Monday, November 30, 2009

The Pantry Purge

It's fitting that this post would be the end of nablopomo for me.

Yesterday I spent 4 hours purging our pantry. At the end, there were three tall kitchen trash bags full of waste. And that's after pulling out everything that could be recycled. If the contents were oil, I did not try to recycle the container, however, and we had LOTS of 'designer oils' going rancid in there. Ugh.

I wish I would've thought to take a before photo. We had just gone through that pantry and pulled outdated stuff out a few months back, but I found plenty of stuff dated 2006 and 2007! I knew we were in deep doo-doo when I thought "Oh, this macadamia oil is from when those neighbors moved..." well, that was over 4 years ago.

I cannot tell you how excited I am. Of course, the only reason I could do this is because Ken is out of town. He called right as I was finishing, and I could hear the panic in his voice "Hey! You didn't throw out those 4 boxes of Ritz's, did you?!" Geesh.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sunday Games

Sundays are all about creativity in our home; there are no video games, no screen time, no tv except maybe a movie if I have a deadline for something.

The boys get up, we snuggle for a few minutes and start playing. It's usually a gentle game with Cody that morphs into something that involves racing around and around the house rather quickly. Finally, somebody gets it in the tenders (usually the dog jumping on a napping daddy) and that signals 'It's Time To Make WAFFLES'. We have waffles every single Sunday wherever we are, even if they are Eggo. Well, I have Vans since I am the no-wheatie girl these days.

Our daddy left early this morning on his every-other-week business trip. Parker and Ryan got busy with legos. The stuff they build always amazes me. I used to get kind of mad that they were breaking apart the models they built right after they built them, but then thought; isn't imaginative use better than a dust collector? So, now I move dozens of different creations carefully, knowing if I knock something off, it will be noticed.

But the best game they played today was "The Chase Is On". They got out their old play food, and Cody would grab a piece and run away with it. The boys would chase him, yelling "Drop that Pizza!" or "Drop that Sushi!" and the dog would zig and zag, in heaven with them chasing him. He never broke out of a slow trot, of course. They were running full out. Cody is an Aussie, a herding dog. That beast has moves 'til June. Sometimes he does a 360 in mid air, just because he can. He frequently jumps over both Ken and I in bed - from the floor. We have a king-size bed, a high one. Today during the game, he would beat the boys back to their 'picnic' area, drop the current piece, and snag a new one; pausing to let the boys see the evidence in his chops. They'd scream anew, and The Chase would be on, again. This game lasted an hour.

I got my pantry cleaned out. FOUR kitchen trash bags, after recycling any parts that could be, made it out to the trash. You do notice the man-outta-town-woman-tossing-crappe theme here, don't you? After reading The Unhealthy Truth, I am again on a mission to feed us properly. Ken called from Maryland, and reported that he had found a health food store and shopped for good stuff for him too.

Now I'm whupped. But it's a good Whupped.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Why my austistic kid may be better than your autistic kid.

We all think our kids are better in some ways than other people's kids.
But mine truly may be.
Back in the Dark Ages, oh around 1983, my best friend Sherry went to the Dark Side -- yes, she went MACROBIOTIC *gasp*!
Talk about culture clash - I was still smoking at least a pack a day. I woke up, lit up and tossed down a full glass of cool aid with a hand full of cheap vitamins for breakfast. After all, I was a health nut - I worked out at a downtown gym in my shiny lycra tights, leotard and leg warmers every day! I ate vegetables -- if they came with my Chinese take out or happened to sneak on to my sausage pizza.
Sherry came over one day and cleaned out my pantry. And I mean, Cleaned. Out.
She tossed all 'White Death': White flour, sugar, rice, bread, Crisco, salt. She pitched all the rancid oils in my house, from salad dressings to cooking oil to olive oil. All pre-made and boxed foods went sailing into the trash. The freezer wasn't left unmolested, either. Almost everything in there was freezer burned and old. Out it went.
Sherry changed a bunch of people's lives, mine included. I learned that nothing is more important than pure salts, fats and water. Organic meant quality food, with no hormones or antibiotics. Whole grains were the staff of life. Meat was okay as a treat, just like ice cream. And to pay attention to what you put ON your body as well as IN it. Like pure soaps, body oils and shampoo. Simple tooth powder, a crystal salt rock for deoderant. Every day and every thing mattered.
When we got our sons, this became even more important for us. I took the boys to a naturopath doctor, who used homeopathy. She stressed that Ryan could not tolerate dairy, and to be suspect of soy too; to try a product new out from Odwalla - Odwalla milk. It was WONDERFUL - Ryan was by then 8 months old, and we were having such a time with ear infections, diahrrea and vomiting. The Odwalla milk did have soy, but it also had rice and oat milks and fruit. I added flax seed oil to every bottle, and other good things too, like bifidophilus or other remedies prescribed by his naturopath. He thrived. When we moved on to solid foods, I made all his food by pureeing steamed organic veggies, grains and fruit. Our meat has almost always been organic, free range when available.
Then, well, he wasn't meeting progress markers by his 18 month appointment, and we noticed personality changes as well. We started in with intervention when he was 20 months old. He stopped eating anything except yoghurt and crunchy carbohydrates -- but at least we made sure they were organic and whole grain.
I did this because I have known for years that you are what you eat. I knew it was essential to eat good food to have a more disease-free life.
But what I had no idea was that I may have also helped Ryan in his struggle with autism. An author read at a fund raiser that Barnes & Noble hosted for our school. Her book is The Unhealthy Truth and it will open your eyes about the connection between food and allergies, asthma, autism and ADHD in our children.
Tears of anger are squirting out of my eyes reading this book. Even with as informed as I was compared to my peer group, I made some huge mistakes in my children's diets. I can't go back, but I can do better in their lives ahead. And my husband and I will profit from eating better, too.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thing I would Die For or Murder For

In No Particular Order:

1. I would die for my sons. From 10 minutes after I held them to 1 millisecond ago; I would take bullets for these two. On second thought, I'd catch those bullets in my teeth and then,

2. I would MURDER the worthless human being who would take a shot at them.

ah, we're back to...

1. I would die to find a person who could cut my flat as pancakes front/wavy in back thick, yet skinny, hair. I've not had a good hair cut in over 10 years, since my guy moved to Atlanta (Jon Bryant, if you're out there, get your knees fixed and keep cutting hair, okay?), and come to think of it...

2. I'd like to murder the next stylist who gives me a Jennifer-fucking-Anniston-do -- you know, the long bob with the layers beneath it? Yeah, that shitty hairdo that I. Keep. Getting. From. Every. Stylist. Even when I say, Do not give me that tired old bob with layers! They cut, snip, razor finish, twirl me around and voila! I sigh, get up, pay w/tip and go home and know that I will never be able to make it look decent again. Then I grow it out, try another stylist who suggests "Let's take off alot of this weight!" and bang! It's the Jennifer-crappy-do again.

Hmmm, seems a pattern is developing here.

1. I would die to have a really great ethnic restaurant around these here parts. You know, the kind you find in New York, San Francisco, Chicago or even Seattle, for cripes sakes. I know where I live is essentially a suburb of the Mid-West, but gees; do we all have to eat meh all the time? Everything here is 'for the American palatte'. And come to think of it...

2. I'd going to murder the next mediocre Chinese or Mexican food restaurant owner who opens up in a formerly not-bad restaurant that couldn't keep going in this economy. I know it's hard right now folks; that's why every restaurant has raised their prices a handy 20% over the last few months. I get it. But why landlords feel the need to say "Hey! Let's rent it out cheap to the 22nd Mexi-Chinese place in a 4-block radius! What a great idea!" is beyond me.

I had a really great point to this when I started. But my mind is mush. Travel and meds have taken their hefty toll.

As You Were.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hurtin' for Certain

I am hurting pretty badly tonight.

I have taken so much of everything that I can take, plus added a percocet. Still, no luck. I just hurt, like a stabbing in the chest and a burning in my back.

Tomorrow we will be home. I cannnot wait to see our dog and sleep in my own wonderful bed. Parker and Ryan are anxious to be home, too.

Traveling is so wonderful, and I swear our boys change in great ways with every trip we take. But this one has been hard for me. I hope the boys had a great time, even with me laying low for the majority of it. They are always excited to see their older cousins, and their Uncle Glenn is a wild and crazy guy. What a blessing to have the hat trick of those three guys around for this vacation.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Stuffed like a Turkey

We had a big feast here at Grandma's, again. Sunday we had Thanksgiving. Today, we had our annual shrimp scampi and fish fry. Complete with greens in hot sauce, green rice casserole (made with broccoli, Velveeta, evaporated milk, white rice etc), green beans and some other stuff.

Gees, we waddled away from the table, only to return to polish off the leftover Thanksgiving pies with ice cream. My clothing no longer fits. This is ridiculous.

Today was a lot of fun for the boys. Uncle Glenn was in rare form. He had them outside, picking up the big sticks from the dozens of trees on Grandma's lawn. Then they had to 'cool off' by getting the big water guns out of the garage and loading them up with swimming pool water and getting soaked, after they blasted ant nests on the ground, real and imaginary. Change of clothing later, Grandma and I decide to run to some Big Box to get her a new laser printer/fax (on sale for $150! yay!) We come back to tales of great excitement - Ryan has fallen in the pool! And rescued himself! Glenn says "Ryan fell in trying to fill his water pistol. He immediately popped up, yelped "I didn't do it!" and hopped out, using his arms to pull his body fully out like he was a Tarzan extra. Glenn said he asked him "Well, who in the heck pushed you in, then?" and Ryan said "Well, I didn't DO it."

You in the Special Kids world will figure it out immediately. Ryan leaves off descriptors. He didn't feel the need to add "ON PURPOSE!" because - Duh. The Dude Didn't Do It. Like. On Purpose. He told Uncle Glenn "These things happen, you know." which is something we say all the time when the water goes over, the plate flips over on the way to a table in the lunchroom, etc. The reset button won't get switched if panic sets in. If the Special Dude or Dudette gets a minute of "Hey! No Worries!" their little reset buttons will hit, and they will start again from square one. If they panic, they run.

I don't run around, waving my arms and yelping "Holy Shit - Autistic Kid! Beware! Take care of him!" No, I expect him to solve a lot of his problems and figure out how to manage his world before I intervene. But when a lunch room lady says "Hey, Ryan dropped his full tray today, and not only didn't pick it up, he didn't go get Mr. Bobby (janitor) or tell anyone; he just stood there and finally said "OH!" and then ran to get a new lunch!" I will say, "Well, Ryan has troubles with his Reset button. Next time you see him, and he's alone, tell him it's okay that he dropped his tray, but he needs to be responsible for the cleanup (the step involving Mr. Bobby), telling you (actual reset key on her computer to enable him to get 2 lunches in one day) and THEN to go get another lunch.

You with normals cannot even imagine how many steps there are in normal navigation for your children. It's automatic for them. But for autistic children, their world is a hugely complex series of bewildering chess games. And sometimes that game just can't be played. I can tell you I bring A LOT of hot fancy coffees to our staff for working so hard with Ryan. That includes secretaries, lunchroom staff, janitors, aids, etc. Ryan loves our school because he is welcomed and valued there. I know that's not usual, as kids like Ryan can suck the energy out of anyone. But these are dear, sweet, educatable kids; they just need a little bit of extra time and consideration. We know teachers/staff/admin don't have a lot of 'extra' to give. And we notice it 1000% when you do, and appreciate it even more.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Turkey Day, yesterday

So now I've not posted again.
I could say I was way too busy cooking the early Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday, but that would be untrue. Dudes, I was sleeping, something I never do during the day. Four hours slipped by as I lay unconscious to the world.

The drugs one takes for Shingles is a true craps shoot. I'm on Valtrex and Neurontin, massive doses thereof. I have to take the Valtrex EVERY EIGHT HOURS and there is a finger wag that comes with the dosing instructions about that. So that's special. The anti convulsive is more fluid - "You can take up to THREE pills, THREE times a day!" said with some enthusiasm. Then I read the pamphlet of doom that always accompanies prescriptions, and it says 'Watch out for depression, thoughts of suicide and....' Noice. I'm on a drug that will make me crazier than the Agony Of Shingles.

What these drugs have done is add a blurry edge to everything I do, and my eyes sometimes jump around. I don't think I'll be driving, I hope I get some relief (haven't noticed much yet) and beg for walking without a drunken stagger, complete with bursts of incomprehensible muttering. Because? That happened a couple of times yesterday.

Oh - my beautiful, wonderful mother in law roasted a sublime turkey, two kinds of dressing, three kinds of pies; my husband whipped up sour cream/butter/mashed taters; my lovely sister in law made beautiful sweet potatoes, tasty greens with loads of garlic and olive oil, two kinds of cranberry sauces and relishes; and I spent half an hour making gravy. At least I can report that it was fabulous.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A bonfire and a fire in my side.

Ken's sister and her family have an incredible home on 10 acres in the woods just outside Tallahassee. The property is great for kids; there are lots of places to explore, dogs, rabbits, cats, wildlife, huge trampoline, big boys to entertain them and, the best thing -- plenty of fallen fuel for BONFIRES!

Today we ate roamed around, played with the dogs, jumped on the trampoline, rustled up some grub and then ate som'mores around a huge, blazing bonfire.

I forgot to dose one time and it now feels like I've carried home the bonfire in my side and armpit. Ow.

May I repeat: PLEASE go get the anti-shingles shot. I don't know what it's called. I bet if you call Walgreens, they will know what you are talking about. Get it.

I'm not kidding on this one. It's even worse than the plant featured above - poison ivy, of which there is plenty on their property.

Friday, November 20, 2009

In Shingles' Death Grip

Oh, You Guys.
I have Shingles. You know this horrible pain I've had, the 'spider bites' along my back on on my side? Those were not spider bites. The cosmos has smote me with something far more dreadful.
The pain finally got to the point where I would wake up and not be able to catch my breath. Yeah, bad. Big time bad.
So three prescriptions later, I am feeling a tiny bit of relief.
But I still am in incredible pain; it burns, itches and is numb all at the same time.
Get the shot, dudes; get the shot. Just ask for the Anti-Shingles Shot. Pay whatever they ask. You do NOT want this Shit.
And I'm blaming this on Robert.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Too busy to post

Sorry, I know I missed yesterday and this will have to count for today.
More later

Sunday, November 15, 2009

"What Idiot Would Shop Here?"

I arrived in Greece to meet up with my mother (my sister and dad came later) after partying for 2 days in West Germany (before the fall of the Berlin Wall). I was hung over, sleep deprived and in a foul mood. The airport in Athens was a madhouse, and the line for clearing customs was 50 people long. I'd had it. I broke out of the line as soon as I saw my mother waiting, as luck would have it right beside the pile that contained my luggage. An official gestured me back, but I pointed to my bags. I got to my bags without too much flack, and then just - hopped over the drooping rope. When an official came running, I thundered "I'M EXHAUSTED AND THAT IS MY MOTHER!" and turned my back and left. The crowd of harried family and friends waiting for their arrivals quickly closed behind us and that was that.
My mother said "Well, that was rich. Oh - wait 'til you sample a taxi ride!" I said "As long as they get us to the Chandris Hotel fast, I'm good." My mother muttered "Oh, no problem there..." and hailed a cab. The driver leapt out, threw (I am not kidding) my bags into the trunk and practically pushed us into the cab. I was still closing the passenger door when he revved the motor and screeched out into traffic. We careened around corners, my mother and I literally polishing the slick leather seat with our backsides as we slid from one side to the other. My mother stage whispered between clenched teeth "What Did I Tell You?!" and with that, the driver skidded to a stop, nearly tossing my mother and I into the front with him. "The Chandris!" he exclaimed, jumping out of the cab and snatching our door open. He had our bags at the bellboy stand tout suite, returned to us deftly plucking the cash from my mother's fingers and was gone before we could say "Holy Shit!"
The hotel was grand and full of interesting shops.
But the real shopping was in The Plaka or the business district. In the early 80's, there was an amazing array of stores and restaurants. The dollar was strong and if you shopped where the locals shopped, and could get tremendous deals on shoes and jewelry. My mother and I strolled around and decided where to return with my sister then 15) and my father.
Joan and I took off on our own one day, and ended up walking 5 hours as we got lost. Plus, we both got tired of the men honking and doing the kissy-lips as they passed us -- even with their wives in the car, beating on them and screaming! We had gone by a really exclusive shopping area, and we decided to come back with Daddy and mom.

Finally, our shopping dream came true; we'd gone to every museum, seen every available ruin and there wasn't much else to do. Daddy sighed and said "Ok, let's go see this swanky shopping district." It was gorgeous - we found places for Daddy to sit and sip his coffee or juice and off we took. Mom took him into 2 or 3 stores and he was flabbergasted at how much more expensive these places were than any place so far in Greece. Joan and Mom decided to take a break with dad. Just as he exclaimed to Mom and Joan "What Idiot would shop here?!", I came thundering down the sidewalk, arms loaded with packages.

Daddy looked at Mom and proclaimed "I Rest My Case."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Searing Pain in my Chest

Tuesday, I woke at 4 a.m. with a pain in my ribs under my left breast. I realized that I had not slept much, and was hazy and bewildered getting the boys off to school.

After four physio/chiropractic appointments, I don't know that I'm much better. Turns out I have a huge mass of spider bites on the outer edge of my left breast (DAMN why did I put on clothing left on the floor a couple of weeks back, WHY?!) and the inflammation from them has caused havoc with my ribs and muscles in the back and chest wall. Some ribs are actually out of whack, and won't go back in yet. I fear the amount of anti-inflammatory drugs I'm taking will then tear up my innards. Oy.


So I have a physical symptom of an honest-to-God broken heart.

I'll get back to the Dad Diaries I think tomorrow. Right now, I'm wallowing in real and mental anguish yet.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Letting Go

Letting Go.
Easy to type, more difficult to accomplish.
Letting go of anger, letting go of anguish.
It's a Process.
Writing it has helped. Talking has helped. Your comments have helped more than you can know.
The sadness is now in my bones. I ache, I hurt. I don't feel like me. I feel, in fact, old. Or at least what I imagine 'old' must feel like.
It was hard to let go of my children this morning. I followed them into school and made excuses for hanging around. Good friends are taking them after school and that is a good thing; I can sleep this afternoon.
Grief. I'm not patient; I want these waves of grief to hurry up and be gone. But that's not what is going to happen, is it?
Thank you for sharing this time with me and my very dear friends who've suffered such a tremendous loss.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Remembering Robert, continued

Ken and I adopted our sons from S. Korea over a 14-month period, and we got busy. I didn't visit Chicago as much, but was thrilled to show off our beautiful sons to our Chicago friends when we could. Since Robert and Pam's daughter Hannah was the same age as our two boys, getting together with them worked perfectly when we did visit Chicago. Pam was getting a graduate degree, and Robert was usually with Hannah when they would come to Stephen and Danusia's house.

I LOVED seeing Robert with Hannah and my sons! Robert, after all, was the 'old timer' parent - he had Matthew and Rebecca before our other three, and really had some practical advice.

Pamela graduated, and appeared more with Hannah. I was thrilled that she was on the same wave-length as me and changing their life to a cleaner/simpler earth-wise format. She shared her new cooking methods and new books she was reading with me, and I shared my new love of Feng Shui with her and Robert. All along, Robert was an interested and active participant as he was the stay-at-home parent while Pam worked on her career. I often thought "I want Pam's Life!" as she got to pursue her career dream and Robert did the majority of child care. Robert and I shared laundry tips, housekeeping issues and solutions and home remodel/repair angst.

Then Hannah found a niche - gymnastics! This young lady has a gift from God - her gymnastics ability. I believe she placed 8th on floor exercises in the Junior Olympics last year! Robert and Pam were amazed and humbled by Hannah's abilities. And, unbelievably, were not the typical 'stage parents' - I had to pry Hannah stories out of them.

This past summer, we made it to Chicago twice - me in June for my Godson Peter's high school graduation. I saw Robert and Pam only once as it was a 3 day trip. Luckily the boys and I went to Chicago again in August, and we spent a lot of time with Robert, Pam and Hannah.

Robert's son Matthew spent a good bit of time with us at the lake house and also on a sailing trip. Robert was so delighted in how great Matthew was turning out - in college, centered, and growing into a very good man. ""Any parent would be proud of a guy like Matthew" "He and Hannah are the light of my life" "Matthew is like a 30 year old in a 20 year old's body" and so many great things were expressed by Robert about his children. Stephen, Danusia and I kept Hannah overnight a few times during the August trip to help keep Parker and Ryan entertained. She had a Nintendo DS! She's athletic! For gosh sake, that girl is WORLDLY! The boys were in love with such a great 'cousin'. In fact, I told Parker Tuesday night that Robert had died. He cried and said "Oh, poor Hannah! She is gonna miss that daddy, Mom!" I held him and said "Yes, we will have to be extra kind to Hannah when we see her." The first thing Parker said to Ryan when they got up the next morning and Parker crawled into bed with Ryan and me (Ryan always gets up first and crawls in bed with us) was "Ryan, you know Hannah, that girl with the DS in Chicago? Her daddy died yesterday." Ryan said "Oh gosh, that it awful. That poor girl. Are we going to Chicago, Mom?" I said I didn't know.

Stephen, Robert and I went out to dinner at Carnivale and I maybe had the best dinner in recent memory. Robert was so fun at that dinner. We shared some stories and he planned a winter trip to bring Pam and Hannah to see us in Colorado. You were going to visit us! You promised!

Robert, I am so astonished - you had never looked better or happier in your life the last time I saw you. You had a great life. You gave it up.

The priest says your death is the very definition of someone stepping outside of themselves, being 'beside themselves with anguish'. Never in a million years did anyone of us see it coming. I will never understand why you killed yourself. I just hope your wife and children can forgive you one day. I don't know if I can.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembering Robert

My dear friend Robert died yesterday. He leaves behind a wife and three children.

I still cannot believe it.

The first time I met Robert was at the wedding of his older sister, Carole. This was a wedding of great pageantry and many people; I was attending as a guest of his brother Stephen, and remember that as one of the best events I've ever been to. All of Robert's brothers, their dates and I went out on the town in New York City for days. It would be completely honest to say I was in NYC for 4 days and 1 night as I only slept one night! It was 1987, I think.

Robert was then married to his first wife and didn't have children yet. Twenty years ago brought forth his first child, Matthew and a few years after that his daughter Rebecca was born. I kept up with Robert through Stephen (who has been one of my best friends for over 25 years, after we decided that being romantic wasn't working for us, but being very good friends was a great idea).

The next time I saw Robert was at his brother Stephen's wedding in Chicago, another over-the-top event where six different friends stayed at a lake property outside of Chicago and ended up having a Big Chill kind of stay, complete with running, drinking and soul searching. I remember being glad to run into Robert and his wife at each party for Stephen's wedding and at the many casual events at the lake property, which Robert, Stephen and their siblings had inherited after their parents' deaths in the 1980's.

Stephen and his dear wife, Danusia, became my best friends over the years since their wedding. I have spent Christmas holidays at their home, as well as many weeks in summer and fall and am their children's unofficial GodMother. Each time I went to Chicago to see Stephen and Danusia, Robert was featured in some part of the trip. I grew to love his quiet humor, his exacting and careful methodology and his very calm and loving demeanor.

The only time I saw Robert seething with anger was when his first marriage disintegrated and the circumstances surrounding it. During those years, I saw a lot more of Robert when I visited Chicago to spend time with Stephen, Danusia and their boys. Sometimes Robert would have his two children with him, sometimes he would not. I remember thinking what a great daddy he was; how he spent quality time with those children and kept them shielded a bit where he could. One year I must've gone to Chicago five times, and Robert usually made an appearance a time or two while I was there. Sometimes other friends from the Big Chill weekend of Stephen and Danusia's wedding would fly in, and it would be an incredibly wonderful time. If it was summer, Robert would get out his boat, and take us all out for either motorboat tours on their local lakes or long sailboat excursions on Lake Michigan. I brought my niece a few times, and she was always thrilled when "Uncle Robert" showed up.

Robert met his second wife, Pam, on a sailing trip. I think Pam is 15 years younger than Robert. I adored Pam when I met her! A bunch of us had gone to a great Chicago restaurant, and Pam was glowing about her upcoming wedding. Robert was completely in love with Pam, and I envied them that kind of obvious devotion and happiness. I was in a relationship with my husband at that time, but we were still in the rocky 'figuring it out' period that frequently tanked other relationships in my past. I had been married once, divorced early and thought I would never marry again. But I still envied people who were planning a life together - it's what we;re supposed to do, right?!

I did not attend Robert and Pam's small wedding. Now I can't remember why, but I think it was a financial decision - my early 40's were lean years for me. I saw them frequently after that - nearly always at the big lake house, sometimes at holiday celebrations and I grew to love Pam as a good friend. They visited Ken and I in Colorado, and I continued to go to Chicago frequently, too. I always made a point of including Robert and Pam in any events we had in Chicago. (Chicago is all about huge parties when I visit - I like to cook for crowds.)

We were at Robert and Pam's Lake Geneva vacation home when Robert and Pam announced that they were expecting a baby in 6 months - and I was thrilled for them. Robert's children with his first wife were there, and were so excited about the news.

The next time I saw Robert and Pam, their beautiful baby was 4 months old. I had gotten married in the meantime, and has suffered a pretty bad miscarriage 2 months earlier. Some of the pictures I treasure are photos of Robert, Pam and myself with their lovely dauther, Hannah. Robert was so concerned that it would be hard for me to hold Hannah when I had suffered such a loss, and that made me cry - not holding his delicious baby girl, but his concern for my feelings.

I can't write any more. I am cryinig too hard. Good night and I'll finish tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

No post tonight.

A dear friend has died. I cannot get my head around it.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Dad Diaries: #9

Ireland was wonderful and definitely a trip I will always remember. But Greece a few years later was incredible.

My mother, recuperating from cancer treatment, decided to follow through with a summer-long trip Mom had planned to take with - you guessed it - Joan and myself. I was then 30, Joan 15. We left late May, and come back in early August, 1984. We flew into Germany and stayed a few days. I flew separately from Mom and Joan and went a few days early. I met a man named Uli on the airplane, and he introduced me to his great group of friends. Mom, Joan and I were included in many social gatherings with them, and even stayed by the Czech border (then still communist) at one of their nice, small resorts.

We traveled from Germany to Greece, then back to Germany where we drove to Switzerland and Italy. Daddy joined us in Greece for a few weeks. We toured all the usual things with great enthusiasm. When our taxi dropped us off at the National Museum, the taxi driver stuck his head out the window and queried; "Should I come back in an hour and a half to pick you back up?" to which my father quickly quipped "What? You think we're going to view the museum on ROLLER SKATES, for gosh sake?!!!" and turned on his heel in disgust. He was right - we ended up spending 4 hours there and still didn't see everything.

Then on the way out, I heard someone calling my name - it was a man we met on a tour before Daddy arrived. He invited us to a taverna to join him for a party, and unbelievable, my dad said we'd all go. We had a blast! We all even danced at the end, complete with the waving hankies. My dad had too much ouzo! My mother got miffed at something (she'd had too much wine) and said something snippy. My dad gave her the finger! Joan and I gasped in amazement! This had never before happened; this is a man who never even cursed!

The next day, Mom was still mad at Dad. We were planning to take a hydrofoil and tour the Islands, soak up some beach time. Daddy, Joan and I set out. We took a bus first, and met some lovely Irish girls who had just arrived from Rome. They were exclaiming about getting their 'bums pinched, even in the Vatican, THE VATICAN FOR gosh sake!' and my dad was trying not to laugh out loud in front of them. We arrived at the pier to catch the ferry, and someone again called my name and waved - another fellow we'd met on a tour. My dad said "Oh, Christmas; this one looks chatty!" and he was right. Luckily, he was going to a different island or I swear my father was going to get off the boat. The fellow chatted our ears off, quizzed us about our future plans and my dad cut me off during an explanation "We're going to be doing family things, young man!" and that was that.

We got to our destination still early in the day, gathered up personal items and walked down to the beach. We had our suits on under our clothing, so we picked a nice spot and spread out. Joan and I flopped down but my dad stayed sitting up, just enjoying the view. It was gorgeous.

After a while, I started reading. That went on for awhile and Daddy offered to go buy some lunch. Joan and I gave him some lunch ideas and went back to dozing and reading. Daddy came back with yummy food and sodas and Joan and I sat up. And immediately noticed that we were, in fact, on a topless beach.

Joan and I had taken our father to a topless beach.

I immediately felt like an idiot in my one piece. I told Joan that I might feel more comfortable if I rolled down my top. My father sputtered in horror "You are absolutely NOT going to remove your top! Well, that-that-THAT would look STUPID!" I busted out laughing so hard I was crying. The look of horror on his face was priceless.

We enjoyed our lunch. Then I poked Joan in the ribs and whispered: "Look at Daddy!" The man was trying to surreptitiously watch all the beautiful bare-breasted girls around us. But once in a while, a group of lovely German girls would trot down the hill to the beach and the man, really quite a prude and extremely shy, could not help himself: His head would bob with their lovely, bouncing breasts as they made their way down the beach to the water.

We stayed on that beach until my father was red as a lobster. Getting back on the bus to go to the pier to go back to Athens, my dad said "That was a Great idea, girls! What a wonderful day!" and Joan and I roared with laughter. When my mother asked why in the heck we had stayed 'til the man was toast, I airily said "Oh, there was so much to SEE, Mom; I didn't know but we took poor Dad to a nudie beach!"

For the life of me, I can't remember my mother's reaction.

Dad Diaries: #8

We toured almost daily and hiked when we could. The roofs are torn off a few of the castles to avoid taxation, so some of the sites are quite dangerous. Did this stop us? Heck, No! Aunt Rita, attired in dresses, heels and accessories, led the way. Daddy had told Joan and I "No Blue Jeans!" for the trip, but we were dressed very casually.

One site was very remote and on a steep overlook. The wind was whistling through the open roof and windows. It was incredibly beautiful and we spent a long time there, poking around, pondering what life must've been like so many centuries ago. When we left, we got a bit turned around and ended up going through a marshy area. Joan, Uncle Billy and I followed Aunt Rita through a maze of high reeds, bushes and scruffy grass. Daddy decided to take the easy path - "Well, look at that road!" he exclaimed, and leaped wtih his long legs to get to it. Rita looked up and went to shout a warning - too late! Daddy had landed in a mud pit, and had to keep leaping to get out of it. Every step deposited a larger layer on his hiking shoes. By the time he got out of the muck, his shoes resembled cartoon boots - hugely oversized and heavy. He dragged them to firm ground and collapsed, laughing. It took us ten minutes to clean them up enough for him to get in the car.

Uncle Billy and Dad decided that we had to go pub crawling after that, as the only shoes Daddy had left were fancy dress shoes. Joan and I groaned about 'having' to go to the pubs - but were delighted once we got there. Who knew they would be full of attentive, handsome young men?! We played darts, listened to stories tumbling out one after another told in their charming accents and turned down many pints and cigarettes. Billy, Rita and Dad had to drag us out of every one of them.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Dad Diaries: #7

Ireland is surrounded by the sea, which creates a richness of atmosphere and lush vegetation. Ireland is also a nation of stones. The endless grid of stone walled farm plots aren't there for decoration; they are one good way to use the stones from the fields.

Uncle Billy's charming little cottage has a stone wall, of course. It has a small plot of land, but not enough to farm, barely enough to garden. Since it is not a full-time residence, only perennial flowers are maintained.

Just a short walk down the lane is the sea. There is no beach - it is rocky and sometimes perilous. I had no knowledge of tides, so I didn't wander too far along the coast. Plus, I had my ever-present sidekick Joan with me, and she was only 12; not exactly the Age of Reason.

The neighbor closest to the sea also manages Uncle Billy's cottage for him, and they are good friends. She is a widow, and her sons were then 28 and 25 - beautiful young men who spoke mainly Erse. I wanted to spend some time on the sea, and her oldest offered to take me out one morning while he set their nets. We motored out on a choppy sea (he asked me "Ya don't get ill from the waves now, right?") and they tossed out tons of nets which they would haul in that night. Then we motored back. It was nice out there, listening to the lilt of Gaelic, the waves slapping the boat, the light of early morning. He told us to come back later that evening, and he would give us some fish for Uncle Billy to cook.

Joan and I wandered down the lane later that evening after a full day of touring, castle gazing and hiking. I was starving and rather grouchy. We arrived at the house of the fishermen, and the mother hands me a sack of beautiful fish - medium sized, gleaming and fresh. The sons are smiling behind her, and cleaning piles of fish. We thanked them profusely and head back down the rock wall lined lane. It has gotten really dark in the time we have meandered back and forth, really surprisingly dark. There are no lights on the path; this is country property, not city streets. I am thankful that Billy wisely handed me a flashlight as we headed out.

Suddenly Joan, who had been skipping around with the sack of fish, yelped "What's that sound?!" and stood dead still. There was a definite rustling in the vines on the rock wall. I hissed "IT'S RATS!" and Joan jumped about a foot in the air, terror on her face. Then I added the hammer: "And - THE RATS ARE AFTER THE FISH!" Joan screamed and took off running, holding the fish straight-armed out in front of her, heels thudding on the packed dirt road. She beat me to the house by a good two minutes, even though I am running, too. I cannot run fast as I am laughing so hard! As I get near the cottage, I hear Billy assuring Joan that he has never heard of rats leaping onto bags of fish whilst strolling down a lane, but that he supposed she used good judgment to run her lungs out. I opened the door and busted out laughing anew. Joan's hair was standing out like a lambswool duster, her cheeks were bright pink and she was sweating bullets from the exertion of her sprint.

The fish were divine. Served with - what else - potatoes and a green salad.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Dad Diaries: #6

I left you in Shannon, Ireland, drinking black and tans...

My Aunt Rita and Uncle Billy, parents of 9, arrive in Shannon and we begin our journey to a small village near Youghal, where Billy inherited a nice cottage by the sea. We arrive, and Joan and I are in HEAVEN - the place is cosy, and has a large, fenced yard with -- CHICKENS! These chickens are so friendly, we can hold them. They will follow us into the house. These wonderful, fat chickens provide us with lovely eggs every day. There is also a big yellow lab from down the lane who visits frequently. He is given tasty tidbits from our plates. Neither my aunt, uncle or Dad say a word about this dog or the chickens frequently in the house.

The huge fireplace in the kitchen is what heated the house. There was a mechanical bellows that assisted with creating a good blaze. Joan sets to getting the fire going, with my direction, first morning there. I neglect to actually light the kindling, and she works up quite a sweat before I say "Oh! I guess we better light the wood!"

May I just say a few words about my love of rashers of bacon? Oh yummy, this bacon from Ireland. It's from the back v. the belly as in America, and is so much leaner. We polished off pounds of the stuff. Joan and I would shoot out of bed, scramble into our clothes and run out to the chickens. They were waiting in their hen house and we quickly got brave enough to reach under their toasty bellies and get the eggs. We'd run the eggs into the house and then play with the chicken for a while. We'd cook up the bacon and a dozen eggs every day, and I remember my dad expressing a great love of those eggs. In fact, he was asking Rita if she'd successfully carted any home in their luggage. She said "Oh yes, in socks!" and he was planning to do just that. He loved those eggs that much.

After a couple of days, Joan and I found if we turned over the big garden stones, the chicken would grab the big grubs and any bugs under them. Well, one morning, Daddy comes out with his cup of tea, stretching and remarking what a glorious day it was. He didn't notice what we were doing at first. Suddenly he squawked "Oh NO! Is that what these chickens have been eating?!" He declined to have any eggs that day and for the rest of the trip!

Next up: A Fishing Story

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Dad Diaries: #5

Dad took my sister Joan and I to Ireland when I was 27 and Joan was 12, in May of 1980. Who knows what prompted him to set up this 'quality' time with Joan and I, but my mother very wisely declined to go.

Daddy worked for United Air Lines from 1965 - 1995. The entire family benefitted tremendously by his employment; not just monetarily, but the trips - Oh the TRIPS! We flew as non-revenue, space available passengers. Back in the 1970's and 80's travel was quite nice. They had not started squeezing the passengers like cattle into smaller and smaller spaces. There was food! You won't believe this, but there was room enough between your legs and the seat in front of you for someone to walk to their seat! I know! We frequently flew first class, and I'm telling you; it was really something back in the 1970's. For one thing, you dressed nicely to fly. Everyone was in business attire. You were served juice before take-off. A huge roast would be wheeled out and carved right in front of your nose. Seems incredible now, doesn't it?!

For the Ireland trip in 1980, the first leg of the journey was uneventful. We landed in New York to catch the connecting flight to Shannon, Ireland. Daddy came back from the ticketing agent sporting a Cheshire Cat grin. "I've gotten us great seats, girls!" he exclaimed, taking his seat in the waiting area. I looked up from my book and said "Great! Maybe I can sleep!" We get on the airplane, and sure enough, our seats are great. First row of bulkhead coach seats, first 3 seats in the center row of 5 seats. The plane continues to fill up. Amazing amounts of people are sliding through the doors! We think we have really scored - nobody takes the other 2 sets in our middle row!

Just then, a family with 7 kids blows into the plane. Their seats are all over the place, and the dad immediately grabs the 2 bulkhead seats for himself and one of the oldest sons. The mom trails behind, struggling with young children. Their youngest son, around 4 or 5 probably, starts screaming and crying, wanting to sit with his father. The child is beside himself crying, so I offer up my seat - the other available seat is 3 rows back, and on an aisle. The little boy gets into my seat before I'm even all the way out, and the father and mother are so grateful. My sister immediately says "Oh NO! Daddy will give us HIS seat because we are sitting together!" My dad sighs, gets up and goes to sit back in cockroach alley. For 8 hours. Joan and I are happy as larks in our plenty-of-legroom seats. I sleep, as does she - with the little guy slumped on her shoulder.

We deplane in Shannon, and take a taxi to a hotel. We're spending one day there, waiting for my Aunt Rita and Uncle Billy to arrive. From there, we'll go to their summer house on the ocean on the South. We open the hotel door and take stock of the room. Rather seedy, but we are just going to sleep and then get on our way the next day. Joan and I try out a bed each. Dad plops his suitcase down on the one closest to the door. I sit on the bed I've chosen, and the thing about tips over! Turns out one leg is shorter than the others. I yelp "We have to change rooms, this bed is busted!" and dear old daddy sighs and says "Look for a phone book. I'm taking that bed." I find a phone book, hand it to him and it raises the bed about half of what it needs. He crawls in and says "No sneaking out into the bars while I'm asleep."

Joan and I looked at each other. Hey - we had not even thought about going out! Of course, the minute he's snoring, our feet hit the floor. We went into the hotel lobby and I try to order me a beer and Joan a coke. The barkeep wags a finger and says "Only WHOOOOORES come into a bar without a man. I saw you girls check in with your Da. If you want something from this bar, you go get your da!" and that was that. So we went back up and went to bed. The next morning, Daddy said "Well, did you get a beer?" And I said "No! They don't serve women beer here unless they have a man with them." Dad said "Kiddo, we're in a different country now. That's your first lesson. But if you want a black and tan, I'll take you later. And he did. It was 'meh'. Haven't had one since.

Writing this, I can remember the smells of Ireland. I think of a place there, and I smell it. The sea is commanding when you live in the desert.

This will take a few entries. We spent a long time there, and it was so special. Of course, I did not know that until years later.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Dad Diaries: #4

About once a day, I forget my dad has died. I will think "Oh, I've got to tell Daddy..." and then it hits. Again. The pain of the loss is more a familiar feeling, but not a friend. Will it ever be, as some say? I don't know.

Most of my father's eight brothers and sisters passed before him. He was the middle child, but fared better economically than most of them and therefore lived a lot longer. I have 65 first cousins on my father's side - those Irish are a prolific lot. We didn't visit Pittsburgh, where my father was born and reared, very often, but when we did it was a blast!

From the time I was 10 until about 24, we had a Cessna 182 (1950's taildragger) airplane. We flew from Colorado to Pennsylvania a couple of times when I was in junior high (that's what middle school was back in The Day). Daddy would give airplane rides to all the cousins, which meant my mother, sister and I 'got to' stay at the po-dunk airport for hours, Oh Joy. Luckily, that also meant the aunts and uncles were also at said po-dunk airport, along with their 9, 10 or 11 kids, so it's not like we were lacking for playmates. My dad would do touch and go's, zip around and fly over their houses, and come back down to pick up 4 more kids. After hours, he started insisting he was seeing the same kids again and again. The cousin would insist, "Nah, that was Gerry, Eric and Marty you took last time, not us!"

Then we'd decamp to one of the Aunt's houses for dinner. There would be piles upon mounds of food. Four chickens would come sailing out of the oven. The piles of spuds were astonishing. Loaves of bread and quarters of butter would disappear, but not the pitchers of milk; every aunt had the same rule: The first kid who poured a glass of milk had to pour for the entire table, including high chairs and hangers on! Before the meal had progressed too far, the uncle would stand up and count and say "Ok, ok, ok; YOU - you're not mine and I've already fed you twice this week - OUTTA HERE! - ok, ok, ok, ok, Um - Oh, you're ok (me and my sister), Ok, OK!" The kid he had dismissed would go "AW!" but leave the table, and reappear for dessert later.

It was exhausting and exciting being around the swarm. There was an insistence on manners and some quiet (ha!) at the dinner table, but otherwise, it was total chaos. And my sister and I loved the few times we got to go visit all those cousins. Later, I got to go spend summers in Pittsburgh.

But, that's another story...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Dad Diaries: #3

Growing up military is different from most families. You move around a lot, you change schools, sometimes mid-year; you have to adapt to different learning systems and you have to be able to make friends fast. One embarrassing leftover from moving so many places is that I instantly adapt speech patterns, accents and slang to whomever I'm speaking with, even to this day. If I'm in Chicago, I'm a Northsider. If we're in Asia, I'll start in with pigeonesque English. If I'm in Texas, my vowels are looooooooong and slooooooooooow. It's all about being 8 and surviving in a new situation.

The accent to which I default in times of anger is, God forgive me, Texan.

When I was almost 15, the acre lot next to my parents was still undeveloped. It was sporting tall grasses and weeds by mid summer, and was a source of aggravation for my dad. One late afternoon, we noticed some kids hanging around but thought nothing of it. That is, until smoke and flames started shooting up and the kids beat a hasty retreat. I was sitting on the patio reading when I heard my dad bellowing for help. I jumped up, barefooted and in shorts, and ran out to see what the commotion was about. I saw the flames jumping around in the grass, heading towards our house and seemingly nipping at my father's heels! My dad ran into our yard, grabbed a hose, turned on the water and sprinted towards the fire - only to be jerked nearly off his feet when the hose tangled. Dad yelped "Throw me more hose!" and I did just that - threw the entire tangled mess about 20 feet, turning the water gushing out of the hose to an old man's piddle stream. Daddy snarled, "Get out here and untangle this mess NOW." I whimpered that I was in bare feet, shorts, and - ALLERGIC TO WEEDS. Didn't matter - out I tromped, muttering under my breath and crying. The thistles stabbled me feet and legs, brambles were snarling in my long hair - and the hose was hopelessly twisted.

Daddy took over, and I fled back into the house. I washed off my hands and arms in the kitchen, then realized I needed to shower. I stomped back into the bedroom area, and spied my older sister sitting on her bed watching the entire situation play out from her window. I spat out in my rage-filled Texas Twang: "Who does Daddy think he is, the fucking far (fire) chief?!"

My mom poked her head out from the other bedroom and said "Watch your mouth, Miss..." and then her eyes about bugged out. My sister gasped and I started to turn -- just in time to notice that my father was right on my heels! I screamed and about fainted, and wet my pants right on the spot.

I forget what happened next. But forever after, when my dad would annoy my mother, sister or myself, one of us would mutter "Who does he think he is, the f'ing FAR CHIEF?!" and hilarity would ensue.

Monday, November 02, 2009

The Dad Diaries: #2

Our sons loved my dad. He was their second daddy, their PopPop, as their own daddy travels so much.

What I miss every day about my dad is that he got each of my boys. He knew Parker needed a little bit of assurance and confidence building. He loved seeing Parker excel at reading, Taekwondo and art. Dad completely believed in Ryan's ability to soar beyond expectations. When I would be ready to run screaming from the house, I would call my dad. He would say "Well, of COURSE he reacted ______! Here's how that probably felt to him...." and he would gently tell me how I could better handle my little one, trapped nearly wordless in this world for so long, with respect and consideration for Ryan's many gifts.
Dad was always catching the boys doing something good, long before it was trendy.

Parker is 9 now, and Ryan 8. They were 8 and 7 when Dad died, and got to go to the visitation, the party at my parents' house afterward and the funeral. They wrote letters to PopPop to read at the eulogy. The letters were read by my youngest sister's husband, as we were all too emotional to read them.

Ryan's letter was lovely. He told PopPop how much he was going to miss him and how much he loved him. Ryan mentioned trips that would happen in a few weeks without him and that he felt badly about that. Ryan told my dad that he would love him forever.
Parker's letter made the entire church cry. He said he loved PopPop and would miss him terribly. Then he said that he knew PopPop was not far away as Heaven was in everyone's heart, and that was where PopPop was now. And that was a whole lot of heaven for everyone to love.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Dad Diaries: The beginning

My dad died 27 May 2009. The loss to our family is staggering as he was my sons' 2nd daddy. Their daddy travels alot, so their beloved PopPop and Nana came over often to help entertain. It was heaps of work for me as I then felt obliged to cook myself into a stupor for some ridiculous reason, and send them home with food for a few meals. Hey! They are elderly!
There is a post soon after Daddy's death a couple of entries down. I'm not going back to re-read it, and I can't remember how much I talked about Dad's dying. I'm not going to get all morose on your shoulder; the purpose of my coming out of hibernation for NaBloWriMo is to force myself to tell some of the adventures of living with my father for 55 years.

Which brings up another fact: YES! I am an OLD mother! I am now 56 and have 9 and 8 year old sons. My husband is 8 years younger than I. I would highly recommend it.

So, back to memory-land.
My father was an officer in the Air Force. We lived all over the world for the first 12 years of my life. If you get an opportunity to live overseas, anywhere, GRAB IT. I can tell you for a fact that you and your family will be better off for it.

We lived in Okinawa for 4 years. My family actually built a house on the island, but we moved into base housing (complete with live-in maid and gardener) within 1.5 years. The house Dad built was on a steep hill, on acreage, and we did have neighbors, albeit not in view. The house came with a surprise papasan. He showed up one day to garden and that was that. He also turned out to be a watchdog; stories started filtering in to my parents about neighbors' small appliances going missing. Turns out that it was the work of "stealie boys"; young men who would strip naked except for a mask, grease themselves with cooking oil so they could not be caught, sneak into a house and nick the irons, toasters, electric fry pans, etc, to sell on the street! One night we heard a heck of a racket outside and Papasan was getting dragged down the side of the hill; hanging on for dear life, by a nekkid, masked man! My Dad, who was stark naked himself, grabbed a couple of flyswatters and took off after them. He smacked that boy's back, haunches and backside a few times and that guy took off like a rocket down the hill. Papasan and Dad came back to the house, victorious. I stage whispered to my mom "Oh dear, Daddy forgot his panties, Mommy!" They got the neighbor's toaster and hand mixer to boot. And word got out among the Stealie Boys to avoid our hood; we had a crazy-ass WatchDad and a Papasan on alert.