Kissing Donald Trump

8/23/17 10:53 am

Dreams are funny things. The sub-conscious mind pulls in events and memories of the day and crams them into a convoluted, often nonsensical, mish-mash of images and conversation.

Most often, I believe dreams don’t mean anything. At least I hope the one I had last night didn’t. I dreamed I was in a flooded New Jersey shopping mall with Donald Trump and he tried to kiss me! The prospect of that was horrifying enough that my conscious mind stepped in and said “hell no!” and woke me up. If that’s not a mish-mash of nonsense, I don’t know what is.

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I do believe there are some dreams that help to shed real meaning on our day to day lives.

The night before my father died, I dreamed that he and my mother were going to Florida to stay with my deceased Aunt who is buried there, so she wouldn’t be all alone. I clearly remember a voice in my dream saying, “No, only Dad is going.”  I woke up that morning with a sense of foreboding but I sloughed it off as just being an after-effect of a creepy dream.

At 11:00 am that morning he had a stroke from which he died five days later.

Was the dream prophetic or is it just coincidence? Maybe it was. Maybe not. To believe it was prophetic opens up all kinds of questions as to who or what is giving the prophecy and why. Although, I have had other prophecy-type experiences, but not while asleep. My mother called it “gypsy intuition” since a large part of my family were from Hungry, where many gypsies lived. Prophetic or not, it’s a dream that’s stayed with me for six years, and I expect it’s one I’ll never forget.

Since my mom died, I’ve been dreaming about a lot of dead people. Not just her, which I think is expected, but random people who I’ve know that died. I dreamed of a childhood friend I last saw when I was eleven, who died twenty years ago. His face was blurry throughout the dream. I guess my brain couldn’t figure out what he’d look like as an adult.

I think I’m finally starting to ease out of the dreaming about dead people phase. Which is a good thing, even considering the content of last night’s dream.

Several nights ago, I had another dream that stayed with me. I dreamed I was back at the school where I took graduate classes a few years ago. I had been working toward my Masters Degree in writing when I stopped half-way through for a variety of reasons. Dennis was starting his Masters, and since his degree is much more likely to have a financial ROI than mine, it made sense to channel funds toward his. Also, I was itching to return to work and the prospect of homework after a long work day wasn’t appealing. Even if the homework was writing.

However, in my dream I was so happy to be back, and to get to finish what I started. It was one of those crystal clear dreams that seemed real. And it’s stayed with me for days now.

I think that’s the kind of dream that has some merit. It deserves some consideration.  Is my subconscious trying to tell me something?

There has been some amount of thought and discussion in our house as to what’s next. All my life, staying near my parents has always been one of the considerations in which I made decisions. As an only child, there would be no one else to help them but me when they got old. That part, that’s been with me my whole adult life, is now done.

I am now free to pursue whatever goals I want in life. Dennis’ and my future can be whatever we want it to be and wherever we want it to be. We could move to another state. We could move to another city within Wisconsin. We could build a new house.

They’re all options, but that’s all they are right now. Options. The dream brought forth another option that’s been in the back of my mind all along. Returning to school. Returning to writing. Finishing what I started. Today, I made the decision to reach out and see what it would take to go back. It feels good.

Way better than kissing Donald Trump.

8/23/17 12:00 (went over a bit today)

 

Feeding Frenzy

8/20/17 11:08 pm

It was about two months ago when my mother went into the hospital, that Dennis and I welcomed her dog, Charlie, into our home. We had no idea what we were in for.

Charlie is a 12 year-old, 18 pound, Shih-Tzu Lhasa Apso mix. I’ve known Charlie all his life. I actually picked him out. As a puppy he was the typical jovial, playful fellow like all puppies are. As he matured, he mellowed some. After my father died, he developed some health problems, had a surgery, and while he recovered, he never really got back to his normal, happy, Charlie-self.

Charlie in his bed.charlie

Last October, before my mom was sick, Dennis and I brought Sammy into our family. You may remember, Sammy is a Pomeranian Shih tzu mix. He’s about 10 pounds of happiness. There is no other way to describe him. He’s just a happy dog. He always looks like he’s smiling which makes it hard to be mad at him even when he’s naughty.

This is Sammy as a puppy. He’s about 5 months old here.DSC_0013 (2)

I brought Sammy to visit my mom and Charlie ever since he was a teeny tiny puppy — only about 3 months old. Charlie hated him.  As in HATED him. He never played with him. He mostly ignored him. On occasion he snapped at Sammy, although, he never actually bit him.  Charlie, in general does not like other dogs. Walking him is actually embarrassing because he will go out of his way to provoke every dog, including Pit Bulls, German Shepard’s, and other dogs roughly 4 to 5 times his size.

Sammy liked Charlie from the start. Sammy also does not like other dogs. According to one very snippy, uppity trainer we worked with at HAWS, we stunted his social development by not introducing him to 100 people in his first five months of life.  Right. 100 people. Like we even know 100 people. Anyway, due to our inept raising of a puppy, Sammy had to undergo training sessions to play nice with other dogs. Prior to getting Charlie, we took him to a dog park on a regular basis. He was sort okay with looking at other dogs, but he never really let another dog sniff or physically play with him.

My mom’s worst fear after she got sick was that Charlie would never be happy in our home because he hated Sammy so much. By the time she went into the hospital, Sammy had a pretty good level of wariness around Charlie, too, since he’d been snapped at a few times.

When Mom went into the hospital at the end of June we had no other choice but to introduce Charlie into our home. I’m an only child, and my mom was an only child. There are no other relatives to take Charlie. I’m his ride or die. Literally.

Did I mention we also have 3 cats and Charlie hates cats? He makes it a point to bark and yank his leash to it’s fullest capacity when he sees them on walks.  It didn’t look promising.

So after a long stressful day of getting my mom to the hospital in an ambulance, the emergency room, the check-in, etc, Dennis and I returned back to my mom’s house to pick up Charlie and bring him to our house. I’ll admit, I was nervous. I was already stressed with my mom, and I envisioned all sorts of bloodshed happening once we brought him in.

But the strangest thing happened when I brought Charlie into our house. Sammy greeted him as if he’d lived there his whole life. Charlie sniffed him, wagged his tail and proceeded to look around the living room. The cats watched him with their normal level of disinterest. They’re veterans by now of me bringing in various new four-legged friends they have to deal with. Charlie didn’t phase them a bit. Charlie was leery of the cats, and kept his distance.

Within a day or two, Charlie and Sammy were playing. Actually playing with each other like dogs do — jumping on each other and slobbering on each other. At first Sammy tried to play like a cat. He’d stalk Charlie.  Charlie showed him the ropes pretty quickly.

This is Charlie and Sammy playing in our yard the day after we brought Charlie home.IMG_1463

Perhaps there are such things as miracles. My mother actually didn’t believe that Charlie was happy and fitting in well. She thought I was telling her that so she wouldn’t worry. Which is understandable given the history. I actually took videos each day of Charlie sitting with Sammy and playing with Sammy to show her they really did like each other .

Good things came of this union. We’d been thinking of getting another dog for company for Sammy. (Thank goodness we didn’t!) Pre-Charlie, Sammy spent a fair amount of time chasing cats, and while my cats are young and game for playing with him, it was often too much. He’d take it too far and we many times we had to put a leash on Sammy at night, in the house, just to give the cats a break.

Once Charlie came on the scene all that changed. I was right, Sammy did need a dog-buddy to hang with. The dogs hang together all the time and the cats are rarely chased now, although, when they are there are usually two dogs chasing them. (Charlie has decided cats are cool and he like’s to “play” with them, too, once in a awhile.)

Sammy now has company when we leave the house. Pre-Charlie we used to keep him in a gated area, but now he has the run of the first floor with Charlie. They play together while we’re gone (we have camera’s up in our kitchen so we can keep an eye on what they’re doing when we’re not there.)

Charlie’s personality has returned to what is was before my dad died. He’s happy, his tail is always wagging and he’s got tons more energy. He acts like he’s half his age.

Doesn’t he look happy?

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All good stuff. Okay, not all good. There’s some challenges. The barking. Oh. My. God. The barking. Charlie barks a lot. My mom thought it was “funny” to encourage him to bark. To her it meant he was happy.  Charlie has had 12 years of prompting to bark. When Charlie barks, Sammy barks. Which makes Charlie bark more. Which makes Sammy howl. Which makes Charlie howl. It’s not pretty.

And then there’s the care. Charlie is high-maintenance. He suffers from “dry-eye” syndrome which inexplicably makes his eyes water. He needs his face washed every morning and very expensive salve put in his eyes twice a day. He needs to be professionally groomed every 4 to 6 weeks. Because of his allergies he needs a special diet that I have to cook.

For the past 6 or 7 years, my mother cooked Charlie a mix of ground lamb (expensive and needs to be specially ordered in the quantities that he eats!), mashed canned vegetables and a cooked sweet potato. My mother actually wrote the recipe down on a recipe card for me. He needs to have his freeze-dried lamb liver treats on top to get him to eat it. And even with the treats, he may or may not eat. He’s very picky.

In addition to his lamb mush, Charlie gets thinly sliced center cut pork loin roast (also home cooked) as a treat whenever my mom ate a meal.  So three times a day.

One of the downsides to having so many animals is when one gets something good, they all want it. And hence, the point of today’s post.  Tonight, after dinner, Charlie was still begging, so I asked Dennis to give him some of his pork loin slices. We were watching TV in the family room, so Dennis brought the bag to the couch to feed him.

Have you ever sprinkled fish food on the top of a fish tank with hungry fish in it? It was like that only with furry little mammals. Dennis was immediately swarmed with two cats and two dogs. I do mean swarmed. One cat actually ran down from upstairs to get his share. I have to buy pork roasts in bulk to feed this crew.

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Can you count four animals in this picture? The fifth animal was sitting on my lap and couldn’t be bothered to join in the fun.

It actually is fun having all of them, and having Charlie has been mostly good for our household. I just hope we never run out of pork. I shudder to think what they’d do to us.

8/20/17 11:49 pm

Anchor’s Away

8/18/17 10:47 pm

This has been a really stressful week for me. Perhaps one of the most stressful since my mom was sick and we didn’t know what would happen. That’s the thing about stressful situations, at least for me, the worst ones are when I don’t know what will happen and I have no control over the outcome.

I’m a planner. I’m a fixer. I can find a way to fix almost any situation I’m in.  And I have, many times. An unhappy marriage. Couldn’t fix it, but figured out how to leave. Awful stressful job. Easy, peasy. Find another job. Buy a condo and find out after I move in that the elderly neighbors below me blast the tv all night. Literally ALL night. When reasoning with them didn’t work, I took a big risk and bought the house I’m currently in now that I love and sold the condo after living in it for 6 months. Lost some money in the process and it was a lot of work to move twice in 6 months, but I figured it out, fixed the problem and I came out happier in the end.

The problem with this week is there was a lot going on completely out of my control that I had no way to fix. There was nothing to be done other than let life take me where it will.

I’ve already talked about the stress of getting the house ready and parting with the last of Mom’s stuff, including Behemoth. However, there was more house stress this week. The house went on the market on Wednesday. I was nervous about showing it empty, which isn’t normally what real estate agents want. And I was nervous the agent priced it too high and I’d be stuck maintaining the house over winter because no one wanted it.

Thankfully, the house was very well received and we already have an accepted offer. That doesn’t mean we’re done, though. Far from it. There’s inspections of all kinds, probably a repair here and there, financing that the buyer’s have to get, closing dates to be set. All completely out of my control. But least I’m back into familiar territory which helps. I’ve never had to disband an entire household before, but I have sold three properties (two houses and the blasted condo) so I know what to expect even if I can’t control any it. That helps.

Stressful factor number 2: After two years of procrastinating, we finally had new vinyl flooring put in our kitchen. The old stuff had an ugly blood red splotch by the patio doors that literally changed color and size. It creeped me out. And the seams were coming up so bad in some places, Dennis and I were literally tripping over them. The reason we waited so long to fix it is because it’s not easy to have half the first floor out of commission in a normal house. Our house isn’t normal.

We have three cats and two dogs that eat everything. I mean everything. Even the cats and cats are normally picky eaters. Are’s aren’t. I left a cherry tomato on the counter the other night by accident and the cat ate it. We just found pieces of tomato skin scattered on the carpet. Before bed we have to check and make sure no plastic is left out, even a corner of a grocery bag will be eaten. No fruit on the counter. I’ve woken up to bananas with chewed skins. No envelopes with plastic windows and no unsealed envelopes of any kind — one cat is obsessed with licking the glue. Obviously, with this mischievous group, we cannot allow any of the animals access to an unfinished project for fear they’ll eat a stray piece of vinyl or lick up the glue, or who knows what else they’ll get into. Something, I’m sure.

The installer said it would take 2 days to install the vinyl. Which means that we not only had to lock up our menagerie during the day, we’d also have to lock them up overnight. Separately, because I don’t trust Charlie, the newest addition to the household, not to chase the cats.

Our routine was completely destroyed. Dennis had to work in the rec room with way too many animals confined in a too small space. And maybe worst of all — we didn’t have a toilet downstairs since we put new vinyl in the downstairs bathroom too. That meant a lot of stairs for me. I spent most of the afternoon in the bedroom with one of dogs.

Thankfully, the installers were fast. They were done by 3, the sealant had dried by 7 and I had a new toilet downstairs by 8. Life went back to normal much quicker than I feared, but it was still a stressful day.

Stressful Event 3: My baby is in Italy for the week. And there was a terrorist attack in Spain. Which I know is no where near Italy but still. My baby is in another country, across an ocean and there are terror attacks and I am helpless to do anything to protect him.

By the way, my “baby” will be 27 in February. He’s in Italy on vacation with his girlfriend and her family. He’s lived on his own for many years now and, in fact, he lives an hour and half away from me.

But he’s still my baby and he’s very far away, and scary, bad things are happening in his vicinity (if you consider the same continent the “vicinity”).

Not logical, but stressful all the same.

I gained some perspective this morning when I was going through my mother’s papers. I needed to find the title for the house and I found a treasure trove of memorabilia from my family that I never knew she had. I will have many blog post material to share from some of the cool things I found.

Included in that memorabilia were the discharge papers for my father’s Naval service during World War II.  He volunteered in January, 1945, one month before his 18th birthday. He didn’t want to get drafted into a branch of the service that he didn’t want to serve in, so he volunteered to enter the Navy while he was still in high school, got his GED, and went to war in the Pacific theater.

When he was 17 years old.

My grandmother had to send her baby to fight a war when he was still a teenager. I wonder how she survived it.

It made me feel pretty weak and pathetic for stressing out over my baby, a decade older than his grandfather was when he went to war, having a time of his life in a beautiful country.

When did I become such a wuss? I never used to be. I’m not sure why, but I hope it passes. I don’t want to be the person that worries about every little thing and sucks the joy out of living for others. I’ve experienced that kind of love. It’s suffocating to say the least.

I sure was happy to find those naval papers today. I feel like I got a dose of strength from my grandma who’s been dead for 18 years. If she could send my dad to war, I can certainly relax and know my son is well and will return home from his vacation safe and sound.

That doesn’t mean I still won’t sleep a bit easier when he’s back home in the US this weekend.

8/18/17  11:44pm

 

 

The Behemoth

 

 

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8/17/17 10:58 am

Today I am writing a blog about a table. Not just any table. I’m writing about the ugly, behemoth, bane-of-my-existence table that my parents owned for most of my life and through the end of theirs. They bought it when I was about 5. I know this because I remember going furniture shopping with them when they bought it for the new house they were building. We moved into the house the summer before I started kindergarten, so it that would be the summer of 1971. I turned 5 the end of that August.

1971. Richard Nixon was president. VietNam was in full force. Sonny and Cher were not only still together, they even had their own TV show that I was allowed to watch. That was a long time ago. For me and the table.

The first thing I hated about the table is it’s very dark-colored stain. I remember looking at in the furniture store and almost being afraid of it because it was so big and so dark. It made me feel small and it looked like it should have been in some old, deserted, scary house, not our brand new one we were moving into. My parents didn’t agree and the table came home with us.

The second thing I hated was how heavy the chairs were. As a 5-year-old, I couldn’t lift up and move the chairs, they were so heavy. I’d have to scrunch under and around the table to crawl up into the chair, or someone would have to pull a chair out for me and then maneuver it back in toward the table once I was on it. I’m independent. I always have been. I like to do things myself. So I always opted for the scrunch-in technique whenever I could get away with it.

Eventually, as I grew older and bigger, I could move the chairs on my own but it was never easy. Since my mother always had the damn table and chairs on carpeting, (shag, of course) these chairs with the weight equivalent to a small calf, needed to be lifted to be moved. Sliding was never an option. Even the adults who sat in the chair had to sort of bunny-hop their way back toward the table once the sat in them. Gracefully scooting the chair to or from the table was never an option with this behemoth of a set.

Not only were the chairs heavy beyond belief, they had dark, padded, plastic seats that were supposed to look like leather. However, they never did look like leather. They weren’t soft. They were a hard, unyielding substance that felt more like a cheap diner booth material than a dining room chair material. To make it worse, my mother made me use Pledge Lemon spray wax to shine them up every week when we cleaned.

The addition of the spray wax caused problems of it’s own. Number 1: a slippery seat is harder crawl up on to. Number 2: a slippery seat makes noises when you move. Fart noises. When crawling up onto a chair a fair amount of positioning is needed to situate yourself once you’re up there. This makes the fart noises unavoidable, even during holiday meals with extended family (which is the only time the table was used for the first 13 years of it’s life.)

Occasionally, during dinner an adult would be so foolish as to re-positioned their weight on the chairs, and they, too, were the recipient of the fart-noise. I wonder if we were known for the fart-noise chairs within the extended family. Maybe that’s why we didn’t host very many holiday meals. Maybe my mother made me wax the chair seats for that very reason. She never did care much for entertaining.

I’ll have to give that some thought.

The week after I graduated high school in June of 1984, my parents and I moved into another new house and this is where the bane-of-my-existence came into its own. It was promoted from the once-in-awhile for special occasions dining room table to the everyday kitchen table.

The new house was an open concept house, very popular in the 1980’s, and there was plenty of dining room space to house the behemoth. And since there wasn’t a wall to distinguish the dining room from the family room, the chairs could spread out throughout the house free from the confines of their traditional designated room. Which they did.

Since there were only three of us, we clearly did not need a massive table and chairs that could seat 8. My mom put four chairs around the table and scattered the rest of the stray chairs throughout the house. Just in case someone needed an uncomfortable, squeaky chair to sit in.

Notice the chair to left of the table in this picture. It’s a stray. There’s another stray that you can’t see to the left of the recliner.

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Here’s yet another stray used as a desk chair.

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As you may have noticed in the top picture, eventually my mother gave up on waxing the fake leather. She moved on to attaching seat cushions on top of the fake leather instead. My mom bought the ones with ties that went around the back spokes of the chairs.

The seat cushions looked prettier than the ugly fake leather, however, seat cushions that are put on top of slippery plastic have their own set of problems. Especially seat cushions that are only attached by two ties at the back of the cushion. They will slip and pull every time you sit down. You need to aim squarely in the middle of the cushion or the cushion and a butt cheek will half slide off the chair. No one of my family has ever been what you would call thin, and, frankly, there wasn’t a chair tie to be found that could withstand the pressure of an ample-sized derriere against the sliding cushion on a plastic seat that’s been waxed for 13 years.

My mother diligently tried sewing the seat ties back on for a year or two. But let’s face it. If a factory sewn seat tie couldn’t stand up to Tieffenbach butts, a hand-sewn job by my mother never had a prayer. Eventually she gave up, and the seat ties hung limp and useless on the back of the chairs while the seat cushions sat willy-nilly on the fake leather seat. Major slippage occurred anytime anyone sat down. After while, we gave up and the seat cushions became a decorative accessory that we moved and replaced the before and after each meal. Kind of like having throw pillows on the bed. Pretty, but not useful.

I suggested to my parent’s that they get a new table. With chairs that didn’t require wrenching your back to move.  Not a chance. The set was perfectly fine, they said, even if some of the chairs legs were coming loose and did wobble side to side.  The wobbly chairs got swapped with the prior stray chairs and life continued as before.

Eventually, the seat cushions with the rubbery dots on the bottom that grip the chairs without the need for seat ties were invented. My mom eagerly bought them and they worked much better than the seat tie cushion — as long as you were able to move the massive chair toward the table on thick carpeting while simultaneously holding on to your chair pad so it didn’t fall off the chair before you sat down. If you happened to sit down too far from the table, the pad added a little extra layer of complexity to bunny-hopping the chair to table. As did the now constantly wobbling table chairs.

I had some fun bringing home new boyfriends and watching them try to navigate the chair/rug/chair pad conundrum for the first time. At least the fart-noise problem was eliminated. The chair legs were getting so unreliable by this point, that my mother planned out where to seat the heaviest guest on the sturdiest chair. My father, having glued the legs as much as he could, was relegated to wrapping string around the bottom chair legs for added strength. Red string. On dark, ugly brown chair legs. At least the string matched the chair cushions.

As those of you who read my blog know, my mother passed away unexpectedly last month and my father has been gone for over six years. As an only child, this means the responsibility of disposing of the household goods and the house falls to me.

I’m not a keeper of memorabilia. I never have been. I marvel at those women who have gorgeous scrap books with ticket stubs and receipts from family trips. I’d like to have one of those, but I’m not that person. I hate clutter so I’m constantly cleaning my purse, wallet, and drawers tossing out stuff. Sometimes I toss out stuff I need. Like property tax checks from the bank. But that’s rare. Bottom line is I didn’t anticipate having any problems getting rid of stuff from my parents house.

I took the few items I wanted, like the hand-made wood carvings my dad did, and few cross stitch pieces my mom made. The most important thing I took out that house is sleeping next to my feet right now. I called in an estate sale place and told them to sell everything. Sell the dishes, the bedroom sets, the family room furniture, and for the love of God, get rid of the hideous, behemoth dining room set that I’ve hated for almost 46 years.

The estate sale guy was probably about 70, and he seemed impressed with the table and chairs. He used words like, “workmanship”, “sturdy” and the cliche’ “they don’t make them like this anymore”. Apparently he didn’t see the red string holding his chair together.

He priced the table and chairs at $225.00! I was amazed. Apparently, I don’t know what things are worth, I thought. I didn’t think anyone would take it for free and this guy thinks he can get $225.00 for it.

Day one of the estate sale. The table and chairs do not sell. That’s okay, Estate sale guy says. Day two everything is marked down to half price. Surely the table and chairs will sell for $114.50.

They didn’t.

When I went into the house the weekend after the estate sale was over, the house was mostly empty. Just a few boxes here and there and the massive, ugly, too-dark table and chairs in the exact same spot where it’s been for the past 33 years.

I wasn’t surprised. Not one bit. The damn table is like a cock roach. It will never go away.

“The charity will take it,” Estate sale guy says.

Except the charity isn’t available on the day Estate sale guy promised. And I have showings to prep the house for. The house needs to be emptied. NOW. Everything has to go.

Monday, after many phone calls and a couple of threats, Estate sales guy’s team shows up with a truck and starts loading everything up. I’m assuming they will take the items to the charity instead of the charity picking them up, which is fine. I don’t mind that the table and chairs and the rest of the items didn’t sell, and I’m glad they’re going to some place where they can be of use to another family. I sleep well that night.

It’s Tuesday. The house is finally empty, cleaning can commence for the showings on Wednesday and all is well.

Estate sale guy’s team shows up to take a few last boxes out of the garage Tuesday morning while I’m there. They tell me it’s the last load that they’re taking to the dump. Not a charity as promised. The dump. There’s no reuse or recycling going on here. Everything they pulled out of the house that didn’t sell went to the dump.

Including the ugly, monstrously heavy, too-dark behemoth of a dining table, stray chairs in various stages of disrepair with fake leather seats and red chair pads with bumps on the bottom. At the dump.

The grief didn’t hit me until Wednesday. And I do mean grief. All out crying as if I’d lost a living, breathing soul, not some stupid, ugly table and chairs I’ve never liked. I did hate them, but their fate didn’t deserve to end up in the dump.

Grieving is a nebulous beast. You never really know what will beckon it forth. It can be something obvious, like a picture, or memory that’s triggered. Or it can be something stupid, like an old crappy table and chairs you’ve lived with for 46 years.

I try not to think of the table, discarded like trash. It still upsets me. And it upsets me that I’m upset over an inanimate object. It’s a vicious cycle.

I’m not sorry I that I didn’t take the table and chairs for myself even if I am sorry for it’s fate. Nor will I wax poetic about family meals and memories we shared around The Behemoth. Sure they happened, but in the end,  it’s still just a piece of wood. And uncomfortable piece of wood that I never liked. My memories are tied to me, not to it.

I just wish it didn’t have to end up in the dump.

8/17/17 1:55 pm (I had an hour break in there to do a conference call but I still went over in time by close to an hour!)

 

 

 

 

 

The Stuff Life is Made of

7:16 8/7/17

I haven’t posted in close to two weeks. Less than a month into my promise to post daily and I already blew it. I’ve been writing a lot in my head, though, if that makes sense. You writers out there understand, right? Sometimes the words need to marinate up there before they can be put down for the world to see.

There’s been a lot going on in the past two weeks so there’s been a lot to marinate on. Since this is a blog about letting go of perfectionism, I’ll consider my lapse in writing a nod toward embracing my imperfect self. At least it sounds like a good excuse.

The hard, cold fact is that after someone you love dies, life goes on. It has to, whether you want it to or not. Things have to get done. Stuff needs to be dealt with. Decisions need to be made. So that’s what I’ve been doing for the past two weeks while I was marinating my words. I’ve been dealing with stuff.

I decided to list my mom’s house on the market which was not an easy decision. Here’s the handy dandy MLS listing if anyone is interested in buying a house in Sussex, Wisconsin. This is where I lived from the time I graduated high school until the time I got married in 1989 (minus a brief stint in the dorms at UW-Whitewater).

http://www.flexmls.com/share/10pLl/N71W27054MeadowWoodLNLisbonWI53089-2336

I decided to have an estate sale company come in and sell the entire contents of the house. That sale in happening this Thursday and Friday.

Not only are things moving along, they’re moving along fast. Which is good. I’m not anxious to dilly dally through this particular time in my life. I’d prefer to get it over with as fast as possible. However, that also means I need to move fast, during a time when I’d rather not move at all.

I scheduled the estate sale two weeks ago, which meant that I had two weeks to take whatever I wanted to save out of my mom’s house. I picked away here and there and procrastinated really digging into it for the first week. (In my defense, I’ve also been sick with this horrible virus that just won’t go away). But still, I admit there was a fair amount of avoidance going on.

Lollygagging, procrastination and denial only get you so far, though, and time keeps on marching along, so finally my only option was to jump in and get through it. Which I did toward the end of last week and this weekend.

It was hard deciding what I should save, not only for me, but for my son, Tony, who might want some memorabilia someday, but making sure I wasn’t taking too much. I already have a house full of stuff and being overrun with every closet stuffed to capacity with my parent’s stuff isn’t going to make me happy nor is it going to bring them back.

So I culled. My dad was an artist. He painted duck decoys, carved wooden figurines and made country art wall hangings.  This is a picture of a few of his wood carvings. I remember them from when I was a kid. Some of them have names. Ferdinand the Bull is third from left of the top. I like him, but he didn’t make the cut.

Bambi is third from the left on the bottom. When I was ten I broke off Bambi’s ear and I was devastated but my dad wasn’t mad. He just glued it back on said he’d carved it too thin. At some point from 1976 to 2017 Bambi’s ear fell off again, and this time the piece was lost. One-eared Bambi came home with me.

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And so it went. Some stayed, some came home with me. For the ones I’m selling, I thought my dad would be happy to know someone wanted them enough to buy them and enjoy them. Although, truth be told, if the wood carvings don’t sell at the auction, they’ll all come home with me. There’s too much of my dad in them for me to let them go to Goodwill.

Same with the duck decoys. The country art wall hangings, not so much. They’re his designs but they don’t have time and detail as the others. Plus I painted a lot of those myself as a side job in college and I’ve seen enough of them to last me a lifetime.

My mom’s stuff was a bit easier since she’s been funneling the few keepsakes she had to me for years. I did pull down a cross stitch hanging she did, I kept a serving spoon she always used when she cooked us dinner,  and took all the boxes of pictures. I probably don’t know who many of the people are in them, though, without her here to tell me. But I’ll know some of them for sure. That’ll be a hard box to go through. I sense a bout of procrastination coming on for that task.

I struggled with my grandma’s afghan that she crocheted for my mom and the many, many crocheted hangers my grandma made toward the end of her life twenty years ago. I ended up taking them all, although I now have enough hangers to replace every hanger in my entire house and still I’ll still have extras. Unfortunately, I had to re-hang all my mom’s clothes on old hangers to get the crocheted ones out. Some of the clothes still smelled like her — it’s face powder, I think. That job sucked. That job sucked a lot. Don’t want to do that one again ever.

Yesterday afternoon, Dennis and I went back to do a once more check to make sure I didn’t want anything else. I grabbed an old art book I remember by dad using when he tried to teach me to draw as a kid and I noticed a newish looking file cabinet I hadn’t checked yet.

It was locked, so Dennis pried it open. More stuff. Lots of paperwork, messy and unsorted. Not my mom’s style of organization at all. MY style of organization. It was all MY stuff. I moved to a condo briefly in 2004 and I stored stuff in my parent’s rec room. I thought I moved it all back when I bought my house, but apparently I forgot about this cabinet.

So we hauled all this paperwork back to our house and I spent yesterday afternoon going through it all. It was, hands down, the worst part of this culling job yet. It was all stuff I had saved from 1990, when I was married to my first husband, up to about December 2003, when I was getting ready to move into the condo. A hell of a lot happened in those years, and it was laid out on my kitchen table for me to peruse.

I unearthed my college diploma — a good thing, old school pictures of Tony, a picture of his dad and me when Tony was about 5 (I was so thin!), divorce papers, a receipt for an alarm system that I had installed when I dated a seriously unstable guy after I was divorced, old writing and poems I wrote when I was getting divorced (a couple weren’t bad), an old vet bill from a cherished cat that died in 2012 that I still can’t look at pictures of her without tearing up, results of standardized tests for Tony where I saw his propensity for math started at a very early age, valentines from Tony when he could barely write his name, a booklet Tony completed in second grade where he listed Dennis as a “safe” person he could trust (that one made me cry — Dennis and I were friends at that point but not anywhere close to getting married), old job offers, cards from co-workers wishing me well when I left for a new job, email address from old friends I never used, old reviews from bosses I loved, bosses hated, and one boss that is now dead. Whew.

It was a lifetime of accomplishments, failures and memories all crammed into two boxes. It was the tangible, hold-it-in-your-hand evidence of the passage of time.  They were the hardest two boxes I’ve had to look through so far.

I was going to tackle the boxes of pictures I brought home from my parents this week, but I think I’ll procrastinate a little longer on those.  I’m still recovering from my last trip down memory lane.

8:08 am 8/7/17

Adult Activities

10:37 am 7/28/2017

This morning I was a grown up. Of course, at the age of 50, I’ve been a grown up for quite some time. But this morning I did very grown up things. Adult things. And not in the good “adult” way, either.

I made many phone calls. I called financial institutions. I called a real estate agent. I even called the government’s Social Security office.  It’s now official with all the entities that matter: My mom is dead.

I’ve been putting off doing these calls, and with good reason. There’s just something about saying “My mother passed away” a half a dozen times, to a half a dozen strangers, that really brings it all home. I only cried a little bit on the last one, with the real estate agent. She was too nice. I do better with the impersonal voices.

A few minutes after the calls were done, the funeral director who screwed up my mother’s birthdate in all the obituaries called me. His timing was perfect. I was too bummed out to yell at him. And besides, he’s making it right. New obits will run in the Freeman today and the Journal on Sunday with the correct dates. Grown ups forgive mistakes because they know we all make them.

I once shipped an entire semi trailer of plastic goods to a tiny one-man office in central Pennsylvania, a good 3 hours from the larger location it was supposed to ship to. (There was only one address in my Rolodex. I was new to the job and I didn’t realize there were two locations). I bet the one guy at the office and the truck driver weren’t thrilled with me. I know my boss sure wasn’t. But mistakes happen. We all make them, even when we have the best intentions.

My mom made mistakes in raising me, but I still loved and miss her. I made mistakes as her daughter, too, but I know she loved me. I guess that’s what family is. We make mistakes but still love each other in spite of them.

For the most part, being an adult is better than being a kid. I like being in control of my own life, even if it does come with responsibilities. I’ve never been one to yearn for the carefree days of my childhood. Besides, childhood’s aren’t really carefree when you’re in them. I had worries as a kid, they just weren’t adult worries. They were kid worries. A worry is a worry, though, and they seemed just and important then as the adult ones do now.

Today is one day, though, that I don’t like being an adult. I didn’t like making those calls or saying those words. This afternoon, I have to pick up my mother’s remains and the death certificates from the funeral home. I won’t like that either.

I think tonight calls for some adult beverages. I like those. And then I’ll move forward, into tomorrow, where maybe I’ll like being an adult a little bit better than I did today.

11:08 am 7/18/2017

 

 

 

 

 

Another Journey Home

11:33 am 7/14/17

I love to read. Growing up, my mom instilled a love of books in me that I’ve never lost. She said that whenever you have a good book, you have a friend.  I believe that, and I have characters in books that still feel like friends to me today.

Scarlett O’Hara; Holden Caufield; Hermie from “Summer of ’42” are all adolescent friends. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Encyclopedia Brown, the Pigman, and, of course, Laura Ingalls Wilder are childhood friends. (I see that I’ve broken the magic rule of “3” in writing with this last list, but I can’t bear to leave any of them out.)

I always have at least two books going. One that I read on my Kindle and one audio book that I listen to while I sew. I prefer to read fast-moving novels with engaging characters in all genres (except maybe science fiction fantasy or pure romance) on my Kindle.

I prefer longer, slower-paced novels for my audio books. There’s just something about being read to, while my hands are engaged, that transports me into the world of the novel completely. It’s so relaxing, it’s almost akin to meditating. I’ve learned the hard way to not attempt to do any type of math while listening to my audio book. My math skills are sketchy at best when I’m paying attention. When I’m not, forget it. I’ve contributed many expensive fabrics to my scrap bin because I did math while my book was on.

If I can’t sleep at night, I often put on head phones and listen to my book. No matter how good the book is, I’ll drop off within minutes. Not so with the reading a book to myself. If I’m into the book, I’ll read until it’s finished. Chapters are like eating Cheetos for me. Just one more and then I’m done. I say this until the book, or bag — sometimes both, simultaneously, is done.

I’ve made it through audio books I never would have stuck with had I read them instead of listened to them. I listened to and enjoyed “Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett which is all about a cathedral builder in 12 Century England. There’s a lot of detail about architecture and the functions of the different parts of the cathedrals. Personally, a bit too much detail for my taste. It felt like Follett did all this research on cathedral building and, by God, he was going to include it in his book. I never would have finished this kind of book if it had not been “read to me.”

I listened to all three “Century Trilogy” books by Ken Follett, too. The books start before WWI and continue through the 1980’s. All three were awesome books, and I made two full quilts while listening to them. One of them was the quilt I gave my mom for Mother’s Day two years ago. The second one is done in the same pattern as the one I gave my mom and it’s sitting on the back of my couch now.

I also listened to all three of Jane Smiley’s “Last Hundred Years Trilogy” books where every year is a chapter in the life of one family. The book follows the lives of one family for one hundred years, one year at a time. They are amazing books. Some characters are in every book and I cried when each met their demise. They felt like family to me. I still think of some of them, and I listened to those books over a year ago.  My mom used the quilt I made while I listened to these books while she was in the hospice.

With audio books, not only do the characters become friends, but the reader of the books, does too. I think that’s why I’m so fond of trilogy’s. The same actor reads all the books in the trilogy. Sometimes the same actor reads all the books by the same author. I love it when that happens. I think I’m seriously in love with Scott Brick who narrates all the Nelson DeMille novels. When I heard him read the DeMille’s “Gold Coast” which is more of a literary novel, and not at all like DeMille’s usual thriller/espionage genre novels, I knew I was hooked on this guy, and I’d have to give the rest of DeMille’s works a try.

I’m in a middle of listening to a Scott Brick/Nelson DeMille novel now. And I’m reading two books on my Kindle. One that I don’t like much, but feel compelled to finish because it’s gotten such good reviews, and another historical fiction piece that I do like.

The problem is, I can’t enjoy any of them. Not right now. This happened to me, too, when my dad died. I simply couldn’t focus enough to get involved in a book. I sit and read and my mind wanders. I can’t see the scene the author is giving me. Even listening to the book doesn’t help.

So what to do?

When my dad died, I had just enrolled in a class to study writing for young adults at Mt. Mary University. I ended up dropping the class that semester but I had already purchased the books. One book, a Young Adult time-travel book, really interested me. (I can’t remember the name right now, but it’s still sitting on my bookshelf in my bedroom. I haven’t been able to part with it.) When I couldn’t read anything else, I picked up that, and it engaged me. For the short time it took me finish it, it took me outside of my world and into it’s world. It was such a relief to escape for awhile. I still think of it as the first book I was able to read when my dad died. My first step to healing and normalcy.

I don’t have a lot of Young Adult books lying around and I’m not in the mood to search for new ones that good.

So what to do? Visit old friends.

I read a short article in the newspaper yesterday evening about Old World Wisconsin having a Laura Ingalls Wilder week later this month to honor her Little House on the Prairie books. I remembered my Little House books and the yellow cover of the paper backs. I liked how they were all the same color and the same style, except for “Farmer Boy”, which looked a bit different and didn’t have the yellow cover. But that was okay because it was about Almanzo’s life and not Laura’s.

I knew what I had to do.

I went to Amazon and purchased “Little House in the Big Woods”, the first book in the Little House series for my Kindle. I’m not sure if I read it to myself the first time around or if my mom read it to me.  But I read it to myself last night. And for the first time since my mom died, I was transported out of my world into Laura’s world within the dense woods of Wisconsin with Ma and Pa, sister Mary and Jack the dog.  The words were familiar, and I knew the characters immediately. It was like going home, back to a place and time that is as remote to me now as envisioning myself at the age of 50 would have been when I was first reading that book. Time travel at it finest.

I’m looking forward to returning Laura’s world today. I may even download the audio version this afternoon. Cherry Jones is the actress that reads it and I love her acting so I know I’ll love her performance on the audio book. Plus, “Little House in the Big Woods” is only one book of nine in the series. Hopefully, I won’t need to get through all nine to get back to my book friends in the here and now. But if I do, that’s okay. I know I’ll be among friends either way.

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12:30 pm 11/14/17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soon Defined

8:32 am 7/11/17

Yesterday I wrote, “…I don’t know when soon is. The nurses have been saying for days that my mom will die soon. But this soon concept seems to be a bit elusive. Is soon days? Is it weeks? It can’t be months, can it?”

This morning “soon” is defined. My mom passed away yesterday, 6 hours after I wrote those sentiments. It was a bit of surprise as I thought we were looking at days, and I feared we were looking at weeks, but it wasn’t meant to be. Soon came at approximately 6:00 pm, while Dennis and I were driving to see her on the same roads I wrote about yesterday, which is the perfect ending to a very long story. As a writer I couldn’t have scripted it better.

Yesterday morning when I went to see Mom, she was adamant that I not return in the evening. She truly wanted me to go about with my day-to-day life and not “run back and forth” to see her as she put it.

I told her I would be back, because I wanted to check in and make sure that she was okay and didn’t need anything. She regained enough consciousness and energy to tell me that I was so stubborn, and I always had been. I never would listen to she her.

I told her not to scold me as I was just trying to look out for her. She said she’d scold me if she wanted because she was still my mother. She even laughed. So did I. For a few moments we felt normal again.

It was a good-natured scolding, but it also had a strong vein of truth running through it. I am stubborn and so was she. We are cut from the same cloth, as the cliche’ says, and ours has been a challenging relationship throughout my life. I didn’t appreciate her trying to control my life from time I was about 16, and she didn’t appreciate me trying control hers after my father died and she needed help. We loved eachother, but we challenged each other, too, in ways no other human being on this earth could do.

I laughed at her comments, and I agreed with her that I was stubborn. I told her that I would still see her again that night.

But I didn’t.

This morning it occurred to me that she found one last way to get her way. The irony of her passing while I was literally driving to see her isn’t lost on me.

If she’s in a place where she’s aware of what is going on down here on earth, I know she’s chuckling at getting her own way one last time.

I am sad at her passing, of course. And it will take me awhile to process this new world without parents that I’m now living in.

Most of all, though, there is an immense sense of relief and of peace. Our final journey, hers and mine, the one that started almost a month ago when she became sick, the most difficult journey, I think, of either of our lives, is over.

Mom is no longer suffering, physically or emotionally. My responsibility and the dread of not knowing if I was doing the right things for her, is done. For the first time since I was 25 and I had my son, I’m not responsible for another human being. That’s going to take some getting used to.

I went out Chinese food for lunch yesterday. This was the fortune that I received in my fortune cookie. I thought it was very appropriate given the past few weeks.

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And so, as my next journey begins in this new phase of life, I think I will start it by doing just that. Taking a good long rest. It’s been a long summer.

9:33 am 7/11/17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Journey Home

11:-06 am  7/10/17

We’re on day 11 of Mom’s hospice stay. It’s been 15 days since she went into the hospital. It’s been 21 days since she became ill. Not a long time in the overall timeline of one’s life. Yet it feels like this journey has been going on forever, for both me and my mom.

I’m visiting twice a day now. I no longer trust her ability to tell me if she needs something from me or from the nurses via phone calls. So I visit more often. We talk less as she sleeps more, but I watch for signs of distress that she may not be able to communicate to the nurses.

As I drove there early this morning, it occurred to me that there are similarities in the journeys she and I are traveling.

My journey to the hospice takes me through the winding roads of my youth. Literally, the roads of my youth. I start out past the grade school my son attended. I go straight at the subdivision where Roy, a college boyfriend, lived with his parents. I go along the road with the big hill, where my mom used to say it was like we were “going off the end of the earth” every time we travelled it.

I drive past Tina’s farm. Her brothers still own it according to the sign out front. I was only allowed to visit there once because my mom didn’t think I’d be well supervised.

The one time I was there, I had so much fun. Tina’s mom was fun, and always seemed to be laughing. She set up a card table with a tablecloth made of cloth (this was a big deal for me) in their family room and we had canned ravioli for lunch. Just Tina and I. It was cool. Then Tina took me into the barn and showed me my first girlie magazine her brothers had hidden out there. Guess my mom wasn’t all wrong about my visiting the farm. But I never told her about the magazine.

At the end of Tina’s farmland, I turn left on to Amy’s road. We weren’t close friends, but we had fun passing notes to each other in 4th grade until Mrs. Benrude yelled at us in front of the class. We didn’t talk much in person though. I bet we’d be great texting buddies now.

At the end of Amy’s road, I turn right and go past the subdivision where Carrie and Willie lived. Carrie’s dad died in a deer hunting accident when she was young, and she hated deer because of it. She moved to Florida and wrote me letters about having a “green Christmas”.

Willie was a nice boy and a bit shorter than I was in grade school. I used pick him up on the playground during recess. Literally, pick him up off the ground. I stopped when my mother told me it wasn’t ladylike to pick up boys, even if I was strong enough to do it.

A mile or so past Willie’s house is the lake house Kathy’s parents built. I think she still lives there with her family. My family moved away before it was finished so I never did see the inside of it, but it looks pretty cool from the outside.

A few miles further is a stretch of conservancy land dedicated to the memory of Kathy’s mom. Kathy’s mom was young and pretty and she died much too young. She did a lot of crafts with us in Brownies and I remember making corn husk dolls in her kitchen. She sewed fabric strips together for Christmas wreaths that we made for another Brownie project. I still have mine.

A mile from there is a steak house Dennis and I frequented often when we were first married. It’s been closed a lot of years now. There’s a sign outside that says it’s reopening soon. But I don’t know when soon is.

The nurses have been saying for days that my mom will die soon.  But this soon concept seems to be a bit elusive. Is soon days? Is it weeks? It can’t be months, can it?

The hospice is only a few miles from the restaurant that will reopen soon.

Sometimes when I’m visiting mom she tells me of her dreams in short, halting sentences and breathy, slurred words. Of talking to people whose names I remember hearing but who I’ve never met. Dixie, an old neighbor from the 1950’s. Martin and Arlene, her high school friends. She told me once her mother was dead. Her mother died when she was eleven.

Most of the time now she doesn’t say much of anything anymore. Sleep and the memories are more of pull to her now than life, which is a blessing. Mom is traveling her own journey visiting past friends and memories. It’s a little bit like my own physical journey I drive when I visit her.

Neither of us talk much during our journeys.  Even when Dennis is with me when we visit, I’m mostly pre-occupied during the drive there and back and I don’t talk much.

We’re on different journeys, Mom and I. But they are both journeys travelling on parallel paths of sorts. And, I know, eventually, each of our journeys will come to end.

Soon.

11:49 7/10/17

 

 

 

Land of the Free

10:44 am 7/4/17

I’m less than two weeks into my summer solstice resolution to post everyday for six months, I’ve already missed two days. My bad.

I’d intended this blog to be light, with daily goings-on in our little personal zoo of dogs and cats. Maybe post a few pictures of my latest quilt project or a good recipe or two.

Then my mom got sick, and declined rapidly. And although I’ve tried, I just don’t seem to be inclined to write about those things anymore. At least not right now. And I don’t want to constantly post about the long, drawn-out, painful (both emotionally and physically, at least for my mom) process of dying. Or about my views about a country that is supposed to allow it’s citizens the opportunity to live free, but restricts their ability to have an easy,  painless death on their own terms.

See? Not at all the light topics I’d intended.

Not topics suited for a 4th of July holiday with perfect weather such as this one.

So I will keep this one short, although not sweet, I’m afraid.

I hope everyone enjoys the day off, whatever you choose to do with it. I think I’ll take the dogs and hang outside for awhile while Dennis finishes planting the flowers. I think that’s the best we’re going to do this year.

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11:01 am 7/4/17