Saturday, July 8, 2017

Maybe It WAS Fate...

I can still remember the first time I saw him.  He was standing by the 14 foot windows of the old rope mill - now a converted mall - smoking a cigarette.  Now that would be unheard of, but back then it was the first thing teenagers did to rebel, and there he stood, his back to me, his silhouette enveloped in swirls of smoke as the sun slunk away from the sky.

He worked in the food court and I worked downstairs in one of the retail shops.  It got quite quiet at night so there was plenty of time to chit chat and visit.  He was known for making the sloshy slushies  for his friends upon request. He was the typical broken and troubled teen that somehow I thought I could fix.  We dated.  He treated me like crap.  We broke up.  He came around again.  We dated some more, he still treated me like crap, and eventually he moved on to an older girl from a prestigious family with money.  Looking back I guess he was always chasing the higher standard of living, like somehow having an association or money would make it better.  It never did of course, and that relationship, not unlike all the others, imploded leaving him in search of another proverbial horse to hitch his cart to.

Four years later we met up again, 1200 miles from home through weird job transfers.  It was as simple as becoming roommates for convenience, except 5 months later we were engaged, and 7 months later we were married.  I thought it was what I should be doing at the time.  We lived together, I had fixed some of what was broken still after all these years, I could provide stability and strength.  I was all of only 20 years old, but I could do this.  He was 23, eventually he'd stop drinking.  We'd settle down together, build a life, together. After all....It was fate that brought us back together.

Except that it wasn't. Meeting up with him wasn't fate at all.  It was not fate that we chose to move in together, it was convenience.  It was not divine intervention that allowed me to be treated like crap, verbally abused, and cheated on... God doesn't work that way.  And it sure as hell wasn't the right thing to do because "I had reached that age"... I was 21 frigging years old. Twenty One.

Today we would have been married 21 years and 2 days.  I can't even imagine what my life would have been like had I chosen to stay. I have no idea what roller coaster my boys would have been on had he not passed away six years ago.  I know that they would undoubtedly be making different choices now and my relationship with them would be different.  I don't know how, but I know it would be.

Oldest started seeing a girl about a month ago and already has strong feelings for her.  He's much like me in that respect, so I can't dismiss it, nor would I want to.  We feel what we feel, and that's never wrong, it just is the way it is.  She is a sweet girl, and this being her first relationship he is taking things at her pace, trying to respect her boundaries.  He's putting in a lot of effort.  They don't see each other too often, mostly because of her mother, who can be a bit overbearing so I'm told.  I met her, she seems nice, but I understand that relationships between mother and daughter can be complicated.  Tonight was her 16th birthday.  Her family threw her a surprise party at a hall.  Now, while I understand that Oldest had time to think about the festivities, she did not, and so her being overwhelmed and spending time with her family and friends is understandable.  But she spent no time with him.  None.  In fact, she was scared the whole night to even spend time with him even at her friend's urging,  because she's afraid to tell her mother they are dating.  She didn't even tell him that, he had to hear it from her friends.

He. Was. Pissed.

He spent a lot of time picking out a beautiful sterling silver bangle bracelet for her, that he paid his own, good money for.  It was a gift he had hoped to give her if they found a few moments alone together.  Instead, he ended up throwing it on the table with all the others.  He hung with his friends, ate cake, and came out within 30 seconds of getting my "I'm here" text from the parking lot.

My heart breaks for him as I'm listening to the story, because as much as it is his, it is mine as well.  Staying in it because you feel a connection, and never getting what you need in return.  Afraid to give an ultimatum, not because of not wanting the answer, but because that's just not who you are.  Putting in way more time and effort, and getting every logical, and semi-logical, excuse in return. But of course, I can't tell him that because he has to be the one to figure it out. And if he's anything like his mother, he will do it the hard way.  My heart is breaking for him, not just because I am his mother, but because I know exactly how he feels. I will undoubtedly watch him give her chance after chance, offer support, walk away from other friends and opportunities to make himself available, try so hard with her mother to fix the brokenness between them, and in the end, get his heart broken... just like his father did to me.

I don't know why I chose the men I did.  I don't know why I didn't insist I was worth more.  And I have no idea why I chose to sugar coat such a crucial period of my life with labels like "divine intervention" and "fate."  All I can do now for him is to gently remind him that while he has to work through it on his own, he deserves more.

And maybe that's where it all comes in. That in the end, it was not fate that brought his farther and I together, but fate that I became his mother. That I have been destined to sit here while he sulks in his room, typing away at a keyboard, trying to pull a positive thread from an otherwise heartbreaking situation.

That it was fate that gave me to him... for moments like these.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

And Then There Was Quiet....

The thing about life is that it gets.... busy.

Mr. Chewey passed on.  Carpet was ripped out, hardwood floors were put down. I spun off to NYC for a weekend with the girls, and school let out. Spring came along with a LOT of rain, and skipped into Summer and a LOT of humidity. There's been off season wrestling training camp four nights a week, drop offs and pick ups at the gym, binge watching, and unsupervised parties on the beach, Oldest had his first dinner date and his now first girlfriend. There was a canoe trip on the river, I slept in my first tent, and Oldest is already back to work for the summer, and itching for his driver's license. It's been a virtual tornado of life moving on around here.

For two years I have been the Committee Chair for Youngest's Boy Scout Troop. On Monday I passed the torch on. And while I am still moderately involved, I have never slept better knowing that it no longer all falls to me.

For the last 18 months I have helped plan a wedding for a friend.  I am a very detailed person, and as we all know, weddings are about the details.... those tiny details that you only remember looking back in the photographs after the love coma has worm off. Apparently, I was the only one who saw these details when the day finally came last Saturday, as evidenced by my last minute moving of tables and my wielding of decorative ribbons to tie everything together.  Even the bug spray was wrapped in bows. The bride is still blissfully happy about how everything turned out, and I am just happy it's over. The bride and her groom will soon be back to fighting about everything they were mad about last week, but no one will be talking about the tables covered in caterpillar poop (thanks to me), and I will not be tying any more favor tagged bows on sparklers. As that too came to an abrupt end this past weekend.

There is something tremendously freeing about letting go of things.  While I was MIA convincing the bride that she really did want to get married a second time, the husband was busy being me.  Driving this one, picking up that one, answering the random texts for shredded cheese, and the never ending "What's for dinner?" plea. The three of them worked together to make sure that everything got done... without me... and that's okay.

Today I as I drove Youngest to wrestling camp I thought of how in just 22 days I'll be putting him on a bus to West Virginia along with thousands of other Scouts to build a city in the mountains, at only 15 years old.  I came home to the husband painting the house, Oldest washing the car... his car... which despite it's lack of an aux cord connection, is a huge step towards his independence.  Still lacking his license, I drove him to the girlfriend's house while youngest stayed home, sparks flying all around him as he ground down a part for the car that in roughly 15 months he will share with his brother.  I came home to find him MIG welding the legs back onto the picnic table. He only melted a few holes in his shirt, because while he may be decked out in dense, heavy, leather gloves and the finest of welding masks, he often still forgets the tiny details, like polyester is highly flammable. 

Life moves pretty fast. The days are already getting shorter.  I think often about sitting here, documenting it all for prosperity, but somehow my fingers never make it to the key board.  I'm too busy, too tired, from living it to reflect on it.

And now, suddenly I find myself standing in the aftermath of the storm, the winds died off, and there's a quiet peacefulness... finally.  My schedule is clear from now to mid August. No projects to start, no events to plan, no reasons to hurry out of work.

It's just quiet.

Nothing to do but watch from my Adirondack chair, the people I've supported for years, carry on around me by themselves,  doing things far more impressive than I could have ever hoped. And maybe, after a good long nap in that chair, I'll drag out the new lap top and finally get around to document it all.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, March 26, 2017

That's Him... He's The One...

I don't know why he was sent back to the pound not once, but twice, before we wandered in.  We had been looking for a pet to complete our family, someone for Youngest to take care of, to help him learn empathy, compassion.

My list was simple, spayed, of course, and declawed.  Having worked with the Humane Society before, I am not an advocate for de-clawing, and would never have it done, but practically speaking I knew that having 4 and 5 year old boys and a cat with claws was not a good idea. Lastly, I wanted an older cat.  Everyone loves the kittens, but the older ones, they sit the longest and are most often put down.  And the realist in me was only up for a 6 or 7 year commitment.

We sat in a little room, my boys tearing through it like caged animals themselves, while one by one, our "choices" were brought in.  Three females, some long hair, some short, all good tempered, and all uninterested in the crazy kids descending upon them wanting to hold and pet them.  The last one they brought in was a 6 year old, short hair tiger cat. He growled.  He hissed.  He had a large patch of fur missing from his back.  Apparently, some cats, not unlike myself, rip out their own hair when stressed out.  He spent most of the time hiding in the corner under the bench of the little room.  I don't even think the boys held him.  But as we left, Youngest knew.  I tried to dissuade him, said we'd come back in a week, but no.

"He's our cat. This one."

So, here we are not 6 years later, but 11 years.  ELEVEN.  This May, Mr. Chewey Cat will be 17, which roughly translates to 84 in people years.  His hair grew back after a few short months and I don't think he's even so much as hissed at us since, despite being carried around like a baby, stuffed in pillowcases, and trapped under laundry baskets. At times I think the boys treated him more like a baby brother than an animal.  He greets everyone as they arrive by crawling into their lap and attempting to eat their jewelry. He refuses to leave the house, taking two steps out the back door only to run back in as soon as the opportunity arises. He prefers his car rides out of the carrier, so he can take in the sights, just so long as his paws don't get dirty.  When he was 12 we discovered he has an intolerance to gluten, just like Youngest and myself, forcing us to put him on only wet food.  Because of this, when we vacation we have people stay at the house, and he has convinced even the strictest dog-only humans into trying the cat-nip.

He is, simply, one of a kind.

In October we noticed some changes in his behavior and I brought him to the vet.  I assumed he was diabetic, or maybe it was his thyroid, but no.  He is in early stage Kidney Failure.  We changed his food, had his teeth cleaned, and while this helped slightly, last week he stared showing other signs.  Going through bowls of water, an ammonia smell from his mouth, decreased appetite, excessive snuggling, and the husband's favorite, peeing behind the couch. His numbers revealed that he is now in Stage 2. We pumped him full of fluids, gave him anti nausea meds twice this week, and while the first round helped, the second seemed ineffective. I've moved the litter box to his choice area in the living room, not that it helps much, as he is literally standing in it while peeing over the side onto the pee pads.  I change the pee pads in the living room now like I am changing diapers.  I have ripped out the carpet padding in that corner and thrown it away.  When the weather improves a bit I will be cutting out that section of the carpet and washing it outside.  I suppose the only upside is that we were planning to replace it in August anyway.  I burn candles, have air fresheners, and am considering buying stock in Fabreeze.

We estimate, based on his numbers, he has six months to a year.  I've done a ton of research and I am not comfortable waiting until he goes to stage 4.  Renal Failure is not pretty in it's late stages, and quite frankly, it's a horrible way to die.  I will watch his symptoms and follow his lead, but we all know his time is coming to an end.  Until then, he will snuggle to the point of annoyance, I will spend a small fortune on prescription food, and change the pee pads.

I have no idea why two other families gave him away, and at times when I was at my wits end with him, I could understand why they would have.  But over the last few days I have come to appreciate that they did, and I can not imagine our home without him.  His absence will leave a hole, much larger than the cat door in the basement.

One that just may never be able to be filled.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

It's Still Good...

I had most of February vacation off with the kids, including the big one, who's aspirations for his vacation week amounted to basically nothing.  It started off productive enough... bought a dryer, installed a light in the downstairs stairway, the basics.  By Tuesday night I found myself eating just the colorful marshmallows from the rest of the box of Lucky Charms and realized this might be the least productive stay cation we've ever had.  Even Mr. Chewey got lazy with us...

So we moved onto March and the onset of the Lent season.  As we all know, I am not much of the religious sort, but I do try to better myself in some way during lent in the hopes that I can grow as a person and learn some discipline.  Some years it works, some years it doesn't. One year I gave up carbs.  I lost 40 pounds. Two years ago I gave up my enjoyment of snow... we got seven feet of the white stuff and I can safely say I hate it now.  Last year I gave up all things Donald Trump.  That didn't work out so well since we will now all be inundated with him for the next 4 years.

This year I decided to de-clutter my life. Now, as a general rule I am not much of a consumer.  After spending 17 years in some form of retail the last thing I want to do is wonder the mall.  Combine that with a tiny house with one closet, and there's not much room for things we don't need. And yet, somehow, it accumulates.  So I set out on making a list...

Clean out the kitchen utensils.
Clean under the bed.
Purge the DVDs.
Purge old emails and the FB friends list.

The list goes on to include the fridge and freezer, the attic and garage are broken over two days, you get the idea.  I can't say that I'm getting to something everyday, but I am about 15 through the list, so I've got that going for me.

I started with the smaller ones and am working my way to the larger ones.  On the first day I cleaned out the antique secretary and found 6 rolls of scotch tape and enough light bulbs to last until my grandchildren have grandchildren.  Exhausted from that day's clean out, I opted for a quick and easy dinner and grabbed some steam fresh veggies from the freezer.  Staring mindlessly into the microwave as they cooked, I grabbed a bowl and got ready to eat the delicious array of veggies featured on the bag.  Honestly, all I remember is that once I finished, they tasted... weird.

I dug the bag out of the trash.  July of 2015.


Later that night I was convinced that I'd be the first person to ever encounter death by vegetables.  Asparagus is tough when it's fresh... it's unimaginable when it's 2 years expired, take my word for it.  We all had a good laugh about it though, as I made a mental note to move "clean the fridge", and "Purge the freezers" closer to the top of the list.  Which of course, I didn't actually get to until today.

It started innocently enough, tossing expired stuff, boxing up the things we will never eat for the food pantry at the church. The freezer was a quick purge, as nearly everything was either unidentifiable, or from 2013.  I found a pack of hot dogs from 2012.  Yummy.

The fridge is quite simple as it gets rotated quite frequently.  Condiments all checked out as good except for the plastic lime from 2012. I found some questionable carrots in the back, and some sketchy apples that the squirrels outside were happy to take off my hands.  And then I saw them,  WAY in the back, four cans of beer.

Me: "I'm throwing it out."
Tony: "That's still good!!!"
Me: *flips can over* "Sept 4th 2015..."

Apparently, alcohol poisoning has an entirely different meaning in this house.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

February's Wrap Up...

"I got my shirt tonight.  I can quit now."

Oldest's team basketball shirt was ruined last year in an unfortunate event involving the dryer and a fountain pen.  Turns out, he was holding on just for the shirt.  They gave them out last night during Senior night, and now he's just riding out the week.  Two more games.  One pizza party. And then he's on to other things.

Like driver's Ed, which starts on Monday. Overall, he's doing well, but my nerves can only handle so much time in the passenger's seat. Having someone else teach him how to drive in the snow who has a conveniently placed emergency brake will be a welcome blessing.

Youngest's wrestling season has lasted forever due to blizzards, the super bowl, and icy roads.  His last JV tournament is tomorrow and then he's off to the training camp for Spring season. In the mean time, he'll be sporting his new 16th D1 Championships jacket along with all his other teammates.  The verdict is still out on if he'll receive his varsity letter or not, as the standard is set by the coach and no one seems to know the criteria this year.  Either way, with only one head injury, and 3 wins despite having no idea what he was doing, his season was a success.

He's also in the middle of a blacksmiths class that has proven to be very fun and interesting.  I'm a bit jealous, I must admit, and every time I'm in the forge I feel the need to hit things.  I refrain, of course, but if the 4th student "no shows" again this week, I'm thinking of making a campfire stick.

We've done okay snow fall wise this year, but multiple blizzards have made for a stressful work day.  I am lucky that the type of delivery I have is only mildly impacted by snow, but the lack of communication between management regarding our safety is mind boggling. It's amazing that no one ended up dead.

Tony and I spent Valentine's day doing nothing.  He went to Oldest's basketball game, I picked up Youngest from practice, and we had snacks for dinner.


That's true love.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Get Me The Padded Helmet...

Seven years ago, I posted photos of Youngest in his Karate gear on Facebook. The photo that popped up under my "memories", was one of my favorites. He was sitting waiting to spar in his pure white gi and bright red helmet, his round face squished tight inside. His eyes are so clear in the photo, centered and peaceful.  A moment that rarely existed for him back then, captured in those few seconds of rest.  He competed until he was a red belt and then fizzled out.  He has entertained going back to classes, but other things seem to be getting in the way, and it's just never quite happened.

He tried basketball through the rec league. He liked it, but knew at his height there was no way he could compete on a High School level.  He has Scouts, which he also enjoys, but that too will be ending soon, as he will be starting his Eagle project this summer. And while he can continue until he turns 18, he sees how busy the older Scouts get with school and work, and knows deep down that it will not last much through his Junior year. So, while I was not surprised that he was looking for something else to do, I was completely taken back when he came home in November and told me he was joining the wrestling team.

 The.  Wrestling. Team.

The hardest, most demanding, of all sports in his school. The one with full physical skin contact... that can lead to ring worm and staff infections.  And those snazzy singlets.... *shudder*.... Lord help him. *sigh*

Our school has one of the best programs in the state.  Partly because of the recruitment process that starts for most kids in elementary school, and partly because of the extremely demanding yet unbelievably supportive head coach, who has coached here for over 20 years. He is tough.  They practiced on Christmas Eve.  They practiced during the blizzard two weeks ago. Their 6 day a week workouts are the most brutal of all the sports.  And yet, this coach is like the Pied Piper to them.

This year there are roughly 67 kids on the team.  Of those, maybe 15 are Varsity.  He reserves 14 of the remaining 53 for the starting JV line.  This means that roughly 39 or so compete against each other, but not in tournaments.  And yet, they stay.  They stay for the chance of a "wrestle off" to earn their place on the line.  When one kid isn't preforming, is disrespectful in any capacity, or his grades waiver, there are tens more that will take their place. I've never seen anything like it.

There are 4 boys in Youngest's weight class. And somehow, having never wrestled before, ever, he earned a spot on the JV start line.  They've had him weigh in for back up Varsity.  They've had him weigh in in front of opposing caches for a 2 pound swing (whatever that means). He works out.  He's keeping his grades up on his own. He's eating healthier that he ever has.  It's given him a place, separate of his brother, a way to challenge himself and push his limits. It gives his a feeling of belonging.

I rarely catch his meets.  Mostly because of my work schedule and his brother's basketball schedule, but also partly because they are tough to watch. Last week he competed against a Varsity player on an opposing team.  He lost the match on points, which in layman's terms means he lasted the entire match without getting pinned, but his opponent was more technical.  And since his opponent is ranked tenth in the State, I suspect he did quite well.  He won his first match of the day today, only to lose the subsequent 3.  In his second match, his opponent flipped him, slamming him into the mat by way of his face (that's not legal), knocking the wind out of him and leaving him needing to be checked by the coaches and refs before they could restart. There was no way that his small ear protectors, flimsy forehead padding, or mouth guard could protect him from that. He lasted about 2 more minutes before he succumbed to the pin. The refs didn't call the penalty.  Like in any sport, there's always calls that go unnoticed.

But it does make me wish I could put him back in that full head, padded red sparring helmet.  That sucker could take a hit.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


I was raised to stick by my choices.  If I say I will do something, it is incredibly rare for me to not follow through.  I am sticking by my friend when even now that I am not her Maid Of Honor, I am still planning her wedding, and paying for my third of her shower.  I stayed in every job I ever had even after knowing how under paid and over worked I was until I could no longer stay.  I stayed in my first marriage, some would say, much longer than I should have. It's what I do.

It's what my husband does as well.  He gives the people he loves more chances than he should, stayed longer than he should have in his marriage, and often finds himself deep, deep in holes he could have easily stepped out of years ago.

It's not a surprise then, that it's what we try to teach our boys.  You make your choices and stick with them.  Right?

Oldest tried out and made the Freshman basketball team last year, and while he spent a fair amount of time on the bench, we figured he was paying his dues and would eventually develop into a strong member of the team.  The regular coach was out due to personal issues, and the new coach was, well, less than supportive.  They hardly rotated the line, and it became quickly apparent that they had no interest in developing anyone other than the star Senior on Varsity. Unfazed, he finished out the season, did an independent spring league, two leagues in the summer, and worked out in the fall so he'd be ready for this year.

This year, he tried out again and made the JV team. While he was excited, some of his friends had fallen away, some by choice and others by the coach's hand.  This coach is much tougher, and lacks appropriateness.  There are 4 weeks left in the season.  He averages only 4-6 minutes a game, usually in 2 or 3 minute intervals, with last night being only 52 seconds.  In that small amount of time he has scored ten points for the team thus far this season.  There are other players that have played 16 or more per game and have scored none. Zero. the entire season.

He has asked the coach what he can do for more time on the court.  He gets the same answer each time.  He shows early at every practice.  He is not the fastest, but not slowest player either, and does whatever is asked.  And... nothing.

The more I'm talking to other parents the more I'm hearing how abusive the program is.  Kids are told they will never amount to anything, or that they will always be average. The best comment though, was the game before last when he told them all "This team has made me hate the sport of basketball.". And while the program is lead by the head coach, who is notorious for his abusive behavior towards players, in the past the coaches would at least find something positive to point out after trashing the team.  This year, however, that seems not the case.  It's no wonder they have lost every game this season.

He has long be debating quitting.  Last night seemed to be the breaking point.  His grades are faltering because of the schedule. His attitude is wavering.  And more important, he is miserable. This is the last year he can play on the rec leagues, and without the option of Varsity, he will ultimately have to stop playing.  And while I can see that he's torn about it, he seems okay, and is looking at other sports to try.

I hate seeing him go through this and we have left it up to him.  I have asked that he respectfully quit if that what he chooses to do.  He's not happy I asked that.  He doesn't understand about burning bridges just yet... particularly since this coach works all year long, in nearly every sport.  And if he stays through the next 4 weeks, will he look back and think the stayed too long, just like I have so many times in my life? Funny, even at 42 I am still trying to determine at what point it's okay to let go of your commitment, before you end up needing to be committed.

Maybe it's unrealistic for him to know at 16...