Monday Notes: Don’t Pop up on Me (Please)

March 2022, my stepmother, MJ reached out to me saying she’d be in Jacksonville sometime in August. 

“Okay,” I told her. “Just be sure to let me know ahead of time…when you know the date for sure.”

She agreed. 

The next time I heard from MJ was August 15, 2022 at 4:30 PM, when she texted me the following:

Hi Kathy

I am in Jacksonville at my friend’s house. I got here at 10:30

am this morning and I will be here until Friday. I would love to see 

you and the family.

Her daughter is going on vacation so I don’t have a ride. Give

me a call. 

August is the worst time to visit me, no matter what my relationship is with someone. I begin the semester in the third week, and to maintain a low stress level, I start revising syllabi and classes on August 1st. 

Also, I’ve learned to keep a very strict schedule, in general. Hosting or visiting with unexpected guests is not on the agenda. Hence, the reason you have to let me know if you’ll be in town, especially if you “would love to see me and my family.” 

In addition to planning for classes, the week I heard from MJ I also had an editing client scheduled, an unexpected trip to the car dealer, and a prior commitment to attend family game night at Dwight’s job

I couldn’t fathom how someone could plan a trip to a city, purchase a flight for a specific date, and not mention it to me. If nothing else, it seemed inconsiderate and rude. 

But I’ve been working on not freaking out when an unexpected non-emergency occurs, as a way to practice being calm when an actual emergency occurs. So, I meditated and gave her a call. 

“I thought you were going to let me know when you were coming?” I asked.

“Oh. I was, but something came up, so I didn’t.” 

Even though her flippancy set my belly on fire, I told her I’d pick her up on Thursday. I’d bring her by the house. We’d go to family game night. We’d take her to dinner with us.

“Okay,” she said.

Wednesday, MJ texted me, again:

Hi Kathy. What is your plan for tomorrow? What time are you coming

over here? 

I want to go to the beach while I’m here. My friend’s daughter knew this

but she is out of town working for the next two days. She is a traveling


So she called a friend of hers to take us to the beach tomorrow. 

So please call me so I can change the time or day to go to the beach,

because I want to see you before I leave. My flight leaves at 5:45 PM on 


My I’m not important trigger kicked in. 

“I deserve for people to visit me,” I said to Dwight. “I deserve for someone to plan ahead, with a date. I am not crazy for thinking this,” I continued. “And how does she plan a beach day on the day I agreed to come get her?” Then, I added, “Well, at least she came to Jacksonville, I guess.”

But I caught myself. I stopped myself from tying my worth to what other folks do or don’t do. 

And I didn’t get caught up in the “at least,” part of it, because that’s where we get ourselves into trouble. The phrase “at least” is not a positive way to frame something. It minimizes what you want or need in a situation. Sometimes, it represents the minimum action you think you deserve, which again, can cloud perception when tied to your self-worth. 

Even though I didn’t spiral, my stomach was so twisted in knots that I had to lie down. After resting, I realized I wasn’t responsible for how MJ decided to move in the world; her actions had nothing to do with me…at all. I called her back and told her to just go to the beach with her friend. We could take her to dinner afterwards.

At first, she agreed, but then she called back and said her “heart hurt,” with the idea of going to the beach, instead of seeing us; so she’d cancel her beach date.  

“Good,” I said. 

Thursday was pleasant. 

Friday, Dwight graciously drove MJ to the airport (because she also didn’t have a ride there), while I made my one hour and 45-minute trek to campus. I arrived at work by nine to attend a three-hour convocation, made finishing touches to courses, and returned home around six that evening. 

That night, I slept for nine hours. 

Saturday, my oldest daughter and I had lunch, and when I returned home, I slept for another three hours. Saturday night, I slept another nine hours. 

Stress exhausts me, more so because my parasympathetic nervous system is a little wonky. Whether obvious or not, beneath the surface, our bodies are always reacting to perceived stress. The kicker is that my body thinks a pop-up visit from my stepmother is the same as finding out my daughter was in a car accident, for example. Both feel exactly the same.  

So, as I re-learn, un-learn, and learn ways to function as a person with knowledge of my nervous system, one thing I know for sure is that I will not tolerate people popping up to visit, even if they are only 15 minutes away, like MJ was. 

It will not matter if the person understands or doesn’t understand. It will not matter if they think I should bend to their whims, expectations, and lack of social graces. 

Ultimately, I’m the one who has to deal with the fallout that occurs in my body, and being physically exhausted two days after is not worth it. 

And even though I know my self-worth is not tied to how people interact with me, I also know I am better than to be treated as an afterthought, and I will not be responding to that type of behavior, either, as I move forward.

78 thoughts on “Monday Notes: Don’t Pop up on Me (Please)

  1. I sympathize with you Kathy and remember well my mother in law’s expectations and my struggle to find my voice. Turns out when I set boundaries we were closer that anyone in her family, because she respected me and put her in her place. Love this. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Cindy! I’ve heard so many stories about what you’ve described. People like that tend to value a bit of assertion, which I understand. However, it seems a little manipulative, too. Why not just be respectful from the beginning? Why not just treat someone as you’d want to be treated/considered from the beginning? These questions are rhetorical, I know. I was just thinking out loud lol

      Liked by 1 person

  2. OMG. I had a family member go AWF on me for putting my foot down when another one treated me like an accessory. Good for you for knowing your body and your limits. Thank you for modeling how grace and boundaries work together.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Girl. It’s so annoying. A lot of times family interactions are made to be so obligatory, and when you/we set a boundary, then we’re seen as the bad guy. It’s ridiculous.

      Thank you for doing the same ❤


  3. to not beat around the bush, that’s some pretty ungracious manners, from your stepmother. Not just bad manners, but very unthoughtful, of you. if someone from out of town waits until the very last minute to tell me they’re around and they’re wondering if they can see me, it’d leave me feeling rather unimportant. and btw I’m not a modern person but I like the very last part of mchapuses note, the way they put it. Because some of my neighbors and me are in the village mentality, we like to do impromptu things together, like walk over to our houses with a cup of coffee when we catch each other outside, to gab. But this is a reminder of me to be a little bit careful, maybe. though if I lived next door to you, I wouldn’t just knock on your door out of the blue (although my next door neighbor does that). If you were out in the yard or garden, I might bug you. But not bug you for more than a moment

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dude. I cannot express how aggravated I was this week. It was so much. And after I wrote this, and weeks later, calmed down, I realized she also projects a lot. She calls nearly everyone selfish, but never sees this trait in herself.

      Anywho, thanks for this comment, Jason! I’m sure your neighbors don’t mind, because it sounds like you all have created that kind of culture 😉 And if you were my neighbor, you’d be welcome…between Friday and Sunday, after 3:00 PM lol


  4. Yes please!!
    I also hate when people pop up on me! And I just realized that a while ago. I had someone make plans on their own accord severally, without making any effort to fulfill them or communicate. Then they’d pop back in later with an excuse. I struggled with handling it for a while but later realized that I was definitely not the problem, and I didn’t need to deal with them either.

    And now, reading your blog has made me realize I did the right thing by creating boundaries. So thank you!

    Also, this re-learning and unlearning journey is really something, but I’m glad I’m on it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, this reminds me (and not in a good way) of my in-laws. They don’t give schedules, they just show up when it suits them and expect us to drop everything and entertain them. I used to do it. I don’t anymore, for the reasons you stated. It’s just too stressful. Now we plan the visits, we still see them, and it goes much smoother for all of us. You have the absolute right to set your own personal boundaries!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What is it with in-laws??? There are more than a few comments about this type of relationship in the comments, and now I feel as if I have to explore a little more lol

      Thanks for this comment and for affirming what I suspect ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve just been reading your post. I can relate to what you’re writing, both from others’ expectations and trying to manage your own health and well-being. I think you handled the situation well. We sometimes need to set boundaries, and for ourselves, keeping to them to look after ourselves.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I love this! It’s so easy to get caught up in these situations where you’re compromising so much for family or friends, at least for me it is. And it’s so hard to say no!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It is for all of us, Denise. It takes a lot of inner work and will power to learn the right amount of boundaries to enforce, but at this point, I’ve decided my health is more important, no matter what other people think 😉

      Thanks for this comment ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Visiting is hard. Having visitors is hard. Life can be tricky. I’m planning 2 trips in the next month and staying in a hotel part of the time and with friends part of the time. It’s all a lot. I do make definite plans ahead, so that’s something.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Omgggggggg that would make me crazzzy!! I mean, I don’t know MJ, but that behavior is absolute lunacy. And I totally support you setting a boundary with her next time. Even if that means you don’t see her the entire time she’s in town, because you asked her to give you a heads up and she didn’t, and you’re not available. You’re not asking for much!!!! That’s the thing. What you’re asking for is very very very very basic. And she might never learn unless someone puts their food down with her. Amazing point about your body as well, that you’re the one who has to deal with the aftermath, no one else. Unacceptable! Oy vey 💖💖💖

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yeah, it did make me crazy for the entire week. It was the most bizarre experience I’ve had in a while, when it comes to family/boundaries/respect. I totally agree about this request being basic. It’s a matter of texting and saying something lol

      You know, that last part is what I’ve really determined is the factor for me. For a long time, I wanted people to understand what I was saying and to honor my space and boundaries, but at this point, I’m like who tf cares if they get it??? Ultimately, I’m the one over here sleeping it off for 27 hours due to stress and overwhelm. Nobody has to get that, but me 😉

      Thanks so much for this comment, Libby!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. My sister in law always tries to fit us in when she’s visiting the city. My husband has only realized recently that she doesn’t value him as a person

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Well-spoken, I did suffer from a similar reaction to my nervous system in my early days of passionate creative endeavours. People used to poop up unannounced at my studio, expecting me to be jovial and grateful to see them. I became to be known as aversive and rude and the visits became less frequent.
    What makes people close to you or think they are, behave as if the requirements of respect for an individual’s time/space do not apply to them?
    The world is a network of complex arrangements for us modern people, and those who still treat it as a village are alienating themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, MC!

      So, this part “What makes people close to you or think they are, behave as if the requirements of respect for an individual’s time/space do not apply to them?” is what I’ve been trying to figure out for decades. I think it has something to do with social conditioning that we all pass down. With my daughters, I’ve made clear that I want them to do what they WANT to do, not what they feel obligated to do with me. I can see how I was taught the latter, and it just breeds resentment.

      I also think your point about we’re not a village anymore is valid. New world, new rules…don’t just drop by to someone’s living space, with your own set of expectations.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Wow. I honestly think you handled her beautifully. She was incredibly rude and yet she probably didn’t even realize that she was being disrespectful to you and your time management. I’m glad it all worked out and honestly you couldn’t have handled it any better

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LaShelle…this thoroughly angered me for days after. I agree. She didn’t realize it at all, except toward the end when my hubby and I kept saying, “Next time, tell us ahead of time” :-/


      1. I get it. My in laws are… Incredibly toxic. The only difference being that my in-laws would do something like that on purpose. My MIL has been caught in my bedroom, going through my things. She’s been caught lying and trying to cause issues between my husband and I. Thankfully we’re a good team (my husband and I). However, I understand how stressful disrespectful people are as well as those who don’t value your time. I think you handled it well even though you don’t feel like you did because of how much it stressed you out. You probably feel like it was a failure but you put her in her place. You let her pick what she wanted to do, and you held steady to your plans. I’d say the only thing you might do differently is rather than reiterating “next time tell us ahead of time” (which she already knew), say something like “I really wish I could have taken you to X,Y,Z. It’s a shame your trip wasn’t planned better.” Because again… She already knew your wishes. Now you’re just rubbing it in for good measure. 💗😘

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Went through your things???

        That’s really good advice! I hadn’t thought of that, and you’re right…I did already tell her to tell me ahead of time, so it’s not like this was new info.

        I’m writing this down.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. My MIL and FIL are some of the worst people I’ve ever known. Within the first few minutes of meeting them they will sling about 100 insults. Yet they belong in jail for the things they’ve done – not an understatement. It’s not a good conversation for WordPress and I’ll never write about it because it’s too painful for my husband. 💗 It’s also not my story to tell. If you’re ever curious you can email me about it and we can chat there but not here ( ❤️💋

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Anytime 💗. I’m just thankful my husband turned out as well as he did and is an incredible father and husband in spite of his upbringing. It’s amazing how well horrible people can hide in plain sight. You just never know anyone as well as you think you do.

        Liked by 2 people

      5. My second mother in law (I was divorced from first husband and his mom died. But I liked her). My second husband’s mom accused me of stealing her jewelry. She said she had some pieces missing and I must have taken them. I reminded her that while she was having all her floors redone in her condo she asked me to hold onto some of her jewelry while people were renovating her home. I went and grabbed the bag of jewelry she had given me. Fortunately, I wrote down the date she gave it to me and put that in with the bag of jewelry in my drawer. I didn’t want to be accused of anything and I didn’t trust her. She was a real piece of work. One time she went with my husband and I to a place called Sam’s Club where we went grocery shopping. She wanted to buy a little tv for her kitchen and they had great deals on electronics. Because I had a Sam’s card I got her the discount. I offered to pay but she refused and wrote a check. Anyhow she found the receipt a month later and accused me Of shorting her money. I had to remind her that she made the check out for a hundred dollars extra so she could have the cashier give her a hundred in cash to keep on hand. She’d accuse me of all kind of things things but only when her son wasn’t around. She was really sneaky in trying to pick on me.I was Always polite to her, but I knew she had serious issues. Her behavior embarrassed my husband. Plus she couldn’t stand that her son married someone Jewish. Her family was from the Deep South and were clearly bigoted. The funny thing was that both her son and her daughter both married people of the Jewish faith and that bugged the heck out of her. She once asked me why all Jews were loud. I almost fell over.(again when her son wasn’t around). I told her that I grew up in the Midwest so I didn’t even know any loud people. I would never let her bate me into an argument. I wouldn’t give her that satisfaction. She was not a nice person. I don’t think she ever wanted her son to get married. Some people are just crazy!

        Liked by 2 people

      6. As a side note, my in-laws are no longer welcome in my house (for far far worse things they’ve done that came to light that I can’t discuss here). It’s been a relief on my part. They also no longer have any contact with my son, their daughter, or their other grandkids. My sister in law and myself would have full on panic attacks about their visits. It was horrible. I’m beyond thankful to be done with that chapter of our lives. My husband has a relationship with them on his terms but it’s complicated. Neither my husband nor myself had a good upbringing. So if she’s overall a good person, cherish that and consider yourself blessed. 💗

        Liked by 2 people

  12. I really understand this and go through this with my brother all the time, and it always stresses me out. I’m learning to not change my plans unless he tells me ahead, and even then, I have him entertain himself while I’m out and keeping my plans. baby steps

    Liked by 2 people

  13. When we come from pasts where we were traumatized and damaged, feeling okay about living our life on our terms, and doing what’s best for our mental and physical health, is something heard-learned. We’re hard-wired to feel guilty, to take it personally, and to second guess ourselves.

    Bravo to you for moving through this!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Indeed, Tamara! Thank you so much for this comment ❤ Every single act of self-love and boundaries feels like a huge step, and each time, I know it's worth it and the right thing to do.


  14. We had the opposite problem on vacation. Friends wanted to get together with us and we wanted quiet time alone. It was a struggle but we placed limits on visits and dinners. I think I felt the same stress you did.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Just reading your post, I felt stressed, Katherin! I think you handled things in a very diplomatic way, considering the effect it had on you. I am sorry that you were sapped and sick from this. These situations always yield good information and answers for future encounters. I love your resolve at the end. Please know that I support you 100% for not jumping through other people’s hoops!
    ps.Your stepmother is in another category, though. I have no idea how you can relinquish the hold she has upon your gut.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Judy! It took so much thinking and re-thinking on my part, which is another reason I hope not to be in this situation again.

      Thank you for the support, too…NO MORE HOOP JUMPING for me lol

      I’m definitely relinquishing, because she cannot have that kind of power in my life.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Only family can be so inconsiderate. Sadly, we feel we have to bend over backwards. I have a sister like this. “We’re coming on Saturday,” she’ll say and then as the day wanes, “Oh, we didn’t make it.” Lessons on boundaries. Next time I’d suggest a simple: “I’m not available. Enjoy your stay.”

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Wow. For someone looking in it seems as if your step mom was rather callous. (Or oblivious). But I’m also guessing this isn’t new behavior for her. However, since I live in Florida and people come down on vacation all the time, I’ve learned that ALL visitors are thinking about their own vacation experiences, not yours. I remember my Dad telling a relative, “ Sorry, I understand that you’re coming down here, but I’m not the one on vacation. I can’t rearrange my job, my life, or my kids’ lives. We’re available on Saturday for dinner, if that works for you then great. But I can’t change my family’s coming and goings every time someone is in town. I remember my mother was mortified when he spoke out, but he was fed up.
    I listened to him talk to my mom… he told her,
    “Honey, dinner is fine. But, I’m not spending my week working and then going to take one more person to sea world again. I’ve had enough! I like seeing people but I’m not s tour guide!”
    NOw that I’m an adult I understand how my father felt. But I also get that my father could have been less reactive. The person on vacation is spending money and wants to get their biggest bang for their buck,
    Before I got sick my son who lives in Atlanta planned a trip for me to see him. What he couldn’t plan was that on my second day visiting I got sick from something I ate. He had created a huge itinerary and was shaken when his plans were messed up because I got a touch of food poisoning . (Or something similar ). So both parties have to be flexible.
    I have a college friend who visits Fl every year. She’d stop by unannounced all the time and then leave rather then make definite plans. I finally had to explain that i needed more definite plans. I like to make plans ahead of time. After I got cancer she would call ahead first. How sad that it took an illness before her brain understood that a heads up first was the more thoughtful thing to do.
    The reality is that Everyone is consumed with their own lives when really we all need to think about how our actions affect those around us. And we visit someone we need to make sure we aren’t imposing on their existing lives. So we all have to make compromises.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think she was more selfish, than anything else. All that mattered was what she wanted and how she wanted it, which is what it sounds like your dad was fed up about…people only thinking about their vacations and never considering him or his family’s lives.

      So, I agree, of course, with EVERYTHING you’ve said here. It absolutely doesn’t take much to call (or text) and say, hey, I’ll be in your neck of the woods, if you have time, let me know…and if there’s no time, not to become an entitled person. Well, I don’t think it takes much time 😉

      Thanks for this comment, Lesley ❤ I'm always happy to hear from you!

      Liked by 1 person

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