Christmas with an INFJ and Five Four-legged Hoodlums

December 21, 2018 4:03 PM

I’m not a fan of Christmas. I don’t think of myself as a Scrooge character, per se. It’s not like I begrudge other’s from enjoying the holiday season — whichever holiday it is they choose to celebrate. Christmas and all the hoopla that surrounds it just seems to touch on everything I hate. Here’s a few of the major challenges I face every year.

Socializing. My Myers Briggs personality type is INFJ. The I stands for introverted. (Read more about INFJ in I Always Knew I was an Odd Duck )That means I don’t like large gatherings of people of any kind. I define a large gathering as a guest list with over four in attendance. Unless there are playing cards involved. Then I’m good with six, maybe seven in attendance at the most. Since most Christmas get-togethers involve more than four people and do not involve playing cards, I generally avoid them whenever possible.

Awkward gift-giving. When you give a gift and they don’t – or worse, they give a gift and you don’t. I realized this year that I inadvertently put myself and my neighbor in this position.

My neighbor has dogs. I have dogs. We’ve become a bit friendly in the past couple of years because of our conversations about the dogs — as in are your large, unleashed German Shepards going to eat my small Pomeranian mix? And I’m really sorry my old, cranky Bichon Mix bit your unleashed miniature poodle who wandered into my yard while my dog was leashed.

Seriously. My neighbor is a very nice guy. Who doesn’t leash his dogs. But I like dogs and his dogs are friendly, friendlier than mine are, so it’s all good. Last fall, around early November, I had accumulated a bunch of new toys that my dogs didn’t like for whatever reason. I put them all in a bag and gave them to the neighbor thinking his dogs might like them. Christmas Eve last year, the neighbor showed up with doggie gift boxes for my dogs and, horror of horrors, I had nothing for him. Not so much as a Christmas card (because I don’t send Christmas cards). I was so embarrassed. I’ve been embarrassed for the past year because of my faux pas. I was determined that it wouldn’t happen again this year.

I shopped in early December and bought doggie toys for the neighbor’s dogs. (No, I didn’t buy him three leashes, although I was tempted). I wrapped some of the toys and put bows on the gift boxes. I’ve been ready for him to stop over with his Christmas gift for two weeks. This afternoon, I saw he was outside so I sent Dennis out with the bag of gifts for his dogs. I even put in a Christmas card. (I got several sent to me when I donated to an animal fund).

When Dennis gave the gifts to the neighbor, the neighbor looked at the bag in horror and said, “Oh no, not again this year!”

Oh my God. The neighbor misinterpreted my dumping off gently used dog toys last year as an early Christmas gift! He was reciprocating my used toys with his Christmas gift last year. It’s like the reverse Gift of the Magi. Neither one of us wants to exchange Christmas gifts but we’re doing it anyway.

God, I really hate Christmas. INFJ’s don’t have nearly enough tact or social skills to deal with these kinds of situations. (Doug, if you happen to read this blog, please don’t reciprocate with a gift this year. We’ll call it even and ignore Christmas next year!)

Christmas Cards. I like getting mail as much as the next guy, but then there’s the problem of what to do with the cards I receive. Do I put them on the mantle and let the cats knock them down and the dogs chew the paper? Do I scotch tape them to a door frame and let the cat chew the scotch tape, knock down the cards and have the dogs chew them? It seems like a shame not to display them. And it seems like shame to read them and throw them away. So I end up tucking them away in my bill box for a month until I need the space for all the Christmas bills that are pouring in and I throw them away in February and feel guilty for not enjoying them more. Only an INFJ can feel guilty about a Christmas card.

I did send Christmas cards once upon a time when I still bowed to the social expectations of the holiday. I didn’t enjoy it. I never knew what to say. I always ended up sending them out on the 23rd so most people didn’t get their card before the holiday anyway. Slowly, I parsed down my list to only the really old relatives who would be offended if they didn’t get one. Now those relatives are all dead, so I don’t send out any cards out any more. I know that probably sounds tactless and harsh, but it’s the truth. If you don’t get a Christmas card from me, don’t be offended. Be flattered. You’re not old in my eyes.

Holiday Decorating. This one is probably the greatest bane of my holiday hate-list. I do not like decorating anything. Houses. Christmas Trees. Cookies. Don’t like decorating any of them. Christmas is nothing if not all about the decorating.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a nicely decorated house for Christmas. I just don’t want to do it. And I don’t have a talent for it so when I did do it, it didn’t look very good. Plus, there’s the five four-legged hoodlums that rule the house which would destroy a Christmas tree and, more importantly, make themselves sick from eating stuff they’re not supposed to. One cat eats ribbon, tinsel and bows. Two cats eat plastic. All of them eat yarn. One dog steals whatever is dangling within his reach and eats it. Any Christmas decoration I have has to be something that’s not tempting to eat, chew or climb. That leaves this.

xmas

This is a small ceramic Christmas tree I bought for my mom at a craft fair thirty-two years ago. We unplug it and put it in a cabinet every night so the four-legged hoodlum cats can’t knock it off the table.  There’s also a small fabric Christmas tree on the kitchen table which you can sort of see in the corner of the picture. It’s crooked and bit sad seeing as how I’m not the greatest seamstress. It’s also bare, since a hoodlum cat pulled off all the bows last year, and I had to remove the bells because another hoodlum cat was trying to eat them, but at least it’s something.

Holiday Baking. I like to cook. I do not like to bake. It’s fussy and it requires lots of measuring which means lots of things to wash. However, I do have fond memories of Christmas cookies and do feel that having a few of the standby’s are a necessity for Christmas. So I suck it up and bake Pecan Fingers and Peanut Butter Blossom cookies every year. On a good year I’ll do a roll out sugar cookie and decorate it with colored sugar which is much quicker than going the royal icing route.

One thing I do like about holiday baking is I get to look through the baking section of my recipe books which is something I don’t do very often since I don’t bake very often. It’s like looking through a scrapbook. I have many, many handwritten recipes from my mom, my grandma, my aunt and even a great aunt.

aunt gladys2

My mom baked a batch of cookies for Christmas as a gift for me eleven years ago. My Aunt Gladys made them for me when I was little and I love them. Mom included the original handwritten recipe for the cookies and these pictures. My mom’s handwriting is on the top gift tag. The picture is of my Aunt Gladys (in the middle) my mom when she was fourteen (on the right) and her cousin, Myrtle, (on the left) in downtown Milwaukee. The year is 1943. I love the hairstyles and street car in the background.  The picture on the right is of my Aunt Gladys in her later years in 1975.

 

aunt gladys

This is the original recipe written in my Aunt Gladys’ handwriting. I don’t think I’ve ever made the recipe myself because they’re super putzy.

stangels

My grandma’s original recipe for Stangels, a German cookie with walnuts and meringue on top. Love these and I may get ambitious yet this year and make them. 

almond cookie

Also my grandma’s recipe card for Almond Cookies. They’re hard to make, almost like making a pastry crust with ground almonds. They were my dad’s favorite and I made them a few times for him after my grandma died. Since they’re hard to make and require rolling out the dough to cut them out and decorating, I haven’t made them in years.

 

This year I ran across a cookbook my kindergarten teacher made for my class in 1971. All our mother’s sent in their favorite holiday recipe and the teacher compiled it in a book. I remember we got to draw a picture of ourselves at the bottom of the recipe. My picture is really big. Apparently, I had no problem with self-image at the age of 5.

kinder cook

Dig that funky seventies wallpaper cover! I remember picking that pattern out. I picked it because I liked the pink and orange combination. I still do like pink and orange together.

kinder 2

me

There I am! An artist, I am not, even back then. It’s funny, but I don’t think my mom ever made this recipe. If she did, I don’t remember it. And who puts raisins in Snickerdoodles? C’mon, Mom! 

paul

This one made me sad. Paul was my first best friend and he taught me how to ride a two-wheeler bike. Paul passed away, far too young, around twenty years ago.

Which brings me to my last Christmas complaint. Melancholy. This time of year is a hard one for many people and many people have much more difficult circumstances to over come than I do. They deal with true tragedy — like I’m sure Paul’s family does this time of year. I don’t deal with tragedy. I deal with the passage of time and the losses that inevitably occur because of it. Especially if one is lucky enough, like I have been, to experience the passage of time for the past fifty-two years.

Most of the time I do not struggle with sadness and depression, but the holidays do tend to hit me a bit harder than they used to since my son is grown and moved away and my parents have passed away. Dennis and I were talking about this the other day, and I reminded him that we have to remember we are in the good years of life. We’ve lost some people in our lives, but we are together and healthy and someday, when we’re old and possibly alone because one of us has died, we’ll look back on these Christmases we grumbled about as the “good times.”

Did I mention that INFJ personality types are supposed to the perfect personality to be a counselor? I think I’m missing that aspect of the personality type. All my patients would be suicidal after a couple of sessions with me.

In spite of the parts of Christmas I don’t like, I do very much like seeing my son for the holidays and all the fun and non-social activities that go along with it. I look forward to it all year and I cherish the memories during the following one. That’s the part of Christmas to hang on to.

Tonight is the Winter Solstice. I am a fan of the solstices, winter and summer. It’s a time when I look back on the 6 months from the last one and take measure of where I’m at. Yay or Nay? Yay means things are as good or better than they were six months ago. Nay means they’re worse.

This year’s Winter Solstice? A residing Yay. 2018 is one of the good years.

5:10 PM

 

Making Lists

July 21, 2018 11:01 AM

I’m a big fan of people watching and eavesdropping in on conversations.  It’s honestly not that I’m nosy; I really don’t care how other people live their lives. But I do enjoy watching the interactions people have with each other and I often try to guess the nature of their relationships. They become characters in my own little story. I’ve seen a lot of interesting interactions over the years and I’ve even used some of them as inspiration to write actual stories. I’ve decided to set up a separate category on this blog where I can share the interactions I have observed that have touched me through the years. It’s called “Interesting Folks”. This will be the first entry.

Dennis and I went to the farmer’s market in Waukesha this morning and, afterward, we went to a local restaurant for breakfast. It was peak breakfast time and it was crowded, so we took the only open booth. This booth happened to be across from a booth where a woman, probably in her late thirties, sat with an elderly couple. I assumed they were her parents.

The elderly man sat on one side of the booth, the elderly woman shared the other side with her daughter.  Immediately, I was reminded of going out for a meal with my parents. This was always the seating arrangement for us, too.

The first thing I heard the daughter say, in tone that was slightly too enthusiastic to be entirely genuine, was how nice it was to see them once a week. She got no verbal response from her parents. The father smiled, the mother didn’t react — or she didn’t react enough that I could see it out of my peripheral vision.

There was silence until the daughter brought up an entirely new topic of conversation after twenty seconds or so had passed. She elicited a few words from each with that topic, but no real back and forth conversation ensued.

And so it went for their entire meal. The daughter tried various topics of conversation and the parents responded with a few words before the silence returned and the daughter introduced an entirely new topic. I wondered if the daughter had a list of topics stashed in her purse (like I used to have when I went out for a meal with my mom) where she could “check her phone” and glance at it if the conversation really hit a wall. I remember my mom used to carry a list of topics in her purse when her and my father took my grandma out for a meal.

Don’t get me wrong, the interactions of this family were not at all unpleasant. But they weren’t the effortless chatter that comes from a family that is truly comfortable together, either. I could feel all three of them trying, each parent spoke a little and asked the daughter an occasional question. The daughter was attentive and responsive to both her parents and remained upbeat and enthusiastic throughout the meal. It was the strained dynamic, though, of three people who love each other, but aren’t connected the way they once were and are struggling to find common ground.

As I sat there, I felt the daughter’s struggle; the attempt of an adult child trying to reach out to elderly parents to bridge the gap that has grown from passing years, and diverging lives. I felt the struggle of the parents, too; trying to connect with an adult child with whom there is little in common with now except for shared memories and shared DNA. There was probably a sense of relief for all three, and then a sense of guilt, when the meal was done and they could go their separate ways.

This family reminded me of my experiences with my own parents, especially my mom. After my dad died, I would take her out for a meal two or three times a week. Often, Dennis and my son would join us. Sometimes not. It was difficult to come up with conversation, especially since, if I didn’t see her, I would talk to her everyday on the phone.

Unlike the family next to me, my mom would come armed with her own topics to introduce when the silences fell heavy on the table. She probably had a list in her purse, too. I found a list of topics to discuss with me that my mom made and saved, next to her phone, when I was cleaning out her house.

Cats

Tony

The Americans (one of mom’s favorite shows)

What you made for dinner

I kept it, tucked away in a shoe box, along with her glasses and the small stack of recipes she still used.

Is it sad, that a mother/daughter relationship gets relegated to a list of topics of conversation on a piece of paper? It is. I know it doesn’t happen in all families, but it did in mine. And, I believe based on what I saw today, it does in others, too.

I wanted to reach out to the daughter and tell her I understood the struggle, the responsibility, and the loss, that she was probably feeling. Nothing underscores how far life has taken you from a parent than having to grasp for common ground in which to share.

I was reminded of my mom earlier, today, too, at the farmer’s market. I saw the beautiful bouquets of flowers that were for sale, and it reminded me of the times that I bought one for her. It made me miss her, even though our conversations didn’t come easy in the end.

Was I right about the interactions of this family at the restaurant? Maybe they were acquaintances and not even family at all. I’ll never know, but it doesn’t really matter. They touched me and made me remember my mom, so whatever the true relationship is, they’re a family to me now.

11:59 AM

 

Who Says You Can’t Relive your Childhood?

July 15, 2018 6:35 PM

It’s been one of those days for the past two weeks. Whatever inconvenient, irritating, and unpleasant event that could occur did. None of it was a life-changing event, thankfully, but it hasn’t been the greatest month either.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, this is the around the time my mom died last year. She went into the hospital on June 25th and died July 10th. I handled the one year anniversary, okay, I think. I also know that it did cast a shadow on the last few weeks, which didn’t make them easier.

It all started about three weeks ago when one of my cats got a virus. Which he gave to one of our other cats. Who gave it back to him. On top of this I got sick, too. This caused the New Jersey trip to be cancelled for me and for Dennis, who had to stay home and take care of me.  That meant no testing out the swim spa, no Italian dinners and no uninterrupted writing time in the hotel for me. That also meant no cash back on my non-refundable plane ticket.

In addition to me and my and cats being sick, our appliances got sick, too. First, the hot water heater started leaking. Got that replaced just in time for the washing machine to break. And when I say break, I mean BREAK. As in the water shut off valve didn’t shut off and the washing machine flooded the laundry room, bathroom, hallway and half the kitchen.

flood kitchen

Kitchen during mid-clean-up. The water made it to the fridge. The soda on the counter was rescued from the flooded hall closet.

flood dennis

Dennis mopping up the mess. We have since invested in a wet/dry vac.

It only ran for 10 or 15 minutes before I noticed a pond of water in front of the kitchen sink, but it was enough time for the water to seep through the floor boards into the finished basement where it soaked ceiling tiles and carpet.

ceiling tiles 2

Bulging ceiling tile ready to dump water everywhere.

Unfortunately, the water didn’t impact the stove. It survived. The side counter took a hit, however, when Dennis was moving the stove out so we could dry the floor.

counter

Nothing a little super glue can’t fix.

We eventually got everything cleaned up but we’re now without a washing machine until the middle of this week. Great fun.

In the midst of the chaos, I was on Amazon searching for a book to download when Amazon suggested that I might like to buy some Chuckles. The candy. Remember Chuckles? The soft, chewy fruit candies that are crosses between Jujubee’s and gum drops?

I loved Chuckles as a kid. I didn’t know that they even made them anymore. Why, yes, Amazon. I would like to order Chuckles, thank you very much.

Since I liked Chuckles, Amazon then suggested I might like Brach’s Nougats with bits of gum drops in the them. OHMYGOD! I loved, loved, loved those as a kid! Even more than Chuckles. Yes, of course, Amazon. Send me those, too.

After the nougats, came the suggestion of Brach’s caramel chews. The flavored ones with vanilla, maple, orange and chocolate. Yum! Who doesn’t love those? Bring ’em on, Amazon.

I’m sure you can see where this is heading. Amazon suggested yet another favorite from my youth — although, this was more college years than pre-teen years. Sunkist fruit chews. The soft, gelatinous chews in raspberry, lime (my favorite), and grapefruit. Delectible! I remember driving to college munching those on a way there, listening to Bon Jovi. Gotta have those, too.

Isn’t Amazon’s One-Click ordering a wonderful thing? Okay, maybe it isn’t, but I thought it was at the time and I was in a very good mood when I was done. For the first time that week. And it’s not like I bought everything Amazon suggested. I turned down the Bit-O-Honeys and the Candy buttons (remember those? The dots you picked off the paper and ate. Except I always ended up eating some paper that got stuck on the candies, too).

After my little shopping spree was over I casually mentioned to Dennis over dinner that I ordered some candy from Amazon. I didn’t tell him how much I ordered.

The one downside to ordering candy that is hard to find in stores nowadays, is that it only comes in bulk on Amazon. As in three to five pound bags. At a minimum.  I kind of bought A LOT of candy.

Thanks to the magic of Amazon, three out of my four candies were delivered the next day. When Dennis went to pick up the box I warned him again that I ordered several kinds of candy and that they were all stuffed in one box.

It was a small, unassuming box. Maybe a little larger than a shoe box. But it was a densely packed box that had a fair amount of weight to it Dennis went to pick it up and I heard a distinctive, “oof” when he lifted it followed by a surprised look on his face. I reminded him that I told him I ordered several kinds of candy and three of the four were in that box.

He just nodded and dropped the box on the table with a thud.

I opened it up and it was glorious! I felt like a kid in Willie Wonka (the original with Gene Wilder, of course) who went into the room where everything was edible. All my childhood favorites were there in one sugar-laden, calorie-intensive, mood-altering box. It blasted me right back to my childhood where I was watching Happy Days and eating my allotted three pieces of candy a night.

That’s the good thing about being an adult and dealing with canceling trips, sick animals, and over-flowing appliances. You can eat more than your allotted three pieces of candy in a night.

And I did. For several days in a row. And it made me happy during a week when I wasn’t feeling very happy at all.

I hope that I am still as happy with my impulse purchases a year from now when we’re still working our way through twelve or so pounds of candy.

candy

Three of the four bags that I ordered. I ate the Chuckles first.

7:18  PM

 

Summer Solstice and Vet Visits

June 21st, 2018 2:27 PM

Today is the summer solstice. Last year, I wrote a blog post with several 6-month goals to work toward completing by the winter solstice. I’m not doing that this year.

I’ve haven’t checked back to see what my goals were last year at this time, but I’m sure I didn’t meet them. Life can change on a dime, and it did for me last year around this time. Since I blogged through that difficult time, now I have a written record of what I was doing and feeling on each day. I could look back and remember details I’ve no doubt forgot, but I’m not doing that this year, either.

Okay, maybe I’ll set one goal. It will be to move forward through June and July without looking back. Not realistic. I will move forward through June and July without ruminating on what was. Kinda like I did with Mother’s Day and my mom’s birthday. Acknowledge it’s different, acknowledge it’s part of the life cycle and move on.

Speaking of moving on, the real topic of today’s blog is not the summer solstice, it’s part 2 of my wonderful week without Dennis.

Things always seem to go to crap when Dennis is out of town. One time, I tripped and fell while carrying Frankie, our cat. So as not to land on him, I turned right and landed on my bad shoulder that I dislocated in Mexico a few years ago. Of course, I dislocated it again when I fell. Since I was home alone, I had to figure out how to maneuver it myself to get it back into place.

Last time he was gone, the dogs tripped me when I was coming into the house and I fell again. (Honestly, I rarely fall. It just seems to happen when Dennis is away). Thankfully, nothing was knocked out of joint that time, I was just really sore for a few days.

This time, in addition to my getting sick which I blogged about yesterday, (see the post here) Herbie, our cat, also had a minor health issue and  he had to go to the vet on Wednesday morning.

Dr. Ted, our vet,  is a very nice man. He’s the one who didn’t charge us to diagnose Charlie’s nipple (read about that adventure here). He’s a rather tall man, blonde and extremely gentle and soft-spoken. I’ve taken my animals to him for years and he’s gotten to know me. Probably a little better than he cares to.

About a year ago, I had Frankie on the examining table in his office. I was holding, Dr. Ted was examining and Frankie moved, so I leaned in to restrain him. I leaned in a little too far and my breasts assaulted Dr. Ted’s hand. This was no slight brush of the hand incident. This was a full-on, you-better-be-buying-me-dinner moment. I was mortified, but not as mortified as poor Dr. Ted. That poor man turned seven shades of red. Neither he nor I, ever acknowledged the moment, but I swear he stands a little farther away from me now than he used to.

So today, after examining Herbie, Dr. Ted said I needed to give him medicine. I remember this particular medicine. Herbie has had it before. It’s thick, like wet cement and Herbie hates it. Dennis and I can rarely get him to take it and we go through three doses for every one we get him to eat.

I explained to Dr. Ted and his vet tech that I was home alone until late that night and I asked if they could help me give Herbie the first dose. Being the very nice man that he is, Dr. Ted readily agreed.

Then came the moment of the truth. We looked at each other, Dr. Ted and I, both of us wondering how we were going to manage this. Was he remembering the last time we got in close and personal over an animal? I sure was!

I wanted no chance of a repeat performance so I went for the hind end of Herbie, far, far away from Dr. Ted who was going to give the dose. The vet tech held down his middle torso. Between the three us, it took three tries, but Dr. Ted was able to administer the dose without getting bit by Herbie or enduring another embarrassing moment with me. Another successful Mellem vet visit under his belt. I wonder if he cringes when he sees my name on his schedule?

7AD52072-95FD-4CFA-A31D-1D797AC3DC8A

Herbie chilling out at the vet. He’s a very laid back guy.

So this has been my week, thus far. Not a stellar one, but not the worst I’ve experienced either. And I’m sure that this one may be a bit more entertaining to look back on next year at this time than the last one is.

3:02 PM

My Husband, the TSA Magnet

June 2nd, 2018 11:06 PM

Last Monday,  when we traveled to Las Vegas, I was reminded of how Dennis is a magnate for airport security. It’s been that way for the past 15 years or so.

Dennis’ checked luggage is searched on most flights. Mine has only been searched once during the close to twenty years we’ve been traveling together.

Dennis has been the recipient of countless TSA random searches. I’ve never had one (knock on wood).

When going through customs in Mexico, you press a button to determine if your bag gets searched or not. Red means search. Green means no search. Dennis always gets Red.

I’m convinced all this scrutiny, random or otherwise, is the result of something that Dennis did in an airport during the spring of 2002, before we were married.

This was shortly after the shoe-bombing attempt happened in December of the prior year. Air-travel security was still being redefined after 9/11. Tensions were running high in the airports in general. Many people were still afraid to travel by air, and those who did were often nervous and wary of their fellow passengers. Security was viligant. Very viligiant.

Dennis and I were, once again, traveling to Las Vegas. We had checked in, got our boarding passes and cleared security.  We were early getting to our gate, as we always are.  As we sat there waiting to board, I noticed a lot of security guards milling around. I didn’t think much of it. At first.

Within fifteen minutes, our little gate had at least ten officials — both security guards and police officers. There were a few suited men milling around, as well. They  looked like FBI agents look on TV. People were starting to look nervous, whispering to each other and looking around for something or someone suspicious that would warrant all the security. I was getting nervous, too, as it became clear that whatever or whoever was drawing their interest was in our area.

Little did I know that the culprit was sitting right next to me.

As a group of four sheriff deputies descended upon us, Dennis leaned over and said to me, “I know what I did. Don’t worry, it’ll be okay.”

That was it. The sheriffs politely escorted Dennis away to a closed door room near our gate.

I was astonished. What should I do? Should I call a lawyer? Should I try to follow him inside the room? He couldn’t have done anything that bad, could he?

All these thoughts were going through my head while several gates of waiting passengers were staring at me as if I was part of some evil plot. The older woman and her husband who were sitting next to me changed seats. I tried to be nonchalant as if this sort of thing happened all the time. Nothing to worry about. Nothing at all.

After ten minutes, it was getting close to the time to board, and still no Dennis. What should I do if they start to board the plane? I couldn’t leave without him, could I?

Of course I couldn’t. Not because I am noble, but because I realized that Dennis was holding both our boarding passes.

Another five minutes passed, and I was ready to start hounding the gate agents for information, when I saw Dennis hurrying down the hallway towards me. He was flustered, but he looked unharmed.

Our fellow passengers in gate area didn’t look happy to see him.

What had he done to cause such a ruckus?

He had hid extra cash in his sock and as he was walking to the gate it shifted. While I was in the ladies room, he took off his shoe in the hallway and adjusted his sock. That was it.

Apparently airport security saw him take off his shoe on video and out of an abundance of caution, called for extra security, detained Dennis, checked his shoes and his sock and eventually let him go.

Our flight left a few minutes late that day due to Dennis and we had four very large, very imposing “passengers” that just happened to be seated all around us. I used the quotes because these passengers weren’t waiting for the flight before or during Dennis’ ordeal, nor did they have any carry on luggage. They didn’t read, talk to each other or nap during the flight. They all just sat there, alert. Once we landed in Las Vegas, these passengers didn’t take the tram to the luggage area with the rest of the passengers on the plane. They never did show up at the luggage carousel, either. I am convinced that the airline bumped several passengers to put security on the flight in the seats around us. I have to say, I felt very safe flying on that flight. I don’t think we’ve ever been safer on a plane than we were that day.

I haven’t thought about that story for awhile until we flew out of Milwaukee on Monday. Dennis and I now have TSA precheck, which means we can bypass normal security lines. We don’t have to take out our plastic baggies out to be x-rayed or take off our shoes or belts. It’s almost like traveling pre-9/11 except for getting our bag scanned and walking through a body scanner.

However, two or three times a day, a random bag check is flagged on a precheck TSA passenger. And guess who got flagged? Dennis, of course.

C05422EB-AC04-4CF4-85A0-5C300696DBC4

Here is Dennis waiting for a TSA agent to search his bag. He no longer hides cash in his socks.

Thankfully, this check didn’t require security guards and closed door rooms. Just a quick check of his backpack and we were back on track.

The sock story has become somewhat of a legend in our house and we laugh about it now. But to this day, I still always carry my own boarding pass.

June 2nd, 11:59PM

 

 

The Boss

Friday, May 25th 1:52 PM

It’s an odd thing to watch the obituary column in the newspaper waiting for a name to appear. But that’s what I’ve been doing for several years now.

I was a few days behind on my newspaper reading so this morning I took an hour out and read my back issues.

It was there.

The name I’ve been watching for, but didn’t want to see, was in the Wednesday edition of our local newspaper.

It wasn’t a surprise, of course. This man was 93 years old and had been in failing health for several years. I last saw him six years ago before he entered Assisted Living.

Dennis asked if I wanted to attend his funeral. It’s today. I thought about it briefly and decided I did not for many reasons. That does not mean I am not mourning his loss or remembering the impact he had on my life.

So who was this person; who was he to me? An interesting question that’s surprisingly hard to answer.

He was originally my mom’s boss back in the early sixties. He started a custom home building business and my mom was his secretary. When I was born in 1966, he let her bring me to the office until I was old enough to walk and start making trouble. Then his wife took care of me while my mom worked. I grew up with his children until I was five and they were the closest thing to siblings that I had.

Eventually, in the late sixties my father went to work for him as well. My parents went to Hawaii with him and his wife in the early seventies. We went to their house for dinners. I remember him making grasshopper drinks that I wanted to try but wasn’t allowed since I was only seven or eight at the time.

All through grade school, whenever I was sick my mom would bring me into the office. I’d lay on the couch in the back room and read.

I loved the office. Sometimes I got to go there in summers, too, when I wasn’t sick. I remember playing on the typewriter, the smell of the mimeograph machine and how the papers came out slightly damp. I played with the building contracts that crinkled with carbon paper and smelled inky. I sat at my mom’s desk pretending to answer the phones while his loud booming voice echoed out from his office.

At lunch time, my mom would set out sandwich makings on the table in the back room. The three of us would sit down together and eat. Sometimes the three of us went out to McDonalds. That was a treat.

I worked at the office on and off during high school and college. I suspect he wanted to give me a job and income more than he needed the office help.  I think I learned more about how to succeed in the work world there than I did in college.

My birthday is one day after his wife’s was. My parents were celebrating his wife’s birthday when my mom went into labor with me. I still have several birthday cards that he gave me in which he signed them simply, The Boss.

While he was, of course, the boss, he was so much more. I liked that he chose to sign my birthday cards that way, though. It signified that they were just from him, not from him and his family.

I have many fond memories of The Boss. He drove a big, black Cadillac and I loved riding in it. It was like floating on a cloud. It was the first car that I ever saw that had a climate control thermostat setting. He always wore a gold ring with a black onyx top that had a diamond chip set in it. It clanged the table sometimes when he moved his hand. He taught me how to play cribbage and the strategy of the game at his house one cold night in October of my freshman year of college.

Then something happened between the families – his and mine. To this day, I’m not sure what. I know what my mom told me happened. Maybe that’s all there is to it. Maybe not. In any case, the ties were severed between the Boss’ wife and my parents.

My mom and I still worked for The Boss and there was no animosity between him and my mom or me. My dad hadn’t worked at the office for several years already by then, but there was no animosity between him and The Boss either.

Around that time, one of The Bosses’ sons came to work at the office, too. He was always my favorite of The Bosses’ kids. I had a crush on him when I was little. Our lunches in the office expanded to four. The rift between The Bosses’ wife and my parents was never discussed.

When my son was born, my mom and I split the full-time job at the office. One of us would work at the office and the other would take care of my son. I have fond memories of those days at the office.

Prior to that time, my time with Boss was always shared with my mom. Splitting the shift meant more one on one time with him. It was a turbulent time in my first marriage fraught with a lot of problems with my in-laws. The Boss listened to me and helped me through it. I could talk more easily with him than with my own father.

The Boss was an excellent wood craftsman. He got a wood craft magazine delivered to the office and I would look through it and point out items I’d like. I still have an expertly crafted CD carousel, high chair and cradle that he made for me. In my back yard stands a bird house he made me for my new house in 2004. It’s not just a random bird house, he designed it to look like the one room school-house he attended as a child in northern Wisconsin.

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The one-room schoolhouse The Boss made for me.

The Boss came from very humble beginnings and that he came to own his own company is a testimony to his character. No matter how successful his company was, the worry that he would someday have to go without again never fully left him.

When he was 18, The Boss was badly injured in a work accident and was laid up for nine months. The injury was so severe that he was classified 4F during WWII, something he was very ashamed of at the time. I remember discussing how that injury could have saved his life during one of our lunches. Born in 1925, The Boss would have been one of the first round of Americans to enter the war.

Eventually, my mom retired and I took the job full-time while she took care of my son. The Boss didn’t do anything to acknowledge her 30+ years of working for him on her last day. I know she was very hurt by this. I think The Boss just didn’t know what to do and he was upset that she’d changed their plan of retiring at the same time some day.

I worked full-time for a while at the office, but it wasn’t the same place anymore. The Boss was stepping back, working less days and his son was taking over the business. One day, when The Boss was out of the office, I got into a fight with his son and I quit on the spot. It’s a decision I still regret to this day. Not because I left the job, it was time for me to do that. Because I added to the rift which was already there with The Bosses’ family.

I have never repaired my relationship with the The Bosses’ son. I saw him at the grocery store about ten years ago and I was going to apologize to him but he turned away and made believe he didn’t see me.

What I didn’t consider when I quit (actually, I didn’t consider a lot of things) but the main one was that I would no longer see The Boss. I found that I missed him and our talks. If he was angry about my leaving abruptly he never said so. I did see him occasionally at my parent’s house and he stopped by my house now and then. It was never the same, though.

And so today was the day I’ve been expecting. I learned of The Bosses’ death by reading his obituary in the paper. It was short and it gave some genealogical information on his children and his brothers and sisters. That was it.

I know it’s just an obituary, and that’s what obituaries say, but it struck me as so lacking in the depth and feeling of what this man accomplished and how many lives he touched through his business and his personal life.

So I come back to the question, who was he to me? He was someone very important in my life. He was someone who cared about me and who went out his way for me and took care of me, in his own way.

He was The Boss.

2:57 PM

 

 

 

 

A Snap Shot of Life

May 15, 2018 10:41 am
Last week, I received my notification from Word Press that my blog, One and Done, would renew for another year in June. I was surprised to receive it. It doesn’t seem like a year has gone by already. A lot has happened since then. A lot hasn’t happened since then. A lot of writing that is.

I started One and Done committing to write an hour a day as way to get back into the flow of writing with the intent to finish the rough draft of a book I’ve been working on forever. It was my way to get the creative juices flowing again if you’ll pardon the cliché’. And that did happen for awhile. A few weeks of steady writing. Then a few months of sporadic writing. And lots of months of silence.

And now this. The email reminder. The line in the sand moment, so to speak. Do I renew for another year and invest $38.95 in a promise which didn’t turn out to be as much of a promise as a wish the last time I made it? Or do I cancel it and use the $38.95 to take my husband out to dinner? Admit defeat that writing one hour a day is too daunting of a task?

Admittedly, a life-changing event happened early on in my endeavor that I hadn’t anticipated when I started One and Done and it derailed me. The event caused my world to shift in a way that will never be righted. For a long time, sorting out the event and what my new life looked like seemed to be all I wanted to write about (I’ve got many, many composed entries that I never committed to paper swirling around in my brain from the past year). But I didn’t want this blog to sad and dedicated to loss. I didn’t have a specific theme when I started it (which is a problem), but I knew and I still believe, it’s not meant to be about living in the past. It’s about now. Being present and creative for one hour a day. Can I do that? Do I still want to?

Do I or don’t I hit the renew button? As of last week Tuesday, I decided I don’t. I hit the cancel button and admitted defeat. Not a big deal, right? I’m sure there are more people who give up on blogs than ones who actually stick to them. Not doing a blog doesn’t mean I still can’t write.

Even though I cancelled the blog, I didn’t stop thinking about it. Which I was doing last weekend when I was finally able to bring myself to go through the boxes of old photo’s from my mother’s house. They’ve been sitting in my sewing room in the rec room of the basement in a storage cabinet that I purchased for the purpose of hanging on to the items from my parent’s house that I wanted to keep. They were the last bit of her personal items that I haven’t gone through yet. Probably not the best time timing to do this task – right before my first Mother’s Day without my mother, but I felt like it was the right time.

It wasn’t as hard to do as I anticipated, and I actually enjoyed the memories some of the old snapshots brought back. Some of the people in the pictures I didn’t know, but I wish I did. I wish my mom had jotted just a name on the back of them so I could tie their faces back to an old story or even the family tree I’ve been working on in Ancestory.com

Which gave me an idea. An idea for a theme for my blog. What if I write about one moment that is worth remembering each day? Some moments may be funny, happy, or sad. But they will be my written snapshot of life. As the days race by and meld into years, it would be nice to have a way to go back and remember the ordinary happenstances that make up a life. One day and one hour at a time.

After ruminating on the idea for a few days, this morning I logged into Word Press and clicked the Renew button. I committed the $38.95 for another year. And I’m committing to do better with my posting, too, with a few changes.

While I would like to commit an hour a day to One and Done, realistically, that’s not going to happen for a variety of reasons. Some days, especially weekends, are busy because it’s the time Dennis and I get to spend together the most. Other days are still hard for me with my mom being gone, and I won’t have it in me to write. Excuses? Maybe. But allowing that they’re likely to happen will make it more likely for me to meet my goal.

So I’m changing up the rules a bit. This year, my goal is to post three to four times a week. Maybe more, if I’m on a roll, but not less. I will still keep the one hour format. Once my hour is up, I’m done. I try to stop writing five minutes before the hour so I can spell check, but if I write too long, I hope you’ll forgive the occasional error.

I’m going to change up the name slightly, too. When I started the blog, I named it One and Done with the tagline “Learning to let go one hour at a time”. My intent when I wrote it was referring to letting go of constant revision thus the rule of writing and publishing a post in one hour. However, the tagline proved to be very ironic when my mom died several weeks after I started the blog. Now when I read it, it no longer has the original meaning to me anymore, so the tagline has to go.

The new name of my blog is One and Done 2.0 – A Snapshot of Life. The tagline is now, “Capturing life, one hour at a time”. I’ll hope you’ll join me in my journey as I create the 2018 memory album of our life.
May 15, 2018 11:35 am
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My little buddies hanging out with me while I write.

Saying Goodbye

Published October 13th, 2017

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Published October 13th, 2017

October 10, 2017  10:44 pm

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. This is not due to procrastination, lack of ideas or general laziness. It was an intentional choice. Let me explain.

When I write these random musings, it feels more like writing in a diary or a personal journal than it does writing for an audience. There is no filter. It’s easy to forget that other people will read these words once they get released into Internet-land. I think that’s the case with many bloggers, especially those of us that are attempting to capture the day-to-day events in our lives. Especially when those day-to-day events turn out to be life-altering experiences that will forever change the semblance of what defines normal in our lives.

It’s not that I feel that I have over-shared in these blog posts about what I experienced this summer with my mom passing away. I don’t think I have. But I recognize the danger. The temptation even. There’s a freedom in purging one’s self of all the thoughts and feelings that don’t come easily when words are spoken instead of written. So I put myself on a self-imposed moratorium on blog posts this fall.

The reason for my going silent is simple. I did not and do not want to write about selling my mom and dad’s house until the deal is done. And although there are plenty of other things I could have written about, things I’ve done in the past five weeks, tending to and selling that house has always remained foremost in my mind and it felt weird not to write about it in some manner. Call it an abundance of caution or paranoia or maybe even superstition, but I do not want to put anything out there in Internet-land that could jinx the deal. I’m not even sure what I could write that would do that, but the fear is there all the same.

So even though I am writing this Tuesday night, I will most likely not push the “publish” button until Friday afternoon, when the deal is done.

As you may remember, the disposing of my mom’s household items and the sale of her and my dad’s house has been a priority — actually, more of driving need than just a priority, since the end of July. Part of this is because there is a reverse mortgage on the house, and the bank wants their money. I knew if I took several months to list the house, I’d be listing it in October or November and would likely be taking care of it through the winter until it sold come springtime. But more importantly, selling the house is my symbol of moving on past this difficult, shitty summer, past the grief and the shitty memories I’m still trying to stamp out, past this chapter in life that I’ve always dreaded. None of it can be over until the house is gone.

Well, the house will be gone come Friday afternoon. Tomorrow morning (Wednesday morning) I will go to the title company and sign my half of the paperwork as my mother’s official Personal Representative. Friday afternoon the buyers will sign their half of the paperwork and the house will be theirs.

The selling of this house has been extremely stressful for me. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why. Obviously, there’s the whole trauma of having my mom die and going through all the household items but it was more than that. I was extremely worried that I would do it wrong. I’d make wrong choices. Which is pretty silly considering I’ve bought and sold four houses and the majority of the times I needed to sell one house in order to close on another. That’s a way more stressful scenario than selling my parents house, which has no financial hold over me at all. The bank would like their money sooner rather than later, but if they don’t get it, they don’t. I’m still not financially responsible for the debt.

So why be so stressed about selling the house? I think I finally figured it out. It’s the last thing I will do for my parents to make them proud. I felt the need to get it right. I admit that this is not a rational thought because I don’t honestly believe that they are looking down from the afterlife judging how I’m handling the sale of their house. But if it’s one thing I’ve learned this summer it’s that emotions are not rational or logical beings. They are there and they must run their course. Whether or not they make sense is immaterial. I’ve found it’s easier to go with whatever I’m feeling at the moment than it is to resist. And I needed, really needed, to make the right choices that would make my parents proud of me when selling their house.

I fully recognize that it’s just a house, a thing, and I don’t put much stock in things. It’s just stuff and I’ve never lost sleep over stuff before. Even when I’ve made bad decisions that cost me money — and I’ve made a few of those along the way, that’s for sure. But in this case, it’s my parents stuff, not mine. It’s the place they built, cared for and lived in for thirty-three years. When we moved in my mom said she was never moving again in her life. They were going to have to carry her out of the house feet first. She got her wish.

The sale of this house has been incredibly, mercifully easy. The buyers saw the pictures of the house on MLS and asked to write an offer before it was even listed. My realtor declined, saying they had to at least walk through it.

The buyers walked through the house at 7:30 am on the first day it was listed. It was earlier than my realtor thought they’d be there, and we didn’t even get a chance to turn on all the lights before they saw it. They wrote an offer that day. Through out the process the buyers have been steadfast that this is the house for them. They could have nit-picked problems found during the home inspection (the house is in very good condition but it is 33 years old) but they did not. They have been the dream buyers and I am so very grateful for them. My gratitude for them goes beyond just getting the house sold. I feel like I’m turning the house over to people who truly want it and will love it, unconditionally, as much as my parents did.

Personally, I had mixed feelings about the house, especially at first. I should clarify that statement. I liked the layout of the new house just fine, and I loved my new bedroom, but I wasn’t an enthusiastic proponent of leaving my old neighborhood. Like most kids, I didn’t want to move.

I graduated high school and we moved into the house a week or two later. And even though it’s only about 25 minutes from where I spent my teenage years, it seemed like a long way away. I was worried I’d lose touch with friends, worried that my new boyfriend of a few weeks wouldn’t want to drive that far to see me. There were new roads to learn, new routes to take me to familiar places I’d never had to navigate to before. And this was well before Google maps or even GPS systems. This was hand-drawn maps by my dad territory.

My parents said that since I was graduating high school that everyone would be going their own way anyway and it wouldn’t matter if I moved or not. For the most part they were right. I made new friends at college and I kept in touch with the old friends, too. My new boyfriend drove to see me for the next 3 1/2 years (until he dumped me one rainy Friday night in November). I was back in the old neighborhood every weekend for several years. But, yet, I wasn’t a part of it anymore either. I was visiting but I didn’t live there like everyone else. I lived in the new house twenty five minutes away.

I only lived in that house for five years. I spent most of my college years in that house when I commuted to UW-Whitewater, with the exception of one semester that I lived in a dorm.  I spent many a night creeping into that house well past bar time after hanging out at Denny’s with girlfriends, only to have the crap scared out of me by my mother snapping on the light in the family room where she was still up, sitting in her chair, waiting for me to get home. To say she was livid about the hours I was keeping is an understatement.

There were plenty of fights in that house between my mother and myself. I lived there as a young adult who had all the answers. At least in my opinion I did. Of course, I did not. But I had some of them, or at least the start of them. I lived there during the years that I struggled to carve out my independence from my mom while my mother struggled just as fiercely to hang on to me and try to mold me into who she wanted me to become. A no-win situation for both of us.

I lived in that house until I left home and got married at age 23. But I didn’t move far. My new husband and I bought a house a few miles away and I visited my parents and the house often. Four houses and a different husband later, I still live just a few miles from the house. However, I’ve never spent another night under that roof after I left.

There were happy times in that house. My son spent a lot of time there with my parents. And when I was overwhelmed with how to take care of a baby, that house and my mother, were my haven and my security. She’d help me. She’d know what to do. She take care of him so my husband and I could go out to dinner by ourselves once a week.

Later, when I started working full-time again when my son was almost 2, that house became his second home. My parents took care of him during the days while I worked. As he grew up he had is own room there. With his own stuff. When his dad and I were divorcing, that house, along with my parents, were an important thing that didn’t change in his life. A safe haven in a world upended. A security.

The past six years since my dad died, and my mom lived there alone with Charlie, that house has held so much sadness. Despondency oozes from the walls, and it’s oppressive. It still feels to me as if the grief seeps from the very pores of the wood beams in the ceiling, settling down like a heavy gray fog over the spot where my mom always sat in her chair. The same chair where she used to wait up for me thirty years earlier.

It’s hard for me to be inside the house now with it empty of all my parents belongings. It’s strange, but I still get the clenched feeling deep in my stomach when I pull into the driveway and for a brief millisecond I forget Mom’s gone. I wonder how she’ll be today. Will today be the day that I have to call an ambulance? Or worse?

We’ve been through quite a journey together, that house and I. It was an important part of my and my son’s security at different points in our lives.  It was my duty to take care of it these past few months and find it new owners to take over its care from my parents.

And now it’s someone else’s house and in my world it will be relegated to someplace my parents owned where I used to live for a few years. I’m okay with that.

I went into the house today for the last time. I picked up the last of the cleaning supplies so the new owners could do their final walk-thru before closing on Friday. I looked at the wall where my parents charted my son’s height one last time. I visited my old bedroom one last time and looked at the walk-in closet which has the last remaining remnant of the nauseating purplish-pink color that 17-year-old me thought would be a fantastic color to paint a bedroom. It wasn’t.

closet

I looked at the stenciled borders on the walls that my mom did when my son wasn’t even one year old yet, and I looked at the small twig of a tree that my dad planted by the patio where my mom and my son would enjoy its shade when he played in his kiddie pool. It’s well over 30 feet tall now and it’s a living monument to the passage of time. So. Much. Time.

The tree inside the fence is the twig my father planted 25 years ago.

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I thought about taking Charlie with me today, for that last visit. I decided against it. I thought he might be confused or sad to see the house empty with no furniture. He might run to where my mom’s chair used to be and look for her. I don’t think I could have handled that, so he stayed home while I went and said goodbye to the house on my own.

Goodbye’s are hard, but necessary stepping stones to get to what’s next. And heaven knows, I’m ready for what’s next, that next chapter in life, whatever it may be. I think the house is ready for it’s next chapter, too.

October 10, 2017  11:58 pm  (I left myself run a bit long since I was catching up on five week’s worth of thoughts.)

 

 

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.

IMG_2852

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