Thursday, February 12, 2015

Writing is Like Swiffering Away the Cob Webs

We purchased our current home thirteen years ago.  We live in an age restricted community, what they advertised as Active Adult.    I like living here.
Wow, I think that’s the first time I have admitted that.  Or I should say, the first time that I realized I actually do like living here.  I say that because I have spent the past almost all of those thirteen years wishing we lived somewhere else.  Or up until today, I thought that I wanted to live somewhere else.
Writing does that for me.   When I sit down to write, what I am actually doing is organizing my scattered thoughts so that I can communicate them clearly.   This mindfulness housekeeping that I occasionally feel the compulsion to do is like taking a Swiffer to the dusty unattended corners of my brain.  As I swipe, pushing away the cobwebs,  I may, now and again, find a hidden treasure.
Usually, almost always in fact, I start off  with a specific idea in mind, but then, I seem to end up going down an entirely different path.
For instance, like today.  I wanted, no, I thought I needed to blurt out and bluster about stuff.  Particularly the hard stuff.  Stuff that has been lurking and needling me for the whole of this so far miserable winter.
To explain my AhHa moment, the one where I came to the startling conclusion that I do like living where we live, I must provide a little background information.
We live on the main drag of the complex.  The den, which is where I write, is probably the reason we bought this particular home.  It has two large almost floor to almost ceiling windows which fill the room with plenty of natural light.  The view immediately out of the window is of the sidewalk and the street.
Although, my desk and computer face a wall and my back is to the window, the flutter of a cardinal-red wing or a glimpse of a slicker-yellow sleeve catches my eye and I  frequently find myself turning towards the window.
Just on the other side of the street is what I like to call “the pond”. It’s really a retention, (or is it detention?) basin.   Because it temporarily retains (or does it temporarily detain?) water, the pond can sometimes just be an empty field.  It is in constant flux.  When it is a pond, it attracts ducks, geese, gulls and sometimes even a heron.
The field is home to grazing deer.  There are two wild cats who live in the field.  One is Orange the other is Black.  Their fur is winter thick now.
Yesterday,  as I tried to snap the Orange’s picture, he scurried down the possum’s hole.  How interesting, I thought,  that a possum and a cat share such a space.
I wonder if possums hibernate.
Pines and maples and firs sit on the banks of the pond.    When I walk along the white fence which surrounds the area,  my ears perk up to the calls of jays, the caws of crows and the chirps of little brown wrens.
I like to take my camera when I wander over to the sometimes field, sometimes pond.  It’s quiet and quite peaceful there.   It’s where the sun spectacularly sets in the evening.
So, today, when I sat down to write my prickly piece about what it feels like to live in an age restricted, rule ridden, you can’t have bird feeders on your property community,  I noticed a red headed bird on the feeder (that we’re not supposed to have) just outside of my window.

  As I watched the bird chomping on a sunflower seed, I noticed the Black slinking across the street heading to the field/pond. Our neighbor, who walks with a limp, but always walks every day, no matter what, passed by in his yellow slicker.


Then the clouds began to break up.  Shards of sunlight shone through the ceiling to almost floor length windows brightening up what was supposed to have been a full day of grayness.
And that’s when I had my moment of Zen.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Life and Juno

Life and Juno

Let’s start with life.
Just as we were beginning to settle in for our long winter’s night, after the hustle bustle of the holidays, and just after I forlornly felt sorry for myself, anticipating the boredom of said long winter’s night, Life smacked us across the face with a “What were you thinking?!”
We were hanging out, it was a couple of weeks ago, January 16th to be exact. It was a quiet, peaceful, relaxing kind of day. I was sitting in my cozy knitting chair, knitting, of course.  I don’t remember what Ross was doing.  But I do remember the next few hours quite vividly.
He came out of the kitchen, stood over me and said he didn’t feel right.  He didn’t look right either.
One thing about Ross, he is usually a calm and steady person.   At that moment, he wasn’t either of those.
I could see he was panicking.  I told him to sit.  I tried to get him to regulate his breathing.
He couldn’t.  I asked if he wanted me to call 911.  He shook his head yes.
One thing about me, although I appear on the outside to be a calm and steady person, on the inside I am a web of tightness.   But that day, I surprised myself.  I remained calm inside and out.
The ambulance came pretty quickly.  Although, while we were waiting, it seemed like forever.
As the EMT guys strapped Ross onto the gurney, I told him that I would be right behind him and that he was going to be okay.  And I wasn’t just saying that.  I knew that he would be.
When I walked  into the hospital emergency room lobby, I thought about how different these new emergency rooms are.  I have been in many.  Only one or two times as a patient, but many times as the accompanying person.
This one looked like the lobby of a fancy hotel.  The first thing I noticed was how quiet it was. There was no one yelling, “Nurse! Nurse!”  There was no chaotic commotion.
The fire in the modernist fireplace was warm,  soothing and quite mesmerizing.
I walked up to the desk and told the pleasant young woman why I was there.  She told me to have a seat, while she checked to see if Ross was settled in yet.
What?  Wait a minute.  I’m this guy’s wife.  He was just rushed here in an ambulance.  You want me to take a seat and you will be right with me?
I took a seat.  A seat where I could see her clearly.  Stare at her in fact.  Pick up the phone! Pick up the phone!   She shuffled some papers around.
Oh, one of the other things that I found myself staring at was the revolving door in this Hotel/Emergency room lobby.  There were gift shop items displayed on shelves which were on the inside of the door.  As the door kept going around and around, the hand made knitted items caught my eye and I was distracted for a moment or two.  I would go back and forth, first starting at the Checker lady and then back to the turning door.
Finally, she picked up the phone.  I’m sure it was only a matter of minutes, but it seemed like forever.
A nice volunteer lady escorted me “back”.  As we passed through the set of hospital double doors,  I realized I wasn’t in Oz anymore.  It was like walking onto a movie set.  Lights, camera action!
The chaos, commotion, the old woman screaming for the nurse, this was the real emergency room.
I have to say, the staff was very nice.  Even if they were “sorry we ran out of pillows.”
After we were there for the obligatory six hours, the doctor, who by the way looked like this was his 24th hour on duty, asked Ross for the fourth time to describe why he was brought in.   He also asked Ross for the fourth time if he had a regular Cardiologist.  And Ross told him for the fourth time that he did.  But I guess the fourth time was the charm because Dr. said, “Hey why don’t I give him a call.”
So the diagnosis turned out to be Afib (Arterial Fibrillation).
His symptoms were classic:
  • Palpitations (feelings that your heart is skipping a beat, fluttering, or beating too hard or fast)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness or problems exercising
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Confusion
This was the first time he had ever experienced this.   He was treated in the ER with medication and his heart went back into its natural rhythm.
The ER doc wanted to keep him overnight for observation.  I asked how long it would be before he would be checked into a room.  Doc didn’t know if there were any beds available.  
Ross said, “I know I have a bed waiting for me at home."
Ross signed a release, (his cardiologist was going to see him first thing in the morning) and we went home.
In the next couple of weeks, Ross is scheduled for various heart testing.  
I told him he is going to be okay.  I know he is.
Life. 

Juno, The Worst Snow Storm Blizzard in The History of the World, just wasn’t.






Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Our Christmas Day Hero To The Rescue


For the Record:
The Twenty Fourteen Winter Holidays
Part IV - The Gatherings
December 21 - Domani’s Christmas Pageant 
December 24 - Christmas Eve at Elaine and Al’s
*December 25, 2014 Our Christmas Day Hero
December 26 - The Day After Christmas Christmas Turkey Dinner 
December 26, 27, 28 -  Bella Spends Time With Us
December 28 - The All Get together in Franklin Park
January 1,2 - Jimmy, Tara, Kenny and Ty Stay Over 

*A Christmas Day Hero
December 25, 2014

Ross & I  spent the actual Christmas Day, together, just the two of us.   
So, we figured we might as well get as much of the cooking done ahead of time for the Day After’s gathering as we could.   
Around about 2:00, after spending all of the morning and half of the afternoon in the kitchen, and after I had peeled 5 lbs of potatoes, and the sink was filled with skins, I turned on the garbage disposal.  
The disposal profusely protested with a loud burping noise and the sink began to fill up with a grayish, brownish, mushy mess.   I turned off the disposal and then stubbornly turned it back on.  The disposal sneered at me.  No kidding it did.  
We plunged, I bailed, switched the disposal on and off, on and off.   The drain bubbled and  hiccuped a few times, but the swirling mess would not go down.
By now it was 3:00.  Ross put a call into our plumber - on Christmas Day.  Well, you know how that turned out.   He began to go down the list of phone numbers of the other local guys - on Christmas Day.  Well, you also know how that turned out.  We left messages pleading.  I admit I did exaggerate the number of people we were expecting.  And I kind of fudged the fact that our dinner was for this day and not the next.  But it was Christmas Day.  No responses. 
Then I googled - “emergency plumbing” and found this:

Rooter Man
I called the number and a nice human lady voice answered.  She pleasantly and empathetically said she could have someone out to us within the hour.   
About an hour later, two plumbers showed up and had our sink snaked out by 6:00.  

So for the rest of the night, as we finished up the preparations for the Day after Christmas Christmas Day Dinner, the words to this famous Christmas Carol played over and over in my head:


Call Roto-Rooter, that’s the name, and away go troubles down the drain…Roto-Rooter!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Twenty Fourteen Winter Holidays Part IV - The Six Gatherings - The Second - ET Came Home?

For the Record:
The Twenty Fourteen Winter Holidays
Part IV - The Six Gatherings

 The First:      December 21 - Domani’s Christmas Pageant 
* The Second: December 24 - Christmas Eve at Elaine and Al’s
   The Third:    December 26 - The Day After Christmas Christmas Turkey Dinner
   The Fourth:  December 26, 27, 28 -  Bella Spends Time With Us
   The Fifth:      December 28 - The All Get together in Franklin Park
    The Sixth:      January 1,2 - Jimmy, Tara, Kenny and Ty Stay Over 

* The Second: December 24 — Christmas Eve at Elaine and Al’s
Ray & Pat’s Poinsettias
And
Elaine’s Always Cool & Unique Ornament Gifts

We have been gathering together on Christmas Eve at Al and Elaine’s for quite a few years now.  
When my mom was still with us, the number of gatheree’s was greater, of course.  But, since she passed away, it has mostly been the six of us.  That would be me and Ross, Al and Elaine and Ray and Pat.  
Aside from the obvious fact that we are siblings and siblings in-law, another reason that we have drawn together on that particular evening is, well, quite frankly divorce. 
We all have had at least one other marriage in another life.  This often leads to the quandary of who the kids are going to spend the holidays with. 
Of course adult children with families of their own and whose parents  have had long lasting marriages also face this dilemma.
This year, as the six of us sat down to dinner, we recognized how understanding we all were about the situation.  We let the kids make their decisions and the six of us have decided to be graciously okay with their choices.  
We know that we will see all of our children and grandchildren at some point during the holidays.
So on Christmas Eve we spend a quiet adult evening together.  Actually that doesn’t sound too bad, now does it? :)
Dinner conversation is usually quite lively, with much back and forth banter and a lot of giggles and laughter. 
There is one topic, though, which invariably is a recurring one.  Perhaps that is because of the nature and meaning of Christmas Eve. 
The discussion inevitably turns to our origins.  The “Our” I am referring to in this case is the whole of Us, as in mankind.  Our humanness, in fact. 
Personally, I am open to any and all possibilities.  After all there are many questions with no answers, so why not consider all and any.  
The scientists among our group are also receptive to all theories, scientifically speaking that is.
And then there is that one opinion put forth which makes us all want to talk at once.  
I’m not quite sure I can do this one justice by trying to describe the whole idea because it certainly is unique and might even be beyond my open minded galactic consideration.
But suffice it say that my one sibling’s speculation of how “we” got here goes beyond “Our” own seemingly insular earthly planet. 
Since, we don’t get to see each other that often, there is the catching each other up conversations.  What our kids are up to.   Where we’ve been.  There are reminiscences of past Christmases and fond (and maybe some not so fond) recollections of child hood memories.
So these Christmas Eve celebrations have become a memorable familial tradition for the six of us. 
And, since the future is one of those unknowns,  I’m going to go with the possibility that we will gather again next Christmas eve at Al and Elaine’s. 
Barring any Pod kidnappings, that is.  :)




Thursday, January 8, 2015

For the Record: The Twenty Fourteen Winter Holidays Part IV - The First of Six Gatherings - Domani’s Pageant

For the Record:
The Twenty Fourteen Winter Holidays
Part IV - The Six Gatherings
         The First:      December 21 - Domani’s Christmas Pageant
         The Second: December 24 - Christmas Eve at Elaine and Al’s
         The Third:    December 26 - The Day After Christmas Christmas Turkey Dinner
         The Fourth:  December 26, 27, 28 -  Bella Spends Time With Us
         The Fifth:      December 28 - The All Get together in Franklin Park
         The Sixth:      January 1,2 - Jimmy, Tara, Kenny and Ty Stay Over 

The First:
December 21 - Domani in the Christmas Pageant

"Just wanted to let you know that Domani will be in our Church's Christmas Pageant next Sunday, December 21. It's also a week when the Praise Band will be playing so Karen, Chris and I will be singing/playing too. The service starts at 11am if you are interested in coming. Domani is very excited and has been practicing his songs for weeks!

When I got this e-mail from Anne I remember thinking, “Aww how cute.”  Of course we wanted to attend.  
We were running a little late that day.  Most of the congregation were already in their seats when we got to the church.  Anne was standing near the front of the church looking out for us.  She waved us to the front.  She had saved us a seat in the first row.  As we filed into the pew, Domani spotted us and greeted us with a big smile and a not so subtle stage whisper, “Grandma! Pop-pop!”  
And he was very excited.  His four year old body was in constant motion.  Once the music started, I could only hear bits and pieces of what he wanted to let me know.  By the serious look on his face, I imagined that what he was saying was very important. 
Soon it was time for him to join the rest of the children to begin the pageant. 
The production was quite impressive.  There were songs, and readings along with props and costume changes right before our very eyes.  
Although, I have to admit, my eyes were pretty much on Domani most of the time.  He did not disappoint.  His interpretation of how to use some of the props was quite unique. 
After the service Ross and I, Anne and Domani and Grandpa Ken went to lunch at the Jamesburg Diner. 
As I look back on this day, I remember a feeling of taking a slow deep breath. Ahhh.  It was a much needed respite away from the hectic and frenetic stress that has disturbingly become standard during these Winter Holidays.





Domani is the healing salve softening the jagged edges of my heart.

Angelic Domani

Monday, January 5, 2015

For the Record: The Twenty Fourteen Winter Holidays Part III To Tree or Not To Tree

For the Record:
The Twenty Fourteen Winter Holidays
Part III
Peace and Hope

You know, for the past several years I have not exactly been in the mood…for anything actually.  
But in particular the holidays…any holiday.  But specifically, the Winter Holidays. 
For the past several years, each time I would get a holiday greeting card in the mail, I would sigh and think about how I just didn’t have the energy to send out cards.  I wasn’t in the mood.  
For the past several years, around about sometime after Thanksgiving, I would start mentioning to everyone that ,”I am NOT decorating AND for sure I am NOT putting up a tree this year.”  
For the past several years though, I would eventually put the tree up.  One year I decided to get a  white tree. Perhaps, I thought,  a silly, whimsical, white, tree would make things different and easier.  It didn’t.
I have a collection of Hallmark ornaments, ornaments that the kids have given me over the years, ornaments that I have hand crafted, odds and ends ornaments that I would pick up here or there.   
For the past several years,  the boxes of decorations seemed to get heavier and more difficult to haul down from the garage shelves.  It took more energy to carry them into the house.  One year I fell off the ladder and thought to myself, “of course you fell.”   
For the past several years, as I took the ornaments out of the cartons, one by one,  I would look at each of them before hanging them on the tree.  As the boxes emptied and got lighter, my heart became heavier,  bearing the load of  melancholic memories.
I have a box that I keep my Christmas cards and Christmas card list in.  It’s stored on a shelf in the spare bedroom closet. 
For the past several years, I would think about sending out cards, but then I would think ,“Oh well it’s too much trouble to get the box down.”  And anyway, by the time I thought about sending out cards, it was probably already too late.
Then there was this year.  For many weeks before the Winter Holidays, I attended and participated in a bereavement group.  Naturally, a major topic and concern was how we were going to be able to “get through” the holidays.  Some of us, like me, were “just not in the mood”.  We couldn’t face writing out cards, decorating the house or putting up the tree. 
But then there were the others.   They wanted to do all of it.  They loved every part of the holidays, the music, the baking, the gatherings and especially the decorations.  
I was curious. So I asked  Why was it different for them?  
“I like to have my things around me because they’re pretty,” one told me.   
“I love to be creative,” said another. 
Someone else revealed that “Baking my grandma’s recipes makes me think of her.”  
“I appreciate the beauty of all it.”  They all nodded at each other in agreement. 
At that moment it was as if the fog that had surrounded me for the past several years lifted and I could suddenly see more clearly.   
As I drove home from the meeting that afternoon, I realized that I could change the way I viewed the holidays.  
After all, I like pretty things.  I can be creative.  
This year, as the cards stated to arrive in the mail, I thought about each one of the senders.  Those loved ones who had always been there for me.  I realized that I wanted them to know that I was thinking about them too. 
So, I dragged a chair over to the closet, reached in and pulled the box down.  When I looked through the book that I keep the card list in, I was astonished to see that I had not sent any cards since 2010.
Even though it was the Monday before Christmas, I sat and wrote out our cards.  I wished each recipient a “Peaceful Holiday and a Hope Filled New Year.”
This year the boxes that the decorations were stored in didn’t seem as heavy as they did in the past several years.  I easily lifted them off the shelves and carried them into the house with little effort.  
This year as I took the ornaments out of the cartons, one by one,  I looked at each of them before hanging them on the tree.  As the boxes emptied, my heart lightened with fond memories of all the years past. 
This Year’s Favorite Ornament 

Friday, January 2, 2015

For The Record: The Twenty Fourteen Winter Holidays Part II - The Toys Are Us Story

For the Record:
The Twenty Fourteen Winter Holidays
Part II
Shopping and The Toys R Us Story

Thanksgiving fell on the 27th this year, which is, by the way, very late.
 Weeks before Thanksgiving, Kohls was sending everyone a 30% off coupon,  Macy’s was running their  “One Day Only” sales,  and we were getting 4 or 5 catalogues a day in the mail from various other stores.  And don’t get me started on the number of e-mails I had to delete, every day.  E-mails touting this special sale, that great bargain and free shipping when you spend $75 or more.  That last part was usually in small print.    But, despite all of the overt efforts to get me shop,  I never think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving. 
Last year Thanksgiving was on the 22nd.  That meant that this year, for those of us who wait until after Thanksgiving before we move onto Christmas,  we had five less days to prepare. 
Last year cyber Monday was on the 25th of November.   This year it was on December 1, for pete’s sake.  
Last year I actually did most of my shopping online.  But this year, psychologically, my brain was saying, “It’s December already.  It’s too late to buy online!” 
I remember way back when.  Ross and I would pick a day, a whole day just to shop for Christmas presents.  One day and we would get it all done.   We would start early in the morning.  After a few hours we would stop for a late breakfast.  Then out again.  We could go, go, go. 
Yes, that was way back when. 
Fast forward about a dozen years to present day.  We didn’t get out quite as early as we used to.  By the time we did get out, it was time for lunch.  Admittedly, an early lunch, but, none the less, it was past noon.  
This incident which I am about to describe is an accurate indication of my general shopping mood this year. 
First let me preface this by saying that I think of myself as a pretty mild mannered person.  I don’t like confrontations.  I generally smile at my fellow shoppers as I hold the door for them.  I say excuse me if I want to pass by someone.  You get the picture.
Oh, one more preface.  Something you should also know is that I have always hated shopping in Toys R Us.  
So, anyhow, this one particular day we were in Toys R Us.  By We, I mean Ross and I,  along with young parents, and their “Mommy, MomMEE, daddy, daDEE, I want that, I want that, why can’t I have that” overexcited, because they were in Toys R Us, children.   
 Ross and I  sort of had a list to work from.  But since we no longer have little kids around on a daily basis, we are not up to date on what a “ Funko Pop Vinyl Superhero Figure”
 is or where the Minecraft section might be.  After wandering aimlessly around for what seemed to be hours, (well okay, maybe 10 minutes), Ross flagged down a Toys R Us Red Shirt guy as he was running by.  Ross asked Red Shirt for help and told him what we were looking for.   Red Shirt waved his hand in a sweeping gesture and vaguely pointed and said “over there”.  

“Oh,” he said , as he ran off, apparently having some sort of Red Shirt emergency to tend to, “If you don’t find it “over there” check at the desk. They will be able to help you.”
Well, we went to what we thought he meant by “over there”.  Not a Funko Pop to be found.
We cruised the aisles one last time before we finally gave up to go stand in the long line at the courtesy desk.  At that point I was ready to completely give up.  
“Let’s just go,” I said. 
Ross, who is more patient than I am, was confident that the “desk” people were much more informed than the Red Shirt floor personnel.   They would be able to help us.
Well, it was finally our turn at the “desk”.  
“We are looking for “Funko Pop Vinyl Superhero Figures,” Ross said. 
The young women stared at us with a blank look on her face and shrugged.  
“Did you try over there”? She asked, as she waved her hand in a sweeping gesture and vaguely pointed. 
I stared at her.  Why was she looking at us as if we were speaking a foreign language?  Why was she not efficiently clicking on the computer, checking their data base to find Funko Pop Vinyl Superhero Figures? That’s when I lost it.  In a harsh stage whisper, through clenched teeth, I said to Ross, “LET’S GO!”
Well you have to understand, for me, that’s losing it.  That “Let’s go” meant so much more. 
It meant, I’m tired.  It meant my feet hurt.  It meant “why can’t anyone get good help anymore?”
It meant, “You better find us a Funko Pop Vinyl Superhero Figure” right now!  
Ross, oh patient Ross, handed the young woman the print out we had brought with us.  He pointed to the line that read “Funko Pop Vinyl Superhero Figures”.  “ That’s what we are looking for,” he said. 
She sighed, turned around clicked on the computer, turned back to us and said, “Sorry we don’t carry them.”
Yep, that’s what happens when Thanksgiving is very very late. 




By the way we found a varied and plentiful selection of Funko Pop Super Hero Figures at the quiet Barnes and Noble around the corner from Toys R Us.