My Baby Turned Thirty-Four today. (I’m still thirty-nine.)

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This was taken in first grade.  My father chose the outfit Mo has on as her fifth birthday gift. After third grade, she refused to wear anything but boy’s corduroy Levi’s.  By high school, she insisted on wearing pajama pants to school daily.  I was lazy enough to be fine with that.  No ironing.

Today my daughter, Maureen, turned thirty-four.  That kid has been a lifetime of delights.  Mo is smart, hilarious, wonderfully sarcastic, artistic, and athletic.  And no I’m not biased.

Thirty-four years ago today we were in the Wilmington Delaware maternity ward.  Mo’s scant hair was pulled up into a small ponytail on the top of her head, held in place with a bit of pale pink yarn.  She was swaddled as tight as a pea in a pod.

My parents brought Matt to visit.  Mom had made cupcakes.  We gave Mo her first birthday party.  She had gotten a gift for her brother, carried it with her right straight outta’ the womb.  A Fisher Price cop car, motor cycle, and policeman.

Mo went through a four-year-old phase where she refused to answer to anything but “Brucie.”  She sat at the top of a sliding board, screeching at her pre-school teacher “NO, I’M NOT MAUREEN!  My name is BRUCIE!”  We complied.

That teacher suggested to me we hope for a kindergarten teacher who was comfortable with a “creative” child.  I think she meant willful.

In first grade, she wouldn’t sit still.  Teacher Miss Evensen told her to pretend she was in a box.  Mo mimed being in a glass box, reaching out touching sides, ceiling, floor, and moving her mouth to pantomime speech.

By high school, all her buddies congregated at our house.  I remember one night sitting on my bed, reading when suddenly I was surrounded by about six sixteen-year-old boys.

Her senior year, Mo was planning to go to a Jimmy Buffet concert.  The day of the event our yard men came to mow and trim.  Suddenly there was a knock at the back door. The guys had something to show us in the garden.  Lo and behold, there under the evergreens were cases of beer and oceans of liquor bottles.  We gathered it all up, put it on the kitchen island and called Maureen down from her room.

Her eyes bugged out when she saw the booze. Busted. She was forbidden to go to the concert. Then we called our friends, invited them to party and drank up her goodies.

During her four years at Notre Dame Mo spent every summer as a counselor at Camp Sweeney, a Texas camp for diabetic kids.  She and I would drive from Chicago to Texas together.  I’d fly home, leaving her with the car.  I loved those road trips!  We rarely left Chicago before 3 in the afternoon.  We played great games in the car.  One of my personal favorites was trying to decide how we’d murder someone and where we’d hide the body.  We could play that for hours.

Hard to believe my baby now has a baby of her own, Tate.  He is now singing Mary had a Little Lamb.  Mo used to sing that.  She pronounced it Yittle Yamb.  A yittle yamb who yived down the yane.  I would tuck her in for a nap, then stand outside her door giggling as she sang to herself.

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Here he is in his crib. Could the kid be any cuter?

 

Now she’s is a critical care nurse.  I suggested she be an artist. But for some reason she feels being a nurse contributes more than a lifetime spent coloring.  Go figure.

Mo, happy birthday and thanks for thirty-four years of laughter. We can’t wait to see you next month!

 

Our Phony Service Dog

The fabric of my days is pretty consistent. Since my goal is to learn to write, I spend all day reading about writing, journaling, blogging and meditating.

Recently I also spend a percentage of the day working with Bronson, the wonder dog, on his obedience skills.

We adopted Bronson from the Colorado men’s penitentiary. He came to us wonderfully dutiful.  Then we proceeded to untrain him. That began when Jimmy began walking him off leash.   For more on that experience see this blog post– Introducing Bronson, our dog trained in the Colorado Men’s Penitentiary  

I wouldn’t be fussing about Bdog’s behavior if we didn’t have to pass him off as a service animal. No, he’s not a service animal. He is, however, Houdini. Bronson can and does escape from hotel rooms.

The first time it happened was in Georgia. We arrived at our La Quinta and checked in at the front office. Then we piled into Stella, my beautiful blue mini-van, and drove about half a mile. This La Quinta was a lot like a college campus. There were several “dorms.” Each room had an exterior door.

We fed Bronson, left him in the place and went to dinner. Following the meal, we stopped at the front office to ask a question. I waited in the car. Jim entered and exited through the automatic sliding glass doors. As he left, he looked down to his right side with astonishment. I peered through the glow of headlights and saw that there next to him was our Bronson!

Sure enough, Bdog had left our room, found the office, and wandered about. The employees said he had come and gone several times, roamed about, put his paws on the front desk. He was looking for us.

We drove back to our building. In the parking lot, we encountered an apparently drunk man. He took a glance at Bronson, then asked, “That your dog? Pretty darn smart dog you got there.”

He continued, “I found him wandering around, asked him where his room was. He led me up there.” (pointed) “I put him back in the flat three damn times and he kept right on escaping.”

The second time he absconded in spite of us rolling a desk chair in front of the door as we backed out of the room. We arrived home from dinner, and Bronson was in the reception area, holding court with employees.

The third occasion I went to fill an ice bucket and returned within minutes to find Bronson bounding down the hall, ears flapping, wearing a giant grin as if to say, “Here I am mom! On the way!”

So we can’t leave him in hotel rooms. Nor can he wait in a hot car while we dine. Therefore I went online and ponied up sixty-five dollars to get Houdini a service dog vest.

My daughter, Mo, is horrified we pass the kid off as something he isn’t.  She shouldn’t be so darned honorable.  I have to wonder how I failed as a mother.

Recently I checked how to have him certified as a service animal. It would take two years. Forget that. So I signed him up for obedience classes to brush up his skill set.

There are five dogs in his class. The handlers use little “clickers.” Each time the dog responds well to a command we “click,” then reward with a treat. He’s a rock star student.

I’ve only been asked once why I need a service dog. I responded, “I’m sorry. Will you repeat that? I’m hearing impaired.” By the time we head to Chicago, the kid will be totally believable as a guide dog to the deaf.

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Here he is on an Aspen ski lift.

 

Remembering Gray

My most recent book club read is Paul Kalanithi’s memoir When Breath Becomes Air. At the age of thirty-six neurosurgeon Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Just like that his family’s future evaporated. He became a patient and new father confronting his mortality.

He spent the last months of his life writing this profoundly moving memoir. Unfortunately, he died before finishing. His wife Lucy completed the book.  I spent the last twenty pages with tears streaming down my cheeks.

I’m sure our group will have some serious conversations reflecting on how we would face a similar sudden diagnosis.

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This memoir led me to think about a friend, Gray, who died far too young. She diagnosed with a brain tumor on July 11th, 2005; she died February 4, 2008. I remember the date of diagnosis because it was the Monday after Jimmy and I got married. Gray had missed the ceremony due to an excruciating headache.

Memories of time spent with Gray:

Walking the Chicago Marathon. That grueling adventure was addressed here.  Walking a Marathon. A painful, enlightening experience. If you can endure a marathon, you can endure anything.

Building a doll-house. We contributed it to a Catholic Charities fundraiser. Gray did all the tedious jobs. Meanwhile, I painted the exterior to look like rocks, did murals on the interior walls and created little paintings to hang over the stairway.

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I forgot I ever had such long hair!

 

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Listening as she told stories of her life growing up in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Gray had a southern drawl. She liked her grits and collard greens.

Gray married later in life and had two boys. One Easter she gave the kids rabbits. Darth and Vader. Lo and behold, Darth turned out to be Dorothy and gave birth to a large litter of bunnies. Gray carted those babies to a pet store and sold them as feed for snakes. She then separated the adults.  Darned if Dorothy didn’t get knocked up again. So back Gray went to the pet shop with another box full of bunnies.

Finally, she decided the Dorothy and Vader had to go. As a final treat, she let them romp around the bedroom for about half an hour. She said Vader bounded across the room, mounted Dorothy, humped furiously for a few moments, did an enthusiastic back flip, then immediately repeated the performance. Gray gave him about seven or eight opportunities. Then she snatched them both up by the scruff of their necks and shoved them into a carrying case. The snakes had a big meal that afternoon.

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This was a fun luncheon at the Country Club.  Three of the women in this photo have since divorced.  Gray is holding her youngest child in her lap.

When her diagnosis came, the neighbors rallied around, cooking food, driving her to chemotherapy and radiation, and ultimately visiting her in the nursing home where she spent the last several months of life.

I remember sitting in the darkened room, watching the snow pile up outside her window. Friends had contributed Christmas decorations. The blinking tree lights were incongruous against the grim backdrop of the hospital bed and IV pole. There was a guest book in her room. I spent many afternoons writing to her, sharing memories of our times spent together. Memories she would never be well enough to read herself.

There was something about Gray, something knowing. She believed she was an old soul. Possibly she was. Illness made her a gentler person. No one said goodbye to her without her responding, “I love you.”

Her husband brought Gray home to die.

The last time I saw her was days before she passed. She was ensconced in the guest bedroom. The night stands by the bed were green handpainted flea market finds Gray and I had ferreted out years before. She was under several blankets and had a steroidal moon face. Her bald head was covered with a knit cap. She wasn’t aware of my presence.

Gray, you handled illness and dying with enormous dignity.  I know you would be proud of your sons. Matt is now a surgeon. Andy is in his last year of law school at Northwestern. Hopefully, somehow you are aware of what fine young men they have become.

Divorce

Life dishes out painful experiences. You don’t reach sixty-five without weathering tough stuff. In my life, no experience has been more excruciating than divorce.

I never intended to end my marriage. I took vows to stay in it for a lifetime. I begged my therapist, Robin, to teach me skills that would keep me mentally healthy in an environment that was toxic for me.

Then one sad, lonely night I finally decided I’d endured enough. I gathered up my flip flops, the clothes on my back, my slim check book, climbed into the car and took off.

I left on Memorial Day, 2002. I gave myself three months to watch, consider, see if there was genuine commitment to change and growth. And I prayed. Prayers were answered. In the fall I hired an attorney.

I felt enormous guilt. How do you end a twenty-eight-year marriage without feeling remorse? My decision dropped a boulder into the pond of three other lives. I created a tsunami.

My poor kids.

I’d followed them around when they were toddlers, my arms on either side of them so they wouldn’t bump into sharp corners. Now I was making a choice that would affect them in the most horrific way possible.

Every single speck of life as I knew it shattered. Friendships were torn asunder. People who had been family members for the better part of a lifetime no longer were. And that ugly word, the one uttered only in a whisper by my mother because it was so shameful, became the description of myself.  Divorcee.

Several years later a friend called me to ask the name and phone number of my lawyer. She was considering leaving her marriage. I advised, “Kate, think this through long and hard. Ending a marriage, in my experience, is more painful than the death of a family member.” She stayed. I see her on Facebook. It’s nice to know her family is intact.

As for me, I don’t regret pulling the plug. I now live in a consistent environment. My husband of twelve years is steady, gentle, and unfailingly kind. I know without a doubt there will never be another divorce in my future.

 

Cherishing the evil within

Bird by Bird author Anne Lamott tells me to look within to create a character. Today, while meditating, I did that. And I stumbled across bitchy Alice.

Usually, I try to stuff Nasty Alice. I pretend she doesn’t exist. But today I embraced my wicked. I let that vile woman out of her box and said, “GO FORTH AND SPEW YOUR VENOM!”

Rotten Alice is a lot of villainous fun. She curses like a sailor. She is catty. Her claws are long and sharp. Here are some other embellishments I’m adding to Evil Alice.

Tattoos. Lots of them. Sleeves on both arms. And a mullet. Atrocious Alice has a pierced tongue. She spends afternoons in dark, empty bars, the only patron on a stool keeping the bartender busy pouring shots of tequila served with salt and lime.

She has a swagger. And possibly a dagger. And indeed a handgun in her fringed purse. She wears frayed too tight jeans with 1970s crocheted vests and Hendrix T-shirts.

She steals from friends. Goes through their medicine cabinets and lifts their Hydrocodone. She grows pot under black lights in her basement.

She drives a Harley way too fast, veering in and out of lanes, flipping the bird at cars as she cuts them off. And she spits great gobs of phlegm on grocery store parking lots.

However, even obnoxious people have a bit of decent buried deep within.

Evil Alice is kind to animals. Even at her most heinous Cruel Alice could never hurt a dog, cat, bird, horse, or rabbit. Although she can and does happily kill gnats and mosquitos. Further, she’s unfailingly gentle with children.

She bakes peanut butter cookies with Hershey kisses in the middle. She serves them with cold whole milk. Her kitchen table is from the 1960’s. White Formica with gold flecks. Her dishes are Franciscan Desert Rose.

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Do you want to know this person? Perhaps I need to give her a husband. Or lover. Or kids. Does she have a pit bull or poodle?
What is her home like? A double wide trailer backed up to a chain link fence? Or possibly a Cape Cod with white cafe curtains in the kitchen.

On her windowsill is a Magic Eightball. She shakes that black orb several times a day, looking to it for answers. Usually, it responds “Reply hazy, try again later.”

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She smokes Marlboros. Before opening a box of cigarettes, she tamps it on the kitchen counter, packing the fag tightly. Her ashtray is red plastic. Her gums are receding due to the smoking. Her home, possibly a mid-century split level, smells like smoke and fried fish.

I like her in spite of her nasty mouth and tobacco breath. I will explore her later. I need to know her friends, her job, her tics, and obsessions.

But for now back to Anne Lamott. After that perhaps I’ll color more of Where the Sidewalk ends for my grandson Tate.

Related Blog posts:

Positive thinking, Shel Silverstein, and my marvelous Book Club.

Attempting to reinvent myself at Sixty-Five. What am I doing?

Took the plunge and joined a writer’s group.

Last night, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., I attended a writer’s meet-up. That I went out at night, drove after dark with my myopic cataract-ridden eyes is evidence of how badly I want to learn this craft.

The event took place in the home of one of the writers,  BonSue.  She opens her house twice a month.  She provides elaborate beverages and snacks.  She served cake, deviled eggs, cheese, crackers, nuts. An entire outdoor refrigerator was stocked with beverages for the guests.

When the meeting began, we were all asked to talk about what we are writing.

I was one of the last to speak.  I felt intimidated when all I had to offer was my blog.  The others were working on sequels to already published works and first novels.  They all sounded so professional, knowledgeable, smarty-pants fancy.

I decided to say, “I am a professional artist. I’ve always wanted to write.  In November I turned sixty-five and decided it was high time I learn how to.”  Then I mentioned the books I’ve been reading and the blog I’ve been writing.

There were eighteen aspiring writers, six of whom had the courage to read and be critiqued.  Reading one’s work must be a bit like dropping your pants in public.  The risk of humiliation abounds.

Each reader made a copy of the pages they intended to submit for critique.  BonSue set a timer for ten minutes, and the author began reading.  We poised pen over pages and jotted our editorial comments as they read their work.

Following the reading, we went around the room and shared our critiques.  I was a bit flat-footed since I didn’t have knowledge of the chapters preceding last night’s readings.

Here is what was submitted:

BonSue–A tightly organized, well-written mystery.  The two protagonists are twins. I like their names.  Justin Tyme and Summer Tyme.  They have a private personal language involving numerical system.  Interesting to note that one thing confusing the listeners was BonSue’s reference to a rocks glass.  Who doesn’t know what that means?  Apparently, I drink too much.

Name forgotten–A memoir about growing up in an abusive home circa 1960. Very well done and compelling.

Another man, the name also forgotten–Sci-Fi.  I have trouble getting into Sci-Fi but learned last evening that it is a timeless genre.  Like vampires.

Don?–a Gothic historical novel placed in 17th Century Wales.  He described a river with such detail it became a character. I liked his stuff. There were suggestions he shorten some of the descriptive passages.

The critiques were gentle and constructive.

BonSue is moving to Belize.  I wonder if the Meet-up will continue?  I hope I’ll crank up the courage to read in front of the group. However, I have no idea what story I have to tell that’s interesting enough to find an audience.  No matter.  It will all fall into place if I plant my ass in the chair and keep on keepin’ on.

For now, I want to journal about my favorite foods.  Bacon is second on the list.  Just after cream cheese and before brownies.

Still going strong!

Sunday, July 9th we celebrated our twelfth wedding anniversary.  In our marriage, all occasions are marked with three cards.  Not two, not four.  Always three.  We fill them out, then “hide” them in plain sight.  Yesterday I found one next to my toothbrush, another on the laptop, and the third in the frig beside the Almond milk.

I placed one of Jim’s against the inside of our front door.  He and Bronson go out each morning to gather the newspaper.  Another was next to the Keurig coffee maker and the third was near his razor.

Jim is fancy and buys my cards at actual full price card shops.   Me?  I shop at Dollar Tree.  But since it was a big event I didn’t buy him the two-for-one-dollar cards.  I splurged and spent a full buck for each.   He’s worth it!

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I have no idea where the “BEW” came from.  He said it was for “Best Ever Wife.”  So what was the “F” under that “W”?  Friend?  WFL is “wife for life”

 

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JJP is “Jimmy James Paul” one of my many nicknames for him.

We always gather our cards, then take turns opening them and reading aloud.  Jim is sentimental and saves all celebration cards.  In the garage, we have a big plastic box loaded with twelve years worth of birthday, Christmas, anniversary, Valentine’s day and other random greeting cards.  Our kids will be tossing those in the garbage after we’re dead.

Mom would call my sister and I regularly as she cleaned her immaculate home.  The question was always, “Should I throw this (fill in the blank) away now, or do you want to pitch it when I’m dead?”  I always said, “Now.”  Marilyn opted for, “When you are dead.”  After her death, when the time came to dig out her home, we were both glad she had purged regularly.

Other things we have saved since our very beginning are restaurant matchbooks, cardboard coasters, and business cards.  We each wrote a snippet of information about the restaurant experience, along with the date.  These treasures live in a big lidded jar.

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Every year we haul this container along for our anniversary dinner, dump the contents on the table and take turns reading them to each other.  This year I forgot to take the jar into the Tampa restaurant we chose.  It’s a good thing.  It was noisy.  I never would have been able to hear Jim reading aloud.  Instead, we dumped these onto our kitchen island later in the day.  There are lots of matches from Pappadeux where we had our first “not-a-date-just-two-friends-sharing-a-meal” date.  That experience is addressed in Dating at Fifty

This anniversary we had a celebratory late lunch at Tampa’s Ulele restaurant.  This was our first Ulele experience, but will not be our last.  Everything about the restaurant is excellent, from food to decor to views.  Its location on the banks of the Hillsborough River next to Ulele Spring offers a panoramic scene of pleasure boats plying up and down the waterway.

Prior to ordering, we agreed the diet was out the window for this one meal.

I chose a roasted beet, saffron poached pear, and whipped goat’s cheese salad.  It was amazing.  Jim had the waitress Katie’s favorite, gouda grouper with wild rice and green beans.  I happily swilled two glasses of cold chardonnay while Jim enjoyed a spicy Bloody Mary.

We even ordered dessert.  Ulele homemade ice cream.   Jim chose “Ugandan Vanilla Bean”, I picked “Naviera Espresso Chocolate Swirl”.  I wish this photo looked as delicious as the ice cream tasted.  Rich, creamy, sinful.  Everything ice cream is meant to be.

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I bragged to Katie that it was our twelve year anniversary and shortly thereafter the manager brought us a box of chocolate truffles coated in walnuts.  I told him we have decided to spend every anniversary at Ulele, to which he replied, “We are open 365 days a year.  Why limit yourselves to anniversaries?”

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We were told these truffles are excellent with red wine.  We agreed our dinner that night would be just truffles and wine (me), vodka (Jim).  There remains one lone confection in the box.  I will take it to our neighbor later today.  It’s too tempting to have it here in the house.  The diet has begun again….sigh.

The following photos are of artwork in the hip two story restaurant. We lingered happily after lunch, people watching over the railing to first floor below.  A little granny in a wheelchair, mylar balloons floating from the chair handles was being feted by her children and grandchildren.  Next to them was a table of about twenty, ranging in ages from six months to sixty.  Unique to this experience was that not one group of diners were glued to their phones.

 

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The instantly iconic “gear” Ulele front doors were created by noted metal worker Dominique Martinez and his team at Rustic Steel Creations. Martinez said he wanted to evoke the industrial past of the building, as well set the tone for the Ulele experience. Rustic Steel also created the restaurant table bases, the customized bike rack, the cradles for the bottles in the wine room and the hood for our barbacoa grill.

 

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“The Laughing Horse”
Victor Delfin
Peru

 

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8-foot by 4-foot mural “In The Garden”
Erik Renssen
Amsterdam, The Netherlands

 

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The 1789 signed French stain glass panels over the kitchen doors were purchased by Cesar and Adela Gonzmart at a 1972 auction in Atlanta for a house they hoped to build. They eventually designed and built their Davis Islands home around their prized panels. When the house was sold in 2003 after their deaths, the panels were moved to the Columbia Restaurant’s Centennial Museum in Ybor City before their new home at Ulele over the doors to the kitchen.

If you are ever in Tampa, treat yourself to a Ulele adventure.  And be sure to tell your server it’s a special event!  Maybe you’ll get fattening marvelous truffles too.

 

Nursing Home Volunteer

In 1994 I suffered from clinical depression.

I decided possibly by giving back to those less fortunate, I might then realize how truly good my life was.  I made the misguided decision to sign on as a volunteer at a nearby nursing home.

My first assignment was to lead a chapel service on the Wednesdays when the regular chaplain had her day off.  You may remember I was a kid who cut Sunday School for the better part of my childhood.  I described that naughty behavior in this blog post, Going to Church.

In spite of my lack of churchie (yes, it is too a word) knowledge, I accepted the job.  Each week I’d look up a Bible passage and dig around for discussion information.  My stooped, wizened parishioners sat in folding or wheelchairs in front of the pulpit–a blond wood podium.  I did the best I could with the limited tools I had.  There might have been about fifteen regulars.  Soon enough they hated me, sensing I was a fraud, and clearly not chaplain-worthy.  One griped that I didn’t even know the hymn The Old Rugged Cross.  Frankly, I found their attitude to be rather unchristian.

They complained to the facility director.  I was relocated and became a pusher.  Of wheelchairs.  I remember ancient Irene, slumped in her chair, her chin on her shrunken chest.  Her hair was thin, greasy, and smelled foul.  A nurse approached me to suggest I roll the elderly lady out to a patch of sunlight.

No sooner did I grab the chair handles than her head whipped up and she began to scream.  “Don’t you dare push me!  I refuse to go!” I began to back off, but the nurse insisted I wheel her outside anyway.

So I did. As we were rolling along Irene said, “You lean down here.  I have something important to tell you.”  Compliant, I bent over and listened. “Closer!” I leaned in more, whereupon she declared “I hate you.  I am going to take you to the pond and drown you.  I’ve done it before, I’ll do it again.”  After that, I gave Irene wide berth.

Another patient, Ruth, was always yelling, “I have to go to the bathroom. I have to pee right now!”  But she was catheterized.  The nurses told me that was her daily lament.

One snowy winter day I arrived wearing tall white Sorel snow boots, a muffler, down coat, and heavy mittens.  Before I even had a chance to take off my outer-wear the nurses called me to their station.  They were laughing uncontrollably about a little old married couple who shared a room.

Walter and Mavis.  When Mavis was young she owned a flower shop in Chicago. She spent hours describing how she decorated her store window for different holidays.  Roses on Valentines, poinsettia’s at Christmas.

Walter and Mavis often bickered.  She claimed he had an affair somewhere along the way.  Mavis shuffled about in rubber soled terry slippers and a house coat.  Walter was rarely out of pajamas.

The morning of the laughing had begun when the nurses heard Walter loudly begging for help.  He kept repeating, “Help Me!  Someone rescue me right now.   I’m an old man.  I don’t want to do this.”

They raced down the long linoleum tiled hall, threw open Walter’s door, and there he was, flat on his back in bed.  Over him, bathrobe up around her hips, squatting over old Walter’s face, was Mavis!  Twenty-three years later that story still makes me giggle.

Then there was Bobby.  He was in his early twenties and suffered from hydrocephalus.  He had an enormous misshapen head, one eye bulged eerily, his lips were pulled back in a  permanent grimace.  Wheelchair bound, he stammered unintelligible conversation.  He spent hours gripping a pencil, trying to learn to write his name on wide lined children’s paper.  Bobby had one passion.  He adored the Chicago Bulls.  He particularly idolized Michael Jordan and had a full-size poster of Air Jordan on the wall next to his hospital bed.

At the time we lived near a golfer named John.  He was our Country Club champion.  Jordan belonged to the club.  He and John were regular golfing partners.  I approached John, told him about Bobby and asked if it might be possible to get an autographed photo of Micheal for him.  Several weeks later John gave me the photograph.  It was signed “To Bobby.  All the Best, Michael Jordan.”  I had it framed.  I was heart-warming to see that young man light up when he held the photograph in his hands. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing to thrill someone simply by writing your name?

Somewhere in my old house, there is probably still a photo taken of the two of us that day. Bobby is clutching his picture frame and wearing what was his version of a smile.  Crouched next to his wheelchair is a painfully thin woman smiling a wide smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes.

There were many sad, wilted men and woman abandoned for hours in front of the community room television.  I read to a woman who was blind.  I listened as another complained that family had dumped her there and they never visited.  Yet the walls of her room were filled with tempera on construction paper paintings from grandkids who were in and out of her room regularly, hauled along by her adult kids.  She simply couldn’t remember their visits.

Each week when I arrived I was met with the news that another patient had passed away.  Ultimately I simply couldn’t bear walking into the place anymore.  It smelled heavily of urine, disinfectant, and loneliness.  I turned in my volunteer pass and moved on.  I don’t remember what I moved on to, but surely is was something less heartbreaking.

If you are depressed and considering a similar volunteer job, DO NOT GO THERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our marriage survived the Goodwill debacle.

This morning Jim and I left home with a laundry list of errands to run.  First, a doctor’s visit.  Next, Goodwill to donate all the fat lady clothes I’ve purged from my closet. This old girl has lost thirty pounds of blubber, so gone are the maternity dresses.  Following Goodwill, we went to  Grillsmith Restaurant for chicken caesar salad (Jim) and half a yummy burger with blue cheese, no roll, side of spinach (me).  Then we headed to Publix, the grocery store, to load up on low carb foods.  We also had intended to stop by the tailor with my two new pencil skirts and Calvin Klein dress.  They needed to be shortened.  But we never got around to doing that errand.

Following our Publix shopping, Jim popped the hatchback of his SUV and began to load our groceries.  I didn’t see my new skirts and dress.  I commented, “I don’t see my new clothes”  Jim, “What new clothes?”  Me, panic rising, “My new skirts and the leopard print dress.  Plus my Via Spiga shoes.  I was going to wear them when the tailor pinned my dress!”

It turned out Jim had given all the clothing in the back of the car to the Goodwill.  I was aghast.  When we were sitting at Goodwill drop off I turned from the passenger seat and, over my shoulder, said “Only give away the things in the plastic bags. The others are for the tailor.” Jim nodded.  I thought he got the message.

There in Publix parking lot I went from zero to sixty on the pissed off scale.   I reminded him that I had TOLD him, right then and there at Goodwill, NOT to give away the unbagged things.

Jim did his own zero to sixty anger acceleration and asked, with an edge, “Why didn’t you put the things you wanted to have tailored in your foot well?”

“Because I truly believed you would pay attention when I asked you not to give them away!”

Groceries were loaded, doors were slammed, the car was pointed back from whence we came.  I called Goodwill and talked to the manager of “Intake.”  He welcomed us to come by and pick up the shoes, skirts, dress.  We had dropped them off at noon, it was now about 3 p.m.

We pulled into the parking lot, walked to intake and I fully expected to see my items still at the top of a small pile of donations.  Who knew that literally hundreds of things had been donated following our noon visit.  Huge rolling bins were overflowing with tee shirts, prom dresses, blue jeans, wedding gowns, dress shirts on hangers, sports coats, faux mink jackets (in Florida?), padded bras, used knee-high stockings.

Yet another giant rolling bin was piled high with shoes.  High heels, children’s flip-flops, Crocs, running shoes, loafers, snow boots (again, in Florida?).  Each pair of shoes was held together with a rubber band.  Or supposed to be. I soon learned the matching shoes occasionally become separated.

Michael, the intake guy, told me to fill out a small form with an exact description of accidentally donated items.  Mine read:

  1. Dark Blue denim Jag brand jeans skirt.
  2. Black pencil skirt
  3. Leopard print Calvin Klein dress with price tags still attached.
  4. Pair of size 7 Via Spiga black kitten heels.

Then we were invited in to begin looking for my new clothing.  We spent over an hour digging through other people’s cast-offs.  Shirts that smelled like sweat and cigarette smoke.  Heavily perfumed women’s blouses with make-up on the collars.  Pants covered in pet fur.  Together Jim and I tackled the first couple of clothing bins together, tossing items we had looked through into a third empty bin.

I became even more frustrated and angry as the minutes ticked by.  I knew I was supposed to be holding positive thoughts, manifesting my two skirts, one dress, and black shoes with my mind.  But that’s not so easy when royally honked off.

To put a bit of distance between us,  I moved on to the shoe bin.  I began digging through a four-foot high, four-foot deep, three-foot wide bin of smelly shoes.  That container had been filled from bottom to top in the three hours since we had visited. I know this because there, at the very bottom of the bin, separated from one another, were my Via Spiga black kitten heels.  I was bent so far into that box I could barely reach the bottom.  I was wearing a dress and didn’t give a rat’s ass if my butt showed. I wanted my shoes, dammit.

Jim went to work on an even larger cardboard container parked on a huge rolling dolly.  It was about five feet tall, wide and deep.  I helped him until I got to the point I couldn’t reach anything.  By then there were still about two feet of clothing left at the bottom.

Ultimately we were joined in our search by three Goodwill employees. A young brunette bearded man, a round woman named Sheila, and a nice young lady who called everyone “hon”.  Each time they yanked a denim skirt from a pile they held it up for me to see.  Any animal print was waved in my direction.

At one point, after finding the heels, I considered calling off the search.  But I have a really hard time finding things that fit.  Yes, I’ve lost weight and now weigh less than I did twelve years ago when we got married.  However, things have shifted in those twelve happy (until the Goodwill fiasco) years. I no longer have a waist.  It’s glorious when I find something that doesn’t cut me in two at the middle.  I had worked hard shopping for my Jag jean skirt, black pencil skirt and Calvin Klein dress.  The dress was earmarked as a possible outfit for friend Karen’s daughter’s September wedding.

Our three helpers gamely searched several bins, then the young guy remembered another container of clothing donated today.  It had been rolled into a different section.  He fetched it and began to dig.  Lo and behold!  He pulled my animal print dress into the light.  “Is this is?” he asked.

I literally hopped up and down, cheering! “Yes!  And yay you!”  With that Sheila and “Hon” were at his side, yanking out a few more items.   And sure enough, there were my two skirts!  I thanked those nice people profusely, and clutching my new found clothing to my chest I headed straight to the car, where the items were promptly dropped into my footwell.

This week my clothes will be tailored.  Right after being fumigated.

My new clothes were accidentally donated to Goodwill, and that’s good because I was able to use the experience for my blog!

 

 

Smelly Molly

Another poem for my Grandson Tate.  Eventually, I will illustrate all of these.

 

Molly, the bulldog, sleeps under my bed.

The smell of her farts is something I dread.

They’re inky and stinky,  fluffy and foggy.

Why such a stench from my sweet little doggy?

Pea green clouds of Molly rise to the ceiling.

Blow out the window, neighbors start squealing.

What must I do? Feed her perfume?

Plug her up with the stick of a broom?

Looks like tomorrow I have a task.

I’ll walk to the store and buy a gas mask.

 

Here’s the other poem I wrote for baby Tate.  A Poem for my Grandson. “Eating Boogers” by Nana

Now I’m working on one about stinky feet.  This is fun!