Around My Neck (and on the wall)

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I have been following the KonMari method to declutter my house and the main tenet is to only keep the things that bring you joy. I have a rather large collection of dragonfly necklaces that my daughter and husband have bought me over the years and they definitely bring me joy! I wanted a way to display them on the wall so I could see them all, but after shopping for a week, I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. As I was drifting off to sleep last night, I had a brilliant idea to frame them but have them still be accessible.

It was easy, too. I used a cheap wooden frame from IKEA, a piece of cardboard cut from an Amazon box, and a scrap of scrapbooking paper that matches my bedding. I started by removing the glass then used it to trace out the size on the cardboard and paper.

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Some double tape glued the paper to the cardboard. I measured across the top and marked in 1/6 of the way from each edge, then cut down half an inch at each mark. I put it inside the frame, cardboard side up, and traced across the top on the inside.

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Cut across the line between the marks and flip it over.

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Put the chain into the slits created from the downward cuts and adjust it so the pendant is centered.

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Pop it into the frame without the glass and done!

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I was so excited to try this out, I did it before I even repainted the frames so just ignore the chippy bits. Now I have beautiful and meaningful art for my bedroom walls and I get to see my favorite necklaces and enjoy them all, even when I’m not wearing them!

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Except What I Remember And Believe

One of my favorite David Wilcox songs is about losing everything and realizing that the important things are always carried with you. Between two divorces and moving like a gypsy, I know all about starting from what fits in your car. But being married for 13 years and settled for 15 means that I’ve accumulated a ton of crap. I mean literally a ton, as in at least 2000 lbs of crap.

Every year, just like everyone else, I make resolutions to clean up my clutter, clear out the sheds, and be a better version of me. Normally I’m a complete failure by the time February comes around, but considering I’ve been on this self-improvement journey since September with huge leaps and bounds of progress made, I’m feeling pretty damned good about this year’s prospects.

Like thousands of other people, I became fascinated by the Marie Kondo book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I’ve said for a while now that I kinda wish my house would catch fire, taking everything I hate with it. I would grab my computer, camera, phone, and three bins of luxury knitting yarn. Everything else could go and I wouldn’t be devastated, as our Christmas ornaments are the only other thing I would miss and they’re stored in the shed. A book dedicated to getting rid of everything in my house that doesn’t “spark joy” speaks directly to my heart.

For the last few months, I’ve purged what I thought was a lot. I mean I can move my hangers in my closet now, so that’s huge progress. But I still hung onto a ridiculous amount of shamefully shabby underwear, pajamas that are literally falling off me, and an entire underbed storage bin of painting clothes. Keep in mind the last time I painted was September, 2014. I’m almost positive I really only need one set of painting clothes, maybe two in case of big jobs like the craft room.

Every room in the house, both big sheds, and the laundry room have gone through a first level purge, or what Aubrey used to call the painless purge; that’s the stuff that you know you don’t want, or stuff that’s obvious garbage. Now we’re starting the second level purge, which is a little bit harder. This is the stuff that makes you say, “But I might need that if/when…” or “My best friend from 3rd grade gave me that and I haven’t spoken to her in 30 years but she was my BEST friend…” or the worst of all, “That cost me a fortune and I haven’t even used it yet!”

On top of reading Kondo’s book, I’ve joined a handful of facebook groups that are dedicated to the Konmari Method for additional inspiration. Seeing pictures of people’s homes and closets that have gone from looking like mine to something worthy of a catalog photo shoot gives me hope.

Ron’s being incredibly supportive, as he said he’s noticed that I’ve stopped buying crap I don’t need (which is way more important to the process than purging!!!) and picking up roadside bits for projects that I’ll never complete. Having his support means a lot to me, as I’m not physically able to do this on my own. While Matt is here, I’ve made a great start, but once he’s gone, there will still be more to do. Of course, the hope is that once it is all done, I will physically be able to keep up with the house as there will be nothing to dust or clean other than the basics.

In an alignment of the universe, our bulky trash pickup is this Monday. That gave me great motivation to clear out the sheds, get rid of broken furniture, and ditch various other large trash things that I’ve been keeping for insane reasons. Matt has helped without question mainly because I’m paying him, so it’s working out well for both of us.

While our trash pile grows, all my non-consumerism is helping our debt to go down. I was able to do all our Christmas shopping with a net lowering of our credit card balance, and that’s with some rather generously large gifts, like a new phone for Aubrey and a plane ticket for Matt.

For so long, I’ve worked to “organize and store” but Kondo’s approach is to get rid of it. I went to Target on Friday to get a particular ornament storage box (which I did end up buying from Amazon), and planned to get another half dozen large plastic bins in order to store our Christmas stuff. I didn’t get the bins because I realized I honestly had no idea what was going to be left. I came home and Matt and I tackled the Christmas stuff. I ended up with a box of lights and three half-empty bins that I will consolidate into two before they go back into the shed. Once the tree is down, we’ll have that, the ornament box, and a bin of wrapping paper to add to the lights and other bins. Anything I didn’t use this year either got pitched or went into the garage sale pile. I ended up with a large pile of empty bins, so I was glad I didn’t buy any new ones!

As for the garage sale, I’ve promised everyone that if it doesn’t happen by the end of January, I’ll just donate everything. I also promised to donate anything that doesn’t sell. Nothing is to come back into the house or sheds once it goes out for the sale.

I’m feeling confident, excited, and yes, joyful. Every box that goes out means more room to breathe and I feel lighter. However, this is an exercise in patience, as it is meant to take about six months for the average house. I have a tendency to want it all done RIGHT NOW!!!!! and thinking about everything all at once can be overwhelming. So I’m sticking to the 26 week plan.

Most importantly, I promise myself that it is okay if I don’t do it perfectly, as long as I just DO it.

 

Nobody’s Fault But Mine

I feel like the wickedest witchiest bitch, but it’s all been an excellent learning experience on my part, and hopefully won’t be repeated. More than anything, I owe my daughter a huge apology; for being mean to her before Christmas, for not being supportive of her life choices, for sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong, for not having enough faith in her awesomeness, and for being a horrible mother, even if it was with the best of intentions.

Christmas was amazing. Aubrey went above and beyond in her search for the perfect presents. She got Ron a bartender’s set and a book of drinks recipes; I got a gorgeous dragonfly scarf and hand twisted wire dragonfly shawl pin; Matt got a set of musician statues made of wire and hardware bits; Ron and I each got mugs and a pound of Christmas Blend coffee from Starbucks. For Ron, she found a LOTR mug on Etsy. For me, she picked a kitten on its back, playing with a ball of yarn. In proof of our Vulcan mind meld, she purchased the mug shortly before I purchased my phone case with a kitten on its back, playing with a ball of yarn and neither of us had any idea of the other.

Meanwhile, I received a link to an article by Peg Streep, the author of Mean Mothers; Overcoming The Legacy of Hurt. I’ve always said that my Higher Power speaks to me through the internet, and sure enough, They didn’t let me down. While scrolling through facebook, this article popped up just when I needed it most. It was generally about daughters divorcing their mothers but it was meant to be supportive considering how hurtful Christmas can be, and oh is it hurtful. No matter how much progress one makes, Christmas and Mother’s Day will always cause pain, particularly when viewing photos of other happy mother/daughter families. For me, unpacking ornaments and seeing the rejected apple ornament from when I was seven years old picks at the not so healed scab. This year, I asked Aubrey to please paint over it. When the tree comes down, she will dig out paints and fix it into something that doesn’t hurt.

While searching for Mean Mothers on Amazon, I decided to check Scribd on the off chance they have it, which they do. Scribd also suggested Will I Ever Be Good Enough?; Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers by Karyl McBride. I decided to read that one first, as I feel that Mean Mothers will be a more traumatic read for me.

To add to the Christmas frustration, my mother has taken to adding little cheerleader comments on my facebook posts. I ignore them, but they seriously piss me off, as I know they are just for show and an attempt to make my friends think she is the mother that I wish I had, but that I know doesn’t exist. My childhood friends have all sent me texts or messages saying, “WTF?” as they all know that’s not the real her. When one person did ask if perhaps she’s attempting to change, I pointed out that not once has she picked up the phone to ask, “How are you feeling/what’s going on/how can I help/what do you need from me?” I gave up on calling her, as the only thing she ever talks about is how my uncle is dying (he’s been dying for 12 years now, and is still well enough to drive a car). She never tells me about my nieces and nephew, I don’t get invited to parties, and I certainly wasn’t informed when she was investigated by child protective services and had to leave the home for 30 days (that was last year). So no, I don’t give her credit for attempting to change.

Sadly, while reading Will I Ever Be Good Enough, I discovered not only myself in the client interviews, but also in the description of narcissistic mothers. In my effort to avoid being the avoidant mother, I went too far the other way and became the engulfing mother. There in black and white was evidence of all the things I never wanted to do wrong but did. I take some comfort in knowing it’s because I never had a good mothering role model, and while that’s great up to now, at age 46 I have to take responsibility for my own actions.

My other comfort is that most of my engulfing was done out of love; when Aubrey decided she wanted to dance, I made sure she went to the best school, driving back and forth to Austin every weekend. When she wanted to ride horses, we paid a fortune so she could ride a couple of times a week and I froze my ass off through the winters, huddling over a barrel fire waiting for her lessons to finish. I “protected” her through bad boyfriends, shitty friends, and various other life mistakes because I love her and want her to be safe and feel loved. And I did it all wrong.

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As I read through Karyl McBride’s descriptions and examples, I recognized several of my own behaviors. Worst of all was that I’ve always seen Aubrey as an extension of myself. Don’t get me wrong! I also see her as her own person, but I’ve felt like her behaviors reflected on me, showing me as a good parent when she did something right or a bad parent when she did something I didn’t agree with. Although I’ve tried hard to let her be her own person, I’ve been known to be manipulative and punishing when I didn’t get my way; when she didn’t DO what I WANTED her to DO. All moms joke that our children would be much happier if they would just shut up and do everything that we tell them to. What a horrible, unfunny joke that is. Actually, our children would be happy if we would just shut up and let them do what they want to do (adult children, that is).

The one thing I’ve done right, but still managed to bung up because I’ve never expressed it well enough, is that I love her for who she is, not for what she does. Aubrey is amazing, brilliant, talented in a multitude of ways, has a flair for picking up bits of other languages, has a way with even the scariest of animals, is fearless, loving, and a good person. THOSE are the important things. Who she dates, where she works, what career she chooses, none of that reflects on me. Although she works as a hostess when she is smart enough to be a doctor, she does it with an extreme work ethic; she never calls in unless she is deathly ill, she’s the best aerial acrobat that her company has ever had, she’s professional and hard working, and has been employee of the quarter more times than anyone else in the four years she’s worked there. THOSE are the things that reflect on me. It’s not what she does, it’s how she does it that make me a good or bad parent.

My worst offense, however, is telling her whom she could or couldn’t be friends with and whom she should or shouldn’t date. I’ve not been supportive in her choices, which I should have been no matter how much they make me cringe. I’m sure even non-narcissistic mothers believe that no one is ever good enough for their daughter (or son), and I certainly believe that. But again, I’ve been focused too much on how things look and not how things are. And while I stand firmly on my decision that her current relationship is extremely unhealthy, it’s not my job to judge, punish, or manipulate. It is my job to be here. PERIOD.

There have been times when I’ve not been able to get across my concerns and instead my words have come out as judgmental. When we learned she was bi-sexual, I truly honestly did not care about her sexual preference. I cared that she had lied to us and her girlfriend had been spending the night. Unfortunately, those two revelations were quite tied together, so it was impossible for Ron and I to explain that we weren’t angry about her being bi, we were angry that the other girl was older and should have known better, but instead manipulated us and her (they were 12 and 14 at the time).

With this latest relationship, neither Ron nor I have been able to make her see that we don’t care that he’s a waiter, that he’s 38, that he lives with his mother, that he had a rough childhood; we care that he’s a 38 year old waiter that lives with his mother and is still using the excuse that he had a rough childhood. If he were 22, none of the rest of the things would matter because the hope would be that he would outgrow those things. If he were 38 and successful, secure, and truly loved her, we would be thrilled. I’m also pretty stuck on the fact that he’s a friggin’ idiot and I’m not sure Aubrey’s smart genes could compensate enough for his dumb genes. I also get a strong abuse potential vibe, which I’m pretty damn sensitive to. All that said, she has to figure these things out on her own.

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So the theme for 2016 is; IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT ME! I’ve asked my therapist to help me work on being a better mother, to learn how to balance between avoidant and engulfing, to be supportive but not intrusive, to stop being manipulative, to better express my unconditional love without it coming across as conditional. I have faith that I’ll succeed. My immediate family are the most important people in my life and my children are both well worth my making some positive changes. And that, more than anything else, sets me apart from my mother.

You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch

One of these days, I will learn. I will stop being disappointed because I will stop having expectations. I will stop hoping for things to go as planned, for the “perfect” holiday afternoon. I will finally get it that life sucks and people suck and things won’t ever go as I hope and imagine they will.

Today was supposed to be a good day. I woke up without a headache, early and with a decent amount of energy. I was excited because Matt will be here tomorrow and Aubrey was supposed to get here around 12:30 to go shopping with Ron and then do holiday baking with me. Ron and I agreed that since we only see her once a week, we actually miss her now and look forward to her coming over.

It started out with great promise, too. Ron and I wrapped presents over coffee, and laughed about our childhood holiday traditions vs what we do at our house. His family never did huge stacks of gifts with stocking stuffers and tree presents. I don’t ever remember stockings when I was a kid, either. Stockings are a big deal at our house, though. Stuffers are wrapped and it’s how Santa lets everyone know which presents are theirs…the gifts under and on the tree are wrapped in the same paper as those in the stocking.

I’ve felt pretty grinchy this year, starting with the Starbucks cup brouhaha. Christmas has quickly become my second least favorite holiday, topped only by Mother’s Day. I’ve avoided carols like the plague, haven’t baked a single cookie, and have only been to one holiday party which, to be accurate, was the least holiday of parties I’ve ever attended. That’s not a bad thing.

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So the fact that I felt in a holiday mood today was pretty miraculous. It was also extremely short lived. Aubrey didn’t show up at 12:30. She texted to say she was awake and going to shower. That was fine, since I was still working on the kitchen. But then it got to be 1:30. Then 2:30. And finally 3:30. I messaged her not to bother and that we’d see her on Friday for Christmas. Five minutes later, she waltzed in, sat down, and started petting the dog. No apology, no offers of help, nothing.

Needless to say, I was furious. I don’t care if she comes over or not, as long as she does what she says. I told her that I could give her her gifts now so she could open them whenever on Friday, but she said she’ll be here. I warned her that WE are opening presents on Christmas morning. We will not wait until 3:30 or whatever ridiculous hour she decides she feels like showing up.

I suggested she go home, since we didn’t need her help after all. Instead, she sat here until Ron asked her if she wanted to go shopping. She agreed, then waited for him to go outside, turned to me, and said, “What else do you want besides the pajamas?” as though I were giving her a grocery list. At that point, I was beyond done. I told her it didn’t matter (because it doesn’t). If my family doesn’t understand by now that it’s not about a list of THINGS that I expect wrapped and under the tree, they are never going to get it. If I want a thing, I can go buy a thing. It’s not about the things. It is truly the thought that counts. And if I have to do the thinking too? Why bother?

She finally left, without shopping with Ron of course. Now I’m depressed and angry and fed up and hate Christmas as much as ever. I know it’s my fault for having expectations surrounding the day (and today, as well), and I know it goes back to the unfillable void. No matter what sort of fantastic surprise my family dreamed up for me, it would never make up for all the crappy Christmases that have gone before. Even if they pulled off a Christmas miracle, it wouldn’t make up for my lack of a relationship with my mother. But it’s one thing to know something intellectually and something else entirely to know it emotionally and be able to let it go.

So I’m letting it go. My daughter won’t be a human being by Friday, so I can mark that off my list. Ron isn’t going to be suddenly inspired with ideas for all the frivolous things I don’t get myself all year long. I gave up on Matt a long time ago; besides, I’m thrilled that he is going to be HERE, which is gift enough for me.

Christmas is just a day and I really just don’t care.

 

 

 

 

My Immortal

Sunday was perfect. In spite of waking up with a headache, it was a relatively mild one and a single fioricet did the trick. It didn’t hurt that I took it with a cup of coffee, either. Within an hour, I was zinging around the house getting ready for Aubrey to come over and help with the Christmas decorations. We put up the outside lights and the tree, although we might have saved a lot of time and heartbreak if we’d remembered to test the damn lights first before hanging them from the eaves and bushes.

We got off to a bit of a rough start, with my chattering like a monkey and her monosyllabically responding. After an hour of my trying to make conversation and being met with, “Fine,” “OK,” “Yes,” No,” and “Sure,” I had a momentary flashback to my second marriage. I remember that I really did want to love Jon but he just irritated the fuck out of me to the point that I didn’t want to be around him, leading to our divorce. I wondered if one could divorce one’s children, and realized my mother divorced me years ago, so yes. Fortunately, I flashed forward again to the lessons learned during this, my third, marriage; sometimes it just takes a bit of patience and a whole lot of love to get back to where you love them again. Wait, you have to love them in order to love them? Yep. It’s not so much a fake it ’til you make it thing as it is an investment of time and self; of letting the other person know you think they are worth your love and attention. Especially if they are angry because they think that you don’t love them or want to be with them; it’s important to reassure them that you do love and want to be with them. To let them know that while home has changed, it is still home.

After we finished the lights, we were both freezing and had runny noses. I suggested hot chocolate and watching Love Actually, which if you read my blog, you know is my favorite Christmas movie. By the time the movie ended, we weren’t necessarily chatting, but things were better. We decided to put on Armageddon while we assembled the tree (I am soooo allergic to real trees), since we didn’t need to necessarily watch it as we’ve seen it several times. We hung the ornaments then I made pancakes and we blubbered and snuffled our way through Bruce Willis blowing himself up to save the world. Sugar, tears, and Christmas cheer all combined into chatty goodness. We stayed up until almost 2am watching Leverage and talking about school, Christmas presents, and the hot British guys that came into her restaurant a few days ago. She cross stitched and I knitted and life was wonderful.

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The only thing that made me sad was realizing how many ornament stories I’ve forgotten. Most of our ornaments have stories behind them; the who/where/why/when gets told each year as we either put them up or take them down. This year I found myself looking at so many of them, wondering when and where I got them. I took for granted that I would always know such things, that I had plenty of time to get around to writing them down. Now I know what a lie that was.

Thinking about the ornaments got me thinking about so many other things that my children don’t know but should, because they may want to know later or their children might ask them when I’m gone. While I don’t have grandchildren yet, there has to eventually be at least one, right? I mean considering the Vegas odds? By the time that kid gets here, I will be lucky to remember my own name.

There are a few things that have already been passed on. Now Aubrey makes my peanut butter chocolate chip cookies and my spiced hot chocolate even better than I do. Both kids have been taught how to crochet. I taught Aubrey to cross stitch and dye yarn. But there are recipes that exist only in my head, like my split pea soup, potato soup, sour cream pancakes, gingerbread cookies, pumpkin bread…or in Ron’s head, like his chicken and squash soup, or his mind blowing gluten free pizza. These are things the kids love but don’t know how to make, and I (we) have failed to teach them.

I have reached an age where memory loss is no longer a distant possibility, but is instead a fact of life. I can no longer trust that I will remember. I’ve come to realize that my life is not just MY life; it is also the lives of those around me, specifically my children. The things that I’ve done are the memories that their lives are made of. The places I took them, the foods I cooked them, the clothes I bought them, the games we played, all make up the people they are. That is my immortality. And they are what must be preserved.

 

 

 

She Used To Be Mine

I met Aubrey for lunch today. As to be expected, it was awkward as we learn to navigate these uncharted waters of our new relationship. We talked about inconsequential stuff; school, work, Christmas shopping.

After we left the restaurant, she headed to our house to visit her dog and I headed up to Austin to visit a friend and go to IKEA. I plugged in my new phone, turned on Pandora, and chose the Sara Bareilles channel, where I heard a song I had never heard before. Heartbreaking words had me grateful I wasn’t wearing my contacts, but frantically wiping at my eyes to keep my mascara from smearing.

While I could write a long drawn out blog post, I could never say it better than this song could. So I’ll just leave it at this.

May You Grow Up To Be True

Our life with our daughter has entered a new phase and I’m having to make some major life changes to deal with it. While it is one thing to recognize that one has made a bad choice, it is another thing entirely to recognize it and continue to do it. While she has disappointed us in the past, and I have been furious with her before, never until now have I been ashamed of her.

My first reaction was to think about how to get her out of the situation she is in. Then as I thought back over her past life choices, I realized that she would just do it again. Her behaviour will not change without some kind of life-altering event, and if we are there to fix her problems, that will never happen. No, the best thing I can do for her is to let her muddle through on her own and set firm boundaries for our relationship.

For the moment, she’s not allowed at our house unless it is scheduled. She’s an adult with her own apartment (or she may possibly be living with someone else; we’re not sure), and it’s time we set a boundary regarding when she can come over. She would usually come by after work every night then sit here and watch tv until 4am. I would usually stay up with her which screwed with my sleep schedule. It also screwed with the dogs’ sleep, surprisingly enough. Now, she has to plan a visit like a normal person and it has to be during normal waking hours, with a set beginning and end time. Oddly enough, without the cat getting fed the extra six hours a day, he’s lost some much needed weight, as have the dogs.

I’ve agreed to continue to pay for her phone as long as she texts me every night to let me know she’s home. While she may or may not actually be home, it at least gives me a reassurance that she’s still alive for that current 24 hours. While she’s furious at me, I’ve been getting the single word, “home” with no punctuation or niceties. That’s perfectly fine. It meets the minimum requirements and I can live with that.

We will pay for school for at least the first two semesters, as remuneration for her old car that we sort of took over. While it isn’t as much money as what she put into the car, it is more money than she would get selling it.

Her current relationship partner is not allowed in our home, ever. We are extremely liberal people, and would not care the color, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity of someone she might date, so you can imagine how truly awful this person is. However, no matter what we say, she does not see it and “we just don’t understand.” Oh to be 22 and know and be right about EVERYTHING.

I’ve had to place her in the “outer circle,” which is the circle of people that I don’t mind spending time with but that I don’t trust. In other words, all conversation is light and meaningless, but still fun. Part of my boundary work is creating these relationship circles. It feels odd to have boundaries. I’m not used to them at all, but they really work to keep me from getting dragged into crap that I can’t do anything about.

My therapist and I agreed that I should attend some Al-Anon meetings so I can work on the three Cs; I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it. While my daughter is angry and hurt that I refuse to be dragged into her mess, I think in the end she will be glad that she won’t have to listen to my constant snarking and complaining about her choices. Even if we only talk about the weather, I will not make comments about her life choices.

At the moment, she’s acting like a petulant brat, but that’s to be expected. Considering that she’s 22 and it’s “her life” and she can “do what she wants,” she’s still a child in almost every way. Hopefully after life kicks her in the ass a few times, she’ll turn into a human being. I figure it should take another ten years or so. She’s a late bloomer. I know that she will have to hit the rock bottom of her life before she makes positive changes. She’ll get there much faster if I’m not there with a ladder, trying to save her along the way.

I’ve lived my entire parental life with the one question of “What would my mother do?” and then I do the opposite. My mother would fix it and make my life a living hell while reminding me constantly of my mistakes. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to fix it. I don’t want to constantly remind her of her mistakes either. Her mistakes are just that; HERS.

Meanwhile, I will live MY life, which is the only thing I can control. We are here for her when she is truly ready for help; the kind of help that will make a permanent change, not just the help that gets her from one mess to the next. I love her unconditionally, but that does not mean that I have to love her behaviour. There is no, “I’ll only love you if…” It is, “I love you, but I cannot do ‘x’ while you continue to do ‘y’.” And that is OK.