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


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...