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Liberty

2 Jul

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Helpless

9 Aug

It’s so hard to talk about mental illness to people who have never been affected by it.  It’s like talking to anyone about pain they’ve never experienced. I am envious of those who have never been touched by it either as a personal experience or with a family member.

My son has faded away into a place where I cannot reach him.  The only thing I can do is pray and wait for the madness to succumb to the medication.  We know who he is but he is not that person now. He is angry and striking out, threatening us.  No one can reach him. He is in his own dismal reality and that is a really dark place.  

I am hoping that somehow, someone or something will get through to him and offer a solution that will work.  

Please all the angels, saints and my sweet Lord, be with your servant, James, my beloved son and save him!  Mary, put your arms around him. Be with him like you have always been with me.  He is a good person but he is so ill right now. Protect him for me, because I can’t right now.

John and Myrna

19 Feb

Fifty years ago, in August of 1965, Ken and I moved from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Seattle.  The first people we met were John and Myrna Eldredge.  We met them through John’s brother who lived in Albuquerque.  It started a beautiful friendship that endured through time.  

We were in the family building stages of our lives. I was about to deliver my first child. John and Myrna were well on their way. Myrna was a nurse and a valuable help to us in finding an Doctor.  John worked at Boeing as Ken did.  John and Myrna eventually had six kids and we had four.  We got together regularly through the years when the kids were young.  We also joined them for a monthly bridge club.  John and Myrna hosted fabulous holiday parties in their home in Redmond.  We always looked forward to those visits. Lots of kids running around, adults in the kitchen while Myrna bustled around getting the meal on the table.  

Recently we celebrated John’s 80th birthday at his home in Redmond. Where did the time go?  Our grown children and their grown children and grandchildren all together in one place.  All of us telling stories of our lives.  It had been years since we had seen some of the Eldredge kids.  The connections to each of them was instant and memorable.  Their six and our four all grown up and talking to each other.  It was a great day!

Our families have shared the joys of our lives over the years and some of the sadness that is inevitable in life.  But we have grown old and wise together.  We have sung together, prayed together and broke bread together. We may not see each other as regularly but we are connected nevertheless by our shared love of family.  

This past Monday we were all shattered to learn that John and Myrna’s beloved son, Ed, died in a tragic accident.  We are all bereft and saddened.  When I heard the news I was instantly transported 50 years ago to their home in Redmond. My firstborn, David was an infant.  I remember taking a picture of all the kids on a couch in their home. Those brand new little people, our pride and joy. We celebrated new family arrivals as the years passed. More pictures shared, bread broken, stories told. Kids growing up, graduating, getting married, having kids of their own.  And now, our family and theirs, loving and praying and saddened beyond measure with this loss.

Writers Block

17 Dec

My writers block is really just the typical malaise I suffer this time of the year. I have seasonal defective disorder or SAD. It starts right after Halloween and lasts until I see the first daffodils pop up in the garden.

There are brief respites of joy and productivity during those four months of what Winston Churchill called the Black Dog. Maybe about two weeks worth of productivity. I do just enough to get by. The dishes pile higher in the sink, the dust gets a little thicker and the music just doesn’t play.

I don’t answer the phone because I just don’t want to talk. I go out just for necessities and scurry back home into my little cave. Sometimes the only sound I hear is my little bird chirping. Thank God for the few people who know exactly what to do. Leave me alone but check in from time to time.

It will all pass as it does every year. The first sign of hope is December 22. That’s when daylight inches back minute by minute.

Looking in the Window

26 Nov

Note to readers: I wrote this about three years ago about the challenge of living on Social Security. Since that time my circumstances have changed thanks to dear family members who graciously contribute their hard earned dollars to the cause. Thanks to them I am able to enjoy more buying power at the grocery store.

LOOKING IN THE WINDOW

There are some movies I recall of life during the depression. One of the iconic scenes is of hungry children looking in the window of a bakery and longing for a piece of bread. As the camera followed them home, the bleakness of their lives was apparent.
Those kids represent how the poor feel. They can see how the more fortunate live and long to be in their shoes. They hope for a day when they will be able to buy something in that bakery.
I had some moments of that feeling this past summer although not nearly that heart rending. I was on a trip to the supermarket. I walked into my local store and displayed in abundance were red, yellow and green peppers. They were absolutely beautiful and their appeal pulled me deeper in to the store. I checked the price and realized I could not possibly afford them. They were $2.50 apiece! My budget for that month did not include a green pepper or any other color of pepper. My quest that day was for one tomato and it cost me $1.50.
I never went hungry this past summer but I realized that I was definitely fiscally challenged and would probably remain that way for the rest of my life. It took me a great deal of time to come to terms with all the life changing challenges of having less cash (which is not the same as being poor). Just the fact that I hesitated to pay $2.50 for one green pepper at the supermarket was pretty revealing.
My situation was further solidified at my granddaughter’s ninth birthday. I could not afford to buy her a present but was fortunate to have something on hand to wrap up and give her. The trip to her house would take up a good deal of the gas that I had budgeted for the month. I was happy to be there but was astounded at my reaction to the bounty of food being readied in the kitchen. Piled high were mounds of lettuce and tomatoes, cheeses, breads and rolls. All kinds of meat were being readied for the grill. I was like that little kid looking in the window. I thought about how lucky they were that they could just go out to the grocery store and buy anything they wanted.
I realize there are worse things than not being able to buy produce. Produce has become a luxury for me. The price of gas and food has definitely left me with fewer choices on my fixed income. After I pay all my bills like rent, insurance, phone etc., I have $38.00 for food and non food items like toilet paper. My food stamp allotment is $44.00. I am fortunate to have a pantry full of canned goods that I bought when I was working.
I don’t go out for a cup of coffee at Starbucks. I don’t eat at restaurants except when there is a birthday party. I don’t go on vacations.
Recently I have been able to make some extra money babysitting for my daughter. I am able to buy luxury grocery items again and an occasional doughnut at the bakery. I can treat my grandchildren to an ice cream cone. I also have some extra money in the bank after all my bills are paid. It’s nice to have an extra twenty dollar bill in my purse. I feel rich again!
I am deeply aware however that those days of being able to buy whatever I wanted are gone. I avoid the malls. I really don’t miss them.
I was able to afford some luxuries this fall with my babysitting money. I bought a bike (through Craig’s list) and a good pair of rain proof winter boots. I also took a trip to see my grandson on his 17th birthday.
Despite all of the above, I know I’m not poor. I’m just less able to buy than I used to be. And it’s not something I really think about except for that time at my granddaughter’s birthday party and seeing all that food in one place. Or when I go out to dinner with my family and only drink ice water.
I do make those sacrifices for budget reasons. I am fortunate to have access to the internet and cable TV at home. I do buy cigarettes, a costly bad habit. I also buy an occasional magazine but not like I used to. I mostly use the library for my reading material. I do get the paper delivered, another luxury. If I gave up the cable and the newspaper, I could buy more produce and probably a cup of coffee at Starbucks so I’m not really poor. I just choose to spend my money on things that make me happy. If I went to Starbuck’s every day for example it would cost me $150.00 per month. I’d rather drink my coffee at home and have my cable and newspaper.
I have a choice to spend my money on those luxuries and frankly feel pretty fortunate. I do not have kids to feed. There is no one dependent on me for housing, food and clothing. I can still afford my rent and can still drive my car.
As I sit here in my cozy apartment I realize I am pretty darn fortunate. On a fixed income of less than $13,000 a year I’m doing pretty darn well.
Besides, green peppers give me gas.

###

The Curly Hill Road.

19 Nov

It was steep and it was curvy with switchbacks and dips. And it was dark even in the daytime with deep ravines. The first few times I drove it, I had a heightened sense of danger at every curve. One of the curves seemed endless and it surprised me the first twenty times I navigated it.

We lived on a hill about three miles from the nearest shopping hub. There was a local Mom and Pop about a mile away and the schools were within walking distance but everything else was in town. No matter what you had to do, you had to get off the hill. To the doctors, the library, preschool, grocery store and of course, work.

The curly hill road was the most direct route to everything civilized and non rural. We would leave our little Nirvana and travel to the next big city to get a taste of the good life that everyone else seemed to wallow in.

Our favorite haunt away from home was Bellevue Square. It was the antithesis of our existence but we loved being in that scene. On a rainy wintry day it was an indoor haven where we would spend hours. It was brightly lit, there were places to eat and stores galore where we could buy the necessities that were not available in our little town. And that was practically everything. We were mall rats. I would let the kids loose on the unsuspecting public and have a latte near Nordstroms. They always knew where to find me. I would give them an hour to shop and meet me at a designated time and place. I would give them a spending limit and accompany each to to the store of their choice to pay. Somewhere along the way we would have lunch.

The lights and the crowds would eventually get on my nerves and it was time to leave. We left and finally came back to the curly hill, the portal to our little castle on the hill.

Memories of a working single Mom

17 Nov

There is the best and the not so best part of mothering. Its a mixture of nurturing, and terror. Every day you wonder, can I do this? It’s the most important and hardest job I ever had.

(DD: Wow mom, this whole post really made me tear up. If you only knew how your hard work and scrambling paid off and made me who I am today. I can go anywhere and be content because those hours in the car, shopping at Prairie Market, soccer drop offs, piano lessons and doctor’s offices spawned creativity. The car was our fort and our boxing ring. We invented ways to stay entertained if not at the expense of each other (upcoming blog post: Car travel: 70′s style”).

It’s not that I didn’t know what I was in for. I was the oldest of seven children and witnessed the exhaustion of my own sainted Mother. She did not have modern day conveniences and she didn’t work outside the home.
But I remember being happy for most of my childhood and I wanted to replicate the happiness.

When I met the man I wanted to marry, I told him I wanted six kids. It seemed doable. By the time we had the fourth however we were not on good terms. I had to stop at four. We had some good years and he was a big help. He loved those kids more than he loved me and I felt the same way. We were pretty good at co-parenting and with less tension in our lives we all muddled through and got the job done. (DD: Wow mom, you are quite kind. I guess it has been 36 years…. 😉. I am grateful to God my mom and dad are friends today. They pal around with my dad and his wife, Barbie. So amazing to witness this banter– especially when mom and Barbie rip on my dad — LOL!).

We purchased a big house. The Pine Lake house. It was in the country, on a lake with eight acres across the street. There was a barn on the acreage and other weird outbuildings. It was our dream house. (DD: Can’t put into words what this house and place means to me. I still have dreams about it. Our old house is still on the property but in a different place. Perhaps I will buy it back someday).

The house itself was a constant fixer upper. We lived there for six years before their Dad and I parted ways. He was the guy who liked to fix everything so I lost my maintenance guy, so to speak. He lived nearby and eventually we settled into a good relationship for the sake of the children. (DD: This happened around 1990 when my mom got sick and my dad divorced his 2nd wife. Dad encouraged us to help our sick mom. I was very proud of my dad for rallying us to help. A 12 yr sadness lifted.)

But I had to go to work. I finally landed a sweet job with benefits that afforded me a little extra money. I wanted my kids to have opportunities and that meant music lessons, ski lessons, nice clothes, haircuts, dentist appointments etc. I was cutting it pretty close every month on a pretty meager salary. The mortgage payment on the house was 75 percent of my income. I sold some of the timber across the street and paid down the mortgage to a reasonable 50 percent of my salary. We were together in that house for eight more years. (DD: At 41 I too muttered those words after AH decided to leave…or, I decided to leave him as I didn’t approve of his choice in girlfriends. I wasn’t going to wait around for him to support the girls and I. I couldn’t believe that 75% of mom’s salary went towards the house payment!! It was $1k, back in ’78!! And I never felt that. Life was rich. We had a great house and yard to explore (hence the $1k payment in ’78), plenty of friends, plenty of good family times. It’s amazing how great life can get when mom is in a good mood most of the time. My mom did give us everything we could want to make life good for us. She did drive all over the county to take us to lessons, sleepovers and trips to Tower Records – the SEATTLE store. Mom loved us, it was clear. :))

Even with the financial hardship we were pretty content. I commuted two hours a day. I left the house at 6:30 in the morning and was home by 4:00 p.m. The after school activities included music lessons, soccer and other sports. Two or three nights a week we were in the car from four to seven p.m. We ate on the run. I packed lunches for the drive or we stopped at Dairy Queen or for pizza. Actually sitting down in a restaurant for any amount of time was a luxury. Mostly we ate in the car. Drop a kid off for music lesson and rush another one to a sports practice. Pick up dinner or grocery shop, pick up the first kid from the music lesson and go to the sports field to wait for practice to be over. There were also doctor and dentist appointments and play dates. And Bluebirds and Scouts. It was dizzying and all accomplished after my ten hour working day. (DD: I remember those Tupperware plates with cooked dinner inside! Tots, beans and hamburger! And ketchup! Nice mom! I hated eating in the car but the memory is such a cool one. Pizza Pete’s was a popular spot – where there’s a PP behind every pizza. I believe this was after Dave’s music lesson. Also Shakey’s… Pizza and free balloons!)

On Saturdays there were soccer and baseball games and chores. Sunday’s we went to church and had a whole half day to do nothing. (DD: Really coulda done w/o the soccer. Parents, please don’t make your kids play a sport they couldn’t care less about. I despised Saturday soccer games. Mom finally let me quit in 5th grade).

The running around wasn’t the half of it. Catering to their physical needs was the easy part. The hard part was keeping them all happy and maturing in a somewhat zoo atmosphere. Tending to their emotional needs and breaking up fights. Soothing their developing psyches and teaching them values. But more about that another time. They grew up without too many scars and turned out to be great people. (DD: Mom, you did MORE than a great job. So much more. We are all law abiding, healthy working adults with thriving children. No life is without challenges, but I feel equipped to handle all of them thanks to what you taught me and the example you set as a working single parent. You set a high bar before divorce was a thing. Thx for the template to work from. When I read the title of this I cry because I realize how hard you had it, and only now truly realize the adversities you overcame. I am well aware bec I am now a single parent of 2. And folks trust me — that is the Bain of my motherhood. That constant reminder from mom that “I did it with 4!” Love you so much mom. Thanks to you and dad and that whole divorce fiasco, I’ve developed a good bit of grit.).

DD: PS: Love the zoo reference!