Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Sometimes it is About the Things

There are so many things I have been wanting to tell you all/both of you about, but I just keep running. Chasing shiny things or slipping away from some other varieties of nonsense, but either way, not conducive to sitting down for a few minutes to sort through my snow globe of thoughts. Before I prattle on about myself though, how are you? Loaded question I am guessing? Maybe a little tired? Are you anxious to put this pandemic behind you? As this blog's name implies, maybe it's just me, but are you anxious about putting this pandemic behind you? With every step we appear to be taking forward, I feel myself trying to let some of the weight lift, while pushing down the panic of just how to move beyond. A lot of what I miss from the "before times" simply does not exist anymore, or has been so drastically altered that I am not positive what actually remains, let alone how I feel about it. The moments when I recognize growth within myself are so fleeting as I start to shrink back into who I was, or think others expect me to be. 

What to do? 

Celebrate the small victories. I painted a bathroom that has needed a second coat for over five years. New color, different things on the walls. Touched up the paint in another room that was also in need of repair for years. Painted a piece of furniture because I had been wanting to. Have I told you how much I dislike painting? Apparently not as much as standing still! (And I was running the risk of getting Instacart burnout.) The holiday was approaching, and with so many of us fortunate enough to be vaccinated, we were going to be able to open our doors and sit around the dining room table again. The least I could do was give these people change to gaze upon, in the event that looking at four walls that were not in their own houses wasn't enough pizzazz.

Find the comfort wherever we can, which for me is often in tradition, especially in navigating these times that look so very different. There was this lazy Susan (sorry to any Susans, but at least you aren't Karens...and sorry to the Karens who aren't actually Karens) at my grandparents' house that had ceramic dishes that fit, just so, on it. It made its majestic appearance at the holidays, and I thought it was one of the most magnificent things. Five receptacles for some combination of black olives, sweet gherkin pickles, cubes of cheddar cheese, pineapple chunks cottage cheese and applesauce. I did not like olives or pickles, nor do I understand how these items fit in with our meals, but that is irrelevant, and one should not underestimate how many pineapple chunks in heavy syrup a young girl could eat. That piece was a symbol for family gathering together. This is Easter 1973, with my grandmother on the left.
You can see all of the toothpicks sticking up out of the cheddar cheese cubes opposite those pickles. I am not sure why only the cheese was deemed worthy of being stabbed. Oh, that is me in the lower right corner, looking like perhaps someone tried to feed me one of said pickles. Here is a better look from a seventies Thanksgiving...
...with my grandmother in her usual seat again, and my mom next to her. This photo amuses me because I am trying to make sense out of the spread on that table and what void those cheese cubes could possibly be filling. The candied sweet potatoes no doubt did a lot of the heavy lifting, despite how gross I thought they looked back then. (It goes without saying how eager I would be to try them now.) 

My love for that blue ceramic was no secret, and my grandmother let me take it home just over fifteen years ago. I promptly took it to our basement to be stored, because seriously, where was I putting that thing? This was no chip and dip holder, although such fillers might make more sense in some ways. Every time a holiday rolled around, I would consider bringing the spinner out, but logic won each time. This year though?
I gave her the whole kitchen table to herself. I tried one of those totally unappetizing miniature pickles and my son ate nearly the entire can of pineapple. I told my mom that the next time the family all gathered I would modernize the offerings, but this year it needed to be the way it was.

Got time for another? When I wasn't busy longing for the day I could escape with some mysterious and impractical whirling ceramic ensemble, I spent a lot of time pining away after this table.
I can only assume I chose to pose with the table as if it was a dear chum because it meant that much to me even back in 1974. I also feel compelled to mention that my thighs still stick together like that ,but back to the table. I used to take such care when dusting the table, all of those spindles and whatever tsotchkes were having their five minutes of fame. Of course I kept that finish shiny and clean with plenty of Pledge, dreaming of the day when it would be mine. And then in 2018, as my grandparents' house was being emptied to be sold, the table was mine. Oh. My. Gosh. And I don't mean that in a good way. I brought the table home and had no idea what to do with it, where to put it, or what trinkets to put in those spaces. I had spent forty-five years hoping that table could be mine someday and was having a classic "be careful what you wish for" moment. I was too stubborn and attached to the memories to let it go though. 

One day, as we were looking up some of my grandparents' other furniture online, we saw the table...and it was called a "book table". Of all the things that were never on that table! Suddenly the odd cubbies of sorts made sense.
It is filled primarily with books I will never read, but whose spines I recognize from being on my grandparents' bookcase. I will admit that I was a much better duster back when I was under ten years old, but looking at this table soothes me.


 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Time to Meet Marlene

It seems lately I have been waiting for signs, or more like unmistakable kicks in the backside, to write about some of the stories swirling about in my head. Today is no different, as this introduction is long overdue. Grab yourself a snack as this one could take a few minutes. 

I was sifting through the mail on the counter, and while I have grown accustomed to seeing several items for "Marlene Venuti", this one caught me off guard...

She has not commandeered the entire household, and we've lived here twenty years! The "who" of Marlene has a simple answer in that she is Jeff's mother, but her reality, like most people's, is much more complex than that. The "why" of Marlene, and her place in my home on a figurative level, has the same sort of layers. The most basic explanation is that I inherited Marlene when Jeff passed away in 2018. I met her roughly three weeks before Jeff died. I rarely say the words "Jeff died" in part probably because I don't want to fully accept it, but also because someone that vibrant and so much larger than life never really does. Anyhow, a couple of us went to see her to share the news that her son's condition was worsening and would not be getting better. She was then promptly brought to the hospital to visit him.

I did not see Marlene much over the next few weeks, as we were typically on different visitation shifts. The day after Jeff's passing, I found myself across from Marlene at the funeral home planning his services. I had spent so much of the prior year planning, or at least hoping, for his recovery. Our trips to Dana Farber had brought us so incredibly close together, but it felt like I was a complete stranger to pretty much the rest of Jeff's life. People from various parts of Jeff's circle were incredibly kind to me and expressed such gratitude for all I had done. I felt uncomfortable, like some kind of fraud, because no matter what I had done, Jeff was gone. At the services, Marlene addressed my husband and children with lovely words about me, echoing them again when I introduced her to my mother. I figured those closest to me would recognize her grief talking and pay no mind. 

Jeff's "Boston Boys" doted on her at the luncheon following the services...

...and as kind and welcoming as they had all been to me, I felt I owed it to them as well to look after her. I knew Marlene could be needy and had a tendency to lean towards dramatic, but I also recognized that she was a grieving mother, who had lost her husband earlier that year, and found herself living in a nursing home (medically compromised enough by Parkinson's Disease to be there, but with a mind not ready to have so many liberties taken away). As far as "inheriting" Marlene? I found myself in her room with three other people who had various motives, some of them slightly more nefarious ones I was too much of a sucker to recognize. When we dispersed, I was on my way to becoming Marlene's power of attorney, health care proxy and overall primary contact person...for someone I had known for a month, who rarely if ever had my name correct. In case you are pondering whether there were more likely candidates, yes, she has three other sons - two of which live locally. They are not who she chose, even when suggested. It was all said to be so simple, these new responsibilities I literally signed up for.

Some days it made me laugh how this situation played out as it was just so incredulous. Some days I kicked  myself for letting my grief and need to feel like I saved something, did something, fixed something get me involved. In the moments of nonsense and madness though, I fear I find myself thriving most of the time, even when it feels like things are falling apart. I visited with her, and tried to be patient as we rehashed Jeff's illness, what she thought he didn't tell her and what she simply did not recall. I went to care planning meetings, brought my paperwork to the banks, signed the checks, wrote out the birthday and holiday cards sprinkled with some heavy sighs, eyerolls and facepalms. I took the phonecalls for every slip, fall and confiscation of wine coolers and cleaning products she bought when a friend took her to the store. I went with the funeral director to bury her mother's ashes that had been boxed up for over thirty years,

(I felt compelled to dress the part on her behalf.)

messed around with her wig collection,

went out to dinner with some of Jeff's oldest friends who were now my dear friends,

and basically just tried to love on her as if she was my own...because basically she was.

When the pandemic hit, state mandates kept me away from both my grandmother and Marlene. In their own ways, and for their own reasons, neither of them understood the gravity and implications of the situation. One of the first phonecalls I got in the spring was Marlene "needing" some snacks to supplement the terrible food at her facility. Then there were complaints about the phone in her room and the answering machine that she was having trouble mastering before the lockdown. I had to keep in mind that she had no true idea of what those of us on the "outside" were having to do to cope with trying to keep ourselves and our families safe.

I was finally able to visit Marlene in early August, and admit that I turned my head and cried upon spotting her waiting at the table.

Her eyes looked so happy, and she was healthy! The hairstyle and color were incredible! (The new wig, a hand me down from one of the aides who didn't like it for herself.) We talked about the usual things, and she handed me an empty foundation bottle and lipstick tube that she needed replaced-because a pandemic is apparently no excuse to not put your face on! We got a couple more visits in before everything closed down again. 

Once again, Marlene had her own agenda and priorities and I received phonecalls expressing concern over getting holiday gifts for her loved ones, as well as lottery tickets for her to hand out to staff. I tried to explain that people's expectations were a bit different in these crazy times, but she was not to be dissuaded. The nursing home would not accept any dropoffs, so she wanted the lottery tickets mailed to her. As I put forty lottery tickets in the mail addressed to her at the nursing home, I said a little prayer that they would not be forwarded back to me -  where all of her other mail goes! The next crisis was making sure I took care of ordering her son some Hickory Farms for his birthday. All I can do is shake my head. I know that she has far too much time to sit with far too many thoughts all day, every day. I know that I brought this storm on myself, but weathering it has taught me much about myself, Jeff, love and expectations.

I struggle with my thoughts and beliefs about how those who have passed on may communicate with us. I got a piece of mail addressed to Jeff at my address last week that stopped me in my tracks, despite knowing it was just an autorenewal of sorts. Do I just look for signs? Today we are the Venuti Household?! Yes, I changed her address probably two years ago, and yes maybe filing her Medicaid application somehow made it more official somehow. But also? Jeff's birthday is next weekend and maybe he wants me to have pizza and cookies to celebrate...

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Insta-post

I was going to write a post to regale you all with the wonders of my new life as an Instacart shopper. I just kept trying to figure out what key points I wanted to touch upon. Certainly the purpose would not be to make you envious of my glamorous life. Mainly it was intended to be a proclamation of finding something that worked for me, as well as a nod of gratitude to the person who nudged me along. Grocery shopping? It's like I had been training my entire adult life for this! 

How to put a spin on this adventure where I live vicariously through people's grocery store lists. If only I knew who Brenda was having over for dinner and whether they know that she combines four kinds of jarred tomato sauce to make it her own. Stacy's house is obviously very clean as there is no way all of that tofu and organic produce is to feed her dust bunnies. Look at Danielle getting all of the ingredients to make a recipe; I doubt she has gray roots showing while she decides the fate of her hair color. Bill? Don't even tell me you rotated the laundry after placing your order; but also don't tell me those Lunchables are for you.

Are there groceries at my house? Well, when I was cleaning houses, how brightly did mine shine? Believe what you want, I don't want to spoil the image you've conjured either way. So how was I going to tell this tale in a way consistent with my point of view? Sometimes you have to just wait a minute, and sometimes you shouldn't ask the question if you aren't quite ready for when the answer runs into the back of your foot with a grocery cart.

There I was trying to load an order onto the conveyor belt at Aldis. If you are not familiar with Aldis, it is a money saving grocery store based on a self service sort of setup. You put a quarter deposit on your cart, open cases of product are on the shelves, your groceries do not get bagged, but rather returned to a cart in the reverse heap of how you shopped them. I am not doing the experience justice, but while I truly appreciate shopping there, it makes me feel a bit frazzled and rushed because I know that all of the employees are timed for whatever they are doing so I don't want to hold anybody up. Okay, back to the checkout scene...as I placed a bottle of salad dressing on the conveyor belt, it started to move and the dressing smashed to the ground. I had to run to look for a replacement, which was not available, and come back to the scornful glances of the cashier and other customers. I packed up the full cart of groceries and headed off to deliver them. I neglected to plug my phone into the charger. (Spoiler alert!)

After the delivery was complete, I saw another at the same store, so I claimed it. I also saw that my phone had about 18% battery and hoped the quick trip back would give it sufficient charge. I headed back into the store and saw that the order was huge...tick tock. I proceeded to the registers that were excessively crowded...tick tock. The guy behind me as I finally started to put groceries on the conveyor really wanted to talk to me about how many groceries I had (as he clearly thought I was the modern together gal using all of Ashley's products), but all I wanted to discuss was the 2% battery level of my phone...and then the tall skinny bottle of olive oil I was frantically unloading smashed to the ground. I looked at the cashier in my lane, while noticing the cashier one lane over (scene of mishap number one) glancing my way. I sheepishly announced "Yes, I just broke a bottle of salad dressing in that aisle on my last trip in" to which my current cashier responded "Well don't you suck?" "Yes, yes I do." I went running back to get a new bottle of oil, then skated back on the slippery floor to the register just in time to see the container of blueberries the cashier had just scanned flinging open and starting to sprinkle all over the groceries in the cart! "That is NOT on me!" I said to no one, but everyone, in particular. She agreed. I had to go running back to the produce department for more berries.

I wish I could have felt as though I was being spoiled as not one, but two people had to simultaneously clean up after me. I still had 1% battery, which was just enough to photograph the receipt and tell the app I was moving along. I was breaking a sweat bagging that full load of groceries, and as I got midway through, all of those scattered blueberries started to shift and fall through the cart to the floor. I am not sure how many I stepped on, but enough to add insult to an already messy injury. 

THAT was the story, a very on brand sort of way for me to tell you what kind of Instacart shopper I can be. As far as living vicariously goes, this afternoon I had to message with a customer over what strength stool softeners I could find available, then throw them in the cart with her mild laxative, antacid and heavy flow Kotex. The party size bags of Cheetos and almond milk were not enough to make me envious.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Randomly or Snow it Goes

Do you ever just have a day where you just can't seem to get to where you want to be going...
...let alone figure out where you even want to go? Maybe you just get stuck...
...like we did when our cross-country skis must have needed some wax. 
Do you want to build a snowman? No, not on the bottom of our skis, while we were skiing on them! Here's a suggestion put forth by the grocery store...
...and yes, I am sorry that there weren't flocks of people trying it for me to show you. I might be in too deep now...
...with this seasonal track! (There are snowshoes in there somewhere!) No need to get frosty about it...
...Seriously though, how cool is nature's artwork on this frozen puddle?!? Would you like to see some more from that outing, because I could...
not...
...stop...
...taking...
...photos! Okay, let's see what other pictures I have. Oh here's some...
..."Pazazz"! Not that I am trying to tell you how to live your life, but these apple are. I am sorry to say that I found them less than "captivating". Speaking of captivating though, it has been a really long time since I have seen a creepy monkey. This sloth was trying very hard to fill the void.
(Sadly his/her price tag exceeded my gag gift budget. Maybe, just maybe, they will not sell out, and there will be some hanging around next week for 75% off.) Perhaps some regular old, not necessarily creepy, monkeys will do the trick? Luckily that was one of the open areas of the zoo last week when the husband and I took advantage of the forty degree heatwave!




They will have to suffice for now! (To be honest, that second to last one is a tad creepy I suppose.)

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Memory Served Me...again

 The other day while I was out walking, being all vertical and such, I realized I was on the brink of slipping into another blogging hiatus. Danger, danger! I wasn't feeling terribly inspired by anything here and nowish, so I flipped through my mental catalog of other possibilities. I landed on something that put a little spring in my step for at least two hundred yards until I had that funny feeling once again that I had not only been there and done that, but also had been there and written that. That groovy little magnifying glass confirmed my suspicions as I found the post, published on Thursday, January 28, 2016...which obviously I took as a sign to post it again today, five years later on Thursday, January 28. The original title was "Lyrical Poet and Oh Did I Know It"...

It was February of 1990. Wait, I am going to need a minute for that to sink in now that I see it in type. Twenty-six years? Okay, regrouping...I was a junior in college, (so even more intelligent and ready to conquer the world than I was in my city girl post) very busy being a psychology major and owning way too many cardigan sweaters. I was also deep in the throes of working on my poetry anthology. My twenty-year-old self would be shocked to know that the only place those works ever got published was on this blog. And even more stunned that it was done with a certain degree of snark here and here

There I was, feeling the feels, crying the tears and writing the words. I was hanging around with a drummer at that time, fascinated by the notion of making music. I was pretty sure I could work my way up to singer, maybe starting out with a tambourine or triangle? There was a bit of a setback when said drummer asked me if I was tone deaf one day as I was belting out some of my finest notes along with the Indigo Girls. I remember being concerned that he might have a hearing problem because no way could my angelic voice be the issue. Despite my doubts, I considered a Plan B...what if I wrote the lyrics? 

Deciding that my previous doomed relationship material was too raw for radio, I allowed myself a daydream - just a harmless, and by harmless I mean full of angst and sighing, daydream - and thus, I Go On was written. The drummer boy did not match my enthusiasm when I handed him the piece of paper as he headed to practice with his band. A little while later though he called me to come down to give a listen. They had put my words to music! Over twenty years later, I realize this might have just been a bone to throw at your friend who you accused of being tone deaf, or at the very least a peace offering for whatever hormonal mood swing she was in the midst of. Whatever! I can still hear it!

The band, Rat Salad, got a gig at this horribly horrible venue called the Lost Horizon (come on Syracuse peeps) and my song was on the playlist. Of course I gathered my roommates to go hear my song support the band. I even went out and bought a pair of brand new sexy black underwear to throw on stage. Mind you, I kept them in my pocket before flinging them. I was wearing jeans! Had to be practical...and classy. They played my song, and I sang along - tone deaf and solo - because I knew those words! Sadly the Horizon was apparently no place for talent scouts, as there was plenty of talent there. Get your lighters out folks, here it is...I Go On...

I look at you
Casually glance away
It's not even like
I've got something to say.
Yet I take my watch
Eyes dry from the stare
Maybe we could run away
But I don't know where.
I could make you promises
Though I don't know what for
Maybe I could love you
Like you've never been loved before.

But you don't even know my name
Daydream love of mine
Like hands of time
You gently pass and fade away

I feel the warmth left by your footsteps
As I lightly step behind
I start to blush because of
The thoughts I have in mind
You spin around and I shutter
From that one half-second glance
I've been caught without a plan
By such an unexpected chance
In my thought I have a vision
And it's my own fantasy
Yet I can't help but wonder
If you'll ever notice me

But you don't even know my name
Daydream love of mine
Like hands of time
You gently pass and fade away...
...without you I GO ON the same.

Oh. My. Gosh. Somehow typing the words that were penned in my little flannel covered book all those years ago makes them even more cringe-worthy and hilarious to me. The rhymes? Oh my soul. I can't even! I was thinking this was my only foray into the land of lyrics, but I see right beneath this masterpiece is something titled Love Song. Let's save that for another time, shall we?

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Awhile back we talked about distractions, well you mostly sat and nodded while I prattled on about choosing something to divert my attention. I also promised to tell you other riveting tales from the fall. This time, grab your snacks, I have a little something about the distraction that chose me...kind of...for the most part. Let's go with it!

Life in the fall had little specks of normal sprinkled here and there. The girl went back to college, fall foliage was a thing, my birthday was approaching to show that time was not actually standing still, and one of our favorite autumn activities was allowed to happen - apple picking for the win. It was a good day at one of my happy places.

We came home loaded up on crisp juicy apples, donuts and fritters. What a lovely distraction! Suddenly I was distracted from the peacefulness this distraction had brought by my husband's exclamation. Oh boy, he was gazing out toward his bird feeders. I wondered just how big the cardinal/goldfinch/chickadee/squirrel could be as I slowly approached him, while trying to sort my face into some kind of arrangement that would hopefully read "interested". What the...
...mother clucker was this?! We do not live in an area where chickens casually wander by, so there was no real sense that she was going to be wandering back home either. I figured I could file this under "not my problem" and walked away. When I did check back in a very little while later, the trespasser was still there. I headed next door to the neighbors who usually know things to see what I could find out about our feathered friend. They had seen her wander over earlier while we were off galavanting in the orchard. All this did was confirm that she had not taken an Uber. She was welcome to enjoy the sunshine and whatever seed the squirrels had knocked to the ground. For some reason, she did cross the road at some point, but then for some other unknown reason, she crossed back! (You didn't honestly think we were getting out of this without a joke like that, did you?)
At some point the neighbors let the chicken seek refuge in their garage from a hawk that was looking for a snack. Was it a chicken hawk? I like to think so, and also that it talked in the same way that Foghorn Leghorn's nemesis did. It was late in the afternoon when we all met up again. My aunt had come over for dinner and, knowing what a fan she was of Drinking With Chickens on Instagram (check it out for fabulous photos and libations), she was going to need a photo op. Back into our yard came Parm (that name won out over Nugget and Divan)...
...and this was as intimate and fancy as we were willing to get.

Somehow I nearly forgot, but I suppose I should mention how much I started flipping out about this chicken's well-being as the temperature was cooling off and darkness was approaching. I made a return to facebook in order to make a "lost chicken" post. I texted friends who I thought would have easy solutions or invite Parm to join their flocks. I called animal control, saying brilliant things like "she seems very tame and must belong to someone", and was basically told that nobody was going to care about our low cost to replace friend. There was a woman who would take Parm if I didn't find another home. IF I DIDN'T FIND ANOTHER HOME?!?! Like I had droves of folks lined up outside?! The stipulation was that I needed to provide transportation. AS IN WRANGLE THE CHICKEN INTO MY VEHICLE?!?! No deal! The woman next door had made a post on some neighborhood site, so hopefully someone would reach out. Nobody else in the house had ruffled feathers, but I was convinced that this mother clucker's well-being was my responsibility. I didn't have issue with a circle of life type of scenario, but preferred that it not take place, or worse yet, leave remnants of taking place in my front yard. I tried a "hide in the house and hope it goes away" strategy for a little while, but asked anyone who walked near the front of the house for an update. My daughter's response at one point was to show me this video she took.
Glad my husband closed the grill! (Don't worry, we heard plenty of dinner jokes.) Certainly that mishap would send her on her way? The next update I got though was that she was next to my husband. I tried to correct my daughter by suggesting Parm was just somewhere near him?
Nope. She was a personal space invader! It was getting dark and I had people to feed, and this distraction was not helping me at all. What was I going to do?
Parm had no worries, and may have disagreed with our opinion that the office chair that was defective, not terribly comfortable and needed to be discarded.
See how it's getting dark outside there, and how Parm was not aware of social graces and overstaying one's welcome? Am sure you can guess what happened next. The garage door got closed, light on, with tins of water and food put out...and I continued to panic. She was checked on numerous times, and was unphased by any of it.

The following morning, having no idea what scene to expect but figuring Parm would be eager to get on her way, I waited for everyone to be up to say their goodbyes before opening the garage door. She had a lot to say and really made her feelings known.
Another sunny day, a fresh start, certainly Parm had places to go and new folks to meet. That is what I said, and believed for two seconds until my daughter uttered "You gave her food, water and a place to stay. Where's she going? This is her home now." Oh. No. 

But wait! My neighbor had a response from someone missing their small black and white chicken! Surely they would be arriving any moment...or not. Everyone carried on with her/his day, aside from the one of us who was on high alert waiting for the not so chicken hearted owners to arrive. What if she wandered off again before they got here? She did go for a stroll at one point, so the garage door was closed and maybe I managed to eat lunch or something equally productive. Aaaand then she came back, and she was thirsty.
She literally came running for the water when I put it down. I was pretty sure she would get a move on once she was rehydrated, so I went back inside.
Did I need a chicken? Was I losing my mind? She was at the front door you guys! A little while later I looked outside to see Parm hauling tail feather up the yard toward our house as she must have been spooked by the dog that was out for a walk. She was hiding in the landscaping right up against our house. My daughter was packing up the car to head back to school after apple picking weekend, and there I was, hopelessly distracted and moderately enchanted, clinging to whatever I could, be it a chicken or the last shred of my sanity.

After the car pulled away, I was left standing in the driveway trying to formulate a plan because darkness and cold were eventually going to come again that day too and I was not interested in any garage squatters. I decided to take a short drive to see if I could spot any yards in the surrounding area with chicken coops in them. Looking back, this does not seem like a sound plan, but I truly thought I had seen chickens wandering around about a mile away and had no sense of how far chickens typically walk in a day. I asked one woman who was out walking her dog if she knew of anyone who had chickens and she responded with a level of fear in her voice suggesting I was trying to give her a chicken. No luck. No surprise. Upon my return home, I struck up a conversation with another neighbor and was bemoaning how the owners who had been in contact through our other neighbor's post hadn't shown up. She figured out that she could pinpoint the location of their home on the neighbors website. How far gone was I? Would the sound of jingling car keys give you a hint?

Off I went to look for Parm's surely distraught owners. I got to the house, saw no chickens and did not like the scenario that played out in my head in which I rang the doorbell. I turned the car around to head home. On the way, I saw someone outside and asked them if they knew anyone nearby with chickens. I got something like a definite maybe. I realized I had limited choices to fix the situation waiting at home for me, so I turned the car around again. As I was approaching the house, an oncoming truck was waiting to turn into the driveway. What luck! So there I was trying to let him turn into his driveway while also trying to yell out the window that I had his chicken. Totally normal. He wanted me to pass first which luckily gave me the opportunity to stop gesticulating wildly and just use my words to tell him I thought I had his chicken. He pulled into his driveway and I turned my car around again, pulling to the side of the road to wait while he herded all of the chickens that came out to greet him to his backyard away from the road. He said they were missing a small black and white chicken. I told him the one at my house was chicken-sized. I think he was as impressed with my description as you are imagining. I showed him a photo on my phone, and was crestfallen to hear that Parm was too big to be his. I said "but do you want this chicken to be your chicken?" He said he could take it and hold it for a couple of days and give it back to the owners if they showed up. AGAIN WITH THE OWNERS SHOWING UP?! 

We then proceeded with the perfectly logical plan of this stranger following me to my house to get a chicken that wasn't his chicken. Luckily many neighbors were out when our abbreviated caravan pulled up. Parm was still hiding in the tall plants. My new friend tried to just walk over to get Parm, but she hadn't had time to get to know him so she was chicken and hid deeper in the landscaping. I got the old dog crate for the man to position wherever he saw fit. There were five of us sort of closing a circle around Parm and into the crate she went. He reached in and confidently grabbed her in some sort of football hold that I am sure is appropriate for chicken wrangling. He seemed impressed by her, but I had no false sense of pride to take. He mentioned again that he would return the chicken to its owners if they showed up within a couple of days, and I just kept making sure to reiterate that she was his chicken now either way. With a wave, they left. 

I missed something about her presence immediately once she was gone. She sent me this pillow cover soon after as a thank you gift for our hospitality.
Then she sent me this for my birthday.
 
Cheers everyone! Thanks for reading, and remember, we don't always get to choose the bright shiny thing that distracts us...and don't ask why the chicken crossed the road unless you want to be the answer.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Shine son

I was out for my walk this morning, you know to help with that lofty goal to be out of bed and vertical for some portion of each day, and during the third mile I happened upon this view...
...something was happening in the sky that had the potential to turn the black and white photo I felt like I was meandering in a little more vibrant. I snapped the picture because it seemed like just the sort of fantastical thing I typically post on instagram.  (I can wait while you get right over there to follow me.) I was pondering what hashtags would be smart and sassy enough to elevate my power line and generally cluttered shot. Something about the sunshine, shine sun shine...son shine, shine son, sunny son. It was a fast leap, and I could not escape the parallels of how hard both were trying to shine as I looked on.

My son was one of the 2020 college graduates. It became clear rather quickly last spring that graduation was not going to be the much anticipated conventional affair, and the event was cancelled altogether before much time had to be spent trying to figure out what modifications would take place. We were well versed in what was not going to be happening, but not exactly sure what, if anything, we should try to conjure instead. There was talk about the school putting something together for fall, but I had a hard time mustering up any optimism, let alone enthusiasm, for that. I felt compelled to mark the day that was supposed to be, ON the day it was supposed to be. We asked my son to plan to be in our driveway at 6:30 that Friday evening, and gave little to no details beyond that. 

The rest of us got to work on what seemed like the important elements of a graduation. We were looking forward to the change of season, as my daughter and I planned what dresses we were going to wear for the occasion. People had started doing the drive-by birthdays, so why not a graduation? We spread the word to local folks inviting them to drive by that evening to shout/honk/whatever. I had been wrist deep in my mask making efforts right around then and decided that masks in school colors and tiger mascot prints would make good party favors. Cookies, there had to be cookies as well to give to car passengers. I don't know why I can never seem to give up on the notion of events having favors and cookies. Things were starting to take shape,  but also seemed to need more. I refused to celebrate his achievement for anything less than the big deal it was. I wanted something that resembled a ceremony, or at least what I thought were the important parts. My cousin graduated from RIT as well, so who better to be the speaker at our event? He put on his finery and taped a fabulous speech that we added to the video after some Pomp and Circumstance. I threw havoc to the wind and tracked down a favorite professor through the school's website (luckily there was only one with the first name I was looking for in the engineering department) and sent her an email asking if she could "present" my son with his diploma by doing a short video clip. I might have had a moment or two that I spent worrying that she would think I was off my rocker, but she could not have been more gracious. She went to the trouble of going to the school to get the full ensemble that she would have worn at graduation as well as a diploma cover for "handing" over in her video. That went on the video as well. 

The day came, and to say it was chilly would be a ridiculous understatement. The show was going to go on! We had a shindig planned for 6:30, and there was not an alternative to consider. We dragged a television outside for our videotaped ceremony, did a little decorating, set up a few chairs very far apart, and scrapped whatever nice dresses we were planning to wear and grabbed whatever finery we had in school colors. 

My mother and step-father were supposed to be on an overseas cruise, that was obviously cancelled, so this was clearly the next best thing.
He had made a commitment to not shave until quarantining ended...
...he did cave in July.
There was joy, there was cheer, there was champagne!
Luckily we started planning early enough to gather about forty video clips from nearly all of our family, his college friends and fraternity brothers, plus a few college staff members. (And luckily we watched that in a quiet moment earlier in the day and had stopped crying in time to see people.) Our boy had graduated. Not the way we imagined he would, but it still felt like something special happened that day...despite even that not being what I had anticipated as the weather prevented any foot traffic or neighbors wandering out (which meant we had A LOT of cookies and masks leftover) and we were all relatively uncomfortable in the cold. 

The next day? I was awash in disappointment, longing for the weekend we were "supposed" to have together with people we had spent five years cultivating meaningful relationships with, and did not want to do anything other than hide out curled up in the fetal position in my closet eating candy. (Obviously this was before I had my rad walking program in place.) My son though, he championed on. He was applying for jobs left and right with some degree of optimism. He looked good on paper, and not just with momvision. Resumes were being hand delivered by employees of some companies for jobs that actually existed, and then were not even acknowledged. Rejections came and more silence. 

The summer felt kind of like summer, but as fall approached, he was losing his spark. I felt helpless in the face of him feeling hopeless. I tried not hover or smother, but made every attempt to be available and keep communication open. There were awkward conversations with words like "depression" and that a time could come when help was needed, suggestions to put one foot in front of the other were made. (At least I practice what I preach sometimes.)  There was an eight week, seven interview waiting game with one company that consumed much of September and October, and then ended with no room in the company's budget for the position. Then there was a three month old job posting that suddenly needed somebody pronto and when he was told he would hear back the following week, he made some tactical error in believing her and now over three weeks later is still wondering. He did get a contract gig, but the catch is that it's over an hour away and who wants to sign a lease not knowing how long employment will last? He and his sister have basically been taking turns staying at her house near school since his job is five minutes from there. Somewhere in there he weathered the passing of my grandmother, hiding out from his sister and I having covid and the general malaise and exhaustion we all feel. The holidays recharged us a little, if only from the sheer amount of sugar consumed. He was then quarantined here for ten days after possible exposure right before New Year's. We all regrouped again, feeding our faces, watching football and playing a lot of Scrabble. 

He is still in a sort of limbo waiting to see what opportunities present themselves. I see him like the sun this morning...waiting, trying to shine. I know how bright it will be. I know he is under these clouds, and I think more importantly he knows his brightness will eventually burn through. It is going to be amazing to bask in the glow of my sunny son.
 
Lean on Me (weird but fitting)

Saturday, January 9, 2021

In Order to Move

Let's pretend this is my first post of 2021. I am not sure if it will set things in any better motion than my last post, but I was super disappointed in myself when I realized that was how the blog entered a new year. 

I could have been lulled into a sense of security, but I had my usual level of skepticism when waltzing through the store the other day. Still, it was difficult to resist the belief that this pandemic might be about to start its final descent when I saw this...

... a clearance on toilet paper?!?!?! What kind of madness was this? 3-ply no less?! Nice try, but I refrained from buying party supplies to celebrate. I also could not have possibly bought enough double rolls for the absolute poop storm that was to come. There is no need to rehash that here, as it is not likely to help us move forward. The only way I know how to cope when life feels sideways is to try to restore order to something.

I was going to need to expand upon my current mental well-being plan. Oh wait! I haven't shared the details of that program yet. I don't have a patent on this beauty yet, so feel free to claim and use it as your own. Once covid left the building, and took my excuse to hide out holed up in my bed all day with it, I knew I was going to need a plan. First, there had to be a reason to throw off the covers and get out of bed to begin with. I had to think fast because each passing second that Saturday morning allowed my body to sink a millimeter further into my mattress. Keep it simple, just go for a walk, one foot in front of the other. You know what clothes to put on - spandex is clearly more for function than for your form, but your thigh rub will thank you. Just go with the two mile route you know. By day three, I enhanced my plan slightly by opting out of wearing a bra under the spandex to dissuade me from lounging about in my walking wear for the rest of the day. I lack the body confidence to inhabit our family room in my sausage casing finery to begin with, so lacking any other necessary support just sealed the deal for success with my plan. Things were going well with me up, fresh-aired and then dressed by 9:30 each morning. Okay, the timing might have been a slight flaw, but I was a creature with a habit. We don't need to address the panic that ensues whenever I run out of my frosted mini-wheats that I typically eat for breakfast. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

So that is how I was coping with my own self, but what about days when we all feel the additional weight of a rather scratchy and uncomfortable blanket threatening to suffocate us? Feel free to share any strategies you have. I am always partial to those involving chocolate, but I have other rules about what time of day that can start (unless we are talking chocolate chips in the pancakes), so I started by tacking on an extra mile to my morning commute. If nothing else, that gave me fifteen more minutes outside to come up with a better plan. 

It may have taken that village set up to bring some joy to December, but I feared it was going to take that same village leaving to provide peace in January. I toyed with the idea of just taking down the actual Christmas tree and letting the scenic winter remain. The notion of what a tribute the set up was to my grandmother was pleading its case for staying power, but my need to restore order and move forward proved stronger. There was so much of my grandmother here for the holidays, from the cookies to the ornaments on the tree to the little santa cups filled with Junior Mints. It may have been time to put all of those things away, made easier by realizing how much of her is with me all of the time...always.

The way these porcelain pieces fit so snugly into their styrofoam homes is comforting to me. 
Is there anywhere you feel as protected as these folks appear? I guess this is why Packaging Science is an actual college major.
We gave this Cocoa Works to my grandmother for her eightieth birthday as a tongue in cheek acknowledgement of her alleged allergy to chocolate. She said eating the confection made her scalp itch, but that was apparently not a high enough price to pay to give it up. 

The endeavor to pack up the village also gives me a slight thrill...
...as I do not have many other opportunities to exercise my tetris game style puzzle skills.

In a moment of what can only be described as weakness, I let my son bring his Christmas legos upstairs for the season as well. Maybe I was considering that this could be his last year living at home, granted those legos will probably be living here with us for a bit even after he moves out. Maybe it was his way to honor my mother-in-law who gives him the holiday set each year (top right elves' clubhouse was 2020). I knew she would like to see a photo of the setup! Who was I to squash a village of any sort? Who was I to decide what could bring joy this year?
That was far less enjoyable to put away, and not just because he looked at me like I was the Grinch when I told him I was moving it back to the basement. None of the four shelves it sprawls out on down there were empty, as he had left some odds and ends behind in his enthusiasm to get things upstairs before I changed my mind. I was venturing into territory that I am not typically allowed to mess with, but we both knew there was never going to be a time either of us actually wanted to take on the project. I just needed an empty surface back so I could collect things hiding around the house that used to belong there.

The place feels a little bit lighter, making it easier to breathe and hopefully a bit easier to move. I hope you are finding your way, heading toward the light...wait, not THE light, just something brighter than darkness. Keep putting one foot in front of the other.