Dan and I were working on the house today. We are halfway through painting our kitchen/family room. We are “neutralizing” yet again. Amazingly as we work to turn our home into something that isn’t us, hoping to sell before time runs out, we laugh and joke, and talk. Sometimes we even talk about our unknown future. Without jobs, or without knowing where we will end up when we sell this house, we do it as one. We work well together. As in every other place in our life we are in sync. We stop what we are in the middle of to lend a hand to each other, we take turns making meals, we worry over the other working too hard. We also listen to music, his and hers. Usually Dan’s, only because for the most part I prefer quiet, and I like much of his, my taste is all over the map. Years ago I made a mix CD for my car. Guns and Roses “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, right next to the Henry Mancini instrumental version of the theme to Franko Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet. (All I can say is it works for me) Today we did a little singers and songwriters selection. Some Neil Young for Dan, and for me, Billy Joel. I’ve been a fan for more than thirty years. I’ve actually only missed two concerts since 1979. I love words, I love story telling, and I love good song lyrics. I love hearing a song and feeling something. I love relating to the emotions that are shared human experience, like love and heartbreak. I’ve been attempting to write something for a few days to express some of what I am feeling. I’m not giving up, it’s just that as much as I enjoy writing there are times when the words of another find a home in my heart. I am on the verge of losing these four walls and a roof, but when this particular song played I turned to Dan and said, “This is how I feel.” He said he feels the same. So thanks Billy, for putting my thoughts into words, I hope you don’t mind if I share them here. For Dan, who really is my home.
Today was another good day. I think I have resigned myself to the loss of our home. No more crying about what I can’t change. Not that the day I hand over the keys won’t be a difficult one, but I also know that it will be the first day in months that I can breathe. This home I once lavished so much love on has become an insurmountable burden. We can’t move forward or figure out our future until it is gone.
Before I begin to write about today I wanted to write about Sunday. It was a wonderful day and deserves to be remembered. Sunday’s day of rest turned into a very long day, something we hadn’t counted on. Our friend’s flight was delayed, and delayed, and delayed, she didn’t arrive in San Diego until after midnight. I felt for her, it was an incredibly long day of traveling. As for Dan and I, the picnic was wonderful and long overdue. Good food, good wine, and an incredible sunset. Who says my life is bad? (I know… mostly me) For awhile we managed to forget about the not so great stuff in our life and focus on the moment and each other. Then when we realized that we had four hours to kill before the flight came in, we decided to splurge and go to a movie, Begin Again. A very appropriate title for us. It was also another enjoyable two hours that took our minds off our troubles.
I need to step back a day. I had an epiphany of sorts on Saturday. We were at the check out in the grocery store, I glanced over to the register next to us and saw a young family. That’s when it hit me, how much worse this could be. I realize we aren’t the only people in the world going through this, I’ve known that all along of course, but what happened on Saturday was the realization of how much worse this would be if I had kids to feed. I looked at this young couple and their kids and thought about what it would be like for them. This is a nightmare, no doubt, but it is just us, the two of us. There are no little stomachs going to bed empty. It makes you think.
Today… A really good day, another day when I’ve felt really happy for the first time in weeks. I mentioned that I was gathering art supplies for a local foster home. As I sorted through art supplies left over from my own kids days at school, I saw the little individual name tags that I painstakingly taped to each magic marker and pencil. Another epiphany. There was a pretty good chance that the kids that I was giving the supplies to never had anyone tape their name to a pencil. This foster home is for kids who have been hurt by an adult in their life. It took awhile, but I removed every piece of tape from every pencil and marker. I want these kids to own the supplies, I don’t want them reminded of something that they may have never had. The further I got into cleaning the studio the more I wanted to give. In the end I had four boxes packed to the top, and a couple of bags. When I dropped them off the staff was thrilled. It seems they are in the midst of planning their annual art fundraiser, much of the art supplied by the kids. I had no idea, but when I left there I felt so happy, I felt like I had really done something positive. As I dig my way out of all of the stuff here at home, I’ve figured out a way to catch a breath, by making a difference in the life of a kid. I’ll be looking for more supplies to give away, its good medicine for what ails me.
A few memories from Sunday to share…
No righteous indignation today, no steam to blow off, just some thoughts on what matters, and what I value. We are taking the day off from packing. We really can’t afford to. We are buried alive here, I think the crew from Hoarders should be here any minute. We have eleven years of living in this house, and there is also my stuff. Art is a messy business, and a business that requires supplies, lots of supplies. I am now nearly four boxes full for a donation to the nearby foster home, but that hardly made a dent. I will probably have to let go of more, but my creative brain is in full gear thanks to the reemergence of some long forgotten items. I only wish I had the time to create right now. Instead I have to content myself with thoughts of my artistic future, and write all of my ideas down before they become long forgotten. We decided to relax today because we are honestly a little overwhelmed and exhausted. As a souvenir from my eighteen years at the grocery store, I have tendonitis and carpal tunnel in both hands. My left arm began to hurt a few weeks ago, it is now a searing pain up to as far as the inside of my arm near the elbow. My knee(s) are unforgiving, and quite angry with me for the amount of time I have spent on my feet these last few weeks. Then there is Dan’s back. He of the “I’m fine, I’ll be OK”, gang has been (when he thinks I’m not looking) stretching out and rubbing his lower back. We have been working nearly twelve hours a day to get this place on the market. We need a break, obviously in more sense than one, but today is the day. When I told my Dad last night he said, “You are burning yourselves out. It won’t do either of you any good.” He was right. Our friend needs a ride home from the airport in San Diego. She doesn’t arrive until 9:30 p.m. which gives us time to participate in a favorite activity of ours, a beach picnic. We haven’t had one in more than two years. Our last was on our anniversary two years ago, when I happened to rest my hand on the car door frame right as Dan was closing it. Ouch doesn’t even begin to cover it. Macgyver that I am, I splinted my thumb and fingers right on the beach using a couple of emery boards, and a band-aid I happened to have on another finger. I tried a brave front for about a half hour, then I caved and the picnic ended. I had broken my right index finger and thumb. A very memorable anniversary to say the least. We have been talking about a repeat ever since. As life would have it the time never came, until today. We are going to go to Coronado Island. For those of you who have seen “Some Like It Hot”, with Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, and Marilyn Monroe, the Hotel del Coronado is where it was filmed. It is a beautiful place right on the water. We have had a picnic there before, where we can watch the sun go down over the Pacific. These are the moments that I speak of, the moments that can’t be taken away. No matter how much we lose, what we have is unbreakable, a love that has grown in the some of the worst of circumstances. What we have are these moments that we cherish together. A day on the beach trying to figure out the unknown. A picnic made from what’s in the fridge (which I can tell you isn’t half bad, I’m a Macgyver in the kitchen too!), and sitting close, our arms wrapped around one another as we watch the sun sink beyond the horizon. These days, and the memories we take with us, are the things that we will always have, and for that I will always be grateful.
Just one of many. A beautiful evening on the beach. There’s still a lot to look forward to in this life.
I’m back. So soon? Yes, I realized over the last few days that expressing myself on these pages is cathartic for me. I am feeling frustrated and weighted down by our current situation, writing helps me work through my feelings. I’ve always enjoyed writing, in fact I kept a diary for nearly seven years when I was younger. I’ve spent years starting and not finishing short stories, and have multitudes of paper scraps with single lines written on them. A thought or idea pops into my head and I grab whatever happens to be handy to capture the idea before I forget. Sometimes these elusive thoughts have come and gone before I have a chance to do anything with them. Many of them have languished for years in a file folder in my studio, and some have gone on to be parts of poems. I digress…
The point of tonight was to finish what I started last night. When I reread what I wrote I forgot to point out one thing about myself, and that is that I love to work. I derive a great deal of self-satisfaction from physical labor, and the accomplishment of a task. I hadn’t intended to add to last night, but this morning something happened that fueled my displeasure with those that would imply that I might think a job is beneath me. We have hardwood floors throughout our home. Unfortunately two of them sustained damage by bed frames that bore holes and scratches in them. We called in a floor professional who took a look, realized it wasn’t a huge job, and told Dan he could save us money by passing the job onto his “guy”. The implication that somehow the price would be less by cutting out the middleman. Then we got the call with the price…$625. Six Hundred Twenty Five Dollars! To replace what came down to replacing about eight pieces of hardwood, which by the way we would be supplying. He claimed that the flooring in the guest room would take a day. Dan told him we couldn’t afford it, he said he would see what he could do and call us back. That was yesterday. This morning when Dan went for a walk, I did what I do, I did it myself. Me, still in my nightgown, sitting on the floor of the guest room (I can work as long as I’m sitting), with a hammer, two chisels, and a small screwdriver. Forty five minutes later Dan came home to find the “all day job” more than half done. I got up and brought him in to see what I had done. His response? “That’s my girl”. I am not one of those women who gets an idea, and then proceeds to make her husband do all the work. I think it’s my Parent’s influence. They were both hard workers, and always did their best. If it’s my idea, I try my hardest to accomplish it. If I need help I will (sometimes) ask. I believe that it is one of the best parts of who I am, it never occurs to me that I can’t accomplish what I want. There is one exception, that unfortunately is my art. If I could master that confidence and apply it to my art, there would be no stopping me.
Another photo tonight. I promise not to make this a habit (not sure you want to see all my appendages), but sometimes when I get an idea in my head and just go at it there are consequences. Consequences like this…
This is what happens when you don’t wear a glove and smack your hand with a hammer. Did it stop me? No it didn’t, in fact I did it three times, and this is only my left hand, I am sparing you the photo of the blister that covers the entire tip of my right index finger, or the tear in my right knuckle, or the cut left by the sliver of wood that went in my right hand. All day? Six Hundred Twenty Five Dollars, yeah right, I don’t think so, not when there’s a hard-working woman in the house.
One more thought as I look at my no longer colorless hand. People of the world, particularly in Gaza, give peace a chance. I say that my parents influenced my work ethic, but they also taught me that we are all the same. Respect each other, and honor the individual right to worship God, any God, your God, their God, in whatever way they see fit. Love each other, and stop killing in God’s name. As my very wise eighty-one year old father says, “Here’s how I look at religion. It’s like soccer, as long as you’re in the game it doesn’t matter what color jersey you are wearing.” Like I said, a very wise man.
Have you ever had someone tell you a story about someone else, when you KNOW that they are in fact talking about you? Trying to say something to you about you, but quite frankly not having the nerve to say it to your face? I’ve had it happen several times in the last few weeks. I’m feeling a little, shall I say, pissy today? Unless you have been through what we are going through, you have absolutely no idea what this feels like. No more than I, the pasty white person that I am, has any inkling what it feels like to be a person of color. (Any color, since I have none) I can sympathize, empathize, and offer support, but I haven’t walked in their shoes, therefore I should keep my colorless opinion to myself. I hope those in my life who have been generous in their support of us don’t think this is aimed at them, it isn’t. What has been getting to me is the judgmental way that remarks are being made to me, or as mentioned above, the fairytale fable of someone whose situation is just oh so close to mine, who made a bad decision, or is expressing virtues of which I am apparently lacking. Really? I may be losing a lot here, but it certainly isn’t my brain.
More than one person in the last several weeks has been aghast at my decision to turn down a job I applied for and got at a local grocery store. I honestly don’t know what I was thinking. As I have mentioned here on these pages before, I have had six knee surgeries. My first at the age of fifteen, and then five more inside four years here in Temecula. Five on one knee. I tore my ACL, had it repaired, it didn’t work, had it repaired again, and guess what? It didn’t work. Two more surgeries for torn tissue, and then because I thought my left knee was feeling neglected I tore tissue there as well, one more surgery. Let’s throw in the atrophy of my Achilles tendon of the left ankle and..WHAT WAS I THINKING??? This isn’t about not wanting to work, or not wanting to “suck it up”, this is about pain. Pain that wakes me nightly. Pain that had me in tears earlier today because I’ve been on my feet too much packing boxes. Let me show you something…
Nice…right? (I have knee envy, and by the way, thank you stranger with beautiful knees that I found on Google images)
Check these babies out…
I’ll bet you are jealous. I think the right knee is the real beauty. Don’t even know where my knee cap disappeared to. (I apologize if you happen to be eating)
My pissy point is this, unless you walk in my shoes, or in my case on these knees, don’t judge me, it pisses me off. Yes, we need money. But if you read this blog you also know that I possess talents far beyond what standing on my feet all day can earn. Be mad at me for that. Be mad at me for not using my God-given talents. I’ve spent the last few days packing away my supplies and my work. I’m mad enough at myself for everyone. I mad that I haven’t had the self-confidence to make a living with what I can do. It’s time to try, no knees required.
These days I find myself writing posts that I do not publish. This blog has become my personal diary, and at times I just need to let off steam, so I ramble on about my life. I may at some point publish them, many of them might go under the heading “Woe Is Me”. Maybe I should do just that, a series of posts, “Woe Is Me #1”, “Woe is me #2”, I think you know where this is going. There are other times when I am sick of myself and this entire situation, and then I have to ask myself, “Do you want to read that?”, and the answer is, “NO! Get over it already.”
Here’s the good news, I think I’m getting over it. Not that I’m not still a little mad at the world, or sad that I’m losing my home, but I think I’ve moved on to the next phase of the grieving process. As we move through this house neutralizing the decor (Damn you HGTV real estate shows!!!), my house is no longer looking like my home, it is looking like my house. The distinction you ask? It is losing its warmth. My deep rusty-red wall of 22 feet in the front foyer is now a mellow cream. Yuk! Not that I don’t like cream, it is after all on the rest of the walls in the foyer, living room, up the stairs, in the loft, and soon to be in the kitchen. (One color throughout because, “That’s what buyers want to see.” I say, “Get an imagination and some vision”.) I am depersonalizing, no family photos, or treasured vintage pieces on the walls, because, let’s say it in unison, “Buyers need to be able to envision themselves living in the space.” Really? If you can’t buy a house because my kid’s framed photo is on the dresser then there is something wrong with you. Not that I believe everyone watches HGTV, or feels that way, but I know realtors do. Enough of that rant…
Things are not going well in the fund-raising for the bookstore/bistro. We also looked at a space and realized that we may not have enough to do it the way we want. I was devastated, shed a few, well more than a few, tears. But then…plan B! What? There was no plan B, but there is now. I’m not exactly ready to give up on plan A, so B will have to wait patiently in the wings, but I’m relieved B is there., what’s even better is the possibility of a plan C. I have taken a very important step in opening the door a crack for plan C. My Irish passport. Yes, it seems that thanks to my lovely parents and ancestors I am an Irish citizen. I filled in all the papers, and took what is possibly the worst passport photo in the history of passport photos (Really, ask Dan, he agrees. It doesn’t even look like me, unless of course they took it after removing all of my wisdom teeth), I’m sure I will get to Ireland and they (hopefully) will say, “This isn’t you. It couldn’t possibly be you.” I will then have to take out my lovely California driver’s license photo and say, “It really is me, the photographer was awful, the lighting was bad, I was storing nuts in my cheeks for the winter.” Either way, Ireland, or Europe could be part of plan C. Not a bad plan I might add. I might also mention that there could be a plan D, I was born in Canada after all…What’s that? E? We are considering a different less costly business. See? My brain is so busy it has very little time to be sad. Dare I say it, there is a glimmer of hope somewhere down deep in my soul. I think I might have even cracked a smile.
Two things tell me that I am beginning to surface from the depths of despair, one is art. I actually created a piece yesterday, a birthday gift for a friend. I’m not posting it, I didn’t even photograph it, it was from the heart, no publicity needed. I also have at least ten ideas dancing around in my head as well. I just don’t have a minute to work on any of them. The second is the desire to cook. I am as talented with a fry pan as I am with a brush. This morning I felt a renewed sense of hope, which leads to creating in the kitchen. An Eggs Benedict of sorts. Day old mini croissants, toasted under the broiler with a little bit of shredded basil Asiago cheese (thank you Theresa for that!), topped with prosciutto, a poached egg, and some lemon rosemary hollandaise. That’s how I bring a smile to Dan’s face.
I wrote the above post a few days ago, but as so often happens these days moods come in waves. I was on the top of the crest when I wrote that, but as the day wore on, my good mood crashed on the shore. I’m OK, just momentary setbacks. We are still frantically trying to pack this place. We are both sore and exhausted, but we are also focused on the other side of this. I told Dan last night that I don’t want to try to figure out the future right now. I am content to pack up my old life, and with it hopefully some of the profound sense of loss I am feeling. I want to sell the house, and then I want to see where we are financially. Without knowing what we will walk away with it is difficult to imagine anything. Closing day is breathing day, I want to come back and say goodbye to this home, it really was a home, and also say goodbye to what is in the past. Then I want to sit with my beloved husband, have a glass of wine, and talk about our future.
I also wanted to make sure that I posted something today because it is a day of great significance in my life. I lost my mother seven years ago today. A life that I think ended far too soon. My mother was only twenty-two years older than I. With God’s good grace there’s still time for me to have a second, or even third act. I owe it to my mom to keep going.
This is my mom, Mary. A nineteen year old Irish girl who got on a plane to Canada to marry her boyfriend. She took a chance on a different and better life. There were times when she and my dad had less than I do now, but they struggled on, and I can too. Thanks Mom for giving me the strength to keep going. Love you.
I hit publish on my post without rereading it. I posted the following comment on my own post, but I’m that crazed that I think it bears repeating! OK, in my stress I forgot how to spell! Riley is not staring, she is starring, and we are not contentious, but rather conscientious. Sorry if you got the first version!!! I really am very, very nice and not the least bit contentious.
There was a not so old woman who hadn’t a clue, She was overwhelmed with packing and didn’t know what to do; She thought about spending the day in bed with the covers pulled up way over her head… That would be me. I am overwhelmed. I fear I am attached to my “stuff”. My brain is screaming, “Downsizing, downsizing, downsizing!”, while my heart is whispering, ” Oh, remember that?” “I love this.” “Brian/Jessica gave me this.” You can see it is an issue. There is also the stiff righteous rod up my spine that insists that I recycle. It truly is quite a conflict. I mentioned the other day that I was good at puzzles, you wouldn’t believe the vast amounts of stuff that has been stored in my studio. That’s what the other voice in my head is responsible for, the artsy one, the one who insists that I can use that scrap piece of metal/fabric/wood/paper. The thing is some of it has been lurking in the corners for years. Some of it tagged along for the ride from Chicago eleven years ago. I found a nearby home for foster children, a ranch actually, so I called them up and offered art supplies. They were more than happy to accept my offer. I believe my extra sketch pads, etc. have found a new home.
All joking aside, this is a very difficult process. We are packing, and preparing our much loved home to go to market. A troublesome process in general is exacerbated by not knowing where we go next. Time has more than run out. We can afford to live here another two months, that’s it, two months. We had hoped to start our business by now, but the situation at hand is complicating matters. We are trying desperately not to give in, or give up, but the days become increasingly more heart wrenching. I try to tell myself that there are so many people worse off than us, but the truth is that my heart doesn’t care what my head says. I heartbroken and tired. I am tired of the stress, the worry, and particularly the unknown. I am a self-admitted control freak who has landed in the middle of a personal tornado, unknown doesn’t work well for me. I need to know there is something for us somewhere.
Two months ago our daughter started a crowd funding site for us. I have mentioned it here before. Last week I paid for ads on Facebook to promote it. I also started a Twitter account starring our very own curious cat, Riley. Nothing seems to be working. A friend gave a large donation in hopes of inspiring others, but again nothing. I look every day hoping to see a change, but it isn’t happening. I suppose I sound hopeless, maybe some read my words and think I am full of self-pity. I’ll be the first to admit it, there is some self-pity going on here, but more than that there is great sadness, disillusionment, anger at what was unjustly done to my husband and his career. I love a good and decent man, I am a good and decent woman. We are kind, conscientious, nice human beings. We are lost in this nightmare. We want to believe that there is a future for us.
This is our crowd funding address: http://www.gofundme.com/8jgl04
I am offering prints of my work for larger donations. If you can find it in your heart to help, please.
Thanks for reading. No art tonight, but I will leave you with my Riley. No matter how tough things can be there are always moments, things that make us smile, Riley is one of them.
Several years ago a young man named Michael, who worked with Dan, was killed. He was hit by a car while playing Good Samaritan. He had stopped on the side of a highway to help someone who had a flat. It was one of those things in life that make you pause and ask “Why?” There are memories of moments like which bring me to look at things in a different perspective. Let’s face it, we are all self-centered and a little narcissistic in our misery. Some of us need to talk about it just to blow off steam, others wear their misery like a badge of honor, showing themselves to the world as if to say, “Look at me, I can handle this, I’m strong. I don’t let things get me down.” Some of us crawl inside ourselves, we don’t let anyone in, and build walls that say, “Stay out. I don’t need anyone.” I think in my case there is without a doubt some self-pity going on, but can you blame me? Yes, I am putting my misery out there for the world to see, but I think I in many ways am doing something really good here. My life at the moment is pretty much your basic nightmare, loss of job, loss of house, not knowing what’s next, but in all the darkness, in all my public decrees of misery, there is something more, there are the bright spots of friendship and support from family and friends, but in the center of it all there is love. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. What is happening to us could tear people apart, but Dan and I continue to get stronger and closer each and every day. Despite what I have lost, and continue to lose, nothing can take that away from me. While packing my life away yesterday, I came across the card from Michael’s funeral. I never met Michael, but I hung on to this card because of what it said on the reverse, “Once in a while you will get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if you look at it right.” I loved it when I read it, and these days I grab the moments of light every chance I get. I mentioned the quote to Dan, who told me it is from the Grateful Dead. A twenty-five year old man died doing the decent thing. I have a wonderful, decent man right here, and he is struggling as much as I am, but every single day he makes me laugh or smile, he tries to take the worry from my shoulders. I am sad, a little depressed, exhausted and worried, but I am loved. To quote another song, “Who could ask for anything more?” Another positive for today. A small step in the right direction, I worked. I played around a little with my pastel chalk, a spray bottle of bleach, and a little starry night thanks to a paint program. I think the piece is pretty self-explanatory.
I posted in my blog this morning that I had turned down a job. After multiple whiny posts about job loss it may have seemed like a terrible thing to do. There is also the fact that I want to open a retail business. Retail=Standing on one’s feet. Don’t ask me why I feel the need to explain myself but here goes…
The job involved standing, cleaning, standing, cooking, standing, serving, standing, cleaning…you get the picture. I have had six knee surgeries, and I have atrophy of the Achilles tendon in my left ankle, so as you can see not so good for standing. However, the nice thing about working for yourself, and having a lovely understanding, sympathetic, and caring husband, is that when I need to sit for a minute I can. I have no delusions about knee pain ahead if we are successful in getting things up and running, but it will be the pain of success, and that is pain I can live with.