Monthly Archives: August 2011

Oh, she’s hanging around, all right…

It just seemed logical. For her to watch over me a bit on her journey up, up, up. And I felt her in the birds silence. In crickets, singing their song in the background. In the Cicadas stuttering harmony, stuttering, then still. Stuttering, then still. And especially in the pool, warm and comforting. It cradled me as I floated around by myself in the night, watching the clouds open and close across the star speckled night. Even the backyard foliage seemed to work to give me this space to mourn.

I kept my eyes up to the sky and wondered why I didn’t cry now. Now, when there were no kids to comfort, no phone calls to take, no head to stroke and hug to give in sadness. There was just me. Me and my gulping ache just at the bottom of my throat. So welcome was the water, with the sky as my focus. Crying was the whole reason I ducked into my friend’s pool. So I could just let my own sadness have it’s time. I needed to sob, and to ache, and to contort my face into pain where no one could see. But the tears didn’t come, and I found myself concentrating instead on the stars. I knew they were just points of light. And constellations. And things to count when I was snuggling down to sleep on my lawn during summer, long ago. However to me, this night, they were beloved members of life’s families and friends, watching over us beings still alive.

Maybe she was looking back over her shoulder, I think, as she went further and further on her journey to new things. Maybe she was already there and was looking to see if I could handle her grand-kids with the same patient love as she did. Maybe, and a bit of an angry sob stuck in my throat, she was just floating around somewhere and didn’t care anymore at all. Just part of the universe in a ka-jillion motes of nothing.

That was a secret fear. What if, after all I have been taught and comforted with, she was just really gone? Nothing to look forward to, no reason to look forward to meeting her in another place and time. Just gone? That would mean that I really didn’t have a reason anymore to forgive her for my petty thoughts. My busy life. My assumption that she would just be there in the background. Like these crickets, you know? Chirping beautifully, and adding to my life, but not acknowledging them as a beautiful accompaniment in my life. Enriching whatever setting there is. It would mean that I chose to go into HER background, when I could so easily have stayed engaged in her life. Crap. It’s true, either way.

I felt her here, though, as I wandered through the water. I felt comforted for a few minutes and remembered the same blatant comfort that I felt the first time I met her in her kitchen. In that messy, cluttered, busy kitchen. It was cramped, and well lit. Cows themed that place, and salt n pepper shakers, and miniature spoons from all over the world (a gift from her husband as he wandered from one military assignment to another). Nicknacks abounded and needed a good dusting. It had that country feel of not needing to impress anyone, not even the owners. It was full of bodies and jokes and laughter. And come-on-in-and-leave-your-troubles-at-the-door-ness. It was obviously the heart of the house, and she was the heart of that kitchen.

I remember walking in to it as a new girlfriend to her middle son, in that awkward, stiff way that meant to me, “I am new, and have manners and will not hurt your son while i know him.”, but to her meant, “I got a lotta hurt, and judgements. Just love on me a bit, for as long as I am here.”. And she loved me. Right from the start, and right there in that kitchen. She did about the only thing that would have kept me there. In that kitchen full of teens, and huge dogs running through everything with hair and slobber spraying into the kitchen air, she put me to work. Making food. The kind of food that should never exist in a healthy lifestyle. If she was in the South, she would have put Paula Deene to shame with her fatty, creamy food. From the first mouthful, it was happy goodness. And total indulgence kept me there. So different from the disciplined life that I grew up with. The life of constant repentance for deeds and thoughts not quite pure enough. The life of order and making sense and purpose with a schedule and a routine. And chores and strict manners. (That above all, in my angry, dramatic, teenage view, was what mattered). …That life had no place in this kitchen. Here, I was enough. Just as I was that day, that moment, that instant. And that was a craving I never knew I even had. So I stayed. I stirred and opened cans, and eavesdropped as the chaos of off-color jokes and suggestive retorts blended with some strange feeling of acceptance. I put the slobber and hair and clutter out of my head that day and just reveled in it. In her.

That is what I was experiencing as I drifted along, toes and belly and fingertips sticking out just a bit, and chilly in the night air. The rest of me feeling decidedly luke warm, which was enough. A gentle breeze blew and I went back to my childish view of a dead person sitting on a cloud in their robe of white, strumming a harp and singing a bit in adoring bliss. Then I chuckled. NOPE. That view stopped right there. For one thing, she would never have worn a robe without adornment. Maybe a gold mu-mu with a white cord…. now THAT would have made a statement. Or been fine sitting in one place. Jumping from cloud to cloud, with strays following her as they look back to see if they will get in trouble… that seemed more her style. In addition, that harp would be replaced with an 80’s boom box, stuck on the sappiest song station. She did love music, i thought with a smile, and sang absolutely off-tone. So seemingly tone deaf was she, that she only sang when she thought others were not listening. But then, by darn, it was with gusto. Without reservation, and decidedly feminine. Her 5’11’’ solid frame would delicately reach for the high notes as she swayed along to the music as she washed dishes. Maybe that would be her heaven, I think. Belting it out and loving her voice.

Eventually, I sit at the edge of the pool in the shallow part. I squat with my legs in a sitting position, just my head above the water. I look down through the clear water to my knees, the lining of the pool, and my red toenails. And think of nothing. That’s when the tears come. And the regret for Not Being There Enough. All those things that people must say when a loved one passes away, I said em to myself. Why did I just move on and let the phone calls get shorter and shorter? And less personal and intimate? Why did I feel like I had outgrown her advice, her jokes, her empathy? Because I was an adult now, I thought. I can make my own decisions, and did not need to consult her or any parent. And, I say quietly to myself, because as she got older, and sicker, and less of her boisterous self… I started resenting her. I resented that she chose to keep eating those wonderful meals and snacks even when the doctors said it was making her sick. I got haughty and angry that she didn’t listen, so she must be stupid, or crazy, or just too old to care about me anymore. Otherwise why would she choose to be sick??? I made it about me. Always about me. My tears and sobs let loose as I found how petty and selfish my thoughts were of her. Not that she was a saint or anything. Lots bugged me about her, but these particular thoughts were so one sided!. She loved and loved and loved and loved. Her kids, her in-law additions, her adopted ones, her grand-kids. She loved us the best she could and knew how. Her 100%. Could I say the same? I loved when it was convenient and when I visited. I loved with considerations. And I loved while I gossiped. (that last one hurt the most.) As she got weaker and weaker, my view of her changed. CRAZY!!!!! Even when her mind started doing quirky things, she was still the quick-witted woman that loved me through the crap part of marriage, kids, and life. And the dark and light parts of me. It just hurt too much to see her look and act different. And I resented her for it.

My tears and sobs went on and on and on. Clear fluids leaked from my face to the pool water and I was glad no one was there to see. I was glad the chemicals took it away.

Eventually I focused on the good times I remember we had. Camping. The jokes and hours of playing cards, and sitting on her bed watching TV in her crazy cold room. The looks of anticipation and joy on my kids faces as we drove into her driveway, knowing they would soon be riding the converted riding lawn mower around in her field. And the advice we both shared openly from the ends of our phones, miles away from each other. She was the Wicked Witch of the West. That made me the Wicked Witch of the East (until my new sister-in-law moved to Jersey). She gave me permission to be human. And still loved for it. That was when I knew she was there. Just reminding me that in this instant, this minute, this night, and any night I needed, she could be there. Her memories are there for the taking. Her love is there for the keeping and sharing. That made it a bit easier to get out of that pool, dry off, stick my shoes into my flip flops, and head home. It’s a gift that I can give back to her family now. Some thing I can use to stay close to her with. And when I see my strays, my adopted kids walk through my door and ransack my kitchen….. well, then, I know she is there, too.

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Posted by on August 27, 2011 in Life


A possible concussion, you say? A faint smile, says I…

…. And I will just go get your dad.

Remarkably, it isn’t a concussion that is wrong with son #3. It is a quick case of the dramatic, which the poor boy is genetically prone to. Aaannd… a case of a 6’4″ MAN-CHILD bashing into my son’s chin and esophogus. It is 3rd son’s football practice, and the first one of the season that includes hitting. I am particularly excited that they have included pads in this practice. Whew. I won’t need that AFLAC documentation after all…

In point of fact, my son has shared and been very convincing about the fact that he also has a dislocated hip and a broken kneecap. His little sister is completely convinced that the ambulance should take him away, but his dad walks into the room and down-grades it to “hmmm, drilled you somethin’ fierce, did he?”. My son answers, “Totally! i took the helmut off another guy, though. should have seen his eye!” Grins all around, and cut! End of scene.

Thus, the parental roles are cemented. I am the one to play up to, and his dad is the one to shrug it off. Gotcha. Now I am secure in my duty with him.

MOM: brings him hot chocolate and cucumber salad when he is sad and hurt. ANNDD when dad isn’t around. She is allowed to rub his shoulders, and he is allowed to ask for her to push on that sore muscle on his calf. They have bonded and it is enough. This changes when dad is around, of course. At this time, mom becomes a BIT of an inconvenience… (In a Sean Connery voice, for some reason, the man-child might blurt,”what’re you doin around here, woman? Stop skulking about and get me some wine!”…SCRATCH THE MAN PARTS AND GRUNT…. type of thing, i think…) Situation solved.

DAD: mostly grunts and says one word sentances to the man-child until he is hurt. then, he spouts a gem of a sentance that both sums up and dumbs down the situation, all in one shot. combined with a hard smack on the back, and a few pokes at a joint or muscle, usually in the most painful spot, the situation has been scoped out and identified to both male’s satisfaction. they both go off to watch a show that includes more grunting, scratching, and violence. Situation solved.

As i am smiling and shaking my head, i realize that i can now pass some of the the owwee and boo boos off to others and still get the same result. Bonding. She punts…and….GOAL!!!!!!


Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Life


Happy, Fat, and Full. Seen it? It’s just around the next bend…

HAPPY: Joyful. Not Sad.
FAT: Having enough that you are no longer lacking, to the point of excess.
FULL: Not Needing Anything More in this area.

The elusive state of mind where there are no problems, which means, by default, happiness. Hearts and unicorns, peace and prosperity, a room full of marshmallows to sleep on… whatever the elusive spot of happy goodness is to you, it all looks like something that motivates us to spend more, save more, or wait for our ship to come in.

The problem comes when it all comes in at once. Windfalls. DARN YOUR HIDE!!!!!

My daughter thinks i’m talking about food when i use the term “Happy, Fat, and Full”, but it is usually used in a conversation about money. I have had “Thin times”, where we are scraping by to make it to the end of the month, or the week. And then there are “Fat times”, where we have excess.

And then there are windfalls, which I believe every person has a few times in their lives. Through good or bad circumstances, a heap of Fatness comes our way.

For me, our windfalls have happened 3 times now. The first was when my husband received a large package for getting let go as a result of a merger. And because our mindset was that “we have arrived”, ….. we spent it all. No forthought at all. Even when we were telling each other that we need to slow down, stop, and look to the future, we saw the coolest toy or trip and said, “we will worry about it later”. and boom! we spent our way into an enormous thin time. 2 years, to be exact, of thinness.

I felt like the sad looking guy that had won the lottery 2 years ago and was now homeless and owing 5000 to a card shark named Borris.

Next was a sad windfall when, as a result of an accident that left my husband with 4 surgeries and a brain injury, we received a settlement. it was after 4 years of recovery and heart ache, so there wasn’t a lot of joy in it, but after the bills were paid, a vacation for the family to reconnect, and some put in savings, it was also gone.

This time I just felt empty.

Luckily, we were in a better place physically, and financially now. Husband has had a great many years in his career choice, so when he was let go through yet another merger he has a large network to pull from. This has resulted in the third windfall. He has gone into consulting and it is currently a very FAT AND HAPPY time. Also, we are not in crisis, so we are able to think clearheadedly. My goal is to put money away and save save save save……. still thinking that we will need to even things out when we are in a thin time.

Then, we will be able to ride the storms out without being unhappy. Right?

Ever thought that the ship that’s coming in is simply a daily sail around the shore of life? Not a place, a destination or a goal, but the daily appreciation and love for life as it is?

I guess what i’m noticing here is a pattern. i have been shoring up, and being disappointed when i didn’t have enough finances to recoup the losses, and disappointed when i had too much finances and felt like i was wasting it.

The interesting part to me is this: when i have been Thin in finances, I have been humbled, and noticed the beauty in small things. I have given of my time instead of money and learned to appreciate being on the receiving end. I have acknowledged that i am not in charge of my life and that i can function without funds. A lot of blessings showed up. And thanks to all those who assisted us in time, tenderness, understanding and, of course, funds.

when i am Fat in funds, it is so much easier to take for granted … everything. i can fix … everything…. with flinging money at it, and sometimes that is the last thing someone or something needs for a situation to be truely fixed. I am a bit embarrassed to know that about myself.

So where does this leave me in my goal? my what should i wish for-ness?

How bout just to enjoy the day by day lessons and joy? My windfall is now acknowledged as the day by day happy goodness. A rain storm. A day with friends and family where it doesn’t end with the bedroom doors slammed. A mint chocolate shake from … anywhere. It is no longer a destination, a house, a goal, an amount that gives me the permission to live free. it’s my choice every day. I will be working on appreciating the little things and loving them through the thick and thin. The Fat, and The Thin. I just may enjoy them with crab legs every now and then…

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Posted by on August 17, 2011 in Life


Now I know how a horse may feel…

As it is in the chute of a racing stall.
The anxiety: will this ever start? How long do I need to be in here…alone… Knowing others are on either side of me, just as nervous and raring to go???

I know this because I was just at Rock Bottom Brewery with some friends and, inevitably, used the loo.

First, the checking of the stall for cleanliness and loose debris. Then committing to what I see as the best option only to realize that they are all really the same.

Next, walking into this stall only to find I have to straddle (STRADDLE!) the loo just to fit my body in and shut the door. Backing slightly up, shimmying around so I am facing the right way, and this is the point that I am unsure if I am the horse or the jockey.

I find that the loo is strangely low and I am crouching, with calves practically dug in on either side of the porcelain bowl, knees bent, and torso forward ready to leap out of the gate.

Do I really need to have only inches on either side of my shoulders before I hit metal walls? And will someone be calming me down with a pat on the neck and some soothing words?

The lady in the next stall turns to her cell phone for comfort. The beeping of the buttons and sounds of “Angry Birds” confirms this. The lady on the other side clacks her heels on the tiles, first the left heel (click, click, scuff), then the right (click, click, scuff). It starts again…

FLUSH!!! and the doors fly open! It’s a race to the sinks, the soap dispenser, and finally, the air dryer.

Thank goodness it’s a Dyson supra jet dryer. Zoom!!! I take second place, but know I have done my best.

Bathroom designers here have a sense of humor, and have seen Micky Rooney riding a bale of hay in “The Black Stallion”.

Yet another wonder of loud, crazy restaurants.

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Posted by on August 9, 2011 in Life

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