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Monday, October 31, 2022

The Cockroach-in-Law Chronicles Episode 5: 低素质

When my very human Father-in-Law fell ill and was bed-ridden, I again raised the option of getting a dedicated helper for the Cockroach-in-Law. Again, she declined. She insisted that my beloved helper, M could manage.

I put my foot down and insisted on more help. Since we were in the middle of the Covid19 pandemic, it was not easy to get a new helper. So, we opted to get in part-time domestic help. A lovely young girl came in once a week to clean, on top of the help that my M gave her on another day a week. The Cockroach-in Law refused to have the part-timer come more often, preferring to overwork M. Meanwhile, we tried to expedite the arrival of a new live-in helper.

I found out really late that the Cockroach-in-Law collected leftover rice from her dinner into a box. When she had collected a full box, she gave the frozen rice to the part-time helper (feeling generous and charitable). The lovely young lady smiled, said "Thank you," graciously, and then threw the rice away into the nearest dustbin outside our house.

I am so embarrassed, wondering what that well brought up young lady thought of our family.

When I found out, M also told me that the Cockroach-in-Law had often exhorted her to eat the frozen rice. Of course, M always declined. M eats everything I eat. I don't eat frozen rice.

I suppose that if the employer is cockroachian, then the domestic help would end up eating what cockroaches eat.

When the new helper arrived, I was glad that MOM had an online module for new employers stating the duties of an employer, foremost of which should be to provide enough nutritious food. I was also happy that the module made clear that lending a helper to another household is illegal, because the Cockroach-in-Law once asked me to lend my helper to her sister!

Sunday, October 30, 2022

The Cockroach-in-Law Chronicles Episode 4: Poison

This post follows from HERE.

The nature of a cockroach is to be non-confrontational. In front of me, the Cockroach-in-Law was conciliatory and pleasantly smiling.  It is also in a cockroach's nature to spread taint and toxin under the cover of darkness and stealth. Behind my back, however, the Cockroach-in-Law put real effort into poisoning my relationship with my husband and my son. 

The Husband

Early on in my marriage, she advised The Husband: 是有钱人家的女儿,我们养不起. As a result, The Husband and I fought often about my spending. It did not matter that 

- I shopped for clothes at the wet market, 

- that I owned no branded items, 

- that I renovated 2000 sq ft of jumbo flat in under $5000, 

- that I renovated a 2000 sq ft penthouse duplex in under $15,000, 

- that I save us money on medical care (using herbs), 

- that I save us money on children's tuition (teaching the children myself), 

- that I save us money on aircondition servicing (having figured out how to do it with a steam cleaner), 

- that in the days before AirBnB, I was already stretching my dollar by renting self-catering cottages where I could save us money by cooking all 3 meals for the whole family. It meant cooking, cleaning and doing laundry all through our holidays to Europe

- that I made investing part of our lives

- that I also worked to earn money, and really did not need her to 我.

Her words had influence. The Husband held that bias in his head. It was an unforgivable sin to have grown up as 有钱人家的女儿. There was no way to prove that I was frugal. I suppose that the only way to convince her that I was careful with money would have been to live ostensibly like a cockroach too. I could not bring myself to do that.

I grew up in a clean, neat and aesthetically pleasing home. I could not bring myself to compromise these standards of cleanliness and aesthetics.  So, I used my creativity and intelligence to reach the same standards without having to spend too much. However, the clean, neat and aesthetically pleasing home that I created for us, screamed luxury to the Cockroach-in-Law , and she never stopped telling people how much of a spendthrift I was.

It would not have mattered to me if those words remained words. However, her poisonous words translated into bad and frequent scoldings from The Husband. One day, I stood at the staircase near the HDB provision shop and wept because I could not find broken rice, and I felt that it would be spending too much to buy full grain jasmine rice.

Behind my back, she would examine my laundry hanging out. She fingered my clothes bought cheaply online from Shein, and then commented that these clothes were proof of my spendthrift nature. Words have power. Her words tainted The Husband's view of me for decades. They formed the basis of endless conflict.

One day, I realised that her standards of frugality extended to stealing what was not hers, and living in squalor. My current batch of black tees cost $3.50 a piece. She would not allow my t-shirts to be sunned (in order that they would last 40 years of wear). Apparently, sunshine destroys clothes fibres, and then it would be spendthrift to have to buy new t-shirts. Whilst I do embrace frugal ways, I draw the line at wearing mouldy $3.50 t-shirts for 40 years.

This is only one example of the way she poisoned my relationship with The Husband.

The Son

Behind my back, and whenever there was "evidence", the Cockroach-in-Law brainwashed The Son into believing that I was a bad-tempered, unkind shrew who was nasty to her. It did not matter that:

- I designed a house with 1000 sq ft of apartment for her.

- I drove her to her medical appointments.

- I responded promptly to her requests for ovens, vacuum cleaners, iPads etc...

- I made both milk kefir and water kefir for her daily.

- I made bread and shared all sorts of other foods.

- I shopped for her a piece a of real jewellery once a year, if not twice.

- I endured her constant undercover badmouthing without complaint to The Son. I recognised that The Son was Grandma's preferred grandchild and I held back from damaging their relationship, even as she persisted in assassinating my character to my son, at every opportunity.

One day, my 18 year old son scolded me for my nastiness. My heart broke. On that day, I realised that there was no way I could ever make the Cockroach-in-Law well-disposed towards me. To defend my own honour and my own track record, I asked 2 questions:

(1) Throughout your childhood, have I ever said a bad word to you about your Grandma?

(2) Throughout your childhood, has your Grandma ever badmouthed me to you?

Since The Son knew the answers to both questions, I left him to decide who the nasty one was. Meanwhile, the pain in my heart was excruciating.

The pain in my heart was such that I am only able to blog about these events today, 4 years later.

Breaking Through to Joy

Still, there are ways to counter infection, toxin and taint. With real cockroaches, I don't leave food out for them to use to spread disease. With a Cockroach-in-Law, I simply give her no information at all about what I do, what I buy, what I say. In addition, I don't interact with her. This way, there is no fodder for her to turn into "evidence" of the woman I am not. With this, I have been able to limit the extent to which she spreads disease in my relationships with The Husband and The Son.

Now, relationships with The Husband and The Son are joyful and rewarding.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

The Cockroach-in-Law Chronicles Episode 3: Thief

This post follows Episode 2: HERE.

Another thing about cockroaches is that they steal cheap stuff. 

My cockroach-in-law's thieving habits were strange. In the past, she looked enviously at my costume jewellery. When my back was turned, she would take this or that piece, and pass them to her sisters. When I asked, she said that she had lent them to her sisters. They weren't worth much because they were costume jewellery, but they still belonged to me.

Every so often, she would come into my kitchen and pour out for herself a large bowl of Borges olive oil, and swear my helper to secrecy. If she had told me that she wanted olive oil, I would have introduced her to the Tasmanian olive oil that I had shipped direct from Australia, and stored in a climate controlled box. Instead, she seemed happier and more satisfied to pilfer the much lower grade olive oil left outside.

Despite styling herself as a woman with refined tastes, my cockroach-in-law has less evolved tastes than my dog, Pistachio. Believe it or not, Pistachio can taste the difference between top quality olive oil and Borges olive oil. Pistachio won't eat Borges olive oil.

We share a yard. She stole everything from toilet paper, kitchen towels, garlic or onions. I learnt to order extra supplies of these cheap things for her to steal. It made no difference to me whether she stole from me, or asked me to buy for her. It costs me the same. The only difference is one of interpersonal respect. Don't steal. Don't do things on the sneak. If we live together as a family, it is important to have mutual respect. Taking things and swearing my helper to secrecy violates trust and interpersonal respect. I can fund her kleptomania. However, I lost all respect for her.

But well, it made her happy to steal. What can I say?

Again, if you have not suffered, then you don't know joy. I did not realise that joy can come from feeling safe from kleptomania. In the past, I never knew what the Cockroach-in-Law would take when my back was turned. That constant feeling of insecurity has gone away.

Love it!


The Cockroach-in-Law Chronicles Episode 2: Of Smelly Toilet and Rat Nests

This post follows Episode 1 HERE.

The Cockroach-in-Law lived in a self-catering apartment on the 1st floor of our house. It contained a kitchen (3 times larger than what you would find in many condo apartments), a bathroom, a bedroom and a living room. In all, she enjoyed about 1000 sq ft. We gave her 4 walls worth of floor to ceiling storage cupboards.

Once a week, our helper went over to help with the heavier chores. As the weeks wore into months, and months progressed into years, the apartment began to look like the slums of New York or Parisian HLMs. The personal insanitary habits of my Cockroach-in-Law were such that, to keep the place acceptably clean, she would need a full time helper all to herself.

What insanitary habits, you might ask? For starters, she was too lazy to walk 5 steps to the toilet bowl to pee. She would pee as she showered in the shower cubicle. So the bathroom smelled of pee the day after it had been washed and disinfected.

Next, she hoarded. As the seasons of my life passed, clothes, toys, books etc ... all fell out of use. I packed them into bags to give away. Whatever I packed to give away, she would drag back into her home much like a cockroach would drag off morsels of meat and bread. These bags of potentially recyclable waste sat on the floor of her apartment. They blocked walkways and spilled out from under the bed. Meanwhile, the storage cupboards stayed empty.

Then, there was uneaten food left all over. In my own kitchen, not a single morsel of food is left out over night. That is the surest way to get rats and cockroach infestations.

Not surprisingly, my helper found rats nesting under the Cockroach-in-Law's bed, and even behind the TV commode. Suggestions to put away unused items into the ample cupboards were met with anger and my helper was roundly scolded.

As the clutter built up, her resentment against me grew. More than once, she ventured to ask me if I had cupboard space to store some stuff for her. Since her own cupboard space stayed empty, I could not understand why she wanted to use my cupboard space. When I left the house, my Cockroach-in-Law would scuttle on her insect feet into my Master Bedroom. She peeked her cockroach feelers into my cupboards and brooded enviously at how spacious my room was, and how little living space she had.

I guess it was her cockroachian nature compelling her to sneak about and try to spread her dirt, her grime and her clutter, whilst at the same time envying me my neat and tidy spaces. 

Her apartment became so dirty that I asked if she would like her own helper. The Cockroach-in-Law refused. Meanwhile, the Cockroach-in-Law's daily habits created dirt much faster than my helper could reasonably be expected to manage. 

My Cockroach-in-Law resented my helper for not making sure that her toilet smelled as fresh as mine. What the Cockroach-in-Law does not know is that I clean up after myself after every shower in my bathroom so as not to overwork my helper, and of course, I do not pee in the shower cubicle.

Again, if you have not suffered, you don't know joy. My helper used to get tension headaches 3 to 4 times a week from the stress that the Cockroach-in-Law inflicted upon her. Now, her days are filled with joy and headaches are a thing of the past. The helper now often tells me how happy she is and enumerates the blessings in her life.

She loves life now too!

The Cockroach-in-Law Chronicles Episode 1: The Sun

So begins my Cockroach-in-Law Chronicles. When the events happened, they weren't funny. Now, I can see the humour in them. Once you get to know this insect in human form, you will understand that human though she might be, her true nature is cockroachian.

The Sun

The first hint of my Cockroach-in-Law's true nature surfaced when it was clear how much she hated the sun.

I thought I was being generous to provide to my Cockroach-in-Law a sunny and well-ventilated apartment on the 1st floor of my home. She was dismayed. Even with air-conditioning, she was dismayed. She scurried hither and thither looking for dark corners to hide in her apartment. Meanwhile, she and her husband complained of itchy skin. And she resented me for giving her a sunny apartment.

After a few years of living here, my clothes started to smell damp and mouldy. T-shirts had to be sent back down to be re-washed. Damp bedsheets aired out as they sat on my bed. The humidity in the bedsheets and mattress lead to an overgrowth of dust mites. My nose was completely stuck. I developed itchy skin too!

It took a while to find the root cause. Meanwhile, the only relief to be had was the use of sulphur soap. Only when I found out that sulphur is a potent miticide did I put 2 and 2 together. Only then did I discover that the Cockroach-in-Law made it her life's mission to order my maid to move my laundry from sun to shade. Every 15 mins, my poor helper had to move the laundry out of the moving sun. It turns out that the excess humidity from damp clothes and bedsheets lead to an overgrowth of dust mites. Since my Cockroach-in-Law was so determined to ensure that my clothes did not get sunned, the dust mites thrived on all our laundry, clean or not so clean.

I was in shock. Our bedsheets are washed twice a week. Sun-drying (or heat drying) was necessary to kill dust mite eggs. As time went on, my mattress teemed with micro-fauna. I bought new mattresses, new beddings, new bed linen. 

No more itchy skin.

I suppose I should thank my Cockroach-in-Law for putting us through that ordeal. Now, we have a mattress topper that I will throw away every 36 months. The topper and the mattresses are steam cleaned once a week, and blow dried. We create a desert storm for dust mites 4 times a month. Hungry hippos and charcoal packs line our shelves to ensure that the insides of all our cupboards are no longer humid.

It is true that if you have never suffered, you will not know joy. Since the Cockroach-in-Law moved out, it is my daily pleasure to breathe in the clean scent of ozone that sun-drying leaves on properly sun-dried clothes. Like the smell of fresh cut grass, this smell is calming and warming.

Love it!

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

To Give Up? Or Stay in the Race?

From a Year Ago
One year ago, E lost a parent. The emotional shock to the family was in seismic proportions. At that time, the grief was such that it seemed to never end. I am not a Grief Counsellor and I was myself too distraught about it to think that I could be in any way, of help. There is a reason why I am not a Grief Counsellor.

The Mother insisted to see me. I was highly anxious but I agreed to chat with The Mother. I allowed myself to cry for 2 hrs before our meeting, in order to be able to NOT cry during the meeting. I did not think I would be of any help if I cried and she cried. There would just be 2 crying messes. 

Thank goodness this Mother understood me enough to not unload her grief onto me. For that, I had recommended another qualified counsellor, specialising in this. Instead, we spoke of how to help her neurodivergent child get through the shock. Neurodivergent people, like me, process grief and loss differently. Heck! We process emotions differently!

From Last Week
My body does not produce enough cortisol. When a human body runs out of cortisol, it will go into an Addisonian crisis. Blood pressure will drop too low and multiple organ failure results. It is fatal.

The past month has held some events which represented stressors that I could not run away from. Normally, I am quite diligent about removing stressors from my life. If client parents are nasty or stressful, I discharge myself. For my own health, I need to do this. I have removed stressful friends. However, some stressors cannot be removed. So, my body received shock after shock after shock in December and January. I collapsed twice into a tired heap and had to take triple dosage of cortisol medicines on some days.

I started to plan to stop work. As soon as those thoughts floated in my head, I received love emails: one every day since Monday. I also found bible verses and bible sermons in my Facebook/TikTok feed.
- See HERE (Sermon on NOT Giving Up)
- See pictures below.

Today, I received the above email from E's parent. It encourages me. It shows me that my work has meaning. It also inspires me because if E can rise up like a phoenix from the raging fires of a parent's death, then I can continue to work. No?

I believe that God will keep His promise to me. He has still use for me. I cannot give up now.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Testimonial 9