Tag Archives: family


I finally washed most of my windows this past Wednesday. It took most of the day. A day where I started out to do other things, but the murky opacity of my windows on a beautiful spring day made me realize that the other things could wait. When it was done it felt good to see the bright sunlight and look out through clear windows on the blossoming world.

Seems like that might be a metaphor: sometimes you have to stop what you are doing and wash the windows in order to get clarity.

The past few weeks have been very busy, no time for window washing, or even looking out my dirty ones. My grandmother has been without a caregiver since the middle of March.  It has been a real challenge to get her to doctor appointments, to lunch every day, and get the dogs walked, and to try and find caregivers so I don’t have to keep doing everything myself. During the past week things finally started to come together. Good thing since I felt a bit like I was coming apart.

One point of clarity for me during this period has been that I don’t have the balance between taking care of others and taking care of myself figured out. I do the things I need to do for Grandma, plus some extra, but neglect taking care of my own home. I wound up cleaning my bathroom with a toothbrush in my mouth the other night because it needed it so badly.

Another, not unrelated, point of clarity is that I really want to be a granddaughter, not a caregiver. I want to have the time and energy to go on outings:

and plan special celebrations:

Grandma turned 93 in March and her health is okay, but she has become noticeably weaker since the beginning of the year.

No answers yet but recognizing the issue clearly may help me work the problem.


Buckle your Seat Belt- the Family is Gathering

This post was started before Thanksgiving, in response to the Daily Post prompt “Seat Guru”.

FYI: Seat Guru is the name of a website that is: “The ultimate source for airplane seating, in-flight amenities, flights, shopping and airline information.”

My family will gather for Thanksgiving, some smarter members will participate by calling in to say “Happy Thanksgiving”.  We could do a National Lampoon Family Holiday movie with almost no exaggeration. If we are in the same house and nothing blows up then the seating plan is perfect. Except that there is never a plan.

Our holiday gatherings are held at my dad’s place. It is definitely a barmy old codger’s pad (rat poison in the Kleenex box, skill saw on the dining table…). There is usually a close match between the number of human beings and the number of dogs. Dad doesn’t have much seating and all the dogs are people (they sit on the furniture). So these things tend to be a slow motion game of musical chairs played to football games and home improvement shows.

In preparation for this year’s festivities, I wanted to get a fire breathing dragon drone to guard the kitchen. I figured I could use it to dive bomb and breath fire on people who came into the kitchen when I was trying to cook. My husband talked me out of it.

One year at Easter the men installed a microwave over the top of the stove where I was trying to cook a meal. This was not a smooth, everything-fits-first-time type of installation,it involved several tries where the microwave occupied the only usable counter space while the installation team regrouped. Part way through the project my sister backed her car over a bank and the installation crew went to haul her mini-van out of a small ravine. Very shortly after that her new boy friend arrived in his spiffy Mini-Cooper and we were all told not to mention the over-the-bank incident. It got so ridiculous that when my Dad’s girlfriend arrived I offered her a dog biscuit as an hors d’oevre (bless her heart she got the joke!). I could have really used a fire breathing dragon that time!

Update: we didn’t have any dramatic quirkiness this year. I wonder if we are losing our touch…maybe we are getting old. I do still wish I had a fire breathing dragon drone… maybe for Christmas.


Broken in Silence

I swore (which I rarely do) at a guy in a construction zone who made me turn around and walk blocks out of my way, for saying “I am sorry for your inconvenience”, because I know, good and well, that NO ONE on God’s green, but rapidly browning, earth gives one accursed tenth of a rat’s hindquarters about my convenience.  He was just parroting what he was trained to say to crazy people. When I got home I realized that I needed to stay home for a while.

I shouldn’t have broken that silence (and I didn’t yell, he may not have heard me since there was a lot of construction noise), but I was already in tears and trying to get a few things done quickly so I could get home and melt down in peace.

The silences I should break are not with a  stranger in a construction zone. They are with people closer to me. But the words are never there and those people are full of their own joys and concerns, fears and stresses. I get it, but I still feel a bit like a sacrificial washer being squished out of shape between other people’s rough edges.

Even saying “should” is debatable. There is a tension between the “if you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all” and “tell it like it is” camps. I grew up in the era where those two were competing with each other in our culture.

My mother would always say “If you can’t say something nice don’t say anything at all”, but she did not come close to practicing what she preached. It was a standard for others. Mostly trotted out when something said was not to her liking. “Tell it like it is” was for her, not anyone who might make her feel uncomfortable.

With that upbringing, being a non-confrontational sort, I developed a different philosophy:” try to find something honest to say that which will make other people feel good”. It doesn’t have a catchy ring to it. More importantly, it can be very difficult to find the right words, so, more often than not, silence it is!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Break the Silence.”

Do I know you from somewhere?

The rather interesting question posed is “how would you get along with your siblings, parents, etc. that you have known for a long time if you only just met them?”

It is really hard to figure out an answer to that, I do not think I would ever meet any member of my family, even my spouse, if we were not already in contact. Our paths would never cross.

Then I wonder, how can that be? How can it be that people from the same source have gown so far apart that they would never meet? Surely there must be something? Maybe if we met there would be a vague sense of deja vu.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Delayed Contact.”

Gramps’s Legacy

Going through papers looking for the information needed by the VA for a pension for Grandma , I found these items in an old chest of my grandfather’s, things he collected and cherished.

Memorabilia from the Marines. Including all the letters related to his Distinguished Flying Cross. He was a Marine, an everyday, ordinary hero, manning up until he could no longer stand up.In physical therapy during the week before his death you could see him struggle, but he never complained.

His ukulele book. He taught himself to play the ukulele and brought it along on many vacations. We learned the songs with pauses for chord changes.:

  • I’m looking over a four leafed clover, That
  • I over-looked before.
  • One leaf is sunshine, the…
  • second is rain,
  • third is the roses that…
  • grow in the lane…
  • No need explaining, the one remaining is…
  • somebody I adore. 
  • I’m looking over a…
  • four leafed clover that
  • I over-looked before.

A joke we had fun with. Can you figure it out?

  • OSAR
  • LIB
  • OSAR
  • LIB
  • OSAR
  • LIB
  • OSAR
  • LIB

I don’t know how I want to be remembered. My brain seems to only be firing on a couple of cylinders right now, but when I saw the prompt, it made me think of Gramps.

I can almost prune an apple tree, due to his coaching. I would be up the ladder in the tree and I could tell when I should cut a branch off because his hands would twitch, as if he were using clippers.

I mostly find humor in things…and I sing “I’m looking over, a four leafed clover” with gusto, out of tune and with rests in all the wrong places. And I tend to stick with things…to a fault sometimes. Maybe, just a little bit, I am his legacy. And maybe what I wish for as a legacy is someone who remembers me with fondness, even though I am usually out of tune and it takes me a while to change chords.

Semper fi!!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Don’t You Forget About Me.” and Legacy.

Food for the Journey

We human beings need food to survive. Eating engages fully our most intimate senses: touch, taste and smell. Throughout our lives we use food to celebrate and to share as well as to hold body and soul together. In the course of life different foods become symbols. As we near death we do not need to eat for sustenance, so a last supper is not a physical need. The question of what one would have is really “What do you want to remember as you leave everything you have ever known behind?” I can’t answer that for myself, but here is a story that relates:

My grandfather died from Kidney cancer in 2002. He was on hospice in a skilled nursing facility. He wanted to eat bacon with his pancakes. But he had come into the facility from a heart attack and someone had checked the box on his diet sheet that said he was to have a low salt, low fat diet (he might have weighed 100 lbs at that point and he was 5’7” in his prime). Logic be darned they wouldn’t just give the guy a strip of bacon.

It took me three days to get that order changed. By then Gramps wasn’t eating anything, but when they brought in his breakfast he saved the piece of bacon to eat later. He died a couple of days later and the strip of bacon was tucked in a drawer, along with the shaker of salt I had smuggled in for him. I wonder if the smell comforted him, and if that strip of bacon nourished his soul.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry….”

My Baby’s Birthday

Sweet Baby James
Sweet Baby James

The tree peony is blooming, right on schedule. It was blooming the day he was born.


Birthday Cake and Boy
Birthday Cake and Boy

Almost every year I have baked him a cake. I made a dinosaur cake when he was five, a wild west cake when he was six, a space cake when he was seven… One year he said he wanted a cake from Safeway and it almost broke my heart. He got over that phase pretty quickly (my cakes really do taste better). He discovered and fell in love with tiramisu when he was twelve or so. Since it is kind of a pain to make, I only ever made it for his birthday and it became a tradition. It seems strange to not be gathering the ingredients for it. It feels a little melancholy when these little traditions get edged out of our lives.

2014 Birthday Cake
2014 Birthday Cake
Birthday celebration 2014
Birthday celebration 2014

Last year I visited him in China for his birthday. He didn’t have an oven so it was a store bought cake again. Shared with his friends in a hot pot restaurant.

Hard to believe that my little five pound peanut is six feet tall! I miss him.

A Quilt on the Table…Waiting for Shoes to Drop

I looked up the source of “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Wiki-something-or-other says that it comes from early industrial age tenements where the walls and floors were thin. You could hear your neighbors getting ready for bed and when you hear one shoe hit the floor you know another will soon.

It is used two ways:

  1. to defer action until another matter is finished or resolved
  2. to await a seemingly inevitable event, especially one that is not desirable.

Two shoes have dropped, on different sides of the bed. We have two crises pending in the family. Both are inevitable. The exact details of the crises are not clear, but sooner or later both situations will result in an unpleasant, stress-filled crisis (if we are lucky it will be one crisis each, but I am not optimistic). It is hard to live like that. Not wanting the crises, but knowing they are brewing and that the people who could make the situations better will not. I have no say in the matter but will, inevitably, be called on to pick up the pieces and try to put them back together.

The phone call or calls may come in the next few minutes or the next few months. Every time the phone rings I flinch, then stiffen my spine and answer.

What is wrong in this picture?

Quilt block in the 54-40 or fight pattern, shades of purple, blue and aqua.


Enough pouting, how do I stay sane waiting? I find sewing therapeutic. I get to touch fabric, enjoy color and create something, it takes focus, but on something I enjoy…and I have some control over the outcome.

So I decided to make a quilt, in this case I decided to finish a quilt I started over a decade ago (bonus points toward sanity). Quilts do take on a life of their own sometimes. So it isn’t always as controlled as one might think, and this one was no exception.

I made the star blocks over a decade ago after having read a book about color. I don’t remember the theory or philosophy that lead the the choices, but I still love the colors. Every so often I have brought the blocks out, but have never figured out how to put them together. I finally decided to float the stars in a midnight blue sky instead of trying to make a pattern.

Since I started the quilt so long ago and didn’t have a clear enough plan when I started, I did not have enough of the right fabrics to finish the project. The fabrics I used are no longer available and even the basic colors are not in vogue (royal blue seems to be in, not midnight, since when is midnight blue unfashionable?) so finding fabrics cohesive with the color scheme was a bit of a challenge. The fabrics I got to finish things up were not quite what I had in mind when I set out, either to make the quilt in the first place or when I plotted how to finish it this time, but I think the quilt will actually be better than I imagined.

It is coming together now. Having one thing come together, even if it is just a quilt, helps me cope with the stress of waiting for the inevitable crises. Problem is that there are only so many quilts one empty nest can hold.

I wonder if my hobby of putting different bit of fabric together to form a project is related in some way to why I always seem to get the calls?

This post was inspired by the post “Just a Stick in my Spokes” on the Miss Understood blog.

Claiming Joy

Life gets complicated, and often I see in the past the seeds of the bad stuff. I forget to see also the seeds of joy. Frankly, I had forgotten that my childhood was pretty happy. Today I spent several hours scanning my father’s slides to digital images, doing so I found myself confronting happiness.Mother with two children in swimming pool.

I come from a broken home and we have had our share of trials and tribulations, but before it broke, and even as it was breaking there was love and fun. Good things happened. People who wound up having difficulties and causing pain to one another were not always so.

Being analytic and having trained as an engineer, I am programmed to try to solve problems, to understand what is wrong and try to tweak things to make them better. That colors how I look at the past. I keep looking for what went wrong.

Seeing pictures of myself with my family having fun, the house I grew up with, and even my dad’s old blue pickup truck loaded down with lumber, sort of rubbed my nose in the happiness.
Going through the old pictures allows me to wallow for a bit in the joy, it belongs to me just as much as the other.

An old ford pickup truck loaded down with lumber.
The old, blue pickup.