The Friend that Won’t Stop Complaining | Grieving Grandma | Dinner Time

The Friend that Won’t Stop Complaining

Dear Micah,

I came to Birmingham from Michigan because of work.  I didn’t know anyone here except my boss.  I rented a little house that is in the back of the landlord’s house.  My landlord is a nice lady I’ll call Jane.  Jane has become a friend to me.  I’d say that other than work friends I’ve made, Jane is my only real friend here.   She will bring my meals sometimes when she knows I’ve been working late and she feeds my cat when I have to go out of town.  I really like Jane a lot.  Jane has one flaw and that is her bad marriage, which she wants to tell me about it all the time.  I don’t mind some minor complaining occasionally, just with her I have to hear about their arguments and all the things he does that drive her crazy.  This is just about daily.  I have become her therapist I suppose.  It isn’t relaxing or fun.  The couple of times I brought up leaving him she was surprised that I’d go there and then she’d back track a bit about how good he is to her.  I don’t get it.  I like Jane a lot and enjoy her friendship but I need to find a way to tell her to stop talking about problems she refuses to solve.



Dear Mary,

Welcome to the south.  Jane is just southern woman venting to her friend.  Her marriage probably isn’t all that bad.  Jane is just a complainer and one of those people who keeps score of every single thing that their spouse does to drive them crazy.  Maybe Jane is a negative person who over-focuses on sour things but she is also a good friend to you it seems.  She brings you meals after long work days, she watches your pet when you need to leave town, she visits you and acts as your only friend.  Your only payment for all of these services is to sit and listen to her complain sometimes.  If she complains too much, then try to steer the talk into new directions, although this is most likely her personality and she is just a complainer.  If so, then prepare to listen to her as long as she is your friend.  If the day arrives when the negative parts of Jane outweigh the positives, then move, as I am sure the person who lived there before you eventually did.


Grieving Grandma


About a year ago I lost my Dad.  I am 43 years old, so I wasn’t a child, but the pain is even greater I think because we were very close as adults, so it’s like I lost my friend, too.  I already did the counselor bit to work through my grief.  It was helpful, although but I still live in this constant state of sadness.  Every holiday is bad enough, but I even can hardly take a Sunday afternoon when my husband lights up the grill and our grown kids come over with the grands.  Dad was always out there manning the grill laughing and carrying on about something.  He was a lot of fun; my grandkids loved him.  Every day to day thing reminds me of him.  This affects my relationship with my husband and my kids.  My husband gets mad because he’s lost both of his parents and he didn’t “carry on” as he puts it like I do.  My kids say I’m depressed and need to go back to the doctor and get on something.  I read this column a lot in B-Metro and on-line.  I was just wondering what Micah might think I should do.  Maybe you can “shake some sense” in me.



Dear Elaine,

You never get over grief and you never reach a point when the deceased person isn’t on your mind, or at least you shouldn’t.  I keep my dead people with me in my head all the time.  I don’t want to forget them or push them out of my life just because they died.  Their impact on my life still exists, so why shouldn’t their memory?  Just the other day, my family was over for a dinner at my house. While we were all eating around the table, someone started telling an old family story and before long, we were all dancing down memory lane.  We even grabbed a picture of my grandparents from a desk to show the younger kids who we were talking about.

Elaine, you are just doing this grief thing wrong.  You do not look at the grill and think “Dad used to stand there cooking and kept the kids in stitches” and let your heart break.  You look at that grill and smile and say , “Dad used to stand there cooking and kept the kids in stitches” and let that image warm you.  Yes, it’s sad because it isn’t going to happen again, but it happened enough that you can remember it clearly and keep it in your memory bank.  Think of it like a funny scene from a movie you love–you don’t have to watch the movie again to remember how much fun that scene was when you first saw it.

You need to stop focusing on how your father is dead and start focusing on how he is alive all around you, in your heart and mind and the laughter of your children.  You owe it to him to stop this detrimental over-grieving and go back to living your life.  How would you feel if one of your children just unplugged from their lives after you died?  What if their spouse began to feel distant towards them and their kids felt awkward and uncomfortable around them?  I doubt that you would want your loss to have that effect on them.  I bet your dad wouldn’t want that either.  You are disrespecting him by hurting family members he loved, and you are hurting them by changing who you are and depriving them of the Elaine they love.  Stop it!  It really is that easy.  Just hit a pretend reset button in your mind.

Right now your brain is cluttered with sadness and loss, so reset it.  Wipe out that stuff by deciding that you just aren’t going to think about it and give sadness energy anymore  I know that sounds stupid, but trust me, it is actually doable.  When a sad thought pops up, just stop it and give it no further attention and move on.  If your eyes go immediately to the grill where your father used to stand, shake that image off and actually see your husband standing their trying to be the grandfather now.  Notice your grandchildren playing in the yard and then look over to see your children laughing and talking together.  That will melt away the cold sadness.

Your father is gone now.  That is normal and natural.  His father went away too, and so did that man’s father.  You are going to fade away as well one day.  That’s the natural order of things.  So do not waste a second on grief that steers you away from your life at hand.  You do not have any spare time to toss away.  Life is full of stages and now you have reached the stage of life where you are the matriarch leader of the family.  Your wisdom, love, strength, and laughter is what your kids are observing to teach them how to be good parents to their own children.  What your father was to you, you are to your kids.  And you are depriving them of those wonderful experiences with you because you won’t shake off the last stage.  Reset and transition to the new stage of life.  Let your husband enjoy his time at the grill with his kids and his grandkids, and you go sit down among them and let yourself laugh again.

A little laughter is better than any bottle of anti-depressants.  Depression is a real illness, where your brain has real chemical problems.  Some people need medication for that.  I doubt you are one of them.  If you had a chemical imbalance, it would have always been there, not just begun because your father died.  You’d have been in need of medicine on regular days too, pre-funeral.  I think taking something now just because you are grieving would be masking the real issue and would probably not bring you a lot closer to the family.  You’d just be medicated grandma rather than happy-again grandma.

Try to click an imaginary reset button in your mind, take your life back and be a functioning and positive part of your family’s life.  Remember this is YOUR family.  The family didn’t lose its leader.  You lost the leader of your old family you used to have years ago, but you aren’t part of that family now.  Now you are part of a family that you and your husband lead, and right now they are missing one of their leaders.  Go sit and play with your grandchildren and laugh with your kids and hug your husband again.  Fake it till it’s real and soon you will be enjoying life again.


Dinner Time

A reader read a back issue of “Ask Micah” and saw a recipe I’d posted; apparently it turned out pretty good for them, and they wanted me to give out another recipe for a meal.  This time, they wanted a summer-y meal that could cook on the grill.  So here is one you might enjoy.

Hawaiian Chicken (I don’t even recall where this recipe came from)


2 cups pineapple juice

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 oz soy sauce

2 tablespoons white sugar


Take some boneless chicken breasts and poke fork holes into them and marinate for several hours, or overnight, in marinade. Then just grill the chicken, discarding the marinade.

Easy Potatoes (this is a variation on a recipe many of you may have seen recently floating around Facebook.  It’s virtually the same thing)

Thinly slice (potato chip thin) potatoes.  Can be varying kinds like Idaho, golden Yukon and red potatoes combined, or just one type of potato.  Put the potatoes in a bowl and coat with powdered ranch seasoning, or a Mrs. Dash seasoning, or even just a Lipton’s onion soup mix packet.  My favorite is the ranch or a garlic Italian style Mrs. Dash.  Using your hands mix the seasoning into the bowl and stir the potatoes all around to coat most of them with the seasoning.

Take a metal pan and line with foil.  Spray foil with cooking spray.  Pour the potatoes over it and then cut up a stick of butter, two sticks if making a lot, and dot all over the tops of the potatoes.  Drizzle with some bacon bits, or preferably precooked bacon pieces.  Cover with foil and grill on high for about five minutes, then turn down to medium for another five, then remove to oven or stove top to keep warm.  The thinness of the slices will help to cook the potatoes fast and so it shouldn’t take too long.  I usually cook the potatoes first, then keep warm in oven while grilling the chicken.  These two dishes do not have to go together–in fact, they probably don’t even go together–but I just tend to cook what I like and I don’t worry too much about what complements what.

As for your green veggie, toss some edamame in the microwave for a few minutes and sprinkle with kosher salt, and that is delicious with the chicken.


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