Category Archives: Death

The Naked and the Dead

Eat your burgers and shut up! I'm trying to drive here!

Last week, I was tapped to chaperone a field trip for my middle and high school kids at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.  Because my hubby was out of town and I had a pretty serious case of bronchitis I wasn’t exactly behind the eight-ball on a bunch of stuff that was going on in our household.  So, I dragged it out of bed the morning of, loaded up on cold meds and headed out to OMSI to get me some learnin’ with my kids.  Luckily—or not—I was clueless, going in and, because of an ill-timed bathroom break, managed to elude the docent’s speech on the exhibit’s particulars.

These ‘particulars’ being, that the room was full of DEAD, NAKED PEOPLE.   MY EYES!  MY EYES!  Posed in bizarre positions with their petrified junk exposed for all the world (and my kids) to gape at.  If you haven’t heard of this exhibit by Gunther Von Hagen, Google it and you’ll get some idea of what I’m talking about.  Anyhow, to say we all learned a little something that day, was to put it mildly.

And you know?  I have to admit, the human body is beautiful and magical, even as an over-sized hunk of beef jerky.  But it got me to wondering about a lot of stuff while I was there.  Who were these people?  What would compel them to pose naked for eternity, in odd positions such as a soccer player or a gymnast or a figure skating couple?

Have we met?

Did they even know how to figure skate?  Or play the clarinet?  Or steer a pirate ship?  Had the two skaters, now entwined for posterity, ever met in real life?  Did they really think through the part about being…oh, I don’t know…NAKED?  For earthly eternity?

And, if I could get beyond the nudity, would I consider donating my cadaver to such an endeavor?  And, in what position would they pose me?

The most obvious, of course, would be me, behind the wheel of my minivan.  One hand fused to the steering wheel, the other, raised and lobbing fast food into the backseat at a bunch of naked, petrified teenagers.

You know, I don’t think I saw a tribute to menopausal motherhood in that exhibit…

That would be one definite way to leave my mark on the world.

Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, aging, Body World, Death, Gunther Von Hagen Body World, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood

A Fish Tale. The End.

You learn a lot about people when they are grieving for a fish.

After one-and-a-half years, at least nine lives and more medicine than I have ingested in fifty years on this planet, our betta, Bluestar, has gone to his reward.

When I say “our betta,” I mean, of course, the bowl-housed betta for which my daughter begged and pleaded and, not unpredictably, swiftly pronounced “kinda boring,” thereby bequeathing his care to my husband and me.  We thought he was neat-o.

Bluestar’s passing was not unexpected.  We had anticipated this moment for six months, which was when Bluey began to perfect his dead fish float.  Tim or I would wake up and shuffle to his bowl to feed him, only to find our blue-finned friend lying motionless on his side near his heater.  We’d gather the family around the bowl, say a prayer and plan the funeral.  Before we could decide which spot in the yard was most suitable for his final resting place, however, Blue would leap from his coma, take a crazed victory lap around the bowl and come to stare at us, his fins fluttering in what appeared to be piscine glee.

“Hey, lookit me!  Didn’t I look like a dead fish? Didn’t  I? Hahahaha!  So what’s a guy got to do to get a meal around here?”

As the months went on and Blue’s impersonation of Dead Mr. Limpet began to last longer and longer, he was less able to wring sympathy from his mourners.  Some of them, anyway.  Tim decided to hold his tears until we figured out a way to take a fish’s vitals, though he must be credited for continuing to search for new and better fish medications.

Carolyn, to whom I have turned for consolation and advice innumerable times in our long and enduring friendship is, I am sorry to say, crap at comforting the bereaved when they are grieving a fish.  Oh, yes you are, Carolyn.

Her kids had fish for years, and she gave Bluestar two of his favorite toys, so naturally I would appeal to her in times of concern:  “I think Bluestar is sick.  He’s growing white fuzz balls on his fins!  What do I do?”

“Take him to the vet at Wal-Mart.  Hahahaha.”

“I didn’t know there were vets at Wal-Mart.”

“Oh, sure.  You take in the sick fish, and they give him back–better than ever. Hahahahaha!”

“Where are the vets?  In back of the pet section?  I’m not sure our Wal-Mart has a veterinarian.”

“Wendy, just take the fish to Wal-Mart.  Your betta will live for years.  Hahahahahaha!”

“Carolyn, honestly, I don’t think our Wal-Mart—“

She made the sound of a toilet flushing.

Oh.  My.  God.  Without even a proper burial!

When Bluestar’s eyesight began to wane and he regularly over- or undershot his food, I bought a hand feeder.  Nifty little gadget, but it takes time and a lot of patience to get the hang of it, and Blue, as it turned out, didn’t have enough left of either.

Ironically, Carolyn was with me when I discovered, for the last time, Bluestar on his side.

Carolyn peered into the bowl.  “He’s faking.”

“He is not, not this time.”  I felt my nose begin to tickle.  “This is different.  This time he’s at the bottom of the bowl.”

“Wendy,” Carolyn’s lovely eldest daughter pointed out quite gently, “fish float to the top when they’re dead.  He’s probably just sleeping again.”  She said nothing about Wal-Mart, for which I bless her.

“Thank you, honey.”  I nodded.  “But Bluestar always did things his own way.  I’m sure he’s passed on this time.”  And he had.

After we buried the little guy, disinfected his bowl, toys and heater and packed up his belongings and meds up to give to some other family embarking on fish ownership, I began to contemplate our various responses to Blue’s brief-ish life.  I wonder if the way we each reacted reflects the fact that lately we’ve all given some thought to dying?  Maybe this is how we’re going to treat our own elder years, particularly when we come to the point where our mortality seems more imminent than philosophical.

Tim will be proactive but stoic.  Carolyn will request that her children set her off on an ice float like an ancient Eskimo, and you will hear the sound of her laughter echoing on the air.  I will be propped up with pillows, surrounded by costly supplements, squinting at my laptop and dangerously raising my cortisol levels as I Google alternative treatments.

It bears some thought.  Watching Bluestar live taught me how to enjoy life even when my bowl is smaller than I would like it to be.  Now his death is pretty instructive.

Our daughter, by the way, did tear up when she realized that her pet, the one she had chosen so painstakingly from all the many containers of bettas at the pet store, was gone for good.  “Is he really dead this time?”

“Yes, sweetie.”

“Do we have to get rid of his body?”

“Yes.”

“Is it gonna stink?”

“Not if we do it soon.”

“Can we have a funeral?”

“Absolutely.”

“And then get pizza?”

“You bet.”

“Goody!”

 

R.I.P. Bluestar

 

 

–Wendy

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Filed under Death, Humor, Pet fish

Thoughts on Menopause by Toohotmamas

Things are going to get a lot worse before they get…worse.

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Death, Geroge Clooney, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood

How I (Almost) Ruined Our Summer Vacation

Do you have to-do lists for your summer vacation?  Please say you do, and if you don’t, please lie to me, because I don’t want to be the only Type A, summer-killing, Wicked Witch of the West weenie who made a list, cracked the family whip…and didn’t get a darned thing done, anyway.

What is it with me and summer?  I have a friend who takes her kids to the coolest places and does the most interesting things over the summer school break.  They camp out in tree houses, fly to other states to attend fairs, go on field trips to meet rulers of the free world.

I told my family we were going to:

1.) Sand and paint the molding throughout the house.  It really needs it.

2.) Pull down the hall wallpaper, which we started pulling down 2 years ago until I gouged the wall with the Paper Tiger, and we realized we’d have to drywall, too.  It’s time to turn that mess into a proper hallway.

3.) Work on daughter’s spelling, reading and math—just fifteen minutes a day, but we must be disciplined.

4.) Organize all desks, bookshelves and closets so our mornings can proceed in a smooth and joyous fashion.

Of course I planned to reward us for each project we completed.  A long bike ride, a sleepover for my daughter, a night out for the hubster and moi.

I was excited about summer, because I envisioned its conclusion with us toasting each other in our clean, lovely, drywalled home while our daughter rattled off a few dozen perfectly spelled, three-syllable words.

Yeah.  So here’s what happened:

Me, resplendent in my husband’s tool belt, and holding a clipboard:  “Okay, troops, here’s the list of what we’re going to accomplish today!”

Husband:  “Great, honey, but before you read that, we’re going to go on a bike ride.”

Me:  “Well, actually, I was thinking…”

Daughter:  “Yeah, Mom, and when we get back,  (insert name of friend here) is coming over, okay?  Please?  We haven’t seen each other since school and we probably won’t be in the same class next year (she used this same pitch for every friend all summer) and her parents said she could have a play date if you say it’s okay and I promise I’ll learn any words you want me to as soon as she leaves unless you say she can sleepover too can she please?” 

I look at husband, who shrugs, not that he even attempts to follow that kind of run-on pleading.

And there I am, left with the drill sergeant and the pushover debating in my head:

We have to get something done.  The house is a pit. 

 Ookay, but it is summer.

 Yeah, well the hall looks like a still photo from Nightmare on Elm Street.  I’ve seen people tremble on their way to our bathroom.  And if DD doesn’t study a little bit, her brain will turn to mush and she’ll start the school year behind all the kids who are studying over the summer, and then she’ll feel bad when the teacher gives her “baby math.” 

 I know, but it’s summer.

 No buts!  The closets—

 Maybe tomorrow.

 By this time, of course, the husband and daughter have left for their bike ride, and I have decided to do something really useful like vacuum crumbs out of the grooves in the dining table.  And, probably, this wouldn’t be a bad thing (there was roughly the equivalent of a loaf of bread in those grooves), except that the debate continues inside my head and every time I see someone to whom I’m related, I grab the clipboard and ask them to commit to a chore and a time slot.

On a couple of occasions, I got them to join me for entire days devoted to one project or another, and when I wasn’t successful, I talked about all the work we still had to do.  Doesn’t that sound fun?

And then I heard my husband and daughter talking about the fun they really were having riding their bike rides and playing Karate Kid Meets Ninja Turtle and engaging in an eight-year-old version of Name That Tune.

Up to that point, the most fun my daughter and I had was writing her spelling words on the sidewalk with 3-D chalk.  (Well, I had fun.)  So I gave up.  I put the tool belt in the garage (though I thought it made me look kinda butch in a good way), ditched the clipboard and made plans to have a Halloween party in our hallway.

Tonight Carolyn’s sons are having a sleepover at our place.  I walked the dog three miles while the boys and my daughter rode their bikes up and down hills, shrieking like…kids in summer.  We got ice cream at the local store, came home to make giant chocolate chip cookies and built our own ice cream sandwiches.  Now they’re watching Surf’s Up.

They’re giggling.  I feel wonderfully relaxed.  And it finally feels like summer.

Wendy

P.S.  Someone will need to remind me about this next year when that hallway and I are playing “Six Degrees of Separation) from Freddy Krueger.

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Filed under Anxiety, Children, Death, Dogs, Travel, Writing

HE LIVES! The fish, I mean.

Okay, for you, Carolyn, grinding little guppies in your Insinkerator.   But our fish, Bluestar, has been SAVED!  His pretty blue fins are unclamped, his I’d-as-soon-kill-you-as-look-at-you personality is back in full force, his appetite…

Oops.

As you all know, the family and I were prepared to go to extreme lengths to help our little Betta friend heal from the multiple fungal, bacterial and depression issues he appeared to be having.  (We change his water regularly, use water conditioner, warm his bowl to the appropriate-for-Bettas temperature, etc., I swear.)  Well, after many a run to pet stores and calls to ichthyologists, we found the right combo of treatments.  And Bluestar, bless his fishy heart, responded.  He even turned to stare at us with what we all agreed was gratitude.

Tim and I high-fived, wiped our tired brows, kissed our relieved and teary daughter, promised not make any more tuna melts lest we inadvertently ingest Bluestar’s cousin (whatever, she’s eight) and got some sleep.  And, uh, you know, forgot to feed the little guy.

For a couple of days.

Maybe that wasn’t a look of gratitude. 

We finally remembered the meal issue after he began ramming his nose into the glass.  This time he looked like he wanted to phone PETA, pronto.

Listen, Mr. Fish, I am menopausal and you are soooo lucky I was able to focus long enough to medicate you.  You are not the first family member whose dinner has been a day or two late.  Just grab a Snickers like the others and chill.

I just gave him a few Top Fin pellets and am now off to find dried worm things or some other Betta delicacy to express my apologies properly.  My husband says we’re too old for any more live things and has asked me to let everything not on two legs die out without seeking its immediate replacement.

We’ll see.  We’ll have to wait and see.

Wendy

 

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Filed under Children, Death, Humor, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, Pet fish

Fish tragedy, a three hanky tale

Don’t they look like angels when they sleep?…wait…they ARE angels!

Luckily, my mother does not read this blog so I can add my fish tale to Wendy’s aquarium misery.  Plus, it’s been two years and we’ve managed to recover nicely.

Number One Son really, really, really, really wanted a pet fish.

I said, “But honey, you know you are only ten-years-old and won’t take care of it and the poor little fishy will die of starvation.”

“No way, Mom!!  I’ll feed it and change its water and play with it and everything.”

“If I let you have a fish, you must realize that I don’t want it, and its life will be in your hands, got that?”

After he pledged allegiance to the fish, we went to Wal-mart.  Price of fish?  10 cents.  Price of bowl, rocks, food, fish net, special chemistry set to keep the bowl from rotting, exotic housing units and plastic trees and kelp in unnatural neon colors?  $89.50.

Day one was glorious:  Son diligently set up bowl, named fish Alice, fed Alice 3 squares, checked chemical balance, dragged family and friends in to admire how clever Alice was whenever she swam through neon cave and, before bed that night, told Alice bedtime story.

Day two:  Son invited to sleepover at neighbor’s house.  Forgot Alice existed.

Day five: Alice failing.

Day eight:  Alice, near death, discovered by eldest teenage daughter.  “Mom, I’m going to take over Alice’s health care.  Brother is going to be my
co-owner.”

A shame-faced brother agreed to the arrangement and within days, Alice was her spunky old self.  Daughter taught brother that the best way to clean Alice’s bowl was to transfer Alice to a salad bowl and run her regular stuff through the dishwasher to sterilize it from time to time.

Unfortunately, daughter and son neglected to tell Grandma their bowl cleaning method.  And—because my mother is one of those people who cannot stop cleaning for 5 minutes—when she came over for dinner, Alice was inadvertently tossed into the garbage disposal and whirled into the great beyond as my mother hummed Swing Low Sweet Chariot.

We all stared at each other in horror, as Alice had become a rather cherished member of the family.  However, we also knew that Grandma would never forgive herself and would inundate us with replacement fish for the rest of our lives and so, choked back the tears.  Needless to say, dinner was a tad subdued that night.  Now and then, a family member would pause at the disposal and murmur their respects down the drain.

Wendy, hurry.  Invite my mother over for dinner next time you clean Bluestar’s bowl.  Grandma, without fail, will leap up from the dinner table and begin tackling the dishes.  Rest in peace, Bluestar.

Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Anxiety, Children, cleaning, Cooking, Cussing, Death, Health, Humor, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, Pet fish

Kids and Pets, part 2…till death us do part…

I have this thing about death:  I like to avoid it.  In people, in pets, in the tiny ants my husband tries to send to the great ant farm in the sky while I race around, scooping them up (I have a method) and removing them to the outdoors before he can commit mass ant murder.

If you’re ever ill, call me; I will be right over with an arsenal of home cures.

When my 16-year-old poodle was dying, I begged the vet to do his best to help my puppy.  “His best years are ahead of him.”   As my father’s 23-year-old cat lay gasping, his breaths numbered, I held him on my chest and implored the frail guy to rally.  “We can play with your mousie.  I’ll make fried chicken (his favorite).”

Yeah, I need therapy.

In the meantime, we are still working hard in my house to keep the Betta fish, Bluestar, from turning into Mr. Limpet.

My blog mate is, as many of you undoubtedly know, far more practical than I.  She has  suggested that when the life of a finned pet is hanging in the balance, the parents should make an emergency “vet” visit…to Wal-Mart.

“Wal-Mart doesn’t have vets,” I thought…ohhhhh.

Carolyn (I hope her kids aren’t reading this) has apparently taken many a sick fish to the “vet” at Wal-Mart, where they are miraculously healed and returned to their owners better (and younger) than ever.  I don’t even want to think about what happens to original.

I can’t quite give up on Bluestar yet, so we’re continuing to medicate, and I must say my daughter seems to be more accepting of any outcome.  I think that’s because her friends know best how to comfort her through times like these.

One sweet nine-year-old put her arm around my daughter’s shoulders and offered solace.   “You have to remember, he did a lot of fun things in his life.”

Someone else comforted, “We’ll never forget him,” and another looked in the fish bowl and nodded gravely.  “Yup, it’s his time.”

The best comment, however, and the one that cheered my daughter the most was simply this:  “As soon as he dies, you can ask your parents for a ferret.”

Kids.  So practical.

Hang on, Bluey, the chicken soup is on the stove.

Wendy

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Monsoon!

My niece, on monsoon night...

Ever gone camping in the middle of a major storm?  Trust me, you’d remember.  This last week, my family went camping—as we do every year—in paradise.  Think stunning Oregon forest, horseback riding, swimming in the crystal clear river, jumping off the rocks into said river, something called ‘barn-hockey’ for the kids, tons of food and a fantastic friend (Jill, you rock!) with a supercallafragelistic family willing to share interesting (and hilarious) stories of ranch life with this writer.  It was all of that this year, too, but the weather—as it has been around the world—was…different.

One day in particular was soggy, but as night approached, so did a seriously ominous bank of black clouds.

“Oooo,” we giggled, “Looks like we’re gonna get a little wet.”  So naive.

Our family fits into three tents:  the two-man tent for the boys, the six man tent for the girls—sans the 6 men, of course—and the eight man tent for the hubby and me and the dogs.  As usual, the boys passed out the minute their heads hit the pillow.  The girls on the other hand (all teenagers, and my wild woman niece—age 24 going on 13) were all enjoying being nutballs and laughing themselves half silly in midst of this wilderness slumber party.  I decided to let their shenanigans carry on, cuz I’m super cool and, okay, too lazy to get up and tell them to pipe down.

When the first crack of thunder sounded, the girls all shrieked and giggled.  The hubby and I grinned at each other.  Fun, huh?  The flashes of lightning brought some concerned squeaks from the girls, but it was tempered by more laughter.  Then the downpour hit.  And I’m not talking the drips and drabs of Wendy’s shower.  Oh, no.  This was as if a giant cosmic ladle, perhaps the big dipper? yeah, dumped a lake on us.  The thunder got louder, and the lightening brighter and the squeals higher.

Still, I wasn’t concerned.  After all, the girls had been noisy all evening.  I figured the trees all around us would catch any stray lightning bolts and so deluded, drifted off to sleep.  Around 2ish, the boys appeared at our door (flap) soaked to the skin, shivering and mad as wet roosters.

“Our tent is gone!  Our beds are flooded!”

Odd.  Then again, we had cots and a stronger tent.  “Well, come on in.”  I took one ice-cube boy in my bag, the hubby took the other in his.  The girls were still laughing—I thought—as their shrieks started to rival the howls of the hurricane.  After all, if there was a problem, they’d tell us, right?

Wasn’t till the next morning I woke up to find the girls all huddled in the minivan, their tent now an above ground swimming pool, their beds sagging floatation devices, their mascara running, their joi de vivre a thing of the past.  Not laffin’.  No, my niece was snoozing in at shotgun, scrunched and drenched.  Daughter number three was packed into  the middle row and the older daughters slept sardine style in the back.

Took the entire day—and—half a pile of firewood to dry ‘em out.

Thankfully, the remainder of the week was sunny.  And now (after resting for 24 whole hours at home) we are headed to the beach for more life in the old tent, this time with the kid’s high school crowd.  The weather is looking a little sketchy, so I’ll probably be piling into the minivan with a
dozen (or more) teenagers if we aren’t washed out to sea first.

Wendy?  If you don’t hear from me by…say…Thursday?  Call the Coast Guard.

TTFN,

Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Anxiety, Bizarre weather, Cussing, Death, Girl Scouts, kids messy rooms, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, Outdoor school, Travel, Weight gain

Hot Flash: Too Hot Mama Crime Spree in New York

Turnstile jumper on track 9! Get her, boys! Which way did she go?

 

Did you know that once you swipe your subway turnstile ticket (the wrong way) it won’t let you on the train?  Did you know that if you are traveling with 4 other women to Manhattan and they swipe their tickets correctly, you get to stand outside the bars looking in at them with horror on your face because you just spent your last cash on the tickets and the ticket machines are all temporarily down?

Did you know that you can push the emergency button at the bottom of the subway stairs and a crackling voice, (the subway authority) will come on and say this (while the trains rumble by), “Kkkkkzzzzzttt, your problkkkzzzztttt?”

“Oh, uh, I am not from around here, ha-ha-ha, and uh I don’t understand what I did wrong, but my friends are ready to get on the uptown train and I’m here, with no cash and the machine thingee’s are down and the turnstile won’t let me get to them and I paid, honest!  I’m an upstanding cit…”

Wendy is rolling her eyes.

“Kkkkkzzzzttt, across the street to the zzzzzztttttkkkkk.  Tell themzzzzkkkk and you can…zzzztt…pppbbbbb….ttttt…kkkk. Okayzzz?”

My friends stare helplessly at me.  Not one to buck the system (unless someone is threatening my kids) I point upstairs and mouth, Be back in a sec!  They nod looking various shades of dazed and confused.

I run upstairs and ask the hotdog guy.  “The subway authority told me to come up here and cross the street to complain.  Where?”

“Soorree.  I doo nut no wut u r talking bout.  Ask her.”

His assistant:  “Subway stairs are over there, honey.”

“I know!  You see, I spent my last cash on… I…forget it.”  Back down stairs.  “This is gonna take all day girls.  I did everything I know how to find someone who works here.  There is no one.  So, stand back.  I’m coming in.”

Wendy glances around.  They all looked horrified.  It was a curious mix of fear and embarrassment because my shoe got stuck on the turnstile on the first go ’round and the bar gave me a pretty healthy spanking.  They train those things well.  The second attempt was successful and I’m proud to say I suffered only minor bruises and humiliation.  Happily, I was not arrested.

Carolyn

 

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Filed under Anxiety, Cussing, Death, friendship, Humor, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, New York, politeness, Travel

My carpet is disgusting

Wendy!  Get Rich Quick Scheme number 197,322!!!

I am thinking of calling it Nature’s Carpet, a revolutionary new flooring manufactured with the family in mind.  Envision this in your
own home.  Orange cat?  Nature’s Carpet will incorporate random tufts of orange hair into the weave!  Have a baby?   Imagine haphazard patches of mustard yellow and baby burp white!  For you dog owners, muddy paw prints in chocolate and caramel brown and some ‘oopsie’ spots for the puppy years.  I’m thinking the ketchup and pizza stain pattern is a must for a rumpus room.  And every guy will clamor for the barf and beer stain look for his man room.

Husbands?  Go ahead and take that motorcycle apart in the living room.  She won’t care.  Not with Nature’s Carpet’s “Garage Floor Stain” pattern.

Get that new carpet smell with the user-friendly feel.  No more need to chase that wet pet through the house.  Screaming at the kids over muddy boots is a thing of the past.  Peace and tranquility abound as you ‘go green’ with our bark dust, rabbit droppings and moss chunks pattern.

Your friend’s will turn puce with envy!

Wendy, my family will easily be able to do all of the design work.  You look into the patent deal.  I’m thinkin’ we’re on to something big this time.

Carolyn

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Filed under 35 symptoms of menopause, Children, cleaning, Cooking, Cussing, Death, Dogs, Geroge Clooney, Humor, kids messy rooms, Marriage, Menopause, Motherhood, parenthood

Life Is Hard. Now Go Play.

Here at Too Hot Mamas, Carolyn and I have ever-so-humbly dubbed ourselves the Lucy and Ethel of Menopausal Motherhood.  (If you had any idea how many whacked-out schemes for one thing or another my blog mate comes up with on a near daily basis, you, too, would suspect Lucille Ball of staging a walk-in.)

But Carolyn is in Central Oregon roughing it with her kids’ school, and I…well, dear reader, I am not feeling funny today.  Hey, I can laugh at a toothache, but as my hilarious Great Uncle Henry used to say, “Some things ain’t funny, Magee.”

My last blog touched on the extraordinary grace under fire of one of our neighbors.  Since then the nasty stuff hit the fan in another neighbor’s life when she awoke to an intruder who assaulted her, brutally, in her home.  The police caught the guy, but will the judicial system keep him off the streets?  Will she find the peace that defies understanding and feel safe in her home again, or out of it?  Will the children who usually run up and down our block as if it’s Mayberry be allowed to play as freely this summer?

And then, on Tuesday, I went to juvenile court to support a friend who has raised her granddaughter since the child was born while her parents struggled with meth, domestic violence and parole violations.  For five years, this grandmother’s refrain regarding her granddaughter has been, “If I do my job well, she won’t realize [how much chaos and fighting surrounds her].”  Being the eye in the storm can’t have been easy, but the five-year-old is a happy, stable child, as innocent as she should be at her age.

Juvenile court—whew.  Stay out of there, if you can.  For what was probably no more than thirty or forty minutes (but seemed like hours)—we watched this lovely five-year-old’s fate be tossed about by a bunch of lawyers whose chief agenda appeared to be Don’t Bother-Me-With-The-Facts-I-Have-A-Case-To-Win.  I watched my friend attacked as the wicked interloper instead of thanked for her love and devotion.  Yeah, so much for that pesky commandment about honoring our parents.

My Uncle Henry had a tough life.  Thirty-five major operations beginning at age three, cancer more times than I can count, heart disease, went blind for a time, broke his back, yadda yadda.  None of his siblings made it much past sixty.  When Uncle Henry was ninety, a waitress (he loved to eat out) asked him if he’d lived in Los Angeles all his life.  “Not yet,” he deadpanned.

Uncle Henry was the happiest person I’ve ever known.  Like any Jewish fellow worth his salt, he knew how to grieve heartily, how to bemoan the fact that bad things happened to good people.  He was not shy about asking, “Why?”  But he had a philosophy of life that was as much a part of him as his brown eyes, and he taught it to us in everything he said and everything he did:  Life is hard, kinderle.  Now go play. 

A mother dies, leaving three young children….  A woman is attacked in her home in the quiet area she trusted….  A little girl may lose the only stability she has ever known and face an uncertain future….

Life is hard.  Sometimes it’s bitterly hard.  But in the midst of it all, there are people willing to be God’s hands here on earth.  On Sunday night, eighty people gathered around the home of the young mother who lay dying on her forty-third birthday.  With candles lit and their voices raised so she, her husband and children would hear them inside the house, they sang Happy Birthday.

Life is hard.  Now go play.

Wendy

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Live Like You Were Dying

Today is Sarah Bach’s 43rd birthday.  Yesterday she was given the last rites after a year-long battle with metastatic melanoma.  A battle that appears to have been grueling and filled with extraordinary grace.  I don’t know Sarah, though I have met her husband and kids a couple of times.  I’ve thought about her every day, though, for months.  Often several times a day, because of the ribbons.  Giant, happy-looking orange ribbons that circle the broad trunks of trees, the thin branches of azalea bushes and posts of mail boxes throughout our neighborhood.  If you live where I do, you know who Sarah Bach is even if you’ve never laid eyes on her.  You know, and your life has been changed.

Sarah is a mother with three young children and an adoring husband who thinks the world of her.  I doubt I’ll ever write a novel about a romance as real and eternal as the one Sarah and her husband have written this past year.

Their family is devoutly Catholic, blessed with a grace that has carried them through disappointment after disappointment as each new treatment failed to halt the progression of her cancer.  Together, last Wednesday, they told their children she was dying.  To me, the situation seems utterly wrong.  Unfair.  Horrible.  Tragic.  I know plenty of people who didn’t take care of themselves and healed.  We all do.  The photos I’ve seen of Sarah before she became ill show a gorgeous woman who is fit and vibrant.  Sarah had a legion of people praying for her.  And yet she’s leaving three elementary-age children.

Her husband and friends tied ribbons around the trees and then a local market began selling them.  More ribbons popped up throughout the neighborhood.  They reminded me to pray every day.  They reminded me it’s possible to care deeply about people we’ve never met and that no matter who we are or where we’re from, we’re all riding the same bus.  Every step outside my house is a visual reminder that communities grow when imperfect strangers become perfectly caring.

In the neighborhood, our children began asking about Mrs. Bach, her illness and whether she would die.  We had conversations with our kids we hoped not to have for a long time; conversations that blessed us and, I believe, them.

It is so easy to trust when life feels like a cleanly cut puzzle, one piece fitting neatly next to its neighbor.  I suppose the deepest trust, the richest faith, the one that works, is honed when it is tested, when we can somehow cry out, “It’s not fair!” and “Thank You,” in the same prayerful breath.

I hope Sara Bach won’t mind that some lady she never met is writing about her.   She’s part of my life now and, I hope, part of yours.  You can read Sarah’s Journey “Fight Like A Girl” on http://www.caringbridge.org/story_bach.  I hope you’ll read it.  And her husband’s blog entry on June 4th.  http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/sarahbach  Let their story change your life.  We prayed for one kind of miracle and got another as we discovered we are all each other’s angels.

Wendy

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Goodbye cruel world…

It only takes one complete lunatic to make the entire group look bad.  My kids tell me this all the time.  “Mom.  You’re making us look bad.”

But alas, I’m not talking about me.  I’m talking about Harold-This-Is-It-Camping. 

What? Me worry?

 

Being a born again Christian, I’m eagerly waiting for the rapture because the idea of dying has never been all that appealing.  My youngest daughter is the queen of surveys.  “Mom, if you were going to die, would you rather be frozen to death, or burned to death?”  “Uh…hmmm, I…uhhh…is there another choice?”   “Mom, if you took off all your clothes and slept outside naked, would it kill you?”  Depends if the neighbors mistook me for Sasquatch and shot me, I guess.  “Mom, what snake would you rather have kill you, a king cobra or a rattler?” 

Can ya see why having Jesus take me outta here and plant me in a garden for a feast is more attractive?

Annnyway, if today is the day, cool.  I won’t have to defrost the refrigerator because it will be lying under a pile of rubble and will take care of itself.

Unfortunately, Mr. Camping’s theology resembles nothing I ever learned in Sunday school and, since New Zeland was still standing as of 6pm (their time), I’m gonna go don the Playtex gloves and tackle the kitchen.  Pity.  One of my children was hopeful about getting out of geometry finals.  Tough luck, kid.

The one good thing to come out of all this fear-mongering is that it made me stop and think about how short this life is.  How precious every moment.  Right now, my teenagers are in our backyard tossing horseshoes in a patch of rare spring sunshine.  Think I’m going to skip the cleaning and go whup some kids at horseshoes.  Loser cleans the kitchen.

Carolyn

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Cat Fight–The REAL Story

Here’s what really happened.  Four of us meet for breakfast to talk about a writer’s conference trip we are all taking to New York this summer to land agents and fabulous book and movie deals on our fascinating and hilarious lives as romance novelists/mothers/wives/slash/hacks/dog owners and, you know, a couple of other projects we’ve got stashed under the bed that we’re gonna take out and dust off and turn into gold. 

Wendy is late, as usual.  Don’t get me started.  Anyway, she comes skidding in to the restaurant, drops to into her chair, snaps her fingers for the ‘girl’ then goes off on her wrinkle jag, which we all know is a bid for attention.  The woman is adorable.  I don’t get the whole, “Oh, look at my teensy wrinkle and feel sorry for me,” deal.  But we have to humor her.  “Yeah, yeah, Wendy.  What are ya gonna do about the grand canyons on your face today?”  Furtive eye-rolling behind the menu.

In fact, while she was blathering on about the wrinkle thing, I snapped a pic of her with my phone, just to prove my point.

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wait… I got it here somewhere…

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Oh.  Yeah.  Here.  Now.  I ask you.  Is this a face or is this a face?  I just want to gobble her up.

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"Clinique has this AMAZING new product that they claim firms and tightens..."

 

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Over coffee (we’ve migrated to Starbucks by now) the four of us figure out all the details of our trip to the eastern seaboard and decide to ditch the writer’s meeting we’d planned on attending that morning in Portland and hit the mall instead. 

Wendy was still nattering about this miracle stuff she was going to spend waaaaaay too much money on and I wanted to find some pants that would make me look 40 lbs. lighter.

As I was off looking for “skinny jeans” (sheyeah, what a crock) Wendy gave us the slip.  We finally found her seated in the chair behind the Clinique counter getting her upper lip spackled.  Okay.  I get it now.  The whole wrinkle cream gig isn’t about fixing your wrinkles.  No.  Oprah, are you listening, because this is the real SECRET.  Wrinkle cream IS NOT about ‘fixing a problem’.  It’s about ‘confusing the eye’.  It’s about slathering a whole bunch of gummy stuff on your lip and telling you that your wrinkles are gone and then charging you $174 + tax. 

Wendy, I’m only gonna say this once.  “The emperor has no clothes!  B-U-C-K Naked!

Of course your friends are going to tell you that the flaky, chalky, goofy crud on your upper lip looks great because we love you. 

"I can't nove ny lits cuz this stuff is sooter hard!"

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Truth be told, we simply had no where else to look.  We had to avert our eyes.  That’s why no one noticed wrinkles.  A person can’t see when they’re all squinty-eyed and cringing. 

Carolyn

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Toohotmamas Celebrate Mother’s Day!

Wendy may be menopausal, but she can still swang her thang!        Carolyn

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My Tombstone

Taxi driver, laundress, chef, referee, counselor, maid... no wonder she was cranky!

  Ever wonder what your headstone will say?  My kids tell me they are going to emblazon the words OLD YELLER on mine.  Funny, kids.  Remember the last scene in the Stephen King movie, “Carrie?”  Yeah.  Stand back.

So.  Been thinking about my mortality lately.  An amazing woman I know just passed away at the tender age of 48.  Cancer.  I went to her memorial and, while I was waiting for the service to begin, I read the leaflet her family had provided.  Since she knew she was terminal, she’d written a note of inspiration to those she left behind entitled:

The Dash, by Jenni Reiling.  It was wonderfully thought-provoking and one especially cool thing that stood out to me was the following:

Most tombstones have two dates separated by a dash.  I recently heard a speaker say, “No one can control the very nanosecond they begin existence on the Earth.  Subsequently, no man can control the very moment they are to exit Earth.  The only thing anyone has control over is how we live the dash.”  The speaker asked, “Are you dashing through life or are you living the dash?”

Do you ever feel as if you are so caught up in your day-to-day routine of full throttle activities and appointments and craziness that you never really take the time to simply live?  To thank God for the simple pleasures?  To enjoy what you’ve got and stop dashing after that next…thing?  How sad it would be to never fully live the dash because we were too busy.

I think another resolution for this year will be to live the dash.  Thank you, Jenni.

Carolyn

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