Tuesday, November 5, 2019

No Sausage For Me....

I remember standing looking at the directory. A giant maze of the building I was in, the big you are here dot in red, each wing of the mall laid out and segmented, with numbers to correspond to the store index below.

It had to be at least 7 feet tall.

I might have been 9.

My mother came up behind me, furious and panicked, with my sister and brother in tow. Apparently I had not told her I was going to explore the mall.  She thought I had just gone next door. I had been lost for about 30 minutes or so, and had no idea. I thought I was shopping, asserting my independence, and now I was grounded for a week.

In actuality the mall was just a giant X.  Four wings that all converging in the center housing a giant fountain that shot up into the glass atrium ceiling and fell back to the ground with a loud PLOP into the water below.  Everyone threw pennies into the fountain, making it a wishing well of sorts.  I can't remember how many wishes I made over the years, or if any of them ever came true.

Every Christmas they would cover the fountain with a platform and assemble the 20 foot Christmas tree.  We did countless pictures with Santa there, odd since money was always tight, but we did. Hickory Farms would set up as a kiosk, along with countless others, to capitalize on the sales of the season.  A painting from the art store still hangs in my basement. Years worth of winter coats were purchased from Sears and we'd walk the aisles of Child World, mentally calculating our favorite toys to find under the tree.

As teens we'd sneak into Spencers novelty store, check out all the gag gifts and naughty cards.  We'd don our concert t-shirts, or have custom t-shirts made, and then hit the movie theatre out back for a PG-13 and popcorn covered in artery clogging buttery goodness.

It was not the only mall in the area.  When I was 13 they opened another mall, 10 miles closer to home. I worked in the Levi Strauss store, hung around on my days off, and learned to navigate all the back hallways like only a teen in the know could do.  Both malls have become ghost towns over the last few years. Even over the Holiday season parking has never been an issue and you rarely wait in line.  The mall I worked in has been doing an overhaul of sorts, becoming more of an activity center.  It is slated to have the end wing torn down in the near future to make way for attached condos and hotels, which could bring some of the liveliness back.

But the original mall, the one with the fountain and memories, is slated for destruction. Last week was the last time the doors would be open for mall walkers. The Macy's, so I've read, will remain open while they rip down the rest and convert it to an open air shopping experience, complete with fighting for parking spaces and running from store to store in the harsh New England elements.

A new experience completely devoid of sitting face to face in a food court, fountains full of pennies, or hickory smoked sausage.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Practicing Self Care

In light of everything going on, I'm trying to practice more self care.  It does no one any good if I am not healthy, and stress will be my undoing.  I have found that getting back to the basics, writing, painting, crafting is incredibly soothing when my life gets crazy.  It's as if the stress rolls out onto the canvas, off the keyboard, or into the bag of scraps to be pitched later.

Every year our grapevine gets cut back.  Some days I wind the vine into a wreath and give it away, other years I've made a new seasonal wreath for the door.  This year we only got a small wreath.

And since I only have one front door, I decided that Oldest should have one for his door in the city...

He'll only be in school for 12 days during December, so I got twelve fillable ornaments and made him an advent wreath.

Will he like it?  Who knows.

But with treats like candy and gift cards, and stress relievers like a yo-yo and light up alien baby bouncy ball to get through finals week, I suspect he won't hate it.

And in this moment, I am stress free.

And have left over chocolate.


Friday, October 25, 2019

33% Empty Nesting...

*phone buzz*

Me: Who's that?
Him: Sally
Me: Like Sally that lives behind us?
Him: Yeah.  She goes to a college in the collegiate.  Her dorm is right behind mine.
Me: Seriously?
Him: Yeah.  She lives on the 12th floor.
Me: So she still lives like, 500 feet away?
Him: Un huh... and she found me on Tinder.
Me: It's like the universe wants you to date or get a restraining order.

And that my friends, is where I'm at currently with Oldest.  He has, in fact started college and after a six month stent of ups and downs has settled in to his new home.  He is, on a good day, 45 minutes away. On the day this conversation happened, it was a 3 and a half hour ride home thanks to never ending construction, and everyone wanting to take advantage of one last good weekend.

We got a late start to the college tours, finishing them up at the tail end of the summer Junior year.  One school was an outright no. While he liked the program, walking a mile through the city to get to humanities classes in the snow/rain/heat, and the underground  tunnel system smelling like musty subway crossed it right off the list. Another he loved, but the price tag and wait list were daunting.  I made him apply to a safety school, just in case, which in hind sight was a giant waste of money.  He never wanted to go there and being a state school he go ZERO in aid. In the end, he ended up where he'd always said he was going.  By chance he landed in the Civil Engineering program figuring he could switch second semester.  Now nine weeks in, he's decided to stick with it.  It combines his interest in architecture, design, mechanics, and job security that will ensure he can pay off his student debt.  He currently has straight A's, with exception of Physics which none of us are particularly worried about. He has plenty of time to rebound the grade and be just fine.

Settling in has been a bit of a challenge.  One of his best friends attends another college in the collegiate (not the one above) and she stumbled quite a bit in the beginning.  Making poor choices and disrespecting their friendship, he finally had to push her away entirely which was difficult for him.  She seems to be coming around and finding a balance, and they are working to repair their friendship at arms length.

He's confessed he upgraded his Tinder account.  While I'm not a fan, he's nearly 19 and is using it mainly for entertainment and to meet people in other schools.  He's got a few girls that he's interested in at school,  some of them have boyfriends, (of which he completely respects the boundaries), some of them don't.  He's exploring the city, making his own way, and trying to figure out how to sleep with sirens and constant noise in a suite of 9 boys with no filters. He's made real, actual in the flesh, friends with students on other floors, in other dorms, and other schools. None of this online gaming friend crap.  Actually, he has little time to online game which I secretly love.  We'll be bringing his desktop computer home over Thanksgiving since it's just taking up space at the dorm.

The first weeks were rough.  At home he has his own room, a queen bed, and sleeps to the sound of crickets.  A far cry from city life, sleep deprivation has been a struggle. We set up a tentative schedule of when he'd be home and when we'd be up to visit to help him trudge through the tougher days. Somewhere around week 3 I got a text in the middle of the night that he wanted me to know how much he appreciated all I have done for him as a mother, and that he loved me.  Then a quick follow up text to assure me that he had not in fact made poor choices, but was just genuinely thanking me.  It was greatly appreciated because in today's day and age my mind immediately went to him being in a horrific situation.

I miss him every day. I look at his room, clean and absent of half drank water bottles, and long for the balance that he brought to the house daily.  But I know he's off making a life for himself and there is something oddly comforting about that. We trained for these days, worked hard to get him ready, and he's proof of that. I think about how well he's doing and find reassurance that I am not a complete failure as a mother. He will be home in 5 weeks for Thanksgiving, and we'll likely visit him for his  birthday, but all and all he's doing just fine.

Now if we could only get the other two on track, that would be great.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Hoodie...

The hoodie.  For most, it's a simple hooded sweatshirt, for others it's a fashion statement.  Worn as a trendy accessory it can complete the ensemble, providing a touch of warmth when the weather gets brisk. Just a simple hooded sweatshirt, it can give the wearer a sense of comfort on dark and lazy days.  Or, it can convey a sense of sneakiness, concealing the wearer who may be up to no good.

And then there are the necessity hoodies.  When the lights, sounds, and chaos of the day gets overwhelming, the hoodie is a place of refuge.  An instant barrier from the crazy, like an invisible fortress surrounding them, keeping them focused when the world insists on distraction.

Youngest's hoodie was a necessity hoodie. His sensory overload often caused anxiety, which lead to melt downs, aggression and running away, daily and often.  When he was in second grade, during one of his toughest years, his teacher gave him one of her son's hand me down sweatshirts.  The hood went up, and the rest is history.  It became his tell when he was teetering on the edge of crazy or when he was highly focused.  There he would sit, in his tiny desk, hood up, writing away hand gripped around a fat pencil slowly forming a story all his own. In middle school it became his invisible bubble, allowing him to move through the halls, without incident, among the hundreds of other kids during the three minute window.

High School came and the hood was down more often than not.  He found his own way among friends, and made a place for himself without barriers.  He has about 6 different hoodies that he wears regularly.  Some he's gotten as gifts. There's a short sleeve and a no sleeve for the gym. And there's the wrestling Sectional Championship one that has his name on the back, commemorating his 2nd place finish. He wore that one for Senior pictures.  About 8 months ago we were discussing something and as his frustration grew he sighed deep and threw his hood up for the first time in years.

I laughed.  He had had enough.  It was his tell, and I left him alone.

Now, it's his senior year.  We fight more than we talk.  The lines of appropriateness are gone.  He's trying to find his way, not making the best choices, but making enough of the *good* ones to keep him afloat. The stress of college, poor choices, and questionable friends have put a tremendous strain on our relationship.  His seventeen year old conviction of invincibility makes him very hard to live with and I find myself walking on egg shells not knowing if the grenade is coming from a blindside or if he'll hear me and just walk away. The husband is done. His brother has distanced himself.  I am left with a giant hole in my soul.

Parenthood, my friends, is not for sissies.

I used to hate when he'd shut down and hide under the hood. He could hide for hours, immovable in his stubborn ways.  But he'd always emerge. Now I long for the visual que, the subtle but deliberate flip of the hood, even though deep down I know his proverbial hood is always up.

And all I can do is pray he emerges from underneath it undamaged by the choices he's made.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Our Alaskan Adventure...


Not that kind of adventure.  We're currently too poor for that.

This is our new adventure.

Photo Credit Dog Orphan Photographer.
Meet Alaska.

She's the reason we can no longer have nice things.

She's 4 years old and a rescue from South Carolina, by way of Georgia and then the humane society about 90 minutes from here. It was a long journey.  She was at the shelter here for about 7 months, was adopted, and then brought back in, where she sat in a concrete kennel, until we came along.  Now she has a 300 square foot outdoor kennel to run off leash...

In which she'll do a few circles and then sit at the window, wondering why she's not with her people. In fact, she doesn't really want to be without her people, like ever.  So we go on a lot of car rides...
I've finally found a restraint system that she doesn't want to get through, so now she, and all her fur, can stay in the back safely while we head to Petsmart, PetCo, the wooded trails, wrestling practice, Grammie's, and waterfront.  Apparently the beach, before a storm, is where she finds her zen...

She can't help herself when we find a freshwater spring.  She stops for a drink before submerging herself for a cold bath...

As with any Husky, you have to run off all that energy, out so we go out a lot. It's also a good idea to have a crate while you're out so they don't hurt themselves and destroy things you didn't even know you still had. Our crate lasted about 4 days. She'll go in to lay down every now and then, but then gets distracted by a bug of sorts and is out and ready to play.

She appears to be completely house broken.  She loves people.  Other dogs, not so much.  While we've made baby steps in progress (they can get close enough to sniff now) she gets nippy if they move too quickly.  The weird part is it's only some dogs, others she could care less about.

She has never liked toys, and has no idea what fetch is.  Being a dog who can never be off leash, it's not a good idea to teach her either.  She has found two toys that occupy her time. One is a rope with a ball at the end.  She plays with it by herself mostly, hitting herself in the head.  The other is a Kong activity toy that gives her treats. She basically trashes it until she gets the salmon treats out, then leaves the rest for the ants.

She was treated for heartworm, a prevalent condition for strays down south, and will be getting her nails done tomorrow as they have gotten quite long. She struggles with the hardwood floors. The shelter she's been in is fantastic, but they can only do so much.  She has dark red fur and hard callus on her elbows from sleeping on the concrete for so long. We're working on softening hem up...
She doesn't bark.  Except last night when Oldest came home.  I said "Is that Oldest out there?" And she barked once.  Otherwise nothing. Ever. Unless another dog's coming at her barking, then it's 2 warning barks on her hind legs.

She loves Netflix-ing with Youngest, and begging for food that she can not eat.  She'll apparently do some really sketchy stuff for a Klondike bar...
 She's got one little strip of white in the lower part of her iris.  Otherwise she has completely brown eyes.  I got a DNA test kit for her mainly out of curiosity, but also so we'd know if there were any unexpected health issues we might need to watch for as she gets older. We should get the results in about 3 weeks.
But mostly, she's just happy to be in a house, with plenty of belly rubs and feet to sleep on...

Saturday, September 22, 2018

If You Build It...

I am a caretaker. 

I know it. 

The world knows it. 

I am everyone's Mamma.

I think my breaking point was one ridiculously hot day in the beginning of August when I "mamma-ed" a new co-worker cautioning him on the hazards of riding in the back of the mail truck that day, and then followed it up with "Because I'm everyone's Mamma... and we need you alive to deliver packages at Christmas".

At that moment, I realized it was time.

Mr. Chewey Cat has been gone now for about a year and a half.  In the beginning the thought of another pet was unbearable, and to be honest, not having to worry about him all the time anymore was freeing.  His renal failure came on quick, his behavior became erratic and we were pretty sure he'd had multiple strokes.  But, time has past... 18 months worth... and it's apparent something's missing here.  And with the boys becoming more and more independent, I'm clearly subconsciously seeking something to take care of.

So I caved.

We're getting a dog.

I debated getting an Alaskan Klee Kai from a breeder.  I joined the National rescue, since I wasn't looking for a puppy anyway.  Turns out even the rescue only gets about 5 per year, and the waitlist is years long.  With my history volunteering at the Humane Society, I knew a puppy from a breeder was just not for me. 

So I turned to Petfinder, which has proven to be more than frustrating.  It is rarely updated so most often you are inquiring on dogs that have already found homes.  Plus you need to be pre-approved by each center, so odds are the dog you're looking for is at a different one that where you've been approved, and you have to apply all over again, and by then, that dog is gone. *sigh*

Then I found a BEAUTIFUL dog, Tristan, on the Ft. Benning Shelter's Facebook site.  We were all set to go with him until I realized it was going to cost $1,500-$2K to get him here from Georgia, sight unseen.  I tried every available option I could think of, including driving 20 hours down and 20 hours back over 3 days to get him. In the end, I just kept thinking, If we are the right family for him, it wouldn't be this hard. So I made the hard choice to let him go.  His perfect family is out there, just not with us.

In the meantime we started getting the house ready.  We put up a zip line run for easy escape into the backyard. We bought bowls, a leash, and lots and lots of poop bags. Knowing we wanted a Husky, we knew we would need a fenced area to play off leash since they tend to run, and the 3 foot chain link we currently had was just not going to work.  If you've been around a while you know we've slowly been replacing the fence with custom pressure treated along the driveway and the back, but I knew there was no way we could afford to keep going at 6-8 feet high throughout the rest of the yard.  So we compromised.  I finished the driveway side with the pressure treated, and we did the kennel area with 6 foot stockade that was on clearance at the Depot...

Of course, we had to have a doggie window.  I did a ton of research and ultimately came up with this. It's stair balusters sold open stock at the Depot.  Way less money than a custom panel and I could make it any size.  The process has been painfully slow but we were getting there...
The wonky decline in the fence on the left has been fixed since this picture, I assure you.  Funny, I look at this picture and think, was I drinking??? But, no... I was just tired. Anyhoo...

We just kept going on the Field Of Dreams premise that if we built it they would come...

In the midst of all the building, our dishwasher died. This past Friday, the husband was installing a new one, going up and down stairs for this tool and that, cutting the breaker, etc.  Frustrated that he could not find the teflon tape, he decided to look one more time in an odd section of the basement in an old red tool box. 

That's when he saw him.

An orange and black cat.  Crouched in the corner.  Just looking at him.

What. The. ???

The husband insisted he did not leave the door open.  The last day the door had been left open unsupervised was Monday when I fixed the wonkiness in the fence, four days earlier.

Four Days People!

Yet here's this cat.  Just hanging out in our basement.

We have no idea how long it's been there or how it got in. But when the husband opened the basement door, he bolted.  Ironically the neighborhood cat, Lyra, has been coming around the last few days crying a lot, which she hasn't done since Chewey left us.  Maybe she was trying to tell us something like...

we built it... and he came.

Just not the he we expected.

***Note:*** We are not keeping the stray cat.  He's off happily causing chaos elsewhere.  For now we have finished the kennel as much as we can, ordered a crate, and are crossing our fingers all goes well at our second meet and greet with a certain 4 year old girl...

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Moment I Rethought My Life Choices, This Week...

The last two days in the mail truck have been, well, less than fun.  

I have a loaner from the plant, as mine was taken for routine maintenance, which basically means they might put washer fluid in it and will promptly return my mail truck complete with it's current exhaust leak and bald tires in tact. 

And as you would expect, the loaner is FILTHY, but after several lysol wipe downs and a quick trash run, I was off to run the route.  Making my way to the first box, I notice several spiders have hitched a ride to nowhere along side me. Yes, I killed the ones near me, I am after all, allergic to most bites. I left the light brown one on the ceiling though, as he was over the tray side, not bothering me, and honestly I could not reach him.  Anyhoo...

Driving along and I start to smell something.  *sniff, sniff*  It's melting plastic. The heavy, thick, headache worthy, pungent smell of burning plastic.  Yet, I see no smoke, so I carry on, realizing only later that it was the dashboard getting so hot it was starting to get soft. I debated etching some memorable quotes into it, but refrained.  

I arrive at my first group of mailboxes that I have to get out to deliver for, a campground with a small petting zoo.   I save my morning banana peel for the goats as it is a favorite of theirs. It was so hot that all but one wouldn't come out of their house, and the one that was lounging on the picnic table four feet from me wouldn't even get up to meet me at the fence. 

Lazy bastard.


I take it back. 

I would also be totally laying on the picnic table doing nothing if I could.

But I can't.  There's mail to deliver and only one crazy me to do it.  

So I drive on... bill, bill, grocery flyer, package... box to box... until...

The three day old road kill. 

I hold my breath upon the approach, but the bread line of traffic to reenter the road forces me to inhale at an inopportune time.  Which is when I noticed it.  No smell.  None.  No flies either. I think the sun has actually cooked the raccoon's insides. So gross.  And yet, scientific.  

Moving on...

My brand new scanner overheats.  The buttons no longer work.  Which means I can no longer accurately pinpoint where everyone's package lands on their property, or get signatures when required.  Unfortunately, management can still track my whereabouts with it, so I carry on...

...and that's when it happens.  

That spider that wasn't bothering me before?  

Falls from the ceiling of the truck into my mail.


As a doornail.

Right there.

One minute doing his spider-y business, swinging from his web, then.... plop!

Spiders survive nuclear war, floods, fire. And yet, the heat of the mail truck did him in.

And I still had three hours to go.

Lord help me.  

13 years and 2 months until retirement...