Friday, March 14, 2014

All Kinds of Bags

Someone posted on Facebook a challenge, 40 Bags in 40 Days.  (Here's the original Blog  The idea is that you declutter one closet, one drawer, one shelf every day for 40 days (actually you get one day a week off, but I got so far ahead on the first couple days, I definitely will meet the quota even taking off a day a week).  While there is a picture of a giant black garbage bag on the post, she goes on to say, don't let that overwhelm you.  Somedays it might be a shopping bag and somedays a sandwich bag.  It's about decluttering a spot a day.

I went at this with great gusto!   Finally a Lenten discipline I can relate to.  Plus decluttering to me feels like losing weight.

Well I realized--there are all kinds of bags and all kinds of weight--besides giant black bags, shopping bags and sandwich bags.  There are emotional bags too.  I think that is one of the reasons I started writing again (plus the ever wonderful Bruce Abel asked me too as did another friend who may or may not want to be called out here).  There are lots of things that weigh on our soul or psyche.  Sometimes it's as easy as rearranging the desktop on your computer.  Sometimes it's a lost item you haven't taken time to look for.  Sometimes you don't even know what it is until you've uncovered it and you go "wow, I feel so much better!"

People talk a lot about "living in the moment."  Which as a general concept is a great one.  I get it don't  obsess about the past, don't worry about the future, live in the now.  And based on this advice, I do try to stop and take a moment to smell the roses, as it were.  To take a snapshot of a moment, because I truly believe we don't remember days, we remember moments.  That's why someone will say, "remember when we did such and such?"  And you have no clue what they are talking about.  It's because you snapshotted a different moment.

It kind of makes me sad that I didn't journal more (at all) when the kids were little.  I definitely recall saying "I want to remember this moment forever" but often that's it.  What was the feeling of that moment?  Oh but I digress.

So after three momentous days of decluttering, I got sick.  It's hard enough to motivate when you are well, forget when you have a cold.  Well any excuse will do.  However, those three days did help.  Now when I see a "hot spot" I just stop and organize it.  There are some burning, on fire, places in my house that will require the giant black garbage bag and a few hours.  I will get to those.  But it's good to know that the weight can be lifted by rearranging my shirt drawer or tidying up the house or by going to the laundromat.

There is a fine balance here between cleaning ADD and living in the moment getting things done.  I have learned a very excellent trick (I must credit the Fly Lady-whom I go back and forth between thinking she's brilliant and wanting to stuff one of her purple cloths down her throat) -- it's the "put away" bag.  You know how you get cleaning ADD?  You are cleaning a child's room and then you find dishes, so you take them downstairs, realize that the dishwasher needs unloading.  You start unloading and then hear the dryer go off so you go out and change the laundry, meanwhile you know you need to get back to the kid's room but you've got laundry to fold, the dishwasher to empty and now the dog is barking to come inside and you notice that there are dishes on the porch and it really needs sweeping.  (Well now I know how Give a Mouse a Cookie was written!) Oh wait, so my very excellent trick--the put away bag.  When you are cleaning your chosen spot of the day, you do not leave that spot until you are finished.  Got something that belongs somewhere else--put it in the "put away" bag.  Dryer goes off -- oh wait, I haven't had this problem in two weeks because I've had no washer to wash stuff.  It is rather freeing, but anyway, whether you go change the laundry is up to you. But I will tell you this, do not stop to check email, do not stop to check Facebook and most of all do not stop to write a blog entry!

So back to the emotional baggage.  I think letting go of some things is just as important as decluttering the dining room closet.  Of course the stuff I'm finding comes with it's own emotional baggage.  I once read something about decluttering and they said that if something doesn't make you happy you should get rid of it.  Hanging onto something for sentimental reasons?  Does it make you happy?  Does it feel like an anchor in your living room (the bad heavy kind not the good kind you plan the room off of)?  If it doesn't make you happy or weighs you down every time you look at it, get rid of it.  Being somewhat of a pack rat, this has helped me immensely!  Getting rid of some of the stuff is getting rid of some emotional baggage--because that thing, that chair, that lamp, that vase, that bookcase full of books you read but don't remember what they were about, is weighing down your psyche. And when you take it to Good Will or the library or the garbage can, you feel a little lighter.  The pan you hung onto but never used but you got if for your wedding and it's sat in various closets for 21 years and has fallen on your foot (thankfully not your head) more than once. So you get rid of the pan. And when you hand that giant black bag over to the Good Will man, you feel lighter.  You have your husband, you have other pans, you have dishes -- all that you got from your wedding, all that make you feel happy.  So why were you hanging on to that pan?  When the answer is I don't know, try letting it go.  You'll find you feel a little lighter because in the end, it's just a pan--the emotional baggage that made me keep it is what I really want to get rid of.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Who do you call when the washing machine is broken?

I was thinking a lot about friendship this morning.  I should be thinking about how many "heavy duty hoodies" I need to place on my spirit order, but instead I'm thinking about friendship.  

Friendship is a very complex thing.  I also think that understanding that comes with maturity.  My daughter struggles weekly (if not daily) with friendship.  She's still at the age when the "popular group" matters.  I have tried to talk to her about the popular group and why you don't need to be in it.  I was never in the popular group (or I was the popular group and didn't know it).  I was kind of rebellious of the norm.  I spent plenty of time wearing the exact same sweater and the exact same shoes (we had uniforms so this was our opportunity to be unique) in 7th grade for sure.  In 8th grade I had my first boyfriend and having the same shoes as everyone else became a little less important.  By the time I was in high school everyone called my shoes "HO shoes" and I don't think that was necessarily because those were my initials.  For a variety of reasons I realized that I was never going to fit into the norm (or conform) and if that was what it took to be in the popular group then that wasn't for me.  Actually I don't really think there was the popular group, I mean in 5th grade there was, but then there were always these fights.  I did not understand why you would fight with a friend.  I mean you might disagree with someone but why would you fight and why would you then start trying to turn everyone against that person.  I never really had to worry about that because I was the fat country girl and didn't really fit in (initially).  So I became the mediator between the groups and I made friends with the boys.  I figured it out.  Anyway, I have watched both the popular group and Mollie's understanding of this begin to evolve.  I told her if you limit yourself to just one group (or spend all your time obsessing about being in that group) then you will miss out.  She tried for a while being a part of several different groups but then one group would have inside jokes she missed out on while with the other group and they wouldn't explain them.  She has come to understand that each girl at an individual level can be nice and be her friend.  That doesn't help though when she knows they are all together and not texting her back to tell her where they are.  I know from experience once she gets there she will be fine, but still she has to be invited and can't just show up (we have yet to prove or disprove this theory).  Fortunately for me I lived "out of town" in the country and didn't have social media or a group walking by my house that she has.  It wasn't in my face as much.  It's one thing to know something is happening without you, it's another to watch it.  

When we moved to Terrace Park it seemed we were surrounded by groups.  We would go to the pool and there would be groups gathered around tables with picnics and coolers.  I longed to be a part of one of them.  I have come to the conclusion that you can wait to be invited to be a part of a group, invite yourself to be a part of a group or just make the damn group yourself.  Making the damn group yourself is what I studied in grad school, though we called it "Community Organizing."  So when we were not magically absorbed into one of the pool groups, I made my own damn group.  I invited all the moms on our block for coffee.  Then I invited all the families on the block for a happy hour.  Then we rotated houses--putting a giant beer bottle out in whoever's front yard who was hosting the happy hour. As everyone took turns hosting, they would invite friends from off the block and so it grew and grew to the point where people would come up to me randomly and say "I saw the big bottle out, can I come to the happy hour?"  And there we had it, our own damn group.

Of course the group changes with the seasons.  Some people go away for the summer, some people move away (to the other side of the park ;), some people play a different sport.  We came to embrace the TP culture of casual gatherings planned usually on that day--got no plans?  Let's barbecue at your house after the baseball game! (if it ever freaking ends!)  In many ways this is how our children's friendships were initiated.  We were friends with people who had kids our two kids' age (one or both).  Our kids' friendships have grown and evolved and so have ours.  There was definitely a rough patch when so and so were no longer joined at the hip, but forced to have dinner together because we parents were having dinner together.  But on the other hand, when we all went out to dinner after the interminable baseball game--everyone was happy to be together.  I hope that it showed our kids you can enjoy someone's company and not have to be their "best friend" or "in their group."  Also I should stop making fun of those baseball games for without those lengthy, painful games we might not have forged such strong bonds.

Friendship is a fluid thing.  And just because I don't spend every Friday night with you and you don't invite me to every dinner (or any dinner) at your house and I don't invite you to all of mine, doesn't mean we aren't friends.  Friends fit a variety of emotional needs and even practical needs.  I know a lot of people who play tennis.  They have tennis friends.  People who go to school outside of Mariemont/TP have school friends.  Some of these situational friends are people you might never be friends with (or bonded with) outside of being in the same place at the same time doing the same thing. In New York I had my "dog" friends, we knew each other quite well from the time standing around watching our dogs run around.  Some of them I knew for years before I learned their name, some I never knew their name.  Some I keep in touch with because we were meant to become friends beyond the dogs.  Same thing happened in the playground.  Though the playground definitely divided people by parenting styles.  That's probably a whole other blog post though. 

There are friends that you can see after 30 years and it's like not a day has gone by and they become once again an important part of your life.  I have many friends like that--especially now in the time of Facebook.  I feel like I am a part of their real life, even though I'm getting cyber updates (or texts or emails).  There are many friends I get a Christmas card from once a year, but the bond of college or the early New York years keeps us in touch.  I know I could go pick up a conversation with them right where we left off.  There are friends you think maybe you aren't close with anymore, but in the blink of an eye are there for you in tragedy or sadness.  (That's why you always go to the funeral -- yet another blog post to be written -- or maybe I already have.)

I also have a very special and important group of friends whom I've never met in real life.  We all met 14+ years ago when we were pregnant with our July babies.  This group of women bonded over the fact that we have babies who were born in July.  We live all over, have families of 1 - 6 kids and do a million different things.  We have provided each other with a safe space to discuss a variety of topics we might not with other people.  It is a weird, wonderful, unique group of women (no one is weird it's just a little weird how close you can feel to someone you've never seen in the flesh) whom I've grown to count on in ways I wouldn't have imagined-- starting 15 years ago when I sat in my office typing away over a dial up connection to women half way across the country worried that I could never love another baby as much as I did my first.

Friends meet a variety of needs, that's why I scoff at the notion that there is one best friend.  Well scoff probably isn't the right word because who am I to judge others' friendships.  I think to call someone friend you need to understand their limitations, their quirks and that special thing that puts them in the category of friend.  Having unreasonable expectations of a person, limits their ability to fit in the friend category.  If you are constantly disappointed by someone because you expect them to act in a certain way, you will never grow in your friendship.  I always say "to know them is to love them."  Some friends are always late, some friends show up all the time, some friends are 50/50, some friends remember your birthday, some friends remember to ask about things, some friends are just there to listen, and some friends are there for you to listen to (hey it's good to know other people have issues too!).  I know pretty much who is going to fall into each category and because they are my friends (and I want them to be my friends) I understand and go with it.  If I let it annoy me then I'm not really their friend and they probably won't be mine for long.

It's ok to have differences.  I know that my politics are quite different from several of my closest friends, so we don't talk about politics.  Simple as that.  If I spent all our time together trying to convince them to change their ingrained political belief, I wouldn't be much fun to be around.  I learned very quickly when we were applying to nursery school in NYC whom I could talk to about it and who I couldn't.  I'm pretty quickly getting that about college too. 

Sometimes I still go back to that junior high mind set and over think the group thing.  Well sometimes I wonder if it's my fault that Mollie isn't in the popular group because I don't try harder to be friends with the moms in the popular group.  It's not that we aren't friends or friendly.  It's just that we have our own inner circles and without doubling the group we can't really expand. Maybe that makes sense, maybe it doesn't.  I mean I always have room for new people in my life.  I remember reading somewhere that people in their thirties raising young children don't have time to make friends.  They have their friends and they aren't really looking to add more.  It's just too much trouble.  Well I wonder if that was a New York thing?  I moved here when I was 40 and whether or not I wanted new friends, I needed them and thankfully people here made room for me in their inner circles.  Actually we call that group "the usual suspects."  I believe that term was coined by the person who taught me the importance of having people you call "girlfriends."

I had a number of friends in high school whom I was close with at different times.  In the years that have passed they sort of all meld together.  I'm fortunate enough to get to spend time with some of them and their families (both their parents who were an important part of my formation and their kids who I'm happy to say my kids call friend).  So I'm going back to high school.  Back to the time when a song meant everything.  Kenny Loggins' "Whenever I call You Friend" was one of our theme songs.  I'm pretty sure we even had a dance we did to it.  It's funny just now looking at the words I realize that he and Stevie Knicks were talking about "doin' it" and we were talking about what ever we were doin' that weekend. 

Whenever I call you "Friend"
I begin to think I understand
Anywhere we are
You and I have always been
Forever and ever
I see myself within your eyes
And that's all I need to show me why
Everything I do
Always takes me home to you
Forever and ever
Now I know my life has given me more than memories
Day by day, we can see
In every moment there's a reason to carry on

And so this brings me back to the original question--who do you call when the washing machine is broken?  You know that anyone you ask will say "no problem," but the real understanding of a friend is knowing who really means it, who doesn't and still loving them all any way.  (Also for anyone reading this that I didn't ask, it's more likely that you live more than 100 feet away, I was not going to be at your house anyway or I've just decided to screw it and buy new underwear and socks.)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Half the Family's Sick, Half the Family's Dying

I believe I have written before about the phenomena of Septembering (or Octobering or Novembering).  My friend Lynn came up with the term.  Fall is a favorite time of year for many, many people, but Lynn and I face it each year with a little fear and trepidation.  You see bad stuff happens in the fall, if you are going to have a rough time, it will usually be in one of those months.  Each year Lynn and I would compare notes, do you think this is it?  Do you think there will be more?  Each year we would reach Hanukkah/Christmas with great relief.  The season of suffering was over.  This year I glibly slid through that season, with just one child's broken foot to show for it.  Little did I know what the universe had in store for me in the new year!

Just try to say Februarying!

That's when it started, I think it was the day after my mom's birthday (2/15).  She called to say that Pak was rushing her to the hospital because she had had a collapse of some sort and her BP was 70/45.  We will not get into the discussion of why she was rushed by her very upset husband versus the ambulance, but you can imagine my dismay.  As the day/night went on they began talking about surgery because her bowels were shutting down. So I hopped on a plane and spent the next two days hanging out in her (very nice) hospital room.  It had the added benefit of getting to see my dad who had fallen and hit his head a few days before Christmas, suffering a fairly serious concussion--to the point he didn't remember Christmas (so yes technically it did start before Christmas, but wait there's more!)

Shortly after my birthday I got a call from my step mother telling me my dad had fallen again, had bleeding on the brain and by the way, he'd been in the hospital for a week.  She put him on the phone he had no idea who he was talking to and I'm not sure he was even familiar with the phone itself.  I was leaving that weekend to go on a college visit and then going to Puerto Rico for spring break.  But Taj was very reassuring and there was really nothing I could do more--he was not at risk for dying, so poor Taj had to handle it all.  Well two days before leaving for PR they decide to release him but after care planner (I won't call her a social worker because she sucked) "could not" find a private place for him.  Well I put my social worker hat back on and found him a bed in the rehab at Westminster Canterbury where my mom lives--hee hee his worst nightmare.  Left for PR with great relief he was in a good place and he had his wife and ex-wife to keep him straight.  I did end up flying down there to see him and go to the neurosurgeon with them.  We were told that short term memory may or may not come back.

THEN, my step father is rushed to the hospital because he's bleeding internally.  Gets better, goes home, collapses, almost dies, rushed back to hospital, mended again and well now all sorts of complications keep him in the hospital still as I write.  Oh and he quit breathing one night and was on a ventilator for 4 days - 2 of them conscious (the stuff of nightmares if you ask me).

THEN, my mother in law was diagnosed with colon cancer during a routine colonoscopy and operated on a week later.  Got the tumor, but found cancer in 7 of 23 lymph nodes so will start treatment as soon as the biopsy the spot on her lung this Friday and get a port in (that is if the spot is not lung cancer).

While she was in the hospital, I stayed behind the scenes because I had a cold.  On the floor below her was our Cousin Thea who has been fighting cancer for at least four years now.  The chemo had done so much damage to her body that she had broken her leg.  They operated on her and she was trying to recover enough to go home - to die.  She was terrified of dying in the hospital.  She did get to go home and was there with hospice for a little over a week.  She died yesterday 5/19 at 4:30 in the afternoon.  Weirdly, Friday night I had felt her presence and thought maybe she was gone.  Know nurturing Thea, she spread some of herself to all of us before leaving the physical earth.

About a year and a half ago, she began introducing many of her friends.  She wanted us to know each other at her funeral.  She would say, I want you all to be friends after I'm gone.  She match-made us.  And she was awesome at it.  She introduced us to her friends and by the end of the evening it was as though we'd known each other for years.  And while we all had other/different friends, we all wanted to spend more time together, when can we get together, where, and Thea was our glue.  I hope that she and the memory of her will continue to be our glue.

Thea is probably the coolest Reis of all.  Thea was hip her whole life.  Whenever we would come visit Cincinnati, Thea was part of the tour.  We would always go to "the office" to see Thea.  She would tell us about this cool place and that cool thing, but even in our single days we missed out--we had a full schedule with Frisch's, Skyline, Graeters, and the Blind Lemon.  Plus we knew she was cool but we didn't realize how cool.

Once we moved here we kind of lost touch.  Which is weird.  But true.  I'm so glad that we reconnected a couple years ago.  Glad and sad.  I'm glad that my kids could see what a vital woman she was.  I'm glad that they got to see a vital woman with cancer and how she embraced life and lived it to the fullest.  How she did not get defeated or down.  Sure she got down, but every moment she could, she went for it.  She wore make up, and pretty clothes and awesome shoes.  She cooked fabulous meals and drank fabulous wine.  Certainly she had down and sad times, times she didn't wear fabulous clothes or make up.  Times she couldn't eat.  Times the wig itched or the hat just made her angry.  But she always had her peeps and her pups to comfort her.

I hope that memories of this larger than life woman will soon fill the giant hole left in her absence.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Cliff's Notes Version

I realized in talking to my fellow disciples that while writing these vignettes is great, I need to give an overview, so here it is.

I was born in 1965 to Bill and Sylvia Old.  We lived on Old Drive in Chesapeake Virginia.  I was part of the 5th generation to live on the land where we lived.  My grandmother (Dad's mom) lived next door and yes I called her "Grandmother."  Her name was Anne and she was born in 1899 right on the property where we lived. We had a cocker spaniel named Princess.  Four and a half years later my brother Billie was born on September 11, 1969.  My mom's parents were Janie and John Hester and they lived about 4 hours away in Roxboro, NC.  We had lots of family on my mom's side, but not so much on my dad's (but many many close family friends whose family's had been friends with my family forever).

I went to church at St. Thomas and I went to nursery school there as well.  It was a block from my house.  In first grade I started at Great Bridge Elementary--where my father had gone and my grandmother before him--back then it was a one room schoolhouse.  Mrs. Sewell, who was my math teacher, was also my dad's teacher.

In fourth grade I started going to private school in Norfolk, VA "in town" at Norfolk Collegiate.  My mom thought there were too many kids in my classes in public school.  It was a rough transition.  I missed my friends from the neighborhood and didn't quite fit in with the kids there.  It wasn't until 7th grade when I lost 10 pounds, grew 2 inches and got braces that I started to really have friends.  I'll never forget when one girl looked at me with a blank look and I realized she had no idea who I was.

I had my first boyfriend in 8th grade, Tommy.  My friends wouldn't believe at first that Tommy had actually asked me "to go with"him.  I was very involved with the youth group at St. Thomas (called EYC back then).  The Church of the Good Shepherd in Norfolk though was where I really wanted to be because that's where Tommy and all my friends were.  I did get to go on the Good Shepherd ski trip with Tommy and my friends.  But Tommy didn't save the seat by me for him.  I was about to have to go get on the other bus with--as memory serves--people I didn't know.  My friend Anne Douglas pushed me into the bathroom and there I rode until we were on the road and I could go sit with Tommy.

Eventually though I found my lifelong friends in Kimberlee, Laura, Renee, Terrie and Caroline.  I see Kimberlee, Terrie and Caroline every summer at the beach and our kids play together.  So even though I live in Ohio I, and my kids, have a VA Beach connection.   As tough as it was until 8th grade, from then on I never looked back and had the time of my life in high school.

I traded back and forth with Kirk as number 5 and number 6 in our class rankings.  I think he ended up 5, either way, he ended up as a cardiac surgeon which is a tiny bit more impressive than social worker and EMT.

So I graduated in May 1983 and started attending Duke that fall.  I had applied to Duke, UVA, Wake Forest and Randolph Macon Women's College and got into all of them (12 people from my class of 69 went to UVA, I think twice that many got in).  Wake Forest had not been coed for that long and they told me I would not get in (it was my first acceptance letter).  I had to work really hard to get into Duke.  RMWC wanted me.  I really liked RMWC too.  But when I got into Duke, my parents (and well everyone) said you have to go there because it's the best.

I'm so glad I did.  But Duke is hundreds of stories--some I will write down and most I won't :)  I will say while at Duke I did some cool stuff.  I went to ASU for a summer because I thought I was going to fail Calculus, I went to the Soviet Union and studied Russian and Russian Culture, I lived at Virginia Beach in an apartment with three other girls, I did an internship at the American Film Institute.  Not necessarily in that order.

After Duke I got a job working for CBS News Election and Survey Unit selecting precincts to report on election night for our randomly selected sample (1988 Presidential Election).  We were interviewed and hired from Seacaucus, NJ and then our liaison flew to meet us where we were working to train us.  So we never met most of the staff we worked with, nor did we ever go to the office before we started working there.  Some of us remembered each other from the interview/training session (which was like 3 days long).  I traveled to all the county seats in Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, DC, Pittsburg and Philadelphia (when they asked me to do all of PA I just could not stand to be on the road by myself 24/7--though actually most weekends I drove or flew somewhere).

I was dating a boy who lived outside NYC in Westport, CT.  I went to visit him and we went into the City one day.  I think he was going to some actors' workshop so I went to renew my passport and then visited the CBS office and met all the people I'd been working with the last 6 months.  They offered me a job.  So I moved to NYC with three of my cohorts from the road in what was technically a 1 bedroom apartment.  It had two levels but only one actual bedroom.  There was a rap recording studio next door. I went back to visit and found out that the Asian prostitutes down the hall had been freebasing and blew up that end of the hallway after we left.

Working a CBS and living in this overcrowded apartment was so much fun!  It was kind of like a continuation of college.  I think also it was so nice to be around people after spending so much time on the road along.

Well the election came and went and it was time for me to find another job.  I still had no real idea what I wanted to do with my life.  So I took a job at the Census Bureau. be continued

Monday, March 11, 2013

Life Lessons

Do you have moments from your life that haunt you?  A moment of regret?  Something you wish you hadn't done or said and that you cannot take back ever with no amount of forgiveness?

I have one.  I probably have many more but as I was quietly listening this morning for inspiration of what to write, I heard Amy Weston.  I can see the moment in time when I said it, where I was, what I was doing.  And now I think I might see God's hand in it.

When I was, let's say, 8 years old, my best friend was Amy Weston.  My mom, for some reason, looked down at the Westons.  I'm sure she made comments that make me think this.  I thought the Westons were the coolest family ever.  Amy was an only child and she was showered with love.  They had a baby blue VW bug convertible and we would drive to the beach for the day in it.  I loved the feel of the wind in my hair and the towel flapping in the breeze.  Oh how I loved Amy and her family!

During the winter, Amy and I took an art class together at the local community college.  I remember melting crayons to make pictures--fire and melted wax--it doesn't get much better than that!  Then we took an acting class.  I can't imagine that I loved it but she was in it and so was Linda F.  When it was time to resign up, my mom said that Amy couldn't do both because her family couldn't afford to do both.

Saturday morning came and Amy and I were helping my mom with the Altar Guild (I was an expert at dressing the chalice).  I can see me walking down the aisle toward the front of the church where my mom was decorating with greens (must have been Advent :).  I said, "Amy my mom says that you can't take art class and acting class because your parents can't afford it.  Isn't that stupid?"

I cringe to this day.  My mom made some comment about how that's not what she meant, she meant everyone can't do everything.  Needless to say I did not get to do acting again!  Amy poor thing was dumbfounded.  I know what I said must have hurt her feelings and I never really found a way to apologize.  I can't help but think that I said what I said to be hurtful.  I think I was angry with my mom and wanted her to be humiliated and in the end I hurt my friend instead.

Amy moved to Richmond a couple years later.  I was devastated.  We wrote letters back and forth for a couple years, but we lost touch.

And I still feel really badly about that.  I can never change that it happened.

And I think that in some way it changed my path that day.  I think that many of the things I am today can be traced to that moment and moments like that--throughout my life.  I became a little more thoughtful, a little more humble, and hopefully a little more unselfish that day.

I wonder if Amy remembers that moment?

Monday, March 4, 2013

In the beginning......

I think that I posted that I am working on a life map for my Discipleship group.  The purpose of the life map is to look at your life and your journey.  What were milestones?  Where did you change courses?  Where did you run into roadblocks and how did you get around them?  And where and how did you encounter God?

Certainly I can look back and immediately name some milestones and even some times when I knew God was with me.  Moments of my life.  So in a stream of consciousness kind of way, here I go......

I was born in 1965 in Norfolk, VA.  After years of trying my mother Bill and Sylvia were thrilled.  My early memories are happy.  My parents were very close with Porter and Mary Lewis and they had Amy who was just enough older than I that I thought she hung the moon (and was my big sister).  September 1969 my world changed.

In late August I went to stay at Mema and Grandaddy's (Janie and John).  I remember my Aunt going to school--it was her senior year of high school.

Sidebar:  My mother had two brothers, Richard and Jimmy.  When they were 10 & 12 they drowned in a farm pond accident and my grandfather very nearly drowned trying to save them.  My Auntie Beth was about 18 months old when this happened and my mom was 14.  My mom says my Aunt saved them all because they had no choice but to take care of this little baby.  My grandparents rarely spoke of them.

So my aunt was 14 when I was born.  She is right in the middle of my mom and me and I am much much more like her.  I remember one Thanksgiving Beth and I came downstairs to help get dinner on the table.  My mom looked at me and said, "are you going to leave your shirt untucked like that?" and my Mema looked at Beth and said, "are you going to wear that washer woman dress to dinner?"

Back to my stay at Mema and Grandaddy's...Each morning I would see Beth off to catch the bus to high school and then who knows what all they did to keep me entertained.  I was 4 1/2 at the time.  They may have sent me to nursery school at their church.  Then the big day came.  Now I have had enough therapy to know that some of these are memories and some of these are fantasies, but we are going to accept them as my reality and thus my memory even though I can hear my psychotherapy teacher saying, "do you hear the fantasy in that?  Hester there is no way that happened that way."  Love and miss her.  Oh and before you accuse me of ADD or something inability to carry on one train of thought--this is for me, I'm happy for you to ready it, but I'm sorry you will just have to abide my tangential thinking.

The BIG DAY,  I remember I must have gotten back from NC a little early because I was at my Grandmother Old's house.  Grandmother (yes that's what I called her) lived next door to us.  Bille and I were the fifth generation to live on that land--our house was built on a bit of the property and thus next door to her house.

I have a clear picture in my head of when I met Billie.  We were sitting in Grandmother’s living room and he was wearing a gown and wrapped in a beautiful white blanket.  I literally felt as though my parents had brought me a living doll.

I have another clear memory of sneaking into his room because I wanted to give him a bottle.  I had mixed up some Tang and fed that to him (not as bad as it would be today since he was probably eating minced veal by that point).  I know that it happened. Though I can’t really think about it without “hear the fantasy in that, your mother would never have let that happen.”  Billie didn’t sleep a lot so I’m guessing when he did she was immersed in something that would have kept her from noticing.

My mom didn’t work, but she was gone a lot.  Beatrice took care of us and cleaned our house.  Beatrice raised me and when Beatrice went to take care of some other babies, her daughter Joyce came to take care of us.  Beatrice’s husband Columbus took care of my Grandmother.  Columbus ran the Great Bridge bridge—he was the person who would run the controls that put down the arms and made the bells ring and then open the bridge.  I loved to ride my bike down and see Columbus when he was on duty.  Depending on what shift he was working he would stop by my grandmothers and check on “Miss Anne.” 

My grandmother was a widow at a very young age.  She was born in 1899.  My grandfather Livius must have died when she was in her 50’s.  She had two best friends from growing up—actually three.  All sisters—Evelyn, Auntie Maude and Cabbie.  Evelyn was widowed at and even younger age and her son Bob also died.  Cabbie died when is was little.  Auntie Maude moved in with Evie.  They were like my extra grandmothers.   I would go to Evie’s house all the time.  She would give me Wink and we’d have saltines dipped in French Onion Dip or Bugles.  Evie lived two houses down from me and I could cut through the Gammon’s back yard so I could go visit Evie and Grandmother pretty much anytime I wanted to.  On Sundays Evie, Auntie Maude and Grandmother would get together to have dinner.  I guess when you live alone, Sundays are the longest day.  So they would cut through our yard (we lived in between them) to walk to each others’ houses for their Sunday supper.  At some point they discovered that they were getting too drunk so they decided that each would bring their own liquor.  I think someone was drinking more than their fair share so they decided this rule, but that’s just speculation.  So on Sunday afternoons they would cut through with now a jar (peanut butter, jelly, mason) full of bourbon.  My mom called them “the girls.”

Dr. Woodley was our family doctor and his wife was his nurse.  I can remember his house because I thought it was so cool.  They had like a rock garden with a fountain in it and his office was connected to his house.  Whenever something happened—24/7 we would run to Dr. Woodley’s house (unless he came to ours as he often did).  One day our dog Princess (oh how I loved her) bit me.  I don’t think she meant to.  Off to Dr. Woodley’s house we went and I got my first stitches.  Billie had a febrile seizure one night and I remember being woken up and packed into the car to run to Dr. Woodley’s house.

I used to get strep throat all the time.  I remember Billie had some health issues—a hernia he was born with and he had his tonsils out.  He was in the hospital twice.  One of the times I was quite sick with strep throat.  I think it was Grandmother (but might have been Evie) gave me a get well card.  I was so tickled because I was lying sick on Grandmother’s green sofa while Billie was in the hospital and both my parents were with him.

I grew up a sort of combination of Episcopalian and Methodist.  I still haven’t figured out the difference except for the prayer book.  We attended St. Thomas which was just down the street from our house (it is one of the things that drew me to St. Thomas here in TP—my kids could grow up going to church at St. Thomas.)  We went to church every Sunday.  My dad was an usher and my mom was on the altar guild.  I helped with the altar guild from a very young age.  My Mema needle pointed all of the cushions used in the church.

Mema and Granddaddy when to Lea’s Chapel Methodist church, just down from their house in rural Roxboro, NC.  I loved going to church with them because the church was filled with all sorts of aunts, uncles and cousins.   From little little I loved going to Sunday School there too.  Miss Edna was my Sunday School teacher.  I remember being a tad confused because the service was different, there was no prayer book and no organ.  They played a piano to go with the choir.  Oh and the choir had robes like you see on TV, not the black and white ones like we had at St. Thomas. 

I loved going to Mema and Granddaddy’s farm.  There was always something new to discover.  There would invariably be a new puppy or kitten (it took a while until I recognized the pattern of why there were constantly new puppies and kittens).  There would be piglets and cows and calfs.  There was a pond.  Granddaddy would show me cool things like how to make hopper grass houses or crush up ink berries and then write with them.  They had a gas tank there on the farm where you could fill up well mostly the tractor, but after a while our go cart too.

I went to nursery school and kindergarten at St. Thomas.  I can remember Beatrice walking me up there with Billie riding in his big pram.  I can remember many of the kids clearly.  David—who would crawl around under the table and say things like “great underwear show.”  Jimmy—whom I was going to marry because I liked his last name (it was farmyard).  My best friends were Susan, Linda, Shawn, Dara and Amy.  I remember I had a really good friend named Jill whose dad was a POW in the Viet Nam war.  I had no idea what that meant at the time, just that her dad was gone and couldn’t come home and he might be dead.

First – third grade I went to Great Bridge Elementary.  It was much like TPE though we couldn’t come home for lunch.  My first grade teacher Mrs. Seaborn was a really tall lady with white white hair who had been taught piano by my grandmother.  Then there was Mrs. Sewell who taught my dad also!  Her son was somehow Australian (or had just taken on that affectation).  He called on my grandmother every time he came to town.

I was chosen to be in a PSA about stopping for the school bus.  There were 3-4 of us chosen.  One was little Willie.  Rumor had it Little Willie was 10 and had failed the first grade four times.  Anyway, they had us go to the lost and found to get lunch boxes.  I was devastated because I had to choose last and got the Flying Nun lunch box!!!!

By third grade I finally got to ride my bike to school.  I think I also got to be a crossing guard.  I’m pretty sure our school only went up to 4th grade.  I remember a boy died in one of the other grades and for a long time we had to wash our hands religiously so we too wouldn’t die.  Yes they told us he died from not washing his hands.  Made no more sense to me then as it does now.  In third grade I was informed that in fourth grade I’d be going to a another school.  Devastated does not begin to describe how I felt.

While I lived in a neighborhood, it was considered the boonies by folks “in town.”  So fourth grade I started going to a private school in town.  There were 40 kids in my second grade reading class and in the third grade I had tested out of all the English so while the other kids were doing English, I had to read the SRA and do comprehension stuff.  I did not understand why I had to move to this new school in  town where we would have to commute 30 minutes every day.  I was even more confused when my parents informed me that most of the kids there were going to be richer than I, so get used to not being able to have whatever they have.

My Mema made a lot of my clothes.  For my first day of school I chose a pink dress with pink ribbon trim.  I still remember that dress and how much I loved it.  Strike three against this new school, I walked in the first day in my cute pink homemade dress and everyone else was wearing the same exact thing—uniforms!  New kid, from the country, homemade dress, and most of them not only knew each other but lived near one another  and had gone to school together since nursery school at Ghent Presbyterian.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The perks of being a wall flower

Mixed tapes.  Remember mixed tapes?  Our kids will never have mixed tapes.  Songs picked out by your friend, boy friend, girl friend, songs put in a certain order by them that you couldn't just "click" over, you had to either listen to or shrrrrrrrrrrrr  shrrrrrrrrr fast forward rrrrrrrrrr rrrrrrrrrr rewind because you went too far.  Or you couldn't find the song because you didn't know the ones before and after.

I remember a boy I dated who made me mixed tapes.  It must have been during college.  He kept making me mixed tapes--of Bruce Springstein.  I don't like Bruce Springstein.  But he wouldn't give up.  He thought if I just heard the right song I'd like him.  Yeah it didn't work out for either one of them.

One of the many things I fell for in Anthony was his mixed tapes.  He has a gift.  To this day.  Now he makes playlists, but I swear there was something to that whole mixed tape thing--the order.  There are still songs I hear today and expect the next song to be the one that came right after that one on a mixed tape.

Mollie and I watched The Perks of Being a Wall Flower.  WOW!  Watch it.  I might watch it again.  Right now.  Or I might get the book.  Back to high school.  Mixed tapes.  Angst.  Liking someone.  Them not liking you back.  Special friendships.  Intense friendships.  Friends you want to help.  Friends you can't.  Suicide.  Suicide attempts.

On the map of my life there is a big way station--high school.  It's almost like a neighborhood because it has so many intersections there.  Things that formed me.  Moments that formed me.  In general I have a happy warm feeling about high school, but a movie like that can really take me back and remember that there were some very low days and nights.  Nights I was home alone, "out in the country," feeling very far away from my friends in town.  Feeling sorry for myself.  Boys I liked, who didn't like me, or no longer liked me.  Feeling like a misfits.  Finding the misfits who felt like me.  

The Mac Sisters.  I had two friends Renee and Laura.  We together with our brother Karl, were the Mac Sisters.  Laura Mac, Renee Mac, Mr. Williams our fave teacher--Johnny Mac, me--Ho Ho Mac.  I'm pretty sure Laura came up with the idea.  I'm pretty sure Karl was one of the characters in the movie.  Renee and Laura were good friends.  Laura had scoliosis in 8th grade and had to go to Boston Children's to get a rod put in her back and then wore a body cast through much of 8th grade (or was it 7th?)  Laura had big lips and had had the nick name Laura Lippa.  Since it was deHegh who gave it to her, she took it as a sign of affection.  Big lips were not necessarily the fashion statement they are today.  Renee lived in Portsmouth (outside town) and was probably the first person I knew with divorced parents.  Laura lived like 1/2 a mile from school--in the heart of it all.  Once I could drive, we used to go to her house after school and eat Krafft Mac n Cheese and Nacho Cheese Doritos with French Onion Dip and watch General Hospital, which we called Gen Ho.  Anyway, Karl's dad was an Admiral in the Navy and probably not all that tolerant of sweet sensitive Karl who I think was considerably younger that his next sibling.  I never saw nor met either of his parents.  He had this little yellow car (in my head it's a mini cooper but we didn't have those) and he would unhook the odometer when his parents went out of town so they wouldn't know how much he'd driven.  Only problem with that is that the speedometer also doesn't work!  So the Mac Sisters had many adventures.  Some I'm comfortable writing about, some not so much.  

Eventually Renee and her mom moved to Ghent, so she too was in the heart of it all and I was still in the country.  Then we would go to her house after school.  We'd stop at Burger King and get double cheeseburgers on the way.

Renee had an older sister and Renee got her drivers' license.  Though there was a Tinee Giant we could go to where they had no idea how old we were and would sell us beer.  I mean we were 16 and the drinking age was 18 so it was a little different than it is now.

By senior year Renee's drivers' license said she was 21.  For our senior ski trip we went to the ABC store and picked up all the supplies that were needed for most of our friends.  We put them in my car with the back seat down so you couldn't see it.  It was March 2nd, I know because it was the day after my 18th birthday.  I was driving home and "Come On Eileen" came on the radio.  I was happily singing and hitting the dips a little too fast on the road I cut through to get to the interstate.  And oops going about 10 over the speed limit.  I thought, "crap 18 for a day and I'm already going to jail!"  Fortunately I think the cop was about my age and just gave me a ticket and didn't search my car.

OK I've really got to go to the basement and pull out pictures because these stories will be way better with photographs.