “Showgirls”.  I’m sure there are always seats to see “Showgirls.” 

I texted my friend to cancel last night.  I felt awful doing it.  Not only did I really want to go see “Othello,” I hate cancelling on people.  I feel like I am letting them down.  I worry I will get a reputation for being a wet blanket, as one who always cancels, never shows up, can never be bothered to haul her ass downtown for fun events, and who treats any outing as a major ordeal.  I have a friend in New York City who will be celebrating her birthday Saturday night. I briefly entertained ideas of going, as I’d been able to attend another (mutual) friend’s birthday back in August in New York.  But then Dad will be coming in, and Mr. Apron will be working, and I’d have to get myself on a bus or train, and it just seems like too much bother.  I’d rather stay home and just feel bad about it.  Mr. Apron will still be working that night.  My dad will be coming back from Silver Spring at some indeterminate time.  I’ll be staying home, feeling bad about it. 

I doubt anyone at the party (I’ll basically only know the birthday girl) will be concerned about that girl from Philly who couldn’t be bothered to get on a bus to come celebrate her friend’s birthday.  But I’ll still feel bad.  I just don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I think aside from the anti-social whackos out there who are bent on causing pain and destruction, that few of us try to hurt feelings, and I hope most of us try to avoid it most of the time. 

But does there come a point where the worry about hurting feelings becomes more worrisome than the actuality? Am I overreacting to the daily disappointments in life, or to my fear of disappointing others?

Mr. Apron’s sister knows, unequivocally, that she is the most important person in the world. As such, she seldom worries (or even realizes) how her actions affect those around her, specifically her family.  It breaks my heart when Mr. Apron or his other sister tries to “make nice” and make plans with Bianca, and she cancels.  They are never karmically rewarded for their efforts, unless you count the effect it has on their parents, who must be thinking, on some level, “Thank goodness the kids all (pretend to) get along now.  We can finally finish parenting our 30+ year old children.” But, in terms of personal satisfaction, they get little.  Bianca is a chronic canceller.  She’s not really terribly organized in her personal or work life, and I’m sure there are honest cases of “Oh, I had a work meeting I forgot about,” or “Something came up,” and “Yeah, Tuesday’s not really a good day for me,” in addition to the frequent cancellations with no real excuse.  At least Mr. Apron is used to it now, but Bianca has basically become a joke in her truancy from family events.  Even if they do arrange and carry out a meeting, it’s inevitably a miserable event where Bianca talks about herself for 2 hours and offers “advice” to her siblings on how they’re ruining their lives. 

Even though I know instinctively that I am not like Bianca, and I do care how my actions, thoughts, and words affect other people, I am still afraid that others will judge me when I cancel or turn down an event or opportunity.

As such, I have a tremendously hard time saying no to people, and I often find myself overextended.  One semester when I was teaching preschool full-time, I found myself not only teaching sewing in the evenings at a friend’s arts center, but also teaching creative movement in the afternoon to school-age kids.  It’s hard to recall, but I was probably also taking online courses in preparation for grad school.  I was barely home, I was miserable, but at least I was meeting my commitments, and upholding people’s expectations of my abilities to, um, show up?  I’m not sure what their expectations truly are.  I just know it’s important to be accountable, to cancel appointments in a timely manner, to try to show up on time, or call if you’re late, and, in general, to be there when you say you are.  Having signed up for any number of commitments, I feel it’s important to do what you say you’re going to do. 

I guess I just like to say yes in the moment, even if it causes me agita later down the road.  It’s at the very least flattering to be considered.  Pleasing to the ego to be asked.  Satisfying to my sense of self-worth.  My mother asks me to decorate cakes when I come home, a skill I picked up at age 14.  Though I’m by no means a pro, it still feels good to be asked, even if I usually feel put upon and annoyed that she waited for me to take a 300 mile trip to visit with her, and I’m being handed an apron and a pastry bag instead of a hug and a kiss.  Mom calls me from the road, asking if I’m near a computer.  This is code for, “I’m lost in some Boston suburb.  Can you map me home/to my destination?”  I’m either enabling her to perpetuate her lack of planning if I rescue her, or I’m dooming her to an hour of frustration and possibly missing an appointment.  Is it my fault?  No, but I’m doing it anyway.  I’m annoyed she can’t/won’t use her GPS, or map the destination, or call one of my siblings.  Or she calls, unable to find the Jewel lullaby CD at her local Target store.  Oh, and while I’m at it, could I look up the Putumayo Picnic Playground CD since that one is hard to find, too?  Will you pick up a couple copies for me and I’ll pay you back? 

Yet it feels good to help, to be the one with the know-how, to have the time and the computer at my disposal. 

A local theatre arts program for children routinely asks me to do make-up for their spring and fall shows.  Though I’d never done make-up for anyone before (save my own make-up as Piglet in a high school production of “Winnie-the-Pooh” – pink base, outrageous eyebrows, and a little black nose), I was asked solely based on my qualification as being “creative”.  My “creativity” was first called upon to do the quick-change make-up for the principals in “The Wizard of Oz” back in 2007, and since then I have wrangled myself (through passivity, mostly) into the intractable commitment of doing make-up for each and every show.  My responsibilities have grown from doing the few principals, to helping load sets, organizing make-up, coordinating the parents volunteers thrust upon me, and overseeing the make-up for every person in the show, which can often number 80 or more, including preschoolers.  As they say in “Oklahoma”, “I’m just a girl who can’t say no.”  In spite of the fact that for every show that comes along I grumble and complain, I loathe doing the inevitable crowd control of impulsive children, and I swear that next time will be different.

This time truly will.  Mr. Apron has withdrawn 95% of his involvement with the performing arts center, and I’ve sworn that the last show was my last show. 

Saying no is not easy.  It’s bound to disappoint some people.  But saying yes seems to breed resentment or at least annoyance.  How is that a fair price to pay for the intention of not hurting someone’s feelings if I end up grumbling and sniveling and being angry at them? 

I used to put up more of a fight, at least where my mother is concerned.  When I was an angsty teen, and even into my college years, I let my resentment show.  I was rewarded with the guilt-trip of the ungrateful child: for the many things she’d done for me, can’t I do this one for her?  Yes, this one and the millions like it.  “Are you bored?” she’d ask, hankering for an opening.  “I have a project for you.”  My sister and I learned very quickly to look busy and always deny boredom, (a skill that also serves us well in the word world).  I have forbidden the use of the word “project”. So now she comes at it with a smirk and a twinkle in her eye, “Do you need a P-word?”  It’s easier to be complacent in the short run.  I sewed her some sample tea-wallets for X-mas gifts for her friends.  I order a gift for my father on-line when she couldn’t find it in the stores.  I looked up the CDs for her, told her they were very much still in print.  And yes, it would be very easy for me to pick up a couple on eBay or Amazon, but I didn’t.  I could have but I just didn’t want to.  She can do this crap.  If it’s important to her, she can Google it and she can find it, and she can order it.  I called her back and told her that they CDs were still in print and she could go to Wal-Mart if their labor practices didn’t bother her as they do me, or she could, all by herself, go to amazon.com, and pick up a few so as to get free shipping. 

Mom’s reasons for asking me to do Projects for her are her own.  I will never truly know whether she feels she isn’t truly competent; or she wants to exploit me; or she feels I owe it to her after her years of tantrums and diaper changes; or she wants me to feel flattered that I am “needed” for my skill set.  I have to learn to draw limits, say no, and only submit to her often ridiculous requests when I truly want to do the Project, when I will truly, personally derive pleasure from the act.

“When are you going to blog again?” asks the husband who helped me create my own blog after guest-blogging on his. 

“When my nails are shorter or we get the good keyboard hooked up,” I reply.  “I can’t even hit the “a” key without also striking the caps lock.” 

Or, today.  I have the day off.  Mr. Apron does not.  But instead of enjoying the sunshine, I’m sitting at home blogging because I have a load of laundry in the machine.  I’m planning on going out when I put the load in the dryer.  While I dread the moldy promise of a wet load left in the washing machine, I have no qualms about leaving a dry load to wrinkle in the dryer overnight, if need be.  Clean is clean. 

Mom’s birthday is today.  She called while I was in the shower to let me know she’d opened my gift to her, a purse with a handle made out of a plastic carrot.  The purse that was on page 68 of “Sewing Basket Fun,” a piss-poor excuse of a crafting/sewing book edited by Barbara Weiland.  Edited by?  I guess that means the lame-ass projects were only compiled by her, and I can’t even blame her for Lucy B. Gray’s “design” of the “Veggie Lover’s Handbag” which Mom marked with a Post-it note stating, “Hint –> for mommie’s birthday” when she presented the book to me for my birthday.  The book which sent me on a 6 month quest for a plastic carrot which wasn’t one of a set of six for $9.95 + shippinh, or part of a $19.95 play food basket.  Finally, as Easter merchandise started trickling into stores, I found a jumprope at the Dollar Tree with carrot handles.  For $1, I figured I’d be a sport.  I cut off the rope, and Mr. Apron drilled the holes.  I held the carrot and cringed as he aimed the drill bit at the carrot and drilled 2 perfect holes for the straps.  Then I had to thread fabric straps through the holes.  Using a skewer to jam them through didn’t work.  Neither did threading the fabric on a yarn needle and shoving that through the holes.  Finally, in my brilliance, I grabbed Elmer’s glue and shellacked the fabric strips, twisting them until they were somewhat pointed and narrower.  I pushed them through the holes and declared myself, in honor of Easter, the risen lord Carrotess.  Of course, when they dried, they became impossible to sew through, and I couldn’t find my thimble, nor could I convince Mr. Apron to destroy his fingers shoving a needle and thread through the hardened straps.  My trusty new sewing machine came to the rescue, sewing sturdy, if not aesthetically pleasing stitches into the strap handles.

I finally put the fool thing in the mail on Monday.  She received it on Wednesday, opened it today, and left me a voicemail saying she was carrying her brand-new carrot purse around with her today.  I wonder what her clients thought of it. 

Mom is an attorney.  She reperesents children through the state — kids whose parents can’t care for them, or shouldn’t.  She visits them in foster homes, state “homes”, and adoptive homes.  She brings them stuffed animals, takes them out for ice cream, and gathers back-to-school supplies to replace whatever was left behind in the last placement.  She makes sure they carry their worldly effects in more than a trashbag, enlisting me to sew large drawstring bags for this purpose.  And provided she doesn’t have to be in court that day, she’ll do all this wearing a solar system jumper, pink leggings, patent-leather mary janes, and, of course carrying a carrot-handled purse.

Happy Birthday Mom.