Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Speaking of sports

I am married to the Howard Cosell of lawn care.

Our neighbor can take a simple mow/trim of a little less than an acre and stretch it over three or four days. EG usually does the entire yard in a morning, even when you factor in the screeching at Rocky, who chronically stares off into space instead of applying the clippers to the grass edging.

However, much like the Superbowl, every mow is accompanied by the hyped build-up and debriefing afterward. About two days before, EG will start obsessing about the weather--what's the weather going to be the next couple of days? "I need to mow. You know I only mow once a week, not like SOME PEOPLE. And I need to fit it in between rainstorms." And so on. As his chosen D-day approaches, he will tell me three or four times, "I am going to mow tomorrow. I mow only once a week, and this will have to be the day. It might rain" (or be hot or be cold or perhaps a monsoon is in the future) "so I'd better do it tomorrow." This repeats, much like the commercials for SB, every twenty minutes to an hour for the twelve hours preceding the big event.

On the big morning, I get, "At eight o'clock, I am going to mow. I need to get it done." Again, repeated at irritating intervals. Then he marshalls his troops, poor scatterbrained and distractable Rocky, and off they go, EG running his tractor and yelling at Rocky to "get that stick" over the din. "Over there. No, not that one. Now, why did you drop it again? You will have to pick that one up anyway. Yes, that one. Now put it in the pile. NO, NOT THAT PILE!" Some commentary is Spanish follows, with Rocky running a zig zag pattern in the yard, not quite sure what to do, as he doesn't interpret a lot of the words. Luckily. However, he has most likely discovered they may be useful in the future away from Mom's ears.

Let me add at this point that I hate the sound of the mower. It is loud and distracting and drones on and on, especially for three days a week next door. Add to that the yelling and periodic clunk as the mower hits a dirt clod, and the anticipation of what might happen, and my nerves are fried.

With the big mow, we have third time, not half time. EG will come in and report the status of the front yard as it is finished and then the near back and then the far back. If there is little to report, he will reinforce the fact that he mows only once a week, perhaps bringing in a color commentator in the form of Rocky, who is usually a bit wild-eyed at this point. Him, too.

Then, of course, we have the debriefing after the event. EG will come in and report on the status of the field--what was wet, dry, bumpy, debris on the field, the fumbles made by Rocky, and the overall outcome of this particular event. And we get to do it all over again, but only once a week.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Is this the party to whom I am speaking?

I went to the beauty school not too long ago to get a pedicure. The woman who was next to me was nicely dressed, and when the students left the two of us alone to soak, the lady said, "Hi."

"Hi," I replied.

"How are you?" she asked.

"Fine, and how are you?"

"I'm fine," she said. "I'm getting a pedicure."

"Oh," I said, not just a little confused. Why else would she be soaking her feet? "So am I."

"What did you say?" she replied. "The lady next to me keeps talking and I can't hear you."

It was then that I realized that she was on her Bluetooth. I don't know which one of us should feel stupid.


After spending the day at grief camp yesterday, I have been thinking about grief. Last Friday was the anniversary of my brother-in-law's death, and the kids were acting out all day. I took them to the movies, I took them to the craft store, and finally I suggested taking them to the grave. We watered his flowers and talked a bit about him, and then came home. The kids were sad, but they had faced that grief.

Grief camp gives a safe place for kids to acknowledge, discuss, and confront their losses. I sat yesterday and watched their faces, some sad, some calm. I watched one boy who had cut up a bit sit down with the rabbit, run his fingers through Bob's fur, and go to a far away place in his head. At times my losses seem too huge for me, and I am an adult--the losses I experienced are expected. These kids have been blindsided by grief.

Kiki has talked to the school counselor about her losses, and she feels at ease about the deaths most days. Nita is younger and developmentally on target, and we aren't sure where Rocky is developmentally, so it is like playing Whack-a-mole to deal with his emotions.

I have been thinking about previous generations, people who lost children or siblings much more regularly than we did, back when losses were expected. I don't know if it was because death was so much more a part of life, that it wasn't sanitized, that they didn't invest so much in their relationships, or that society dealt with it differently. I find that people ask me at work "what is wrong with you" because I am not functioning up to my previous performance level, and I am told that I need to "snap out of it." Could it be, because our grandparents had smaller, closer communities, that people understood better?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Camping We Will Go

This week, Bob and I are going to grief camp. For those of you who have just joined us, Bob is my pet partner--he is certifed by Delta Society to do pet visits in a variety of facilities, but the bulk of our volunteer work is done through hospice. This week, hospice is sponsoring a grief camp for kids, and Bob and I were invited.

I doubt that we will be doing many of the activities with the kids, like hiking, crafts, or art therapy, but I will transport Bob to the camp, and he will do his thing, and I once again will sit by and marvel at his wonderful ability to do what he does best.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Home Arsenal

Recently, in the Cleveland paper, there was a report of a woman whose house was invaded by a robber in the middle of the night. This sixty-eight year old lady was not intimidated by the robber, who apparently decided to teach her some respect and slapped her. This caused her son to then take offense at the robber's own lack of respect for his mother, so first he and then his sons jumped the robber, then took his shotgun, and shot him to death with his own weapon.

If this is the true story, I find it difficult to feel too sorry for the robber.

I was impressed that, given what must have been chaotic circumstances, the man and his boys could use an unfamiliar weapon. I do understand that guns are important to those of the testosterone gender. The neighbor boys have BB guns and Airsoft rifles and handguns, but EG, who served in Central America in the Marines, refuses to have toy guns in the house, as guns are not toys. I know how to shoot, figuring out a long time ago that, while it is not something which I choose to do on a regular basis, I should know how to handle a weapon.

When I was single, my two roommates and I lived in a neighborhood where the big claim to fame was that the area had its own rapist--that and the guy who walked around in the middle of the streets with a guitar, convinced he was Elvis Presley. My one roommate, who had been raised around guns, and I discussed having a shotgun in the house, but we determined that our other roommate, who was jumpy, might possibly shoot herself in the foot or worse yet, one of us, in an attempt at protecting herself, so we invested in good locks and lighting instead. (Eventually the rapist was caught--by then I was married and lived on another street, and he turned out to be my neighbor. Only me.)

Anyway, with three large dogs in the house, I don't think too much about the need for firepower, unless it is to use on the dogs themselves. Nash wants to eat the bunnies and cats who are masquerading as pets in the house, and Penny and Harry are more interested in the trash or Kleenex boxes. We have found that the "home and garden sprayer" (i.e., "squirt bottle") works on Nash and Harry when it comes to discipline, whereas Penny views this as a drink dispenser, delightedly lapping the the same stream of water which sends the boys scurrying to another room, tails tucked between their legs.

Penny, on the other hand, requires a remote trainer, which emits a loud, eardrum piercing shriek that derails her actions--and incidentally, the actions of anyone within a 500 yard radius. Despite repeated requests, no one gives a verbal correction before activating the remote trainer, causing me to stop whatever I am doing as well, up to and including having a regular heartrate.

So, thinking back over the past few weeks, I guess I get the feisty attitude of the lady homeowner. I sure do pity whoever breaks into this house. All we would have to do would be continue business as usual, and the poor soul would be running, screaming, into the woods after less than an hour.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Tiring of the Screw

It has been a humdinger of a week and a half. First, I had two projects due last weekend, so I was focused on those at the end of last week. Then, Monday, summer break began. We had signed the kids up for summer school, but the enrollment wasn't adequate, so there was no diversion in their future. I assigned extra chores and called the kids that evening from work and warned them that I was on my way home, and the house had darn well better be picked up.

Later, I realized I needed to be clearer what "picked up" means.

Tuesday, I called from work to redefine "picked up" to three children, only to interrupt the Tuesday version of the Friday Night Fights. Nita couldn't wait to tell me that Kiki had pinched her, her pompous little report accompanied by Kiki's shrieking diatribe about Nita's inadequacies as a sister and as a human being.

When I got home, we had a family meeting. I outlined who was in charge, what the expectations were, and what the consequences were for infractions, a summer break procedures manual, if you will. EG came home from work and announced that he, or rather his car, had a low tire. He discovered a screw in the tire, and so after a lengthy debate about Wednesday's scheduling, off we went to the tire store. We came home, picked up the house to our standards, and fell into bed. I woke up in the night, twice, with panic attacks.

Wednesday morning about six thirty, we finally got around to opening the mail, which included a letter from the school system. It turned out that there were enough kids for summer school. After a couple of minutes, EG said to me, "What's the date?"

"The ninth?"

"Uh, summer school starts TODAY."

What followed was a child's worst nightmare, and I am embarrassed to admit, something which gave me a great deal of pleasure. EG stood up, threw open the kids' bedroom doors, and barked, "Get up! You've got summer school and IT STARTS TODAY!" The wails which followed did my heart good, and I smiled as the little darlings complained as they stumbled out the door.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Prescription for Insanity

Take three kids, two of whom are hormonal females and one with severe attentional issues.
Add two working parents.
Add three labs, two cats, and two bunnies; throw in a house which is never quite clean and a quick-growing lawn.
Mix liberally with various stages of laundry cycles.
Sprinkle with music lessons, track, and girl scouts.
Top off with a dissertation and let ferment.