Sunday, August 31, 2008
The Montessori methods mirror what Jaci has been doing with unschooling over the past year. Garrison Keillor broadcast an excellent biography of Dr. Maria Montessori in today's Writer's Almanac.
Back-to-school fever is raging in our household!
Saturday, August 30, 2008
<Old Family Legend On>
When Tyler was in his first year at Interlochen Arts Academy, his sophomore year, I went up for parents' weekend and stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast a short distance from the campus. My hosts generously invited Ty to join us for breakfast on Sunday morning. As we were sitting down to a sumptuous breakfast of warm muffins and local buffalo cherry sausage, the hostess said to my fifteen-year-old son, "Oh Tyler, you must miss your mom's cooking, having to eat in the cafeteria every day." With dimples ablaze, Ty responded, "You mean Mom's microwave pizza?" (Luckily my ready laughter put them at ease and they understood Ty and I both knew cooking was not my thing.)
<Old Family Legend Off>
The Cedars is an odd combination of cafe, bar, club, lovely outdoor patio, and—just generally—gathering spot. It reminds me very much of the Javalina Coffee House in Silver City, New Mexico, a place I adore. Bookcases filled with books, games around to pass the time, WiFi available. art on the walls to admire. (I even wondered if I could pull The King and The Queen of the Prom out of storage and hang it on their wall until I get a home of my own.) We had fabulous panini for supper and enjoyed the early fall evening.
After we placed our order and found a table, Tyler went inside to the bookcase to find something to occupy les bebes until our order arrived. Aha! A Magic 8 Ball. Remember those toys from our youth? You ask it a yes-or-no question, turn it over, and wait for the answer to appear?
We had difficulty getting Ridley to understand how to ask a question that needed a yes-or-no answer. She's very good at either-or, but not so good with yes-or-no.
Boston and Ridley took turns asking questions and passing the ball back and forth between them. When they ran out of questions I had Boston ask "Will Grandma get married again?" The answer came back, "Yes." Oooh. That's nice. Ridley had her turn, then passed the ball back to Boston. I had him ask, "Will Grandma live with us forEVER?" The ball answered, "It is decidedly so." Tyler and I laughed. I think I just lost that purported husband from the previous question.
As Tyler and I were finishing our sandwiches, we told Ridley to go over and look at the deer [statue] on the other side of the patio. She wanted to know if it was real. That child will believe anything! She's decided the tree outside her window is a fire-breathing dragon. We really must cut down on the amount of television she watches! We were ready to go and Tyler told her, "Tell the deer 'goodbye' for me." She walked up to the deer and said, "goodbye for me." Too cute!
Boston picked up the Magic 8 Ball and said, "Will you go home with me?" The ball responded, "You may rely on it." Boston was very happy. When we said he could not take it home, he asked if we couldn't get a Magic 8 Ball at home. He said when he woke up in the middle of the night and Ridley was asleep, he could pick up the Magic 8 Ball and talk to it.
He really does have a life. Honest! And enough toys. Please do NOT send him a Magic 8 Ball.
Friday, August 29, 2008
The reason I picked this for today is that my favorite aunt is fading quickly. I expect any day to get a call from my mother that her next younger (still living) sister has passed away.
Mother is the oldest of four girls. Mother was born in 1913, then Helen in 1915, the Louise in 1917 or 1919 (I think 1917) and then Florence Elizabeth, nicknamed Betty, in 1921. They lived in Belleville, MI. Helen died in 2004. Louise has Parkinson's and is on oxygen quite a bit of the time now. She stays in bed most of the time and sleeps quite a bit. She lives in the same complex where Mother lives, but in a duplex rather than in the apartment building. Louise has two children, Betty Jo, nicknamed BJ, who is two years younger than I, and Bruce, who I believe is six or seven years younger than I. The term "salt of the earth" applies to all the members of this family. Louise's husband, Dave, died in 2002.
I've always felt like Aunt Louise understood me and understood the ways that Mother's treatment of me was emotionally abusive of and to me. There was not anything she could do about it, but I knew, innately, that she got it. And therefore got me. When I was around Aunt Louise, I felt understood and loved.
My family has always been weird about relatives. My adoption made me crave relatives. And yet Daddy didn't really like Mother's relatives, nor did she like his. Daddy had six or seven siblings and I had a number of cousins on his side, but I don't really know them. I have three cousins on Mother's side. Ken is significantly older, so I don't know him well, but do know him to be a very kind and brilliant man. BJ and Bruce are my closest cousins, and BJ lives near her mother and stops to see Mother every Thursday, so I am beholden to her. I knew them fairly well, as they grew up in Orlando, near me.
Whenever I see Aunt Louise, she tells two stories. One is about the time when I was probably seven or eight and BJ and I were playing hide and seek. Somehow I got on top of the refrigerator to hide. The other story is when I was much younger and they were at our house visiting. She jokingly asked if I wanted to go home with her when they left. I got in her car and wouldn't get out.
I think that story is the most telling of how loved and understood this woman made me feel.
Thanks, Aunt Louise, for having such a big heart.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I was listening this evening as I was driving to WYSU Member Movie Night. I dressed carefully this morning in a gorgeous pair of khaki-colored silk wide-leg trousers I got at Talbot's this summer at a super mark-down price. I wore them with my fave black suede Cole-Haan retro platforms and a black turtleneck. I had screwed up my courage and was pleased that I was going to get out there and make some new friends. Alas! The best-laid plans of mice and men and all that. There was an accident on I-80 about two miles east of the reservoir. It took me almost two hours to travel a distance that should have taken me fifty minutes. The theatre where the Movie Night was being held was another 15 minutes east of Youngstown in Hermitage, PA. At the time I passed the accident, the movie was starting. I drove home and spent the evening reading. I'll try again next month.
But David Sedaris and his tales of saying "okay" in French when he didn't understand what was being said to him kept me from getting too upset.
I find it very clever and very well written. But I do not find it side-splittingly funny, as Mignon reported. Maybe it's just too close to home. Mr. Sedaris writes about being a gawky kid. I was such a gawky kid and haven't yet, even at 58, gotten to the point where I can laugh about it. He writes about choosing glasses and thinking they were oh-so-cool until he walked through a flea market and seeing a 20-year-old Mrs. Beasley (remember the TV show "Family Affair"?) doll wearing the same glasses.
I realized I had to share with you my eighth grade graduation photo.
Why, oh why, didn't someone save me from myself? I'm sure I was the only person under age 53 in 1964 wearing these gawd-awful plastic gold-tone metallic frames with the wings. Did some automobile designer also design the glasses? Actually, there was another photo I saw a couple of days ago I was going to scan for you, but I couldn't find it tonight. It was from the same time period. I saw sitting on a bench in front of a bush, my eyes turned heavenward. My girlfriend, Merilee (remember - the one my mother lumped me with when she said, "all you adopted kids had problems"), told me if I'd turn my eyes upward I'd look more dreamy. I looked dreamy alright—like I was dreaming of being dead!
Back to David Sedaris. I have never really enjoyed satire (if that's what this book is) because I just don't get it. I think I'm too straightforward in my approach to life to really understand satire. But I am enjoying this book, even if my heart aches for him in all the little traumas he's encountering.
I normally don't undertake two books simultaneously, but a package arrived from The Traveler yesterday. It's Kate Brennan's "In His Sights: A True Story of Love and Obsession." He had told me about it in one of our drive time conversations. He had heard Terry Gross interview this author on Fresh Air and bought the book. He enjoyed it so much he ordered a copy for me. Now I can't put it down. So anytime I'm stationary, I'm reading Kate Brennan book, and anytime I'm driving, I'm listening to David Sedaris.
I highly recommend both books for their peeks into two very different lives, and for the appreciation you will gain of your own normal little life.
And what are you reading?
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
We had a very busy weekend, culminating in a "Harry Potter"-themed birthday party for Boston, attended by five of his best girlfriends (and his sister). The weekend began with a trip to the local farmers' marker where the Pickled Brothers performed. We watched them lie on a bed of nails, eat fire, and swallow a sword. Boston volunteered to pull the sword out the mouth of one of the performers, a lovely young German college student. (Her mother lets her do this?)
The staff of the Vindicator was present to document the show, and captured our amazement. What they didn't show you was Ridley, covering her eyes in horror for most of the feats.
What did you do this weekend?
Monday, August 25, 2008
The purpose of my move to Youngstown was to be with my family and help take care of my grandchildren.
This blog may have been about me, but my life is now about my kids, not about me. It's time to let it go.
That's all I'm going to say about that.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
(I personally don't think I complain. FOMC told me once, a thousand years ago, that I complained. I told him I just stated facts. But it bothered me. I don't want to be viewed as a complainer.)
Lucy's blog post today is pondering the purpose of a blog. For me, mine started out to document my online dating experience. Then when my kids left Tucson and I moved into utter sadness, loneliness and what-do-I-do-with-my-life-ness, it hid behind a password while I shopped for a job and cried. Since February, it's been about adjusting to a new geography, a new way of living (guest room instead of home), a new job, a new status (pauper), and so on. I continue to hope that maybe somewhere, sometime in my life there may yet be a man to lean over as we're falling asleep and say, "love you, Dear." But I'm not placing any bets.
Always my blog has been two things for me: an incredible writing exercise and personal therapy-without-the-therapist.
This morning I was looking at Sitemeter to see what pages people had been visiting. Google had taken some random visitors to early pages back in October and November of 2006. I was surprised at how awkwardly written some of those pages were. Forcing myself to write each and every day, no matter what the topic and no matter the quantity of words, has been the best exercise in learning to write.
Heck, my first job as a writer was at age 20 at WDBO-TV in Orlando when I wrote promotional and public service copy spots for broadcast. Writing has always been around. But it's always been something I've done. It's never defined me and I've never considered myself a writer. Now, after two years and 993 posts to this blog, when I list to people the things I do—musician, programmer, fiber artist, database geek, —I include writer.
I think, though, that through reading all the blogs I track each day (please note "Blogs of Interest on Tyler's right navigation bar) I learn more about each of the writers—Lucy, Crse, Fivehusbands, Chris, Deb, Sherry&John, Janko, Phil, et al. They become more and more a part of my life, my geography. I read Fivehusbands' posts this morning (with whom I feel a particularly close connection because of our shared life missteps) and I want to hop in the car and run up to Cleveland and take her out for coffee and her favorite evil pastry.
My world, which does revolve around me, is larger now than it was ten years ago, thanks to this wonderful thing called the Internet. I can be more aware of the people in my world thanks to their willingness to let it all hang out on their blogs. My friends can know that I'm sad when I am willing to divulge that. I don't need them to do anything about it. But it helps that I know they know that simple fact.
I don't believe in prayer. I don't believe there's a God up "there" somewhere who can hear all these requests from thousands of millions of people and act upon each of them and make things happen. But I believe that there's power in my sending good thoughts your way. And maybe that's all the same thing. Maybe what you call prayer is the same as what I call "I'm thinking of you" and someone else calls "positive vibes". Many phrases, same concept.
We're all in this together. Each of our worlds revolves around us, but it's all one big world.
I'm thinking of you.
What I didn't like was that it was so far away from my friends in Tucson. (Continental Ranch is on the far northwest side of Tucson—on the other side of the tracks (and the freeway)—if you will.) My closest friend lived half an hour away in Pima Canyon; our other good friend lived 45 minutes away at River and Sabino Canyon. I lived in that house from September of 2004 through June of 2006 and I believe I had friends over twice, maybe three times during that entire time. In contrast, when I bought the house on Chula Vista, mid-town, I entertained frequently. I loved the space, loved having the pool. I referred to it as a mid-town charmer. When someone invited me over, it was easy to return the hospitality.
This is one of the challenges with which I'm grappling as I try to figure out how to meet single adults here in Youngstown.
In our weekly Friday-afternoon-drive talk, I was telling JW how lonely I'm feeling and how I'm at a loss over how to fix the problem. He mentioned the people I met at the pool party two weeks ago. I told him they were all couples. And even if someone were to invite me over to dinner, how can I return the hospitality? I don't have a home, a dining room. (And let's face it. I'm a lousy frigging cook!) I'm trying to put every penny to paying down debt. If a couple invites me to their home for dinner, do I delay the debt reduction for a month and take them to a restaurant? Of course, I'm putting the cart before the horse. This all presumes meeting people.
I think I'll approach this in my typical geek fashion. I think I'll pull up the GIS map; look at the land records for 5th, Selma, Coronado, Goleta and Bradley; create a spreadsheet of all the landowners; figure out who really resides there (rather than rents out); figure out who's single; and invite them out for coffee. (Or I could just ask Susie B, who seems to know everything and everybody.)
I did meet two single women who live next door to each other on Bradley at a yard sale three weeks ago. I may hate yard sales, but I'm probably going to have to start hitting all the yard sales in the 'hood if I'm to meet people and get rid of this loneliness.
Something's gotta give!
Friday, August 22, 2008
There aren't enough hours in the day. I begrudge my two hour commute. I can't understand how a company with the wherewithal to enable telecommuting on a regular basis can't see the benefits. Every time I have to put on my headset to drown out five conference calls taking place in cubicles around me, I become more disgruntled. I think, "If I were telecommuting, I would be able to edit in silence." When I have to wrap up in a jacket and a shawl and a scarf because two air conditioning vents are strategically positioned so that they blow cold air right into my cubicle, my attitude spirals into the toilet.
All those factors make me wish I could find a different job closer to home or a job that would let me telecommute. And I remember that it took me almost a year to find this job. And I remember that this really is a good job. And I feel the futility.
Then I start feeling that I have no life of my own. And I feel sad about being my age and being alone without a love of my own. And I realize, at my age, I may be alone for the rest of my life. And it all becomes almost too much to bear.
And then a light shines. I remember the four years in hell with EEFFH. I remember being sad that I had to live with a man who ignored me, or who let his daughter treat me like dirt.
Y'know what? I'd rather be alone and lonely than in a relationship and lonely. Any day of the week!
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Last night when I got home from work, Boston was very busy with his new SpyGear toys from his Colorado grandparents and totally disinterested in another evening at Mill Creek Park, so I got the evening off.
A button had come off one of the large throw pillows on the living room couch and it had been on my mending pile for several weeks, so I grabbed the pillow and button, along with a needle and thread, and headed downstairs to sit in front of the TV while I sewed the button back on. As soon as I sat down, I realized I had forgotten to bring scissors.
Ridley was plopped on the couch watching Tom and Jerry. She who is ever the pleaser would surely want to bring Grandma some scissors, right?
Grandma: "Ridley, do you know where there are some scissors?"
Pause as I figure out how to rephrase the question for this child who is the crown princess of drawing and cutting.
Grandma: "Ridley, when you want to cut some paper, do you know where to get some scissors?"
No further action as she turns back to Tom and Jerry. Boston and I look at each other and shake our heads. I should have just asked him, but he was busy with his Spygear and she had already admitted to knowing where the scissors were. I thought I'd try again.
Grandma: "Ridley, do you know where there are some scissors?"
Shorter pause while astonishment bubbles to the surface. Re-form next question while trying to keep tone of voice in check as this is the child who will cry with the slightest provocation.
Grandma: "Ridley, when you want to cut some paper, do you know where to get some scissors?"
Grandma, voice rising: "Where do you get them?"
Ridley: "In the kitchen drawer."
Grandma: "Would you please go get them from the kitchen drawer for me?"
By this time, Boston and I are laughing. He suggested she really didn't want to leave Tom and Jerry to go get the scissors for me.
When her mother got home from the gym later, her thought was that Ridley couldn't imagine that I wanted kids' scissors.
I wanted anything that would cut thread! Anything!!
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I write about this tonight as Mill Creek Park and, specifically, Fellows Riverside Gardens has become one of Boston's and Ridley's and my favorite places to go after I get home from work each evening. When their daddy has a meeting to attend and their mom needs her gym and yoga time, we run to Subway or we pack a sandwich and we go enjoy the magnificence that is Mill Creek Park.
We love standing on the overlook with the beautiful view of Lake Glacier.
Oh, to be five again and roll down a hill.
It was a beautiful late summer evening when one could easily wear a sweater. Not a cloud dotted the blue sky, and my babes and I enjoyed our time together in this remarkable natural treasure.
I can't understand how you cannot know, both implicitly and explicitly, how loved and cherished and talented and skilled and humorous and beautiful you are.
Everyone in your family adores you and gives you daily praise and encouragement. You need never ask for reinforcement.
My mother told me, when I was in my thirties, "you always needed lots of praise and that just wasn't my way, so I didn't give it to you." My little darling, I didn't get what you're asking for. But you get it constantly. I have a hard time understanding why you need to ask. That's why I tell you you need to have more self confidence.
You dance. You sing. You flit. You float. You smile and flirt and tease and do everything little girls teach themselves how to do. You do everything masterfully. You will be more amazing with each passing year. You are so lucky to have the parents you have, who love you beyond measure and give of themselves to you minute by minute.
I guess I'm being ridiculous to tell a five-year-old to have self-confidence. If you're asking for praise and reinforcement, there must be something inside you that needs it. There must be some little well inside you that hasn't yet been filled.
So I'll try to remember what it was like to have people turn their backs when little me asked for praise, and I'll try to praise little you even before you ask so that someday all your wells will be filled up and you'll know to your core how wonderful you are. I hope that will help you have the self-confidence to make the wise choices necessary to get through life. Maybe you'll even be able to have fewer marriages than your grandma did.
Please keep dancing!
Monday, August 18, 2008
"This door is broke."
The Virtual Hold trainer, Dale, who is an excellent proofreader and editor, and I grabbed our red markers and changed the "broke" to "broken". Later on in the day, we noticed that the sign on the outside of the door had been amended to read "But it has lots of money."
By Friday afternoon, the sign on the outside of the door had been replaced with a new sign:
My buddy James said it was all Dale's and my fault. He said the developers don't like the writers who always want everything to be write, er, right.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Saturday, August 16, 2008
In the July 12th episode, Jane & Michael talked about the restaurant Saltwater Cowboy's in St. Augustine. While discussing the meaning of the term "saltwater cowboy", they also started going off on "cracker" and wondering what the origination of "cracker" was. I laughed out loud as Lynne cut them off so she could go on with the show. But I knew the origin of the word, passed down through my family lore.
Just to confirm my understanding before sharing it with you, I turned to Wikipedia, and the definition there is different than what I learned as a child growing up in Florida.
I always knew that my Daddy was a Florida Cracker. That meant he was born and bred in Florida. His daddy was born in Florida. I believe one of Daddy's grandmothers was a Seminole Indian. Daddy was born in Wauchula, which is out in the sticks, east of Sarasota. I've mentioned in earlier posts that his daddy earned fifty cents a week building orange crates for one of the orange packing cooperatives. They were proud of being native Floridians, no matter how dirt poor they were. They were not white trash. They were self-educated, hard working, honorable people.
When describing the origin of the word "cracker", Mother told me that a hundred years ago, when the Florida cowboys would be coming in for dinner from the fields, they would crack their whips to let the women know to put dinner on the table. The women would say to each other, "Here come the crackers."
The families like my Daddy's were not of an economic stratum to have owned slaves. When I was a child, we employed a black maid five days a week. We didn't consider Emma to be African-American. The word didn't exist. She didn't come from Africa. She came from Eatonville, two miles away across the railroad tracks. She was a sweet woman who helped mother with the laundry and the cleaning. She was paid an honest wage. My mother called her Emma and she called my mother Mrs. Crews. She had a granddaughter a year or so younger than me, and mother passed down my clothing for her use. Emma and my mother have kept track of each other through the years and as recently as two years ago Mother received a Christmas card from her.
I mention all this because, to me, the term "Florida Cracker" always carried an air of pride. Then in 1971 I went to Ecole d'Art Americaines in Fontainebleau, France. I met a young African-American singer from Orlando. He had grown up on the other side of town from me and his world view couldn't have been more different from mine. To him, Cracker was to whites as the "N" word was to blacks. I was shocked. I wanted to jump up in defense of native Floridians. To this day I have a hard time understanding how something so innocent could be so misunderstood and taken so harshly.
Maybe I'm naive. Maybe my "kindness spoken here" philosophy won't cure the ills of the world. But I prefer my definition, from a quiet, backwoods era where the women cooked over woodstoves and waited for their men to ride in on horseback and sit down with the family to dinner.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Thinking about #2's birthday is rather sobering. I have always liked older men. I've spent lots of time in therapy, but never felt the need to delve into the whys and wherefores of my appreciation of older men. I was 33 when I married #2. He was 47. If you want to bother with the math, he turned 73 today.
A fifteen-year age difference between 33 and 48 seems romantic to me (or did at the time). But a fifteen-year difference between 58 and 73. I can't even imagine, today, what it would be like to be married to him now. He was a swimmer, cross-country skier, hiker, and a runner. And yet, I remember him as being old-thinking. I don't think of him as being young for his age, as I think of myself.
I hope he's had a happy life and maybe been able to conquer his depression. We ran into each other a couple of times post-divorce and he wouldn't even look at me. Really, life is too short to hold that kind of grudge. What did I do to you to earn that kind of hatred? I just said I wouldn't be treated the way you wanted to treat me.
Oh well. Happy Birthday.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
- a wide smile
- enormous hazel eyes
- legs that stretch all the way to the floor
- children who appreciate, love, and respect me
- grandchildren who adore me and think I can sew anything they rip
- perfect pitch
- a plethora of interesting, supportive and devoted friends
- the most loving cat in the world
- a mother in darned good health for 95
- a car I love, which is a good thing, as I drive at least 120 miles a day in it
- a good job that pays the bills
- a sweet little 1.6 acre lot high in the Smoky Mountains
My Liabilities include:
- a helluva lotta debt
- a fear of abandonment
Look at the lists again. What didn't you see? As of 7:00 p.m. EDT, 8/14/08, my assets included no houses and my liabilities included no mortgages.
The great Crews Real Estate Sell-Off of 2008 is complete.
But to satisfy the Traveler's desire for some DearGrandDaughter stories, here are some Ridley jokes.
Q: Why did the bunny walk instead of hop?
A: Because he couldn't fart and farts make him bounce up and down.
Q: Why did the bunny eat applesauce instead of a carrot?
A: Because he didn't have teeth because he was a baby.
Q: Why did the glasses get off someone automatically?
A: Because they broke.
Q: Why did the monkey swing on a bear?
A: Because he wanted to bite him.
Q: Why did someone get undressed for no reason?
A: Because he liked to be naked all of the time.
(I didn't say these were G-rated. I said they came from a five-year-old!)
Q: Why did the fan break and then still blow?
A: Because the batteries weren't dead yet.
(Sometimes her jokes are simply fueled by whatever she sees around her. They have nothing to do with humor. She is just interrupt-driven.)
The rainbow got up for no reason.
Frequent commenter Lucy's daughter Gwennie is the same age as Ridley and at the same level of development with her humor. I suggested to Tyler one morning that we just lock Gwennie and Ridley in a room together and let them knock knock each other out. Tyler said they'd probably just explode.
So there you go, Lee. Look back in the archives of this blog. There were far fewer quotes from Boston when he was five. There's a lot of development that goes on between five and seven. Your grandpa time is coming, I promise.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I believe in the concept of homeownership and in the benefits. I consider myself a homeowner. I've been sitting here this morning trying to remember how long it's been since I didn't own a home and realized, to my horror, that my actual history has been very roller-coasterish, as has so much of my life. Of course, given my marital history, this will not surprise you.
FOMC and I bought out first house in 1972, following the completion of his Master's degree. His family had a construction company and they gave us the house at cost. The list price was $27,700 and it had 1,447 square feet. As I recall, our mortgage payment was around $100 dollars a month. The house was in Oviedo, Florida, east of Orlando. We lived there about a year, until I became pregnant with TJ and we wanted a little more space and to be closer to family. Then we bought house #2 on Lake Sybelia Drive in Maitland. Our third purchase was a condo in Sarasota when we moved down there for a church job. When FOMC decided to go back to school, he said he wasn't going to work and we were going to sell the condo and live off the equity while he got his doctorate. Alas, he dropped out of the program after a year, saying they weren't teaching him what he wanted to learn. The equity was gone and so was our marriage.
A couple years later I remarried—an IBMer in Montgomery Village, MD. I was earning about $20K and he was earning about $60K, but he expected me to pay 50% of the mortgage. I demurred, so had no financial interest in his home. When that marriage broke up, I rented. When John and I met, he had a home, but was renting it out while he house-sat for friends for two years. When we broke up, I bought a condo in Baileys Crossroads, VA, for a year until I realized I had made a big financial mistake. I rented until I met husband #3 and moved into his home in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. Again, no financial interest in that house. When that marriage broke up, again I rented.
John and I got back together, he implicitly proposed as we were making application for the mortgage for our fabulous house overlooking the zoo and Rock Creek Park. He bought me a house instead of a big ring. I've been leveraging that purchase ever since. I turned it into a fabulous Manhattan style condo after his death, then into my share of a million dollar foothills home in Tucson, then into the Continental Ranch house and the Chula Vista house, which will go away today, at the cost of $44K.
So that makes a total of eight houses. That's not quite as many as I had thought, and not as long a period of home ownership as I would have thought. I didn't bore you with all the periods of home rental (I hate renting. I never feel settled when I'm renting. I can't really live unless I own.)
So the ownership era that began with John's proposal in 1996 ends today—a span of 12 years—and begins again once I pay down these debts, accrue some savings, and figure out what I want to do next.
But, oh, how relieved I'll feel when I hear that the title agent in Tucson has recorded the documents for the Chula Vista transfer!
I was raised in a religion/religious denomination/whatever where rules trumped all. You would never place anything on top of your Bible. You would never dream of writing Bible or God or Holy Spirit and not capitalizing those words. You would never pick up a newspaper or secular journal on Sabbath. You wouldn't go out to eat at a restaurant on Sabbath. You would never drink coffee or alcohol. You wouldn't play cards or go to a movie or * or * or ad infinitum. Take the Lord's name in vain? God forbid!
I got so sick of all the "thou shalt nots" that it now pleases me no end to be the slightest little bit tongue-in-cheek sacrilegious. So any little thing that I'd wish for, I'd say to Tyler, "If there is a God, . . ." until one day he said to me, "By the way, Mom, there isn't."
His statement stopped me dead in my tracks and started a million interesting conversations between us. I've told him many times since that I may not agree with him but I love how his mind works.
Then last week I got a great fortune in my fortune cookie and thus started "from your mouth to General Tso's ear." Then tonight I Googled "General Tso."
General Tso is my new hero. He failed his official court exams (could that be like the bar exam?) seven—count 'em, seven—times. And then he "resigned himself to a quiet life growing silkworms, farming and drinking tea."
I want his life! And just think, but for one fortune cookie, I never would have hungered for that knowledge. And but for the Internet, I never would have found it!
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
I had my share of extramarital affairs. Two to be exact. One each at the very end of marriages one and two. They were what signaled to me that I was all done there. I'm not proud of the fact that I was so immature, that I didn't have the wisdom to have a dialog about the marriage and its needs with my partner. I wish I had dealt with the issues rather than trying to feel better about myself.
Husband #1 was very good at denigrating me. Husband #2 was, probably, clinically depressed. He would get upset at me because of lies his daughter would tell about me, would not check it out with me, and would stop talking to me for four or five days at a time. While we were living under the same roof. It was a horrible time.
If you relate how those husbands made me feel about myself back to the horrible things my mother said to me over and over growing up, then you reference Maslow's hierarchy, you can understand how a man saying something nice to me could turn me into a bobble-head doll in the blink of an eye. Self-esteem was something I had only ever read about, never ever experienced.
I'm thankful I've grown up since then. In marriage #3, the gun-totin' stepson, I never felt the need. In marriage #4, I was consumed with caring for John. It didn't matter to me that we had no intimate relationship because of his illness. Our intimacy was of our minds. With EEFFH, who treated me like the housekeeper, I never thought of looking at another man. I was completely faithful to him the whole time he was playing around behind my back. I can hold my head high about that whole horrible period of time.
In fact, since I arrived in Youngstown, I had the opportunity to enter into an affair with a man I was very highly attracted to and vice versa, and I said no. I will not live that kind of life. I will not be that kind of role model. I want my son, when faced with trouble or discomfort in his life, to face it with maturity and integrity, and to devise the hard-but-right answer. And the same thing with my grandchildren.
I believe one of the biggest problems with the world today is the lack of personal responsibility. Just—as my realtor said to me on Friday—as too many people are walking away from their responsibilities in real estate, people want to blame someone else for their problems, to point a finger. It causes more problems than it solves.
When you get married or you enter into a committed relationship, you agree to "forsake all others", to engage in certain behavior with only that person. You cannot go running around engaging in said behavior with other people (one or many) without it having a negative impact on your primary, committed relationship, whether or not you ever tell your partner about your behavior. (It's hard to make that statement and keep it G-rated. I've lived this. I'm speaking from my experience. You can neither kiss-and-tell nor kiss-and-not-tell without it impacting your marriage, without it changing how you feel about your marriage and your partner. The wrongful behavior erodes your relationship.)
So grow fricking up. Be a man. Keep it in your pants. If she's comin' on to you, it's okay to say, "I'm very flattered that you feel that way. But I'm devoted to my wife and I would never hurt her that way." It will make you twice the man you were before you spoke that sentence.
Here's the way to know if you oughta or oughtn't do something: if you feel you need to hide it, don't do it. Plain and simple.
Be a man of integrity!
Monday, August 11, 2008
(On a side note, I had to sit through a very long and boring class today on writing scripts for the Nortel Contact Center Manager Server. The instructor kept referring to the server as "she". I wanted to punch him. The server is not a woman. It's a fricking piece of metal and wire and gears and ones and zeroes!)
Anyway, back to my house that now hates me. As if you could forget, tomorrow morning the nice folks at USAA are going to wire a little less than $44,000 to the title company in Tucson. This morning my realtor called to tell me there was water spewing all over my roof from the air conditioning compressor/condenser/machine/box/whatever. I called the nice gal at Desert West, who thought she was never going to hear from me again. She sent her serviceman out, who found that the other realtor had already removed my hidden key. Fortunately, everything could be fixed by climbing onto the roof and my throwing one hundred fifteen more dollars at the problem.
I've never had a house hate me before. It's not enjoyable. It's been going on since December 31, 2007. And there are only three more days that I will own this house! Nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah.
Does anyone know how Tooth Fairies are assigned their jurisdictions? I know the one who visits Emily C. and gives out Webkinz (What's the plural of Webkinz? Webkinzs? Webkinzz?) isn't the same one who comes to our house, so maybe it's by city or maybe it's by zip code or school district. It couldn't possibly be one lone Tooth Fairy who handles all those newly fallen teeth, just as God (or General Tso, if you caught my post the other day) couldn't hear and act upon all the prayers that are uttered in a single day.
Anyway, I just wanted to comment on the really above and beyond T.F. that did the honors for Boston last week. See the new gap he has—his left, your right, in the photo? He's been worrying that tooth for a while now, trying to encourage it along. It finally came out on Thursday.
When he woke up on Friday morning, under his pillow was a small jewelry-size ziploc bag containing four shiny quarters and a button for Boston's Button Bottle. Now really, how on earth could that Tooth Fairy have known how much joy that almost-seven-year-old boy would have gotten from one beautiful 1.5" button?!
I hope that Tooth Fairy never gets a promotion to a new district, 'cause he or she is, quite simply, inspired!
<One more story: on>
Okay, while I'm sharing with you what a special little guy my Boston is, I'll tell you another precious thing he said this weekend. Jaci was off shooting a wedding on Saturday night and Tyler was busy writing, so I had primary kid duty. We talked a lot on Saturday morning about Boston's birthday party logistics, and then the babes and I ran errands trying to find cups, plates, favors, and so on for the chosen theme of Harry Potter. In the evening, I was setting the babes up to watch a movie. Ridley chose "Happy Feet," but I was having a difficult time getting it to run.
Boston said, "I know, let's watch 'Hello, Dolly'." Then he started humming one of the musical numbers. I told him I had already sent the DVD back to Netflix. We both continued humming the song while I continued fiddling with "Happy Feet." Then he came over to me and said, "I guess I couldn't have a "Hello, Dolly" birthday party, huh?" At that moment I wanted to sweep him off his feet, twirl him around, and kiss every inch of his beautiful face. He and his sister are just incredibly sweet, naive and innocent, wonderful children, and their parents deserve gold medals for the fabulous job they're doing. And I may be the tiniest bit prejudiced, but I would walk over coals in my bare feet for both of them. I'd go to his "Hello, Dolly" birthday party any day.
By the way, I brought about ten boxes marked "Sewing Room Items" home from the storage unit over the weekend, and in one of them I found, Ta Da, my copy of "Hello, Dolly"! I think there's another movie night in our near future.
<One more story: off>
Sunday, August 10, 2008
(My daughter-in-law will be heartbroken!)
(And in case you were wondering, yes, I have no life.)
Saturday, August 09, 2008
The pool on the north side (it has a name but I don't remember it) is a big fancy pool, and there are lots of residents on the north side. There could easily have been 200 people in attendance. I was panic-stricken before leaving the house. Seriously. My stomach was tied in knots. I hate*hate*hate going to parties where I don't know anyone.
There were eight people there. I already knew three of them. The two I had met at the Italian Fest downtown last week graciously introduced me to everyone else, and we all laughed about my kids telling me I had to get my own friends. And those who had worked in Akron in the past told stories of commuting to jobs afar.
It's a small world.
Friday, August 08, 2008
Tyler and I discussed, laughing and joking, my taking the money and running. I could drive to Mexico. Hey, I think Canada is only about three hours away. Jeannie, do you have a guest room in that beautiful new house? I'm sure my passport is someplace deep in my storage unit.
Midday today, my realtor called to tell me the repairs on the house were finished. I told him I signed all the papers yesterday and onvernighted them back to the title company and that I would wire the money on Tuesday. He said, "we're almost done." Then he got very serious and said, "Jan, you're my role model."
I've known this man for nine years. He's known me when my fiancé and I were were worth a million dollars and then twenty million dollars and then fifty million dollars and then a million again. He helped us buy the fifty-three hundred square foot house. He stuck with me through that horrible weekend when EEFFH said "I want to be alone" and my life fell apart and I did the right thing, the gracious thing. And now I'm at the bottom, ready to make my way back up. He's seen my tears and he knows how hard this has been. And today he said to me, "I have seen so many people just walk away from their responsibilities. I know how hard these sales have been for you, and I admire you tremendously for hanging in there and handling these closings. In this market, you're a role model. I admire you for what you've done."
So maybe I won't run away.
I did have a very interesting conversation with one of my close girlfriends in Tucson as I was driving home this evening. Our other dear mutual friend is having a horrible time. Her phone has been turned off. She owns several houses she's rented out over the years. She's on the verge of losing several of her homes. My friend told me people are losing their homes right and left in Tucson now. She told me I was very, very lucky to have found buyers for my houses.
I guess it could have been worse!
I updated my Facebook profile this morning. I looked at my activities. It included "Pi Beta Phi, Blossom Festival Chorus, The City Choir of Washington". I wiped them all out and inserted "Work, Commute, Laundry, Sleep".
There's something seriously wrong with my picture.
The Northside All-Adult Pool Party (No, not that kind of all-adult pool party) is tonight and I should go to try to meet some people and I don't have the energy to go. I think I'll just go home and baby-sit so Tyler and Jaci can go.
I'm thinking maybe I'll just be the Widow Grandma for the rest of my life. How does that sound?
Thursday, August 07, 2008
I opened my fortune cookie after dinner and laughed so hard I had to ask Jaci to read it for me.
"The best times of your life have not yet been lived."
I remember the first time I saw that house. Eileen Jeannette was the orchestra manager of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, and she and her partner, principal horn Jacki Sellers , opened their home for the end-of-season party. All of the TSO administrative staff members were invited, along with their significant others. Many of the musicians attended also. I had been on my own for 21 months after the break-up with EEFFH. I had dated several men, but was lonely and alone, missing the loving relationship John and I had had, missing the beautiful old house we had in Washington. I would look at my 21st century-built home in Continental Ranch and think that it simply had no personality.
I turned onto Eileen and Jacki's street and sighed. Now here was a unique street. It was not a through street. The street you turned onto from either end was interrupted by a little square block, lined with charming little 1950s bungalows. I was later to learn that the woman whose daddy had developed the area still lived in one of the houses on the block.
I walked into the house at 2902 E Chula Vista and fell in love with the house. I don't think I even walked into the bedrooms. I just sat in the living room and looked at the quaintness of this charming house. I walked outside and saw guests enjoying the pool, chatted with people in the backyard. I was smitten with the house and the large yard. It was just love at first glance.
Six months later Eileen accepted a position with Pacific Symphony in Orange County, California. As I hugged her good-bye, I told her if she and Jacki ever decided to sell the house, to call me first. Four months later, they did.
I remember walking through the house with Jacki and worrying about how small the closets were, wondering how I would fit all my clothes into those closets, and wondering what I would do with all my shoes. But I was going to sell my big house in Continental Ranch. A beautiful house like that would sell quickly, then I could sink some of my equity into this darling house, where I would live for the rest of my life.
I would knock the back bedroom wall out, extend the bedroom so I could have a walk-in closet, a decent size bathroom with a jacuzzi soak tub and a decent shower, raise the ceiling, and replicate the master suite that was what had sold me on the house in Continental Ranch.
Jacki and I sat on the patio, signed a contract she had drawn up, and she popped the corks on two mini bottles of champagne she had in the fridge. The champagne was flat, but we laughed about it, not realizing it might be an omen for me.
The house in Continental Ranch didn't sell, but I didn't want to let this house go, so I took over $60,000 out of my IRA to be able to close the deal. The next April I was hit with a $25,000 tax bill.
Then my kids decided to move to Ohio. Then my loneliness and depression became palpable. Then I thought I could telecommute. Then my manager said I couldn't telecommute. Then I couldn't find a job. Then the kids invited me to move in. Then I started getting the house ready to sell. Then my water main broke and I had to pay $4,000 to replace it. Then I got a job and I paid $6,000 to move. Then I sold the old house and it cost me $25,000. Then I sold the new house and it cost me $44,000.
Then my dear friend told me yesterday that his 22yo son had emergency surgery and had a cancerous appendix removed. And one of my closest girlfriends e-mailed me today that her sweetheart has to have brain surgery to have an cerebral aneurysm repaired. This is after her former sweetheart died two years ago. This is the same friend for whom each of her three preschool grandchildren has serious health issues, including one with cancer. And I feel very shallow to be worried about money. Or loneliness.
So I will cling to the thought that the best is yet to come. On Tuesday I will wire that $44,000 to Tucson, and I will just brush my hands of the EEFFH era, and I will talk to my financial planner and polish my spreadsheet and figure out how to climb out of this very deep hole.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
So I received an e-mail from my North Carolina realtor this morning. He gently explained to me that his office has 1500 listings for lots in the beautiful mountains in and around Jackson County, North Carolina. This year, fifteen lots have sold. I can't even imagine what it's like trying to make a living as a realtor with those numbers.
His office is accepting no additional listings until the sales pick up. I told him I had high hopes for the change of administration, and said if he had someone come in who was interested in a lot like mine, I'd sign a listing agreement with him in an instant.
So now I'm down to that lottery ticket, since Mother is far too stubborn to kick the bucket any time soon. (You all know I'm teasing about her demise, right? Put down your mouse. Stop forming that nastygram in your mind. It's okay. It's all tongue-in-cheek.)
I had an interesting conversation Sunday afternoon along Federal Street with my friend DW. She and I share later-in-life law degrees, but she has the license to go along with hers. She has a little more accumulated debt than I do, but all of hers is in education loans for her and her three children. The goodness of that is the interest rates are considerably lower than mine. The badness is that it's a helluva lot of money.
She said she figured she was going to be paying on that debt for the rest of her life. She expects to never be free of debt. To me that's a new concept. I'm totally obsessed with getting all these debts off my record, no matter what sacrificing I have to do to make that happen. (Okay, I'm not willing to sacrifice my October Broadway trip with PianoLady, but I am willing to sacrifice my dreamed-of vacation in 2009.)
I put one foot in front of the other. I deny myself a morning Panera muffie a day at a time. (Except for Fridays, when I usually splurge. After all, it's less than $1.25. That's not too bad, right. Better than my old tall skinny mocha at S'bux.) In twenty years we'll look back on this and laugh.
That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.
My Imaginary Ace in the Hole
I keep imagining what it would take to wipe out all the debt I've accumulated during The Great Real Estate Sell-Off of 2008. There are several possibilities. A winning lottery ticket. Or some wealthy Floridian who realized the value to be found in this market and wanted to snap up a lovely lot in the Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina with lake access. Or, God forbid, my mother's death. Those are the only events I'm aware of that could occur to drop enough instant cash into my lap to wipe out this debt in "one fell swoop."
I am aware of the odds of winning the lottery. Please don't lecture me. I'm not dumb. I'm just idealistic. Or a dreamer. Pick your favorite adjective. I buy my MegaMillions ticket twice a week, $1 each time. The odds are poor, but they're greater than zero. And that money's gonna go somewhere, so it might as well go into my bank account.
Mother is 95. She's going to die sometime. I'm not wishing it on her. I'm just fantasizing about being out of debt when it happens. Don't tell me I'm a bad daughter for wishing to be out of this inordinate amount of debt.
Now, about that property in North Carolina. Yesterday I went to my realtor's home page to look at the listing, thinking maybe I'd do a little supplemental marketing myself—maybe an ad in Southern Living or, at the very least, on CraigsList. I couldn't find my listing. I remembered an e-mail from him in December saying he was going to have knee surgery so he was transferring his listings to one of his fellow agents. I went onto realtor.com and searched all property in Jackson county that's listed at $375,000. It's not there.
Holy cow. This ol' boy let my listing expire and didn't ask if I wanted to renew. Yes, he told me last year that nothing was moving in the area. But there's always the chance that it will move. There's the chance of a 10% commission for him and a sale for me. Would he just throw that away without telling me when he knows I want to sell the property?
I think there are mountain ways of doing things that I'm just not up on!
Rest assured that I quickly zipped off an e-mail to him yesterday letting him know that I want the property listed for sale. Right away.
Sunday, August 03, 2008
I've known for some time that his job had changed some when his company transferred him from the Tucson office to the Alexandria, VA, office so he could telecommute from his new Youngstown home. But I didn't know exactly how the job had changed. I try to be a good mother-of-adults and not ask too many questions, rather letting my kids offer the information they think I need or they want me to know.
Let me tell you, sharing office space for a day is an eye-opener. I now fully understand the times he falls asleep on the couch at 8:00 p.m. or sits at dinner, headache-in-hands.
I highly recommend accompanying your child to the office for a day! A visit is worth a thousand words.
Saturday, August 02, 2008
As I was trying to fall asleep last night, I spent a lot of time wondering what on earth I have done in my life to merit the current state of affairs.
There are those who believe in strict creationism and one life, no previous lives or after lives (other than living forever in heaven on the right hand of God — man, it's gonna be really crowded at His right hand, dontcha think?).
There are those who think we are all spirits and we "sign up", if you will, for the lives we live. Darlings, I must have been smoking some pretty good stuff to have signed up for this life. Really. There have been some wonderful moments: my beloved daddy, my musical ability, my children, the fun of working at Disney, the formal education, the life with John, all my wonderful friends, . . . . I remember telling John, reassuring John, several times towards the end of his life that the good far outweighed the bad. I did not want him walking into his death feeling filled with guilt for having left me for Elizabeth eight years earlier and having missed the five years we could have been together.
The ten years since John's death have been challenging. And yet if I put all the dung with EEFFH on a balance with the fabulous music-making and music-learning opportunities in Tucson, the wonderful friends I made, and my heart-of-my-heart grandbabies, the dung would weigh nothing.
I've done something right to have a generous son and daughter-in-law who want their mom with them. I'm lucky to be able to give to them on a daily basis by helping them with the house and the children, something that I really enjoy doing and that feeds my soul and spirit. They tell me they're lucky to have me here so they can go out, as they did last night, and not have to cast a thought to the children. Last night, as I was leaving the office on a Friday night, I didn't have a moment of loneliness, as I was coming home to my family and I had plans with the babies. (In Tucson, on a similar night, coming home to an empty house, I would have been in the gutter with depression.)
I guess maybe there's nothing in my life that I understand at this point. I usually say everything works together to get us to where we are. As unhappy as the marriage to FOMC was, it got me my treasured sons. As difficult as the second marriage was, it got me to my beloved Washington and got me my bachelor's degree and into law school and the Washington Chorus and meeting John. The third marriage? That got me health insurance and a hysterectomy? That one's a little harder to define! John got me life and love and happiness to last a lifetime and I should have just stopped there. EEFFH and Tucson?! I have to believe that my children's lives are richer because of that, and my life is richer for the wonderful friends I made in Tucson. When I left Washington, I had five good woman friends, and three of those were from college or before. My network of women friends just exploded in Tucson—through Pi Beta Phi, through the Symphony, and through friends of those friends. Oh yeah, and I'm writing a book about all the insane and dysfunctional men (and two or three really nice guys who turned out to be good friends) I dated while I was there.
So I can't understand the cause and effect. And I feel overwhelmed and threatened by the anvil of approximately $150K in debt hanging over my head. And I have to change my ways of doing and being, and stay focused on eliminating this debt. I don't like my daily commute and I don't love my job, but I must learn to love it and master it, as I have no options—I dare not lose it. I must treat it like the most fragile premature newborn baby in the NICU to ensure it thrives.
And now, if you'll excuse me, I've gotta go check the numbers on my ticket for last night's Megamillions Lottery.
Friday, August 01, 2008
Look what just arrived in my inbox. I informed the title company that I had made the final payments, so the agent must have requested the payoff information, and Countrywide wasted no time in soliciting my repeat business. Sure, why not? A sucker like me ain't born every day! I wanna laugh. I wanna cry. I wanna scream. I wanna throw water balloons.
I swear to each and every one of you reading this post. If you ever ever ever get a mortgage from Countrywide, you will never be my friend again.
I swear to you on my granddaughter's crayons and my grandson's Legos.
On top of the sixty-five thousand dollars (man, it sure seems bigger when I write it out like that, doesn't it?) that I've had to amass for these two closings, Countrywide is now insisting on a two thousand dollar prepayment penalty on the home equity line of credit that's being paid off in two weeks.
I learned this from my realtor last night and spent fifteen minutes on the phone with Countrywide this morning. I said, "I'm one of the good guys. I make my mortgage payments on time. I don't walk away and stiff you with houses. Can't you make any exception?" My new not-best-friend Fred, probably yet another J.D. who couldn't pass the bar, read the whole clause from the HELOC contract to me and said, "I'm sorry. There's nothing we can do."
This whole process has finally reduced me to tears. I hung up the phone after speaking with Fred and just sobbed until I said to myself, "This is inappropriate" and took a very long drink of cold water.
I wisely asked Jo at Title Security in Tucson to give me as much heads-up as she could. This morning she sent me the estimated costs and my total cash at closing is now up to FORTY-SIX THOUSAND NINE DOLLARS AND THIRTY-FIVE CENTS. Y'know, I try not to use this word on this blog, but fuck. Just fuck, fuckety fuck. That means I'll take six thousand out of my IRA on the 10th of August and then hang by my fingernails to get it back in within 60 days. That means in five weeks I will have amassed seventy-one thousand dollars. Aren't I special? (Please say yes!)
Can we please have a big god-damned party on my seventy-eighth birthday and drink margaritas and lemon drops and mimosas and laugh about this time in my life?
Because right now I'm fighting the tears.
I'm one of the good guys. WHERE IS FAIRNESS?