Sunday, August 30, 2009

sibling issues at midlife

Two weeks ago my mother called me and informed me that she had bladder cancer and had already had the surgery for it. That's how she is: whenever she's had a health crisis, she doesn't tell me until it's over. I told her tartly about twenty years ago to tell me when she goes INTO the hospital, not OUT of it, but evidently that is not going to change. I told her this time that if she tells me before the fact, I'm likely to send her something, but she was dismissive. She got roses from my father, and that's enough.

My mother did say that she was waiting to get the biopsy results analyzing her growth. The results were due to come while I'd be off with the Sober Husband and children on our annual trip to rustic Camp Mather in the Sierras, cut off from cellphone and internet coverage. I thought about her test results while we were at Camp Mather, and I worried.

When we got home, I checked my email and answering machine, but there were no messages from my mother about her test results. So I called her while I was cooking dinner. The news was great, which made me happy: her cancer was caught at an early stage, and she and her doctor have decided that chemo is not necessary. Instead, they'll take a wait-and-see approach. I promised that if there does come a need, I'll make myself available to go help out. Then my mother shared with me that she and my sister have big plans to go get matching tattoos next year to commemorate her coming through this.


I'm the tattooed one. I have many tattoos. My mother and sister have none, and indeed my tattoos (expensive, carefully designed custom work with the exception of one beloved piece, which was taken from the wall art on the spur of the moment with my best friend from high school in a Middle-aged Girls Gone Wild moment) have been the source of a lot of family ridicule over the years. And my mother making special plans to do something with my sister, excluding me but telling me about it, is pretty much the theme of my whole childhood. My sister has always been the beloved child, the one to get the attention, money, resources, gifts, etc.... When I finally called my mother on that for the first time, in my twenties, she just said, "Well, I wasn't the favorite child, either."

I can't believe that I'm middle-aged and still having sibling rivalry. I told my mother how much that matching tattoo idea hurt my feelings, and she was defensive.

Decades ago I was reading some sociological work and came across the phrase "pathological favoritism." I felt comforted, that there was a phrase for the horrible thing which had been the poison seeping through my childhood. I clung to that phrase. Pathological favoritism seems to run through both sides of my family, and my mother has been pretty vocal in denouncing and discussing one instance of it, but yet still carrying it out in our own nuclear family. The favoritism is a topic I discuss with my newly acquired psychiatrist. "How did you come out of it so strong?" he muses. I shared Dr. Michael Thompson's observation with him that sometimes a child who is disliked by the parents grows up to be extremely independent and strong, with Eleanor Roosevelt a key example.

My strongest resolution as a parent has been to raise my children without a discernible favorite. This particular inherited piece of dysfunction ends with me. My husband was the favorite child in his own family, but he agrees that while it worked out well for him, he could see it damaged his brother. So far we seem to be succeeding, as both Iris and Lola accuse us on a regular basis of paying more attention to the other (my personal favorite parenting moment, sigh, is when both of them accuse us simultaneously of favoring the other).

Weeks ago, long before my mother's matching tattoo came up, I was lying on the couch playing Warcraft, and I said out loud, "I have a favorite now." Iris and Lola both froze up. They turned to me, as did the Sober Husband, in silence. "Ray Charles is my favorite cat," I said. "I have a favorite now." Iris and Lola let their breath out and relaxed.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

just not understanding

I'm used to being out of step with mainstream America, and often I can see merit in both sides of an issue. However, I'm just flabbergasted by the vehemence and venom being spouted off in the current health reform debate.

Riddle me this: why are public schools good (no one bitches about "socialized education") but public doctors are evil tools of Satan who will bring us all down to hell?

Lots of people scream that they can't trust the government with their healthcare. So we can trust our employers instead? Also, don't we trust the government with our drinking water, roads, police, fire departments, libraries, prisons, etc.., etc...? Why is it okay to entrust those things to the government but not health insurance?

I am lucky to have crappy health insurance through my husband. Crappy health insurance is better than no health insurance at all, which is what I would have on my own (we have applied for private health insurance, and a health insurance broker could not find a single company willing to insure me. I have many friends who have had the same experience).

However, even though I feel lucky to be insured at all, I still wrestle with the occasional desire to burn down my insurance company's headquarters. My crappy health insurance recently sent me a letter asking me to change my antidepressant to a generic one. Going off antidepressants is a bad idea for a person who has struggled with depression since age 13, but switching to a generic sounded okay to me. So I discussed it with my psychiatrist, who told me that there was no true generic alternative for my medication and that the medication my insurer wants me to go on is less effective and has more side effects (he explained this on a biochemical level which went over my head a bit), but yes, the other medicine costs sixty cents a pill, whereas my old medication costs three dollars a pill. He wrote me a prescription to try the crappier, cheaper meds, and I took that to my pharmacy, only to be informed that my insurance company, who wrote to me and asked me to switch to this inferior product, was charging me a $153.00 copay. How on earth did my share of a prescription which should cost $18 for a month's worth end up being $153?

Another cute thing my insurance company did lately was to refuse to pay a cent for my mammogram. My doctor nagged me for years to get one, and I finally gave in (she whipped the test requisition form at me quite firmly), and then it turns out that I must pay quite handsomely for the privilege of having had the mammogram. According to my insurance company, mammograms are whimsical, unnecessary things unless you already have a lump. Since I didn't have a lump, I had to pay every penny of my mammogram's mighty, mighty bill. I was under the impression that mammograms served an important preventive function in society and that they were supposed to find the tiny lumps before they grew large enough that you could feel them, but that must just be me. Silly me.

I posted a note on my Facebook status about my $153 copay, and that made old friends of mine from high school froth at the mouth. Within minutes people were screaming that I should just pay my fair share and that anyone who wants socialized medicine is an idiot who is threatening our American way of life, only morons think there's anything wrong with our current system, etc.., etc..

It is mindboggling how in America we pay more per capita than any other country for health insurance yet overall get less health care and are less healthy, but yet so many people defend it so rigorously. It's also mindboggling how many of those vehement anti-socialized medicine people are on Medicare themselves, which IS socialized medicine.

My friend Epiphany (an occasional commenter here) shared with me a brilliant article which sums up the health care reform situation in remarkably few, well-chosen words: Here Are Our Healthcare Choices. Another must read comes from Dr. Atul Gawande, who traveled to the city in the U.S. which spends the very most on health care and wrote about it for the New Yorker. President Obama asked everyone in his administration to read Dr. Gawande's article, and the Sober Husband nagged me to read it for weeks. When I did read it, finishing it up in the waiting room of the pediatric dentist, I found it highly edifying, and I passed it along on the spot to the children's dentist, who, as it turns out, has strong feelings about getting healthcare for all. Read it for yourselves online.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

geniuses and those who sadly fail to make the grade

The Sober Husband made an appointment to take the laptop known around the house as "the Warcraft machine" down to the Apple store's "Genius Bar" to see about getting the fan replaced. The children are huge fans of the Apple store in general and of the "Genius Bar" in particular, and so they were very excited about this and got up early for a Sunday so they could go along. "We'll see a genius!" they said.

I tried to explain that just because the Apple store puts up a sign saying "Genius Bar" and hires young people to work there does not mean those workers are actually geniuses. The children scoffed and suggested that the Sober Husband and I are just jealous because we ourselves are not geniuses.

"You aren't smart enough to have a cool job!" jabbed six year-old Lola at her father.

"Did you hear that?" I asked him. "Being vice president for research and development at Doggy-o is not as cool a job as working at the Genius Bar at the Apple store."

"THAT'S RIGHT!" shouted Lola smugly.

Maybe if I made him a "Genius" sign for his workplace, he could win the respect of his small children (and if I want that respect, I should change the name of this blog to "the Drunken Genius").

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Iris has answers!

Ages ago we here at the Drunken Housewife did Ask The Lola, where Lola answered a variety of questions. One satisfied customer raves, "I actually asked Lola a question last time around and took her advice! I was trying to decide whether to get a large dog or a purse dog. Lola advised large and I then acquired, from a German Shepherd rescue organization....a Belgian Tervuren. Since she came to live with me, she has foiled two prowlers at my home. Thanks Lola!" Ever since we ran Ask Lola, older sister Iris uber Alles has been consumed with rage, and as a result, Ask Iris had to occur. Iris has a lot to live up to, little sister Lola having actually foiled crime with her guest column. Let's see how she does:

2 AmSomewhere asks: Q1: You know, this whole "dominion over everything" role probably exacts a great toll upon you. Have you considered shifting the scope of your power base to something less overwhelming, or at least rebranding away from the "├╝ber Alles" image to something a bit kinder and gentler?

No. I am powerful so my name has to be. I am ruler of everyone, and they should look up to me.

Q2: How was the deity status of Frowsty established? Is there a mythos behind the mightiness?

He loves being powerful. When he was small and just a puffball, he acted like he was king. and he was. He even claimed his throne, which is on top of the tv. He still sits there.

Snowqueen said,"Iris, I would like to know what is the thing you find most puzzling about grown ups?"

They do not appreciate tv. even cats like to sit and stare. I see them do it all the time. especially at the simpsons. Adults say that tv makes you stupid. I have never heard a more absurd thing.

Laggin asked,"Does your nickname have anything to do with the Dead Kennedys?"

Maybe. A long time ago, I wanted to have a nickname like daddude does. and so we had a contest. Silliyak came up with Iris Uber Alles, and it won. I didn't come up with it.

Davi inquired, "I am currently locked in an epic battle with the villain Maleficent, in the game Kingdom Hearts, and I've already been KO'd once. What battle tactic should I employ to ensure victory for myself and my comrades, Goofy and Donald??"

KILL EVERYTHING. As you must know, We love world of warcraft. and in warcraft at least, you have to kill! I have died so many times because I hesitated. I tried to just walk around them and hide. That was a very wrong thing to do.

NonymousGoatsePants said, "Hey Iris! How long do you think it would take for you to be good enough at WoW to beat Mom-dude? Think you could do it in a month? Two months? Or, are you not good enough... Let us know!

Ok, dude. We have been playing warcraft since the dawn of time. meaning a couple years ago. I have never beated her. But according to tv, nothing is impossible except for dinosaurs.

Transient Me said, Dear Iris, If somebody gave you a million dollars, what would you spend it on?"

More money. I would create a Ponzi scheme, and I would sell soap.

Summer asked, "What are your feelings on bugs?"

Ohhh, I hate them all. except bees. many people hate bees. But they are so small and fuzzy. But I hate mosquitoes so much! Why can't they just all die. I also like spiders, but only the ones that dance.

Silliyak inquired, "What is your policy on the treatment of peons?"

Well, they are like feet. more like shoes. Sometimes they are stupid, and you have to move them yourself. Sometimes they give you blisters. You need to order them around. "Okay right foot, mush! Left foot now! Mush!"

Coyote Blue said, "Iris, should I keep growing my hair out or cut it?"

Keep growing it out until you get lice and somebody says, "Cut it! Cut it now!"

Kim said, "Iris, how should I keep my kids from bickering so much? And should I intervene or let them work it out?"

Well, You should intervene just so much that they feel threatened. then they will be scared and forget everything. then you make pie, so they forget about being threatened. Then everyone eats pie and is happy.

Debbie said, "I want to make my little sister as miserable as possible. I am 58 and she is 51. What do you think I should do?"

First, wait until her birthday. Then make her a pie. then say, the pie is not for you. then she will say, "it is my birthday." then, you must say, "Oh, right. here is a card."
Then you hand her a very ripped piece of paper that says, "you are old." Then, you cut a piece of pie. then you pick it up, run around the room shouting pie pie pie! then she will feel awkward. then, you throw the pie in her face.

Julep said, "Hey Iris, I'm getting married in December and I'm trying to figure out what I will give my guests as favors. I think I'll give the grown-ups wine or some other kind of alcohol, but there will be a lot of kids there too. All ages from 2 up to 19. I need to figure out what to give the kids (since I can't give them alcohol). I was thinking about a mug full of chocolates or something, but I thought maybe you would have a better idea. Is there some kind of candy you think all those ages would like? Or something else entirely? I need specifics, I have no idea what to do!"

Chocolate coins. Kids love chocolate, they also love money chocolate coins combine them both. then, maybe there should be a little bowl of assorted candies. You let them spend the money on candy. 1 coin for two candies. then, you get the chocolate coins they spent, and give them back to the kids evenly. I wish I went to a wedding with that.

Also, I would like to say, since nobody asked the question, you need to always assume threats are hollow. with the exceptions of; death threats, threats from your mother, and, death threats from your mother.

you can also ask more questions by commenting on this post. I will answer them!

And, I will give you some spare advice; follow my advice.


P.S. I am supposed to tell you that Lucy had a question. I guess I will answer it. here it is.

Lucy said; My cat keeps meowing at me. Should I take it to Wag hotels or should I say that I am very stressed out with my sister, she should be ashamed. Ray Charles should be ashamed for meowing at me A LOT for ten weeks, but only a little. I have a little hex bug named rob champ. and from all this, I need a stress monitor. Who do you suggest?

I suggest the tv. Thats my final answer. Also, that's my hex bug! and that's not his name!!! He looks like his;

And there you have it: the wit and wisdom of nine year-old Iris uber Alles. Ask more questions in the comments if you dare.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

sibling rivalry is running high

For days six year-old Lola has been stalking around dramatically shouting, "Iris has been stressing me out FOR TEN WEEKS!"

Today she said vehemently, "I won't be happy until Iris is dead...and I'm not going to her funeral."

Monday, August 10, 2009

no internet, no television, just suckage

Our internet connection has been really crappy lately, and I shamed my tech god husband, saying, "If your coworkers only knew how bad my internet connection was, they would ridicule you so much" and other aspersions against his tech godliness (my shrink reminded me of the old adage about the cobbler's children going shoeless). I threatened to grab a credit card and order up cable, and the husband instead worked at upgrading our DSL.

As part of this effort, the wretched local phone company came out last Wednesday to upgrade our physical phone line (they oh-so-helpfully gave us an 8 am to 8 p.m. window of when they might stop by. This was exceedingly helpful. The children, who otherwise are thrilled to spend a day at home in their underpants, were freaking out with cabin fever by 11 a.m.). The ISP sent a man out on Friday to install a new modem.

After the ISP representative left, I was unable to access the internet at all, and on top of that, he broke the jack and outlet where our cordless phones and answering machine were plugged in (our over-a-century-old home only has one spot, in the children's bedroom, where there is an outlet anywhere near a phoneline, and that one spot was wrecked). I was bitter. I'd even given the internet guy a cup of coffee with real cream. I didn't exactly want to kill him, but I wouldn't have minded stabbing him lightly a few times.

After the Sober Husband came home from his high prestige position as a sparkling gem in Silicon Valley's diadem, he managed over the weekend to get the answering machine and cordless phones back up (after a failed interim attempt where they lived on the floor in the kitchen, which I rejected vociferously). He couldn't get the internet to work, however. It now cuts out for roughly 50 seconds out of every two minutes. The husband has created a computer script to document this and is using my laptop to monitor it, so if I wish to check my email, I need to crouch on the floor in the children's room and hope I can achieve my email-checking between outages. I have resorted to "borrowing" a neighbor's unprotected wifi network, but I don't feel obnoxious enough to play Warcraft on that network.

As we don't have cable, television is usually watched via, and it's been impossible lately. The children are cranky and unconsolable in the evenings, predictably uncomforted by their parents' remarks about how in olden times, there was no television.

Personally, bereft of Warcraft, I've been reading too much. I'm a powerful speedreader even when I don't want to be, and I'm mowing through all the reading material on hand. Sadly I hit a bad patch of several unsatisfying books over the weekend. Lola, who takes after her mother in this regard, finished up her library books and got rather crabby. "What am I supposed to be reading! I read 17 chapters already today!" To put the icing o the cake of crappiness, some of those 17 chapters involved a hammerhead shark, reigniting Lola's shark phobias. For the last three nights, sometime in the middle of the night poor, wretched old Mommy has had to go in and hold both of Lola's hands (an unheld hand could be caught by a shark!) and talk Lola down. The Sober Husband attempted to use logic and humor to defuse the hammerhead phobia, saying jocularly, "Why are you afraid to go to bed? Sharks could be in this room, too! Sharks could be anywhere!", resulting in a fit of hysteria and a cranky, internetless wife.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

ask Iris

Aeons ago I solicited questions from the readers for Lola, who happily answered your questions and gave you life advice. Older sister Iris uber Alles never forgot or forgave this, and it's high time we did Ask The Iris. Please post your questions here, and Iris will be happy to dish out the dirt or direct you in your dilemmas.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

a swan and a fart

The Sober Husband always wants to drive (which incidentally is not a reflection of my alcohol appreciation; I never drive drunk). He's a very slow, poky driver who comes to stops at times for no apparent reason and who, until recently, was given to texting a lot on his iPhone while driving. I can be driven to madness while riding shotgun (the trip to insanity is shortened by the squabbling emanating from the backseat). Today he was insisting on driving and wanting me to look at his iPhone to tell him how to go, despite the fact that I didn't want to look at the damn iPhone because I knew exactly where we were going and if I were driving, I could just head there expeditiously. I voiced that opinion and said, "Why do you always have to drive? I'm a great driver! I drive like a swan! Graceful and quick!"

"Well, I drive like a fish! Smooth and strong!"

"You do NOT drive like a fish! You do not drive 'smooth'!"

I appealed to the children, normally reasonable arbiters (in other words, usually siding with their mother on the driving question. They adore their father but have been known to say, "Oh, good, Mommy's driving" when their mother managed to grab the seat behind the wheel first). "What do I drive like?"

"Like a big wooden stick," said Lola judiciously. I had committed the Cardinal Sin of Litigators: I had asked a question when I hadn't been sure what answer I would get. Emboldened, he Sober Husband jumped in. "What do I drive like?"

"Like a fart!" shouted Iris uber Alles.

Later Lola reconsidered the "big wooden stick" judgment and opined that her dear mother "drives like vomit. But vomit is a GOOD driver."

Friday, August 07, 2009

not told

Six year-old Lola accosted me fiercely last night, her hands on her hips. "You never told ME you had a stress problem!"