Flight of the Parakeet

Well, that was a fun way to wake up from a nap. “Hey, I can’t find the bird.” Turns out Gwen went on a world tour of the main floor, but didn’t leave her itinerary with us. “Here, Gwen. Where are you, Gwen?” – silence – Andy turned on bird songs. Gidget reacted to it, but Gwen? – silence – “Gwennie. Great. Bird corpse somewhere in the house. Guess we’ll find her in a few days.” After about 15 minutes of hunting, turning on every light in the house to be able to see her, we heard a small chirp from the kitchen. Suddenly, a little white head peeked out from the spot in the picture. I don’t know if she had been stunned or scared to come out. Which ever it was, she was well concealed! She’s flew back to her cage after another tour of the living room and is now happily reunited with Gidget. This bird is rarely quiet, so it was scary for a while when she wasn’t chirping. She’s chattering up a storm now. My guess is she’s regaling Gidget with tales of her bravery and daring-do. I wish I got over trauma that fast! Gidget doesn’t really give a chirp. The cage door will stay closed for the rest of today. I wonder where this bird is plotting to go next! She’s an adventurer, this one! The picture is looking down on the window ledge in the kitchen.



Socks and Breakables

20181125_004738Candy Cane socks! They made quite a statement at the vendor event I went to yesterday, an event that was decidedly underwhelming, attendance wise, to say the least. With vendor events, you take your chances. You set up a table with your small business items (in my case, adornable.u jewelry) and then you wait. Sometimes, the waiting pays off and you make a sale or get a new contact. At this particular event, there were plenty of vendors. From that perspective, it should have been a wonderland for any Christmas shopper. However, it had not been advertised well. Since sales depend on people seeing our products, and people didn’t know we were there, sales were flat for everyone.

The organizer, a genial round woman in her best winter tank top, sold the kind of jewelry that costs less than minimum wage and can fill up a jewelry box for only a couple of sawbucks. (That’s $20 to you youn’uns.) She was, of course, as organizers generally do, set up in the prime spot, while the rest of us were down the hall in two separate banquet halls. Not the ideal set-up, to say the least. By 1:30, an hour and half before the event was supposed to end, at least a third of the vendors had packed up and left. The foot traffic was as minimal as the organizer’s prices.

Now, Miss Organizer did her best to try to placate the rest of us. She was a nice person, but this was definitely not a good event, and she knew it. A-schmoozing she did go from table to table, laughing and talking. I watched with bored interest as she neared my table. It took awhile for her to make her jovial rounds.

20181124_093737Finally, she made it over to me. By this time, I had a made a small sale and was no longer feeling like I had wasted my day entirely. I smiled as she glanced at some of my pieces. I told her about adornable.u and my Black Friday sale. She kind of sniffed and proceeded to tell me that her every day prices were “lower-than-my-Black-Friday-prices,” and that was why she liked her line better. Although, as a caveat, she added that mine was nice too.

She explained that at her prices, ladies can afford to buy more and exchange pieces easily and quickly because they were cheap. (Her words, not mine.) She proceeded to tell me a story. Allow me to paraphrase:

“One of my leaders was mugged. They grabbed her purse. She was fighting them off when one of them grabbed her necklace in an attempt to choke her. You know, some necklaces wouldn’t have broken at that point, and she would have ended up dead because he would have choked her with her necklace. Fortunately, she was wearing one from my line of jewelry. When he grabbed it to choke her, it broke right away! He fell backwards, and she was able to escape! All because her necklace broke. Isn’t that great? And you know what? Who cares?? It was only (insert low price here) dollars anyway! No great loss, and it saved her life!”

She ended her story by reiterating that her leader’s life was saved because her jewelry broke. And hey, it was no big loss because it didn’t cost much to begin with. Then she breezed away, moving on to the next table and never looking back.

Maybe it’s just me. Times, they are a-changin’ and a gal has to keep up. But, I have never in my life heard of using “my product is cheap and breakable” as a selling point. Oddly, I’m not sure what I learned here. Was it ‘be careful about the message your stories tell?’ Or perhaps, ‘ignorance is bliss?’ Or even a lesson in how to turn a negative like breakage into a positive benefit like a life saved. I’m still chuckling about it today which is why I wore socks with cozy mittens that say, “Ho Ho.” After yesterday, I needed a good laugh. Merry Christmas!20181125_201510

Boxes of Tears

I finally opened all of the boxes that we brought back from Howard’s apartment. Needless to say, it was a hard day. I cried many tears and my heart broke numerous times today. I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m okay. It’s just that some things need to be released into the world to advance healing. Being the last survivor of my immediate family is an odd place to be. I miss my brother. I miss my family. It all came back, fresh and raw, as I sorted through the boxes. Howard had Daddy’s militarily patches which I brought back. I ran across my dad’s obituary again. 1995 was a long time ago, yet just yesterday. I held my mom’s cross necklace in my hands once again and remembered her faith and her influence in my life. I smelled my brother’s essence again when I opened a well-worn leather case that held his tablet. He used it every night before he slept to listen to his favorite music. The scent of oils embedded into the well-worn leather triggered more tears as if he was in the room with me. I suppose he was, in a way. I am not to the point where I can separate mourning from memories. I will always mourn for them. But as has happened with my mom and dad, the mourning will be replaced with memories. It will happen with Howard too. I’ll think of him and smile without the tears one of these days. Or maybe there will be tears. If there are, they will be good ones that won’t last very long. It sure won’t be tomorrow though. Damn boxes. So please excuse me for putting this out here. I’m not looking for sympathy. I just needed to process a lot of feelings that were triggered by opening those boxes, and I do that by writing. This sure isn’t my best piece of writing, but I don’t mean it to be either. I’m just trying to clear away the emotional clutter from today. I’m okay. I promise.

HLT – July 2, 1953 – June 6, 2018

Spider vs. Broom: Broom For the Win!

Dear big, black, hairy spider that appeared in the stairwell late last night, my “live and let live” policy only exists outside the reach of my broom tip. Let it be known that you were the first to breach the broom tip. You brought it on yourself. I feel entirely vindicated that you are now a James Bond movie title. I do not feel the least bit sad that your superhero aspirations as a web slinger are out the window. Spiderman’s got game. All you got was broom. I’ll bet your spidey senses weren’t tingling that time. Nor do I feel sad that your computer career is over. You’ll never be a web designer again, and I’m okay with that. In other words, big, black, hairy, last night stairwell crawler, your webinar has been cancelled. You are now a webinaren’t.

Garage Sale Memories

20180504_184339_previewNormally, on this particular Friday of the year, I would be out of the house by now, yet here it is, 10 o’clock in the morning, and I’m still in my pajamas, set to go nowhere, intent on doing nothing and not happy about the whole lot of it. This is a weekend of memories for me. I’m breaking tradition by staying home, but alas, I have no intention of polluting my church and my hometown with the nasty coughing meanies that have infested and infected my chest. Yes, I’m sick. Yes, this is our city-wide garage sale weekend that coincides with my church’s annual garage sale for missions. It’s the church garage sale that I’m missing. And my mother.

You see, I have lived away from my parents and brother for my entire married life. After we married, grad school took us to Nebraska, 1000 miles away from my Pennsylvania roots. Then a job took us 1500 miles from there to Connecticut. My mother and I were always close. Even as far away as we lived, we still kept in touch by phone. When national phone plans made calling even more accessible, Mum and I would burn up the phone lines, talking for at least an hour or more each time, often about nothing or about the same things rehashed each time. I loved our calls because vacations were far and few between.

Finally, we had the chance to move back to PA, only 80 miles away from my family and in the same town as my husband’s. At first, after being away for so long, weekend visits seemed almost surreal, but after we gave my parents their first and only grandchild, visits became an almost monthly thing. There was nothing like being in the same space with them. Daddy died too soon in 1994 when our daughter was 7. After Mum was widowed at 65, only 4 years older than I am now, she lived with and depended on my brother for the next 10 years. She had this philosophy that “Barbara has her own family now.” It led to some martyrdom and some misunderstandings, but by then, it was 2004, and we had to move again, this time to Wisconsin, 670 miles away. Back to communicating by phone. I missed her hugs.

My mother was aging by now. The first signs of her slowing down were showing up. Adult onset diabetes took a toll on her, although sometimes, I think the medications took a bigger toll. We had been in WI for two years, when our daughter decided to join the collegiate world by graduating from high school. It was decided that Mum was going to come and spend an entire month with us prior to Lauren’s graduation.

Looking back, it was a special time then and is a special memory to me now. We did what we could with Mum’s health in mind. She and I went to Door County and stayed overnight, then took the annual lighthouse tour. It was not without its challenges, since Mum had trouble with the rugged terrain. She ended up with a splinter in her hand from a large stick that I found to aid with walking. That meant a visit to the doctor’s office where a nice, white-haired doctor flirted gently with her. She batted her eyelashes at him and reminded me of a shy, young coquette. Having been widowed for 10 years by now, she reveled in the attention of this doctor who removed the splinter from her thumb and maybe a little from her heart. I melted too.

That special time with her, where I could talk to her any time I wanted, hug her whenever and wherever, remains rooted in my soul as one of the last times that I truly had my mother with me. That’s what makes this weekend of the year so special to me. My mother and I explored the church garage sale where she delighted in picking up small trinkets for her friends back home. She scoured the stationary area for unopened packs of pretty note cards. She had her eye out for tiny boxes in good shape that could hold sachets and the like. Her eye for jewelry led her to the hard-to-find clip earrings that she wore, a little something for her, too, after all. If she had been healthy enough and closer to home, I’m sure that she would have bargain-hunted for clothing and kitchen wares as well. We enjoyed the grilled brats at Dave’s Brat Stand together in the brisk spring air.

It was with great joy that every year thereafter, when I mentioned the church garage sale, that she would ask me to find similar items for her. I did. By this time, she was beginning to need in-home health visits as her legs were beginning to not cooperate with her. The Parkinson’s would hold off showing its ugly head for a few more years, but she was weakening. Her last visit to WI was in 2010 for Lauren’s college graduation. I found a candy apple red walker for her at a garage sale to use to navigate the campus. It was one of the last times that she could be without support of any kind.

Each year, when the garage sale rolled around, I would scour the aisles much like she did for nice notecards, mugs and trinket boxes and send them to her to give to her care workers. One year, she liked a crepe flower that I sent so much that she kept it for herself. It now sits on our piano, one of the things that I brought home with me when we closed the family homestead after she died. That flower that cost me all of fifty cents means more to me than a dozen bouquets of roses because it meant a lot to her and serves as a reminder of the garage sale weekend we spent together so long ago.

Mum has been gone for almost 4 years. No more phone calls. No more trinket hunting. For a long time, due to circumstances and responsibilities thrust upon me, I could not mourn. I can now. It’s the oddest things that bring up the tears, and the oddest things that make me smile, especially when I think of our time together that very special year.

I have gone to the church garage sale every year, perused the aisles, bought and donated to help our mission program, and ate those lovely brats. Dave has since retired from his brat stand, having turned it over to other capable grill masters, but it makes me a little sad. There’s probably no difference other than the name, but I don’t know. Maybe the little tug at my heart is because I remember eating the brats of Dave’s Brat Stand with my mom. Every year afterwards, I would buy half a dozen brats and put them in the freezer to pull out for lunches. No brats for me this year. Darn illness!

I can’t peruse the aisles, touch what others have touched before, scoff at the absurdities of other people’s taste, ooo and aah at others, wishing I had that much good taste. I can’t price out treasures and dig through the yarns and pattern books. I’m sick at home.

What makes me sadder is that even though my mother is gone, the church garage sale still means picking out little note cards and happy boxes. It still means the hazy vision in my mind of eating brats outside with her. It still means that she is here with me, full in body and mind.

That year was one of the last times that I truly had my mother. I mourned her passing long before death took her. The angers and resentments of settling her estate marred her memory for a time, but I am finally opening up to the exquisite pain of mourning. I am reliving the good times of the past more than the sorrows of her latter years when her mind kept slipping away faster than her body. I will sorely miss the garage sale this year. Not only am I bereft of brats at lunchtime, but this illness has left me bereft of revisiting one of my last, best memories with a woman who still means the world to me, an unreproducible moment in time with my beloved mother.




Finding My Soul In an Angry World


Such an angry world we live in. I’m sorry to say that I can’t live that way. It’s robbing me of my soul. I’m well aware that there is injustice in the world. I’m well aware that some people feel the need to take a stand when others feel the need to take a knee. We no longer talk. We yell because somehow along the path to adulthood, we were told that only our opinion counts. We are a society of egoists. Our balance is off; we are top heavy with alpha dogs. Why? Because we’ve forgotten or have never been taught how to engage in civilized discourse without baring our teeth. Instead, we step into the dog fighting ring willingly and focus our anger on others and bite when we disagree. Are we that afraid of not being heard that we can’t listen to others? Be outspoken. Care about your cause. Do something about it if you can. But for the sake of civility, peace and hope for the future, stop the name calling, let go of the anger. Be willing to listen, be willing to bend, be willing to sacrifice a little of yourself for others. Do something about your beliefs if you can. But whatever you do, be it a grand gesture or as simple as a smile, do it with a listening heart so that others can respond in kind.That’s true reforming power. I’m tired. I don’t have the energy or the desire to fight, but I will make an extra effort to focus on kindness in my little corner of the world. Naive, maybe, but maybe I’ll find my soul again somewhere along the journey. Peace.

Tell Me More

I wrote this piece several days ago. Most of this lament came out in one sitting as it appears here. The formal tone in this seemed fitting for the mood that I was in, even though I had a very warm and loving relationship with both my mum and dad. I had found out that my dear aunt will be celebrating her 90th birthday(!). I was in a reflective mood, thinking about mothers, mine in particular, and age and the thought that I would love to talk to her again. If I could place a phone call to Heaven, what would I tell her? What would she tell me? We get so caught up in the stories of our lives that we forget that the older generation that raised us has their own stories to tell. We think we know our parents, until they are gone and we can’t ask them questions any more. I thought I had listened to my mother’s stories, but I realized, as I was going through her possessions after she died, that I didn’t know much about many of them. Who gave her the hand-made metal ring with the X’s and O’s on it? Which of her older brothers gave her the bracelet from France during WWII? Why did she keep that particular ribbon that I found in her hope chest? I can no longer ask her, but how I wish she could tell me more.

Dear Mother, tell me more about your mud pies, your broken arm, your quarantine for measles in those Depression days. Tell me more about where you were raised, and your mother and coal miner father. About those irascible brothers of yours, my uncles who loved you and have been loved by me: The one who raised you, the one who teased you, the one who caught hell from your father for not protecting you. The one who left to go to war. The others who followed.

Tell me more about moving when the mine went dark. About leaving your best friend behind, finding new ones in your new school, and how you found the love of your life on the roller rink. Tell me more about these rings that I cherish, that I remember resting gracefully on your hand even after he passed into the arms of Jesus.

Tell me more about your life as a young newlywed couple, the lack of money, the abundance of love. About my brother, about me. Tell me how you rejoiced at his birth and cried because of me. Help me remember your nurturing hands and loving arms, your pride in all we did. Tell me. How did you feel? I want to know more.

Tell me about my wedding. Tell me about your happy tears as I walked down the aisle on the arm of your man and into the arms of mine. Tell me about the sad tears that fell as we moved across the country, away from you. Tell me how one survives the cleaving. As a parent, I need to know.

We kept you waiting, so tell me about your elation to hear of your new grandchild. Tell me. Tell me once again how happy you were to hear. I could see it. You love was visible, but I want you to tell me more. Tell me about that love that is so much more than a parent knows. Tell me about being a grandparent. I’m not sure that I will become one, so I need you to tell me more. Just in case.

Tell me about your last trip with him to where the country began, searching for family history, for roots. What did you find there? Tell me more about your thrill of discovery. A new ancestor. A new connection from long ago. Now that you know who we were, who are we now? I can only pick up the thread you left and hope that it leads me down the same path. We are family, but you are no more. Am I still a daughter without you? Tell me.

I desperately want you to tell me more. But you cannot; you are not here. You are my past, but such an ever-present notion in my head reminding me of the future you wanted for me. Telling me that there are more days to come. That I have more to live. You are no longer here, but you still exist in love, in my heart, in who I am. Even so, how I wish you could tell me more.  I would listen closer.

And remember it all.

Because I still have a lot of things I want to know.

How I wish I had asked you more.