March 4, 2012
The week didn’t start off as planned, my brain’s been a traitor and I keep having feelings, so I’ve been seeking asylum in food. It’s not quite so bad as eating to cope or anything like that. I just need an outlet whereby my brain can stop thinking on what it keeps focusing on. Thankfully, the internet in the form of creative cooking Twitter and blogger friends have been sharing some delightful food tidbits and I have been paying attention!
Also I cheated and bought premarinated bulgogi for dinner. It was expensive at $10 for 1.25 pounds but it was cheaper than going out, made two meals over two nights and was really fast prep. Sometimes cheaters don’t lose sleep at night over the cheating because it saved some time better spent on sleeping.
I did finally bite the bullet and order some shoes to try on, though, after hemming and hawing all week long. I hate shoe shopping and I hate wasting money but torturing myself with blisters and calluses is just plain stupid. With any luck, at least a couple pairs will be good and last several years.
Posts for Perusal
I’ve a hankering to try Frugal Scholar’s braised lamb shoulder. It just sounds fantastic. But the price of lamb at Trader Joe’s- $17.99/lb– had my already wobbly knees buckling. I didn’t try looking further.
SP is conducting a More Money, More Comfort, More Time? experiment with her shoes. Coincidentally my happy new flats from Aldo several months ago have also crapped out on me far earlier than I would have liked. They aren’t destroyed but they are now destroying my feet. And with my new resolution to walk 2-3 times a week when the weather’s friendlier, I simply need to admit that adding the gel inserts and gritting my teeth through the weekly blisters is actually not a solution.
Nicole and Maggie reprise “You’re So Vain” in Some folks are easily offended. Not everything is about you. I operate on the philosophy that very little is. If anything your feelings should be hurt about that. [tongue in cheek]
Well Heeled has conquered three business schools’s admissions offices but was tricked by the fine print on her financial aid offer letter. What have you got to ‘fess up to?
I’m feeling reminiscent of (craving) the awesome Thanksgiving Turkey I made, with a slight variation from this L.A. Times brining recipe. ie: I didn’t realize I should brine it overnight much less for three DAYs so it was brined for about three hours. Still delicious.
Served: 14 pounds, 2 greedy-faces, up to 5 days.
Total time: 2 hours, 50 minutes, plus 3 days brining and drying time
Servings: 11 to 15
Note: This is more a technique than a recipe. It makes a bird that has concentrated turkey flavor and fine, firm flesh and that is delicious as it is. But you can add other flavors as you wish. Minced rosemary would be a nice finishing addition. Or brush the bird lightly with butter before roasting.
1 (12- to 16-pound) turkey
1. Wash the turkey inside and out, pat it dry and weigh it. Measure 1 tablespoon of salt into a bowl for every 5 pounds the turkey weighs (for a 15-pound turkey, you’d have 3 tablespoons).
2. Sprinkle the inside of the turkey lightly with salt. Place the turkey on its back and salt the breasts, concentrating the salt in the center, where the meat is thickest. You’ll probably use a little more than a tablespoon. It should look liberally seasoned, but not over-salted.
3. Turn the turkey on one side and sprinkle the entire side with salt, concentrating on the thigh. You should use a little less than a tablespoon. Flip the turkey over and do the same with the opposite side.
4. Place the turkey in a 2½-gallon sealable plastic bag, press out the air and seal tightly. Place the turkey breast-side up in the refrigerator. Chill for 3 days, turning it onto its breast for the last day.
5. Remove the turkey from the bag. There should be no salt visible on the surface, and the skin should be moist but not wet. Place the turkey breast-side up on a plate and refrigerate uncovered for at least 8 hours.
6. On the day it is to be cooked, remove the turkey from the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature at least 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
7. Place the turkey breast-side down on a roasting rack in a roasting pan; put it in the oven. After 30 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and carefully turn the turkey over so the breast is facing up (it’s easiest to do this by hand, using kitchen towels or oven mitts).
8. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees, return the turkey to the oven and roast until a thermometer inserted in the deepest part of the thigh, but not touching the bone, reads 165 degrees, about 2¾ hours total roasting.
9. Remove the turkey from the oven, transfer it to a warm platter or carving board; tent loosely with foil. Let stand at least 30 minutes to let the juices redistribute through the meat. Carve and serve.
November 22, 2011
I keep thinking about Mom. But it’s taking days and weeks to form words, words into a sentence, then into coherence. I’m working. Eating. Sleeping. Taking care of business. But at odd moments of the day, I keep thinking about Mom. But for now, that’s not where my words want to flow. Because they’re still swirling in my heart and my gut. And that makes this other thing that I couldn’t write before emerge from the darkness.
It was so much easier when I could just write him off as an egomaniacal selfish jerk. Not easy, mind. Just easier.
I’ve long missed having a big brother, I missed having a full family (a real family), I missed having someone who remembered all the family secrets, to share the jokes, mimicry and stories. Just like I’ve missed having a mom. But this was easier. Easier because it was his choice. It was his loss. It was his fault. I had tried, you see. I had done the best I could with kind words, wheedling words, empathetic words, angry words, harsher actions, drawn lines in the sand, feet planted and stone in my heart.
I had failed, which wasn’t something I could really forgive myself for, but perhaps someday I could absolve myself of the responsibility of his life having gone the way of so many other wasted lives. Trying to accept the reality, trying to swallow my crackling bitter pride, I rehearsed the explanation to my future children, that they once had an uncle, I once had a brother, we were once great enemies and great pals, fanciful adventurers and creative plotters, but alas. It was complicated. The explanation tilted and twirled, the questions bobbed to the surface, but why….? But how….? When did it go wrong? Couldn’t you…?
But still. I could walk away into that future where I had no good explanation. I had to – if I wanted a future. For my health, my sanity. I had my parents to think of. My future family to tend to. It rent my heart but I had to leave a piece of my family and move forward.
And so my resolution was made to move my parents into a safer place as soon as I possibly could, leaving him to fend for himself.
Labor Day weekend, I visited my parents and my soul was pummeled with all the fury of great titans, passion worthy of Ali v Frazier. My brother, the jerk, my brother, the eldest son, my brother.
He was speaking gibberish, not just his usual castle in the sky and whistling in the wind, but true, delusional gibberish. And I knew that my secret fears that I’d never uttered aloud but once had begun to come true. He’d begun to spiral into some new world of his invention, one where he could teach animals speech and they’d speak back, and so he’d converse with them, and the furniture, and the buildings, at length.
And his dog watched him, with sad, sunken eyes. He knew. Loyal with every sinew, bone, and breath. But still even he knew, there was something terribly wrong. And he looked at me with those sad eyes.
It’s been a terrible, horrible year for my Dad. But he’s borne it well, as well as he can. He carries the guilt of my mother’s illness and now, in part, her passing; the guilt of my brother’s failed life and the revelation of his instability and probable illness; my struggles of the past years and the extra burdens created by the concessions I made due to my brother and their inability to love him any less. All these, he carries as a shroud and as a shield.
He managed to start a small business several months ago, while juggling the care of my mother, driven by the need to alleviate my financial burden any small degree, and while he’s ready to take on the care and keeping of my brother as his next responsibility, I can’t allow that.
It’s not sensible, he doesn’t have the tools to deal with this, his role as a father isn’t the right or effective one to rein in or treat the madness. But neither do I have the tools. We need professional help and we need to learn from the past mistakes and not let him sink the rest of the family under the weight of this.
Most importantly, most selfishly, I need my Dad to stay well; he’s the last of my family. In a mass of hundreds of relatives – cousins and aunts and uncles – I only have one parent left. He has to stay healthy and because of that, I have to become, once again, my brother’s keeper.
It’s certain as the full moon will wane that until he has some evaluation and/or treatment, my brother will not change for the better. So the first course of action will be to find out what options are for medical treatment out there that don’t involve beggaring ourselves. I’m not putting him above my new family, or my Dad, in this situation.
Next, he needs to be in a safe place to live NOT with Dad, and certainly not with us, but again, it cannot be by sacrificing anyone else.
Because he’s sick, I will undertake the search for what options there are but this won’t be a quick process. He’s an adult, so that complicates things. And money isn’t freely flowing around here, and he doesn’t get any special treatment. Unlike Mom, he didn’t earn the Anything Goes package even if I were made of money. He’s my brother but he was abominable when he had a choice. He’s my brother so I will look out for him if I can but there are absolutely limits.
May 8, 2011
I suppose this is a fitting enough post for Mother’s Day. Happy Mother’s Day!
In the aftermath of my venting posts about my brother, The high costs of Parenting Fails, or a Bad Seed Part 1 and Part 2, I feel I did my parents a disservice. In focusing on the mistakes that we made specific to my brother, I seem to have implied that my parents were a) ungrateful, and b) hadn’t done anything right.
Those two bits couldn’t be more wrong.
To compound the wrongness, some, especially after the Consumerist picked up the latter post, said I was asking the wrong question, that I ought to have asked how much I ought to be supporting my parents instead of how much parents should support their children.
To be clear, I wasn’t asking any question in the first place, I was just mad at my brother for being a clown.
But if I were, my simple answer would be this: parents are to love their children completely and equip them with the skills they need to become fully functional, independent adults. Many times, that will mean not just giving them things or money but rather imparting the knowledge of how to obtain those things. And the material support does have an end. The complicated answer is complicated.
Before I can answer the question of how much help this adult child should give her parents, I have to put in context this adult child and her parents as there were a number of assumptions drawn from the limited and rather irrelevant posts above.
Without getting into the details of their lives before us, some of which you can read here about my mom and a brief synopsis here, there was plenty that they did right and much they did to have inspired my desire to support them in return.
This isn’t a blind, enculturated sense of filial duty. Certainly it’s filial but it starts from the knowledge that they chose to sacrifice their established lives to come to a foreign country, learn a new language, and start over to give us a better shot at good lives. They could have stayed but instead chose to trade in their quality of life for an automatic “one up” for us. It was a roll of the dice whether their lives would improve or not since “Land of Opportunity” or not, life in America was equal parts luck (ill or good) and much hard work for the first wave of immigrants; we had relatives already in the States who could testify to the amount of work necessary to make it here. There was no such thing as an easy ride and they still chose to make the leap for us.
Making life even more challenging for themselves, they moved into a tiny predominantly Caucausian suburb instead of the established community enclaves, guaranteeing our better education and assimilation; the freeways creating concrete barriers between us and the vortices of gang violence developing in the LA/Orange County areas where much of our family had already settled.
Upon their arrival, my parents worked every single day, 14 -16 hour days. They never took a day off, never took a holiday and only alternated three vacations between the two of them in thirty years in order to do their duty in taking us home to meet our grandparents. We couldn’t afford those trips, of course but it was incredibly important for us to know them. We occasionally drove into the city on the weekend for a morning to run an errand as a family, but otherwise, my parents worked constantly to make the bills and send us to the best school possible. I never heard a single complaint, so I never knew this wasn’t “normal.”
During my teenage years, the hours actually got longer because they put my brother in private high school having seen one male cousin fall in with the wrong crowd at the public school and come to a tragically early end, planned to pay for our college education and ran two businesses to afford it all. They paid for music lessons and three sports of my choosing before my senior year of high school.
By the time everything started to unravel at the start of my college years, my parents had worn themselves to a thread giving us as much as they could. That didn’t mean they’d given up, though.
Despite Grandma’s illness, living with us, bedridden, and in the past…
Despite Mom and Dad having to tend to her every day even though Mom herself was quite ill requiring surgeries and rounds of medications that weren’t working…
Despite the businesses going south between the embezzlement and the health problems…
Despite the remaining credit card debts from the business and taking us back to the old country to meet our grandparents…
Despite Dad’s inability to get a job due to a combination of ageism and a limited resume that only had “business owner” on it…
Despite Dad’s losing money on his attempts to make money which caused him to spiral into further depression…
Despite Dad’s particularly tough realizations that he’d spent our entire childhoods working only to have his legacy for his family disappear and fear that he might well have lost his family into the bargain…
They still fought for their pride, for my sake, for our survival. Dad kept searching and digging, working odd jobs for old friends who would find something they needed his skills for. Mom was willing to put up with the worst of environments as long as she was helping me with a bit of cash at month’s end. They were driving themselves crazy (and me, into the bargain) for nearly nothing in return but to spare me an hour of work and I couldn’t stand it, so I took everything over. But as long as they could, they tried. We were at emotional cross purposes, all fighting, pulling each other away from our positions to protect one another from pain.
Of course they made mistakes. Desperate people make mistakes. Desperate people care.
Mom’s health deterioration was jagged. Reduced to menial jobs, places where supervisors and coworkers were abusive, she was shorted on wages because her mental and physical health was diminishing in loops and fades; she couldn’t truly function or keep a job. Until I made her stop, she was taking every job she could secure. Even then she tried strongarming my dad into taking her to job interviews when I was away even though she wasn’t capable of working because she was so pained about my working such long hours. She didn’t peacefully accept the loss of her functioning.
My parents are both very grateful to me for my help and communicate that. I’ve no doubt of that just as they know I love them and will always care about them. It may be a frustrating cognitive dissonance to know that and reconcile it with their actions toward my brother that ripple back to me. But at the same time, I understand because just as much as they love me, they love him. He is their child every bit as much as I am.
(More their child, ahem. Nope, not bitter, grumble grumble.)
In all seriousness, I love and respect my parents because for better or worse, they did the best they could with what they had. They always strove to be strong and good people. The choices and mistakes they made out of love for their other child that I disagree with doesn’t change the fact that they also raised and cared for me deeply and deserve to be well-cared for as best I can manage. If the circumstances were different, if they were a bit less unlucky in their health and business manager (the thrice-cursed embezzler!), perhaps things would be different but that doesn’t necessarily follow that different is better.
Perhaps some people might say that having supported them for the past ten years as I have was too much and “enabling” but there’s a hugely important factor: You can’t compare my brother to my parents because they are completely different people.
He might have worked all of three years in his total of 30+ years of life. They’ve worked two lifetimes. He’s done little but been an influence in my life. My parents both gave me life and nurtured me, succored me when I was ill, and would still do anything they could to ease my way now if they were able.
Supporting my brother would be enabling because he could, if he chose, find a way to earn a living and support himself. My mother is no longer medically able to care for herself or be independent and my dad has to care for her around the clock. Supporting them is a matter of their survival as the clock on their finding and holding jobs has long run out.
These past years have been challenging and I know it will take quite a lot more planning and resources to provide for them in their later years. But it’s not really a question for me whether or not I’ll do it.
How I’ll manage it has been a question posed a time or two (thousand).
Getting them safely into a protected home environment where idio-sib can’t moosh in with them is only the first in many steps we’ll have to take to get there since living together’s not really an option.
Getting back to the question: how much should I (we) support them? Well, no amount of money in the bank is worth the loss of my parents from my life, forgotten and uncared for. And PiC, bless his heart and soul, is on board even though I’ve only newly introduced him to Ship Support the Parents as it’s been such a private journey for so long.
Their basic needs will always be provided. They won’t be living in luxury. I can’t afford that unless y’all decide I’m a genius blogger, share this with millions of your friends and I become the next dooce.com. Hardy-har. But they will live in safety. They will always have enough to eat. They should always have some form of safe transport and access to medical care. The cost, even now, is stiff. Each time a situation or a crisis arises, I have to evaluate the situation to see what can be afforded or what the right solution might be given the circumstances and the resources remaining for the year. I hate that I can’t simply wave a wand or a card and throw money at the problems, sometimes.
They try to help in their own way, though I’d not asked for these things. They don’t go anywhere they don’t have to, unless it’s very local so as not to use gas, and they don’t go out to eat, ever. I think they’re doing their very best to show in their daily lives that they respect how hard I work to provide.
The cost in the future will be even higher so as ever, Planning. Earning. Saving. Investing. It all keeps the reality of needing a strong financial edifice at the forefront of my mind.
In the end, everyone has to answer this question for themselves in the context of their own lives and their own finances and their own relationships with whomever they may be called upon to support.
If they hadn’t raised me with love and respect, if they hadn’t treated me with so much care, humor and just plain sanity during my formative years so that for those brief moments before everything went to mush we had a great relationship, this would likely be a very different story. And I know for many of you, or for many of the first time readers who came to the other posts, it is a different story. That’s ok. It makes sense. This is what makes sense for us.