Friday, September 8, 2017

For Melanie...

My girl Melanie and I have been friends for over ten years. Our oldest children were in kindergarten together and we were the homeroom moms. One day is burned forever in my mind. Our kindergarteners were having their very first library day and parents were invited. Melanie and I were the only parents there. I remember looking at the back of her head while I pondered how to introduce myself as we would be working together that year.

Here's the thing about Melanie. She's one of those tall, blonde beauties who make other women question why they bother to get up in the morning. It's just a fact.

Anyway, I contemplated until we both decided to leave. She skirted out the doors of the school seconds before I did and I followed behind her on the sidewalk for a minute. I had just decided not to say anything when I heard a distinct voice tell me we could be friends. Well, one can never have too many friends so I called her name. She stopped and we made our introductions then went about our day.

I wondered for a long time just how we would get to the part where we would be friends as she is a very guarded woman. For a time we would chat on a concrete bench outside the school while we waited for our kids and then, one day, we were running together.

I made her a t-shirt with the words "run faster" printed on the back because that's all I ever saw after she'd take off on those long legs. After our run we'd stand out in the middle of the street and talk for an hour. I really enjoyed those runs.

My kids and I spent a lot of time with her and her two children and we came to love their family. It was hard to move away.

However, no matter how stable a family seems, there are so many aspects the outside world never sees and shortly after we moved, my sweet friend found herself in an acrimonious divorce. My heart ached for her. It was challenging, but she managed. She put her children first, even when it was hard and managed to make it to the other side.

Shortly thereafter she ran into an old classmate and a brand new life bloomed for her. She was happy, happier than I had ever seen her. We were at her wedding. That man loved her and she radiated that love. And as happens, our lives got busy and we didn't talk as often.

Her husband unexpectedly passed away last week.

My heart aches for her again, but the sadness is so much greater. I wish I knew what to say to make it all better, to ease the pain that has replaced her happiness. I wish I could suspend the worries she now carries; funeral arrangements, finances, things that don't care that she's grieving, that her life is changed and her heart is broken. I wish a meal and a hug could make it all go away, but this is her new normal.

Every day I have thought about her, prayed for her, and left messages letting her know I'm thinking of her, I have seen so many others do the same. She is surrounded by words of comfort and encouragement, but soon day by day those condolences will dry up because the rest of us are going to go on with our lives.

I don't want that for her. The day the fog breaks I want her to know I still see her, not just as a woman who lost her husband, but as my friend. I want her to know she has someone to talk to and not just this week.

I'm not casting aspersions at anyone. We can't all be a shoulder to cry on for everyone all the time, but next month, when we're all trick or treating, she'll be having her first birthday without him...and Thanksgiving, and Christmas and they will all remind her of what she has lost.

Then on those days I will make time for her. Even if it's only a quick text, she will know she is not forgotten.

Because she is my friend.

Scott,
Thank you for loving my friend.
R.I.P.

Monday, August 28, 2017

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time...

Mr D. had a week off of work two weeks back. He said we should consider painting the living room, which was a most awful brown (who does that?) and went to check out colors. I was categorically uninterested because I am a lazy woman who mostly has no interest in moving the living room contents into the kitchen for however long this fool's errand would take.

He went to look at samples and brought home paint.

Well crap.

He and the children moved everything to the kitchen and prepared to paint. It was all finished in one day and it all happened so quickly I hardly had time to process what was going on.

The paint had hardly dried when he starts in on the carpet. To be fair, it was disgusting and he was so gung ho I told him to go to town. He asked if I was serious and I had hardly reiterated my stance when he gleefully started tearing up the carpet.




The house was filled with dust and the scent of a hundred years of dog, but the carpet was up and we were left with bare concrete. And after the stank had settled the air was so fresh! Fresher than it has ever been!

Here's the thing, though. I can't live in such shambles indefinitely (did that as a kid, didn't like it, won't do it again) so this happened when we went to "look" at laminate.




As we are a handy dandy (with a healthy dose of cheap) family...



Until finally...




I'm pretty pleased with the results as it saved us a metric ton of money, but it also was a great learning experience for the kids because it required working together while they learn something new. My one great parenting goal is to teach my children, specifically my daughters, how to be self sufficient. 

It's working!

Mere minutes after completing this project, Mr.D asked if he could pull up the carpet in the classroom. I told him he totally could! In ten years. He said he wants it to be our next project and I nodded enthusiastically while repeating, "in ten years." He said he could always just pull the carpet up and force my hand. I agreed but reminded him he'd best be prepared to put floors in the next day. 

He calmed down a hair. I don't think I can put him off for ten years, but maybe I bought myself at least one.

Now that we are seasoned floor layers I have a few notes.

1.When cutting wood one really should use the saw outside. Or in the garage or anywhere besides inside the house. This one should be obvious, but it was raining and Mr. D didn't want to walk to the other end of the house to the garage. I can't blame him for that, but also it wasn't the best idea.

2. Cover any surface you ever want to see again with some kind of drop cloth. We did not. Also, we moved the furniture to the kitchen where the cutting was taking place. So much dust. Everywhere. Miney wanted to make cookies for her Young Women's class, but we managed to talk her out of it. Which was kind of a tender mercy because while making cookies last night the element in the oven caught fire. Like flames and stuff. That would have been an unpleasant addition to the chaos already in progress. Also, now we have an oven shaped paperweight.

3. Protective eye wear and face masks are essential if you want to breathe and keep your eyesight. They also make it hard to breathe (Irony!) and impossible to see when the lenses of your glasses fog up. I couldn't decide which was worse, permanent blindness while suffocating or temporary blindness while suffocating. Well, at the time it was hard to decide. 

4. Have a buddy available to check your work before cutting the boards. This really only applies when one began the project early in the morning, has come to the 2/3 mark of the project and it's nine o'clock at night. Mr.D mis-cut a couple of pieces. The look of dejection on his face whenever Meenie handed a board back with "it's cut wrong" was soul crushing and comical. However, everything is soul crushing and funny when you're exhausted and breathing sawdust.

5. Baseboards are nasty. Just gross. Also, cement floors are gross. Builders don't care what kind of yuck they leave on the floor because they're just going to cover it. It's like an appalling version of...it's just appalling.

And that's what happens when the man-candy has a week off of work.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Some People...

Like to make life a little tougher than it is. Thus declares one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite bands, Cake. With a name like Cake, it has to be good.

The lyrics continue:
The more you try to shake the cat
The more the thing will bite and scratch.
It's best I think to leave it's fur
And to listen to it's silky purr...

Have you ever met that person? The one who spots trouble and offences quicker than an abandoned penny. The one who "hates drama" but seems to always be in the midst of a turbulent sea. Lambadocious they are exhausting.

Language is constantly changing and words that once meant one thing are misused, abused and often completely twisted until they hardly resemble their original meaning. For example, the word bully.
When I was a youth, a bully was a person who was physically and/or mentally abusive to another person. The kids who lived across the road from us when my brothers and I were kids were bullies. They threw rocks at us, they'd shove us off the bus at our stop, and threatened to beat us up. I know what it means to be bullied, but today the word bully has been hopelessly diluted. Nowadays, it seems that word has been distorted to mean things like, I wasn't invited to a party, I'm being bullied. I wasn't picked to participate in an activity, I'm being bullied. My name wasn't picked from the hat, bullied, bullied, bullied.

When my child says, "mom, it hurts when I stick my finger in my eye," my first response is always, "then stop poking yourself in the eye!" It makes perfect sense to me. However, I would be hard pressed to say that to someone else's child because my actions could be seen as lacking compassion by the person known in the newly minted term as a helicopter parent.

Maybe I don't call bully because I'm too thick to recognize when my children are being poorly done to. If my child isn't invited to an activity "everyone else was invited" to, I don't air my grievances across Facebook and tell the offenders they mustn't post pictures or make comments about activities my children weren't part of. My kids are home schooled. If I took that route my whole day would be spent squawking about all the things they aren't a part of and then there would be no time for the actual schooling part of home schooling.

There will always be parties, activities, concerts, dates, etc that my children won't be invited to. That's life. They can't (and shouldn't) be part of everything all the time. In fact, the only time I might be inclined to raise a ruckus is if my children are told by some ignorant ass that being home schooled will permanently ruin their lives because they'll have no social skills and can't function in society. If you've ever met my children you would know how completely inaccurate those statements are. Yet, I've heard it more than once.

However, unless the comment is made to me, I try to stay out of it. As a woman attempting to grow competent adults I require my children to handle such matters themselves because grown-ups can't have their mommies fight their battles.

At least, not yet.

Is It True? It It kind? Is It...

Necessary?

I have been accused many times of saying everything that crosses my mind. Well that is absolutely incorrect because if I really said everything I think people would be clutching the pearls and fanning themselves through a raging case of the vapors.

Thus, I have been told to consider certain criterion before speaking my mind.

Is it true...
Probably, absolutely, yes. Sometimes one's head is so firmly lodged up one's own butt one is unable to read the memo stating how awful one is behaving. I know my head sometimes gets stuck up my butt, and I need to be informed of that fact. For example: a few weeks ago, I asked Mr. D to cut a few pieces of wood for me, which he willingly did. Minutes later he came outside, where I was building a garden bed, to ask if I would help him finish up his haircut (he shaves his head). I didn't even think before I started barking back at him for interrupting my yard work. He turned around and went back inside, but as soon as the door was I closed, I realized what I jerk I was being and immediately went to correct the situation. As I was trimming up his buzz I mentioned that this incident was a perfect example of when I need to be called out, but he explained I am unreasonable when I'm out of line. He said it much more kindly, but the gist is the same. He also said "you seemed to pick that one up pretty quickly. So..."

Is it kind...
Well that depends. The longer I sit on it, the uglier it gets. There was a time I was actively suppressing some serious boundary issues I was having with my father-in-law. I was really trying to exercise my understanding of Christlike attributes, but it became more and more uncomfortable the longer I kept my lip zipped. See, sometimes when one holds one's tongue, the other person sees the silence as an invitation to continue with the behavior that usually would get their head bitten off. This was one of those times. I held my tongue until he pushed me past the point of no return and I lost my friggin' mind. At church. Where everyone could hear it. I've never seen that man move so fast as  he did when he scurried from the church building. Apparently, Angry D.P. resembles a possessed lunatic which also rips my knickers because the fool who pushes my buttons then behaves as if they have no idea why I exploded. I don't like being angry because I go all out. My head throbs, my heart throbs, my ears throb, I feel like I'm gonna vomit. I'm pretty sure my blood pressure would worry a cardiologist.

Is it necessary...
I struggle with that one because I know I'm an idiot at times, and I'm ever on a quest to change negative behaviors and attitudes, but I can't fix it if I can't see it. I regularly ask Mr. D to help me with my personal evaluations and he's pretty much worthless because he refuses to acknowledge I have flaws. Which is great for my ego, but useless for my personal progress.

I know not everyone feels the same push to betterment that I do. I remember one particularly gruesome companionship inventory with one of my mission companions where she mercilessly told me all the ways I sucked, while simultaneously declaring there was nothing she needed to work on. As it happens, if she hadn't stopped jacking her jaw when she did she was gonna have to figure out how to cover up the black eye I was planning to give her. Her hubris was almost as appalling as the way she tore me down.

I'm not saying we should all be strutting around calling people out for things we deem inappropriate, however if I see a four year old running with a knife I'm not going to pretend I don't see it as I hope the child's mother sees it before the child falls on it. If I am a leader of the young women in my church and one of those young women decides to cross from one side of the room to the other through the middle of a performance, I'm going to call her out for not going around them. So I ask you, does that make me a terrible person?

No really, I have no idea. I'm asking you.

Things My Mother Taught Me...

On accident.

Just to be clear my mom is human and prone to make mistakes. Some of those mistakes still cause her great distress and I know she wishes she could take them back, but I verily believe no woman can consider herself a mother unless and until she has one or two mistakes under her maternal belt that haunt her in her sleep.

However it goes her career as my mother good, bad or indifferent has shaped who I am as a woman, a wife and a mother myself and I think I'm pretty awesome. Even if it's only me who believes it.

I was talking to my mother the other day and she agreed that she must have done something right; she kept me alive, fed me, clothed me, and she didn't leave me on the side of the road...for very long.

Her words and true story. I watched the tail lights of the van disappear many times as a kid. So much so that it didn't even phase me. I always wore shoes and developed an amazing sense of direction. I could find my way home without breadcrumbs or a map.

Actually, the four kids all wore shoes at all times because in our indigent state we ran out of gas a lot. Well, we were poor and my mom really hated stopping for gas.

So I wanted to share a few things I learned as a result of my mother mothering me.

I never under any circumstances ever leave water in the sink after I've washed the dishes. In fact, as soon as the dishes are washed, I wring out the sponge, pull the plunge, rinse out the sink and wipe it down. That is, I did those things before my children took over dish duty, and it is the gold standard because the first time I found cold water in the sink I raised such a stink they've never forgotten it.

Now you may be thinking, "of course you do the dishes that way, it's common sense." Yes. Common sense, but the reason I make sure it's done that way is because my mother was a serial leave-water-in-the-sink-er. Did you know that water left in the kitchen sink for days on end will always develop an orange film? Always. Even if you haven't had a tomato based product in months.

That, in itself, is unappealing, but my mom had a habit of leaving the water in the sink, and then after four or five days demanding that I pull the plug. By the time I hit twelve I was beginning to find my voice and one day REFUSED to stick my hand in the cold orange water. So she relented and, in a huff, went and pulled the plug herself. I am so thankful to this day I stuck to my guns because she found herself in possession of one very dead mouse. She screamed, I laughed and resolved to always drain the sink.

My mom, well, she hasn't found another mouse.

Another absolute I decided as a youth was to always move wet laundry to the dryer immediately after the washing machine stopped. Why? Because two day wet laundry tends to smell with a funk that never really goes away. Eau de Mildew was my childhood perfume. "Why not just do your own laundry?" you ask. That's another story for another time, and stop being so judgy, man!

Another thing we don't do - nothing is ever allowed "to soak." Soaking is Mom-ese for "hope it cleans and puts itself away." If it didn't clean and put itself away she would hide it in the oven and forget about it until we had to bake something. As a consequence I always check the oven before I turn it on. It was a superfluous habit until Mr. D started his cheesecake baking career and would occasionally forget to remove the water filled cookie sheets (water baths).

I won't eat rice in milk with cinnamon and sugar every again. I ate more than my share as a kid. We kept the rice industry in business through the 80's.

I never leave my sewing notion laying around or stabbed into the furniture because "next time I need it I'll know where to find it." She never found them, but I did. I can't tell you how many sewing needles I stepped on. The plus? There was always thread hanging from the eye, so I had a way to pull it out.

Tupperware were the only dishes we could count on. My mom had a rough time in the 90's and took it out on the dinnerware. We were color coded. My set was pink. Now, I've never used dish-breaking to quell my frustration, but even dishes broken on accident are a pill to clean up so I tend to own dishes that are impossible to break.

Then there was the leaving me on the side of the road.

One she'll be able to look back and laugh. I know I do.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Everyone Has A Mexican Gramma...


This is my Mexican gramma. She was a BABE. I mean, she's still a babe, she's just older now. My gramma is an amazing woman.

She came to the U.S. as a bride of eighteen, married to a man who was over twenty years older than her. Her mother had been a socialite, but was cast out of polite society when she found herself in a family way. My gramma grew up poor and when a wealthy older American took a fancy, Gramma's mother pretty much sold her off. 

My gramma only spoke Spanish when she came here and soon found herself pregnant with my Aunt Blanc. It was about this time that her husband told his son if he liked his new step-mother, he could have her. So Gramma found herself in a new country, unable to speak the language, pregnant and alone. She worked as a seamstress and did laundry at a retirement home where she learned English playing cards with the old people.

After my aunt was born, my gramma sent her to live with her sister Gloria while she continued working and sending money home. At some point she met my mother's father. I heard once that she learned to polka while married to my mother's father. I haven't been able to suss out any more information about how, where or when that relationship came about.

It's a wonder when we hear stories because when asked any questions she claims she can't remember. However, if one is very quiet and keeps ones lips tightly closed she will let little bits of her past slip out. When this happens I tuck it away and if I'm lucky I can get a few more details, but only if she's in the mood. 

Once, not too long ago, I expressed how frustrating it can be when I ask her a history question and she says she can't remember it was so long ago. As soon as the words, "I can't remember that was so long ago," came out of her mouth she suddenly remembered she had two uncles who were train conductors. I snapped, "Gramma!" and she pursed her lips and said, "what?" with all the petulance of a five year old.

Then again she was telling me about how she didn't want to travel to Mexico because of all the crime. She said she wanted to die peacefully in her sleep like her grandfather...not screaming in terror like his passengers. I thought she was telling a true story until she said the second half and I laughed out loud. Then she tells me her paternal grandfather really did die in his sleep when he was 104.

Moving on...

My mother and a son came from that marriage, but it didn't last long, and she sent them both to Aunt Gloria as well. My mother used to say it was a shame she never learned to speak Spanish, but when I relayed that thought to Gramma she said, "what does she mean? Your mother didn't speak English until she was five." 

Another marriage produce a second aunt and uncle. She married a fourth time before I was born and they were married until he dies. He is the man who was my grampa. Best. Grampa. Ever.

My gramma can tell a joke like nobody's business, and if she can stifle her laughter, we can even understand what she's saying.

She raised kids like a pro having raised the five she birthed, a few that came with marriage and a couple of stragglers in her parenting her career. 

She is the consummate hotelier as almost every one of the children, grandchildren and other relations have nested in her home at least once in the last thirty years. Some of them have never left and will probably die there, but every family has one (or two or three) oddball, right? Laws, I hope so otherwise that's messed up.

She is also the great resource stretcher. She has used the same can of Tang orange drink for the last two decades. We call it "orange water" because she only uses enough powder to change the color. One Thanksgiving, many years ago, my uncle Billy wanted to go fishing and came over to ask if she had any turkey left over from the year before. She said she did and he could find it in the freezer behind the paintbrushes. Which is exactly where he found it. In the freezer. Behind the paintbrushes. Which explains why pretty much everything that comes out of that freezer tastes and smells like paint.

She is a master quilter. She hand sews everything and even quilts the top by hand. One of her quilts traveled across Texas as part of an expo and is now in a museum in San Antonio. She made me a quilt for my sixteenth birthday and I have learned the skill from her. I remember being at her house as a kid, watching her sew as she watched t.v. while my grampa snoozed in his chair. When it was time for bed she'd put the quilt aside, and turn off the t.v. As soon as the noise disappeared my grampa's head would jerk up and he'd grunt, "hey, I was watching that!" I miss that guy.

My gramma's one flaw is in the one area where other Mexican gramma's excel. She can't cook. When people hear about my Mexican gramma they are instantly envious of all the wonderful home cooking I must have grown up on.

Nope.

Everything she cooks has an orange tint and we call Thanksgiving's entree "Gramma's Mojave turkey." One year my cousin asked which of the mounds of gray stuffing was the boneless mound. Gramma told her it was the one without bones. There wasn't one without bones.

We've tried to take over the meal making responsibilities, but we end up having to sneak food in because she won't let us help. She massacres the desserts with her little dessert knife and even though she decided to start using foam plates and cup (for easy cleanup) some years ago, she still washes the foam plates and cups. 

She believes men should be revered and women belong in the kitchen, which my dad loved, but I had to nip in the bud after Mr. D and I got married. "He was capable before we got married and he still functions quite well," I told her when she told me to go fix my husband a plate the first Thanksgiving we spent there. The old ways were steadfastly ignored by the daughters but have been moderately re-applied by the granddaughters. We aren't our husband's servants, but we aren't above serving them either. If Mr.D asks for a bowl of ice cream while I'm up, I will gladly oblige him. If he sits in his chair and mimes a bowl at me, I'll probably break his arms. Moderation in all things, people.

My grandma is a spitfire, though, and she's made hard choices and lived under difficult circumstances, but her sacrifices are the reason I am a second generation American. 

Everyone's tree sprang from another orchard. Keep that in mind.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Learning New Words With D.P...

I like words.

I like words so much I've even been accused of making them up, but why would I do that when there are a plethora of words already at my disposal? Knowing such an abundance of appropriate verbiage is available to the common man makes the excessive use of the few more base words a crying shame. My stepfather used to say that cursing was the sign of a feeble mind. I guess he wold know as his vocabulary consisted mainly of four letter words announced at varying volumes.

To be fair, I find words to be difficult to come by too, at times, and if accused of using sentence enhancers too liberally would be found guilty. Just ask my kids. They will happily toss me under that bus and giggle as it runs me over. Anyway, I thought it might be fun to share some of my favorite words. Feel free to share any of your favorites.

Pedantic: adj. Excessively concerned with details or rules.

For example: Our church often rents basements or apartments from members for the missionaries. Thus, if the church rents the space for the missionaries, it is the living space of the missionaries and, as with any rental contract, the owner is no longer free to come and go from the rental space as they choose. Because that's rude.

It's even more rude to willy-nilly enter said living space and rearrange the furniture.

My companions and I lived in a basement we called the "bowling alley," and the little old lady who owned the house would regularly come downstairs and rearrange the furniture. It was kind of unnerving to come back to our private space to find everything moved around on the whim of the nutcase living upstairs. So we decided it was time to remind her of the specifics of the contract when she came down one day to rearrange unaware that we were still there. We sat her down and kindly asked her to leave the sitting tools where we put them and to stop moving our beds around. When we said the word "couch" to describe the sitting tools, she lost her mind.

Her: "It's a settee!"
My companion: "Please stop moving the settee and the couch."
Her: "That's a loveseat."
Me gritting my teeth and calling on all of my patience: "The point is, stop moving the furniture!"
Her: "It's my house!"
Me: "Shall I call the Mission President then?"
Her: *mumble mumble mumble* as she walks away.

Another word that fits well in this situation is deflecting. For example:

Me: "Stop hitting your sister with that shoe."
Deflector: "It's a sandal."
Me out loud: "Seriously?!" You know what I mean! Stop it!"
My brain: "Then by all means, carry on."

Or:

Me, calling name of wrong child: "Eenie, stop screaming!"
Meenie, the child who is screaming: "I'm Meenie."
Me: "You know who you are! Shut-up!"

This one literally just happened: (Literally as in "just this minute" literally, not figuratively as in "my head literally exploded.)

Meenie:"I'm gonna punch you in your stupid face."
Me: "Don't tell your sister you're going to punch her in her dumb face."
Meenie: "I said I was gonna punch her in her stupid face."
Me: "My mistake. Punch away, I guess?"

My favorite is when dealing with a gaggle of children who don't belong to me, though I am responsible for them, as in a Sunday school class. It gets tricky here because I can't just smack them on the back of the head when they give me lip.

Example:

Me: "Don't wipe your nose on your dress."
Child I can't smack: "It's a skirt."

Sigh.