Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What is Going on Here, People?

I haven’t much enjoyed looking at Facebook this past week. 

So much so that when I was trying to come up with a topic to discuss today, my mind kept leaning toward cute baby animals.  Like bunnies, maybe.  Yeah, I should write something about bunnies.  There’s nothing controversial about bunnies, is there? 

There has been so much rancor and discord on Facebook (and other social media outlets, too, I’m sure), that I have had to shut it down at times because I’m so tired of it all!

If you’re against the recent Supreme Court ruling, you may think I’m going to complain about all the rainbow-colored profile pictures.

And if you’re for the ruling, you may decide I’m complaining about all the bible references.

But you’d be wrong on both counts.  You see, my complaint is that people are so far left or so far right, there is no room to come together.  A little toward the middle, people – there’s lots of room in here!

There’s nothing wrong with a little healthy debate. After all, it’s how ideas are formed and opinions are made. Or maybe solidified.  But the rhetoric I’ve seen on Facebook does nothing to allow the possibility of seeing the other side.

Has anyone read someone’s post and said, “Hmmm. I never thought about it that way. I think I’ll change my mind.”  

Yeah, I sincerely doubt it.  I’ve never seen two people who are on opposite ends of the opinion spectrum on a topic change their minds after a debate.

But if we are able to keep an open mind, we may learn a little more tolerance. 

I have never personally identified with the LGBT community because I have never had sexual or romantic feelings toward a member of my own sex.  So I can’t really understand it.  But I know people who are gay and they tell me their lifestyle is not a choice - it's who they are. So who am I to condemn that? And is it my right to pass judgment?  I don't think so.

And I truly don’t see how two members of the same sex marrying could possibly harm me in any way. 

When someone argues that the purpose of marriage is to procreate and propagate the species, I personally can argue against that. 

When my husband and I married, it was simply because we loved each other.  I was nearly 50 and he was almost 51 and we sure weren’t marrying with the intention of procreating.  Yes, I had always wanted a child – and thought that I might even have one or two of them earlier in my life – but it simply wasn’t meant to be.  And, believe me, having a child after 50 was definitely not in the plan!

So should we not have been allowed to marry?

There are many things that I don’t personally identify with, but it doesn’t mean I can’t try to conjure up a little empathy.  Everyone in this life walks a different path.

I mean, I don’t “get” Caitlyn Jenner, either.  But that doesn’t mean that I can’t support her quest for a little happiness. 

To each his own, I say. 

Nothing Caitlyn Jenner does is bothering me.  I don’t watch the Kardashians and I doubt I’ll watch Jenner's reality show, either. But that’s my choice – I can either be a viewer or I can switch the channel.

But I don’t have to write nasty comments all over Facebook about it, either.

By the same token, I don’t see why those who believe in a higher power and in organized religion are being condemned these days either.  

The beauty of our freedoms as Americans means that we are allowed to have an opinion.  I get that.  And I don’t believe anyone should be muzzled.

But I’d really like it if people could tone it down.  Just a little.

After all, I believe there are so many other, more important, issues going on in our world.  Like the friend who personally knew one of the victims of the shooting in Charleston.  She is in mourning for her friend right now, as are many, many people in that community.

There are people in hospitals fighting for their lives and others who have lost that battle and their family and friends are now grieving.  And it may sound trivial to some, but I also know a number of people who have lost a pet recently, too.  But to them, losing a four-legged family member is not a trivial matter. 
So it seems to me like there is a lot of sadness in this world. 

And it seems to me that this world could be a little brighter, a little happier and a lot less stressful if we were all a little more tolerant of one another.

Yes, that sounds simplistic.  And, no, I don’t have the answer because I don’t believe there is any one right way to believe and one wrong way.  

And in no way am I attempting to jump into the fray of controversy. 

I just wish that people could learn to practice a little more tolerance and patience with their fellow man. 

If not, then I’m going to start writing about cute bunnies from now on.  Just bunnies.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The End of an Era

I feel sad today. It’s as if an era has ended; only no one but me, and possibly my siblings, is aware of it.

Today I learned from my nearly 89-year-old father that he and my mother would not be traveling to their summer home on Cape Cod this year. Or ever again. Moreover, he and my mother have decided to put the cottage up for sale.

Almost as an afterthought, dad told me that he had failed the vision test when he went to the BMV to get his driver’s license renewed.

And then it became clear to me. Because dad has to give up his car keys, and mom no longer drives, they will never again be able to stay up at their summer cottage for months at a time as they had been doing every year since they retired more than twenty years ago. 

The closest of their children is nearly four hours away from the cottage so no one can make a quick run to the grocery store for them. We cannot take their dirty towels and clothes to the laundromat since the cottage doesn’t have the modern convenience of a washer and dryer. And we can’t easily check on them to make sure they are okay and their needs are being met.

My siblings and I are relieved to hear that our parents will not attempt to stay so far away for so many months this year. And we are relieved that there won’t be a repeat episode like last year when my father’s sudden hospitalization left us scrambling to get up there to take care of them.
But it still seems like the end of an era to me. 

No longer will we have family gatherings at the cottage that my grandparents built back in the early '50s. 

No longer will we get together for milestone events such as our parents’ 60th wedding anniversary, which we celebrated only three short years ago. 

And no longer will we hold our annual “Lobster Fests” – that one fun evening where we all sit around the table talking and laughing and dunking succulent pieces of lobster in little bowls of butter.
My siblings and I grew up in this cottage. We can remember days long ago when summers seemed carefree and endless. We couldn’t wait until our annual two-week August vacation at Parkwood Beach when we would dig our toes in the sand and jump in the ocean and play in the waves.

When we were young and our grandparents were alive and doted on us. When they gave us coins from Nanna’s change purse and allowed us to race down the street after the ice cream truck to buy ourselves a frosty treat. And when we showed off our swimming and diving skills – or our exemplary sand castle-building skills – to much applause.  To kids with grandparents such as ours, we were talented and unstoppable. And we were well loved.

Eventually, Grandpa passed and Nanna was alone at the cottage. Visiting her was still magical, but we were growing up and some of the carefree sense of our youth was diminishing. Our parents would take a much-needed break from the four of us kids and leave us in the care of our grandmother.  We can recall the times Nanna would pile us all into her big green monster of a car for a road trip.  With her head barely clearing the dashboard, she would shakily drive three hours to Provincetown so that by the time we arrived, the three of us in the back seat were queasy and a bit car sick.

But that didn't stop our adventures. I remember bits and pieces of those road trips, including a stop one afternoon in a Provincetown bar where a bartender sporting colorful tattoos up and down his arms tried to bully the little old white-haired lady into taking her four charges out of his bar. Our diminutive 4'11" tall Nanna stood her ground and eventually the four of us sat at a table picking at the hamburgers he grudgingly fixed for us.

Years later, I wondered about this. Were there no other, more suitable, restaurants open just then? Or did Nanna, once she realized she had taken us to a bar and not a restaurant, refuse to allow the burly bartender to intimidate her?  Either way, it has become one of those fond memories etched deep in my arsenal of “Nanna stories.”
And it makes me smile whenever I think about it.

Our trips to the cottage included an annual Deep Sea fishing excursion with our dad. It was a rite of passage and when we turned 9, we were allowed to join the party. I was so excited when I was finally of age to join my dad and older brother, that I forgot to be squeamish about things like threading the fish hook with raw pieces of clam and about squirming fish on the end of my fishing pole and about smelly fish guts.  Or about having to be ready to walk out the door by 6 a.m.

Driving to Plymouth to board one of Captain John’s party boats was a bonding experience with my dad that lasted until a few years ago when Dad was a bit too frail and his eyesight too bad to continue.

The end of that tradition made me sad, too.

As young adults, I remember a time or two when my siblings and I stayed at the cottage by ourselves. It felt odd sitting on the porch having a drink before dinner without grandparents or parents there to supervise, but considering we were of legal drinking age, we quickly got over that and had a wonderful time.

And in my 20s, I remember bringing friends a couple different times to explore the Cape, which was a learning experience for me as well, since my family tended to stick closer to the cottage during our vacations and we didn’t often do the “tourist” thing.

One of my favorite trips was in 2009 when I brought my newly-minted husband to the cottage after our wedding. We hadn’t planned an immediate honeymoon and my parents suggested we take a few days off and drive back with them. I think my dad simply didn’t want to make the long drive on his own and he was grateful for Vince’s driving expertise at getting us there safe and sound (and fast).

We also didn’t relish the thought of sharing our “honeymoon” with my parents. But Vince and I were able to take a couple days to drive down the Cape and explore the area. And we had some wonderful experiences and have some great memories of our time there.

In recent years, my trips to the Cape have been more of a task and responsibility rather than simply a pleasurable vacation. As dad’s vision has steadily diminished, he has gratefully accepted our offer to make the drive for them. Thus, I have either driven my parents to the cottage in June or have driven them back to Ohio in October. Neither of these stays at the cottage is long enough to allow me time to sink my toes in the sand at the beach. Not that I’d particularly want to sink my toes in the sand in mid-October, but you get the idea.
So, while I know that every beginning has an end, I am still a little sad that this is the end of an era.

Yet, I have a lifetime of incredible experiences and happy memories to sustain me when I get sad about it. 

And I hope the memories they share also comfort my mom and dad as they say goodbye to a place that has been a part of their lives for so many decades.

Saying goodbye is easy, said no one ever.  But here's one last toast to you, little cottage at Parkwood Beach. Thank you for the decades you protected us and kept us safe and happy. 

And, as Bob Hope (apropros for my folks my parents' age!) once sang, "Thanks for the memories!"

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Wonderful (?) World of Garage Sales

A couple weeks ago I participated in a two-day community garage sale.  It was both fun and painful.  Fun because I got rid of stuff that has been collecting dust in the basement for years.  And fun because I made a few dollars.

But painful because it’s hot, sweaty work sitting in a humid garage for hours on end practically giving my treasures away for free. 

And let me just tell you – Garage Sale Regulars are ruthless!

They will dicker until you give in and meet their price just to get rid of them. And, frankly, I thought my prices were more than reasonable to begin with.  I priced my items to move since I did not want to have a garage full of junk after it was all over simply because I couldn’t sell something for a dollar that originally cost me $100.

But did that stop the Garage Sale Regulars (aka GSRs) from haggling with me?  No, it did not.

After the first day, I learned much about the art of Garage Selling.  Well, not actually selling the garage. Oh, you know what I mean! 

I learned that I can’t sell things for the lowest amount I would accept or I’d get ripped off completely. I may as well have just given my stuff away for free to those heartless GSRs who didn’t give a hoot that I was hot and sweaty and my hair was frizzing at an alarming rate while I was hanging out in my garage for hours on end. Believe me, hanging out in the garage is not my idea of a good time. And frizzy hair as a byproduct is even less so.

So I marked some things up a bit to give me a little wiggle room. And I marked some things down because there was no way I was going to get ten dollars for, well, anything.

That designer purse marked 5 bucks? They wanted to give me $2 for it. 

Those expensive window sheers that were only used a few months and were in pristine condition? The GSRs didn’t want to pay $3 for all six, but were willing to take them off my hands for fifty cents.  Come on, people, gimme a break.  You can’t buy new ones at Walmart for three bucks, let alone fifty cents!

But after the first day, I added up my sales, and got jazzed about selling even more stuff the next day.  So I started rooting around my closets trying to find even more unused “treasures.”  I went through my jewelry armoire for all those baubles that hadn’t been worn in a while and were simply taking up prime real estate. (Every so often you’ve gotta make room for new stuff, you see?!)

So I added a lot of new “inventory” for the next day’s sales.

I learned that costume jewelry sells. Quickly.  But I also learned that it’s imperative to make sure no coveted earrings are in the mix. Once someone picks them up and hands you a dollar for the pair, you’re out of luck.  Goodbye, cute earrings that I didn’t really intend to sell!

On the whole, though, it was a relief to bid goodbye to most things on the tables.  When we moved to this house, I had many items that didn’t fit into our new color scheme or layout. I wanted to give them new homes and was willing to sell them for a song. 

But when a woman picked up one of my handbags to purchase, I felt a real pang of regret.  Huh, I wondered.  Where did that come from?  I didn’t think I was going to carry that purse again, so I was surprised by my reaction.  She even paid me for it – and then at the last moment, asked if it was okay if she traded it for another purse.  I said, “Absolutely!” with perhaps a tad bit too much enthusiasm. 

And as soon as she walked away, I grabbed that handbag and stashed it inside the house and slammed the door. Whew. Crisis averted. 

And I’ve been carrying that purse ever since.

So I guess I also learned that you need to carefully evaluate the items you put out for sale. If you’re not quite done with an item, don’t sell it.

I am sure there are folks out there who are complete pros at the art of Garage Sales, but I learned a few things on this, my first foray.

Like, for instance, have lots of small bills. People bring $20 bills to garage sales and expect you to give them change when they are buying something for a buck or two.  One woman even tried to give me a $20 bill for a fifty cent item. And she expected me to be able to make change! 

Have that happen a couple times and you could be out of all the 1s and 5s in your stash.  Unless you have someone who can run to the bank for more change, you’re out of luck.

Speaking of doing the garage sale alone – be prepared to “hold it” – unless you want to close the garage door and lose out on potential sales while you can dash inside for a potty break. Fortunately, I had some friends stop by and I was able to make a quick pit stop while they held down the fort.

Have lots of plastic grocery bags handy to hold your customers’ newly purchased treasures. I had a couple ladies buy even more things after they were able to free up their hands to look over even more merchandise.

Be willing to sell things for less than expected. It doesn’t matter if you paid a lot of money for something. If you’re selling it at a garage sale, understand that the GSRs won’t pay big bucks for anything. Heck, they don’t even bring a lot of money to these things. I heard some woman say her “budget” for the day was $5. And there were a lot of neighbors selling things, so she certainly wasn’t going to buy any big-ticket items.

If you have something really valuable and want to make more money on it, you’d be better off selling it on eBay.

Move stuff around. I had a couple nice candlesticks for sale and I was surprised that they didn’t get picked up right away. I moved them to another, more visible, spot and they were purchased almost instantly.

Know when to close the garage door. Even though the community sale was going on for a few more hours, I realized it was time to close up shop when I hadn’t made a sale in about 40 minutes. There weren’t many items left on the tables, so latecomers would walk up the driveway and see the few things left and gave them only a cursory glance before walking away.

In the end, I made a decent amount of money that made the effort worthwhile and I only had one small box left over that went in the Charity Donation pile.

So I’d have to say that my first effort at holding a garage sale was a success.  But it’s one that I don’t intend to repeat anytime soon.

After all, I really don’t like hanging out in my garage for hours on end.

And I really don’t like frizzy hair. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

I Survived the Bubonic Plague of 2015

Well, I think I’ve survived the Bubonic Plague of 2015. Or maybe it was just a nasty cold. Either way, it has been a crappy couple weeks.

It started out with a sore throat and then it all went downhill from there. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t talk without coughing. Or sneezing. Or blowing my nose. My glands were swollen. My eyes were red and puffy and my tear ducts went into overdrive.  In the morning, I couldn’t even open my right eye because it was glued shut with all the nasty Bubonic Plague-like germs that were circling my head like vultures.

And then I got really sick.

My fever spiked to a soaring 100 degrees.

What’s that, you say? A hundred degree temperature isn’t “soaring”? 

Well, yeah, okay, you’re right.  I admit that a 100 degree temperature isn’t a big deal.  Especially not for me. There have been a number of times in my life when my fever was in the 105 degree range, edging toward 106 and, well, death, I believe. And, yes, fevers of this magnitude have necessitated more than one trip to the Emergency Room in my lifetime.

But, interestingly, as I’ve gotten older, any little bump in the internal thermostat and I feel miserable.  Wonder why that is? Is it because we are older and wiser and we know that the Bubonic Plague can actually kill a person, while a spiking fever to a kid merely means getting out of a dreaded Math class?

I don’t know. But as an adult, I would gladly trade the germs for that dreaded Math class.  And you should know that I really dreaded Math class.

I was surprised when I went to the doctor and heard that patients were coming to the office in droves with the same symptoms. Usually I’m aware when germs are on the rise and I know enough to step away from the sneezing, sniffling, stuffy-head-type people.

Not this time.  Maybe it was because it was late May and I figured I had dodged the whole winter cold thing.

The worst part about it all was the coughing. I mean, I can deal with a sore throat. And I can – despite my complaining about it – deal with a slight spike in my temperature. But what I can’t deal with is the constant coughing.  I’d just get settled into bed after having taken my shot glass full of Nyquil, when suddenly I’d sit straight up in bed wracked with a cough that seemed like it would never stop. Or I’d wake up from a sound sleep in a fit of coughing that made it hard to catch my breath.

Fortunately, the worst of it seems to be over. Now I just have a lingering cough that only occasionally wakes me up from a sound sleep.

So, thankfully, I’m on the mend from the Bubonic Plague of 2015.

…except that there are six more months in 2015 and there is always a chance that the New and Improved Fall Version of the Bubonic Plague of 2015 will introduce itself to a sinus cavity near you.

Hmm. Perhaps I need to make a drug store run. The medicine cabinet is looking a little bare these days. And I’m completely out of Nyquil.

Oh, and PS. I DID look up the definition of Bubonic Plague. Ewww. Maybe I shouldn’t exaggerate so much.

Yeah, right.

Speaking of which…don’t forget to tune in tomorrow when I discuss the spider I discovered in the bathroom. It was the size of a puppy...

...I swear!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

My Old Friend

I had dinner recently with a very dear and long-time friend. We’re talking a decades-long friendship here. And even though she was married with two children and I was fresh out of Ohio State when we first met at Ross Labs, we both considered ourselves young and “happenin’.”

Incidentally, if you live in the central Ohio area, you’ll recognize that it was indeed a very long time ago seeing as how the place hasn’t been called “Ross Labs” in years. 

Plus, no one has used the term happenin’ to refer to themselves as being young and with it in, well, forever.  So clearly I’m dating myself.

Anyway. Karen and I used to be the unofficial party planners in our department at work and would find any and every excuse to gather a gang of coworkers together and go out.  Dancing was frequently involved, particularly if I held the decision-making reins.  We’re talkin’ back in the 80s – the big hair, lots of makeup, pointy-toed pumps and linebacker-worthy padded shoulder days. 

And, yes, I dare say…the good ol’ days.

Karen and I have maintained our friendship through many job changes over the years (both) and city moves (me). Through one divorce (hers) and many boyfriend break-ups (mine).  I helped her with preparations for her second wedding and she returned the favor much more recently and helped me with my first.   

So ours has been a friendship that has weathered the test of time and it’s one I cherish. There aren’t too many secrets we keep from one another, although we do seem to have lost touch a bit in recent years. We don’t call one another as often anymore, although I’m not sure we ever really did communicate much that way. But we do keep up through emails.

Once we realize it has been far too many months since our last get-together, we pin down a date and meet. This time it was at her house. I hadn’t seen their new kitchen remodel (started in 2014), or that they only have one Italian Greyhound these days and not two since they lost sweet Lulu last fall.

So we spent over three hours talking and laughing and catching up with one another. Heck, I talked so much I was surprised I didn‘t lose my voice.

But toward the end of our conversation we realized that a significant portion of our chat-fest was spent talking about health issues. Family health issues, our own health issues. 

We talked symptoms. We talked medications. We talked doctor visits. We talked supplements and vitamins and prescriptions. Oh my!

Yikes. When did we stop being The Young and the Restless and instead we turned into On Golden Pond

When did we become so freakin’ old??

I guess Father Time is funny like that.  Or sadistic. Yeah, I think I’ll go with the latter. Because instead of talking about the latest Gucci handbags or the newest movie releases, we suddenly found ourselves talking more about aging, elderly parent concerns and our own health issues.

Not once did we talk about books we’re reading, or the cute shoes she had on, or the gel nail polish I was wearing that doesn’t have to be cured with a light and comes off with regular nail polish remover. You know – “girl stuff.” 

On the other hand, there is something comforting in being able to talk so intimately with someone you’ve known a long time and whom you have trusted from the get-go. You know she won’t judge; she knows you won’t either. And it’s a relief to know you’re not the only one going through whatever it is you’re going through.

So I guess I need to acknowledge that a friendship that has managed to persevere through several decades is going to be a different one than when it first started.

But, like a cherished heirloom becomes more valuable once it’s considered an antique, so too does a cherished friendship like ours.

And, yes, I used the term “old friend” in the title on purpose. We finished our conversation feeling a bit old. But we promised ourselves that the next time we get together, we are going to table the health talk. 

So I’m thinking maybe we shouldn’t even ask each other the question, “How are you?” Yeah, that might be a good start.  Instead, I’m going to make a point of commenting on her cute shoes. 

And the word “orthopedic” will not be mentioned in that query.

Just kidding. She doesn’t wear orthopedic shoes. But she also doesn’t wear the sky high pointy-toed pumps anymore, either!

My orthopedic shoes, on the other hand… Oh, never mind. Didn’t I say we were tabling the health talk?!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Mother's Day 2015

First off, Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there. That includes birth mothers, adoptive mothers, mothers-to-be, step-mothers, foster mothers, mothers-in-law, and women who are like mothers. 

Heck, I should probably also include any single dads out there who have tackled both mom and dad duties. You have to give credit to a guy who can assemble a decent braid on his little girl’s head without it looking like a hot mess.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a category or two, but perhaps I can just include “and anyone else I may have missed,” which is kind of like the verbiage on job descriptions that gives employers free reign to tack on extra duties whenever they feel like it. 

Anyway, the point is, I wish all those special women out there an extra happy day on Sunday.  Yours is a job that is worth a fortune, but pays in strictly non-monetary ways throughout the years – from the infant tightly gripping your finger during feeding time, to the countless hugs and kisses you’ve been given, and from being the first person your child wants to show their masterpiece drawing or A+ test score to the first person your adult children want to call when something good – or bad – happens to them.

Sure, you’ve been given lots of Mother’s Day presents as a reward for all your hard work.
But you cherish the tiny handprint Mother’s Day plaque you received when your child was a toddler as much as the elaborate flower arrangement you received once your child grows up. (Oh, and don’t tell FTD, but she may appreciate the handprint Mother’s Day plaque just a tiny bit more.)
 But no matter how heartfelt our handmade creations are or how much money we spend on mom, those gifts can never repay her what we owe her for the love and devotion she has given in raising us.

Interestingly, she doesn’t expect gifts or monetary rewards. It was simply her job and a role she cherished.  (Well, maybe not so much the stinky diaper changes or the spitting up thing. She probably could've done without those.)

Yes, I realize that I’m looking only at the positive role models and I recognize that there are mothers out there who probably never should have been mothers. But I have been fortunate to have known so many women who were and are wonderful, loving mothers. So this is my tribute to them.

Sadly, I never got to add the title of “mom” to my own name. But I’m a pretty decent aunt and I have been fortunate enough to hold lots of friends’ and relatives’ babies over the years. And I was a heckuva babysitter when I was young, so I’ve changed my share of stinky diapers and dealt with the spitting up thing. But, even better, I got to experience that feeling of an infant tightly gripping my finger during feeding time. And I’ve been given lots of hugs and kisses by little ones. And many of my friends’ kids know me as “Aunt Jane.”  So I’m not complaining.  Technically, I’m even a step-mom to three grown children, although there was never the need to “parent” them. I just hope that they somehow know I care about them and wish them all the best as they go through this life.
So, while I don’t know firsthand what it’s like to be a mom, I am fortunate that I still have my own mom here to thank for all she’s done for me. I can tell her that I love her.  And I hope she knows how very grateful I am to have been her daughter.

But I don’t know that she does anymore. My mother, you see, is dealing with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Whichever it is, it is a devastating illness and my mom is not the same woman I’ve known my entire life.

Yes, I’m very grateful to still have her here with us. I’m grateful that I can call her every week and she still knows who I am. Every week she asks about Vince and calls him by name.  But sometimes, toward the end of the conversation, she might say, “…and give our love to your dear husband,” which makes me wonder if she has temporarily forgotten his name.  

And I wonder when that memory lapse might become permanent. Which makes me so sad, I can hardly bear to think about it.

Our conversations are mostly one-sided these days with me giving her a recitation of our activities. Mom’s responses are usually of the, “Oh, my…” and “you’ve been busy” variety. Her contribution to the conversation is usually to ask about the weather, and she may ask three or four times. Just as she may ask a half dozen times what day of the week it is.

I always answer her with patience and love. I figure that she spent years doing the same when I was young, so it’s my chance to return the favor. I’m sure there were times when she grew a bit weary when her children went through the “How come?” and “But, why?” phase in which we repeatedly asked the same questions. Yet she somehow answered all our questions, which allowed us to move on to the next stage in our growth and development.

Mom still reads the newspaper every day, except that she may re-read the same article numerous times.  Very often she reads it aloud, which means we have to state our comments over and over again as if we’d never said them the first time.  Mom has a difficult time with any changes to their day-to-day routine, so she relies on Dad for everything. And it scares us to think what will happen if our dad leaves this earth before our mom.

My mom was a formidable woman when we were young. Yeah, all five feet, two inches of her. She was intelligent and opinionated – and Mom was pretty much always right. (Back then we thought she merely told us she was always right. Years later I have come to realize…she pretty much was always right.) 

But you didn’t cross her. She had a bit of an Irish temper and we knew not to misbehave or we’d suffer the consequences.

She was not our friend or our buddy. I don’t understand it when people today say their mom is their best friend. Sure, when kids are older, I kind of get it. But “in my day” (uh oh - soundin' like an old person here!), mothers were mothers and not friends. There was a definite hierarchy in the relationship that can’t really be present with best friends.

Believe me, we knew who was boss.  We sometimes behaved out of fear more than out of merely doing what was right. But through that method, we learned the difference between right and wrong and soon we didn’t need the fear part. We just did what was right because we knew it was the proper thing to do.

We also learned very quickly that mom was not the maid. And if we ever forgot that little tidbit, she made sure to tell us.  Emphatically.

Even when we were very young, we had chores to do around the house and we were responsible for our own belongings. Thus, the family room was never cluttered with toys and there was an order to our lives. One of my chores was vacuuming, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t like vacuuming back then because I still don’t like doing it now. (This is where Vince pipes in with, “When do you ever vacuum now?!”) But those lessons learned at a young age have helped me throughout my life.  And I’m happy that I don’t live in a messy home where I’d be afraid to have a friend drop by unexpectedly.

So I grew up in a different time and a different place. Parenting back then was different than it is today. I’m not saying it was better back then, but I definitely think there are pros and cons to each generation’s methods. 

But no matter the era or the method, a mother’s love is constant – and that has never changed.

There are so many times I wish I could still call Mom when something good – or bad – happens. When I want her congratulations or commiserations. When I am sick or need a pep talk, mom is the first person I think of to call. But I usually can’t do that these days as I don’t want to upset her. 

But I do take comfort in the fact that I can hug her whenever I see her. So many people I know have lost their mothers and dearly wish they could give their moms just one more hug. So I know I'm lucky.  

I get choked up and teary-eyed when Mom holds me extra tight before she heads off to bed and she whispers that she loves me. Mom grew up in a generation where you didn't just routinely say the words, "I love you." We were simply supposed to know that we were loved. And we did...but it is good to hear the words now and again. That she tells me how she feels now is even more poignant. I keep trying to store up those hugs and words and feelings, as I know that there will come a time in the not-too-distant future when she won't be able to say them.

Yet I miss those lively conversations I had with her once I grew up and didn’t need the lectures anymore. Jane-the-pacifist would even take one of her great debates – something Mom relished. I pretty much thought they were just arguments, and I knew I’d never win one of those with her. But if it meant that Mom was healthy again, I'd gladly participate in one of those discussions.

So while I miss being able to call my mother and ask for her opinion or advice, I know that I’ve been fortunate to have had her for as long as I have. And, because of her earlier guidance, I pretty much know what course I should take anyway. 

And I thank God for her every day. 

And, Mom?  While you’ll never read this blog (and would be appalled that I’m even talking about you in the first place!), I wish you a very Happy Mother’s Day. I love you - more than words or a bouquet of flowers - can say.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Tale of Our Pen Killing Kitty

Both Vince and I woke up a little bleary-eyed this morning. Not because we had a wild night out on the town or anything, although we did stay up rather late watching an episode of “Bloodline” on Netflix. (Good series, by the way!)

No, the real reason for our lack of energy this morning was due to our killer kitty, Twinks, who has developed a penchant for “killing” ballpoint pens.  All manner of writing implements, really. This is good practice in the event there is ever a ballpoint pen uprising in our household, but I think the possibility is somewhat remote.

You’d think our killer kitty would prefer being outside stalking creatures smaller than she, say of the chipmunk or squirrel variety, but I’m not so sure that’s true.

Why?  Because whenever there is a bug or ant in our house that needs to be “handled,” she merely looks at it with a sniff of disinterest and goes on with the more important tasks of her day. Namely, grooming, napping or yakking up a hairball.

But just wait until we finish our evening pre-bed ritual and finally click off the light, give us about a half hour to j-u-s-t settle into that drifting off to sleep deliciousness, and Twinks will start up with a meowing so insistent, it’s like Lassie barking to tell us Timmy’s in trouble and may have fallen into the well.


I, personally, can simply roll over onto my “good ear,” and ignore her, but to Vince, the sound is like fingernails on a chalkboard. And this is precisely the time when he decides our cats belong solely to me. Vince refuses to (a) change cat litter, (b) clean up kitty barf, and (c) get out of bed to investigate the latest Twinks “kill.”  (Please note that if ever a Twinks kill involves anything in the rodent category, he WILL be the one to handle that little chore!)

She only stops meowing when I finally go downstairs to investigate and discover her latest, er, victim.  Last night it was an Ultra Fine Point Sharpie.  Twinks was evidently proud of having bagged the Sharpie since she even put her paw on top of it as if to stop me from picking it up.

My habit has been to bring the fallen pen upstairs and place it on top of my dresser, which is the one piece of furniture I haven’t seen Twinks attempt to climb. The pile of pens got to be so mountainous, though, I finally put a pen cup on there. But even that has become rather full lately.

This nightly caterwauling has gotten so bad, I’ve recently added a task to my evening routine, which is to walk around the house searching for stray pens that we’ve taken out but have forgotten to put back in their proper drawers. And I make sure to close the drawers firmly once I put away the pens because I wouldn’t put it past little Miss Twinks to use that slight opening to paw open the drawer so she can go on a pen-killing spree.

Yet despite my attempts at removing all writing implements from kitty access, she somehow manages to find a new one every night.

Smart cat, dumb human? Perhaps. But I’m hoping I’ve managed to crack the case.

This morning I was downstairs cleaning out the wastebaskets and, out of the corner of my eye, I watched her leap from the chair to the desk to the table where I have a large collection of pens that I thought were surely out of her reach.  Guess not, since she pulled one out of the container with her mouth and dropped it on the floor.

Aha! I thought. Her diabolical plan is to let it lie there all day and ignore it – until late this evening after we’ve gone to bed when she will carry it to the stairs and start her meowing. 

So later today when she was catnapping (which is cat speak for “basically all day long”) I snuck downstairs and picked up tonight’s “victim” and put it back in the box. And then put the box in the closet. And firmly shut the door.

So we’re keeping our fingers crossed for a full night of restful sleep without a Twinks Pen Killing Incident.

But in the event she has another stash somewhere, we're planning to wear ear plugs tonight. Just in case.