Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dear God, Please Don't Let Me End Up Like My Parents

(Warning. This is a long friggin' post)

I bet just about everyone has uttered that prayer once or twenty times, my kids included. But let me tell you, I've got reasons.

I don't know what it is, but it seems like everyone I know who is in my age group (mid-to-late 30's) is going through some kind of parental crisis. And I don't mean a paltry health crisis either, oh no, that would be too easy. I'm talking divorce (my husband's parents), finances (my parents) and health (pretty much everyone).

I've generally stayed away from stuff that's too personal on my sci-fi blog, mostly to protect my kids. But after spending a year in cyber space and meeting some very cool people, I think I can vent in a general way from time to time. I just won't use names, you know, to protect the guilty.

And you gotta vent, right?

Alrighty, let me fill in some details for those of you who've managed to stay curious about all this.

My parents. Where do I start? Deep breath. Okay.

I was adopted as an infant and for the most part I'd say I have no issues with that. But there is a weird disconnect that comes from knowing you are not blood related to the family that raised you. I grew up thinking that maybe the love I felt for my family wasn't as strong as it would have been had I been related by blood. That's ridiculous of course, but still, you can't blame a kid for not understanding that.

It took having my own kids to realize that the love is the same and for that I will always be grateful I had kids. But at the same time seeing yourself reflected in the face of your children and their mannerisms drives home the undeniable truth that no matter how much you wish it wasn't so, you are different from the people who raised you. I don't mean values and that sort of thing. But the truth is there are things that come with genetic bonds. Your doctor knows this is true, that's why they ask you about your family history every time you have a health concern.

In my family, like many, the issues related to substance abuse and manic-depression. My parents were fairly stable, though my dad has a tendency toward alcoholism and gambling and my mom --hell, I don't even know the story there. Okay, maybe not so stable.

Anyway, the reason I mention all that stuff is to kind of give a background so you understand how they got where they are now. On the surface my parents look normal, successful even. But my mom wouldn't have it any other way. She has always compulsively tried to make sure the world would look at us and see the ideal family. Oh dear God, who did she think she was kidding? But it was this drive to appear normal that has allowed her to ignore what has been in front of her face for 40 years. Our family is nuts.

More history-- I have three brothers. One I haven't seen in 10 years due to a bad meth and alcohol addiction. How bad? He was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and hepatitis C at 35 and told one good alcohol binge could kill him. Didn't slow him down. Last I heard he had somehow managed to get out of jail despite a weapons charge that included endangering a minor. He should never have been let out but he usually informs on his drug suppliers to get paroled and then leaves the state. Another brother moved to Missouri about 15 years ago and I seem him every 8 years or so. My third brother-whom I am closest with and love dearly, is manic depressive and moved to Thailand about 2 years ago. I get phone calls now and then.

Back to my parents. I've been nagging them for years to save money for retirement. My dad made a lot of money during his good earning years but they spent like crazy. They'd go on these month long vacations and stay in 5 star hotels. My dad once told me the tab on one vacation was $30k. So I bug my mom since my dad won't listen to me. I ask her what they have put aside for retirement and she tells me they're fine. I suggest that they cut their vacations in half and put away the money they'd save in a retirement account. She tells me, "oh it's your father who wants to take these vacations..." I'm thinking, what's that got to do with anything?

So I nag and they tell me I'm so tight I squeak. That's always been the family joke. Everyone in my family goes through money like water, but not me. For some reason I've always been very frugal, even as a kid. There's no reason for it, my parents never denied me anything. But for some reason I always had a different mentality about money-- one of the things I've kind of wondered if it could be inherited genetically, but probably not.

Once I got married and had kids I became too preoccupied to nag my parents too much about their health or their finances, but I did still try. My dad was a chain smoker for most of his life and I bugged him about that. He was always losing weight on the Atkins diet and then gaining it back-- and then some. My mom had fake boobs (that's a whoooole other counseling session) and they burst and made her really sick and she ended up with lupus and arthritis. My dad predictably ended up with diabetes and heart disease that culminated in a massive heart attack he barely survived.

Needless to say, their health is poor.

Oh but wait, there's more. Oh so much more.

The heart attack put my dad off his feet for almost a year. He'd had his own business for over 20 years but it was a one man shop and there was no one to take up the slack. I asked my mom about that, but everything was fine. But I knew that wasn't the case because my dad had taken a loan out against the house in a business gamble that was poorly thought out and didn't go well. I don't know how much he lost, but it wasn't pretty.

Fast forward two years or so. My brother comes home from Thailand to settle some business and he stays with my parents for a couple of months. He starts telling me they aren't doing well financially. I knew it was bad but I didn't know the extent of it. My brother tells me he loaned my dad $100k, and I'm thinking, wow it is bad. So I bring it up with my mom to try to find out how bad. She didn't know about the loan. Boy, my mom can wear blinders with the best of them.

Cut to the final tally-- $600k borrowed against the house and $200k+ on the credit cards. Holy crap! $800k+ in debt and my dad's business was losing money. My mom makes my dad shut down shop since it's losing money-- and here's the kicker-- my dad doesn't go back to work claiming his health is too poor. WTF? He's been getting up and going to work everyday up to that point but now that the debt is so bad he can't see daylight he quits working altogether? Oh wait, I get it, he thinks he can sell their house for enough money to cover the debt and then some. Except he forgot that the California housing market is going into the crapper.

I found about all this about a year and a half ago.

So my dad's brilliant idea is to sell the house to cover everything. And it might have worked had they sold the house a year and a half ago. But they decided to go to Thailand since my brother and his wife were expecting a baby. They stayed 6 weeks. They come home and tell me they've decided they're now going to sell the house and move to Thailand. Okaaaaaay. Actually, this is okay. They can live on social security and get pretty good health care much cheaper than here. And because my dad can't go to a McDonald's everyday and further abuse his health his blood sugar is the best it's ever been. I tell them I whole-heartedly support the plan.

So you'd think they were on the fast-track to sell the house right? Um, no.

My dad dinks around for several months supposedly getting the house ready, but really he's just moving stuff from one pile to the next. My mom doesn't nag him to move along because she doesn't really want to move to Thailand and she's hoping for a last minute miracle. It doesn't come. January, they finally get the house on the market, but price it about $100k too high. This in a falling market too. My husband and I talk to the realtor and get their appraisal on the house and try to talk sense into my dad. He blows us off. My mom stops talking to me because she doesn't want to hear me nagging anymore. My dad starts smoking again, and my mom won't do anything about that because she doesn't want to stress out my dad any further. Yeah, those cigarettes aren't stressing out his arteries at all.

At about this time my in-laws start in on their divorce crisis-- I will probably go into this later. It's just too good a story to pass up.

So the house sits for months and as far as I know, no offers. Then I find out they did get an offer but my dad rejected it because it was too low. My mom tells me the offer was for $700k, but I later find out it was $785k. But my mom's lies are nothing new (my dad is actually my step-dad, though he's the only dad I've ever known. She told me years ago he couldn't legally adopt me because her ex wouldn't sign off on the adoption. But during the purge of all their stuff she inadvertently gave me a copy of a letter dated 1977 giving my dad consent to adopt me. Nice huh? But I'm used to it. Sort of.)

Where was I? Oh yeah.

Eight months later my dad finally realizes the house is priced too high. He lowers it to $800k (it was at $950K in the beginning). Alright, we're making progress. He's also really regretting he didn't take that earlier offer.

Now they sit. They've sold off most of their stuff to keep the rent paid but they've finally run out of money and stopped paying the mortgage. They are praying they can sell before the house forecloses. My brother who lent them the $100k is now broke and calls me periodically for money. Sigh. We don't have a big enough house to have them move in with us and did I mention, we live in California? It's still crazy expensive here and we can't buy a big enough house for all of us.

And I am ashamed to admit, in moments of reflection, like this, that I'm glad I'm adopted. I don't have an addictive personality, manic depression, heart disease, diabetes and all the other stuff in the bloodline. Of course I don't know what I do have to contend with, but maybe that's a gift.

So we all sit on eggshells. I blog about my personal stuff because I don't have anyone to talk to about this. We moved almost every year growing up (I went to 11 different schools) so I don't have any childhood friends and frankly, I'm not good at making them as an adult. And really, is it fair of me to dump this on some poor unsuspecting soul?

Oh wait, I just did.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Marcia Marcia Marcia Indeed!

I'm back at it. But the celebrities just won't stop the insanity.

In case you missed it, Maureen McCormack-- Marica Brady for those of you who've lived under a rock for the last 30 years-- has decided to divulge some, er, interesting details about her relationship with her TV sister Jan.

My only question is why? Okay, I get it, the more salacious the details the more books she'll sell. But jeez, does she need to sell her dignity too?

Apparently so.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

What Do I Look Like? A Mom?

My little dude (3 years old) woke up with a fever this morning. Actually, he woke up at about 1:30am and proceeded to whine the rest of the night. Ugh.

The thing is, I don't really know what to do when my kids are like this. Mostly, I'm just glad they're not throwing up.

My son, bless his heart, is going through a mommy stage too. If any of you have been through this before, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. If we go out in public, he must be carried by mommy. Mommy must be the one to hold his hand, etc. etc. So of course, since he is sick during his mommy phase, he only wants mommy to comfort him.

On one level, this is great. We all want our little monsters to love us right? But on the other hand it's also exhausting. I find myself saying don't you want daddy to hold you? a lot these days.

So, today my son has spent the whole day lying in my bed in a kind of lethargic stupor. My husband, myself and my daughter have taken turns keeping him company but he keeps kicking everyone out and demanding that I go back and lay with him. Sweet, but kind of boring after 4 hours of Power Rangers.

I really, really hope he feels better tomorrow.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Could This Get Any Weirder?

I had no intention of turning this page into a celebrity blog, but it seems I can't help myself. The foibles of people in the public eye offers a never ending flow of jaw dropping stupidity that must be remarked upon.

So now that that's been established, let's talk O.J.

I had actually thought about putting up a post last week about the release of O.J.'s book "If I did It," but it almost seemed too grotesque to even bring up. Then I watched the interviews of the Ron Goldman family on Oprah (with a separate interview of Nicole Brown's sister, Denise) and almost put up a post about that. And yet, for some reason I wasn't moved to post until now.

I'm sure if any of you read or watch the news you've heard all about O.J.'s most recent arrest. I mean, does it get any more surreal than this?

If you haven't heard about it, let me fill you in. O.J. claims that someone stole a bunch of property from him and was attempting to sell it illegally. The best part of this is that O.J. didn't go to the police but decided to get some guns, and some help and attempt to steal back the items at gunpoint.

That O.J. It doesn't seem possible that so much common sense exists in one person does it?

The thing that really sticks out here though is the fact that O.J. has really decided he's bulletproof. And why not? He got away with murder and everyone knows it. It's always been galling that O.J. has been so in-your-face with his acquittal. I don't think I've ever seen more arrogance in my life.

Of course, it's not enough that he got away with murder, he also had to write a book saying, oh, and here's how I did it. (As an aside, I didn't expect to have any sympathy for the Goldman family for releasing this book, but they made a surprisingly good case on the Oprah show. Even Oprah, who is convinced she's Jesus IMO, seemed more inclined to be sympathetic toward their position by the end of the show) And now, he figures, hey, I got away with all that, so I might as well do this.

The only thing that shocks me anymore is that the Goldman family hasn't hired someone to put O.J. out of our collective misery.

The good news is that O.J was arrested without bail and if (big if) he is convicted on these charges he could get 30 years on each count-- adding up to something like 250+ years.

Wouldn't that be something?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Who Doesn't Love a Good Celebrity Meltdown?

I don't know why I'm so fascinated by publicly broadcast train-wrecks, but I know I'm not alone.

Who hasn't been talking about Britney Spears lately? Obviously the bungee cord that held her brain together snapped a long time ago, but it's just sad to watch this thing going on and on.

Sometimes I hear people want to jump on the media/paparazzi for broadcasting this stuff, but I have a different take on that.

Years ago I worked for a TV show as an Associate Producer and got to know a little about how the business works. There was a Senior Producer I worked for who George Clooney. With a passion. Why? Well, back in the day when Clooney was lucky to get a few lines on Roseanne, his dad, Nick, worked for as a TV reporter. My Senior Producer worked for a lot of tabloid shows back then, A Current Affair and Hard Copy among them. He told me that he worked with Nick Clooney on one of these shows, but I can't find anything to confirm that (intentional omission on Nick Clooney's bio I'm sure). Anyway, my boss said George used to come in and beg for publicity. He'd plead for them to do any little snippet on him so he could get some more on-air time to boost his career.

Fast forward 10 years or so. Clooney now has a prime time gig on ER and is starting to make it on the big screen. He's a big shot now. Princess Diana is killed in a tragic car accident and the paparazzi are implicated. Who is the first actor to attack the press? Clooney. How does he do it? By calling a press conference and denouncing all the tabloid shows, naming Hard Copy specifically. He's such a hot shot now he doesn't need the press anymore apparently. Not that that has stopped People magazine from repeatedly naming him the "Sexiest Man of the Year." I guess the tabloid press is okay if we like what they are saying.

I don't have any particular ax to grind with Clooney in particular. It's just that I've seen this time and again. Celebrities know what they are doing when they put themselves in front of the paparazzi. When Sharon Stone decided to make a public statement against gun ownership (not long after the Columbine massacre) and turned in her rifle (rifle?) to the local police department, you can bet good money that she called the press and made sure they were going to be there. In fact, I bet she bought the rifle just for the occasion.

So while it's sad to watch Britney continue to melt down, just realize that each time you see her without her underwear in public, not only has she likely planned the exposure, but there's a good chance she called ahead to make sure the press would be there to cover it. Somehow this poor child has convinced herself that attention from the press either equates a still viable career or, pathetically, someone still cares about her. Does that make her fair game for the press and pundits? Frankly, yes. Does that make it okay when people go after her kids? No.

Honestly, I wish Britney would learn to isolate herself from the press. I wish she'd find a secluded space, far far away and at least try to get well.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Why Hasn't the Hammer Fallen on This Kid Yet?

I don't know if anyone watches the reality TV show about Hulk Hogan called "Hogan Knows Best." My husband watches it but I find the family insufferable and stopped watching it almost immediately.

One of the reason I can't stand it is because Hulk, and his wife Linda, spoil the kids, Nick and Brook, beyond belief. They fabricated a music career for Brook despite any evidence of talent and then sponsored their (then) 16 year old son in a career as race car driver (drifting). Huh? Who the hell thinks it's a good idea to give a 16 year old a Dodge Viper and say here son, why don't you race down the track in this? Is it any surprise that the kid got four speeding tickets within one year of getting his drivers license-- at least two were over 100mph.

How was this kid's license not pulled?

So, predictably, a kid is in the hospital after Hogan's kid got into an accident almost 2 weeks ago. The passenger is still in the hospital now.

So WTF? Why hasn't anything been done yet?

Hulk Hogan is of course claiming his kid didn't do anything wrong. He says his son wasn't racing (despite numerous witness statements to the contrary) and that the media is being "unfair" in bringing up Nick's driving record. Way to go dad. Way to teach your son how to take accountability for his actions.

But it gets better. The mom of the passenger, still in critical condition, is defending the Hogan family. Now, I don't want to call her a sell out-- that wouldn't be fair, especially since her son is still clinging to life in the hospital. But it is public knowledge that the Hogans are paying the medical bills (as they should) and I can't help wonder if there has been talk of a monetary settlement between the two families. I'm betting they've already begun negotiating numbers.

What really pi$$es me off about this whole deal is how the Hogan family is treating the whole thing. Oh boo hoo, poor Nick is being beat up by the press. Our poor baby didn't do anything wrong. But he's trying to keep a stiff upper lip and get on with his life....

Are you kidding me?

And somewhere in all this the police are supposedly investigating this thing, but so far nothing has been done. Nada. Why? Because Nick's the spoiled brat kid of some celebrity and no one wants to step on the toes of anyone famous. We wouldn't want to offend anybody.

This whole thing infuriates the heck out of me.