21 Day Fix

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fall Colors

Normally I love fall. 

The crisp mornings and warming afternoons, the leaves on the trees changing into glorious colors all around me and the opportunity to get outside and “do things” and the Pumpkin Spice Lattes makes fall my favorite season of the year.  I know plenty of people love the spring or the summer and even those who love winter but for me I've always been a big fan of the autumn season.  It is one of the things I really missed the six years we lived in Hawaii.

This year, not so much.  This year I am finding the change of the leaves sad rather than beautiful.  I am seeing the shorter daylight hours as a clock that I am running against rather than an ushering in of a busy and exciting time leading up to the holidays and I am watching the year slip by feeling like I have accomplished so very little.  I also keep feeling pressure to keep doing things at break neck speeds to please everyone else’s schedules.  This year all I see is the brown.

My “to do” list this year was more packed than ever and as a person who believes that I can do anything and everything, seeing so much of it undone is putting a weight on my shoulders.  Much of my “to do” list was left to me rather than something I devised on my own and because of that there are more people than usual depending on me to accomplish everything on it.  In my “away from work” life, I like to set my own goals and deadlines and this time that didn’t happen.  Most of it comes from my Mom’s passing away last November and as the anniversary of that day approaches there is so much that I was hoping to have done by now – that I just can’t seem to get to – and so many things that I thought I’d have had more help with. 

I’m beginning to think of 2012 as a kind of lost year, I was incredibly busy for most of it and still see the daunting tasks and “things I've got to do” that are undone and the pressure on me to complete them.  The house is still over full with generations worth of stuff, I haven’t seen or used my own pots and pans since we moved in here (in a hurry) and I’m using the ones I used growing up, my books and photos are still packed in boxes as the many many bookshelves here are still full of books that I need to pack up and figure out what to do with.  I need more boxes and yet my life is spent walking around and over boxes all day every day.  There are rooms that no one can walk in and my kids have belongings that they haven’t seen in months.  They ask for something and the answer is “it’s probably in a box somewhere”.  There is a storage unit in the driveway that is full of stuff with no place to put it, there is a garage full of things that will make it impossible to park cars when the snow flies and while the attic has room for stuff finding the time and help to get it up there is not easy.  The yard and landscaping need a lot of attention and I still need to paint, freshen and just generally update a lot of the rooms.  The garage sale I kept planning for April or May or June or July or August still hasn't happened and since the garage is so full of stuff where would I even have it?

What was I doing all year that these things didn't get done?  I know I wasn't sitting around doing nothing, I painted a lot of the rooms, I removed wallpaper, I raked and trimmed things in the yard and even tried to plant things, I went through a dozens of boxes and even managed to sell some stuff.

I cooked and cleaned and did a ton of laundry.  Didn't miss very many of those important Mom/Parent roles that needed attending to and I moved my family and dealt with the old house and all of the issues there, I made it to a lot of sports practices and games and put more miles on my mini-van than I care to think about.  But there was so much I thought I’d be done with by now.

I really want to make this house a comfortable home for my family.  It was a great and comfortable home to grow up in and right now all I see when I look around is a mess of stuff with no place.  I feel out of place here and while I know that it will take time to turn this into our house I am getting frustrated with the daunting task of making that happen.

So this year the advent of fall and the upcoming anniversary of my Moms death is making me feel like this has been a failed and lost year.  The rooms I wanted to clean out, the stuff I wanted to get rid of, the bathrooms I wanted to update and paint, the stuff I already accomplished have all been forced and that is part of what is weighing on me, none of it is what I wanted to do – all of it is stuff that I’ve found myself and my family in a position where we had to do it because no one else would.

Jason has been very helpful and while I’m sure he is frustrated at the slow pace he has also been understanding that so many of these things are tasks that only I can undertake because of my attachment to them and this place and a fear of making the “wrong decision” with all of this stuff that is “not mine” but somehow now mine and my brothers.  A little more help from them would be nice but they also have their own lives and their own time lines and goals regarding this place and what is to be accomplish here.  More pressure.  

I didn't want to paint the bedrooms, I had to for us to move in.  I didn't want to go through all of the stuff collected for generations here but it is something I've had to do.  I don’t want to clear out the living and dining room but I have to.  I don’t want to re-do the landscaping but it needs done so I will have to (and thank God Jason is doing most of that).  And really, it is not that I don’t want to do these things – they are all very nice things, and I am good at them and for the most part they really need done.  It is the way that this task has come to me.  I wish I was going through the boxes and the drawers, and the closets and the books with my Mom and not alone.  I wish I had her permission to get rid of her stuff.  I know I don’t want a lot of the stuff, I know that in most cases my brother’s don’t want it (we won’t really go there though) but I also know that so much of it she kept for her own reasons and that makes it harder to go through – but again I know that I have to because I have to make room for my family and I also know that she would want my family to be comfortable here and to enjoy this house as our family did here growing up.

So here I am lamenting the beginning of fall and this lost year – hoping to dig out and bit by bit make a dent in the daunting tasks started nearly 11 months ago – hoping that they’ll be done by this time next year…

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Old Greeting Cards

Boxes of Family History

If the boxes of cards I’ve found squirreled away in my house are any indication, my family has been supporting the greeting card industry for over 80 years .  My family also seems to have an insane need to save all of them.  Tuesday morning I thought this practice was crazy as I faced down 3 bankers boxes of greeting cards saved by my Grandmother and then those also saved by my own Mother over the years.  Part of me just wanted to take the boxes to the paper retriever at the school and be done with them all, put ‘em towards the $20 per ton the school gets on paper recyclables.  I even started to put them in a trash bag – some things are just daunting and as this entire house is filled with boxes that need gone through, at first glance it looks like just a lot of paper – but I stopped.  Then I thought “hmm, wonder if any of those are worth anything on eBay?”  Looked on eBay and apparently yep, there are people who love old greeting cards. 

So, yesterday I sat down with my boxes lined up to go through.  What a treasure of family history and a really neat glimpse into the past and how the people in my family showed their affection for one another.  The oldest greeting card I found in there was from when my Grandmother and Grandfather were dating in 1928, she was 18 years old and apparently she was Andy’s Sweet Tootsie Wootsie.  There are dozens of cards in there that they gave to each other over the years.  They showed a great affection for each other, not only in the cards they chose for each other, but in the hand written messages that are inside these beautiful and sometimes crumbling pages. 

My Grandmother, who I am named after, kept them all.  The cards from her siblings, from her friends, from her parents, her kids, her husband, from her grand kids and great-grandkids.  She kept not only cards that were addressed to her, but also those to the rest of the family in that house on Chester Ave. in McKeesport.  There are cards and post cards from her brother Stan who died in World War II, one very sweet Birthday card he sent to my Mom, his Goddaughter, and I will keep that one forever.   Some had notes in them, some had clippings, a few old recipes and photographs accompany them as well. 

Some are from and between my Mom and her brothers. Apparently bathroom humor on greeting cards is nothing new, and always funny to brothers wishing their sibling a happy birthday.  Some are appallingly politically incorrect looking at them from 2012 but were not seen as such in the 1940s.  A Happy Birthday Dad card with “Honest Injun You Great!” me laugh after I recovered from my jaw dropping.

As I made my way through the boxes the feeling that my family always enjoyed humorous cards was very evident.  While there are plenty of the usual sentimental cards expressing love and caring and appreciation that the card companies depend on to stay in business it was apparent that my family has always enjoyed laughter and laughing with and at each other.  One of my favorites from the early/mid 1950s is from my Great Aunt Alice to her sister Eleanor my Grandmother.  It says “Live it up on Your Birthday Sister, and don’t worry about ruining the family reputation”  inside is says “I did that years ago”.  Those ladies have been taken from us and it so nice to see how fun and playful with were in years past.

As the years went on and the cards were mailed to my grandparents from the places their children scattered to over the years, post cards were kept with the cards, as the grandchildren were born, as my Grandfather passed away, as  great grandchildren came along she kept them all.  As the cards changed, the paper used changed, the sizes grew, the sentiment was still the same and more than half still showed that great sense of humor that flows through the family.  As I got to the third box I found that they were mostly cards that my own Mom had kept over the years, I remembered sending so many of them to her and laughed at the ones my oldest brother managed to find and send – he always finds the “best” cards.  I’m so glad I went through the boxes, it is still a lot of paper but paper is where we tend to find family history. 

The task of going through the quite literally 100s of boxes of ‘stuff’ here in this house is quite daunting and many people have suggested just getting a roll off and pitching so much of it – and yes, a lot of what is here probably just needs to go, in either the trash or on eBay – old warped pots and pans, dull knives, broken coffee percolators and more I have to take the time to go through these boxes because for every box of “stuff” there seems to be one or two treasures in there.  And these boxes of cards held a lot of treasure in them. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Work FROM Home Mom

The Work at Home Mom  

I’m sure we’ll all agree that Moms who are home all day, work long hard hours with their only compensation being the occasional “thanks” or the ever heart-melting “I love you Mommy”.   The Mom at home is in fact a work at home Mom no matter what anyone else would try to have you believe.

The crazy trick that I am trying to balance is the role of Work FROM Home Mom. 

I spent a good amount of last year unemployed, and while that did work out in the “not having to pay for child care” arena, it did very little to assist in the “putting food on the table” activity. 

As anyone who has tried to find a job in the past several years knows, there are not a whole lot of jobs out there right now and the job openings that do come up don’t seem to pay very well, and when you do apply for a job you know going into it that there are likely a thousand other equally qualified people applying for the same position.  It is very overwhelming and often depressing.  It seems that the holy grail of jobs is the work from home position, you don’t have to make as much money as you did outside the house in order to have a similar standard of living since you don’t have the commute or the clothing issues, the lunch cost issues and in many cases, the child care issue.  As all three of my kids are in school full time I thought this seemed like a good avenue to pursue – and my husband agreed.

Direct hire work from home positions are few and far between and the majority of jobs for the work at home employee are often in the “independent contractor” or “freelance” designation.  In effect you become your own employer and hire out your skills.  You may or may not be tied to one company with this set up and you are completely responsible for your own expenses, taxes, and equipment.  This is where I found myself, first on a “jobber” basis and finally on an independent contactor basis.  I LOVE the company I do work for, I really like the people that I work with (I actually wouldn’t mind seeing them in person more often), and the work I do is something I am good at and enjoy.  It is also part time which works with my schedule and as phone work is only a very minor part of the work I can often complete my tasks at any hour of the day.  Sounds great for the work from home Mom doesn’t it?

Nothing throws a wrench into the work from home dream like kids.  Kids who will be happy to be left alone to watch TV or ride bikes or read a book or play with friends have a sixth sense about when Mom is getting on a work phone call or is concentrating on something for “the boss”.  I am quite sure that if I had no idea where my kids were and needed them to all show up at once all I would need to do is try to get in touch with a client for something and they’d all come running needing something RIGHT NOW (of course).

I’m not sure how to balance it all, Monday of this week when the unexpected day off from school happened I barely got any work done, yesterday was a pretty balanced day and today I had to force myself to take a break to eat (and write this).  I’m looking for answers on how to balance it all, working (at home), raising kids, cleaning the house, making dinner, walking the dog and that big pile of laundry that needs folded.  I’m sure I’ll figure it out and the kids will adapt but for now I have to go, dog wants in, dryer needs emptied, need to send a work e-mail and go pick the kids up from school.  Wonder what is for dinner?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Unexpected School Closings

The kids suddenly getting a day off from school is usually a bit predictable.  There is usually a storm front of some sort to follow on the weather.  The forecast will show something that gets the kids all excited to get a “snow day” and they’ll go to bed with their pajamas on inside-out because, as school age superstition around here has it, that helps the snow storm pile up the frozen white fluffy stuff and cancel school for the day.

So when it is late August and 75 degrees outside and I get the kids up for school and take the dog out for a walk in shorts and a t-shirt, I really don’t expect to walk back inside the house at 6:45 A.M. to hear the words “no school today” coming from my husband as he is telling the older 2 kids they can go back to bed (the youngest was already in her gym uniform and walking the dog with me).  The verdict for today is broken water main on the property of the school and as they have no water in the building, they cannot have school. 

A couple of years ago this would have filled me with dread and a little bit of panic as I would have to figure out what to do with the kids so I could get to work.  When my Mom was still alive I would have called her and begged for the kids to have a day with Granny and she would have likely saved the day.  But it also might have meant ticking off my former employer by calling in with a family emergency and this would have angered the borg collective that I worked for since they aren’t very understanding of unexpected time off for family issues (heck, they are  a major hospital system and they aren’t very understanding of missing work when you are sick – but I digress).

Fortunately these days I am now at home during the day, I miss the full time paycheck, but the ability to adapt to days like today is one of the plusses that come with the lower income.  Instead today there was eye-ball toast, pancakes with chocolate chips and an ignoring of housework that really needs to get done – time to move everything on the “to-do” list over a day or so.  But for the parents who work outside the home full time and depend on a certain schedule I feel for you.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Volleyball Season -- Whoo Hooo!

Volleyball season starts today for my 13 year old daughter, this starts her last season as an SCS Lady Knight.  She loves the sport and we love watching her play.  She’s come a long way since she first stepped onto a volleyball court at 7 years old to play in the Police Athletic League, Windward Volleyball at Kailua District Park.  Back then the team was assigned orange T-Shirts and called themselves the Smashing Pumpkins (parents may have had some input on the team name).  Those “little” kids were so tiny next to the net and sometimes watching those games was downright painful.  But Volleyball is a kind of religion in Hawaii, girls college volleyball is often shown on TV and the bars will be full of people watching it so it was taken quite seriously, by even the youngest in the league.   Here in Ohio she didn’t re-start volleyball until 4th grade and she has been going strong with it ever since. 

She is now a 5’7” tall 8th grader with a mean serve and nasty block and I can’t wait to see how this year unfolds. 

Sports teach so much to kids and to parents.  It is hard to lose or watch a bad call happen, it is difficult to watch your kid ride the bench, it is frustrating to listen to the other team talk against your team.  It is exciting to watch a long and good volley, it is a proud moment when your kid spikes the ball or aces a serve.  Our kids play CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) sports and are regulated by CYO and there are rather strict behaviors required of the players, coaches and parents so it is unlikely you’ll run into headline making parent brawls or bench clearing altercations.  It reminds people that the sports are for the kids and they are there to enjoy themselves.  The kids say a prayer before and after each game regardless of the sport and ask for safety, fair play and a good game. I kind of like that.

At a recent meeting for all parents with kids playing athletics at our school this year – the president of the athletic association mentioned a study he had read about kids and sports and in the study, college age athletes were asked a series of questions including “what was the worst part about games you played growing up?”  The expected answers were “riding the bench”, “losing a game”, “bad officials” and others like that, and they did get those answers, but the main response that these young people gave was “the ride home”.  When the parents would re-analyze the game, talk about the players, the coach, the officials and say what could or should have happened.  I realized that I am sometimes guilty of this with sentences that start like “next time you should…”, or “why on earth did so-and-so do …”, or something like “that official clearly doesn’t have vision insurance” and probably a bunch more.  Probably doesn't make for the best ride home after all.

This year I am going to resolve to make a stronger effort to go with positive reinforcement on that ride home – she is 13 years old and has played this game for nearly half of her life.  She knows when she makes mistakes and her coach is there to see what needs worked on for next time.   

God Help Me

Thursday, August 23, 2012

School Lunch Follow-Up

It’s how you say things that matters

Last year I had a blog post about the quality of the school lunches at my kids’ school.  I angered some friends who defended the frozen and re-heated stuff the kids were getting, the multiple forms of pizza served a couple of times per week, and the feneral “healthiness” of the food.  I disagreed and hoped for the better. 

I have to say I was a bit happier with this year’s offerings as the school is being required to up the nutritional value and “quality” of the choices.  I’ve heard some grumblings about the menu, but mainly from parents as they read things like “Whole Grain Chicken Bites”, “Oven Roasted Potatoes”, “Whole Grain Bun”, “Whole Grain Rotini”, “Whole Grain French Bread Pizza” and other items.  These sound good to me but I understand that whole grain items can come in a whole range of “good-eats to bad eats” reactions and it is all how it is executed.  My kids get sandwiches from home a lot, the bread their sandwiches are made with are generally a whole grain or whole wheat bread.  They don’t really “know” this – it is just “bread”.  

So herein lies my commentary on the new lunch menu.  There has been a lot of chatter and talk about the kids rejecting the menu because of certain buzzwords. Kids won't eat it if it is "too healthy sounding" they say.  Kids don't like that kind of food etc.  If they are worried that kids would read the menu and freak out about the words “whole grain” and “baked fries” and such why on earth are they putting those words on the menu?  Put a line on either the top or bottom of the page indicating what the ingredients are and then just call the meal “French Bread Pizza” or “Rotini and meatballs” and such. 

Today was the first day of school and when my kids asked what was for lunch I left off all of the “whole grain” this and that and told them chicken, roasted potatoes and diced peaches.  All three wanted the school lunch, all three enjoyed their school lunch – even the picky eater said she ate everything.  I wonder how many kids heard the buzzwords and decided to avoid what was finally a good school lunch option.

It’s how you say things that matters

How is the menu at your kids school this year?  Better, worse, the same?  Favorite menu items?  Share in the comments section.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mom's Taxi At Your Service

Mom’s Taxi – someday they’ll thank me – right?

My Mom used to have one of those stickers in her car that said “Mom’s Taxi” on it.  Sure I found it funny, in the way that adolescents find stuff their parents say “funny”.  Yes, my brothers and I were involved in a number of sports and activities but I never thought of it as being something that was out of the ordinary since from my perspective, taking us to those activities was what parents did.  It was part of their job in raising us, to give us opportunities and take us to those places. 

As a kid I took piano lessons, played softball and basketball, was on the local swim team, switched over to organ lessons and then added in guitar lessons and then back to piano lessons.  I was in scouts and took art classes and drama classes, I had to do service hours at my catholic high school and I participated in youth group. I also enjoyed going to sporting events and watching other teams play.  I have also probably forgotten a thousand or so other things that I did as well while I was growing up.  And that was just me, I was the third child – my two older brothers had similar schedules.  Looking back, even though we could ride our bikes to a number of the swim and sports practices in the summers, Mom’s Taxi was probably a very accurate description. 

I have great memories of nearly all of the activities that I was involved with growing up.  Most were fun, some were not, but all taught me something and all helped shape me into the person I am today.  The types of things that my parents encouraged us to participate in and the things they reluctantly took us to because that is what we “really, really, really,” wanted to do taught me more than how to play piano, or hit a softball or do a flip turn.  They also taught me how to parent. 

After we moved back to Ohio and the kids started getting really involved in various activities and the schedule really geared up my Mom would look at me, and say in a bewildered tone, “I don’t know how you do it all.” And I would respond “the same way you did it all with the three of us.”  And she'd look at me like I was crazy - I think it was selective amnesia.  Then like a good Mom she’d help out with pick-ups and drop-offs and doctor appointments whenever I needed help.

Now the position of Mom’s Taxi has fallen to me.  This summer alone we attended 36 softball games, 6 swim meets, multiple practices for each (while my husband was doing a show at a local community theater and had many rehearsals and 9 performances added to the scheduling mix).  During the school year there are scouts, music lessons, volleyball and basketball.  There are school meetings, birthday parties, outings and programs.  Dance, soccer and swimming and who knows what else will find its way onto the schedule.  Why do we do it all?  Because as I learned from my parents, taking them to those activities is what we do as Moms and Dads, it is part of our job.

My Moms been gone for a little over 9 months now and I’m trying to remember if I ever “really” thanked her for all of the rides and drop-offs/pick-ups that she did for all of those years, all of the music lessons and sports teams and more. All of that teaching me how to be a parent when I didn’t even realize that is what I was learning.  I think I did, I’m pretty sure I did at sometime, between all of my own kids schedules, when I really realized just how much my parents did for us.  I hope I did. 

I hope my kids will someday.  But even if they don’t, I’m pretty sure at some point they will realize it all and at least thank me in their heart. 

I’d write more about this but school starts tomorrow, have to pick up some last minute things, get one of them to volleyball practice tonight, softball practice tomorrow night and wonder why I haven’t heard from the soccer coach yet… 

Happy Parenting!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Strange School Supplies

School Supplies These Days...

What is the strangest thing on your kids school supply list?

The other day on facebook I was pondering the kid’s school supply lists.  This marks year 9 of school supply shopping for me and I guess I no longer find it strange that in addition to crayons, pens, notebooks, flash drives and filler paper my kids are required to purchase “classroom supplies” such as Clorox wipes, Kleenex, paper towels and copy paper.  I’m not sure when this started, but obviously sometime between 1986 and 2004 (from my experience).  Doing “the math” I found that I spent roughly the same amount on classroom supplies per child as I did on actual school supplies.  This doesn't make me happy and I'm currently out of white copy paper at home for my printer / but bought a bunch for the school. 

I realize budgets are tight, and kids are in general slobs and need all sorts of cleaning items in the classroom but the copy paper thing drives me nuts.  I had to supply the school with 5 reams this year between my 3 kids and I know that if the school just charged each family $15 for “computer paper fee” they’d be able to purchase it in bulk from a supply store for a lot cheaper than each family is dishing out for the stuff – and bonus for the school – they’d be able to choose exactly what type of paper they get and probably end up with less paper jams.

As for the Kleenex and paper towels I’m also quite sure that had these items been on my school supply list my Mom would have sent me with a cloth hanky and a dish towel and told me to use those if I needed them. As for the cleaning items, I remember cans of Comet and sponges for cleaning in the classroom – and I’m sure they lasted longer than a container of wipes.   

Other friends tell stories of needing 4 jumbo glue sticks AND 3 elmers school glue bottles for their 3rd graders, or multiple boxes of crayons and markers for one kid.  How many do you need?  So I wonder what are the actual school supply “needs” –vs- school supply “wants”.

A friend who worked for the school mentioned that at the end of one year she saw multiple teachers with a dozen or more Kleenex boxes left in their classrooms, at that point she stopped buying a lot of the classroom supplies on the list and focused on her kids actually school supplies – budgets at home are tight too after all.  

I wonder what will be on the school supply lists 20 years from now...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Worlds Worst Blogger at it Again & New School Year Resolutions

Here I am – the worlds worst blogger at it again.

I realize of course that I should be updating things more frequently considering I started this blog just about a year ago and have had only 14 posts in that time.  What a crazy year it has been though. When I started the blog I never would have imagined that in just 12 short months so much would have changed in our lives. 

What I have come to discover about change is that while some people consider change to be a good thing, and other people consider change to be a bad thing, all that change really is – is constant. How you react to the inevitable changes in life will decide for you if the change was positive or negative to you personally.

It has been 8 months since my last update and sometimes I feel like no time has passed and other times like an entire lifetime has gone by. 

I have accomplished so little of what I set out to a year or so ago, and have instead done so incredibly much more in other ways that sometimes I wonder how I’ve gotten as much done as I have.  Especially with those helpers that I have around here.

The school year is starting again in a week, and for one final year all three of my girls will be in the same school – it is exciting but also brings on the list of things that I want to accomplish this year – much like last year, and a number of the same things are on the list. I think a new school year can be a lot like New Years since it can be a time for a reset of sorts.  Fresh notebooks, sharp pencils, new erasers – and of course cookies in the lunch box for a snack.

Rather than New Years Resolutions only happening on January 1st - I'm going to work on setting some New School Year Resolutions including, the usual exercise more, eat better, clean the clutter out of the house (that is a whole different post), write more in the blog, working more for EDGE, train the puppy (yes, there is a puppy now), manage money better, and so many more.  I'll keep updating the list as I go along.

Do you have any New School Year Resolutions?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

So Much Has Happened – So Much More to Come

Two months ago tomorrow I went to my Mom’s house and found that she had died in her bed.

Friday, November 11, 2011 started as normal as ever.  Got the kids out the door to school and did some work on the computer, went to the middle school honors assembly that morning as Becca had made Honor Roll and then returned home to do more work and get ready for the weekend – Becca was going to her first school dance that night and I was coordinating drop-off, pick-up and sleep over arrangements with a friend.  I checked the phone for messages and saw I had missed a call from my Mom’s next door neighbor but there was no message.  I could not figure out why they had called so I dialed the number back.  Kathy told me that they hadn’t seen my Mom in 2 days, that her garbage and recycle cans were still at the end of the driveway since Wednesday morning when they saw her take them to the curb, there were also 2 newspapers in front of the house.  They had knocked on her door and there was no answer.  I told her that I’d be right over since I only live 3 miles away.  I tried to call my Mom – no answer.  

I got to the house, Kathy was outside waiting for me.  I walked in and knew at that moment everything in my life had changed.  The smell in the house was that of decay and when I walked into her bedroom I saw that there was no question, she was dead.  I had Kathy call 911 and the police and ambulance showed up, the ambulance left and I waited with the police for the coroner’s office while I started calling family and through a lot of tears I talked to one of my brothers and some of my Aunts. I fed my Mom’s dog and gave him water – he was a mess.  My husband was in a lunch meeting and could not be reached, and even when I did reach him he was offsite and nowhere near his car to come to the house and be with me.  One of my brothers was impossible to reach, his phone went directly to voice mail and his office told me he was not there that day.  I answered a ton of questions for the police and waited.  My friend Denise came over to the house and waited with me.  My husband got there as soon as he could and we waited some more for the coroner to arrive.  They came and took her body away and we figured out what we would have to do next. 

All indications were that she passed away Wednesday afternoon November 9th, I had spoken to her that morning and so did one of my Aunts, she had scribbled some notes on Wednesday’s paper about her conversation with my Aunt and some things she wanted to do.  Every afternoon she would go into her bedroom, lay down, say the rosary and take a little nap – she died in her bed with her rosary in her hands. 

My kids loved their Granny very much, just that morning the little girls asked when they’d be able to have another sleep over at her house – they loved doing that.  We had called the school and asked them to have the girls go to the after school program that day rather than come home on the bus, we told the school why but not to tell the girls.  Next, we had to tell them the news.  

The kids attend the same Catholic grade school and church that my brothers and I attended and where my family has been members for nearly 40 years.  We stopped by the church office to let them know prior to heading down the school, as soon as I walked in, the church secretary expressed her condolences – word travels fast.  Father Estabrook came down to the school with us to tell the girls, I could barely say a word to them, Jason and Fr. Estabrook did the talking – I was pretty talked out from my phone calls with family by that time.  We prayed. I will forever be grateful to both of them for being there I don’t know how I would have managed to tell them alone.  More tears.

It was getting later in the day and we still had not reached my brother Gregg and I finally talked to my Uncle who lives a couple of miles away from my brother just outside of Pittsburgh.  I had already talked to my Uncle earlier in the day as my Mom was his little sister and he decided to just drive over to my brother’s house and let him know.  They drove to Cleveland that night and got to my house a few hours later.  More tears, some wine, some laughter.

The next days were a whirlwind of family, friends, funeral homes, church, school for the girls, all the things that every family deals with when someone dies.  Honoring wishes but being ‘reasonable’ at the same time, making sure that everyone is “happy” with arrangements and decisions is exhausting.

Was she sick?  This is a questions I’ve been asked many times.  No, she was not sick.  She was out running around taking care of things on Tuesday the 8th and we had planned to meet for lunch that day but I had to cancel.  She did have undiagnosed heart disease and that is listed as her cause of death but it was not something that was ever so bad in her day to day life that she ever sought care for it.  

I am very lucky that my brothers and I get along very well.  I hear horror stories of siblings being torn apart when their parents are gone because this one or that one has hurt feelings.  I hope that as the process here goes forward we don’t run into any of that but so far, so good.  Dealing with banks, IRA’s, accountants, lawyers and more we are all “on the same page”.  And I thank my Mom (and Dad) for laying out everything clearly in her will and the trust that was set up to handle the real property (house and vehicle).  Gregg took her dog to live with him.

Thanksgiving appeared out of nowhere a week or so after the funeral and as has been the new tradition we hosted at our house it was nice, but sadder without her there.  Christmas came and went with big meals and family together again at our place.

Now decisions are being made about what to do with “everything”.   

My brothers do not live in town so I have been very busy meeting with appraisers, house inspectors, and an estate sale expert.  Next will be an electrician and perhaps a contractor to take care of some of the issues around her house.  “Our” house these days as my brothers and I have now found ourselves 1/3 owners each of the house I grew up in.  

Looking Backward - Moving Forward

Four years ago yesterday my daughters, our cat and I got off of a plane from Hawaii to come and live with my Mom in her house, we had lived in “paradise” for nearly 6 years and Jason stayed behind to continue to work there for a few months while trying to find a job back here on the mainland.  It was too expensive to stay there any longer and we were very fortunate that my Mom never listened to all of the people that told her to get rid of her big house and move into something smaller.  This place was waiting for us.  

Moving in with her was a transition and kind of stressful for all of us.  She had been very used to a nice, quiet, clean, neat, simple house – just her and her dog.  I showed up with a 1-1/2 year old, a 3 year old and a nearly 9 year old.  Diapers, toys, books, snacks, picky eaters, a cat, a husband 4000 miles away, school, homework, friends, and more. A few months later Jason joined us in her house and we lived that way for a number months until we found a place that we could do a rent-to-own lease purchase option on.  As much as we all loved each other I’m quite sure she was very happy to have us out.  

We lived only 3 miles away and in the past few years I never went more than a day or two without talking to her and probably not more than a week without stopping by or getting together with her.  I got very used to being close by after living out of state for nearly a decade, and we got very used to my kids having Granny time as well.  She adored my kids and they loved her dearly.  Going to Granny’s house was always high on their list of things they wanted to do. We all miss her very much.

Mom’s house is in a state of transition now, there is a TON of stuff.  Generations worth of stuff, even though the house is not even 40 years old.  When my Grandmother passed away much of the contents of her house were brought to Ohio and stored in my Mom’s basement.  Rooms that were empty when my brothers and I moved out were again filled with furniture and “things”.  Now it’s time to clean it out, fix it up and get it ready for the next family to make it a home.  My family.

So much more to come – so much to do…