Life

Cleaning for guests

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Nearly a month has passed since I’ve written here, or even attempted to write here. I seem to have lost my voice. It’s not because I’m not feeling or thinking about things. I’m really not sure what it’s about. As I mentioned in my last post, the kitchen is done. Mostly. There are still a couple of items on the list to be completed when the contractor has time to come back. Do contractors ever find time to come back when they’ve moved on to a new job?

About three weeks ago I invited some friends over for game night. We get together about once a month and I couldn’t make the last event which was a movie night so I threw out the game night suggestion for this Friday. On Monday someone asked if it was still on. Gulp. My house is still quite a mess. Of course, I said yes and then one after another affirmed it was good for them too. The menu is set. But the house, not so much.

Continue reading “Cleaning for guests”

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Life

Free Time Free Fall

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You know those moments that aren’t sucked up by work and home life and other obligations? Those few minutes captured just for yourself. Maybe when you wake up in the morning or just before you go to sleep. A few stolen moments as dinner is being cooked or maybe you unexpectedly have the house to yourself for an hour or two. How do you spend your time?

Of late, I have to admit, I’ve been overdoing it on phone time and it occurred to me last night that I needed to step away. I’m usually refreshing Twitter to get a fix of what everyone’s talking about and often times I have to look something up just to get the gist of what’s being said. It is a foxhole I go down and before I know it an hour may have passed. And with Trump dominating my news feed, it is also mentally exhausting. Could I have instead been doing something more constructive like writing in my journal, meditating, reading or the many other things I love to do but don’t seem to find time for anymore?

I also have to put my house back together. For four months I have let it go to pot as construction ensued in the dining room, office, master bath and finally the kitchen. We are 95% complete! But the heavy lifting is still ahead as I go through our boxes and boxes of belongings to root out what we actually need and use. How have we accumulated so much stuff?! Last night I put down the phone and while Jim and Liam were at a baseball game I forced myself to focus on emptying out a few of the boxes. At the end of two hours, I felt more accomplished than if I’d spent that same time frustratingly trying to reach new levels at Candy Crush (an admittedly poor choice of how I use my free time).

I’m am not advocating for not doing frivolous or even mindless things with our free time because I think sometimes our brain just needs a break to chill out. I just need to be wary of how much time I spend this way.

What are some ways you like to just chill out and how do you set limits for things you know are time wasters?

MC

 

Life

An unexpected message

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I haven’t watched much TV in the past year or so. It used to give me so much pleasure to get involved in a show, (Downton Abbey, Scandal (through season 4) and my favorite binge watch of all time – Breaking Bad) but somewhere along the way I decided to spend more time reading and less time on television. Partly too, I was having trouble sleeping and they say less screen time, especially at night, is key.

Recently I let Liam (my 11 year old) talk me into watching a show he loves called The Flash which is a show about an (accidental?) Super Hero who is super fast and stops criminals from doing criminal things. I wanted to make him happy so I agreed to watch the first episode and much to my surprise I really liked it. It’s been a few weeks and I’m only on episde three, so there you go.

Last night, after watching the third episode, I decided to browse around Netflix and see what else was on. I wanted something no more than an hour and after several minutes of scanning titles, I settled on Hannah Gadsby’s, Nanette, because I had seen several people mention it on Twitter as a must see. It looked like a fairly typical standup comedy show but I was not prepared for what it turned into. In my opinion, everyone should watch it.

Hannah Gadsby is a lesbian who doesn’t know how to categorize herself. She makes jokes about coming out, people’s reactions, people who have suggestions and critiques of her. That she’s not lesbian enough for some and that others don’t think she should treat her mental health issues. So many opinions about how she should live her life. She jokes about it until she doesn’t. I really don’t want to give anything else away but it was an extremely powerful show that made me think and emathize and also it made me cry. A lot. Totally unexpected for a “comedy” show.

This is basically the TED talk of all TED talks that every human should see.

MC

Life, Uncategorized

This and that

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My brother and I, age 8 and 6

Today would have been my brother‘s 53rd birthday, so far he has missed 32 of them. It used to be a very painful day for me because our birthdays fall just 10 days apart and we often had a dual celebration when we were growing up. They say time heals all wounds and while that doesn’t fit in most cases of lost loved ones, it seems to have dulled the ache over the past three decades. These days I sometimes fleetingly think about what could have been if he hadn’t died, but living in the past is good for no one. It’s all about accepting our current reality.

Time is a true healer and the things that seemed urgent and insurmountable a couple of weeks ago are background noise today. I mentioned in a previous post that my dad had been the victim of a fraud scam (to the tune of $4,400). I was so angry about this and to be honest, initially, I couldn’t fathom how he could have fallen for the scam which is known as the “grandparent scam“.  After hearing him tell what happened I understood how he could have been duped and only felt the deepest heartache for a man who has only approached life with optimism and trust in his fellow humans. He has given the shirt off his back on many occasions over the years and is always willing to lend a helping hand. He is the last person who should have been the victim of a scam. My siblings and I have pitched in to make him whole and it has been a learning and growing experience for all of us.

That same week we were at the bottom of our patience reserves with our pre-teen. Every day was bringing more fighting than peace and my husband and I didn’t know how we were going to survive the summer and quite possibly the rest of his years until he was safely through his teen angst. We called in an expert and came up with a plan together to at least get through the next few weeks. It hasn’t been without its bumps but it no longer feels insurmountable. I’m constantly reminded that below all the turmoil is a good kid with a big heart and he often makes me laugh. The other day he posed the question “what if Wakanda didn’t exist” and then proceeded to tell me how all the other Marvel plots would fall apart if that had been the case. He is even making a Marvel lover out of me(this is a genre I had always avoided)! He loves magic and jokes and is always trying to entertain us. He is not out to get us! I have to remind myself he is trying to come into his own now and it’s time to loosen the strings.

This week will bring our contractor back to us. In the middle of our home renovation project, he had the audacity to get married and go on a honeymoon. The nerve! No, seriously, he is a great guy and I’m so happy for him and his new wife. He has been a tremendous worker and cares a great deal about his craftsmanship that I have no doubt we will be blown away by the end product. We are definitely in the final weeks of the project and the house will be back together by the time September arrives.

Happy Sunday.

MC

Life

Kate Spade

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The death of Kate Spade, only a few days old, has hit me hard for reasons that are hard to explain. I have read story after story, all the same version with very few details and I’m trying to make sense of it all. I do not own a Kate Spade bag, nor any high-quality statement bags save for a heavily discounted Coach bag purchased at an outlet because I can’t pull the trigger on anything over $100. I am all for clothes and shoes but for some reason cannot make the leap for an expensive purse.

I think what bothers me about this death as with all suicides is that the person did not see better days ahead. Could not comprehend in that moment or in the vastly larger blocks of time of their depression – days, weeks, months, years – that things would eventually change and make living bearable. Life is hard and we don’t always know in what ways for the people who walk among us. Some of us cannot comprehend a life that is so bad it is not worth living anymore. We think of them as selfish or weak. I do not.

Like most others, I experience those times when I’d rather not live either. Life can be HARD. I too have experienced many bad days on end where it seems like it would just make sense to pack it all in. Just drift into the nothingness of death so as not to have to deal with the hard stuff. Thankfully, these are fleeting thoughts because I remind myself that whatever it is, this too will pass. I also don’t have the guts to formulate and follow through with an actual plan. There is also the fact that my brother took his own life when he was 21 and I was 19. I saw the devastating results of suicide first hand and I couldn’t do that to someone else. Instead, I chose to seek help from a professional when necessary.

It doesn’t really matter what the backstory was for Kate. She was in so much pain that she couldn’t live anymore. Mental health holds a stigma as does addiction and these are a deadly combo when left untreated. My heart goes out to her family, for their long road ahead and the public scrutiny this death seems to demand. For many years I chose anger and denial in dealing with my brother’s death. I also succumbed to addiction as one of the byproducts. I had to forgive him and myself and even though it has been a hard road, I am better for my trip down it.

There was also a time when I was passionately involved in suicide prevention. I anonymously answered phone calls, often late into the night when the other person would cry or lash out or simply hang on the line in silence. Do suicide prevention hotlines work? Do people use them? I never felt adequate enough when I was on the other end of the line. Their voices and hopelessness stayed with me through the next few days as I went about life. Eventually, I couldn’t do it anymore for my own mental health. I wish I had answers but I don’t.

If you think you are out of options with nowhere to turn, please reach out. The National Suicide Prevention hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

RIP Kate Spade.

MC

Life

The Office

Yesterday I sat in my half-completed office, the new floor tiled and clean. Empty of all but the relics of construction detritus. I pulled a chair in from the nearby deck and just sat and envisioned the room as I see it Friday afternoon which I’m pretty sure will be the day it’s all put back together. I cannot tell you how good this feels after nearly six weeks of slow progress. There is still so much more but for now, this is everything.

For the past 15 years I have been in our house, this is the only room that remained untouched, bearing the scars of wallpaper hung sometime in the 90’s. The furniture is mish-mash and the room has served as a dumping ground for all things brought into the house – bookbags, ski paraphernalia, lacrosse gear, stuff we didn’t know what else to do with. I have tried to organize it and make it nice but it rarely looks better than a forgotten space. We decided a couple of years ago to finally redo the room we could never quite bring ourselves to call “the office”. Wainscotting was purchased in a moment of optimism but has languished in the basement for two years. One vision had us adding a fireplace but we found the cost, done right, was exorbitant for the size of the room and the use we’d get out of it.

Currently, it serves as a mudroom, office, dog feeding station, maildrop, command center, quiet reading area, shoe repository, recycling center and holder of random household things. I have my work cut out to change its image among our household members as a more refined place, a place of respect that deserves better than our cast-off coats and shoes. Our contractor caught me sizing up an area of the room yesterday and mistook it for displeasure in the work they’d done. Really, I was deep in thought about how to make this room really sing and work for us and I quickly assured him that wasn’t the case.

I have an old, old glassed-door (ugly green lining hides the contents) bookcase that has served as a centerpiece for organizing the room and it was a hand me down from my grandfather’s office of the 1950’s. When I was a child I  used it to house my library of books and I was our household’s self-appointed librarian and even put library card slots in all the books. I had a small table that served as the checkout desk. I’ve been thinking of letting the piece go because it doesn’t fit my new decor scheme, but I’m definitely struggling with this.

There is also the light colored desk that was a hand me down from an aunt and has a black leather top and old-fashioned drawer nobs. There is a sturdy, dark wood bookcase. The comfortable love seat was a new addition last year. None of it matches or looks right in that bespoke way of homes filled with old treasures that don’t match. I still have work to do in the envisioning of it as a whole. I’m just happy to be a little closer to that day.

Life

Embracing Awkward

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I am not socially fluid. I don’t know what to say in many situations. I also find it very hard to start small talk with strangers, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try. Sometimes I’ll be in a situation giving myself a pep talk to just say something. Make a comment about their dog. Their cute bag. Their baby. I will give you a full blown example of a situation.

A couple months ago I decided to stop into a Starbucks to do some writing. People just keep to themselves, right? I was sitting in an area with four comfy leather chairs and observed a couple come in with a newborn baby. You could tell it was a major outing for them. Maybe they had to go out for a doctor’s appointment and decided to stop for a quick coffee on the way home. The dad got the mom and baby situated before heading to the counter for their drinks. The mom looked tired and a bit overwhelmed so I decided I would reach out.

I was that new mother once and it was nice when people talked to me about my baby. I asked how old she was. What her name was (it was a very unusual and lovely name). If this was her first (yes) and how being a new mom was going. She admitted she was overwhelmed and I offered what I hope were comforting words. I did not say this time passes too fast and to hang onto every moment (this is one thing that was said to me over and over, hundreds of times, especially when I was complaining about some facet of motherhood). I told her to take care. It wasn’t a flowing conversation by any means and I kept my voice quiet and mellow.

Then another woman came over cooing and awing away in such a joyful and interested way. She was full of questions and thoughts that made me think, so that’s how it is to not be socially awkward with strangers. It made me think about my own stilted interaction with the new mom. I should have shown more excitement. But that’s just not me. I love babies and puppies as much as the next person but if I don’t have a personal connection to you already, I can’t overact the situation – high voice, joyful tone, natural, sunny attitude. I am a reserved person, especially with strangers.

A couple weeks ago we were at a social function for our son’s school. I do not enjoy these situations very much because I am not home reading a book or a million other things I’d rather be doing. I don’t drink and cannot hear well in noisy environments which also is a strain in social situations. I keep to one on one interactions as much as possible but I’m just as happy to sit and people watch. I’d rather observe than participate, I guess. I think this makes me awkward to others but I have learned to just embrace it. I have been told I can come off snobbish because I don’t always engage. I feel like we live in a society that values outgoing people over the quiet ones but I’ve learned to be OK with that.

MC

 

Life

The chaos of home renovations

The early days of renovation

It’s probably no small coincidence that my last blog post of over two weeks ago coincides with the progressing and now overwhelming chaotic state of my home which is undergoing (apparently) vast renovation. It started with pulling apart our master bath which left us unable to inhabit the master bedroom. We pulled up stakes and moved into the extremely unorganized guest room upstairs and have been there ever since. It’s a dodgy existence. The chaos has served as a slow moving infection that is seeping into all areas of life.

On day one I came home to find our vanity and toilet planted in the area directly in front of my dresser with only  a few drawers accessible that housed my underwear, pajamas, shorts and exercise clothes. The closet too. This is okay because I don’t need socks or scarves this time of year and was able to pull what I needed to survive in the guest room. We could get to the ironing area by climbing over the bed (now covered with coats, boots and random paraphernalia from our entry closet where the floor is being replaced) which for me has only happened once out of sheer necessity. I figured we’d be back in business in the master room by now but it sits starkly empty down to the studs with the contents sitting patiently in the garage ready to be called into duty.

Day two I came home to find the contents of my office in the dining and living rooms and it has been downhill ever since. Fortunately we will still have our kitchen another few weeks while we wait for cabinets to come in. I’m hopeful that the other areas will be put back together by then and I’ll be better mentally prepared for this transition. Maybe not.

So at the end of week one, on my Friday day off that was full of errands and to dos, the contractor sat me down to tell me his partner has not been showing up to work and basically took some of the money we paid out to start the job and did a runner. Yeah, that day pretty much sucked but I feel confident in the remaining guy who has brought in more help although it’s going much slower than anticipated.

What is the moral of the story? I don’t really know because it hasn’t played out in it’s entirety yet. We’re living in a confined space and even Liam’s room is chocked full of pieces of our house so that he really only has a narrow passage to get to his bed. Partly it’s been a freeing experience because I don’t have to worry about cleaning up (or yelling at Liam to clean his room). I merely have to keep up a bit of laundry, keep the dishes washed and make sure nothing important gets lost in the clutter. It will be helpful when it comes to putting our rooms back together because I’ll likely be able to throw or donate a lot of things I find we don’t need anymore.

Tomorrow is my first Friday off at home without a dozen things going on so I’m planning to take my laptop somewhere to write to escape the noise of the work. I will hang around to talk to the workers who I barely see and to find out how it’s going recovering the money he paid out to his former partner. I hope he has good news. I will also try to get an estimate on our master bath which will begin the return to normalcy in our chaotic home life. Stay tuned.

MC

Life

2018 Goals Check-in

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Back in January, I wrote out a lengthy list of things I wanted to accomplish or do better in 2018. I got myself a brand new fancy notebook (I definitely have a problem with buying notebooks and journals) and promptly lost it under a pile of papers and books to read. So much for getting organized! I dug it out last week to see what I wrote and how I was doing with it. Continue reading “2018 Goals Check-in”

Life

The Philosophy of Kanye West

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Yesterday as I was perusing my Twitter feed and something weird kept popping up. Retweets of random messages from Kanye West. I am not a follower and I don’t subscribe to the whole Kardashian way of living so I was a little surprised by this.  How did these tweets make their way into my timeline? Why is everyone retweeting Kanye? Why did The Skimm’s top link today reference this tweet storm? Turns out Kanye is writing a book about philosphy. And guys, he’s doing it in real time on Twitter. I am questioning what kind of parallel universe I’m living in.

I like to go right to the source of things so I made my way over to his Twitter feed and clicked follow. Am I falling into a trap here? Thanks to my stint working in a newsroom, I think I have a healthy dose of cynicism skepticism and so immediately tried to discern a motive for his sudden interest in writing these brief tweets. Is Kanye’s philosophizing all about drawing eyeballs to himself? So he can sell more whatever? Albums. Clothing. Lifestyle. Page views. Some of the things he was saying seem to go against the entire grain of what the Kardashians seem to be about.

Continue reading “The Philosophy of Kanye West”