Travel Theme: Paint

Ailsa has set the theme this week at Where’s My Backpack? to: paint.

Right. Got my brushes ready! I’m going to town.

First! I saw this super-airbrushed, mega-painted truck at a rest area somewhere in France. I have yet to understand what gnomes at a swimming hole have to do with long-distance hauling, but nevertheless…behold!



In my town we have a fabulous movie theater, recently lovingly restored to all its art deco glory. If you’re ever in Lewisburg, make sure you catch a movie at the Campus Theatre. The art painted on the walls alone is worth the price of admission.

Feast your eyes upon its glory!

Feast your eyes upon its glory!

’tis the season. Lots of face paint. Me as a zombie, getting ready for a Zombie Run 5K. (Also, please note: the copyright is correct, as this was a selfie. An incredibly successful selfie, but a selfie nonetheless.)

My mother hates this photo.

My mother hates this photo.

Next! It was a lovely day at Montour Preserve, and this painted turtle was out for a bit of sun.

You're beautiful, baby. Don't ever change.

You’re beautiful, baby. Don’t ever change.

And finally. En plein air painters hauled their paints and their easels and their canvases up to the top of Whiteface Mountain to work on a painting of Lake Placid, a/k/a “The Gem of the Adirondacks”. Because…that’s easy? (OK, there is an elevator you can take. And it is very pretty indeed. But still.)

A photo of painters, painting the lake in the photo. This is SO. META.

A photo of painters, painting the lake in the photo. This is SO. META.

Thanks for checking out my photos! Enjoy the rest of Ailsa’s photo challenge participants…or play along, yourself! See you ’round the interwebs.

Advice: Fraught Family Visits

Dear Bartender and Priestess:

My husband’s sister and brother-in-law stay at our house occasionally for overnights, in order to visit my mother-in-law. How can I best put this? They are annoying house guests.

I’ve never seen them lift a finger to make dinner or help with the clean up afterwards. My brother-in-law, “Bob”, drinks a ton of coffee but has never made himself a pot. He speaks loudly, and mostly about himself. My sister-in-law, “Betty”, is sweet but talks incessantly, so much so that she’ll even distract herself from what little help she offers me at cleanup. They’ve never offered to take us out to dinner, or order us some Chinese, or (Heaven forbid!) cook us something.

Usually they visit at our house, but we also have a vacation cabin. When my family visits the cabin it’s for two nights each summer, and we’re never expected to host them over the holidays, because we select a hotel that’s convenient for all of us. Bob and Betty often come for a few nights at Christmas. This year, my husband has invited them to come for two weeks. Two weeks! And he did this without consulting me first. When I asked him why he would invite them for an extended stay without talking to me he said it’s because I would never agree to host his sister. I want to show respect to my in-laws and make my husband happy, but hosting them is so difficult. I literally cannot handle them in my home for two weeks.  What can I do?

—Just Can’t Do This

Dear Can’t,

B&P: Oh, so many things, so many things. The first thing we want to do is ask you: what are your choices? Because you’re either going to have to find a way to handle your in-laws being at your house for two weeks, or…what? You can leave your husband, I suppose. Or you can check into a spa and take a solo vacation during their visit, thereby nakedly displaying to your in-laws just how much you don’t like them and, by default, how little respect you have for your husband and your chosen family.

That’s not an option? OK, then you have to deal. Our take on this is not as seamless as it often is, and we’re reminded we’re not one brain but two — often contrary ones…

B: Often, a letter writer will state the real issue that’s the root of their problem, but cloak it in distracting-but-not-overly-relevant details. Your in-laws, especially the chatty sis, are annoying, I get it. Jeff never makes a pot of coffee, the brute. And two weeks is a mighty long time to host guests, even ones that you like. But then you say this: [My husband’s] retort is that I would never agree to host his sister.

Let me repeat that: I would never agree to host his sister.

Your husband felt that the only way he could have his family in for an extended visit was to go behind your back and make plans without you, because you would never.

Hey, so…how’s your marriage? Because it seems like you have limited tolerance for the family you married into, which will, with time, have its effect on your husband and your relationship. It already has, since he’s acting out in such a way as to exclude you from input.

P: So Terri and I listened to your silence and came to some slightly different conclusions (which is the problem with silence), although this first one we shared: Sounds like there’s a whole lot of history of people’s not talking to one another. Sadly, it sounds like it starts with you and your husband. You’ve not really discussed who stays and how long, what the house rules are and if they’re different for people who stay two days and people who stay a week, who handles what chores.

And I’m not sure how his retort silenced you. According to what you said, your siblings’s stays are brief and infrequent, and his family stops in during the year, comes for several days during Christmas and is now coming for two weeks. So, “you’d never agree to host them,” is untrue and unfair. And that’s dirty pool. Unless of course, Terri’s on the money here, and you begrudge what’s happening. 

B: My guess is, you’re seeing Bob and Betty exactly as they are at home. He probably never makes a pot of coffee in his own kitchen, either, and I’d bet she never stops talking, but for them it’s how it’s done, and they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. My (further) guess is, and neither does your husband, really, though he may nod his head in mute agreement whenever you voice your displeasure with your family by marriage. It’s who they are. And the thing is, if you take the examples you gave us, yourself, then they seem…ok, annoying, but they’re not committing crimes. You don’t say that Bob gets falling-down drunk and hits on you, you don’t say that you’ve caught Betty kicking your dog. Instead, you say he drinks a lot of coffee and talks about himself, and she carries on. Nobody’s picking fights or creating backstabby, noxious family relations. Except you. After they leave. With your husband.

You say you’d like to show respect to your in-laws. I’d like to see you start, too.

P: You haven’t mentioned it, so we don’t have any real information about how your husband participates in your visits. Although, since we know what’s wrong with your in-laws, you probably wouldn’t be too shy about telling us what the hubster’s up to.

I must say, however, that whether or not they’re perfect guests, that’s a lot of time to have people in your house. Are you retired and able to spend the whole summer there or is this your entire vacation?

How much time do you normally spend hosting? And does that interrupt your lazing around doing whatever you normally do while vacating?

B: You mention your own family’s visits, which last for two days and are over. How do you manage to regulate their visits? Are they just better behaved? Or have you taken the time to instill some boundaries with them? Maybe now that you’re going to have them for two weeks (because oh yes, sister, they’re coming), you can start to change some of the rules of their visits to make their behavior less irritating. Overnights, or a few nights in a row are one thing. Two weeks’ worth of visiting, though, that’s living together, and living together requires boundaries.

P: Independent of them, I would certainly be talking about rules for long-term house-guests. But if people are coming for two weeks, will you set up a schedule and make up a list of stuff and ask them to bring that? You haven’t said they’re poor. And even if people have fewer resources, presumably they have some. They can always bring the potatoes, whole and chips. Most people are happy to participate if they know what the expectations are. It might take a while and plenty of snack items to get them trained, but it helps to be direct with people.

You don’t say, but what is your husband’s idea of hosting? What are his jobs for their stay? I can’t believe it, I almost found myself writing, what does he do to help… but in fact, they’re your shared guests, maybe even his guests… His guests require his doing his part and your doing yours… because in a marriage, you get to have a guest in your own house!

B: You want to be gracious, be gracious, and remember, the only behavior you ultimately have control over is your own. Have you ever thought about making Bob’s coffee drinking a bit of a joke? Buy him his own mug and set up a station for him. When he comes in, present it with a flourish. Say, “Bob, you’re here for two weeks, and I know how much you like coffee. Here is your own mug, and here are the filters, the spoons, the sugar, the coffee.” Offer to show him how to work your coffee maker. And then go about your day without worrying over his coffee habit. Clear out a space for them in your fridge and tell them they’re welcome to stock up on groceries. Let them know (ahead of time) that you never cook on Wednesdays so everyone is on their own that night. I’m afraid you won’t be able to put Betty on mute, so maybe you can find some interests you share. See if she wants day passes to your local gym, or take her to something you would like to do, too. A talk at a library, a sewing bee, something. If she’s going to talk, then perhaps you can turn her chatter into something you want to hear. Also, give them a key to the cabin to use while they’re there, and let them know they’re more than welcome to come and go as they please. They might not want to be around you 24/7 for two weeks, too, particularly as you tend to sit in judgment of them.

P: Because you’ll have to answer this, how long are you willing to have Betty and Bob at your house? Terri points out your in-laws are coffee guzzlers (good save, Terri, I was for more passive aggressively removing coffee from the house. But she’s right, get him his own miniature coffee maker with a gold basket that he can refill. Save the landfill, save your sanity.)  and loud (well Terri and I have a certain fondness for loud-mouthed women) Neither of these are egregious faults.

And when I hear the words vacation cabin, I think vacation. For me, that would be feet up on the screened in porch reading, floating in the lake/pool/body of water maybe reading. Oh, and napping. Rummaging in the fridge. Maybe burgers on the grill. Terri’s idea might include fewer burgers and more cooking… but what do you want for this time? Simply not having these guests is not an option.

Before you deal with the in-laws, I think you and your hubster might want to talk about one another’s goals for the vacation. (PS, yours count as much as his.)

Once you have a list of how you want to spend your time, you can talk about how it fits to have guests and what you’re willing to do to entertain people. And if he’s not willing to take up a lot of the slack, because you both know how they are, ask him how he thinks the two of you should solve this problem. Because it’s not your problem or even, really, simply his. They are his family. As Terri points out, you married him. And he comes equipped with family. And he loves them. And that means he knows how to love people. That’s something you want in a partner!

B: And now, more than ever, at last, finally! It’s time to talk to your husband. Not at him, to him. You can start by acknowledging you’ve put your husband in the middle between yourself and his sister and brother-in-law, and that’s not fair of you. Two weeks with them, without his discussing it with you beforehand…yes, he was terribly unfair and dropped a bit of a bomb shell on you, but it’s also a wake-up call that perhaps your own behavior hasn’t invited his conversation in the first place.

You’ve let them come and stay with you in order to see Mom, but has it always been through gritted teeth? Your own family seems less mashed up with each other than your husband’s family; they stay in a hotel over the holidays, they are in for two days and done at your cabin. This may be how you want families to act, but it’s not the family you married into. Ask your husband whether or not he finds his sis & BIL’s behavior difficult to manage, too, or if you’ve just made him feel bad about having a sibling. Ask how you can work together as a unit to not have this sort of difficult rift in the future. Be quiet, and let him answer you. Active listening can be extraordinarily difficult; what I am going to ask of you is that you don’t answer until he is done speaking. Don’t talk over him, don’t start formulating a response. Just let your husband speak about this situation with his sister. He ought to do the same with you and I’m going to ask you again: when it’s your turn to speak, talk to the things that really upset you in this. It’s not Bob’s coffee habit or Betty’s chatter, it’s that your husband made these extended plans without consulting you. The solid frame of a really large wall is going up between the two of you. Work to dismantle it before you’re divided for a lifetime.

P: And what’s your goal? Their personalities are not going to change, she’ll always talk too loudly and he’ll drink too much coffee, but you can take your book and go sit on the porch.

And, worth your while, you need to think a little about how they’ll respond — because even if they are selfish, you don’t ever want them to seize on this as an opportunity to stop seeing Mom. And that’s a real consideration for as long as Mom’s alive. That’s another gift you get from your loving husband, another Mom.

I don’t know that I was quite as worried as Terri that this was a game changer for you, but I do know it seems like an awfully big hill to put up in your own back yard. You have a husband with a family. And presumably a lovely cabin. Enjoy that!

Let me repeat: Be kind.

Let me repeat: Be kind.

Two Sisters Toddy

  • ½ oz strawberry liqueur
  • ½ oz Grand Marnier
  • 1 oz bourbon
  • crushed ice
  • lemon twist garnish

Blend all ingredients (except lemon) in a blender until smooth. Serve in a champagne glass with lemon twist.

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential. 

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}


Travel Theme: Intense

This week at Where’s My Backpack?, Ailsa has issued a really challenging challenge. One might even call it…intensely challenging. *nyuk nyuk nyuk* The theme is “intense”. Hmmmmmmm….

Here goes!

Recently, George and I drove to Point Pleasant Beach during a visit with family, and hooooooo-weeeeee! The wind was crazy that day. My mother came with us; we were worried that the winds would pick her up and carry her away.

Down where the trade winds play...

Down where the trade winds play…

Next up: the intense physicality of an NHL game. Last year, George and I went to a New York Rangers game in Madison Square Garden. (Welcome to Rangerstown. Now get outta here.) A thousand years ago I was always going to hockey games as the ex- and I had season tickets, but when the marriage ended, so did the subscription. C’est la vie. Now, when I get a chance to go, it’s a real treat. Though you know, I’ve always thought that if I went to work and a colleague knocked me to the ground with a big stick while another colleague made off with my work implements? Screw you guys, I’m going home. I’m glad hockey players think differently.


Get the puck get the puck GET THAAAA PUUUUUUCCCCCCKKKKKKK!!!!!!

I’ve spoken of Knoebels, our local gem of an amusement park, before. It’s always a thrill to go there and get flung about upside down and sideways.



Meanwhile in Venice, glassblowers use intense heat to make beautiful glassware. Bear in mind: this flaming red glass sculpture? Will cool and turn colorless, completely clear.

How'd you like a nice piece of molten glass?

How’s about a nice piece of molten glass?

For the last several years, the garden club in my little town has organized a summer garden tour, where select local homeowners with tour-worthy gardens graciously open their yards to the public for a day. I have world’s blackest thumb and can kill any plant you put in front of me; thankfully, I know lots of people who can make things grow at will. This was taken in my friend Steva’s amazing raised garden beds. Behold! The intense beauty of a perfect rose on a gorgeous summer day.

Welcome to Pleasantville.

Welcome to Pleasantville.

That’s it for now. I hope you enjoy the other participants in Ailsa’s photo challenge, or even decide to play along, yourself!

Here’s a little Bugs Bunny, singing about the trade winds, to enjoy on your way out.

Advice: Tiny Home, Big Problem

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I think I am in over my head and I am not sure what to do.  I have been married for 8 years and have two children, ages 6 and 2.  My husband and I have always been environmentally and socially conscious, and recently decided to try “simple living”.  Against the cautions of some of our family members, we decided to downsize from a 2500 sq ft suburban home to a 650 sq ft “tiny house” that we had custom built for our family.   It is super cute and we were pretty mindful in our planning, carefully considering what we thought we could live with. But now that we have been living in it for a month, I hate it!  There is no room to do anything!  I feel like I am constantly tripping over stuff, there is NO privacy, and I feel terribly confined.  I am often grumpy and find myself snapping at my husband and kids over the smallest things.  I feel this way now, in the summer, when we have been able to spend lots of time outside…how am I ever going to get through a winter like this?    I had NO idea that I would find this so difficult.  While I am struggling with our new home, my husband seems to think it’s all great.  He is constantly sharing the “joys of simple living” with everyone we meet.  We have invested a lot of time and money in this “new way of life”, and I feel like a schmuck for wanting to bail on it so soon.  I don’t want to let my husband down, nor do I really want to hear “I told you so’s” from our families.   But really….I feel like I am going to go insane if we don’t do something different soon. I don’t know what to do.

-Missing My Space

Dear Missing Your Space,

P: Ah, my dear, I’m sure you thought the honeymoon would last a little longer… This is/was a huge undertaking, and however carefully you plan about the space, I’m not sure there’s any way you can plan about the realities of so much less space. This is something you need to learn to live with, something that will take discipline to make work for you.

I suspect that anyone can learn to thrive in a smaller space although not everyone will choose to. But it’s only in the last couple generations that most people had large spaces to live in. We’ve developed notions of privacy and privilege that go along with that space.

B: Americans like space. We’ve been culturally ingrained with romantic ideals of wide open spaces and big skies. Large cars. Ample personal space. Certainly, most of us don’t even consider what it would be like to live in the stackable apartments they have in Japan. I have a friend who is planning a move into a tiny house with her husband, this very spring. She said, “Space is difficult. I think it is both the most overrated and underrated commodity we have.”

I get that you’re environmentally conscious and want to reduce your carbon footprint. And I’m glad that you care enough about the state of our planet to want to pass that caring on to your children. But you  made a tremendous leap into a new extreme, and now, it seems like you’ve found yourself stuck. We presume you can’t move back to your old home, or that moving at all isn’t really an option you’ll willingly entertain. Now what?

P: The tiny house movement is new, so I looked around the interwebs for discussion boards concerning the transition to a small home, and couldn’t really find anything. As I looked I realized, oh, right, people live in apartments with their families that are this small and manage not to ruin their lives or their children. I suspect you need to change the rules — and it make take some time to figure out what the new normal for simple living is. It may take some iterations before you finally settle on what works for everyone. Because of course it doesn’t work if everyone else is happy and you aren’t.

B: My initial instinct is to remind you to take a breath, take a walk outside for five minutes–alone, of course!–and calm down. You’ve only been in that house for a month, and you may be going through growing…shrinking?…pangs. You’ve lost roughly 75% of your former living space, so you need to allow for an adjustment period. It’s a different way to live. Energy gathers in a home differently in a space that small, especially when there are four people contributing to it. One toy left in the middle of the living room floor creates a sense of clutter, one heap of socks looks like a mountain of laundry. It’s entirely possible that once you adapt–once your vision adjusts to your new surroundings, once you learn how to manage your family’s presences, once you create house rules that reflect where you live now–you’ll breathe a little easier.

But the important thing to remember in all this is that you aren’t managing that household alone. You have a husband with you, a life partner, who should ostensibly help you with how your home flows. He may be telling everyone how much he loves tiny-house living. Have you ever told him how YOU feel?

P: Your discomfort is the whole family’s problem. And they need to recognize that. ‘Cause as the T-shirt says, “If mamma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”

How do you blend privacy, play, work, studies and remember, romance!

B: It’s all well and good that your husband is busily extolling the virtues of tiny living, and I understand that his apparent enthusiasm would dampen your desire to tell him how unhappy you are in your new home. How can you tell him you’re unhappy with something in which he’s clearly delighted? What you need to bear in mind is, this is your life. This isn’t some temporary inconvenience, like getting a new roof put on or having every window in the house replaced. Tiny house living may have been an idealized projection of your vis a vis green-living, Little House on the Prairie-esque romantic notion, but the functional part of you that dislikes your living situation is your real self. It’s uncomfortable to realize your ideal and your real selves are in conflict, but you need to honor who you are and what you want. It’s time for you to take what you have and make the best of it.

P: Idealism is amazing. But reality takes getting used to. You are not practiced at this. Some of the family living skills you had from living in your house that was 4x your beautiful, new, little one will not transfer to living in a much smaller space.

So do some good research and then some thinking. Plan as carefully for your day-to-day family life as you did for space. Could you have done this before? Sure! Did you? No. So what? Now’s the time to look at things. Talk about it. Start a blog about it. 

B: Talk to your husband about how you feel, and tell him you want to institute some changes as to  how you all operate in your new space. You may want to institute new clutter rules, which could make a difference as to how you perceive the open space you have. You may want to try and institute a quiet time, to mellow out the collective energy in your smaller space.

P: In small space you have to work as a unit. Individualism takes a back seat to the family, although everyone needs to be acknowledged. The balance of privilege and family priorities needs to be built to fit the home you have. Teach your kids to be productive members of the family. Make them responsible for chores and living skills. They’ll still be kids, but we need to learn to be aware of others; it’s not inborn.

I remember that growing up, we all used to sit in the living room and read quietly. TV was a communal activity. Pretty much everyone watched. If we didn’t have TV we wanted to see, we played games. We had a big house, but we did things together in the evenings. And we learned to like quiet activities. Turn off the noise; if there’s music on, consider sitting and listening to it. Or make it a treat that gets turned up to dance music when there are chores to be done.

Remember, you are creative, you figured out what to do with stuff, now you have to build a family that fits in your little home.

We forget that we can go out in the winter as well. It’s not as easy if we’re in the country as it might be in the city, but kids used to spend hours playing outside in all kinds of weather. Time outside in fresh air makes you lots less rammy. Build a play house, hang a swing. Learn to snow shoe or ice skate or cross country ski. Do it with the kids. You’ll feel better too.

B: I’d advise that you and your husband set a deadline for you to see how you feel after new house rules and activities and spatial negotiations are implemented. If, at the end of it, you still think you need more space, then give yourself the respect you deserve and act on that. Build on an extension to the house. Or put up a she-shed. If you end up expanding your living space yet again, remember, there are ways to be environmentally mindful without confining your living space to 650 square feet. Create a personal food garden. Keep bees. Create a protected wildlife space on your property; there are ways to do that even if you live in town. Look into solar paneling and ease your burden on the national power grid. You don’t have to upheave your life–again–in order to change it. You just need to be respectful and honest toward everything you already have.

P: You’ve got this. You just need to reconsider what works. And if in a couple years, yep, keep trying, it doesn’t work, then find something that’ll make mama happy. But no sense leaving before you’ve really done your homework.

Et voila!

Et voila!

The “Home Sweet Home”:

  • 60 ml vodka
  • 140 ml lemonade
  • spearmint sprig
  • dash of orange bitters
  • lemon peel

Put sprig in glass. Fill with ice, top with vodka and lemonade. Stir. Top with bitters, garnish with lemon peel. Kick back and relax!

Got a problem? Email us at bartender priestess (at) gmail (dot) com. Human non-spambots, remove spaces, insert proper punctuation. All questions will remain confidential. 

Want to know more about The Bartender and The Priestess? Go here!

Thank you for reading. Now go tell all your friends about us. {{{heart hug}}}

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fruit

This week at Where’s My Backpack?, Ailsa has selected “fruit” as her travel theme. Allrighty then. I’m in.

Some interpretations of fruit may be a little bit loose. But what the hey, we have fun.

First up: my kitchen! I was making a lemon-caper vinaigrette to have with our dinner salad one night. As the Lord sayeth, verily, it was good.



Next up: on a chilly morning wandering the grounds of the Essex Resort in Vermont, I stumbled upon a planting of frosty ground cherries.

And then I ate one.

And then I ate one.

I like grapes. I like how they prepare them at the Ravines Wine Cellar at Keuka Lake (bonus: they do wine and chocolate pairing tastings…hell yes!). Imma leave this right here.

Super-yummy. I love a good tasting room.

Super-yummy. I love a good tasting room. Did I mention they do chocolate pairings? :)

Close to my home: I spotted this dwarf pomegranate blooming along the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail one fine late-summer day.

I really need to take another bike ride down the Rail Trail soon.

I really need to take another bike ride down the Rail Trail soon.

And finally. One night while visiting my mother, la momma asked me if I wanted anything fruity after dinner. Sure, I replied. What have you got?


Health, darlings. Health.

Mmmm hmmm. Apple pie, strawberry ice cream. I’m not sure if she and I define “fruit” the same way. Nevertheless, it was very good indeed.

Enjoy the rest of the fruity offerings on Ailsa’s photo challenge! See you ’round the interwebs.

Advice: When Divorcing Parents Stop Parenting

Dear Bartender and Priestess,

I don’t know if you answer questions from teenagers, but I hope you do. Here’s my problem: My parents are in the middle of getting a divorce. I don’t think they have been happy for a while (my dad has slept on the couch a lot and my mom is always “working late”, yeahhhh, I bet), but it wasn’t until this summer that they decided to split up.  I don’t really mind that they are splitting up since we haven’t done “family things” much since I was little. What does bug me is that they are always trying to put me in the middle by wanting me to choose sides. My dad tells me bad things about my mom, my mom tells me bad things about my dad, and they both want me to choose them. To be honest, I couldn’t pick a side even if I wanted to – I think they are both acting stupid!  I mean I want them to be happy and all, and I love them both, but this is their problem and I just don’t want to have to deal with it all. Sometimes the pressure from it all is just too much.  When I get really overwhelmed, I sometimes cut myself to take some of the pressure off.  My parents don’t know that I’m a cutter (and I am scared to tell them), but sometimes I just don’t know what else to do. I am not, you know, suicidal or anything, and I don’t cut very deep. I just want my parents to chill out and stop asking me to decide who’s right and who’s wrong. I want to go to college some day, so I just want to worry about things like my grades, or things the other kids in my class are worrying about, like who to ask to Homecoming. Is that too much to ask?

– Stuck in the Middle

Dear Stuck:

B & P: Oh, our dear, No. It is not too much to ask. Let’s see if we can’t help you get out of the middle. Because you do NOT deserve to be there. And as you’re noticing, it’s a destructive place to be.

P: I’m sorry your parents are being so incredibly selfish. I’m sorry they’ve overlooked the fact that you’re their kid not a pawn in this game of one-upsmanship.

Because you still are a kid, I want to help you find some support. You should not be in this alone. You sound really capable. But you need to be a capable kid, not a capable adult for your parents.

Do your grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, minister, coach — someone/anyone know what’s happening to you? Is there someone in your life who’s willing to be an adult?

I’m going to stay on this who’s your adult, Terri’s going to talk about keeping you healthy, but let me tell you, we’re on your side. We’re adults and we want to help you stay concentrated on the things that are appropriate for you to be concentrated on. We want to help you stay safe.

B: Thanks to my own ride on my own emotional roller coaster, I have a deep and abiding compassion for self-destructive behavior. There’s something going on in your world that makes you want to escape, makes you want to throw your attention somewhere else. Some people drink. Some people develop eating disorders. And some people cut themselves.

None of these responses are acceptable in the face of life’s stresses, though they are understandable. You want some kind of release. Cutting gives you some kind of control over the crazy-making degree of bad you’re feeling (because at least you have something to feel bad about, amirite?). Because in a lot of ways, making yourself feel actual physical pain is a lot easier than facing the spiritual pain that arises from the fact that the people in your life who are supposed to protect you are, instead, tearing you apart.

You’re talking about grades and Homecoming, so you’re still very young. But you’re also developing a growing awareness of the world around you, and are recognizing inappropriate behavior, particularly on the behalf of your parents. You’re right; they are acting stupid. Please don’t compound their negative behavior by engaging in your own.

P: Through this debacle, your job is to be the kid: to think about your grades and your dates and the things going on in your life. It is also your job to be sad about the break up in your family — because let’s face it, it’s always easier if our parents love each other.

So, how do you go about being a kid when the world around you is falling apart?

I’ll keep saying, you have to find some adults. It’s lousy that you’re the one that has to find the adults, but clearly your parents aren’t going to either be them or find them for you.

I’m really glad you told us about your cutting because, however controlled you are, this is a dangerous precedent. This says you need and want help. Cutting holes in your skin doesn’t mend the holes in your heart even if it feels as if it provides vent holes from time to time.

If your grandparents aren’t available or capable of stepping up, then stop and think about who in your life could be your advocate. Who will help you get the support you need?

I’d like you to have a counselor. You really deserve help. There’s an old myth about doing this stuff alone, but some stuff you shouldn’t have to do alone. Even if you can, it’s easier if you have support. Therapists are trained to help you think through things. This is the first time this has happened to you, but sadly, it has happened to lots of other people. Your therapist can offer you wisdom, support and suggestions. If you think your parents can’t afford it, your guidance counselor at school can help you get to the school therapist. If your parents can afford to send you to counseling, your guidance counselor will have references for you. Because sadly, you’re not the only kid in your school with problematic parents.

B: I need to echo Ann here. Please, please, please: STOP. Stop hurting yourself, stop clouding your thoughts with physical pain, stop amplifying the bad juju, stop doing something that is potentially addictive and unquestionably damaging. I get that asking someone who’s engaging in self-destructive behavior often falls on deaf ears (if only I had listened when that first person told me to stop smoking!). I get that you’re not suicidal, and this is an expression of your severe emotional distress. You’re also cutting yourself and more than that, you’re weakening yourself, making this spiral of emotional turmoil a thing from which it is progressively more difficult to free yourself.

You’re hacking away at your getaway car and not doing anything about the robbery.

Because let me make this clear: your parents are robbing from you. They’re stealing your sense of security. They’re taking your safe home away from you. They’ve plundered your adolescence. And what’s worse is they’re asking you to be complicit as they take these things away. They’re asking you to be an accomplice in their emotional assaults on one another. It might not be technically criminal, but it should be. Abandonment. Jerkitude. Your parents are so caught up in their spite games that they’ve abdicated their roles as parents and are leaving their child-rearing duties up to you. Welcome to early adulthood, and I’m sorry. You’ve got to be the person to find your own way out of this. For that, you need strength, not self-induced bloodletting.

Please start to look for help. You’re self-aware enough to know that all of these behaviors swirling around in your life are not OK; you know your parents aren’t OK, you know cutting isn’t OK. You wrote this letter, so you’ve got the fortitude to look for exits, and have already made the first step toward reaching out. Take Ann’s advice and go to a trusted adult. A professional at school, a savvy aunt/uncle/grandparent that you can trust, someone who you know has your best interests at heart and will stand beside you as you make your parents aware of how you’ve reacted to their petty self-interest.

Let’s face it. Your parents should take some ownership of those cuts.

P: You might want to do this next within the context of your therapy, or with your best friend’s parents, but consider writing a letter to your parents. I’d want you to have your advocate stand with you as you write this. I’d suggest ccing the judge if there is one and your parents’ lawyers. Sadly, I’m sure you know who they are.

Dear Mom and Dad, your asking me to choose sides leaves me angry and scared. I need someone to think about me, because I’m still a kid. I’ve got to get good grades and graduate and get into a good school so that I can be an effective, happy grown up. I know you love me. I’m sad you love fighting more. I’m sad you don’t realize I need parents.

You’re both asking me to love only you and forget that your former partner is my other parent. It makes me crazy… like literally crazy. So crazy that I’ve started cutting myself. And you don’t even notice.

If you won’t give up give up the horrible fighting, and resolve your differences like grown ups as you divorce, would you at least help me find somewhere to live where I wouldn’t be in the midst of a war zone. I want to finish high school here and think about what’s ahead for me. I don’t want to flunk out because you’re not caring about me.

I can’t be your marital/divorce counselor. And you won’t get one. What am I supposed to do? It’s not my business what’s wrong with your relationship. I’m your kid. I’m your business. Will you at least get me a counselor so I have some support as I go through this?

You say you love me. Please help.

Refusing to play the game, love, your son.

Good luck in your attempt to be a teen again.

Good luck in your attempt to be a teen again.

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Photo Challenge: Monochrome

This week, the good people of WordPress issued a “monochrome” photo challenge. OK. I’m in.

Here’s the cream-on-cream sleeve of a wedding dress decorated entirely in sea shells. Not that that would be too heavy to move in or impossible to sit in. You can feast your eyes on this baby at the Peabody Museum in Salem, MA, when you’re in that town and need a break from the witch business.


Here comes the sorely weighted down bride…dum dum da dummmm…

Next, we have the gentle golden glow of lights in a grape-cluster chandelier. I want one of these in my house soooo bad. See them for yourself at Dr. Frank’s winery in Keuka Lake. (And plus, there’s wine!)


Tres glamorous!

In the right light, battleships look more blue than grey. Welcome to the USS North Carolina, docked in Wilmington, NC. And by “right light”, I mean, against a blue-blue sky.


You got something to say?

The Buffalo Valley Rail Trail boasts all manner of flora, which crumbles into funky shapes of brown and grey when the seasons change. Behold a desiccated milkweed pod.


Monarch butterflies love these things.

And today, right outside my front door, I noticed a funky little leaf curling in upon itself, tucked in among the rhododendron bush.

Fractaltastic! (Science joke. If you don't get won't get it.)

Fractaltastic! (Science joke. If you don’t get it…you won’t get it.)

There’s my monochromatic photos. I hope you enjoyed, and maybe even decide to play along (if you haven’t already, of course). Thanks for dropping by!

See the rest of the monochrome photos on the WordPress Daily Post page.

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