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Monday, April 27, 2015

Wait Your Turn, Please

While we were out and about today, something happened that made me remember one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite films. The film is The Shawshank Redemption (1994) and was based on the story Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (1982, Different Seasons) by Stephen King. There is a character named Brooks Hatlen who is released after spending almost his entire life in prison. He has no idea of what the world is like any more, or how to live in it. He writes a letter to his friends in the prison which had been his only home for so many years and tells them that he is frightened and has bad dreams. He mentions that he saw an automobile once when he was a kid but now they are everywhere. "The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry," he says.

We were driving on one of the major streets in our area and saw a fancy Cadillac with out-of-state license plates turning out of a Starbucks near Interstate 25. "Uh-oh!" I said as the driver made a jerking turn into the lane to our right. Unfortunately, my instincts proved to be spot-on. Although there was little to no traffic behind us, this driver was compelled to turn right when they reached the major street. Apparently the driver saw us, hence the wonky hard turn into their nearest lane. But as soon as we were right next to them, they turned on their left turn indicator and immediately started changing lanes.

Now, I will freely admit to not being the smartest person in the world, but there are some things that I do know. And I know that Mr. or Ms. Cadillac Driver was attempting to break a law. A law of physics, something about two objects not being able to occupy the same space at the same time. Thanks to Trent's quick thinking, we avoided having my passenger-side-riding body smashed to smithereens by a big Cadillac. As Trent looked briefly in the rear-view mirror, the Cadillac bullied across three lanes of traffic to make a left turn back onto the highway. If the driver had simply waited about fifteen seconds, they could have made their way onto the street, and then the highway, with no problems whatsoever. 

The funny thing about this is that something similar but even scarier happened to us yesterday as we were driving to church. We had a green light, again on a busy and major street. I saw a car at the upcoming intersection begin a right turn onto our street. Naturally, instead of turning into the right lane, they turned directly into the left lane. Luckily for us there were no cars in the left turn lane for the traffic going in the opposite direction because we had to go into that lane to prevent being smooshed by an SUV. The driver went blithely on her merry way, completely oblivious of the accident she almost caused by not bothering to look for oncoming traffic before she turned.

When that happened yesterday, it made me think of my father-in-law, who is now gone from us. He believed that the front-seat passenger had some definite responsibilities, and he took them very seriously. These included being a lookout for various things in the flow of traffic, like a car in the driver's blind spot, and generally assisting with navigation. The responsibility he took most seriously as the person "riding shotgun" was yelling insults about the annoying or downright dangerous mistakes made by the other drivers on the road. He'd have had his work cut out for him the last couple of days, that's for sure! 

I don't want to sound preachy, but I can't help but think that life would be safer and less stressful if we paid more attention to the road when we're driving than we devote to our coffee or our cell phones. And I can't help but wonder if everyone should have left their homes ten minutes earlier or if the world really has gotten itself in a "big damn hurry," as Brooks Hatlen said. I'd rather think it's a matter of being a big hurry rather than lots of people being driven by a feeling of self-importance and a lack of concern for others. 

Luckily we don't find ourselves as overwhelmed by the world being in a big rush like the character of Brooks Hatlen did. The fast-moving, wide openness of the world proved too much for him, and his character found himself fantasizing about buying a gun and holding up the grocery store where he worked as a bag boy. He thought that if he did this, maybe even shooting the manager, that he would be sent "home" to the prison. His gentle nature made him unable to take this cruel step, so he decided to leave the world behind completely by ending his own life and his misery. After I see people rushing around like this I sometimes find myself wondering (after the angry feelings have cooled down) if, like Brooks, they are overwhelmed by the hurry they seem to find themselves in. If so, I hope they can slow themselves down and find a sense of peace. And I hope that they and their fellow motorists keep safe.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Dollar Dazed

Several years ago the bank branch at which my sister Liz worked was robbed. Whether it happens directly to you or not, having someone come into your workplace with a gun and threaten violence is traumatizing. Like many of her coworkers, Liz suffered from some post-traumatic stress after this happened. When you consider some of the things we experienced in our youth, it makes sense that something so dramatic would have an even greater impact on her than on some of her coworkers. Her doctor and her bosses agreed that Liz needed some time away from the branch to deal with the after-effects of this awful experience. Liz's husband suggested that she call both me and our friend Julie to see if we could arrange a road trip to visit Julie in Utah. Everything fell into place and we were soon on the road away from the stress and headed toward some fun. 

Liz and I have had our challenges with one another in the past, but one thing we do really well is traveling together. When we start on a road trip Liz always refers to me as Navigator. A little-known fact: when there are two people traveling by automobile, the person in the passenger seat has some definite and vital responsibilities. They include making sure that the driver stays alert and awake and watching out for important things like road signs and herds of wild critters or any other photo opportunities. Lesser-known responsibilities include keeping an eye on the traffic and vocalizing insults about any reckless or otherwise annoying drivers.

Since Liz is my older sister, she seems to think that her responsibilities include not only driving, but torturing her only younger sibling. I keep hoping to get to the age at which this torture will stop, but I am beginning to fear that I can't possibly live that long. We headed out of the Denver area, went north to Wyoming, and then headed west. When evening came and we had had dinner, we started to hit some really awful weather. I mean to tell you, it was a Noah-and-his-Ark level rainstorm. It was such torrential rain, and with such poor visibility, that I started calling it a rain blizzard. The fact that we were on the road at the same time as a lot of huge freight trucks added to the lack of visibility. Talk about major backsplash!

After a while of this, we decided to stop at a place called Little America, which is famous for being a good place to stop on the road, especially if you want an ice cream cone. After we got back on the road, the rain was still quite heavy. Suddenly my nose was really unhappy. It smelled like we were driving by a sewage processing plant or maybe even two or three. I could feel my nose and forehead scrunching up in distaste. I know that sewage processing plants are vitally important, but that doesn't mean I like the way they smell. I said something to Liz about the stench and she didn't really respond. "Don't you smell that? It's awful!" Liz started giggling, and I knew that she had released some weapons-grade stench in the car. I had a moment in which I turned into a passenger-seat pooch. In spite of the rain, I had the window rolled all the way down and my head completely out of the car, while Liz enjoyed her fit of the giggles. Older siblings...

When we were with Julie, we did all sorts of fun things, including one of Liz and Julie's favorite pastimes, shopping. We were out and about one day when I noticed that one of our favorite dollar stores had a location in Julie's hometown. Surprisingly, Liz had never heard of this huge national chain, which has the same price for everything - one dollar. Actually, there are some candy products that only cost fifty-nine cents, but you get the idea. Do you need a pair of flip-flops? They're a dollar. Nail polish? Toothpaste or a toothbrush? Aluminum foil, food containers, shampoo, even some books, and tons more? A dollar each.

Julie and I told Liz that it was a fun place to shop because it's really a dollar store, everything costing a dollar or less. As we went through the store, Liz was losing her little mind. "Look at these cute baby snack containers! How much do they cost?" A dollar. "Oh, Kakee! (A nickname she uses for me. Please don't attempt to use it, because if you do I won't respond. She has the rights to that nickname.) Look at these makeup sponges! How much do they cost?" A dollar. This happened with a few more products before I said, "Liz, do you see that banner on the wall, the one that says everything's a dollar? It's there because everything costs a dollar, okay?"

We got a huge chuckle out of it, and every time I go to the local store I hear Liz asking me how much something costs. About every other trip, Trent or I will act excited about something we find in the store and ask the other one how much it costs. (You didn't know that, did you, Liz?) And when we do, we tell the story to whoever will listen. We have made many a dollar store employee laugh when we told them the story of Liz and how she became dollar dazed. But I usually leave out the part about how I had to hang my head out in the rain to survive riding in her car!


Monday, April 20, 2015

Maxine

I imagine that there are some of you reading the title of this blog post and thinking that I am writing about a cantankerous old lady who appears in numerous cartoons. Although I find the cartoon character Maxine to be very entertaining, this post is not about her. It is about a very real and very entertaining old lady whom I knew briefly and found captivating. I hope I am able to do her justice in tonight's post.

My sister Liz invited me over to her home to visit and to meet Maxine, my brother-in-law Richard's mother. Maxine was a tiny little lady with silvery hair and bright, mischievous eyes. She had come from her home in Kansas to spend several days visiting her family in the Denver area and was staying with Liz and Richard. One of my first exposures to Maxine involved playing a card game. I don't remember the rules or even the name of the card game, but old Maxine was a bit of a card sharp. I don't mean that in the old meaning of the phrase - she was not cheating or misdirecting. She was just very skilled at the game, and I was a new player, AKA sucker, I think!

Maxine's eyes weren't as sharp as they had once been, so she had Richard sitting next to her to help her know exactly which cards she was holding. Her face was glowing during the game and she was enjoying it immensely. She sat across from me with a beaming smile on her face because she was just so happy to be having so much fun. She would show her son her cards and say, "Oh, look, these are really pretty, aren't they?" Then she would proceed to win the hand with the calm but happy attitude of a seasoned player.

A couple of evenings later, I was invited over for dinner, a meal which Maxine had cooked. Let me tell you, this little old lady from Kansas made the most delicious stuffed bell peppers I had ever eaten. To this day, I have yet to find anyone who can make them any better than Maxine. They were so good that I was more than happy to have a second serving. Maxine's face was beaming just like it had been when she was beating us at cards. She told me that she liked watching me eat because I was enjoying it so much. I've said it many times, when I like something, I really like it. And Maxine could tell, when I sampled her cooking, that I really liked it!

After a few days, Maxine was eager to return to her retirement community apartment and see friends her own age. Liz and Richard drove her back to Kansas when she was ready to go home. As soon as she walked into her apartment, she knocked loudly on the wall so that her friend next door would know that she was home and would soon be available to go out with her to play Bingo. Liz told me that they decided to take her out to dinner that evening. Even though it delayed her return to her social scene, Maxine was happy to go to a buffet for dinner. Before they left her home, she checked her purse to make sure that she had some zip-top plastic bags. If she was going out to eat, she intended to bring home some leftovers. She knew that she wasn't supposed to bring food home from the buffet, but she and her friends did it every time. The folks at the restaurant knew that they were doing it too - the ladies were pretty up-front about packing up the food. The kindhearted people at the buffet didn't begrudge these sweet little old ladies the little bit of food that they took home with them.

I never saw Maxine again. She died a few years later, and I am sure that she was as missed by her friends as she was by her family. I am happy that I had the brief time I spent with her. I will always treasure my memories of Richard's mother as a smiling card sharp and excellent cook. And if I find myself at a buffet, I look around to see if there are any little old Maxines taking home leftovers in zip-top bags. Even if I never spot one, the thought of it always makes me smile. Good night, Maxine, you are missed and remembered!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Fifty Percent

I've admitted in previous posts to being a busybody snoop dedicated people watcher. And hey, I'm not deaf. When someone is out in public and talking about things virtually right next to me, although I try not to mind everyone's business but my own, I can't exactly just shut off my hearing. I'm sure that you know what I'm talking about. As you're walking through the aisles at the supermarket or sitting in a casual restaurant eating lunch, you hear and see snippets of other people's lives. 

Most of this background activity passes in and out of our consciousness, never to be thought of again. Sometimes, however, you see or hear something that really stays with you. It may be a funny or charming moment, or even an odd one, like when you hear a mom and her son shopping and learn that "turd lips" can actually be a term of endearment. Seriously! She said it lovingly, and he took it that way! At other times, you stew over what you've heard and keep thinking about it for days afterward. 

I recently overheard part of a conversation between two women who were blowing off some steam over lunch. One of them was telling her friend about the latest happenings with her daughter-in-law. DIL does not work, nor does she have any children. Darling Hubby does work. Now here is where it gets interesting. (And if you think I might have shushed my own husband once or twice to facilitate eavesdropping, you'd be wrong. The mother-in-law was upset enough to have a slight power surge to her volume button.) DIL has informed DH that she expects him to do fifty percent of all of the household tasks. 

MIL's friend asked if DIL cooks or does laundry, and apparently she does not. So it sounds to me like DIL stays at home all day reading books and playing on the computer while DH is at his job. When he comes home, he has to either pick up take out, take DIL out to dinner or cook dinner himself. Then he gets to do the dishes, run the vacuum cleaner, do laundry, or whatever. I'm not entirely sure because at this point the ladies had finished their lunches and moved their conversation outside the restaurant and left me hanging.

The wheels in my head really started spinning after hearing their conversation, and Trent and I began talking about the situation. Of course, it's very easy to make value judgements without knowing the full situation. And Trent and I are not the types of people who believe in gender-assigned roles in relationships. Neither of us thinks that one person or another in a relationship should be responsible for certain things based on their gender. But we also don't think that a relationship can be based on some imaginary mathematical formula.

Any relationship, whether it's a marriage, friendship, roomies or whatever, cannot survive based on such guidelines. Relationships consist of people, not numbers. And let's face it, a lot of people looking at the relationship that was just described would say there is something wrong with DIL's math. They'd be likely to say that if DH is working all day and paying all of the bills, then he definitely has his fifty percent covered. And they would say the same thing if DIL was the one working and DH felt like she should come home from work and keep laboring in the home. But is that really the entire issue?

To me, and to Trent (and I suspect to MIL as well), it is about more than that. Love and respect for one another don't resort to quantifying contributions to the work of the home. If people in a relationship are only willing to give half of themselves to make things work, are they fully invested in the relationship? At any time in our lives and interactions, efforts are on a far more fluid and intangible scale. The vagaries of life, all of the events it brings, along with challenges to our emotions, health, and energy, impact our abilities to deal with things as mundane as cooking dinner. A refusal to yield one's ideas and work as a team may be a sign of a far larger problem. A relationship is give-and-take, and sometimes we have to give far more than we take. If we are unwilling to give one hundred percent of our love, energy, respect, and commitment, are we in a relationship, or in the middle of a mistake? 

My Gram, the ever-philosophical one, often said that God laughed when humans made plans. Things seldom go exactly as we'd like them to. Relationships can be the same way. None of the work involved, whether it's the job of nurturing our bodies or nurturing our love, can be quantified by a concrete plan. We have to be willing to bend like trees in the wind. We have to give our all so that the relationship will survive and grow, rather than break. And that's far more than numbers, and way beyond a mere fifty percent.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Eye See You

Yes, I know that the title seems kind of weird. You may be wondering what has happened to the Lunatic to make her write it in such a manner. I realize it's unconventional, but I think it's also kind of...eye-catching. Okay, now I deserve some grief! But this is not a science fiction piece or some super-short horror story, it's just another slice of life. Come on in and have a taste...

My doctor, whom I often refer to as Doctor Mike, or just Mike when I see him face-to-face, has been treating me for a number of things over the years. When I was hospitalized at the age of twenty-nine because my lungs were full of fluid, he came into the room, took one look at me, and said that I had lupus. A few days, several tests and a kidney biopsy later, his diagnosis was confirmed. Systemic lupus can cause problems in any and all systems of the body, and Dr. Mike has been there to help me with all of them.

An interesting thing that I learned fairly soon after my diagnosis is that these various manifestations of lupus can have symptoms that end up being the opposite of what you'd think. For example, there's lupus anticoagulant. It sounds like something that will result in you bleeding profusely if you get a cut or bruise, doesn't it? That's not exactly the case. In a test tube, the blood won't clot like it is expected to, but in the blood vessels it is just the opposite. When you factor in the  clotting problems that seem to run in the family, I guess I didn't stand a chance of missing out on this little bag of goodies.

Mike has been treating me for this inconvenience for more than twenty years. It's been quite a journey. After several incidents of blood clots in my lower legs, he sent me to a vascular surgeon to see if there was something he could do to help me. When a doctor looks at your legs and says, "Wow, that looks pretty bad," it doesn't do much for your spirits. He proceeded to tell me that there was "nothing in the realm of medical science that can be done to alleviate your problem." My fear and anger both began to burn. He went on to tell me that I should elevate my legs when possible ("I can't tell you how much or for how long.") and if if I was lucky I wouldn't develop ulcerations on my legs and have to have my legs amputated. I hobbled out of there as fast as my sore, swollen legs would take me, and never came back again.

Some time later, one of my fears was realized. I began to see open sores on one of my ankles. For the first time in a very long time, this Meanest Woman in the World just broke down and cried. I didn't want to lose my legs. They had problems, but I still wanted to keep them. Frightened of what would come, I made an appointment to see Dr. Mike. When he examined my leg, he gave me the bad news that I did indeed have ulcerations on my ankle. He started to say that he would refer me to Doctor X, the vascular surgeon. I lost it. I started crying and yelling at Mike, "There is no way I am ever going back to that jerk! Don't you even think about trying to send me to see him!" I explained what had happened, and Mike felt terrible about what I had gone through. He promised to work with me on curing the ulcerations and saving my legs.

It was a long and painful process, and I developed more ulcerations over the years, although none were as serious as the first time around. Treatments included various creams that would be applied after I had spent twenty minutes holding a gauze pad soaked with fifty percent strength vinegar on the ulceration. To give you an idea of the level of pain, let me be a bit graphic. Imagine a sore on the inside of your ankle. It is roughly circular, and at least the size of a nickel. The skin is gone, and you can even see a tiny blood vessel in there, which is sort of cool in an icky way. Then you put acid (vinegar) on it. The pain was so great that I couldn't prevent the tears from streaming down my face when I did my treatments. After the first time I did this, Gram told me she couldn't be in the same room with me when I was treating the leg because seeing the amount of pain I was in broke her heart.

I tried all sorts of things, including a prescription cream, applying honey to the wound, using water treated with colloidal silver instead of the vinegar, and even essential oils. It took close to three years for the healing to be complete. I know in the rational part of me that ulcerations can heal and that I can survive the process, but when I develop something that looks like the start of an ulcer, it is enough to make me break down and cry for a minute or a few before I can kick myself in the behind and tell myself to take care of it. There's always something going on in life, after all, and if we're alive, we have the chance of having problems.

I didn't set out to write about the things you've just read, it just happened that way. Maybe it will make the real reason I'm writing make more sense to you. When I saw Mike in December, he gave me grief about not having had an eye exam in a bit of a long while. Knowing that I would see him again in March, I made sure to have an eye exam before that visit. When my opthalmologist (an eye doctor who is an M.D.) said that I had failed the glaucoma test, it scared me. He told me that it was probably not the same thing as the glaucoma that can result in blindness, but it was in the back of my mind until I had my return visit just this last Friday.

A test showed that I had no vision loss, but the pressure check was still a fail. The "average" normal intraocular pressure is fifteen and mine was in the high twenties. It had come down one or two points in both eyes from the even-higher twenties. My wonderful eye doctor, Dr. Kevin May, took me to another eye-examining device and discovered that the result was misleading because my corneas are thicker that average, which is not a problem. It simply provides resistance when the eye pressure is checked, making it seem as though the pressure is higher than it actually is. Ah, the relief of knowing what is going on, and that things are going to be okay, and you worried about nothing!

I left the clinic with a lighter step, knowing that I wouldn't have to worry about my eyes for now. As my less than pretty, but still functioning legs took me to the car, I was even more appreciative of seeing the various beautiful sights around me. My eyes drank in the lovely pink and white tree blossoms and the tightly furled dark purple purple buds of lilac blooms to come. I hope that I can always remember to enjoy and appreciate the body that I call my home, pains, flaws, and all. And if I have my glasses on, eye see you!



Thursday, April 9, 2015

Big Legs

It's funny how two people can be speaking the same language and saying entirely different things. Different areas may have different meanings for words or phrases, and what one might think of as a compliment comes across to another person as a hurtful remark. There's also different standards within individual countries or across the world as far as what constitutes success, intelligence, or beauty, to name a few.

I was made sharply aware of this a number of years ago as I walked through the lobby of the bank in which I worked. Although it wasn't that many years ago, the behaviors that many people indulged in then would be considered blatant harassment these days. Fairly harmless banter was traded back and forth, and it paid to be able to think on your feet. On the day I'm remembering, someone said something that really took me by surprise, and not in a good way.

As I walked through the lobby one day, one of the security staff said to me, "Whoa, Katrina, you've got some big legs!" I was stunned and hurt. This person, with whom I had always been friendly and kind, had just told me that I was fat. I reacted with a combination of anger and hurt. "Well, I guess that being fat runs in my family, but thanks for pointing it out!" I stormed back into my office, trying to shake off my angry/hurt feelings and not burst into tears. Later on, the person in question came to me with a concerned look on his face to apologize for hurting my feelings. Where he came from, telling a woman that she had big legs was a compliment. It actually had nothing whatsoever to do with size; it was a way of telling someone that she had very attractive legs. After learning that I was hurt over an intended compliment, I felt both flattered and silly. I filed the incident away in the back of my memory and moved on without resentment.

Several years later, after having left the bank for a year or more, I found myself back in their employ. One of my favorite coworkers was a very kind young woman from Chihuahua, Mexico named Rosa. When Rosa heard me say a few words in Spanish, she was delighted. She was kind enough to say that my pronunciation was perfect (I told you she was nice!) and she often took a few minutes to teach me a new word or two in Spanish. In fact, Rosa was so thrilled by my love of her native language that she told the ladies who worked on the housekeeping staff that I was a very nice lady who also spoke some Spanish.

These ladies looked at me a bit differently after this. They had a great deal of affection and respect for Rosa, and if Rosa felt that way about me, they were instantly willing to to extend their respect toward me as well. Something that I find intriguing and delightful about Spanish is that there are different ways to say something to someone based on your level of familiarity/friendship, or their age group, for example. If you want to say, "How are you today," there are different ways to say it based on those social guidelines. If you say it to an older person or a stranger or your boss, you use the formal version of the word you, and the words paired with it are slightly different. If you were my customer, I would use usted, the formal form of you, and if you were my friend, I would use the more informal tĂș.

One evening while I was on a break, one of the ladies on the housekeeping staff said to me, "Usted tiene piernas grandes." I immediately took the meaning of the word grande as large, and reacted by clumsily saying that yes, I did have some really grande piernas. She had an interesting look on her face, and I excused myself to go back to work thinking that maybe I shouldn't wear shorts (non-customer contact area, a detached facility, and night shift equal a very casual dress code) or dresses to work if my legs were getting that large. 

When I got back to my work station I told Rosa what had happened. She looked pleased when I said that I had been told that my legs were large. She asked how I responded, and I told her. Her face was full of surprise and concern. "Oh, no, Katrina! She was telling you that you have great legs!" And I had responded by saying the equivalent of "Yes, I know." Yikes. So Rosa jumped right into action, explaining to the woman in question that I was not some sort of rude and conceited person, it was just that I didn't understand that she was giving me a wonderful compliment. Suddenly I was back in the bank lobby, unaware that I had been given a very sincere compliment. And even on the exact same subject!

A number of years have gone by, and health issues have changed the appearance of my legs. There are places on both where the skin is discolored and looks bruised due to chronic superficial phlebitis. When I stand or walk or sit too much, the poor circulation in my legs causes swelling from the knees down. These legs still get me where I'm going, but they don't feel or look as good as they once did. Anyone who tells me my legs are big nowadays is most definitely referring to their swollen size. But I certainly wouldn't mind having my younger and healthier legs back again. Even, or maybe especially, if people told me they were big ones!


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Drama, Mama

If Mister Rogers was still among us and happened to be around here lately, he might say that it has not been a beautiful day in the neighborhood. He would be forgiven for saying this because it would, unfortunately, be true. We absolutely love where we live. It is an excellent location with a supermarket within walking distance, and many stores and restaurants within short drives. All of our apartment buildings are fairly small by some standards; each has only two stories and a total of eight apartments. Although we are very close to a fairly highly traveled intersection, our location is quiet and peaceful. It is a great place to call home. On our side of the building, we have us as and our neighbor Laurie on the ground floor, and Maggie and Annie on the second floor. (Out of respect for their privacy, these are not their real names.)

A couple of weekends ago, I spent most of my time resting because I wasn't feeling well. Okay, the truth is I felt pretty awful with some stomach problems. I won't ask for any sympathy, however, because I believe that these problems were entirely of my own doing. A person can only eat so much fried and salty food before the stomach revolts and tries to drown you with its own acid. Lesson learned, believe me. 

On this oh-my-goodness-why-did-I-do-that-to-myself Saturday night, I heard some really loud pounding on Maggie's door at about 9:30. I mean really loud banging. I thought perhaps Maggie had invited a male friend over and he was knocking loudly until she answered. I was vaguely aware, in my drowsiness, that the door was opened and heard some other noises before I drifted off again to sleep. When I woke on Sunday I was still a bit the worse for wear and spent most of the day lounging in bed. Very late in the afternoon I decided that perhaps I should get some clothes on and fetch the previous day's mail. That's when my phone rang and we became aware of the bad days in the neighborhood.

It was our neighbor, Maggie, who lives directly above us. She is a great young woman who has her engineering degree from the Colorado School of Mines and she is a very considerate neighbor. She proceeded to tell us some things that came as a great shock to us. The person who had knocked at her door late the previous evening was her neighbor on the second floor, Annie.  When Maggie opened the door, Annie tried to punch her and force her way into the apartment. She warned us to be aware of the possibility of violence and let us know that she would probably be moving to another apartment in the complex very soon.

Annie is a young woman who does not work due to disability. She has some motor and speech impairments and seems to sometimes get lonely in her long hours at home alone. Maggie often works unusual hours, sometimes having to leave for work at three in the morning to work day shifts. She has tried to be kind to Annie, but told us that Annie has knocked at her door at all hours of the day and night, often interrupting her sleep. She had to ask Annie to stop doing this because it was causing her to work on only a couple of hours of sleep, which we all know is just not enough. Oddly enough, every time Annie knocked on her door, she acted as if she had never done so before.

Trent and I are very protective people, so we offered to be around at any time that Maggie comes home and is afraid to walk up the stairs and past Annie's door alone. I also spoke with our neighbor Laurie and advised her to be aware and make sure she kept her door locked. Suddenly, a string of unusual happenings all began to make more sense.  For example, Annie is the only one on this side of the building who is a smoker, but Laurie keeps finding cigarette butts in her trash container when she leaves it outside for pickup. There are other things that I won't bore you with, but all things seemed to point to one possible culprit.

A few days after the violent outburst, Maggie obtained a temporary restraining order against Annie. It required Annie to keep a certain distance from Maggie's front door, as well as a certain distance from her outside the building. The first day after the order was served, Annie parked herself right in front of Maggie's front door to smoke, so we called the office to ask about policies for smoking in the breezeway. I wasn't trying to be vindictive. It's just that every apartment has a private balcony or patio, and we really don't want to smell the smoke or walk through the ashes and cigarette butts on our way in and out. All I did was ask about smoking in the breezeway, and the leasing agent knew which building I was calling from. When we left a short while later, someone was heading toward Annie's door with a letter asking her to limit her smoking to her own balcony. And when we got home, Annie had shown her displeasure by spitting off the landing onto the ashes she had left earlier. Yikes. Drama, mama.

A few more days went by and Maggie had a court date to try and get a permanent restraining order. Annie was taken to task by the judge for having inappropriate outbursts in court. That very evening, she decided to stand outside Maggie's door and shout obscenities and insults at her. Maggie warned us again that our neighbor was riled up and that the police were on the way to speak with her. (Just like they had to a few days before when Annie verbally assaulted another resident's young child.) When I peeked out my blinds to see if the police had arrived, Annie was headed toward Maggie's vehicles. She saw me and came over to bang on our front door as well. More drama, mama. 

Maggie received a call from the leasing office the other day to say that Annie is being evicted. Maggie is still moving to a different building so that Annie will not know where she lives. Today, someone started moving Annie's things. Monday, Maggie will be moving. We will be losing a wonderful neighbor and a not-so-wonderful neighbor at about the same time. I feel sorry for both of them. Maggie has had her life and peace disrupted because of the fixation or possible mental illness issues of a neighbor. Annie has to move because of her fixation or mental health issues. I hope that she gets some help because until she does neither she nor her neighbors will be safe. Although I will feel safer with her moving on, I feel a sense of sadness for whatever it is that she is going through. I'm also sad to be losing Maggie as a neighbor. But I will definitely feel safer without all of the drama, mama.