Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sense & Insensibility Plus Surprises

The ongoing cold/bronchitis/whatever has knocked me for a loop. But there have been changes, good ones mostly.

Friday morning I got up, still sick as can be and had a long conversation with Andy about his future. Whatever Laura had said to him after their last disastrous few days together had galvanized Andy into action. He told me he was determined to finish and get a job, leaving for a meeting with his adviser at George Mason. He got his financial aid in place, signed up for the needed classes and got his senior project approved plus applied for a good internship in Northern Virginia. I don't know exactly why Laura lecturing her brother should have such a profound effect on him unlike anything either his father or I have said but I'm so glad. He's too smart to be living in his room in mom and dad's house surfing the internet all the time.

He also gave up drinking and pot for the next month. Laura challenged him to make that change and to see if he can make it a permanent change. Good. At least he will not go around puking at his friends places that way.

Friday while he was gone I spent the day laying on the sofa crocheting a new sweater for Jim and repairing some of Jim's clothing while Sense and Sensibility and other Jane Austen novels put to film. Since I've had this upper respiratory thingie I cannot think straight. As insensible as I can be. Crocheting and napping was as challenging as I could do.

Yesterday wasn't much better. I got the dishes washed and NLQ updated and that was it after a morning spent in meetings with an attorney and some of the home owners and a specialist in HOA affairs. Yes, yes the HOA confloption over where the HOA money is continues unresolved. Out for the count, I laid in bed and watched Bob Ross and all the other painters that come on after him on PBS. Early bed.

While we'd been meeting I'd run into one of the old members of Possom Creek that had left the church before we did. I gave her kind of short shrift, said hi and turned back to the meeting. I'm glad I did even if I hold nothing against her and we always got along. Jim started having an in depth convo with her and I could clearly hear her bragging about how her husband is still one of the editors at the Congressional Record, one son does something for a Senator (didn't catch the title) and how the youngest child is now studying on full scholarship at Dartmouth or Harvard (some Ivy League school, just didn't catch the name).

Why was I so glad I didn't talk much to her? While she is one of the few really successful home schooling mothers I know, getting all three of her sons into Ivy League schools on scholarships after home schooling them, I just know that the mean little petty evil part of me would want to ask her about her rapist son, ask if he was still in prison the first moment she started to brag about the others. Feeling like crap sometime makes me less tolerant of what I know to be bullshit... I wonder if he's still in prison? Poor kid.

Today I got up still feeling like I had a foot on a banana peel and the other on a tombstone so I went back to bed and slept in quite a while. Got up and started to crank out a huge tray of biscuits to put together a large ham biscuit tray for the post funeral reception at the church, after our friend Don's funeral in the morning. After all, we are in the South and there cannot be a funeral without food anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon line. Southerners and food go together at any social event you can think of, from marryings to buryings.

Was so not looking forward to the visitation tonight because, let's face it, everything to do with funerals is sad, glum and mournful. Oh how I was disabused of that notion tonight! First of all, we get there and it's a mad house, we had to circle the parking lot several times to find a space to park the car. Waited in line nearly two hours before we made it anywhere near the room Don was laid out in. But when I got there, hoo boy, what a laugh, what a hoot!

It was open casket and as I got closer I could see that the mortician had arranged Don's face in a smile and Don wore his Nascar t-shirt in the casket. Surrounding Don were so many mementos of the things he had a deep love of, tiny Nascar cars, the Emmaus Walk rainbow on the back of the casket, many silly little things. It looked like Don was laying there, smiling, pleased as spiked punch, enjoying it all. Touching and made most of the mourners smile. This was one of those rare wakes that felt like a real celebration of life.

But the funniest thing about it was that I glimpsed my old boss from the year I worked at the insurance agency, Bitchy Galore and her sixth hubby Tommy. I'd just been amusing Andy earlier in the day with tales of the year I worked for her, her drinking in the office, the time she accused me of looking at hardcore porn on the front office computer and I showed her through the history that it had happened when Tommy was there, not I, all the times she was shouting about her gynecological issues while I was sitting in the back working on the network turning red while she yelled and the time she decided to fund raise for the local country club by trying to get the golfing ladies of the country club to post for a nude calender on the golf course. She was a character, but a character I could only put up with for that one year. I was still heavily involved with fundamentalism so every single day I worked with her I felt like I was dealing with a sinful non-believer and it was an abasement to be near her so I quit.

I have to say the time hasn't aged either of them very well but they are still married and that surprises me the most. They were quite the prickly pair that fought all the time in the office, making for a very tense atmosphere. With her track record of so many divorces and his reputation for being a jerk I never expected them to last more than a few years. You never can tell I guess.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Walking Dead

Found out last night when Jim came home that the friend of ours named Don that had passed on was a different one than I thought. When Jim called home he told me the wrong last name! But that matters not because the Don that died was also a good friend of ours, much closer to Jim than the other Don.

Last night at the church the mens group had a special meeting to talk about Don and plan for what the mens ministry might do for the funeral and the family. Jim came home very late because everyone was simply so stunned that the meeting and remembrances took quite a while.

I didn't mind because now I've managed to pick up the annoying cold Jim has had for several weeks and it's morphing into something more, like bronchitis with a dose of sinus infection for shits and giggles. So last night while I waited I lay on the sofa watching the odd Lifetime movie, something simple and non-thought provoking.

Today I am just out of it. I did what I really needed to do in the morning and by the time afternoon came I was ready for a nap. Of course Laura, my darling baby daughter, showed up from her university with Andy in tow and wanted to go out shopping. I needed to run out to the hospital to pick up a pair of earrings for my sister in law since she kept wanting my pair followed by running into Target to look at sheets. Started feeling very dizzy and like I might throw up in Target so we didn't stay long. I got home just in time to get crackers and ginger ale in to derail the barfing.

The tale Laura told on Andy didn't help my stomach. Andy has signed up for a student loan to take his last 2 classes he needs to graduate from George Mason and had a meeting with his adviser. Turns out he overslept and missed the meeting plus got so drunk at her boyfriends house that he puked everywhere, including on the boyfriend's parents new sofa. Laura is disgusted with Andy and told him he had to get his shit together or he'd be living with mom and dad forever.

Knitter please! I love him to death but that's not happening. If he doesn't make some forward motion on his own soon we're going to make him get a full time job and pay us rent for his room.

I'm disappointed in him and cannot understand why he doesn't seem to want to do anything but beer bongs and internet, but there he is. I dread Jim coming home tonight and what he's going to say to Andy. He spent the entire day Saturday nagging Andy like he was a shrewish fishwife. My head cannot take it since I feel like I'm walking half dead at least.

Going back to bed. This is too much for me to deal with today.

Glad we only had to visit the hospital gift shop because there was a electronic sign on the hallway that leads to the ER proclaiming that the wait time due to the large number of incoming flu cases was over 4 hours for all but the most pressing emergencies and that all beds were full, if you needed to be admitted you would have to be transferred to another hospital. This was around one pm, not a time when the ER is usually very busy. The flu has filled up just about all the hospitals in the Greater DC area. I'll take bronchitis any day over the flu.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Tears and Blood

Today I woke up to the news that someone Jim and I knew very well had died this morning in a car wreck. The go-go world of Northern Va/DC seems to be plagued by people who run red lights, stop signs and speed up instead of slowing down at yellow lights. I don't know all the details yet, just that he was near Leesburg, where my eldest daughter lives, had a car wreck, was sent to the hospital and we were all emailed he was in stable condition. A few minutes later we were all emailed that he had passed on.

This floored me, even thought it shouldn't. Life is fragile and you never know exactly what's around the next bend. Life is change and sometimes that change it death.

This man's name is Don and he was someone that joined the church like two years ago maybe, or was it three? He leaves behind a wife, kids and grand kids, family was very important to him. He was always very kind and friendly to me at church, even if we didn't have a lot in common. I liked Don and counted him among my friends.

After a great deal of prayer and a morning spent totally immersed in worship music this afternoon I decided the best way I could honor Don's memory was by taking good care of my family. So I cleaned and did laundry before making a big batch of yogurt, granola and special oatmeal soap for Andy's itchy skin.

Tonight I'm wiped out and I'm not looking forward to the next few days. Funerals are something I dread, usually because at our church I have to hold myself together and be one of the Stephen Ministers available to pray for anyone that wants it during the funeral. Plus I'm sure I'll be asked to help out with the post reception food. But I guess it's better to be occupied than it is to be mourning non-stop.

Sad situation. I hope he had life insurance for the sake of his family.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Gender, Generations & Gnostic Garbage

This evening I ran out to buy a tool and piece to fix my starting to fall apart installed closet system. I used the drill to install the missing bit, then put everything back before running out to pick up pizza for Jim, Andy and Andy's best bud Chad. Jim washed dishes while I was repairing and getting some pizza.

Reversed gender roles pretty obviously. But we've never really had hard and fast gender roles in our marriage. The closest we came to strict gender roles was during the years we were in Fundigelical Land, where others loved to tell both of us that we needed to stick to what men did and what women traditionally did. What a disaster for us! We'd always operated that both of us did many different things at times based upon need and opportunity. Outraged some folks at church.

I had not thought back to the whole gender divisions of labor until recently when my mother and I had kind of a verbal tiff over who takes out the trash. It started when my momma started to verklempt about some special European chocolates she'd ordered for the garbage men who work her area.

Make the mistake of telling my mother I had done something similar at Thanksgiving time instead of Christmas because I figured they probably had at least a few tips at Christmas so I wanted to do it when they weren't expecting anything. I'd gotten a big box of chocolates, a thank you card with some cash in there to split among them. I wrote a note thanking them for helping me out so much when my back was bad. The sanitation workers had hauled my can to the truck and back up to my house when I was struggling with that back procedure. They did the same thing again after viewing me hobbling on crutches with a removable cast on my leg back this fall. They've gone well above and beyond their job. They still come up to the house and haul the can and return it if I'm out of town or forgot. Good guys.

Why did they do that? I think it's because I've always treated those hard-working men decently when I've come across them. I know that they have a hard job that not everyone could do. I do tip them yearly and sometimes sent things out to them. Even Mitt Romney thinks that it's one of the hardest jobs you could do and it's rare I agree with him on much of anything.

Momma was outraged that I was taking the garbage can to the curb, started huffing and spitting that HER husband took out the trash can EVERY trash day until he died, even when he was feeling poorly from all the chemotherapy he had. My Jim should respect me like THAT!

I laughed at her words and I still laugh at them because whoever puts the trash can out at our house is just like washing the dishes or fixing the closet, it's whoever gets to it first or has a talent for that type of work. It isn't determined by if you have an outie or inny for sexual organs.

That usually works out to be me because one of the things I do on the day before they pick up the trash is actually go around and empty all the household litter baskets from each room, take them out to the can and roll the can to the curb. This is usually around 5 pm before Jim gets home and I am just starting to cook dinner. It's not a gendered thing, it's a practical thing.

For days afterward I asked most of my friends who took out the garbage can in their relationship. Anyone in my age group and below answered that it was whoever got to it first put it out. It wasn't a set male or female chore.

The only folks I know that put that whole male/female roles thing as a serious thing are either from my mother's generation or from the fundamentalist mindset. Makes me think that the entire fundamentalist world is just secretly trying to take us all back to the 50's, the 1850's. They are just generational throwbacks.

The Christmas Trip Part 2

The very best part of the trip was getting to know my new sister in law.

I'd met her two Christmases ago when I'd gone down for the holidays with Jim. She'd been the brand new bride then and I'd looked down upon her because she spent every single freaking moment in that people-pleasing mode that I used to struggle with in my years of fundigelicalism. It's an exhausting place to be. She seemed really insecure and determined to make everyone like her.

However I will admit I was as sick as can be on that trip and tripping on that wonderful liquid Vicodin cough syrup for my walking pneumonia. Not everything that came out of my mouth was rational and my thought processes were somewhat skewed. I do remember Jim getting rather anger with me because I wasn't falling all over the new sister in law and when asked a direct question I gave direct truthful, not necessarily pretty, answers.

Fast forward to this year. We spent a morning shopping together than opened a discussion about the Maw-in-Law and our mutual feelings of annoyance with Maw because of her unfeeling, uncensored commentary and her prejudices and general rudeness. We had so much in common it just wasn't even funny. We both verklempt and carried on. It was wonderful because for the first time someone else knew exactly why I was so hung up on some of the things my Maw-in-Law, retired university professor, said and did.

That plus we share a love of unusual handmade jewelry and love of turquoise. In fact this afternoon I am making us making gemstone necklaces with lots of turquoise in each. During our travels I'd stopped by the largest selection/cheapest prices bead place I always hit when I'm in Louisiana, Ponchatoula's The Turquoise Coyote. I got all the beads I needed for the necklaces very inexpensively. Too bad they aren't online.

We also went with her and the Bro-in-Law to see a local theater production of "Cats" and had a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day with them. I'm glad we came as I think they have a better sense of who we are and I got to know my new Sister-in-law much better.

The old sister-in-law was always a pain in the ass. Christmas Day? We'd be eating dinner, playing games, unwrapping presents and doing all sorts of things while the old Sis sat in the corner reading a book without interacting with any of us. I know she thought we were all beneath her and her fancy corporate world but really, try to pretend to be family on one day a year to make the Maw-in-Law happy. What does that cost? Nothing, yet it's precious beyond belief.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

The Run Around Wild Girl

Jim was home sick today with his ever-deepening cold/virus. He's honking and coughing and laying up in the bed.

Me? Housework, housework, housework followed by errands only to be invited to go on a thrift shop shopping binge by my friend from the old church I call Josie. I scored a Trivial Pursuit game we didn't have, vintage Vogue patterns in my size and beautiful measuring cups for my kitchen. They match a long gone set we got as wedding presents twenty six years ago, brown earthen ware very popular among the 70s crunchy granola brigade.

It was good to touch base with Josie, hear all about how her trip to Arizona the first three weeks of December went and to tell her about my own trip to San Antonio and parts of Louisiana, Alabama and up home to Virginia.

One of the things I've been shook up about and pondering is what happened with my pals I used to work with that I visited this trip. Kay, my maid of honor at my wedding, has had a not too dissimilar life trajectory than me. We're both long time married with kids, dealing with getting those children finished up with the educations and out of the nests. We both do things we love for a job and we're both happily settled with a home, family, life. I sneaked into her office and we visited for awhile.

I'd lost touch with Kay because of her moves and my own and just life in general. Kay and I had worked together at the restaurant I worked at in college. She had a room mate/best friend named Bonnie, who also worked with us. Bonnie I'd lost track of too.

But thanks to the wonders of that Facebook I've reconnected with both Bonnie and Kay.

I knew that Bonnie had unfortunately experienced something of a life filled with disappointment and tragedy. The guy she married that Kay and I tried to talk her out of marrying had abused her and her children, in fact he tried to burn down the house over their heads one night. He may have killed his son by one of his other wives. Lots of bad stuff that I don't have the heart to recount. Let's just say he was a very bad guy and he worked as a cop and later a prison guard.

One of the things I did as I was passing out of town was stop by Bonnie's place once I discovered she didn't have a car to drive in to meet me in town. That alone shocked me. You might be able to get along here and every place between here and Washington DC without a car but an automobile is essential for life in South Louisiana. The only bus I know of that runs in that part of the world is one that starts in the poor black section and runs straight to the rich areas, you can see the ladies getting off the bus in the richer areas dressed in starched maids uniforms. That's mass transit in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. New Orleans mass transit is much better, but not by that much even if they used to have an extensive street car system.

Bonnie told me the night before we met that her Addison's disease had gotten much worse and she was now unable to work, so I wasn't entirely surprised to pull up in front of government housing apartments. The painted facade was peeling and the stains on the concrete floor of the hallways looked stained with dirt and spilled things I cannot contemplate.

Finding her apartment easily I finally saw Bonnie after twenty six years. Bonnie had been much more difficult to keep in contact with all these years between all the moves she and her ex made, the changed phone numbers, the midnight flits (I imagine knowing what the ex is like). She was happy to see me, as I was to see her but she seemed tired. Her sixteen year old daughter sat smoking and assorted kids from her room mate  lay around the living room watching cartoons together as Bonnie and I talked.

One of the big surprises of seeing long ago people this trip was having so many of them telling me, "You were the wild girl!", which is funny considering I was more the 'adventurous spirit' one of my friends called me. Those carefree years before I married Jim and I worked and went to college were some of the happiest and fun I've ever known. I was free after a mercifully brief bad marriage made too young, I was young and the world lay before me like a glittering everyday Mardi Gras and I wanted to experience everything it held. I'm only sorry that some only remember me as 'wild' instead of a free spirit. I surfed, I bar hopped, I flirted, I went out to see Rocky Horror Picture Show once a month or so. I used to sing  backup in my ex's band a few years before. Some wild, sounds pretty normal now.

What Bonnie had to say sort of stunned me. She told me that meeting me was a big eye opener to her and that I was one of the most influential people in her life. Because I was...drum roll please..'The Wild Girl'

I guess my free spirited ways must have seemed Sodom and Gomorrah wild to the daughter of an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist pastor's daughter who'd been sheltered all those years. She told me as she realized from her time with Kay and I how much her parents had kept her from knowing, the angrier she got until she was in outright rebellion against her parents, marrying Mr. Jerk just because her daddy hated him.

It was depressing to hear and see how much I did not have in common with my old friend. I hated seeing her living like that with not much in the way of hope or opportunities available. I hated that I have no real way to help her. But it was even more depressing to hear her talk about my supposedly wild self influencing her because I begged her not to marry Mr. Jerk. If I was such a role model why did she fall for him in the first place because I had always kicked the problematic ones to the curb once I realized that the guy had something skeevy or weird about them that I was uncomfortable with. Fifty first dates that never went any further.

Some my Mr. Jerks that never made it past date one.
Mr. Too Tight - asked me out on a date and took me to the Salvation Army Thrift Store for the date followed by a magnanimous offer to buy me whatever I wanted for dinner off the dollar menu at McDonalds.
Mr. Creepy Hot Tub - Took me out on a pleasant enough dinner and dancing date, then tried to take me back to his house for nekkid hot tub canoodling.
Mr. Crazy Ex Wife - He was a nice decent guy but his angry drunken ex wife crashed our date and started making drama about him and his kids and you name it.
Mr. I'll Cook You Dinner - went to his house and the only thing on the menu was whiskey and me.
...and a host of others that were so wrong for me and violated my own rules...

Even if I had been a free spirit I'd never date more than once a Mr. Jerk. Looking back I'd had pretty decent morals even if I didn't go to church. I didn't date married guys, I didn't drink to get drunk and I never stole, killed, raped or maraudered.  It wasn't my style.

So how is it that someone that make just about every wrong choice in her personal life she could make is holding me up as their hero/role model from those days? She made choices I would never have made.

It was an unsettling visit to say the least. Will I see her again? I don't know. I'd hate to influence her even more. What would she do next? Rob a bank or turn to prostitution?


Thursday, January 03, 2013

The Christmas Trip Part 1

I have to say I was completely wrong about a lot of things, assumptions and fears I had about our trip to see Jim's mom and brother. Here's a short version of our trip.

Dec. 20th We spent traveling, getting up before dawn to take the commuter train into DC. I sat in Jim's cubicle and watched him work for a few hours before we took the train up to the Baltimore-Washington Airport and flying to San Antonio, changing planes in Atlanta. The flights were extra bumpy because of the winds but we got there in one piece.

Dec. 21st through Dec. 26th - We ended up staying at a suite in the retirement community Jim's mother lives in and I have to say IT WAS SWEEEEEEEEEEET! Five days in a fully furnished suite that was every bit as nice as some five star resorts I've stayed at. We were in the Independent Living building and Maw-in-Law lives in the Assisted Living building. There's also a town house section and a detached garden homes section as well as a locked Alzheimer ward and hospital-like building for those needing more medical care than Assisted Living.

We spent the days eating breakfast with the Maw-in-law and sometimes lunch before heading out with Bro-in-Law and Mrs. Bro-in-law. Turns out I'd completely misjudged the situation, the emails and phone conversations that Jim had repeated to me that made me think that Bro-in-law was up to something could not have been less true. Bro-in-law is extremely happy with the new wife, we couldn't stay with them because houses 1 and 2 are staged and on the market for sale. The third house is a small carriage house, really an apartment, over the garage they built on some country property out of town. It only has one bedroom.

More later....

The DMV

Back during our Christmas vacation I ended up with my Maw-in-law's car. It's a newish Buick Century Custom with every luxury you can imagine, in a sort of golden-beige color with only 20K miles on it. Looks and runs like a brand spanking new car. Remember that old joke about a car owned by a little old lady that only drove it to church? This is that car.

My Maw-in-law isn't totally happy about giving up the car. She's 89 now, has some dementia as well as the advancing cancer. The family was after me to take the car or sell it. Maw-in-law was threatening to drive occasionally so removing the car would solve that problem immediately. She doesn't need it as the community she lives in transports the residents to different places as needed and the Bro-in-Law and his wife live five minutes away and take her around San Antonio as needed.

Yesterday I took the title made out to me and Jim to the Virginia DMV in my town. I don't know if yesterday was some sort of silly deadline or what, but half the town was in the small DMV building, literally there were about 150 people ahead of me waiting to be waited on. I got there around 1 pm and was still there at 3 pm, not much closer to being waited on when the entire computer system for DVM went out on the Richmond end. We were told that we could wait if we wanted but they couldn't guarantee the system would come back up. I waited about 30 more minutes before finally giving up and coming home. Two and a half hours wasted I could have been using for something else.

Today I went back, car title and file holding every document pertaining to the car firmly clutched in my hot little hands. Not much of a crowd, I actually found an empty chair to sit in and guzzle my Starbucks mucho-mucho grande with extra caffeine while waiting. The caffeine had barely started to buzz around my brain and wake me up when I was up at the counter with my stack of paperwork and state of Louisiana title signing the car over. By this point I'd been at the DMV maybe a half hour.

But...once the DMV officer started looking at the title and the paperwork from Louisiana he had to go consult a supervisor, who had to consult a big book and then call DMV in Louisiana. Then they told me because the laws of Louisiana are based on Napoleonic Code I would have to get either a copy of the probate of my Paw-in-law's will or a statement showing there was no probate from the state. Turns out Maw-in-law tried to take Paw-in-law's name off the title after his death because they were both listed on it. She sent a copy of his death certificate to Louisiana DMV with a letter and payment to re-register the car and they sent her back a letter stating that she had to appear at the DMV office with the death certificate AND the probate to make the change. She didn't do it, but she did squirrel all that correspondence away in the file I had with me, right down to the death certificate.

You should see the things saved in that file! Thank you note from the salesman, letters from the dealership trying to rope her in to look at and buy a new car. All sorts of things that indicate that she's not been mentally 'right' for quite some time now.

So now I have to chase down a document that may or may not exist in a state over a thousand miles away. I suspect I'll be taking a trip soon.

By the time I got out of DMV again, still without a Virginia title or plates for the car, I'd spent nearly the same amount of time I'd already wasted the day before. Five hours burned up chasing that darn new registration! Jim wonders how I fritter my time away while he's working.. this is it, baby... doing impossible tasks very slowly not laying in bed watching soaps and eating bon-bons. I wish.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

New Years Resolutions

So much to tell, so much has happened. But today is not that day.

But I am amused watching people in my life struggle with their New Year Resolutions already. Jim made some harsh ones, only educational television instead of UFC and no more Fantasy Football. I think he's gone too far and I feel bad for him. I know it's because he was beaten in the finals in our church fantasy football league and he took it poorly. I'm not sure why he's decided not to watch any more UFC. He did watch it about as often as I was Law & Order: SVU, which is a lot. But I try to iron or fold clothes during my L&O watching so I'm not sitting there gawping slack-jawed at the television screen.

My resolutions are to try to be kinder, to be conscience in the moment, to be my old adventurous self instead of the little old lady I've gradually morphed into. No fear in the coming year.

Finally I did start up my burqa project I'd been thinking on for ages. I had to overcome a  lot of fear to do it, my curiosity overcame the fear finally. I've had several interesting experiences this week starting up The Burqa Experiment. So far I've gotten up a page explaining who I am and why I'm doing this. I hope it properly conveys I'm doing this with a spirit of reverence and honor and seeking to understand.

Now off to make keys for my new car and get it registered with DMV! Be blessed today!