Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Oh My GOD, I Have Been So Glum. How Did You Stand It?

This is a situation where the blog post title kind of says everything I wanted to say.

Ah, who am I kidding?  Why use five words when five thousand will do?

Okay, fifty. Maybe five hundred. Aw, shit, maybe I'll hit five thousand.

Point is, I realized that I've been so WALLOWY. It was needed. But it's a new year, and I'm kind of done with that. (Kind of. I reserve the right to get mopey over old family pictures and such.)  I'm taking control. I'm quitting my job (I can afford not to work for a few months, courtesy of my inheritance), and I will focus on my family, and my house, and my writing.

I'm about 5,000 words into a new romantic comedy. I'm envisioning a novella. I think I could get it published. I'm online-workshopping-it and am getting good responses.... I AM EXCITED, PEOPLE! And this is a feeling that is foreign to me.

More, later...

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Goodbye, Childhood Home

We sold my parents' house.  

It's gone.

Well, it's still there. I don't have a key, though.  Last Thursday night, I pressed it into the palm of my brother, M., who in turn forked it over to the new owners during closing on Friday. 

(M. agreed to serve as our representative during closing.  Which turned out to be much more daunting that any of use knew it would be.  He ended up having to sign as all seven of us.  Have you ever closed on a house?  I got sick of my own name during our last two closings; I can't imagine signing seven different names on approximately four thousand, eight-two pages.  We may have accidentally given him carpal tunnel syndrome.)

I digress.

I took off last week so that I could, without distraction, say goodbye to my childhood home. This has been a year-long process, to be sure. But I couldn't rush the last week. I needed to be as methodical, considerate, and thoughtful in that last week as I had been during the previous year.

I wasn't alone. Not always.  But there was a half hour that I had to myself that allowed me to devolve into a puddle of sad.

It was Tuesday.

After dropping my four-year-old off at his bright and shiny preschool, and kissing him goodbye, I wended around the Baltimore beltway to my parents' house.  The day was cold.  Gray.  Misty.  Perfect weather for desolate endings.

I inserted that key, turned the knob (scraping my knuckles on the realtor's lockbox), and entered the chilly confines of the home -- the house, now -- that was on the cusp of belonging to others.  The door squeaked and scraped open for me the same way it had hundreds of times before.  You know how you become accustomed to the sound of your house welcoming you? That welcome music from a place that knows you, that embraces you?

I heard it on Tuesday.

I'm a bit maudlin.  I know that.  And tears are cathartic for me.  So I decided to wallow.  Why not? I was alone.  The weather was the kind that Morrissey would bask in.  I gave my permission to sink deep into the dark that I was feeling.  I picked up a CD of my father's -- Glenn Miller's Greatest Hits -- and jabbed it into the CD player lurking in the corner of our family room.

'Moonlight Serenade' surrounded me.  I sank into my father's office chair -- the ratty, peeling office chair that now lives in my guest room -- and wept.  I am an ugly crier.  Have I told you that?  My daughter is a very, very pretty crier.  Her tantrums result in glassy eyes, wild hair, and cherry flushed cheeks.  Me?  Blotchy, sniveling, and creased.

Anyway, I've heard that song thousands of time in my life.  All of those times are associated with my father.  He'd put on big band while working on the pool, or sorting photos, or decorating the house for Christmas.  So, I can't hear Glenn Miller and think, "Wow, I love this era of music!"  Nope.  When I hear Glenn Miller, I think, "Daddddddyyyyyyy!"

Yeah.  So, lots of chubby tears rolling down my cheeks.  Thank the baby Jesus none of my family were there to see me.  This is a thing that needs to happen alone.

I got up to go to the bathroom to grab  tissue, and I had to take a knee.  My belly cramped up, heaved, and I thought I was going to throw up.  

The last time that happened to me was Christmas, 2010, when my mother was dying.  My younger brother, C., was visiting her in hospice and called to say that he noticed that the urine in her bag was really dark.  He said that the hospice nurse said that this was a sign that my mother's end was nigh.

I kept my cookies, though.  In both situations.

There's more.  Good Christ, there's more.  But, the depth, breadth, and overwhelmingness (which may not actually be a word, but hey, who cares?) of all of this can't possibly be distilled into a single post.  

So, look forward to more of me working through the devastation, maybe? Does that make for good reading?  Dunno.  But I have found that I need to vomit my feelings through my fingertips before I actually understand them.  And I am only just starting to really want to understand how I feel about all of this.

Friday, August 29, 2014

I'm Trying an Online Styling Service. You Can't Stop Me.

This is probably the most ridiculous first world problem you will hear today. Though, my own personal best was when I was *thisclose* to griping about how I had to take all of our perishables to the fridge in the basement when the upstairs fridge conked out and needed to be repaired.

At this point in my life, I am finally, finally admitting:  I need help with my style.  Is that sad?  I mean, I enjoy shopping, and trying things on.  I think I have good taste.  But...  Yeah, the mirror shows a whole lotta meh.  I should have more fun with my clothes.

So, I signed up for an online styling service.  I fed it my sizes, style preferences, color/pattern preferences (and which ones to avoid).  Here's the note I sent to my 'stylist':

Hi there!  I'm an office worker who pretty much lives in Talbot's khakis and twinsets (solids, not many patterns).  It's a boring look, and I'd like to make it more interesting.

I can't work a scarf.  I think it's because my breasts are disproportionately large for my frame -- whenever I wear a scarf draped around my neck I feel like a bird that's puffing out its chest.

I wear black plastic glasses.  Not chunky hipster ones, but still bold.  My glasses -- and my long crop of slightly crazy blonde & reddish hair -- are kind of my trademark.  (Re: the hair:  think Julia Roberts' hair in pretty woman.  Just the hair, though.  I'm pretty sure that I'd only come up to her hip, height-wise).

Lastly, I'm porcelain-pale, and I have cornflower blue eyes.  I tend to gravitate toward blues and greens to bring them out, but am open to different colors.

We shall see what comes of it.  If you're lucky, I may even post pictures...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Great Purge Continues

I spent the bulk of my time this weekend clearing out my father's musty home office. In its original incarnation, it was my older brother's bedroom.  When Older Brother moved out, and took up residence with his lovely wife, my younger brother took it over.  Then, Younger Brother moved out because his shenanigans were more then he wanted my parents to deal with. 

That's when my father took over the space.

And boy, did he ever take it over. He immediately installed brackets and shelves, floor to ceiling, and filled it with books, video tapes, DVDs, cassettes, magazines, sheet music, musical instruments, pictures, bric-a-brac, bricks...  But, mostly books.  Big little books, Oxford English Dictionaries, pulp fiction crime novels, bibles, science fiction.  Oh! The science fiction.  My father WAS science fiction, honestly.  If he'd held on for a few more years, he might've made the singularity.

But, back to the room.  It's just a ten by twelve room. You wouldn't think that a room that size could hold so much stuff.  I'm twenty bags of trash into this room, and it's still hemorrhaging refuse.  

And getting rid of this stuff is hard, because so much of it is him.

This room?  It's like a collapsing star.  It siphoned in everything that was of interest to him. If you could chuck everything on these shelves, pinned to these walls, hanging from the drop-ceiling brackets, into an industrial blender and distill it, you would have my father's essence.  He read every word, saw every picture, thumbed through every page.

And here I am, rummaging through his essence, and THROWING STUFF AWAY.  I had a hard time with this, at first.  Then I started think that maybe I was clearing the dross, the stuff that took up his brain space in his later years, the stuff that cluttered his mind.  And maybe, by purging the weird nutritional supplement pamphlets, by getting rid of the old television recordings of the Pope's funeral, by tossing the forty-two Christmas cassettes, I am laying bare the brilliance.  The brilliance, the faith, the dance into the arcane study of magic...

I am fascinated with him anew, and saying goodbye all over again.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

On Things and Stuff

My parents' house is stuffed with three generations' worth of stuff.  Possibly more.  If I find the Magna Carta, I'll let you know.

It's heartrending.  But it's funny, too.  I can't help it.  Maybe it's the Irish in me? When things are all grim and gloom, I still look for the humor.  There's always humor.  Sometimes you have to dig for it like my mother went after crab meat, but it's THERE.

I'll probably post some other day about the heartrending.  Like the fact that I found anniversary cards that nearly equaled the number of years my parents were married (47).  Or that they kept our kindergarten report cards.  And that my father really, really wanted to be a published writer, but never managed to make that happen.  I'm guessing there are seven reasons for that...

But the funny!  There are things I'm finding that I can't grok.  To wit:

Yep, that's an 18" machete.  Now, my parents didn't live in the Amazon. They lived in suburban Baltimore.  There is much pavement, and approximately zero jungle.  By the way? There were TWO of these. One in my parents' bedroom. I really, really can't figure that one out. (Also? The background is my Dad's workbench.  Jesus H. Christ, that is just a sampling of what the basement looks like.)

There's also this treasure:

Clearly, my mother held on to this for a couple of decades.  That typeface is STRAIGHT out of 1975.  (Like me.) Also?  I don't know which marketing whiz thought 'Porkecue' was a clever take on the more traditional 'barbecue.' But, it made me giggle.  This series of pork/barbecue recipes was nestled in a fusty old box of other recipes. Here's what's weird: my mother never made ANY of the things that were mapped out in the recipe clippings.  Speaks of some hopes and dreams, I guess.

My favorite find from last weekend:

What you see there, my friends, is a vintage male enamel urinal.  It was found among what I assume to be my Dad's parents' stuff.  They were born in the 1900's, so, maybe this is circa 1950? Who knows.  But, similar models go for about $20 on eBay.

I'm heading over there this weekend to put in a few hours of labor, like I do most weekends.  Afterward, I'll attend my nephew's/godson's high school graduation party. Think he'll want one of these fine items as his graduation gift?

Sunday, March 09, 2014

21st Century Woman

I just need to document that this weekend I...

  • Took myself to the doctor (woot! sinus infection);
  • Shopped for groceries;
  • Went to a 40th birthday party and danced to '90's house music, stayed up too late, and maybe indulged more than I should have (especially considering the sinus infection);
  • Took my daughter to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese (REMEMBER: late night + vino + sinus infection = I am a Woman of Steel to venture into a Chuck E. Cheese, ESPECIALLY one that has a placard reading 'No Firearms Permitted'*);
  • Noticed some leaking around the toilet, confirmed leaking in the basement under where there toilet lives, correctly identified it as a cracked wax ring under the toilet, and REPLACED that sumbitch because Past Self is a rock star and had a spare wax ring laying around.
 So, yeah.  Normal weekend. Right?

*I mean, are firearms EVER permitted in a Chuck E. Cheese? And if the fine employees at a Chuck E. Cheese noticed that someone was bringing a weapon into said establishment, how on earth would they enforce the placard?  Most of them are tiny teenagers.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Vintage Baltimore

We're clearing out my parents' home.  Fun, right?  It's the de-accessioning of my nuclear family's belongings, natch.  But also my grandparents', and whatever familial detritus was handed down from them.

One of the things that I happened upon was a random collection of negatives.  My father, for the entirety of my life, was STRAPPED.  With cameras.  Lots and lots of cameras. The result of which were lots and lots of pictures.  But sometimes, we only have the negatives.

Know what?  I *enjoy* the negatives.  Because the negatives are kind of like secrets...  I'm finding places he went, compositions he considered, family events he participated in, but stood slightly apart from...  And, I've uncovered  dozens of photos of Baltimore from the '40s and '50's.  I think I'm going to do something with them...  What, I'm not quite sure.  But some of these?  Really need to see the light of day, and not hang loose in a dank basement.