Sirwin
Sirwin

Today (The Family Compound... yeah, it's a thing....)


A few days ago, I was sitting here in my jammies and fuzzy socks, a usual occurrence for a cold (14F) morning in Texas. We don't get these cold snaps very often. Our town is not prepared to deal with snow and ice, so when we get them, we are told to not drive unless we have no choice. We are told to prepare, hunker down, and make sure we've stocked up on water and drained our pipes or keep the faucet dripping throughout the hard freeze to keep the pipes from freezing.

 

I drove one time a few years ago when the weather defied our town's claim of zero annual snowfall and dumped three inches of snow on our little town. I drove up the street and promptly turned around to go back home when we realized that not only is the town not prepared for snow, but our little country roads weren't designed for driving on it either. Additionally, I didn't think temperatures in the teens were that cold, but I learned my lesson the year before when our pipes did freeze, and I had a house full of people visiting for Christmas and no water for 36 hours. 

 

The thaw was happening that day after 60 hours of hard freeze and I was able to stop the dripping faucet. We are hooked up to the city's water supply which means we pay for water here. 

 

My sister-in-law, who sort-of lives here part time, left the day before to head to her condo in warmer climes.  She had to travel in the US weather mess that was everywhere that frozen day, with her black dust mop of a dog who thinks it's a bunny rabbit, and not a dog given the way it hops around. I had just settled in on my sofa with my coffee when I got a text from her telling me that her city water app informed her that she might have a water leak. She had left her tub faucet dripping to prevent the water pipes from freezing and bursting, so we didn't know if it was that or an actual leak in her water line.  My faucet had been dripping, too, but I had not received such a notice. The plan had been for us to turn off her dripping faucet when it warmed up later that day.

 

Out into the cold I went.  When I got there, I saw that she thought a 'stream' was better than a 'drip' to prevent her pipes from freezing. I turned it off, texted her that her running faucet was probably why she got the notice and told her to 'drip' next time. Hopefully there won't be a next time. 

 

I was then very awake after schlepping across the lawn to her house and back in 14F weather, half dressed and half jammies. I'm confident that her water running more than it needed to be caused the issue because I didn't notice any water bubbling up from underground when I checked outside her house where her water main line was. 

 

Then I got a text from her that some items we purchased to hand out at the memorial for my niece were arriving that day (way later than expected) so could I gather them up from her place when they arrived?  And maybe bring them over to our other sister-in-law (our niece's mom) so she has them to pack up and bring with her to the other memorial service and send pictures of the items so she can see they aren't damaged. I did do that when they arrived but had unwrap something three times to answer her questions. No problem doing all that. 

 

I've been mentioning in my posts all along about living next door to relatives, and said it was worthy of a blog post. I actually think it's worthy of several posts, because the dynamic has changed so much since we moved here. I must confess that I have experienced every single emotion that I can think of with respect to having my husband's two siblings living next door to us on either side of us, and his widowed mom about 45 minutes away.

 

When I was 29-years old, my husband, our two children and I moved from New England to Texas. We were moving because my husband had accepted a job with a NASA contractor to work on space shuttle payload software. He had applied at the urging of his sister's husband. We didn't really expect anything to come of it but next thing we knew we were headed for Texas. It was hard for me because I was leaving all my family behind, and moving to a place I'd only visited twice, but I really did want to go. To give you some perspective at how far away we moved, it took two and a half days by car to drive from where we lived in Texas to our old home. 

 

It wasn't too bad as the kids were not in school yet, and the cost of living was going to be much cheaper in Texas. Other than missing my family, there were not very many negatives to the move. Our home in New England was basically two cobbled-together camps someone had made into a house, which was located on a highway surrounded by woods. In Texas, we ended up with a four-year old two-story brick house in a nice, middle-class subdivision with an elementary school within walking distance. We did have some family there as my husband's sister lived up the street from us (until they moved for her job a year later) and his parents lived about two hours away.   Last year marked 30 years since we made that move. I have zero regrets about it. 

 

Fast forward thirty years.  So, how did we end up next door to the siblings in a town we'd never heard of before? We offered to help my husband's brother and his wife move from California to Texas (yet another blog post worthy topic). We were retired and decided we could help. They were doing what many Californians were doing. Cashing in on their real estate equity at retirement and heading for a cheaper place to retire. My sister-in-law wanted some land to grow fruits and vegetables and raise some animals, maybe, but didn't want a farm. She wanted just a few acres to spread out and grow things and they wanted to be closer to my mother-in-law. My sister-in-law was born and raised in west Texas, and she had always wanted to go back to Texas upon retirement.

 

Once we arrived at their new house in Texas with the moving truck, we were walking around their property, and I noticed a house being built next door on the other side of a chain-linked fence. The framing was set for the foundation to be poured. I said to my sister-in-law "too bad someone's building a house there, that would have been perfect for us." Well, it turned out the house was being built for no one, because it was a spec house. I was idly looking at real estate listings in the town, after we had returned to Florida, and less than two weeks later, the house came up for sale. That's how we ended up next door.

 

My husband's sister, his other sibling, was helping us navigate this whole process as we'd never been involved in a new build where you have to choose everything and stay in budget. She then found out our builder was going to build yet another house next door to ours and decided to buy that. After all, she would know two of her three neighbors. She had been looking for a place to have a second home and decided this was going to be it, as all her siblings were here and her mother was 45 minutes away. We ended up calling our three homes "The Family Compound." 

 

So, what happens when three related families move into a town of 4,900 people?  Gossip. Our builder, who was born and raised in our town, told us he had to field a lot of questions about who we were (we are nobody, really), why we moved here (because one of us did and the others followed), and what we were planning on doing here (nothing exciting). He told us this jokingly, but I was pretty sure that he actually had to do this. 

 

I discovered soon after moving here there that I have the exact same first and last name as a local girl who grew up here and had been the pharmacist in town for many years. She now resided a few towns over. In fact, a few weeks ago I got a call from an elderly lady telling me how sorry she was about my dad being so ill. I told her my dad had passed 11 years ago and she had the wrong person. I knew right away she thought I was that other person. After a few prompts, she realized who she called (the new person in town who she called early on, wanting to visit with the pastor to discuss us joining their church which I politely declined). She had my number from an organization I had joined in town. She then extended yet another invitation to attend her church and then finally ended the call.  

 

I think the most challenging thing for me in relocating here has been the failure of reality to match my expectations with respect to our family relationships. I was thinking we'd all become great friends and socialize, and the women would become besties and do stuff together. Why I thought this could happen flawlessly, I have no idea. When you look at my husband and his siblings, and us three women, we are all miles apart in our passions, and each of us has some degree of 'neuro-divergency' or childhood trauma.  I truly didn't consider how different we all are, how alike some of us are, and that we are all old, set in our ways, and believe to the depths of our soul that our view is the correct one.

 

My husband's brother and his wife have a serious hobby, that keeps them occupied and committed and they quickly found their 'tribe' here in that same hobby. They have urged us to get involved with their hobby, but we have no interest in participating in that. When they aren't doing that, they are passionate about their garden and yard. My main concern about my yard is whether my grass needs mowing.  They also like to make stuff and build stuff. They have a serious workshop with an attached craft room with five sewing machines.  I'm still nagging my husband to finish the deck project he started a year ago. We like to cycle, travel to ride interesting bike trails, and see things. We spend four months a year in a travel trailer a few miles from Canada. They have no interest in cycling and don't really want to travel, except for their hobby. We like to eat healthy (obviously), and my husband's brother lives on protein shakes and looks forward to the Costco hotdog and soda deal every week.

 

My husband's sister is a widow, spending her retirement travelling internationally, going to places she's never been. She's a retired professional, cultured, well-read, never leaves the house without looking her best, and has no interest in gardening, livestock or cycling. I'm amazed she actually tried ice skating with me last month. She's close to being a vegan and is very picky about what she eats. Her passion is traveling. We've traveled overseas one time, to do a bike tour. She would not be caught dead visiting us at our summer camp because dirt and bugs make her shudder... and it's too cold up there. I get along pretty good with her and can speak my mind to her. My husband's sister and I have known each other 35 years and have a relationship. 

 

We had only met our mutual sister-in-law a handful of times before they moved here, so both of us are navigating that relationship, and I'm sure our mutual sister-in-law feels like we already have our little 'clique,' and sometimes us two against her. So, yeah, there is enough unintended drama and hurt feelings. It has been pretty rocky as we are all stubborn, know-it-all types of gals, with different opinions on different things. 

 

And, finally, you have three siblings who are trying to deal with their stubborn 85-year-old mother, who lives independently, drives scarily, and still thinks she can climb a ladder to clean out a gutter, and refuses to pay for needed repairs on her house which she can well-afford... and then some. Last night's 'debate' with her was about ten feet of rotting fence on either side of her home.  She kept saying she'd do it herself if she could. I think that is her main frustration. That she can't. This fence has also caused a sibling debate over the men fixing the fence for her rather than hiring someone to replace it.  My husband is not going to take on any projects like that.  The fence and two access gates need replacing. It's an 8-foot wooden privacy fence, too. It is a big job and complicated because of the access gates.  It needs an experienced professional so it will last as long as my mother-in-law.

 

Did I consider any of the above about my husband's family when I formed my little fantasy of all of us living next door to each other, spending time together in a kumbaya way? Nope. And I was disappointed.  Why? Because I never considered when we moved here that it wasn't about something that would benefit me. I was looking at this move as something for me, because I was unhappy where I was in Florida, therefore the move had to be about fixing that. I think this move has to do with family, and personal growth, at least for me. I have had to learn to deal with so many emotional situations since moving here and figure out what I need to do within myself to make them better. I've had to learn how to deal with emotional situations that make no sense and try hard to overcome a mountain of frustration in dealing with such different personalities than I was used to. It's been tough, and I have failed at it more than I have succeeded, I must confess.  It's been very discouraging at times, so much that I have wanted to sell our home and move closer to our grandkids. 

 

BUT, I truly believe that fate led us here. I have come to the conclusion that we are all here for my mother-in-law. This is the first time all her children are in one place close by since my husband left his home to go to college. I think we are here for her. Which is fine by me.  I can do this for her. She is a widow, who hasn't had her children around her much since they left home. It's her time to enjoy her family. It is not about me, and I have peace about that. 

 

I think what I've learned from three years of doing this family compound thing is this: If I had stopped looking at the situation as being about me, and instead, looked at it as my doing it to benefit my mother-in-law, and that fate had given me some minor compensation for doing that: my first brand new house, a summer camping spot next door to my sister, my grandchildren less than two hours away, and a small town similar to what I grew up in, then it would have been much easier for me to handle the unexpected conflict, angst and hurt feelings that have happened. I could have embraced that I was going through this to make someone's life better.  Maybe it has to do with tolerance, too.

 

When you have a small inner circle of people to deal with, tolerance becomes less necessary. There are fewer people to interact with. Believe me I'm learning tolerance (which I thought I had), and it's been tough, because not everyone thinks like I do (clearly on Publish0x as well as I get 'dislikes' on posts).  We are constantly seeing in the media how we have to have tolerance for people who are very different from us. But no one talks about tolerance for family members, which I think is very important.  I believe tolerance is the first step to acceptance and hopefully will lead to friendship and/or love. 

 

Fantasies are nice but reality has a way of smashing them to bits. If you do get disappointed with how something is turning out, maybe try to determine what your actual role in the situation is or what the situation could be about that you haven't previously considered? Yeah, it might not be about you. It's not unheard of for one person to have to suffer somewhat for the benefit of another. It sucks but there it is. Also, expect that people will not live up to your expectations, and that's okay. Don't drown in disappointment, like I did, thinking that what has happened was failure. It probably isn't.  Be realistic, practical and cautious but don't stop hoping and dreaming for ideal relationships. The situation will change, or you will. Nothing stays the same forever. Our family dynamic is already changing due to the death of our niece. I think it's made us realize the petty stuff doesn't matter and family truly does.  

 

The main reason I discuss these topics is that they are stressful, and many of us use food to deal with stress. If we can learn to navigate and shift our thinking when we are dealing with all the emotional angst that crops up in our lives, maybe we won't use food to help us feel better emotionally.  Maybe we can just accept that things are what they are, have peace about it, even though the situation is uncomfortable. It's about breaking old, unhealthy eating habits by changing the way we think and feel about what is happening in our lives. 

 

Full disclosure: I had a very unhealthy meal on date night last night, but I think I managed to not eat more calories than I burned yesterday, including the 700 calories I burned ice skating yesterday (according to May My Fitness). This was after debating with my mother-in-law about her fence... Yeah, after that, there was beer on date night... a needed 22oz one...which I was able to find and log in My Fitness Pal...

 

Back to the gym today for an unplanned cardio workout.  

 

I'm not perfect.....

 

(photo courtesy of snapwire)

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7th Decade Redhead
7th Decade Redhead

I'm 60+ years old female retiree who is finally figuring out why she's been struggling with losing weight her whole life. I want to share the lessons I learned so others can help themselves with their own weight loss struggles earlier in their lives.


60 Pounds by 60 Years
60 Pounds by 60 Years

My final weight loss attempt after 40 years of different diet failures. No shakes, no supplements, no surgery, no crazy food, no purchased meal plans, no fasting. Creating a healthier relationship with food and facing the painful truth about my relationship surrounding food. No BS, just common sense. And it worked.

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