Saturday, November 28, 2020

Hello...

I thought maybe if I just opened up a new post and gave a simple title, the words would just come. I thought I would be able to quickly get you caught up on where I've been, but it isn't that simple. I think I am afraid if I cut to the chase, you won't come back to hear about all the other stuff that happened in between...things like starting a full time job, a summer photo shoot for a header I have yet to try tackling, fostering a chicken for a day and when the 'rona came to visit our home. I mean, I even have some photos I noticed on my phone that are crying out to be part of the random.

I can't just dip my toe in this though. I can't just write all of the posts I kept meaning to write in real-time about things like visits with my grandmother. The joy on her face when we would visit, the selfies I insisted on taking every time I guess to prove that we still had her. And then she was gone. It still doesn't seem real to me three weeks later. I would still like to share the moments that are more precious than ever, but not just yet. For now I would like to thank all of you for the kind comments you left any time I posted about my grandmother, and share with you the words I spoke at her funeral.

I have never been very good at good-byes of any kind really. This one we have said to my grandmother has been long-parceled out as we lost bits and pieces of her. Sometimes these losses made it easy to mistakenly underestimate her strength. Ninety-eight years? I definitely was guilty of underestimating her.

One thing I did see correctly was my grandmother's powerful mind. As a five year old child, I remember a time, when I felt I had been wronged, and stuck my tongue out at my grandmother...behind my hand...from about ten feet away...while she was busily washing dishes at the sink-perhaps a rather cowardly stand to begin with, so imagine the lump in my throat when she said "Andrea, don't stick your tongue out at me."

She was a knower of things, maybe telling us things we weren't always ready to hear. She loved each of us fiercely, wanting what she thought was best, wanting to protect us. Sure, that might have felt smothering at times, until I could step back far enough to feel gratitude. Thankful that she helped us build characters that not only she could be proud of, but that each of us could take our own pride in.

Forgiveness and the importance of truth were values instilled in me when I was very young. Through the years there have been times I have found myself frustrated by my intolerance for lies or for repeatedly suffering the same fools, as they can be such commonplace occurrences. Over time though, I have become ever so grateful to have that demand for truth to be such a large part of me, while I do still struggle with the fine art of forgiveness. My grandmother's standards for herself were no lower-all the way from how she dressed for every occasion to the impeccable house she kept.

My grandmother continued teaching me ways to be my best self even still over the past few years. Much of that time she may have been the only person who got to see that version of me. She helped me find a patience I was not aware that I had, forced me to just slow down to breathe once in awhile, and to choose to find joy even if it was simply a head on my shoulder or a warm hand in mine.

Sadly, I have not exactly been able to emulate her sense of fashion, nor do I keep my house as tidy as I ought to. There are many other lessons that will always stick with me though, such as being wary of hanging icicles and the perils of sleeping with a wet head of hair (bedhead was not the fear, but rather pneumonia). It is also important for each of us to nourish our minds with knowledge, our hearts with love, and our bodies with so SO many cookies.

Perhaps you'd like to join me in finding some comfort in the the thought of my grandfather greeting my grandmother, telling her "We've been waiting for you, Benchie."

This was our last visit, when I got to say good-bye, and could not give up the photo.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The random made me do it

I noticed a bunch of nonsensical photos on my phone and pondered what made me take them to begin with, and then I remembered...THE RANDOM! In an effort to make the not so heralded return even more random, and certainly having nothing to do with my excessive level of laziness yesterday, I thought a random Tuesday post showing up on Wednesday was definitely the be. So let's go for a spin, shall we!

Or maybe we could go for a scenic walk along a creek, stopping to check out the view at conveniently placed benches...
...where we can stare into the weeds that block the view of the creek. Each bench was "better" than the last!
Talk about not being able to see the forest for the trees. Speaking of details of a problem, if 2020 was candy...
...and if it's a joke, I fell for it-and hard! I have looked for these twice at Walgreen's already (because that is where the article says they will be). This is a level of gross I need in my life! What if this is destined to replace my long lost peanut m&m addiction? (Well for starters I will be out of luck before the doldrums of winter actually arrive considering the seasonal aspect of this confection.) I also can't resist the notion that this could be another Willy Wonka Violet moment as I turn into the dinner! Oompa-Loompas, take me away! And as long as we are eating our feelings (and crossing it off the to-do list), it was nice of Baker's Treat to do the hard math...
...just on the very off (insert sarcastic font) chance that I was indeed going to eat the whole  box. 

I have been passing this billboard for quite some time now, and it cracks me up every time. I finally pulled over so I could snap a pic to share with you.
Do you think the hair loss came first, or was the acronym so stellar that he shaved his head? What good fortune he had that the domain name was not already taken! "What do you look for in a divorce lawyer?" "Definitely not a full head of hair!"

Now just look into these BEE-you-ti-full eyes!!
Oh, Kicks...
...I feel you, but today was just for nonsense. And just like that, we're back...maybe...at least for now...Thank you so much for joining me! I miss you when I'm not here, and even more when you aren't.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

...Everybody knows your name

Well here we are. I thought about trying to kick it old school and dust off some random. Remember those halcyon days? When was the last time I even saw a creepy monkey?! My day started to have a slightly different theme running through it though, so we'll just let those other pics pile up until Tuesday. The word for today is "shame", and perhaps lack thereof. Sometimes we have to look at what lies beneath...the foundation on which we stand. The first time I intentionally shared some of my shame here in this space, back in 2012, can be found here. Sadly those photos look like an unreachable goal for our basement now, as apparently the past eight years have not been kind to that space.

I may never think of the word "panoramic" with the same vision of nature's beauty again after using that setting to take this shot.
I was about to try to explain a few things, like those dolls in the bin, but seriously, what could I say to convince you they are there for a good reason? Aside from the wagon over there being full? Is that old eMac there in case my husband never really does go back into work at the office and I have to seek solace in this space? Let's look away now to a much prouder moment--the second finished to-do list this month! (Shut up fridge light, I bought the bulb and am still pondering just buying a whole new refrigerator.) 
Yes, I happily crossed off the "DO NOT" in front of "eat feelings" one day, had a Hostess snack cake, and happily crossed off the rest. I also had to add the sticky note o my list because I was afraid if I wrote things on the back of the page, I would find them too easy to ignore, and obviously a larger piece of paper was out of the question as well.
Wash "some" windows? Wow, I was really aiming high with this list and am now thinking it should not have taken two weeks to complete. I feel slightly less proud now. Moving on...The storage bins that I had to talk myself into going to Walmart to get were to help tackle that whole basement situation. Perhaps I should have looked closer at the photo before I left so that I would have had a more realistic view of how many bins to buy and what sizes, or whether garbage cans made more sense.

I did it though. I went to Walmart. I took several deep breaths and stepped into what my son referred to as my "concrete prison". I texted him periodically throughout my mission just to maintain some contact with the outside world in the event that I went missing and fell out of contact for a curious amount of time. In order to touch as few things as possible, I made what turned out to be a tactical error and did not get a cart. I was just shopping into the stack of six large bins that I was carrying around. The first sign of trouble was near the checkout when I thought this seemed like a good idea...
...the fact that Hershey is on there clearly meant something as there is nothing else appetizing here. I mean I honestly didn't even open them this evening to try.

I headed out to the parking lot, with no definite idea of where I had parked, pockets weighed down by numerous things that should have been in the purse that seems too cumbersome to carry these days. I guess a purse and a mask are just too many accessories for me. The bins were heavy, as were my pockets, and my shorts were ill-fitting as usual. I tell you this next part, not as a humble brag, but as a testament to an ill-proportioned body. My shorts started to slip as once they find themselves below my ample waistline, there are a lack of hips and cheeks to hold them up under the pressure of whatever I crammed in my pockets, coupled with the downward force of the bins my noodle arms were carrying against my body. I started to feel that unmistakable sense of breeze lower than I typically prefer. I hedged my bets pondering a deep knee bend to lower the bins to the ground versus just trying to walk a little faster in the direction I hoped the car was in. When I got to the car, I grabbed for the back of my shorts, and then had to send this text to my son (with the remaining 7% battery I might add, as clearly this was an important confession, as was the answer about what food coloring options we had at home).
I gathered myself and felt confident enough to stop at Aldi's where I would most surely get a cart. I was armed with a list that I could not focus on while I was talking to my friend on the phone. All of the one way aisles and lack of concentration had me looking like Pac-man trying to find the fruit...back and forth, trying to avoid other shoppers. I hadn't talked to this friend in quite some time, so we had some pandemic woes to share, as well as work and family updates. While I did not have the phone on speaker like that amazing Progressive commercial, I may have chosen a few "comfort of your own home" stories from work* that prompted having to send this text to her when I got home...

Sometimes it feels good to share a little shame and laugh at the nonsense that is myself. Well this was long and rambling, but I do have to admit that it feels like old times here, and I can't complain much about that.


*No, I do not work directly, or even indirectly, with vaginas

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The End of the Alphabet

Today is the second anniversary of my friend Jeff's passing. I have been thinking about the few weeks leading up to that day. The woman down the street from where he lived brought a steady supply of home baked goods to sustain us. There was so much love in the house. 

I also thought about that book we were going to write together, whether Jeff liked it or not. I worked on the introduction a few years ago, and thought maybe I should look at it again. I also thought maybe I could at least pretend I was going to write some more, but Jeff was going to make my story better and I am still not quite sure how to do that without him. Here is the beginning...where most stories start...

Remember as a kid, when so much of one’s social circle depended on a name, more specifically, last names. They were the standard way to provide order to an assigned seating chart, and in our high school, homerooms were even broken down this way. People brought together as friends in an alphabetical sense, sometimes with the hope of having something more flourish (or the despair of knowing there was no escape from the like-lettered hooligans). My maiden name started with the letter U...think less”unique” and more “uh, how do you pronounce that”? Truth be told, I miss that jumble of vowels. After twenty-two years, I have yet to fully embrace my being as a C - so average. Maybe the V and Y folk still begin each morning in exceptional  ways. If only there was a way for me to check in.


Facebook. Love it, hate it, pretend it doesn’t exist, but there it is connecting people who may have gone decades without contact. The expectations for developing a Facebook relationship are pretty low - “like” a few posts, leave an encouraging emoji of some sort where appropriate, and pay attention to whatever is interesting. Eventually things can be taken to the next level with actual words as comments on posts, or maybe something bold like a private message. I remember Jeff’s friend request coming, and how I could picture his hair and smile from the 1980’s as I accepted. Simple as that, we were friends, but I never could have imagined where that was going to lead us.


Jeff’s Facebook status was, and still is, a space filled with wit and humor, with an occasional sprinkle of Hello Kitty adoration. I looked forward to reading whatever he had to say, and couldn’t help but wonder what a real life conversation might be like nearly thirty years after graduating together. I did not recall ever being particularly friendly to Jeff during those early homeroom gatherings, not for any personal reasons. (But oh my gosh, did he ever hear me call him “Snooty Venuti”? Clearly I did not come up with that one on my own.) I was an equal opportunity grump. In other words, meeting me for a cup of coffee did not seem like it would be an invite with high appeal. However, when my daughter said she was done with her Hello Kitty boombox, I realized I might have something more enticing to offer.


We met up at a park, and after exactly zero seconds of awkwardness, we went for a walk in the brisk morning air. The conversation was lively and all over the place from what I recall - past, present, this person, that person, including the hilarious revelation that we both had a crush on the same guy back in homeroom. Thanks to alphabetical order, we both got to gaze at V each morning. Jeff bragged that he got to feel the guy’s arm muscle every day as he graced us with his weightlifting prowess. My retort was that I had kissed him...on more than one occasion. Truce. Jeff’s version of what our little cluster of desks in the grand homeroom scheme seemed much more endearing than my memory had led me to believe despite both scenarios being accurate. We each played a role not unlike the cast of any other teen comedy. I found myself able to own my somewhat surly character who I thought only family members had to put up with lovingly. If Jeff could forgive that girl, maybe it was high time I did the same. He met me where I was in life that day, not where I had been in 1987.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Nope.

I have been walking around thinking about blogging, then either something else happens that somehow diminishes my initial delusions of grandeur, or causes me to forget them completely. It felt like carrying an armful of apples, fretting while several kept falling to the ground. If I could have just found a place to set some of those down more gently. Maybe I could go back to see if the ones I dropped are still good for anything? Maybe I could come up with a new analogy, or just cut to the topic du jour.

Was I ready to bring my baby girl back for her third year of college? Let's break that sentence down to point out a couple of problems. First and foremost, the words "third year of college" should negate me referring to my daughter as "my baby girl". Second, my level of readiness was and is irrelevant. This house is certainly ready for me to go on my purging and organizing whirlwind coping strategy that I use to try to restore order when my world feels out of my control. You would think Corona alone would have had this place sparkling, but I got distracted after the first few weeks of her shenanigans.

We hunkered down here for months. In the beginning I felt like the supreme protector as I masked up every couple of weeks to head out for essentials like more potato chips and onion dip. We did what we thought we were supposed to be doing to keep safe. As it became more and more clear that my daughter's college was planning some version of campus learning, I felt at a loss for how to make sure that transition was a safe one. The reality is that I couldn't do much more than I have done the other six times...I made supply lists and contemplated a tetris-like strategy to pack cars. 

We talked a bit about if small groups of friends turned into larger parties and mask wearing. I might have mentioned some thoughts on general housekeeping. She knows that if classes all become virtual, she can decide where she is the most comfortable living. I knew that the best way for her to feel okay about what was happening was for me to seem okay about what was happening, but I also know she's no dummy. She read between every jumbled line I uttered and saw every worried crease etched on my forehead. She gave me eye rolls and sighs of exasperation, but she also let me sit on the floor of her bedroom here and in her new place until it was time to go. 

And then I left. It seems reasonable to immediately start reducing the amount of candy stashed in this house. I thought there was more I wanted to say, but this feeble attempt is reducing the number of tissues I have as well. I will just let that pillow there on her bed sum things up...
...nope.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Dress for the life you want

I recently ran across some photos, and it seems like now is as decent of a time as any to share the story with you. (Plus this may lay some ground work for some other bloggy things.)

I was working at a preschool, which of course provided a general atmosphere of adorable. Cuteness prevailed on most mornings, with outfits lovingly picked out and adorned. Within hours, classroom life often proved too much for crispness or cleanliness. There was one girl who didn't exactly strive for princess perfection, but more just for what appealed to her on any given day. She clearly took very little input when selecting her ensembles and coordinating pieces were not essential. Maybe she would have on a princess costume dress with a random sweater thrown over it, or a taffeta skirt and beloved tshirt with sneakers. What seemed to be most important was how she felt about each article and more so how each item made her feel. 

My cohorts and I got to talking one afternoon about elevating our own dress codes, thinking maybe this little one was on to something. What would it be like to just throw havoc to the wind and dress like nobody was watching? What if we donned items that made us feel special, but didn't sacrifice comfort? The next morning, I put on the dress from my senior ball, accessorized with some plastic necklaces, relics from my daughter's dress up bin, that made me smile. I realized that a nice cotton shirt over the top would make me more comfortable, and would also make the fact that the zipper no longer reached the top far less obvious. I grabbed a couple of other gowns I had bought at an estate sale, and two of my coworkers slid that finery over whatever they initially arrived at school wearing.
Nailed it!

We felt what I like to think of as that special sort of joy that only a spark of silliness can bring. It can't necessarily be explained to anyone who asks, they just have to know. It doesn't concern itself with "why", but rather eggs you on by shouting "WHY NOT?!" It doesn't leave room for doubt or embarrassment because you are the one standing there showing the world that you stand by your decision. It is like a preschooler smiling about candy or at a brand new box of crayons before something equally as fabulous flashes by. Those things still bring me a great deal of happiness, but it fades more quickly now as an adult due to the weight of reality.
Dora the Explorer Fan Club
As if we called each other to coordinate
I wonder what that little girl is like now at age sixteen. I hope she still has the spirit of what I will call a sensible princess...feeling pretty, comfortable and confident in her decisions with a spark of silly and so much joy.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Material girl

Yes, I am fabricating another post...about fabric. Do you have something else to talk about? If so, I may be slightly envious. 

When we last left my stitchery, I had used up all fabric deemed suitable for mask making, so I made the call. I dialed the number of the one who introduced me to the wall of calicos and led the way to the cutting counter at the fabric store, the one who showed me that fabric scraps weren't to be discarded, the one who paved the way for me to cultivate my very own fabric hoard. "Mom, you still have a bin of fabric, don't you?" The next day I received this text...
...and by later that afternoon I had cut the fixings for another round. While we sat outside that afternoon, with a safe distance and bin of fabric between us, my mom asked if I needed thread. I did not want to be overwhelmed, so I asked her to just bring down a spool or two, but lo and behold the abacus of threads was brought out.
Now you may be wondering why this stitcher isn't toiling away the hours at her Singer? Well, because I have her machine at my house where it landed a few months back when mine stopped working right in the midst of making...quilts. (Yes, it is probably an easy fix, but even easier was borrowing a different one.)

When I picked up both the phone and the tub of fabric, I really just had mask making on my mind. This was just going to be material to work with - no strings attached. It was like I completely forgot why she had fabric to begin with! For starters, it was like opening a container of lo mein as it just kept expanding.
I do see something from someone's pants there on top.
(part of my own personal collection)
A lot of the textiles were from back in the eighties and nineties when creating animals with fancy garb was a big deal.
(part of an 80's craft show set up)
Then I had to touch the fabric, move it around a bit. The first things I immediately recognized...
...on the left we have a fairy trick-or-treater from 2001.
And on the right, my bridesmaids from 1995...
A bag of something...
...the pattern will reveal.
2005 flower girl. Oh dear. There were going to be some feels to be felt after all. Oh I remember you...
...early nineties and the most comfortable dresses ever. I remember thinking this was going to be my wardrobe as a mom someday. Smock dresses flowing in a gentle breeze, matching my carefree attitude, as I called my kids home for warm cookies. The cookie part of the plan had staying power at least. 

Must. Reach. Bottom.
My 2002 trick-or-treating knight in shining...
...not exactly suitable for masks, but maybe with the proper backing?!

Suffice to say, I found plenty of fabric to work with, and still left a full tub. The lid just fits better now, to safely keep those remnants all smushed in next to each other, with no real order to the matter, to be taken out another day to have their wrinkles smoothed out and gazed fondly upon...but isn't that how the best memories go?