Saturday, October 22, 2016

Spooky Author Display 2016: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I have MISSED this! We were so tied up with real-life medical mysteries last fall that we never found the time to put together a spooky author display. This year with both kids officially finished with school I wasn't sure they would want to continue, but BOTH kids asked for another display! This is officially an autumn tradition in our home now, and no longer a school assignment.
This year we chose Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. We also chose to keep our vignette small and simple, as we are starting to downsize our possessions. This was QUITE fun to brainstorm, and the size constraint actually helped us streamline our choices! 

To begin with, we cut out a silhouette of Sherlock Holmes, and used a page from my antique medical journal to create a luminary. It was less expensive than purchasing a deerstalker & pipe, and the light added something special. 

We then took my grandmother's maple-leaf teacup, and added a Moriar-Tea embellished tea bag... because what other tea WOULD Sir Arthur sip? The little birds were from Target. I couldn't pass them up, because they LOOK like Sherlock and Watson! (They'll be returning next year as autumn decorations elsewhere in the house.)

The final pieces were a magnifying glass from the kids' science studies with a suspicious looking fingerprint, and of course the key to a certain famous London flat. 

This was easily the quickest display we've done yet, but I'm more than pleased with how it turned out. I've enjoyed all of our previous years as well, but this one somehow looks as if it "belongs" in our dining room tucked into the corner of our Victorian secretary. 

Who knows what next year's display will be?








Friday, August 26, 2016

Teacher

It's been two years today. Two years without my mummy. And to put it mildly, they've been a literal murphy's-law-blew-up-in-your-face hell.

Last year my sister & nephew and my family released 73 rubber ducks into the river, as we felt we needed to DO something on the anniversary of her death. This felt incredibly "right" and we promised to do this every year.

This year there were seven of us at a tiny creek that flows into the same river as last year. A new nephew brings perpetual smiles and snuggles to our house every week.
 
 We let Panda (older nephew) toss the ducks in - saying goodbye to each one as they floated away. He loves to throw things into lakes and rivers, and we carefully watched each one as it took a different path on its eventual way to the sea. Badger, (younger nephew) was far more interested in seeing how many people he could snuggle. Nobody complained.

After the ducks were launched, we silently toasted the moment with Mummy's Pepsi, before heading back to therapy, work, school, and housework.

I am not in the habit of buying myself gifts, but two years ago I purchased a Willow Tree figurine for myself. I paired Mummy's military photo with "Hero" as a physical memorial. This still stands within the family archive secretary in our dining room where we can see it daily.

Last year I purchased a second figurine. Rather than constant mourning, I had begun feeling a sense of release so this time I chose the Angel of Freedom. The butterfly seemed perfectly suited for remembering our Madame Butterfly and a quarter-century of showing elementary students how to create butterfly gardens. This tiny angel has now been tucked in with my seasonal decorations, where she will come out each spring.

Over the past month, as I have been preparing to graduate both of my children simultaneously from fifteen years of homeschooling, the word "Teacher" has been rather heavy on my mind. My mummy taught me more than I can list here. One of the things we shared, was a love of cooking. When I was five, she taught me how to make grilled cheese and all-day spaghetti sauce. I canned my first batches of crabapple jelly and zucchini relish with her, when I was twelve years old. By sixteen I was cooking meals several days each week, and experimenting with recipe creation.

My Mummy was my first teacher. This year I chose to add a third figurine to our home - the Angel of the Kitchen. Now, standing next to the teakettle in the tea-and-coffee corner of our kitchen, stands a short-haired, blonde angel. This year, as my time as a teacher is ending, I choose to honor my own first teacher.

Love you, Mummy.









Saturday, July 2, 2016

Garden Post - the mafia is back


Oh my gosh, I am so frustrated I could bite something.

I have now reached the decade-mark. TEN YEARS I have now battled with the unionized, biracial factory-working, fruit-salad munching, carrot-shredding, exotic-dancing, vandal ninja mafia squirrels. 

This year, they've caused total mayhem. Let me show you the ugly photos this time... the ones I'm NOT happy about, in my garden.

Here's a hole under the only tomato plant I managed to salvage from this year's failed seedlings. This was not there, yesterday.


Next, are my peppers. PEPPERS that are SUPPOSED to be toxic to squirrels. Do you see the pepper hanging a measly ONE INCH from that hole?!?

And my marigolds. I have an entire bed of marigolds that looks more like mulch than a bed of flowers right now. These have all been doused liberally with cayenne pepper. TWICE this year.


And then there's my arugula and spinach. All four of these planters were planted on the same day. Notice how only ONE of them is actually ready to harvest? I have no idea why that one got away... if I find out, I'm ready to clone their DNA because they're the ONLY salad greens that have survived.

 Next, you can see where they decided to go after my lavender. Followed by ONE of the two pots of peas they've managed to completely decimate.

But the one that's completely left me speechlessly disgusted this year? Look into this blue pail. Look closely. 











Do you see the waist-high corn plants? They were there yesterday, I swear! Now I have ONE straggly sickly corn plant, less than a foot high. Out of SEVEN that were starting to develop ears!!! The very PLANTS are gone!

I found them on the ground, underneath the deck, ripped to tiny little shreds with telltale bite marks absolutely everywhere. The PLANTS, not the corn itself!

Honestly and truly... does anyone know if it's legal to use pepper spray on squirrels? I have fought these monsters for TEN WHOLE YEARS now. I want to cause them harm. If not with pepper spray, then perhaps I can trap them... and drown them. They don't ever eat the vegetables, they ONLY destroy everything so nobody else can eat it either.

The war's about to get ugly. Phone calls to the DNR are happening next Tuesday. If it's legal, I'm trying it. Poison sounds good. Medieval torture sounds better.










Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Inner Child

Once upon a time, there was a couple who had been SO busy with SO many things for SO long, that they were positively desperate for a little time to be alone with each other. This went on for far too long, until one morning their inner children leapt out from deep inside, and dragged them off to a pretty park.




At the park, the inner children ran to the playground... only to learn that unfortunately their outer bodies were too old to play on the merry-go-round.
Or the monkey bars.
Or the swings.

So, they decided to sit down and paint pretty pictures together instead.
















When their masterpieces were complete, they thought it might be fun to blow millions of bubbles. They did this until they were quite out of breath... and nearly out of bubble solution.

Then, they thought it might be fun to decorate the concrete tabletops with some sidewalk chalk.

They liked this SO much, that they decorated more than one tabletop... one with happy pictures, and one with fun advice for any other inner children that might visit the park.















Feeling rather peckish after their harmless adventures in vandalism, they opened their picnic basket to munch on Fluffer Nutter sandwiches, chilled juice boxes, and gummy bears.

 It was a very, VERY sweet lunch.

Unfortunately, after all that sugar, the outer bodies reminded the inner children that they were no longer children after all, and they decided to crawl back inside.


For another day.



The End!













Friday, February 12, 2016

The Things We Don't Discuss

Sometimes I wish people would talk about the things we're not supposed to discuss.

We live in a society that tells us how to feel when someone is dying. Our society tells us what feelings are okay, and that it's unhealthy to stray from these feelings. We are taught to say "I'm so sorry," "I will pray for you," "Things will get better," and a few select platitudes. We are taught to remind a grieving person of "the good times" and to smile awkwardly while patting their shoulder. We are taught these things from a very young age. They're ingrained in us so deeply that we don't question, we just DO.

Sometimes there are no words. Sometimes there ARE no "good times", the "right" feelings aren't there, and you're simply left with an empty sense of... wrongness.

My husband's father is dying. We know what we SHOULD feel, but somehow we can't. Over the past four years we have moved him, cleaned and sold his house and car for him, driven him to hundreds of doctor's appointments, paid his bills, tried to entertain him, and generally kept him safe. He has fought us, yelled at us, loudly resented our presence, and been grossly inappropriate to all of us.

I watch my husband carefully trimming the toenails of a man who refused to take his son to the doctor when his arm was broken, and my heart crackles with the iniquity. Twice we have packed up and moved the man who told his only son that he was marrying and he would have to find another place to live - and the injustice stings. My children and nieces gave up an entire summer of ten hour days painting walls for a man who never cared enough to know their names, and I am angry for them. I have had recurrent nightmares of his graphic stories; things nobody should hear from someone old enough to be their grandfather. There are thousands more stories... thousands of reasons for the emptiness.

Society fails to explain what to do, when your grief doesn't fit the mold. I see the struggle on my husband's face - in the grimace when someone asks how his dad is doing and he struggles to explain, and in the frustrated sigh when he's told to remember his childhood memories with his father. I see it in my children, when they stare awkwardly at me over the shoulder of someone telling them they must feel terrible that their grandfather is ill. I see it in the frantic compensation of my sister-in-law... so meticulously careful to be sure that the RIGHT thing is done, for a father who has never cared or done what was right for her. And I feel it in myself as overwhelming guilt, now that my own health prevents me from caring for someone who has never cared in return.

There is a sense of guilt, that what we feel isn't "right".
There is resentment and frustration... that we are "stuck" with death as the only possible release.
There is a sense of loss - not for what was, but for what NEVER was, and will never be. 
There is a burning urge to explain and be understood... and a feeling of utter futility, because words are wholly inadequate.
There are feelings that don't even have words, that keep us awake at night, demanding to be felt while defying comprehension.

I want to tell my sister-in-law that I am so sorry - that her father never showed her the care she shows him. I DO pray for our families - that we will have the strength to do what is right, whether we want to or not. I want to tell my children and nieces that things will get better - when they no longer need to cover their ears to avoid hearing things that should never be said. I want to remind my husband of the good times - that we have created together, in spite of his parents. I want to say these things, but these are not the "right" things to say.

Sometimes I wish people would talk about these things, so that others would know that it's okay to not be... okay.

************

Update February 20th: My father in law passed away this morning. Numerous Facebook messages, saying people are sorry for our "loss" prompted my husband to pen the following:

"For those who haven't heard, my father died this morning. There are many things that conventional wisdom says I should feel or express, and many things that our social norms tell you that you should say to me. To all of that I defer to my lovely wife's greater wisdom and suggest you read her blog.

People tell me they're sorry for my loss, but I don't know what to say to that as I can't lose what I never had. The wisest response Marcy and I have gotten so far was from my wife's sister when she said she's sorry for lost opportunities and what will never be. I suppose the last part of that is the closest. Knowing who he was and how he was the sort of heart to heart conversation where we express our hurt and come to terms with each other - was simply never a possibility. So though I know you care and I know you mean the best, please don't tell me your sorry for my loss.


I am glad he's not hurting anymore and I'm glad he won't spend long hours worrying about the things that politicians and predatory groups convinced a vulnerable adult he had to worry about so that they could solicit as much money from him as possible. To those radical groups that made his last decade of life fraught with fear over their personal crusades, I hope you never have to suffer the kind of world encapsulating fear you inflicted upon him. But if you do, don't come crying to me because it's no less than what you deserve.

At this point I feel gladness and relief. He's gone home and is free from hurt, worry, loneliness, and confusion - all things that plagued him for a long time. He can be together with his parents, two great people who always cared for him and whom I long to be reunited with someday many years from now. So please don't say your sorry about him passing on, because I'm not."

************

Perhaps that's all that need be said. He cannot hurt or worry anymore, and we can move forward.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve

I am sitting here thinking about the past year, wondering what to share.

I COULD tell you how in July I lost the the ability to put on my own shoes or walk 50 feet without needing to rest. I COULD tell you how over the past three months we learned that my husband has a hernia, and three of us have degenerative heart conditions. I COULD tell you about visiting 25-30 doctors each month and our enormous medical payment schedule, or how our car is trying to die for the 4th time this year. And if I were writing this just one month ago - that's what I would share.

This is not about the past few months. This post is about  where I am RIGHT NOW. Right now, before dinnertime today, I have walked 5769 steps. That's at LEAST 300% more than I could have managed a month ago. Right now, I am getting ready to battle my kids in a Just Dance competition until midnight... or until I collapse. A month ago I wouldn't have bothered trying. Right now, I have two kids who are determined to graduate together, this coming summer. My son has a plan for his future, and is working towards it. My daughter has a plan for her future, and is working towards it. I couldn't be more proud of them. Right now, my husband is at work for a company that he feels good working for - with BETTER health benefits than we had at his white collar job of 16 years. Words can't express how much happier he is, and I couldn't be happier for him.

This year, I have lost 40 pounds... meaning I am quite literally 80% of who I was a year ago. That makes me Wonder Woman. With the help of six daily supplements, four separate therapists, and bullheaded determination,  I have fought to be able to walk half of the local zoo without a cane. That makes me Wonder Woman. I have wrestled with the fear of next year's open heart surgery - and I am packing a Wonder Woman shirt because I WILL BE Wonder Woman.

I am not as strong as I was a year ago. I do not have the stamina I had a year ago. There are things I can no longer do, that I thought I was decades from losing. For every day that I am active, I spend the next day on the couch. My hair is thinner, but so is my waistline. My energy is sporadic, but my determination is resolved. I will never fully escape the wheelchair again, but I can be "hell on wheels" as I learn to wheelie in the all-terrain wheelchair I'm saving for, when I need it.

At the beginning of 2015, I chose a word of focus and intent. That word was "persevere". For 2016 my word is... MORE. For the coming year, my goal is to BE more, DO more, FIGHT more, and BELIEVE in myself more.

I just bought myself a pair of walking shoes... something I never thought I would be able to justify again. These are my MORE shoes. May they fall apart from the MORE I have planned for 2016.

Happy New Year!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Playing Hooky

In the fall, when it starts to smell like dried leaves outside, I get an itch to go somewhere pretty... and just breathe. 

It started smelling like fall a few days ago, and between health complications and my husband's looong work hours we chose to steal time today rather than wait for "the perfect day" to arrive - and played hooky. No appointments were made, no cleaning was done, and our to-do list was set aside for another day. Today was just for us.

We hopped in the car just after breakfast, and followed the river north to a small town that my husband and I have been visiting since our dating years. Every fall he takes me here for a single brewed-that-day, mug of the frostiest tastiest freshest root beer ever. Still served in a heavy glass mug, by a carhop with a window-hanging tray. I've been daydreaming about my mug of root beer for a few weeks now. It's truly that amazing.










After our root beer, we explored the nearby state park, checking out the view from the bluffs and the glacial potholes. If you don't know what a pothole is... look them up. They're rare, and amazing.

It was a bit of a struggle to get down and around on the cobblestone paths, but we pushed on - and my husband & the kids left the path a few times for some more rigorous explorations. With all the rain we've had lately, most of the potholes were filled with rainwater, so there wasn't quite as much exploring to be done as in other years, but it was nice just to be away from the sounds of the city for awhile.


The trees were just starting to change color along the river. There was more green than color, but we pointed out each changing tree we saw.

We also saw: deer, eagles, turkeys, farm animals... and one very brave little chipmunk whom I'm certain I heard beg me to take his picture.

We've had a tough year, and we still have several challenges to face this year. But just for today, we followed our heart and ran away to sit by the river and be together.

It was worth it.