Monthly Archives: October 2017

Reading Materials: October 2017

50. Demelza, Winston Graham (Library). This is the second book in Graham’s Poldark series, the basis for the current(ly AWESOME) Masterpiece on PBS series of the same name. I loved this book even more than the first one, partly because the characters are better-developed, and partly because this book got me through the first part of a rather awful month.

XX. Dragonfly in Amber, Diana Gabaldon (Library). I read Outlander a few years ago and hated it. Then I started watching the TV show and loved it. Torn by my feelings, I decided to give the second book in the series a try. This was foolish. The second season of the TV show is quite different from the book, and far better. When I got the “nearly due notice” from the library, I shrugged my shoulders and let this one go. ABANDONED at 40%. It pains me to abandon a book, but I’m also too old to stick it out for the sake of bragging rights. Or something.

On a more personal note, my brain has been mush for most of this month. My mother died at the end of September, and October has been taken up with her memorial service and selling her house. I will do better next month.

2017 Totals
Fiction: 43
Non-Fiction: 7

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Books

Halloween Crafts with Toddlers: A Primer

Doing crafts with toddlers is one of those things that sounds sweet and wholesome in theory, but in practice is aggravating and messy.

Nevertheless, I decided this year that Hazel possessed enough rudimentary motor skills to attempt a couple of cheap, easy Halloween decorations. Now I will share the wisdom of my experiences with you.

Step one: Wait until 5:00. Pour yourself a drink. This makes the toddler crafting process 100% more bearable.

Step two: Pick something simple. I chose this ghost windsock and this candy corn garland. They’re so easy that there aren’t any instructions. Hamsters could pull off these projects.

Step three: Be flexible. Your project will look little, if anything, like the pictures. Embrace the abstract imperfection of it all.

Step four: Repeat step one as needed.

We started with the candy corn garland. I had to buy cheap white paper plates (about $2) but already had orange and yellow craft paint and twine. Hazel and I each painted a few plates and let them dry overnight.

37749713416_5fd0eb976d_m  37749713006_1682f9ddd0_m

I cut each plate into eight wedges and hot-glued them to a long piece of twine. Hazel supervised. I hung one string on the stair rail and short strings over the windows in the kitchen.

37088587004_80db6600c5_z

37749708306_b32e5bf3b2_z

Done and done. Next up: ghost windsocks. I didn’t have any tin cans, but I did have some empty toilet paper rolls. GOOD ENOUGH. I had white craft paint, and bought a roll of crepe paper streamer for about $2.

37539931080_8091dc7291_m

First we painted the toilet paper tubes, then drew ghost faces on them. Then I glued some 12″ lengths of streamer inside the bottom, and hung them up on the porch using fishing line.

37766112692_7226213aee_m  37088579424_110306cdbc_m

I find Hazel’s (on the left) to be far creepier than mine.

I also attempted some DIY decorations of my own. This Boo sign turned out substantially similar to the one I spotted on Etsy:

37128015283_b22c758fb2_k

There will be MOAR Halloween to come, including the return of the bats. I’m psyched.

1 Comment

Filed under Holidays, Home, Kate the Chicken, Projects

The New Normal

My mom died. I feel like I have it branded across my face. The enormous fact of it covers me like a cloud. The hole she leaves is somewhat bigger than I expected. Most 30-somethings who lose a parent do not act as primary caregiver, cook, chauffeur, and entertainment for the last months or years of the parent’s life. It is more like losing a child or a spouse, someone who shares your home and your routines and whose absence you feel in a million everyday things. Even when my dad died suddenly, I left my life in Alabama to deal with it and then returned home afterwards, where my routines continued as they always had. His everyday life was not entangled with mine.

Most days, I’m okay. We’re okay. It’s a new normal, but logistically much simpler than the old normal. In the evenings, after we put Hazel to bed, we have a whole hour (or two!) to ourselves. Previously, we’d put Hazel to bed and then start mom’s evening routine, which took all the available time until we went to bed.

Our dog, Boots, died three days before mom. I still cannot muster the bandwidth to properly grieve that loss, but our new normal does not include feeding, medicating, cleaning up after, and letting the dog out.

Basically, I feel like I have so much free time I could seriously address world poverty. And then I feel crushed with guilt for feeling that way. And then I make plans to use my time, and feel better about having some purpose to my life.

And then I pick up the phone to call mom, or start to walk to the guest house to see if she needs anything from the grocery store, or think of something I’d like to ask her. I suddenly have 39834598798456 questions for her.

Oddly, going to church is the hardest thing I have to do every week. Both my church and mom’s church in Jacksonville have been incredibly kind to my family, providing meals and hugs and cards and kind words. My mom loved church, and her faith put mine to shame. I feel her absence most acutely during worship. I can’t get through a hymn – even ones I don’t like – without crying. And then I get embarrassed, and then I get sweaty. It’s awesome.

I have met people since she died, who have no idea about the journey I have just completed. A new woman cut my hair two weeks ago, and I struggled to make small talk without screaming MY MOM JUST DIED AND EVERYTHING IS WEIRD. I went out to lunch with some ladies I only know casually from the gym, and it never came up. I don’t want sympathy, but the fact of her death, and the road we took to get there, are a huge part of my identity right now. I don’t quite know who I am without the role of caregiver.

I am sure this will feel less weird with time. I will fill my time with new activities, or resume activities I have neglected for the last year. But now, in the early days of the new normal, I’m still getting my balance.

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Mom

Eulogy

(Mom’s memorial service was held on Saturday in Jacksonville. She asked me, many years ago, to speak at her service. This is what I said.)

Thank you, all of you, for being here today. Mom is sorry she couldn’t make it, but God promised her a spot as the defensive coordinator in the highly-anticipated Angel Bowl, and that was an offer she could not refuse. She’ll be joined on the sidelines by my father, who is in charge of the tailgate spread, and Sugar the greyhound, who is the team mascot.

I have spent a lot of the last two and a half years cleaning out my parents’ home. I came across many treasures during that process, but none delighted me quite as much as a copy of a speech mom gave at an RPDS event many years ago. At the end, she included a survey taken of her graduating class, where each student shared what they wanted to be when they grew up. My uncle Louie, for example, wanted to build ships for the Navy, and Tom Borland wanted to be an underwater demolition expert.

My mom wanted to be the director of a summer camp for girls. Let’s all take a moment and envision the kind of summer camp my mom would run. I’m pretty sure it would be heavy on archery and horseback riding and waterskiing, and very light on arts and crafts. There would be no camp nurse, just a bottle of aspirin and a few band-aids in a paper bag behind the bar. And oh yes, there would be a bar.

Obviously, she did not fulfill the dream she had when she was 11,  but that bit of information helped me understand her so much better. She lived her whole life like it was summer camp – where you’re encouraged to be active, get dirty, and throw yourself into the world around you.

So instead of playing genteel country club tennis, she played extreme full-contact tennis.  Mom’s enthusiasm for the sport earned her several tennis-related trips to the emergency room. The most notable of these occurred after she laid out for an epic shot and broke her toe, bit through her bottom lip, and punctured her spleen with her thumb knuckle. Eventually, her doctors begged her to take up a less violent hobby.

Instead of breezing through a museum or zoo, she made sure to read every sign in front of every exhibit. I used to think she was just trying to get her money’s worth out of her admission ticket, but she really was interested in everything from the pygmy marmosets to the African elephants.

She had trouble understanding gift-giving, and never knew what to do with gifts she received. Instead, she gave out nicknames. I guess when your own nickname is “Winkie,” you can’t help it.

Raise your hand if you had a Winkie nickname. Me too. My brother and I had about five apiece. Growing up, I thought all my parents’ friends had unusual names like me. It took me way longer than it should have to realize that no one in their right mind would actually be named Mikeman. Or Dirt. Or Yo Ho.

My mother didn’t teach me how to curl my hair, or what colors looked best with my skin tone. She offered no advice on jewelry, clothes, or makeup. We never shared a bottle of wine or a pedicure. Those are not summer camp activities.

Instead, she taught me to be helpful and loyal and brave. She encouraged me to try new things and seek adventure, but always pay cash. She taught me to be a fierce competitor but a good sport.

And she never, ever, ever counseled moderation. When my son Tyler was in elementary school, he spent a whole week in the summer with Mom, just the two of them. She discovered he liked peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – and proceeded to make them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and all between-meal snacks. Tyler came home oozing peanut butter from his pores.

I would not have made it through the last two and a half years without the support of my husband, Jason, who handled our household during my frequent trips to Jacksonville, and who did not hesitate when we decided to move her in with us. Mom adored Jason – she told me once that if anything happened between us, she was keeping him. For his birthday one year, she bought him a seersucker suit. Well, let’s be honest – she told him to buy a suit, preferably on sale, and turn in a receipt for reimbursement. Anyway. He wore the suit to Riverside one Sunday, and she proudly introduced him to all her friends. “This is Jason Taylor,” she would say, “and this is his birthday suit!”

I had planned to have tiny gin & tonics passed out in the communion trays so that we could all toast my mother together – but I have been informed that is frowned upon, even in the Presbyterian Church. Oh, well. Let us raise an invisible glass to my mother, who lived every day like it was summer camp – and may we find ways to bring that energy and enthusiasm into our own everyday lives.

Thank you.

4 Comments

Filed under Mom

Reading Materials: September 2017

Sorry this is late! I barely know what day it is.

44. Ross Poldark, Winston Graham. (Library) A friend recommended the PBS series Poldark to me, and I’ve become mildly obsessed. When I learned that it was based on a very popular series of books from the 1940s, I decided to give the first one a try. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It has aged well, and the writing still feels fresh and sharp. The story is set immediately after the American Revolutionary War, but it takes place in England, in Cornwall. This is a time/place combination which I had not spent much time thinking about, so I was glad for some historical perspective as well as a great story. I’ve already put the second book in this 12-book series on hold at the library.

45. Every Dead Thing, John Connolly. (Library) John Connolly frequently pops up on “authors you may like” lists for me, so I decided to give one a try. It’s set in New York and New Orleans, which appealed to me as well. I liked the book, although I guessed the twist pretty early on, and I got a little tired of Connolly’s insistence on detailing the weight/fitness level/attire of every character. I am not rushing out to the library to get the next book in the series, but I may pick it up later.

46. The Secret Diary of Hendrick Groen, Aged 83 1/4. (Library, book club selection) This was a hard book to read. My mother spent almost two years in an assisted living facility, and it was informational to read about nursing home care in other countries. But I just couldn’t get into this character. The book spends a lot of time discussing the merits of assisted suicide, which cut a little too close for me right now.

47. Phantom Evil, Heather Graham. (Library) I must have some Puritan blood in me, because I have very little tolerance for novels in which attractive-yet-broken people solve all interpersonal drama through mind-blowing sex. Or, worse, when two attractive-yet-broken people are put in mortal peril, and the first thing they do afterwards is…. you guessed it. Other than that, this story was good. It’s another New Orleans story, which you know I’m always down for. It seems to be based in part on the lore surrounding the Lalaurie mansion in the French Quarter, in that it features a big, beautiful mansion that’s haunted/cursed.

48. The Round House, Louise Erdlich. (Library) This has been on my to-read list for a while, so when I espied it on the library shelf I picked it up. It follows the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated on a Native American family. The writing was tremendous, the characters well-developed, and the plot was interesting. I enjoyed reading it.

49. Panacea, F. Paul Wilson. (Library) I have been a fan of Wilson’s since a friend lent me the Repairman Jack series, which is outstanding. This book is similarly engaging. It’s got Dan-Brown-style pacing. I read it during a very difficult week, and it managed to distract me for several minutes at a time.

2017 Totals
Fiction: 42
Non-Fiction: 7

Leave a comment

Filed under Books