Her Eulogy

A little over a week ago we lost my beloved grandmother.

Some of you may recall that I’ve written about my visits with her every summer. Getting Old is not for Sissies  She was 96 years old and passed peacefully in her sleep.  It’s a blessing to know that her passing was quiet and quick.  It’s heartbreaking for me to accept that she is no longer with us.  A physical and emotional presence that reminded me every day to be my best self, even when I wasn’t.

This past week our family came together in her hometown of Bloomington, Illinois to celebrate her life and lay her to rest.  We are a family strong in Catholic roots, and my Nanny was a devout Christian Catholic woman to her core.  So, as you would expect, her service included a Catholic mass in the church where she was raised, and where she also raised her family.  I was baptized in this church.  My parents were married in this church.  My grandfather was memorialized in this church.  Our family’s life is intricately entwined with sacraments and services that took place in this church.  I spent countless Sundays sitting in the pew next to her, learning how to participate in the Catholic mass by watching my grandmother.  Memorizing the responses, imitating her motions of kneel, stand, sit.  Kneel, stand, sit.  This particular house of God has immeasurable significance for me in terms of emotional and physical memories.  To stand in the sanctuary, in front of her casket, was almost more than I could bear knowing it would most likely be the last time I ever had cause to visit this place.

When the service started I was beside myself with emotion.  As were the rest of my family.  My Nanny meant so much to each and every one of us.  We were all trying to manage our grief.  The service was lovely, but something was missing.  The priest gave the eulogy for my grandmother.  This is not common.  Typically, a family member would do it.  But for some reason no family member had been identified or asked prior to the service to give the eulogy.  I don’t know why, and wouldn’t dream of questioning the decision because I was not the one responsible for planning the service.  But it felt incomplete.  The priest did his best to honor my grandmother, but he did not know her. He could not convey with any depth of emotion or real intimacy the woman that she was, or what she meant to all of us.

I know I wouldn’t have been able to stand at the alter and talk about her without completely breaking down, and I’m talking about some serious ugly crying.  And because I need closure I decided to write my own eulogy, of a sort,  honoring her and my memory of her.  So, this is what I would have wanted people to know about my grandmother….

Kathryn, or Kay, as most people knew her was born in June of 1921.  She was an Irish Catholic Midwestern girl who grew up during the Great Depression.  She often told stories about the depression, describing food shortages and what little money most families earned at that time.  She talked about having one pair of stockings that she had to wash out by hand every night so she could wear them again the next day.  She told these stories in an attempt to help us understand how good we had it growing up.  I’m embarrassed to say that at the time we were just horrified  to learn that she had to live without things like Doritos and Taco Bell.

My Nanny was very meticulous with her appearance.  She wasn’t necessarily vain, but it was extremely important that she always look her best.  Perhaps this was something learned during the depression, as she had so little material possessions or clothing.  She learned to work with what she had.  She did her hair and make up every day.  She pressed her blouse and her slacks.  She sewed clothes for herself and her children.  Once, she made herself a beautiful camel colored wool-lined dress coat.  She loved cashmere turtle-neck sweaters and wool blazers.  She once made my cousin and I matching plaid, wool, pleated skirts to wear to Christmas Eve Mass.  I would give anything to have that skirt back.  She also slaved to ensure that her husband and children went out into the community every day as representatives of her household.  They were meticulously dressed, pressed, and laundered.  At her funeral service my cousins and I were laughing and trading stories.  One cousin told me that she came to Nanny’s house one day wearing a pair of ripped and torn jeans.  Nanny asked her if she bought the jeans like that, and when she confirmed that she did, Nanny said, “Poor girl.  Can’t even afford to buy a whole pair of pants.”

She kept her home in the same meticulous manner.  She made her bed every day.  Hospital corners.  She cooked and baked almost every meal from scratch and she always had a cake or pie prepared in case someone dropped by and she needed to offer them something.  She knew how to refinish wood floors, kept a garden, and everything had it’s place.  She tried to teach me the importance of these things.  As a teenager I would laugh.  Make my bed every day?  Well, that was just crazy talk.  But when I stepped into her home I would breath in the smell of freshness, with a hint of bleach, and it was comforting.  I loved knowing that I would crawl into a bed that night with freshly washed and ironed sheets.  And that I would wake up to the sound of eggs frying in the pan and the smell of biscuits coming out of the oven.  My own childhood home was often chaotic and unorganized, so being in her home provided a sense of old fashioned comfort.

Given that my Nanny was a devout Catholic woman, she was truly a servant of God.  She took her responsibility as a Christian seriously and every moment was a teachable moment.  She prayed openly for everyone.  She and my grandfather organized and coordinated a prayer group every week, and they were huge members of the charismatic movement within the Catholic church.  No one loved Jesus more than my Nanny.   Last summer when I was visiting her, she was worrying quite a bit about family members, and I said to her, “You know what you need to do.  Just give it to God and everything will be ok.”  That’s what she would have said to me.  She looked up at me with wide eyes and said, “You have been listening to me all these years!!!!”  Even when I didn’t want to, I was listening.

I have a strong personality, much like my grandfather.  Nanny would always remind me that my tongue could be sharper than a sword.  She would say, “Mind your words.  They are like feathers, and once you let them go, the wind takes them and you can never get them back.”  I didn’t want to hear it at the time, but over the years I found myself measuring my actions and words by whether or not she would approve.  I can honestly say that in those moments where I held back, or didn’t do something impulsive because I knew she would disapprove, I never once regretted the choice.  The thought of doing something that might embarrass her was unacceptable.  She would often say to me, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, and that covers a lot of territory.”  Of course, I often did thing she wouldn’t do, and in my adult years I would sometimes tell her stories of my bad behavior.  Sometimes she would laugh and other times she would roll her eyes and say, “Well, I will pray for you.”

She loved the Lawrence Welk Show.  She would sing at the top of her lungs while cooking or doing housework.  She made me homemade mashed potatoes and gravy every Sunday because she knew it was my favorite.  She helped my grandfather manage their drive-in restaurant.  She coached the young people who worked for her at the restaurant on how to mind their manners, develop a strong work ethic, and represent their employer and community with pride and dignity.   She was an old fashioned, fierce, Godly woman who loved her family and loved her Jesus.  She refused to talk poorly about others because she felt it was a terrible sin.  She taught me about faith, unconditional love and how to respect myself and others through her actions.  She could talk the talk and walk the walk.  She held her loved ones to a high standard, and she voiced her disapproval when we fell short.  But there was always love.   She was love and light, with a little bit of sass.

The last time I saw her prior to her passing was last July during our annual summer trip.  Her Alzheimer’s was progressing rapidly and she had become more emotional and confused.  I knew it was the last time we would make the trip as a family.  Too many people in the room made for a rough afternoon.  As I was leaving and saying good-bye, she was the most distant she had ever been,  like she was saying good-bye to the mail man.  At the door as I was about to walk out, I turned around and said, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”  In an instant she lit up from the inside and said, “And that covers a lot of territory.”

She was laughing as I closed the door behind me.

Beyond the Veil

Hello, world.

It’s been so long since I’ve done this that I feel as if we’re on a first date, again.  Honestly, I’m a little nervous.  It’s been a while since we’ve spent any time together. Will you still like me?  Will I say something funny or interesting, and will you laugh?  Will we be able to regain that sense of mutual interest and connection?  Will you text me later and say you had a nice time?

I promise that if you do, I won’t wait another eight months to respond.  😉

The past eight months has flown by in a whirlwind of activity.   Work, kids, husband, friends, travel, work, kids, husband, work, family, work, PTA, kids and work.  It’s all been good, mostly.

My job, which I started nine months ago, has been going pretty well.  After six years as a stay home mom, I took a part-time position working for a music publishing company as a music coordinator and personal assistant.  It’s been fun.  We create and license orchestral music/sound design for movie trailers. I love music and movies, so it seemed like a good fit, although I have no previous experience in either industry.  As it turns out, my penchant (read OCD) for detail and organization lends itself nicely to the trailer music industry.  A lot of people ask me for examples of what we do.  Did any of you happen to see the debut trailer for The Last Jedi?  The epically moving, raise the hair on your arms music in that trailer just happens to be ours!  Yes, it was a BFD.  We celebrated the next morning after the release of the trailer with mimosas and French omelets.  Just in case you haven’t seen it…

Later, my daughter asked me, “Mom, what did YOU actually do to contribute to that movie trailer?”  I couldn’t tell if she was mocking me because she thinks I’m lame, or if she was looking for proof that I’m really as cool as I tell her I am.  So I was honest with her and said, “Not a damn thing.  My job is to do all the other stuff, so the people I work for can focus their time and talents on creating music for projects like this.”  I’m pretty sure she took that as validation of her initial assessment, which is that I’m lame.

Despite how well my job is going, I will admit that I’m still waiting for my lightening bolt.  For a long time I’ve had this sense that there’s something I’m supposed to be doing, yet I have no idea what it is.  It’s like there’s a thin veil hanging over my life, and I can’t quite see through it, but I know the answers I need are on the other side.  I’ve always envied people who understood their talents. People who have a clear vision of their path in life.  Some people know without hesitation what they are meant to do. Their talent and drive toward that goal manifests itself clearly for them.  For me that has never been the case.  Despite doing well in the career/jobs I’ve chosen, I’ve always struggled to fully grasp my sense of purpose, and after celebrating another birthday this past September, I feel a sense of urgency toward whatever self-discovery needs to take place in order to put myself on the right path.   I’m not afraid of hard work, I just want to realize what I’m supposed to be working toward so I can get on with it.  Is it too much to ask to wake up one morning with a hand written note beside my bed that reads,

Dear Wanda, 

You are destined to become a dolphin trainer.  Please make arrangements for whatever training is necessary to complete this task and file your application for employment at Sea World, as soon as possible.  

Your welcome,

The Universe

I think I would take a clue like that seriously.  I tried asking my kids what they think I’m good at.  Their answers are ridiculous but I love their honesty.  My son says stuff like, “You’re good at snuggles, Mommy.  And you make the best meatloaf.”  He also told me I was good at being a mommy, and he suggested I open up the baby factory and have another one so he could be a big brother.

So that’s where I’m at.  Attempting to support one company on it’s path to greatness while I strive to discover my own.  If any of you can relate, it would be awesome to hear about it.  And by the way, to those of you who reached out to check on me during my little blogging hiatus, I want you to know how much I genuinely appreciated that, so thank you!  🙂

Little Boy Laughs #2

A conversation today with my 6 year old son…

Bryce:  Mom, I’m really sorry.

Me:   For what?

big eyesBryce:  I was reaching into your purse for a tissue, and I accidentally dropped my booger in your purse.  Now I can’t find it.  It was an accident, Mom.  I’m really sorry.

Me:  You dropped a booger in my purse?

Bryce:  Yeah, but hopefully it will be crusty by the time you find it.  Then you know, no surprises.  That’s good, right?

Boys are gross.

Little Boy History Lessons

martin-luther-king31This morning, I asked Bryce (age 6) if he knew who Martin Luther King, Jr. was, and why we celebrate him.

He responded with this…

“Yes, I know who he is.  He was a great man who went to jail, like thirty times, so that black people and white people could eat together.”

(Insert proud mom moment here.)

It’s a simple answer, yes.  A complete answer, no.  But through the eyes of a six-year-old, it’s one hell of a start.  🙂

Good News, Bad News

It’s been too long since my last post.  I’ve actually started and discarded several posts.  I can’t seem to finish one, either because my thought runs out of steam, or I just feel like I’m rambling about something no one would really be interested in.

So, instead of an organized essay of sorts, here are a few things that have been on my mind lately…

14045999_1168043969905338_3983056748036945361_n1Politics.  (Insert a deep, prolonged sigh, accompanied by an eye-roll).  I know everyone has talked the election of 2016 to death, and I’ll be honest and say that I’ve written and deleted this paragraph at least three times.  I’m over editing myself because this topic is so polarizing and divisive that I hesitate to even discuss it.  Generally, I don’t discuss politics with many people.  And I’m breaking my own rule here, but I feel so strongly about this that it almost hurts to not say something.  To say anything.  It hurts to stay quiet.  So, very carefully, I will say this…for those of you who voted for Donald Trump, well, I hope that works out for you.  For those of you who didn’t vote for Donald Trump, well, hold on to your butts.  In a few days this shit is about to get real.  Time will tell if he has what it takes to be an unconventional yet effective President, or if he is truly a man-baby-twitter-whore who can’t find his ass with both hands unless Kelly Ann Conway draws him a map.  And for all of us, I think this election cycle has been a great reminder of how a democratic society works.  We all have a responsibility to be involved, no matter what side you align yourself with.  We can’t wait for others to do the heavy lifting.   Whether we understand politics or ignore it because we’re intimidated by what we don’t understand, we  all have an obligation to participate.  Congress takes advantage of your willful ignorance, and apathetic people are easily manipulated.   So get involved.  Be the change you want to see in the world.  Whether it’s in your community, local or state government, get involved. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what issues matter the most to me so that I can take steps to participate and do my part.  I hope you will too.

In other news, I got a job.  That’s right!  This girl got a J.O.B.!  After six years of being a stay home mom, I am officially employed again.  And you know you’ve re-entered the workforce when you have to disclose on your job application that you were technically arrested in 1992 for Disturbing the Peace, because that shit is a misdemeanor and stays on your record FOREVER.  It’s ok though, because they hired me anyway.  I’ve been really bored since Bryce started first grade.  I volunteer a lot at the school, but I had a few days a week where I just felt like I was wasting time and brain cells.  And apparently the universe agreed that I was ready to go back to work and just handed me an awesome opportunity.  A friend of mine owns a music publishing company, and they have hired me as a part-time music coordinator and personal assistant.  The company creates and licenses music for movie trailers!  How flipping cool is that?!  It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done before and I’m having a blast learning this whole new industry.  So, thank you universe!

img_0181My dog Mavis, who is now nine months old, won’t stop shitting in the house.  It’s making me crazy.  It’s like she’s decided that she’s too good for grass.   She pee’s outside, no problem.  Then she comes to the door, runs upstairs and poops on my bedroom rug.  I refuse to let this dog believe that she can just drop heat anywhere her little heart desires.  I am the alpha in this house!  She spent the morning in her kennel because she pooped on my rug after she had already gone out this morning.  Mind you, my entire house has wood floors.  When she poops, she always uses the rug.  When I came home I went to let her out.  In defiance of being put in her kennel she refused to come out.  img_0178Fine.  She can just stay there.  So she did.  Then a few hours later I came home again and pulled her out of the kennel and took her outside.  She pee’d, then wanted to come back in.  But I know her game.  I made her stay outside.  She tried to wait me out.  She even sat there shaking and giving me her sweet little sad eyes.  Oh, she is such an actress!  It took about fifteen minutes, and I swear she huffed at me, then walked to the grass and pooped.   Ha Ha!  Today I am the winner!

I miss books.  I’ve been so busy between the holidays, kids and my new job that I haven’t read a new book in months.  I have several in my kindle that need my attention, but if any of you have a good recommendation I am always looking for new books.

That’s about it for me.  My life goals for 2017 are set.  Community service, learning a new industry, becoming a dog whisperer and reading more books.  I think that’s a good list.  What about you?  I missed a lot of New Year’s posts in the past two weeks.  I’d love to hear some of your resolutions and goals for the year.  🙂

Tis’ the Season to Eat Sh*t on the Stairs

What is it about the holidays that seems to accentuate the possibility for bodily injury and harm?  Are we more merry, and therefore less inclined to be wary of potential hazards?  Is it the alcohol?  The parties?  Are we overly distracted by all that needs to be accomplished?  Or is it simply more notable because when you become injured over the holidays it affects the entire season with regard to how you enjoy it?

Two weeks ago I was attending a holiday party at a friend’s house and as I was walking through a gated entryway into a courtyard the entire world tipped itself over and I found myself crashing down onto both of my knees and then face down on the sidewalk.  What the hell just happened?  I sat up, but couldn’t get up.  The pain in my knees and shins was instantaneous,  yet after a few moments I knew nothing was broken.  After a quick assessment of how and why I fell, Dan hoisted me up and I hobbled to the front door.  It turns out there was a very tiny step, about three inches deep right where you entered the courtyard from the gate.  Apparently I missed that step.  My cousin visiting from Michigan was with us and at one point she said, “I’m not gonna lie to you, that wasn’t even a little bit graceful.”

After walking into the party and greeting the hosts, I asked if they had a security camera on their front walkway.  They said they didn’t, but they were curious as to why I would ask.  So I said, “Well, I just ate shit on your front step and I wanted to be sure no one was going to watch that on instant replay or put it on You-tube.”

About thirty minutes later I could feel my heartbeat in my knees.  They were throbbing terribly and stinging like crazy.  I excused myself to the restroom and discovered that I had skinned both knees pretty badly.  I was bleeding under my pants and the skin was already swelling and turning purple and blue with bruises.  I had to mostly sit during the gathering because standing was so painful, and I wasn’t about to draw more attention to myself by asking my hosts for a bag of frozen peas to help with the swelling.  Good times.

After we got home, I grabbed four Advil and two large therapy ice packs from my freezer and got comfortable on the couch.  Dan and my cousin weren’t done having fun yet, so they walked to a local bar to have a few more drinks.  About an hour later I got a text from Dan saying, “I ate shit on a curb in solidarity.  I’m ok.”  It turns out he missed the curb when he was walking home and did a full body yard-sale into the street.  His knees were also skinned and bruised.   We make quite the pair, don’t we?

It’s been two weeks since I fell and the bruising is almost gone.  The skin has healed, mostly, but I still have tenderness in my knees.  The other day I forgot about the injury and tried to kneel down on the wood floor to light the fireplace.  That was a mistake.  I ended up flopping over like I was having a seizure to take the pressure off the injury.  It scared the hell out of my son.

And yesterday, my neighbor texted me that she was at urgent care.  While walking down her stairs she missed a step and took a tumble.  Thankfully, her ankle wasn’t broken but they sent her home in an air cast.  My mother-in-law also recently fell and she did break her knee cap.  Just cracked her patella right in two.  She now has metal screws holding her knee cap together.

So seriously, I think I’m going to start a club.  I need help thinking of a name though, and more members.  A club has to have more than four members.  So if you’ve ever eaten shit on the stairs, we want to hear your story!

Happy Holidays!  🙂

Smoke Detectors Save Lives, Until You Beat Them Off the Wall with a Broom Handle

13133388_1073988239327584_5538104568739403685_n1I had a moment today where I was dangerously close to completely losing my shit.  No, that’s not true because I actually lost my shit for a tad bit at one point.

Around 12:30pm today my smoke detectors started going off all over the house.  There was no fire, but they wouldn’t shut off.  For an hour they were screeching their life saving song without cease.  For an hour my dogs barked, cried and shook involuntarily from the horrible noise that was hurting their ears and scarring the hell out of them.  At one point, my little Mavis just let loose and started pooping everywhere.  The noise literally scared the shit out of her.

It’s amazing what that kind of noise can do to you in an hour.  My heart was racing, my blood pressure was up, and I had this weird anxiety that I couldn’t calm even though I knew my house wasn’t on fire.  The noise was deafening, and grating, and it felt like it scrapped every fucking nerve in my body to the point of absolute insanity.  For an hour.

I googled what to do when your smoke alarms malfunction like that.  The internet said the most likely cause was dust in and around the censors.  Most of the detectors in my house are about 18 feet up the wall because we have vaulted ceilings in the upstairs bedrooms.  The only ladder we have is a ginormous beast of a thing that is difficult for me to carry and maneuver.  I couldn’t get up there to take the detectors down, so I drug a step-ladder and my vacuum cleaner all over the house trying to suck the dust out of the detectors with the attachment wand.  It didn’t work.  I tried to call the non-emergency line for the fire department hoping they could send a guy out with a ladder to take them down for me.  All I got was voicemail.  Can you believe that?  The fire department sends you to flippin’ voice mail if you don’t need to call 911!  When the fire department failed me, I actually resorted to trying to beat the damn things off the wall with a broom handle.  I had reached the breaking point and would have risked putting multiple holes in the walls to make that god-forsaken hell noise stop.

I finally texted my next door neighbor and begged for help.  Thank God he was home.  He was my knight in shining armor, and instead of a horse, he rode in with his bright and shining ladder.  He took all the detectors down for me and we both enjoyed a moment of blissful quiet.   When he left I was so happy I almost cried from the relief of it.  It actually took a few hours before I started to feel the effects of the physical and mental stress dissipating.

So I want to send a world-wide thank you to my neighbor, Mike!  Thanks for being home, thanks for having a ladder, thanks for saving my sanity, and thanks for being such a great neighbor!  🙂