Google+ Badge

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Linda

When you live in an apartment these days, as we do, you don't always know your neighbors or know very much about them. People come and go in anonymity, their lives seldom intersecting. We have considered ourselves lucky in our current home, because we have gotten to know various neighbors over the four years that we have lived here. 

With someone like me around, it doesn't hurt that there are dogs involved. That is how we have become acquainted with several of our neighbors. When their Labrador or Heinz 57 or Shih Tzu or West Highland Terrier drags them over to see you, you get to know their names as well as the dog's. Although I must admit that we have referred to people as "Atticus' mommy and daddy" or "Chata's mom" when we can't remember their names. Hey, not to their faces, just to one another. And if it works...

Our next door neighbor's name is Linda, and in true fashion, we became acquainted with her because of seeing her walking her dogs. Eventually we came to know each other's names, and would start to chat when we happened to be coming or going at the same time. Sometimes getting to know someone in passing can be a fascinating thing. I have had many delightful front-door chats with this lovely lady.

I have learned that Linda was raised by her grandparents because her mother had such violent and frequent epileptic seizures that she had to be hospitalized for long-term care. Her grandparents were very strict farm folk, and she wasn't allowed to date or really do anything without her grandparents being around. When Linda ran off and married a much older man when she was about seventeen or eighteen years old, her extended family completely cut off any contact with her. When she told me this, I knew a bit of how she felt, since most of my family cut me out of their lives after Gram died. It is awful.

After Linda and her husband had raised their children, they adopted two more children from Peru. In one of those my-it's-a-small-world moments, I learned that Linda's son had fallen in love with a young woman who was in the USA as a college student. When her Visa expired, Linda's son followed her home - to Budapest! There was a brief time that this young woman was staying with Linda, and it made me feel wonderful to be able to greet her in Hungarian one evening as she passed by. Her face lit up like the sun as she heard me say, "jó estét," or good evening, as she and Linda walked out of the apartment. I think I lit up with sunshine as well to see her so pleased.

Linda had to deal with a dog undergoing cancer treatment and even having his leg amputated. He was happy to be trotting around on his three legs, though. A couple of months ago, Linda told us that she had awakened one morning to find her sweet dog all bloody. The vets said the cancer had returned and spread through his body. She was able to bring him home so that her children and grandchildren could say their goodbyes before he went back to the vet and was released from his suffering.

At about the time this spring that we were having issues with a strange and violent neighbor, Linda seemed to be kind of twittery. She had just had a first date with a gentleman that lived in the complex. Bob had been hesitant to ask her out because he is older than her, but she told him that he was about the age her husband would be if he was still alive. Well, they are now an item, and I couldn't be more pleased. I'm glad that she has found some companionship, and that he is a man who treats her with gentleness and respect.

The other day, my phone rang and the name Linda popped up on the caller ID. I thought, Linda? Linda who? And then it occurred to me that it was my next door neighbor calling. She asked if we had some scissors around the house. When I said to come on over to get them, she told me that she couldn't because she was in too much pain. When I went over with the scissors, Linda asked me to cut off the hospital bracelet on her wrist. She was in a lot of pain and couldn't figure out where her scissors were. Linda told me that she had just had a biopsy of her breast and lymph nodes and was in a lot of pain from the procedure. She will find out soon whether or not she has breast cancer.

At the same time, she is dealing with another frightening situation. One day last week, she went to urinate and found out that she was gushing blood. She went to a local hospital emergency department which ran all sorts of tests that were inconclusive. The doctors told her that she needed to see a specialist because she might have cancer in her bladder and/or kidneys. Even with this possible diagnosis, none of the doctors in the area will be able to see her for another two or three weeks. We are heartbroken for her, and know that she is burdened with a lot of worries.

So, my friends, may I ask you to do something for Linda? Would you please send her some good vibes or juju or karma or prayers or happy thoughts or whatever it is that you believe in? It never hurts to have extra positivity floating around on our behalf. And please remember two things. Life is short, so make sure that you let people know how much you care about them. And take care of yourselves and those you love. Thank you. Be well!




***************************************************************

The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

https://www.paypal.me/TheLunatic



Thank you for reading! 


Monday, September 28, 2015

The Comments Section

It would seem that every time I read news stories on the internet, I engage in a form of self-torture. I find it enlightening, informative, and maddening. What form does this torture take? It is simply reading the comments section. Why do I do this? Sometimes I ask myself the same question. And when I am fuming over what someone says in one of their comments, Trent will ask me the same question. If it bothers me so much, why do I do it?

That's certainly a fair question. I think it stems from the fact that I am a naturally nosy curious person. When I read the comments I feel that I am getting an idea of what and how people are thinking. I don't necessarily mean individual people, either. It's almost like when you go to the doctor's office and the nurse takes your temperature, blood pressure, and pulse. Reading the comments on an article can be like taking the mental pulse of the other folks who read it. Sometimes they are a delight, sometimes they are scary.

Unfortunately, these comments can contain things that people wouldn't say aloud because of the invisibility that the internet provides. Things that people might never say in a conversation with their family and friends come pouring out through their keyboards. The politeness that they wear like a shield every day melts away as the poison pours out through their fingertips. I have seen articles about simple things turn into huge arguments. A charming video of a toddler dozing off with a pony, for example, receives comments about her mother's lack of parenting skills because the child falls asleep with a pacifier and they think she's too old for that. Add to this the fact that many people will only read a headline or a random sentence or two before commenting, and it becomes quite an interesting scene. 

Here's an example of people not bothering to read the article and instead only opting to look at the pictures, or just getting things really twisted around. I read an article the other day about Pope Francis and his visit to the United States of America. This was a lighter piece than what I had previously seen and focused on a subject near and dear to many of our hearts - food. The Pope spent less than 48 hours in New York City and all of his meals during that time were provided by Felidia restaurant. Felidia is owned by chef and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich. She has cooking shows on television and has also written cookbooks. Her specialty is Italian cuisine, and she created a menu of Italian dishes for every meal that the Pope would eat at her restaurant. Breakfasts consisted of assorted baked goods, fruits, yogurts, frittatas, crepes, and fresh juices. Lunches and dinners had multiple courses including desserts. There were photos of some of the dishes and a page of the menu. And then the trouble began.

Since I have no authorization to copy the comments, I will paraphrase.

"The Pope eats too much carbohydrate for breakfast. He needs some protein and whole grains to fuel him for his busy schedule." Me (my thoughts): he didn't choose the menu. And frittatas and yogurts are sources of protein.

"When you go to another country, you want to eat local food. He should be eating hamburgers and drinking beer." Me: Beer is from all over the world and didn't the hamburger get its name from Hamburg, Germany?

"Yeah, he shoulda eaten pizza." Me: Yeah, because THAT isn't remotely Italian!

"Must be nice to eat like that and then get up in front of world leaders and talk about hunger. I thought priests took a vow of poverty." Me: he worked in a soup kitchen rather than eat with the Senate. Maybe you think only someone who is starving can realize that there are hungry people in the world. Plus, he didn't create the menu, Chef Lidia did.

"The lunch menu is wrong. You'd think with all of the tax money Obama wastes, he could afford to have someone proofread the menu." Me: These were not meals at or prepared by The White House! Read the article! It was at a privately-owned restaurant in New York City! Is it the President's fault if McDonald's gets your order wrong? Or maybe it is, in your opinion. 

At this point, I read some of the comments to Trent, including the ugly parts I have chosen to omit here. Trent asks me why I continue to torture myself by reading these idiotic comments. I don't know. It's a compulsion. I can't seem to stop myself. I calm myself down and read the next article. But this time, I skip the comments so that Trent doesn't have to tell me I keep slowing down to look at train wrecks!



***************************************************************

The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

https://www.paypal.me/TheLunatic

Thank you for reading! 


Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Colorado Cup

We begin this tale with the usual suspects. Trent and Katrina, AKA The Lunatic, experiencing yet another bout of insomnia. Insomnia is, as I have mentioned before, an all-too-frequent visitor to our home. I have had varying degrees of success in using things that the medical community might recommend for this pain in the neck of a housemate, as has Trent. I had a particularly exciting time when I went to my doctor's office with this complaint. I was prescribed a medication that theoretically would help me get to sleep. It never really made me feel sleepy or actually helped me get to sleep, but it sure made it next to impossible for me to wake up the next morning.

That wasn't the best part, though. That's sarcasm, my friends. For some reason, the bad dreams that I was also experiencing at the time were made even worse. I know there are people who think that bad dreams are no big deal. Well, when they have dreams that are as awful as what I went through, we'll talk. These dreams were actually happening because of depression and PTSD, but the medication I was taking made them far worse. I was sometimes aware that I was dreaming, but was I was unable to steer myself out of the horrors, which often became worse. I know, and knew then, that the dreams were filled with symbolism of the events and people that caused my emotional breakdown, but it didn't make the sleeping and dreaming any easier to handle. I won't give too much detail, but a dream in which the only way to be whole and safe is to cut out your own heart and throw it into boiling water is pretty bad. And that's not even the worst part, or the worst dream!

I guess it comes as no surprise, then, that I have no desire to ask my doctor to prescribe any medications that are specifically designed to help one sleep. When faced with a choice of poor or not-enough sleep versus a deep sleep filled with human monsters that could make the most sane person completely lose their mind, I'll opt for the tired insomniac routine every time. I'd rather have the monsters visit me in the form of movies or television series or books by Dean Koontz or Stephen King. They are far less real and far less terrifying.

I've been quite sleep-challenged lately, and Trent has had some issues a few of the nights that I have as well. A couple of weeks ago, as I restarted the one hour sleep timer on my audio book for the second or third time, Trent gave a disgusted and frustrated sigh. "Are you awake too?" he asked. Naturally I was. Instead of doing something counterproductive like sitting up and starting to watch a movie, we decided to have a cup of an amazing tea made in Boulder, Colorado, a short distance from our home.

We brewed two cups of an amazing elixir known as Sleepytime Extra herbal tea made by a company called Celestial Seasonings. The tea is almost as interesting as the company itself. The founders of the company began gathering herbs in the hills around Boulder and putting them in hand-sewn muslin bags. They grew from a little company selling their products in local health food stores in 1969 to selling their teas internationally by 1977. Kraft Foods purchased the company in 1984 and Mo Siegel, one of the founders, retired in 1986. The very next year, Kraft announced it would sell the company to Lipton. This was upsetting to many of us Coloradans who were attached to this lovely company and its products. What would happen if they were swallowed up by the folks at the Lipton Tea Company?

Then some pretty amazing things happened. The local Celestial Seasoning management bought their company back from Kraft in 1988. The company moved into a new facility in North Boulder in 1990 and Mo Siegel came out of retirement in 1991 to serve as CEO. I am very proud of this "Little Tea Company" that was born in Colorado and stuck to its principles while making wonderful products. In 2000, it merged with Hain Food Group, and Mo retired again in 2002. They continue to make wonderful teas in Boulder, and if you're ever here I recommend taking a tour. Get yourself a t-shirt that says "I survived the mint room." That room alone is worth the tour. Many people can only go a foot or two into the room before giving up and getting out.

Trent and I sat in the dark living room sipping our Sleepytime Extra tea which is made with chamomile and other lovely ingredients. It also contains the extra of valerian, which can be almost like slipping yourself an all-natural mickey. By the time I got to the bottom of the cup, I knew that I had about two minutes to get to the bed or end up sleeping where I fell on the floor. My sleep was deep and restful, and I woke up grateful for Mo Siegel and his friends and my wonderful cup of Colorado goodness. May your nights be restful and full of peace, my friends.


***************************************************************

The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

https://www.paypal.me/TheLunatic

Thank you for reading! 


Friday, September 18, 2015

Vacuumed OR A Tale Of Three Vacuums

In the time I've been on social media, I've been allowed and invited into the lives of people I would not have known otherwise. I may never meet these people because of the geographical distances that exist between us, but I still care about them all a great deal. I have been able to share in their celebrations and their sadness. Those of you who have also made these types of friendships are perhaps nodding your heads in understanding or agreement. Those who haven't are quite probably shaking your heads over The Lunatic's, well...lunacy.

Because of a friend sharing one of my blog posts, I now have a lovely friend named Cathy who lives in Canada. Cathy has endured far more than her fair share of heartbreak and loss, but she seems to handle it with grace and beauty. Grace and Beauty, as lovely as they are, still have their limits, however. Cathy recently posted/vented about a very unpleasant experience she had regarding some home repairs. Honestly, I don't remember all of what happened, but here's how I remember it. When you see where this took my mind perhaps you, dear reader, and Cathy, will forgive my lapse of memory.

Cathy needed some repair work done, possibly to her air conditioning or something along those lines. She called someone to complete the repairs and that's where the trouble began. The person doing the work was unprofessional, even asking her to write down notes from a phone call he took while in her home! He did a terrible job with the repair work and made a big mess. To top things off, when he tried to clean up after himself, he broke her vacuum cleaner. I knew that it was a horrible experience for her because she almost lost her celebrated Canadian cool. This lovely lady was left with a substandard repair and a broken vacuum cleaner. 

In spite of myself, after I thought about how awful her day was, I remembered something that put a smile on my face. I know. I sound like a horrible person. But my memories took me to stories of two other vacuum cleaners. Suddenly I was sitting at my desk years ago in the bank call center, listening to my teammate and friend Brooke speaking with a customer. Sometimes in a call center you can overhear what's going on with another representative, and it makes your ears perk up. Brooke sounded very sympathetic and sorry for the caller and my interest was piqued. I blocked my phone from receiving another call and waited to see what was going on.

Brooke finished the call with kindness but was also smiling. She turned to me and mentioned the poor sweet young man she had been speaking with. Apparently this young man was going through one of those times in life that make you feel like you're living in an old-time crying country song. And to top it off, his account was messed up. When Brooke asked how he was doing today, his reply was, "Well, Brooke, the only thing in my life that doesn't suck is my vacuum cleaner!" 

When I told my Gram all those years ago about the vacuum that didn't suck, it made me remember a story she had told me about a famous Denver resident. Gram knew, or knew of, a lady in Denver by the name of Lenora Mattingly Weber. Mrs. Weber was a prolific writer with over two dozen published books. In my high school years, I discovered her Beany Malone series of books (published between 1943 and 1969) and enjoyed reading these stories of a young woman growing up and maturing. Naturally, Gram was pleased to tell me that these books I was enjoying were written right here in Denver. She also delighted in telling me a story about Mrs. Weber that not many people knew.

Gram swore that all of the traveling salespeople who came through Denver told one another to go to Mrs. Weber's house, because she would buy anything. Some people have great resistance to sales, but not Mrs. Weber. Rumor had it that when her husband was still alive, he would always wonder what new thing would be waiting for him when he got home. Whether it was needed or not, she would buy it because it seemed like a good idea at the time. I imagine that she had sets of encyclopedias and plenty of Fuller Brush and Avon products. But the one that really had everyone shaking their heads was the vacuum cleaner. Yes, in those days, people sold vacuum cleaners (also known as vacuum sweepers in that era) door-to-door. Mrs. Weber mentioned to one of her friends that she had purchased a vacuum cleaner recently. When her friend asked her if it worked well, she answered, "I don't know, I don't have any carpets!" She was so entranced by the vacuum cleaner that she bought one she didn't need and put it aside in case it might come in handy.

Cathy really did have an awful, and I'm sure also an expensive day, and I still feel sorry for all that she went through. I consider myself fortunate that as an apartment dweller any necessary repairs are taken care of by the maintenance staff. Which gives me plenty of time to sit back and linger over my memories.



-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The tip jar:

As always, I like to bring my little slices of lunatic life to you and do so with great joy. If you'd like to support The Lunatic's cause, please visit https://www.paypal.me/TheLunatic
Thank you!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Man, Van

Some friendships have unexpected benefits. There are those friendships that when you get together, things just get delightfully crazy or silly. Not all of the time, mind you, but just enough to provide much-needed comic relief in your life. When we get together with our friends Marie and Thayne, we can be very serious and adult. And then there are the other times, like when we were gathered around the kitchen table late one evening along with Thayne's sister Julie, and ended up with bout after bout of uproarious, uncontrollable laughter. Marie's kids were in high school at the time and had already gone to bed. We had even worse hysterics when they yelled down the stairs that they were young kids and needed their sleep for school the next day! 

A few Sundays ago we were invited to join our friends for an afternoon drive to the mountains, along with a picnic dinner. We know that we are very fortunate to be living in the Rocky Mountain Front Range. It's possible to take a relatively short drive and be in a beautiful, natural area away from almost everybody. As we drove up a canyon on our way to the lake area we planned to visit, we saw so many beautiful things. Our mountains are called the Rockies for a reason - they are geologically young and therefore extremely rugged. As is human nature, many people have built homes of all descriptions along hillsides and next to mountain streams, and scattered in canyon areas.

Some of the roads and highways going through these areas are of necessity no more than two lanes wide, and all of us who were on this day trip have been on roads here that are barely one lane wide. Those are the roads that have you fervently hoping that you won't encounter someone coming in the opposite direction, because one of you will have to back up to a slightly wider place while the other passes with the edges of their tires almost off the side of a sheer mountain drop-off. The canyon we were in was one with a two-lane highway alongside a creek that was still attracting kayakers, picnickers, and climbers. Even the rock faces across the highway and creek seemed close enough to touch.

Of course, when you're in a car you don't always see what the people on the other side of the vehicle can see, and sometimes the view from the front or back seats can even be quite different. I was sitting behind Thayne, the driver, and was surprised to see a man rappelling down a rock face. Even though he was high above us, it seemed as if he was close enough that we could have reached out the window and grabbed his ropes. "Wow! Look at that man hanging from the mountain!" I exclaimed, delighted to see everyone enjoying this beautiful day. 

Trent and Marie, on the right side of the car, both chimed in with "Where? Where?" as we continued on the road. After we had gone on another minute or two, Marie grumbled, "I didn't see it." We asked her what it was that she didn't see. "The van." We were puzzled about what van she was talking about, and asked her. "The van that was hanging from the side of the mountain!" I've decided that the elevation was getting to her ears and they needed to pop. Not really. We had a good belly laugh out of it and found more things to look at on the way.

As we climbed higher, we were captivated by the beautiful pines and Colorado Blue Spruce interspersed with stands of aspen trees. The air was crisp, as it only seems to be in the high mountains. We marveled at the beauty of the trees outlined against the clear blue sky, and the breathtaking sights of the sun shining behind the few scattered, small clouds. We came to a picnic area in a State Park that was crowded with incredible forest growth. The stillness was only occasionally and briefly broken by hikers passing on a nearby trail. We were visited by a female blue jay that flitted into our picnic area to see if we would share some of our dinner, and were soon joined by some of her friends. 

It was after we got to this lovely picnic area that I had my moment to make Marie laugh. We were talking about who knows what, and I was rattling along when I spotted a squirrel leaping along the ground on his way from one tree to another. Suddenly, I had turned into the dog Dug from the movie Up. Seriously, it was one of those moments you couldn't have planned if you tried. Here I was, rattling along, "Wah, wah, wah-SQUIRREL!" Thank goodness Marie wasn't taking a drink at the time; she would have choked to death from her laughter.

It was a day full of fun but more so of beauty. After we ate, we went to another lake full of lily pads at an elevation of over 10,000 feet. There were ducks swimming in the quiet of the late afternoon while huge dragonflies buzzed around in front of us at the water's edge. We drove home through another canyon that had been ravaged by flooding almost exactly two years ago, and marveled at what the water had done to everything in its path. We arrived home satisfied with a day full of nature's wonders. I'm sure, though, when we reminisce about the trip, it will be remembered as the one with the SQUIRREL! and the precariously dangling van!
 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Welcome To My Blogging World

There are many people who think that everyone who writes a blog just sits at their computing device, writes something serious or amusing or thought-provoking, and smiles while the money comes rolling in. When I began this blog in May of 2012, that certainly wasn't my objective or opinion. I went into blogging as a way of sharing the thoughts and musings of a person who variously sees beauty, tragedy, amusement, and absurdity in her everyday life. A Raving Lunatic, as it were. I didn't really think of it as a money-making prospect, but more as a substitute for the book I've always hoped to write. Instead of writing and publishing it all at once, I'm drawing it out over time, sort of writing it in installments. I've had one or two people suggest that I open my blog to advertising spots to make lots and lots of money, which netted me absolutely zero. I abandoned the idea just as quickly as I accepted it.

And now the realities of Lunatic Land set in. Mounting costs for medications and refusals of insurance companies to cover costs that they did in the past are making it difficult for Lunatic and Co. to keep their heads above water. I don't want to make one of those pleas for money that one sees every day. It simply occurs to me that the one skill I have to offer is my writing. And then I began to wonder, what if I created the blog-writing equivalent of a tip jar? (Thanks to my friend and reader Ali for using that exact phrase, and please forgive me for borrowing it!)

So, after much internal struggle, I have decided to do so on a trial basis. As always, I appreciate your feedback and welcome your opinions about this move. Please feel free to let me know in the comments how you feel about this addition. You, my readers, are of my utmost concern and I would not want to offend anyone by this addition. And connecting to the link is absolutely voluntary; I will still keep sharing my heart, my laughter, and my tears. Writing this blog has become a part of my life now, a part I want to keep growing. 



If you are interested in supporting The Lunatic and Company, the link is located on the upper right in the column next to my blog posts, in the section entitled About Me. Thank you for reading, and thank you to any of you who may wish to contribute.




Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Worms

Sometimes we have days that make it hard for us to suspend our disbelief. What am I talking about this time? As adults, we have times when we are overwhelmed with what life throws in our path. Bills and pills, and all the wrong kinds of thrills. Instead of being frightened by scary stories in books or movies, we find plenty to frighten or frustrate us in our daily lives. We lose sight of the skill that is so highly developed in children, the thing I think of as suspending our disbelief.

Kids find it so easy to believe in things. They have their own special kinds of worries, of course, but they aren't so wrapped up in them that they have no ability to believe in the things people tell them. Ghosts? Yes, they are real. Their cousin told them about seeing one once. Werewolves? Vampires? Real. The Boogeyman - hey, their big sister saw him last Tuesday at her friend Julie's house. And Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, the good guys, are real too.

Because of this ability to believe and trust so wholeheartedly, kids will often take what adults say to them as being completely true. I, for one, fell for this hook, line, and sinker. Gram told me that she could read little boys' and girls' minds, and could tell if they even thought about doing something bad. Even worse than that, she told me that my legal guardian had a lot of private detectives working for him because he was an attorney. They were all over the place and would see me if I did something that I shouldn't be doing. You never knew where they might be. Between the two of those things it's a wonder that I wasn't a completely paranoid bundle of nerves, but it made me think twice about so much as crossing the street without using the crosswalk and walk signal!

During my stint in retail, I worked with a woman who was from Illinois, the state where I was born. She often told people that she was from Chicago, my birthplace, but she was from a much smaller town in the southern part of the state. She knew that nobody would have heard of this place, so just saying Chicago was much easier for her. I imagine it also stopped people from dismissing her as a small-town hick who didn't know anything. She was actually a very well-educated young woman, so I can understand her motivation.

We both found it pretty amazing and cool that we were from the same state but ended up knowing each other in Denver, Colorado. During our slow times at work, we would talk about all sorts of things, as people tend to do. She told me tidbits about her family and life, and I did the same. She related an incident when she was a child and made her father very upset. They were driving in a rural area of Illinois and got caught behind a farmer driving a tractor. Sheila blurted out something about him being in their way and being a slow, stupid farmer. Her father was angry about this, but didn't yell at her. He asked her if she thought her grandfather was stupid. Of course she didn't! Her father let her know that her grandfather was one of those slow-driving farmers and he was not stupid. He also let her know that farmers were important because they grew the food that she ate every day. She never forgot how bad she felt about her cruel remark, and always had respect for farmers after that. In fact, it became one of her dreams to one day have an organic farm. 

My other favorite story from her childhood also had to do with her father. He worked for the Coca-Cola company, as did many of the people in their area. Because Coca-Cola put the food on their table, they never bought any other brands of soft drinks. When Sheila asked her father why they never drank Pepsi, he told her that they only drank Coke because "Pepsi gives you worms." She was very young and believed it was true. One day when the family was out for a drive, her father had to stop for gasoline. Little Sheila went into the store with her father and saw that an employee of Pepsi was stocking his products in the cooler. She walked up to him and struck up a conversation. She told him that her family never drank Pepsi, they only drank Coke. "You know why? Because my daddy works for Coke. And because Pepsi gives you wo-orms!" She turned and trotted off before he could reply. I'm sure her dad was really proud of her that day!

Well, I guess that's it for me tonight. I believe I'll head into the kitchen and fill a glass with ice and pour in some cola. It's not Coke, though. I hope I don't get worms!


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Alarmed

We got up early a few days ago and both realized that we hadn't had enough sleep the night before. At some point, both of us said that we sure could use a nap, so we decided to do just that. Trent settled down and quickly began dozing off, while I plugged in to an audio book to help me ease into sleep. We were both in that delicious state where consciousness is almost gone and the body is completely relaxed. Suddenly the peace was shattered by a rudely loud BEEP! from the living room.

Our apartment is well equipped with smoke detectors and we are lucky that they are hard-wired into the building's electrical system, meaning that we never have to change batteries on a shrieking smoke alarm that is telling us, "I'm hungry! Batteries NOW!" We knew that it was the carbon monoxide detector high up on a wall in the living room, because we have had to feed it batteries before. We chose to continue our lovely nap because it would be a while before it gave the my-battery-is-beginning-to-get-low beep another time.

Again, we slipped off toward slumber, and the rude BEEP! sounded again. It hadn't even been twenty minutes, so we figured that maybe changing the battery was more urgent than we originally thought. I grumbled and grabbed my glasses (because I really shouldn't be allowed to walk across a room without them) before searching for a battery. We both seemed to recall that the protective loudmouth took a 9-volt battery, and I remembered seeing one just the other day. As you probably know, when you find an odd-sized battery in your home, it's generally when you do not need it. I suggest writing down where the battery is lounging about, because you will have a hard time finding it when you really do need it. Of course if your luck runs like mine, you won't bother making a note of the location, because you'll never be able to figure out where the note is anyway.

Now, I've pulled the monoxide monster off of the wall before. It's in a spot that's high enough to require stepping on something, anything, that will lift you a couple of feet off of the floor. Mm, yeah, we keep forgetting to buy a step-stool or mini-ladder, because you don't often need one in an apartment. When you do, you miss it terribly and curse yourself for being an idiot who doesn't even have a stinking step-stool. You grab one of your dining chairs and make your poor not-as-young-and-flexible-as-they-used-to-be knees go through the strain of making one huge step instead of two small ones. You have your spouse holding onto your legs so that you don't step off the chair into a void and break one or more of your body parts. And when you finish the job, you step back down off the chair and fall down. Well, at least that's how it happened to me last time, so I didn't want to make the climb this time around.

Trent was kind enough to volunteer for the chair-climb, and fetched the alarm so that I could replace the battery. I could see instructions on the front of the device that said it required 3 double A batteries. No problem, we stocked up on those little beasties recently. I began to open the battery compartment and got absolutely nowhere. I pushed and prodded and tried from numerous angles, and couldn't get the darn thing to open. Trent tried too, and both of us even tried using the magical stretchy thingy that we use for jars with tight lids. Nope. I even took a table knife to it. Not budging. We were both disgusted and said we would just wait and call the maintenance staff to change the batteries and hang it back up on the wall. We knew that since it was a Monday they would be too busy to change it that day and decided to wait until Tuesday to make the call.

We set the alarm on a table to wait for its battery change, and went on with our day. We completely forgot about the alarm until we walked through the room and saw it, because it was wonderfully silent after that. A little of this, a little of that, some dinner, some television, a bit of chit-chat later, and we were ready for our late bedtime. We said our good nights and settled our heads on our cool pillows. As we drifted blissfully toward sleep, BEEP! sounded crankily from the living room. I had had it, and so had Trent. We stormed out to the living room to grab the shouting device. The adrenaline must have been flowing, because I popped it open in record time. We pulled out the batteries and began replacing them with fresh ones. As I held the detector in one hand and snapped the last battery into place with the other, BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! it proclaimed, letting me know that it was still alive and well.

Now, I know that it's a fail safe built into the device so that you know the batteries are installed properly. But a device that is loud enough to wake you from a deep sleep in another room is wretchedly, painfully loud when it starts to screech in your hand, which is never more than a few feet from your eardrums unless you're Mister Fantastic and have those super-stretchy rubberized arms. Of course, if you did have those arms, you would never have missed the step-stool, and you'd have a grip that could open just about anything that seemed stuck. And if you were Mister Fantastic, your alarm wouldn't be sitting on the table again, waiting for you to get ready to climb up on the dining chair. It'll go back up as soon as we get stronger batteries. That's right, we're waiting until we have some stronger batteries...that's it...


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Never Acceptable

The other day I was marveling over the fact that the year has gone by so quickly. Suddenly, it was the end of August, with the Labor Day holiday just around the corner. This is a time of the year that sometimes makes me dwell on thoughts of the past. You see, 49 years ago today an immigrant woman died in Chicago, Illinois. According to a newspaper article I found, John, aged 52, was charged on Sept 2 with the murder of his wife Theresa, aged 41, after her death in Columbus Hospital. She had been taken to the hospital on the previous day with a skull fracture, and John had been charged with aggravated assault at that time. According to the detective on the case, John had indicated that he woke to find himself hitting her in the head with a hammer.

There are things that are not mentioned in this article. Perhaps they were considered unimportant. John and Theresa left four children essentially without parents. Their children were Margit, aged 16, John, aged 14, Liz, aged 13, and the girl who would come to be known by the name of Katrina, aged 7. All four children had been left in the home by their father to discover their mother when she screamed for help in the early hours of the morning. All four children saw her in the aftermath of her bludgeoning, and all four children have borne the scars of this experience.

The older children were allowed to see their mother in the hospital; the youngest was not. My last two memories of my mother were both traumatic. There was the memory of rushing into the bedroom to see her in agony and covered in blood. The next was to see her in her casket. Looking back, I wish that I could have seen her before she died. (I have been told that she asked Liz to forgive her father for what he had done.) When I saw her in the casket, she didn't look remotely like my mother. She was wearing a filmy nightgown and her face was covered with things like lipstick, eye shadow, and other makeup. I'd never seen my mother wearing those things before.

When I read the archived news article several years ago, with the description of what my father had told the police, it filled me with anger. It was as if he was trying to dismiss his actions by saying that he committed the crime in his sleep. Although the charge was murder, John, my father, was instead imprisoned for manslaughter. I know on an intellectual level that it has to do with technicalities about whether or not a crime was premeditated. On an emotional level, all I can think of is that whether it was planned or not, my mother is no less dead. Less than five years later, he was free. Reading that part of the article reminded me that in one of the few telephone conversations with our father after his release from prison, he tried to suggest that my mother was an unfaithful woman. A feeble attempt at excusing or justifying his actions. I can tell you with complete certainty that she was not unfaithful. And even if she had been, that was not a viable excuse. 

Some people reading this might think that I am dwelling on the past, living with constant thoughts of what happened all of those years ago. This is not the case. The simple truth, however, is that what our father did all of those years ago changed his children's lives forever. We will never know who we might have been if this terrible thing had never happened. It breaks my heart when I realize that my chances in life grew out of the destruction of my family. I came into an environment that, while hostile, held opportunities that I would never have had otherwise. Try living with that kind of confusion and guilt for a while, knowing that the worst thing that ever happened to you broadened your horizons and created possibilities that would never have existed for you otherwise.

What I want you to get from reading this is very simple. Domestic violence of any kind is never acceptable. Whether it is against a child, spouse, partner, girlfriend/boyfriend, or whatever descriptor is involved, abuse will never be okay. The worth of a human life, the impact of a human life, is more important than any anger or frustration you might have in life. I'll never know why my father committed this terrible act. But one life was ended, and other lives were changed forever. If you see this type of situation brewing in your own family or in a relationship near to you or your heart, please do what you can to help. It's better to lose a friend to anger over your concerns than to lose them like we lost our mother and father. And it's better to walk away from someone forever than to hurt them or let them hurt you.