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Family ties, sun, sand, and tennis

Friday, December 28, 2012

Home. The smell of Tide and Coppertone. The waves making their little slurping sounds as they lap against our dock, the whooshing of their ocean counterparts farther away.

Kitchen time with Mom and Nonna. Library time with Dad and Granpa. Running, laughing, fighting, talking with the brothers. All my family, in one house, at one time.

I'm a family person. There's nothing that will ever supplant my family as No.1 on my list of priorities, not even my job. I'd leave any and all conferences, court dates, arbitration councils if any of them needed me at any given moment. This is not negotiable.

My family is culturally and ethically diverse. We don't have any one tradition, we have a number from all over the world- it's a colorful, whirling, exciting maelstrom of characters when we're all together. We have the Christmas Eve dinner and the little bit of KFC fried chicken to go with it. We have the Christmas Day turkey and the progression of the three Wise Men toward their goal and the last day of our Christmas, January 6th. My grandparents bought a menorah for one of the relatives that married into the family, even if we actually have no idea in general what to do with it and rely on that person to teach us the traditions and stories that come with it. The only thing we're missing is something Kwanzaa related, but I'm sure we'll get there some day.

There's a lot of music in my family over Christmas. Most of my relatives, even the ones that married into the family, play one or more instruments, and we have a traditional Christmas concert in the week after Christmas once everyone's arrived (I'm lucky to have been born into an academic clan, so almost everybody gets a week or more off for Christmas). It's never Christmas music we play, but we don't have a full symphony orchestra, so ever since I took a class for fun during HS it's my duty to find a piece we can play with the weird instrument mix available and to make sure everybody's got a score. This year, we're playing some Elgar (Enigma), and some Beethoven (wind quintets).

We also had our Family Fun Tennis Tournament yesterday. I'm from Delray Beach, Florida- guess why we're playing. This year, I was still banned from sports by my doc, but watching my relatives go at each other sudden-death style was SO much fun. Dropping a game gets you a "small" penalty from a cookie jar, dropping a set gets you a "big" one from Nonna's hat. Small penalties are things like losing a shoelace, or a hat, or peeling potatoes for a meal. Big ones, on the other hand... let's just say that some people suddenly get to wear pointe shoes for the next set, or will have to vacuum the parts of the house the Roombas don't get to (my own has inspired my grandparents to get three- whoa!), or have laundry duty or dessert/main course/appetizer duty for the next meal. We're all very competitive...

Winner gets... eternal glory (for a year) plus the ugliest trophy you can imagine that was a much-hated arts&crafts project for school in my third grade.

First losers get to sit in the shade and sip cocktails/soft drinks with the spectators who didn't get to play because either they've never played tennis before (one aunt, but she's not getting out of it next year, there are lessons planned!), are injured or ill (Nonna, me, brother who broke his ankle this year), or are needed as referees and are deemed to small and breakable to play (some younger family members).

It's a whole afternoon of three courts being invaded by one gigantic gaggle of geeks (geekiness is a definite prerequisite for getting along with my family, there are no non-geeks in it because they've always run screaming before).

Well, BF will be put to the geek test too. He's flying over because he got a great last minute deal and told me he wanted to get away from his family. This is where my inner alarm goes off again- seriously? Get away from your family? For me, this is the only time I get with them, uninterrupted, why would I want to get away from that? I'm having second thoughts about this relationship over this. Really. It's one of me nonnegotiables and he's just brushing them off? WTH? Not that I don't want to see him, but... doesn't he like his family? Will he be very much offended that mine is more important to me than alone time with him (sorry to say so, but it's the truth. No.1 spot, remember?)? WHY does he want to get AWAY from his FAMILY? Yep, my brain is having a minor freakout right now.

He thinks we're going to have alone time, in romantic (uh-huh. It's still winter!) Florida. He hasn't met the whole clan yet. We have an entire movie theater booked for when we're going to go see the Hobbit. WOOHOO!

He'll either run screaming, or be assimilated. There is no try. /geek quota filled for the day.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MNABOY 12/29/2012 6:41PM

    My family is getting spread out nationally and it is difficult to find time and location for maximum attendance. This is the 1st year the Christmas gathering has been away from the "home town" and we gathered in a snowy and icy Paragould, AR. Had great fun, DS and BIL have indoor pool so kids sswam and young adult cousins life guarded and played in ool and rest carried on and told new stores and shared old stories with the youngsters. Scary part is 40 is the upper end for youngsters. All in all, only one set of in-laws don't mix and we live with that knowing they are missing good things.
Thanks for sharing your family's celebration and giving new ideas for others.

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    Mamisheli, thanks for the perspective. We're all so close, and most of the time dispersed all over the world, so this really IS the only time everybody's together. Most of the in-law families try to come down to FL, too, even if we can't fit them in the house.

Peru? Wow. I hope you'll find happiness and family when you relocate, and that it won't be too stressful.

Thank you for your kind words, everyone! I'm certain my freakout will be over soon :)

Have a great before-the-happy-new-year time!!!

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LILLYPILLY24 12/28/2012 12:29PM

    There are all sorts of families, and it sounds like you have a great one!

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SKEETOR 12/28/2012 12:13PM

    I think I might purposely lose early in the tennis rounds to get my cocktail! emoticon
I'm glad you're having a great time with your family!

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MAMISHELI53 12/28/2012 11:22AM

    I loved your description of the tennis game.

I can kind of understand your boyfriend. I love my own family. My late husband's family was definitely different. His mother was only happy when she was miserable and making others so. He would joke "my in-laws are better than your in-laws." So your boyfriend may find your family to be a breath of fresh air.

My fiance's family is wonderful. I am grateful for Facebook so I can keep in touch with them while I'm away. My own family is dispersed all over the US - and I have a daughter in Ireland. My older daughter and 2 grands live with me, and it's precious. But it'll be nice to relocate eventually to Peru with my second husband and be close to so many relations.

Thanks for sharing about your family! it was delightful to get a glimpse! May God bless you and yours.

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LEFTHANDLUKE 12/28/2012 11:19AM


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Thank you, and cookies

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thank you, everyone who commented on my blog. You've made my day and given me the strength to get through this last workday.

Thank you, love, for trying to make soup even though it ruined one of my pots and I'm going to do it myself right after writing this. I don't think I'm worth skipping out on the fun part of your day (the after-court drinks with the colleagues) just for me, but I love you for it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You're going to be on seasoning duty! *hugs*

Ordinarily, I'd have the Christmas cookie factory started by now, but since this infection doesn't show signs of stopping (neither does the snow outside btw) I'm wary of preparing raw ingredients with my bare hands that won't be baked at super-high temperatures. Well, a girlfriend of mine is coming over tomorrow, and we'll do it then. I'll just remember to wash my hands even more than usual.

All this sounds so very active- well, it's because my doc finally found some anti-nausea meds that don't turn me into a drooling sleepy idiot and still work. I've been taking them at the recommended intervals, and while I'm still tired, exhausted, coughing and sneezing I can stand upright for more than ten minutes! Yay!

So, cookies. This is my first advent in Germany, and I've been tempted by all the wonderful confections my colleagues bring to work every day. It's one of my resolutions to not eat, but just taste, though, and I'm nothing if not stubborn so so far, I've been good and have been sticking to the plan. Anyway, I begged, pestered and whined at people until they gave me their recipes to try.

One thing about the cookies here that I love is that they're really small- maybe twice the size of a thumbnail. All the taste in a package that won't kill your calorie count for the day even if you eat five of them? Yes please!

So, I'm loaded and ready to go with tons of tips on how to prepare them (I'm a hobby patissiere but there are always new things to be learned), optimum settings for the appliances and ingredients, and stern warnings that almost all those doughs want to be kneaded by hand in order to bond better.

Most of them are going to be a challenge- I've lost count of how many times I've read "immediately roll out into" or "quickly fold over and...". I love a good challenge, especially when there's deliciousness coming at the end of it.

BF is going to be kicked out of the apartment tomorrow- well, he wants to go to a soccer game with his guy friends anyway, but I told him to take his time. These cookies need to be a surprise as they're going to be his Christmas present.

My family don't give any presents at all normally, but I'm making an exception since he's been the most patient, kindest person trying to deal with me in full prickly Stay-Away mode ever.

Thanks again, everyone, and especially to you, love. If not for you, I wouldn't be here today. As much as you try to stay positive through everything, sometimes life just throws one too many curveballs and you lose sight of who you want to be.

I don't want to be this miserly, grudgy, nasty person I've seen emerge over the last week. You, my wonderful Spark friends, have put me back on track. Thanks!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MNABOY 12/15/2012 8:05AM

    You are sharing the Christmas spirit, thanks

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Confusion and miscommunication

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I'll be the first to admit I'm not thinking clearly at the moment- lack of quality sleep and persistent dehydration coupled with some pretty serious medication has impacted my judgment probably more than I can even imagine.

I'm so glad I have a rule about not going to bed without communicating about what has irked me that day with my BF if we've had a falling out. I sniped at him pretty badly, and I was feeling worse, two hours ago. The anti-nausea meds have finally kicked in now and I'm thinking clearer, and so we talked (well, he talked, I whisper-rasped).

He's confused because I don't really whine (when things are serious. I whine plenty about non-important things). I went to a ball, decked out, made up, smile in place, last Saturday with the beginnings of this infection- a 102 degree fever and a killer headache not affected by OTC meds, not telling him I was off. We came back, he was tired enough to just go to sleep and I thankfully did the same.

When I'm really badly injured or sick, I just curl up and try to deal with everything by ignoring it. Touches are bad- they bring things back to the forefront of my mind, so I ask to be left alone unless I seek the company. Normally, I'm not averse to a little TLC and cuddling, but he's never seen me this violently and severely ill.

I told him in the beginning that I'm not the most social creature on the planet and that there will be days I'll need my solitude. I also told him that, having been a victim of harsh bullying, I can't always stand certain touches if they are not communicated beforehand. When I'm not at my best, the paranoia is strongest so... Impending temper explosion.

He was so worried because I just kept coughing, wheezing and not really breathing for up to three minutes at a time. I was so miserable I couldn't want him close. Cue attempted kissing and subsequent pushing away.

Neither of us said what really worried us. Instead, I sniped, he shot back, and we sat there not talking.

Thankfully, the matter is dealt with now. BF knows I will be prickly in certain situations- he knows he chose a workaholic, slightly narcissist, OCD perfectionist with anxiety issues. I know he's a lot more easygoing and a very touchy and social creature (which is hard for me as I tend to get jealous).

We both know we're not perfect people, but as long as we keep talking and don't let things fester, we can be as close to perfect together as two people can be.

And for now, we'll rest. Me on the couch, because I have to sleep upright and would keep him up with my coughing and sneezing, and him in the bed because he needs to be up earlier than me tomorrow. But in our thoughts, we're together.

Thank you, communication.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MEGAYNA 12/14/2012 9:21AM

    I stumbled upon your blog this morning and wanted to send you get well wishes. I too have been unusually irritable lately and it has created a rift between my spouse and I. Talking it out definately does help, and im glad that you make it a commitment to deal with it before turning in for the night... not many ppl can do that! Good luck to the both of you and I hope you feel better soon! Happy Holidays!

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MNABOY 12/14/2012 8:20AM

    Hope the miseries disappear soon and it is great you can work out issues under duress of health issues.

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MOMMY2MADILYN 12/13/2012 11:05PM

    emoticon I hope you are feeling all better soon and can get off the couch!!

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AQUAGIRL08 12/13/2012 8:56PM

    emoticon I hope you are feeling better tomorrow! Being sick is terrible!

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XANGELSTEARZX 12/13/2012 6:24PM


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1935MARY 12/13/2012 6:12PM

    Talking it out is the best thing. I need to do that more. Hope you get to feeling better. emoticon

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In sickness

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Poor BF doesn't get that I don't like to be touched AT ALL when I'm sick. I'll come to you if I want my head petted, thank you very much. He compares me to a cat often enough, he really should get this.

Everything just hurts, from my chest to my joints to my ears, and let's not even talk about my head. Trying to kiss me- it makes me nauseous because I'll have to move my head.

Hope the poor guy's still around once I get over this bug- this must have been the hundredth time I told him to leave me alone in my shivering ball of misery.

Sitting on the sofa together is nice, though. Just don't. Touch. Me!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

JTREMBATH 12/13/2012 6:06PM


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    Me neither. I'm well aware I'm prickly and unsightly and really, really ungrateful at the moment. It's a long-distance relationship, too, so we only get to see each other on the weekends. This week is a special situation, he has a case in the city I live in, but I BEGGED him not to come by tonight on account of being so miserable.

I have a bug where the vertigo is so strong I have to take around five minutes to go from sitting to standing, keep coughing myself sick and can't breathe because my nose is so congested. Every single touch just sets off a chain reaction of symptoms and ends with me retching. Not the best situation... I really feel for the poor guy but I can't help associating even his touch with rather bad things right now :(

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SPERRIN2012 12/13/2012 3:24PM

    I wouldn't be surprised if he was gone. Being unaccepting of anothers love leaves you with none emoticon

Comment edited on: 12/13/2012 3:24:32 PM

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Who do you need me to be tonight?

Sunday, December 02, 2012

My parents used to do this, whenever an official engagement came up. My Mom is extremely smart, and assertive, and she's a scientist, but she's female and pretty delicate in stature (she used to dance ballet). She's also just 5'5".

So, whenever she and my Dad put on their war outfits and she was putting on war paint (it's what she's always called make-up, made it a lot more palatable to first-time working me), she'd ask this question: "Who do you need me to be tonight?"

She could be the dazzling, brilliant scientist. She could be the vapid trophy wife. The perfect hostess. The heiress. The leader of the pack of rabid gossipmongers, the European-mannered lady. She could be the dutiful, politically correct and conservative housewife and mother (that role, she hates. She's anything but politically correct and conservative).

My Dad, looking as though he was being tortured, sometimes asked for one of these. On the nights where they were both smiling brightly and spying little eyes could feel and touch the love in the room, he could just answer: "Yourself, that's all that's needed today."

With my first boyfriend, he always asked for one of these roles. He was an heir, and he always insisted I be the second thought, the secondary character, the beautiful decoration hanging onto his arm. He tore me down when I gained two pounds; with him, I was never worth anything unless I was made up to perfection and smiled the beautiful smile.

Not the healthiest relationship, but to dorky, too-young me it was the lure of the older man actually being attracted to someone who'd left her self-worth in a puddle of blood on an operating table and was slowly, slowly crawling from a very dark hole. He was the first one who didn't see me as a walking, talking brain or easy way to good grades.

Yes, it's that easy to fall into an abusive pattern.

I got out- my spine was bent but never broken, and cheating was the one thing I'd made clear I'd never tolerate. I tolerated being told to put in some extra time at the fancy gym he'd bought me a membership in (grad student, on scholarship, no money for gyms) even though I was running on maybe four hours of sleep in three days (grad student). I did. He asked me to at least make up my eyes even when I was relaxing at home and to stop wearing my dork glasses. Since they gave me a headache anyway and I didn't mind mascara and eyeshadow, I agreed. He asked me to stop wearing those embarrassing sweats at home, and to at least make an effort, so I donned the expensive jeans that had been a birthday gift (a size too small then, but perfect now! See, I can be good) and the cashmere sweaters my Gran sent to me.

He decided that, even with all the work I put into the relationship, putting my physical needs second to nearly everything (never my studies, I couldn't ever imagine slacking off on studying), I wasn't worth it. He'd take extended trips to the West Coast, and I couldn't come, I had classes and exams and teaching to do.

One night, he sent the wrong text message- he'd gotten the number wrong.

I broke up with him that instant, removed myself from the expensive apartment he owned, and moved in with one of my friends, who didn't ask questions, just offered me a blanket and a couch to stay on.

I never really cry. I'm not an outwardly emotional person when they are relevant emotions. I tend to close those up inside, but I did cry that night.

The next morning, I, newly single, went to class. I went through my day, got back home to my friend's, and started looking for a place to stay.

She brought some more of my close circle of friends home with her, ready to comfort me with cheesy old superhero movies, chips, ice-cream and girl talk, and were shocked to see me not being a mess.

I told them this guy wasn't worth being a mess over. If I, and what we'd shared, were worth so little to him then I wouldn't give any more thought to any of it.

My new boyfriend needs me to go with him to a ball next weekend. When I asked him today who he needed me to be, for the first time in my life I got to hear the magic words: Just Yourself.

He didn't know why I burst into tears right there on the phone. It'll take a while for me to tell him, but I think he'll understand.


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