Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Midsummer Night's Dream

One of my coworkers came in and asked me "If my daughter was cast as Nick Bottom in "Midsummer," ... is that a good thing?"

I almost burst into tears.   Yes, for the record it is a good thing. A very good thing.  Standing in the office kitchen, I was instantly transported back to hot summer days in grassy fields in 2007 when Jess first did Rebel Shakespeare, and that was her first role ever (well, aside from the magic fish in kindergarten).

My co-worker had no idea what the play was about, and so I gave him a synopsis that I had written for parents the second time Jess did it, in High School (2009?) When she was cast as Quince instead of Bottom.

Needless to say, she crushed both roles but ... Bottom was written for her. For her loudness, over-the-topness, over-actingness, for her wonderfulness.

I miss this. I miss working with the high school kids. I miss Shakespeare and summer time. I miss multiple productions touring across the area. I miss my daughter being this person, not that she isn't this person - she will always be who she is but, I oh my gosh I really really loved this phase of her.

Nine years. It is so weird, so long. Yet so short a time. So much has changed in our lives since this wonderful summer. I have a hard time wrapping my head around it.

 I look at all these kids, like Titania there with Bottom. She lives in California now. Demetrius now has his masters degree in composition from Tisch at NYU and is in a cappella groups.  The girl who played Peter Quince, she's living not too far from me with her boyfriend, and her smiling face lights up my Facebook feed.  A lot of the other kids, I have no idea where they are but I am still in touch with their parents.

Wondering just how creepy it would be to go show up at my co-worker's kids' school to see the play. is a photo gallery of this performance.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Electric Hand Saws and Safety

We had ordered two cords of wood this year for the wood stove. Our supplier usually sends us short wood, since our wood stove is kind of small. For some reason, we got a lot more pieces that are just too big for the stove.

I decided we needed an electric handheld saw that could be used safely indoors, and so now Doug is having a field day cutting pieces of wood down to size to fit into the fire.

Geoff came down while I was taking the tool out of the box, and evaluated the equipment. He looked around a little bit and said "You did buy safety goggles to use while operating this equipment, didn't you?"

Well, to be honest, I thought about it but I didn't actually buy any. Geoff was a little shocked. Doug told me that he has shatterproof eyeglasses so he isn't worried about goggles.

Geoff declared that neither he nor I could use the handsaw without goggles on.

Guess that EMT training pays off in his being super safe. Or he finally is aware of all that Scout training he received is clicking.

Don't tell him but I used it without goggles. And felt guilty. Because I know better.

Today he is taking the first of two licensing tests, it is a practical  test - hands on, hard stuff. He has to know it all inside out. He then has to take a written test. And then he is fully licensed. So fingers are crossed (and safe, far away from electric saws), and hopes that he'll pass and it'll all be great.

Monday, December 28, 2015

For Christmas

Early in December Geoff casually asked me what my favorite scent was in a candle.

"Why do you ask..." I knew exactly why. "Are you going Christmas shopping?"  Immediately I envisioned the horror and chaos of him trying to negotiate a busy shopping center parking log during the holiday season. I started to sweat and panic.

"Well, maybe. I might head over to K-mart, maybe," he answered.

Whew. Well that's a relief. If he's going over to the K-mart, there's hardly anyone ever there, they have a huge side lot near the gym he goes to that he can park his car in and be away from all other vehicles and pedestrians.

I relaxed and stopped seeing visions of him crashing into everything and scraping cars while trying to squeeze the jeep into parking spots. I told him I like things like pine and cranberry and cinnamon... It is easier to say what I don't like, such as vanillas and tropical fruit.

Doug came in the other day with a huge grin on his face and said, "I think I found Geoff's secret stash of things he bought us for Christmas. There's a trash barrel for the kitchen, and a rake, and some candles and a picture."

And indeed, that is exactly what Geoff got for us.

He bought a small trash barrel for our kitchen. We keep our trash up on the counter by the sink because otherwise the dog eats out of it and pulls it over. The one we had was falling apart, and tilting sideways. So he got a nice tall, thin, sturdy one for us. And he got Doug a rake because our rake was kind of crummy and missing "teeth," as he calls them.

I asked Doug if we failed at modeling good gift giving skills for the boy, or if we raised someone utilitarian and practical. If he got us a trash barrel and a rake, how strange is that?

And he indeed bought me cranberry votive candles, and printed a picture of himself and our dog Jack from 2 summers ago.  It warmed my heart that he thought to do that, and that he remembered me saying how much I love the picture. And that I didn't only get a trash barrel for the kitchen.

He told me he purchased the frame at K-mart and printed the picture off his phone at the library. The print out is horrible, the tape job on the back is a wreck. The frame is weird and square, but the picture fits in just fine.

All told that's one of the nicest gifts I've ever gotten from anyone.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

We come from the land of the ice and snow...

In October we found out that our holiday party theme would be Scandinavia.

Now, I have a soft spot in my heart for all things Denmark (for reasons I'll save) and over the years I've learned a lot about traditions in the Nordic lands. So I volunteered to help out (aka, run the whole shebang because I like to throw a good party) to make us have a rather unique and authentic Scandinavian "Jul" festivus.

Initially I'd asked my girl Jo if she could cater, but she was super booked and she referred me to some friends. There is a committee of people in the office who work on these things and initially I overstepped by being too enthusiastic. So right off the bat I pissed a couple of people off. I backed off and let them pick another caterer (I think my referral would have been just awesome but, I digress).

I'm not unhappy with what we're getting. We got a good deal on a caterer through one of the people on the committee who has a friend who was willing to hook us up for under $700 for the main dishes. A baked ham in mustard sauce, double roasted potatoes, chicken with a lingonberry sauce, mac and cheese for the kids, some green stuff and a veggie lasagna for people who can't eat meat or whatever.

I volunteered to make Swedish Meatballs (thank you Alton Brown for the very simple and easy recipe!) and Glogg (spiced wine).  I went to a European Market in Peabody MA and got hooked up with salmon, roe, cheeses, sausages, lingonberry and cloudberry preserves, elderflower and lingonberry concentrate for cocktails.

One of the most beautiful things was when I came into the office last week with all the supplies that I'd bought at the European Market, one of my co-workers just burst into tears as I unpacked the stuff and began arranging it on the counter. She spent a year abroad in Germany and while Germany isn't Scandinavia, there is a lot of cultural overlap. The cheese, the rye crackers, the little sausages, more cheese.... it all kind of flooded back to her, how well cared for she was that first Christmas really far away from home. I didn't anticipate that anyone would be moved by a box of marzipan.

I printed dozens of templates for snowflakes and encouraged my co-workers to sit in the kitchen and cut them out. As evidenced here, they picked up scissors and cut out bad ass snowflakes.

We are stringing them up on tooth floss and hanging them from the beams.

I bought 4 strings of lights and other people brought even more in. I wanted our kitchen to look, and I laugh, like a snowy sweet little fairy tale or something. I wanted the concept of 'hygge' of which there isn't an English equivalent but to me it invokes a cozy and safe feeling amongst your family and friends.

I went to a little store down the south shore that sells all Swedish and Nordic goods, and bought a lovely assortment of decorations for the event. So many halla horses and Julboks. So many.

I'm going to hook the Apple Play monitor up with a video of a Yule Log burning. The lights, the little decorations, the snowflakes, the food, the booze.

I think it looks slightly amateur but also incredibly delightful (pictures to come, of course).

And above everything, I think it looks honest.

We set up a yankee swap (which I renamed Viking Pillage) and an ugly sweater contest. I actually bought myself an ugly sweater. And I cannot wait to wear it.

Tonight, I find myself building a Holiday playlist in Spotify with requests from people from my office and an over-helping of Barenaked for the Holidays, of course. Natch.

My Glogg simmers on the stove and my house smells like a sweet, sticky and strange place, filled with cardamom and wine and oranges and cloves.

Last year at this time I was baking a shit-ton of Caribbean Black Cake thinking I'd win a contest that someone would actually judge. This year? I think I've contributed quite a bit.  And while there are so many things I could have done earlier, I will be in bed before midnight this year for sure.

My husband cannot come to the party, he had gotten hornswaggled into something with our church tomorrow night. So I'm hoping I don't drink too much Aquavit and can't get myself home.  I will miss him. And I think he would love our Julfest party. I'm sad he will not be with us.

So here's what's on the agenda tomorrow:


Appetizers: three cheeses from Denmark, Sweden and Norway (goat cheese, so good). Rye crackers and plain crackers, a Swedish bread with orange tinge and cardamom, lingonberry preserves, cloudberry preserves, roe (fish eggs), Norwegian Salmon, pork and potato sausages (to be steamed in my bamboo steamer over my fondue pot, of course).

Main course: Ham, prepared Scandinavian style with a mustard and breadcrumb crust, mustard sauce, Chicken pot pie with a lingonberry sauce, beets, spinach salad with goat cheese and berries, some veggie lasagna, roasted potatoes, mac and cheese for the littles.

Cocktails: I have the Glogg (I hope it tastes as nice as it smells?) We have that bottle of Gammel Dansk that the Danes brought when they visited last year and will challenge anyone to drink it. Aquavit instead of Vodka.  I have 2 recipes for cocktails that mix the Aquavit or the bottle of Gin that I bought at a local distillery in Everett (with cardamom, lavender) that mixes either Lingonberry or Elderflower concentrate with one of the two alcohols, with a splash of soda water. I can also make non-alcoholic versions with just the soda water and the concentrate. I think I need to get sprigs of rosemary and make lemon twists up. We also have Danish and Norwegian beers.

I promised myself bed before midnight, so I ought to get to that. I just realized that I do not have a present for the Viking Pillage (oh noo!) so I may have to run into CVS tomorrow morning.

Here we go.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

No Small Task

A friend of mine was selling a couch. He moved into a condo closer to the city and when the movers brought his couch it didn't fit in any of the rooms. 96 inches long.

We measured our space and it would more than fit, we'd have another foot and a half beyond the end.

So I decided I'd buy it.

We rented a U-haul van near his house and went over to pick it up. Thankfully, it is a light-weight couch from Bob's Discount Furniture and not a sleeper sofa from Jordan's or something.

Doug and I managed to get it down the stairs successfully and into the van.

We came home and Doug, like a bull in a china shop, started pushing things around to get the gross old dead couch (missing a cushion, beat up over the years of use, we were the third family to own it),  out of the living room.

I scrambled to move the rug and pick things up that were flying all over the place. He gets like this. This "DO ALL THE THINGS!" kind of spirit, like when he painted 3/4 of our living room walls a few weeks back (wall 4 will e painted when we pic an accent color, as it is the wall where the TV is...)

But we can't get the couch out of the room.

He has no recollection of how he, Geoff and Thane got the couch in here in the first place.

We sat on the cushion-less old couch (those cushions had been thrown into the yard in his efforts of fastness) and he tried to recall how the couch got here.

He realized it probably came in through the back porch.

The back porch: Where boxes and things we didn't exactly need or want to move to the attic just ... landed. In August 2013. when we moved in.

More things have moved in there since the big move-in. So it is kind of a mess. Ugh.

And now I need to kind of make it so we can get out that way, since we cannot go out the other way.

It is a project I've been meaning to do forever. And every time I look at it I groan. You've got to be joking me. This mess? Ughhhhhhhhhhh.

Can I put more Hs on that. Ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.hhhh

Last night we did some organizing and got the couch out of the van so we could return the van (which we are going to do after we watch some football.

But I gotta get out there before Mister Bull In A China Shop does and he just makes an even bigger mess out of the situation.

God help me.

I feel like I need to take a day off of work this week to do this. Let Doug and Jess head into the city and I'll stay here and crank up the tunes and just clean up.

In the meantime, dead couch is in the kitchen.

We have another couch in the living room that Doug wants to put in the front room. I'd rather have Jess take it and be done with it. When we bought our last house the previous owner left it for us since we'd have more than one room in the house that could be used as a living room and he thought we could use it. But ... It's gotta be like 20 something years old at this rate and for the past 10 we've sat the hell out of it.

We got an accent chair with the couch purchase so Doug is perched in that.

In fact, here is a picture of Liz's dog trying to get comfy in it so she can look out the window and watch for mom.

Apologies for the floor - That's not a real priority for my landlord but this room would be so nice with  beautifully refinished floors. The exposed area there is where the old couch was, and the new couch will be.

Hopefully soon.

And it just goes to show with out lives. A small thing turns into a giant super unbelievable thing. And it is complicated when all you wanted was something small and simple. A couch. that's it. But now I gotta do a billion things.

No wonder I'm so dang tired all the time.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Weenie Quartet at Weenie Hut Junior II

Jess and her friends are getting an apartment together. I refer to the friends, lovingly, as "The Weenies." It kind of stemmed from an episode of Sponge Bob Square Pants about "Weenie Hut," and I referred to their (the 3 friends) place as such. "So, you going over to the Weenie Hut today? Hang out with the Weenies?"

And then, the nickname just stuck.

The lease on the Weenie Hut ran out at the end of September. They had been actively looking for a new place but had not yet found one. The landlord didn't want to renew on a month-by-month,  so they moved out, with no particular place to go really.

One friend, Liz, came to stay with us with her big giant dog, Capri. The other 2, Sarah and Eric, have been bouncing back and forth between their parents' places.   They actively were seeing a place, and I was finding things on Craigslist and a Realtor friend of mine was pulling listings. Things were either getting rented before they could call or they were out of their price range, or, there were issues.

They ran into the usual "we do not want to rent to people like you (meaning 23/24 year olds), thanks." They encountered the "oh, you have a dog? No dogs. Thanks." They also ran into "this  is perfect but it is too expensive for us," and the alternative "this neighborhood seems a little too stabby for my liking" when things were in their price range.

I was beginning to think we'd have Liz for the winter because there aren't many rentals to be found for December move ins. And Doug and I were okay with that. Sarah and Eric really needed to find a place.  He kept bringing them to horrible apartments in complexes and in really dangerous neighborhoods just saying "this one is great! Let's get it!" But Jess and the other 2 girls weren't convinced. He was getting frustrated and they felt he was pushing them into less than ideal options just to get in a place.

But they found a place two weeks ago and signed the lease last Saturday. After all the "out of our range/too stabby/no dogs allowed places," they secured an apartment in a multi-family house about 20 minutes from us in a decent neighborhood. Convenient for Eric and Liz to get to work, a bus that can get Jess to the train station (which is only 3 miles away), dogs allowed (after negotiation). Because of Liz' work schedule, she gets home at 5:30 or 6 in the morning, so easily she could give Jess a lift to the train.

All told, it looks just right.

Keys are in hand and the kids have been there painting since Monday because carpeting gets put down today.

Geoff offered to help move. Which I thought was very sweet of him.

In all of this, I'm weirdly unemotional, as is Jess. I ask her if she's excited and she shrugs her shoulders or gets defensive about me asking questions.  Jess is probably best suited to live alone because she is really introverted at times and retreats. She would retreat from us by going to hang out for days at a time at the original Weenie Hut, and then retreat from them and come stay with us. So in the best of all worlds her own place would be ideal but affording that, even with making really decent money, isn't a reality right now. I'm interested in seeing how this all pans out. I especially want her to be happy.

She said she's not in a hurry to actually move in yet, that she wants to paint her room, get organized, purge and purchase. Make a new nest all of her own instead of the things she's had for ... 18 years or so.  I think I'm going to buy Walmart gift cards for them because Eric gets an employee discount there. The money can go farther when they shop for what they may need.

Once she is moved out we'll go and paint her bedroom, which 2 years ago she got halfway through priming and did not finish. It is true, it is easier to paint an empty room. I would like to get a nice bed for in there so guests can finally stay with us when they visit instead of having to stay somewhere else.

While we're there. Who knows where we will be a year from now.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Good grief...

I really need to relax. He'll get better at this. I swear he will. I know he will. God please let him get better at diving the car.

He just went to leave to take the dog for a walk at a local park about 5 miles away. He's in love with this new concept of freedom. That's nice. That's all fine and good. Yes.


He almost took Jess's friend Liz's front end off her car trying to back out of the driveway... I had to run out, waving my arms madly and stop him, and reposition the vehicle. Pulling out into the street he didn't accelerate fast enough so I heard a car coming up the road slam skid to a halt behind him.

Jesus, God, so help me.

If I got this kid this far in life and he gets killed pulling out of our own damn driveway I will lose my mind fully and completely.

Where is that Xanax?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Driving, and why I am a bad mom

My son got his learner's permit in February, after he was all done with the Eagle Scout project and passing the board. He is a one-task at a time kind of kid. He has to fully complete one thing before starting the  another. And now he's all set with graduating, Eagle, started college and stuff and life, he needed his license to drive to class.

We already went once to get him road tested. He didn't even get to drive. The proctor asked him to show the arm signals, you know the ones you use if your brake lights/signals are all out or if you're riding a bike.

He didn't know them.

He should know them from Boy Scouts and bike safety sessions but. He should have known them from the Blue Book that he was allegedly reading all along which has everything in it that would be on the test.

Seems he didn't recall, so he didn't even get to drive.

And my husband was kind of super pissed off, not at G but at the RMV in Massachusetts.

America, I will ask you this: When was the last time you actually saw a motorist use hand signals? Or a bicyclist in the city, or country, or anywhere that isn't a road race or rally?

Hell, most motorists don't even use their signal signals around here. This knowledge is allegedly super important enough to make it so you can't even take your road test but hell if anyone's ever going to use it. The RMV should also sit at a highway on ramp and watch how people respond to the Yield signs. Not so much.

But ... I digress.

That was the first weekend in September.

The RMV gave him the "fail sheet" circling the thing that he failed on. He now had the list of everything on the test. Which was good. Now we knew. We knew what he'd be tested on. And we commenced to working on all these things.

With the failure, we re-scheduled the next test on 10/23.

And because Doug is currently not allowed to take any time off, I had to be the one taking Geoff out to his next appointment.

Now, I'm a pretty even keeled person. I don't freak out easily. I'm not nervous. I can probably stare down a zombie apocalypse or calmly face and earthquake or flood without panic.

But put my son behind the wheel of my car and put me in the passenger's seat and I'm not so cool. I am a freaking wreck, a freak. And I think we're both going to die. And he doesn't pick up on it, I've asked him if I make him nervous, and he shook his head. So that's good... I guess.

We left early, the test was scheduled in a town about an hour away, a little longer with traffic. Oh, why didn't we get to take the test closer to home? Because the Massachusetts state RMV is a disaster, that's why. But I digress.

I handed Geoff the keys, showing that I trusted him to drive us there. He did exceptionally well but honest to God he needs to learn how to merge into traffic better and it doesn't seem like however much we go over it with him he'll ever get it.

This is why I'm nervous.

He also drives Grandma Slow, unlike any other 18 year old boy I've ever known. So people come up on him at 100 miles and hour, and he just kind of deals with it. He got passed on the right on a town road here, because the guy behind him didn't think he was going fast enough, at the speed limit. I kind of wanted to come around the bend and find the wreckage of his car wrapped around a tree but then I remembered this guy was someone's son and maybe one time his mom was super worried about his driving.

Anyway, two large construction area slow-downs and we eventually got there. I told him while we were driving along that he was doing so well I'd ride all the way to California with him driving that well. He did great. I eventually let go of the armrest on the car door that I'd been gripping to the point of white-knuckling. Sigh.

We checked at the RMV. Some woman came in with a guy she was sponsoring, and was kind of mad that you had to make an appointment to take the road test. She actually thought you just walk in there, fill out a form, and then ... go.

The proctor told us to position the car in the Road Test Only spot and wait for him. We were 20 minutes early. While we waited in the car,  I last-minute quizzed him on everything on the sheet. The proctor came out and had him do the arm signals and the safety check with the lights and the emergency brake.

"It says here you took the test once before," the man said. "What did you fail on?"

"Arm signals, sir." Geoff answered. The man smiled.

"Yes, the state does feel that is very important and we start there. So you didn't get to drive at all?"

"No sir, that is what brings us here today."

"West Newbury? How long did it take to get here?"

I answered "About 90 minutes, construction and traffic." He nodded and told me that this week he'd had people there from Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod, and he shook his head. I told him that we wanted an appointment closer to home but we took what was available first.

We departed, the proctor continued to be friendly and chatty, turning over his shoulder to talk to me. I wasn't sure if he was baiting me as I know that when you are in the back, you're not supposed to talk to anyone in the front seat.

I kept my answers to a minimum. When he asked Geoff questions, the boy's answers were cordial, and articulate.  Borderline charming while being incredibly serious.

The man asked him "So, you're 18. Are you in high school or college?" Geoff answered and let him know what he was up to. The man seemed impressed with the EMT program.

Part of me wished I'd put the "I'm proud of my Eagle Scout" sticker on the back of the car to make G look even more awesome.

"Geoff," the man asked, "are we going to have enough gas to do this test? Your gauge is on empty." Geoff answered that our gauge doesn't work so when the tripometer gets to 300 miles we refill the tank, we just have to remember to reset the counter when we do that. "We have only 168 miles on the counter so far sir, so I think we'll be fine."

The man smiled broadly and I thought, God... I love my kid and his seriousness.

The boy executed a 3 point turn flawlessly, but messed up a few other things. We started to drive back to the registry with no parallel parking so I started to think "aw crap... no. He's so gonna fail him," but he didn't.

"Geoff," he said "I'm going to pass you. But here are the things I think you need to work on, and I would recommend you spend a little more time practicing. Some of them you'll never use again, but they're important." When Geoff had to back up 100 feet in reverse, which he did perfectly, he didn't turn around and look over his shoulder. You're supposed to.

Doug had been working with him to teach him how to use his side mirrors because if he's ever driving an ambulance, he won't have the ability to turn and look over his shoulder - you can't see out that way.

I wanted to explain to the man but kept my mouth shut. Geoff did it perfectly, and I think that's all that mattered.

And like that. 10 minutes. Done. Certified. Legal.

We drove home and stopped at Wendy's for celebration lunch and I couldn't believe it. I still can't believe it.

Last night when Doug got home he suggested we go out for dinner but Geoff wanted to drive out to the Chinese restaurant and pick up take-out. So we called it in and he left in the Jeep. He was gone forever and I started to panic and worry... he got pulled over, he's dead in a ditch... but he came back and said the order took forever to complete, so that's why he was late returning.

This morning I woke up at 4am in a panic because I realized he'd be driving to school today. Driving on his own. To school. In Lawrence. Once a month his program has a Saturday session, so today was the day.  Jeeeesh. Panic! Worry! Argh!

I heard him go downstairs and followed. I offered to ride shotgun since he didn't have a parking permit, and I'd bring the car back and then come get him and he'd drive again. We'd take the BMW.  Heated seats. Superior comfort. Advanced German Engineering.

He could drive, and I'd remain silent while he made his road choices because I wanted to know that he knew 100% how to get there without me telling him.

But then I looked on the school website and saw that we could register for the permit, and he could park in the lot without difficulty if he put the receipt on the dashboard.

And he left. In the Jeep. Which will become his Jeep I think. With time.

I'll be nervous until he gets home... I think it'll take me a while to get comfortable with this new reality.

He hugged me before he left, and thanked me for all the patience and support. For going with him, for quizzing him, for giving him tips and instruction, and for figuring out the parking permit thing. He never gives hugs, so I was stunned ... I happily accepted it and told him it was my pleasure.

He asked me where were good nearby but far away parks to go hike that he can drive to on his own, with Brodie.

He asked if we need him to go grocery shopping this week.

He wants to drive, and I think I'm going to have to want to let him.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Carole with an E, the 50th, and some other things

The summer swiftly vanished, didn't it?

I thought often about the neglected blog, and the fact I should be taking time to sit with the laptop and write something. I've been excessively busy, and as my last post suggested possibly very tired. Also, without much important to say.

Not sure where to start with an update but here goes.

Get the sad part out first. My aunt passed away after a very long battle with cancer. But one that she took on with gusto and bravery. In the years since her diagnosis, she managed to travel the world, dance on Bourbon Street with her husband on their 50th anniversary and make it all the way to 53. She got some great-grandchildren out of the time as her grand daughter Melissa brought two adorable little girls into the world. She began to fade fast in early August. My cousin Debi quit her job to take care of doctors and appointments and housekeeping and an email list of hundreds of people who wanted to know "what's the update with Carole?" They ordered Hospice at Home, got the hospital bed moved into what used to be her sewing room, and streams of people came to visit, organized and appointments kept by Debi.

I got to say goodbye, and we had some good laughs before someone who wasn't on the schedule showed up to visit so I cut my visit short. The look on my aunt's face was priceless. "He's already been here. What's he doing?" and the side-eye she gave me cracked me up.

You don't get to say goodbye too often, with laughing. So. I think that was indicative of our relationship. "We had some really good times and a lot of fun, didn't we?" she asked me.

You betcha. We sure did.

Her funeral was packed. So many people and great stories. Again, my cousin Debi held up the family and ran the show. When you're the only girl out of four, you gotta know how to be in control or the boys will walk all over you. She had great strength and beauty, and such dignity... and her brothers were obviously thankful for that leadership. My cousin Mike had everyone in stitches with his stories. Tommy kept it brief and beautiful. David was a man of few words but a couple laughs, kind of a direct balance between Tommy and Mike.

And my poor uncle... 53 years of Carole, and now figuring things out for himself.

As he walked away from the graveside, my cousin Mike told me he looked over his shoulder and said "I'm right behind you, babe."

That broke the kids' hearts for sure, but they understood. And. He almost got his wish.

After the funeral he did not come to the mercy meal. Debi took him home and his siblings stayed with him.  He'd had a "stomach ache" for several days but kept saying it was stress, he was nervous, worried. He would go see the doctor after this was all over with Carole. No one should worry. He'll be okay.

Nope. Debi convinced him to go to the hospital that night, and while he was being examined she sent out a thank you email to everyone on the Carole distribution list and it turned into the Jim update list right then.

He had a hernia and his intestines had gotten pinched off into the hernia area, and infected, and on the verge of bursting.

He nearly died that night - emergency surgery at 2am. Again, Debi organizing things and continuing the update emails to the followers, family and friends.

They saved his life, and he ended up spending a couple of weeks in hospital recovering, and some time in a rehab, and finally came home this week.

At one point in the email updates, Debi asked "whoever has our family voodoo dolls, can you put them away now for a little bit, thanks!"

I am so proud of her strength and resilience. Proud to count her as my family.

Around the time of my son's Eagle ceremony in April, my sister began planning a 50th anniversary party for my parents. I'm very glad she is the motivated one, because I would have said "Oh, mom and dad's anniversary is next week let's take them out to dinner or something" because I literally don't think to do things much lately.

Also, because unlike my Aunt Carole and Uncle Jim dancing in New Orleans and celebrating, or my Auntie Bea and Uncle Kenny going on a cruise with all the kids and grandkids, my parents both would shrug their shoulders and go "meh" about doing anything.

So Linda, being the smart one, knew that the only way to pull this off was to have a surprise party. She lined up the venue, did the invitations, put together the "ruse" that would get my parents to the restaurant that day with help from my Auntie Bea, and I ordered the cake and flowers.

My aunt was so looking forward to this party. With that side-eye look she said "I can't believe I am going to miss this party!" And I told her, wellllllll you can hang in there, and we'll set up a computer with Skype and you can talk to them and see the party and everything, that'll be nice. And she sot me that look. Yeah right, Chrissie. Optimist. Not gonna happen. And it didn't, of course. She passed away before the event. Sadly.

The party was a great success, we had a ton of fun, and my parents were indeed surprised and I might add kind of shocked. A ton of people from my dad's side came up from New York to celebrate with us, which completely blew my mom and dad away. My Aunt Margie and Uncle John flew out from Arizona too, which was a real blessing.

Watching the three siblings that remain out of four (my uncle Herbie lives in Florida and cannot travel) it was very amusing to see all the childhood left-over behaviors like eye rolls and arm smacks when someone says something naughty.

So after the loss on one side of the family, having the other side swing back around to party with us was a real loving boost to all.

We rented rooms at a hotel a couple towns away from their house in Plymouth, MA, and spent Saturday night by the ocean, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, children and my parents talking and shooting the shit, having a laugh riot. The only thing missing was a bonfire in the middle of the circle.

At one point my dad was just walking around the hotel patio looking kind of stunned. I went over to him to ask if he was okay because, you know, with the last incident with my Uncle I kind of was afraid maybe after all the excitement there was something medically wrong. He was indeed just kind of stunned.

He said to me, "I can't believe you guys did this. We don't deserve this."

"What the hell do you mean, "we don't deserve this," dad?"

"We just... we don't really," he mumbled and wiped his nose and stared out into the darkness at the ocean.

My parents have had 50 years of marriage filled with the usual ups and downs, obviously. It was not a cake walk or a bed of roses. There wasn't a lot of joy between them. At one point, I think I was in high school, I said to my mom that it would just be better if they split up and just got it over with. She was furious with me. And I couldn't wait to leave for college and get away.

I didn't have the best role models for husband and wife, for sure. But it isn't about me.  They had each other. And as I left, as Linda eventually left... the animosity between them was a lot lessened. Because in the end, they had each other. When they moved up here to Massachusetts, they started new with new friends and new challenges. My dad has been in and out of the hospital and my mom has turned into Nurse Shirley organizing all of the medications and appointments.

There is a real deep co-dependency there, and sometimes yeah... I guess you can call it love. It's got to be love. Right?

And when my dad was standing there telling me that he felt like they didn't deserve a party, I think I instantly knew what he meant. I told him to shut up, that they did the best they could. I didn't say that this was a "survival" celebration, that you survived each other this long... but maybe that is what it is.

Contrats to B&S on your survival.

approx 1965
at my wedding, 1991

Geoff has been taking his classes for EMT and is doing well. He still needs to pass his road test so that is a slight challenge. He'll hopefully have that done in two weeks. Jess and her friends are looking for an apartment together, which is nice. I hope they find something they like and it is a good arrangement. She makes twice as much a week as they all do, so I am a little worried about her paying more than her "fair" share as it were, but that's not my business. I think about how people take care of me when they have more money than I do, and I take care of others when I have more money than they do, and in the end as long as we're all taking care of each other it's all good. No one should keep score. 

We were thinking of moving but I think we'll stay the winter here. Wood is ordered for delivery next week, and the wood stove cleaner comes in two weeks. We'll hunker down and last. 

I guess that is about it. Nothing else more exciting to report of great interest. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

sweet mysteries of life...

I drag my ass out of bed to leave for work at about 6:15am. I ride home exhausted, ready to fall asleep upon walking in the door. Then, dinner is always nice. And now it is 10pm and I'm wide freaking awake and unable to fall asleep.

Probably, I guess, I'll be awake until midnight and the glorious cycle will begin again.